Q&A: Star Wars Vehicles, Reissues, Stores, and Future Ponderings

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 25, 2018

1. I was wondering what the standard production numbers are on typical Hasbro Star Wars vehicles. For instance, how many Kylo Ren tie silencers were made? Curious how those production numbers stack up to the minimum required 5000 units needed for Hasbro to produce the Sail Barge. Are 5000 units reasonable for a run of vehicles?

Well Ken, I've got good news and bad news. Actually what I have is no news - because things like the minimum run on vehicles at Hasbro are presently considered confidential, so if I had such information I would not be able to share it with you.

But I can put things in perspective.

A good rule of thumb in the USA is was that about 80% of toys are sold through Amazon, Toys R Us, Walmart, Target, and Kmart - actually it's probably more than 80%, but that's one number thrown around. The decline of Kmart and possibly Toys R Us could cause real problems for all of us - collectors, toy makers - in the next year. If memory serves the TIE Silencer ships 3 per carton, and stores get at least 1 carton each. There are about 4,000 Walmarts with a toy section, since my Kmart closed I can't confirm but let's assume 600 stocked this, 800ish US Toys R Us stores, and 1,800 or so Targets. So that's 7,200 big box stores that got a bare minimum of 1 case each, which would mean at least 21,000 of these things went out if each retailer took but one case each. Most big chain stores got multiple cases, I have no idea what Amazon ordered, and of course there are online shops like Entertainment Earth, Big Bad Toy Store, and so on that also bring in these things.

Back in the 1990s a number released to the general public was 30,000 units for a biggish toy company to turn on the factory - anything less than that was a big deal, a limited edition. Based on some carton markings it would seem some items are probably still in that range, and with my back-of-the-envelope math I would surmise the USA got a minimum of 50,000 TIE Silencers - many of which went on sale, some of which may be still inside Hasbro's warehouses. I asked no sources for this specific information because if I did, I would not be permitted to share it. This is why you're getting speculation, the kind of quality nonsense you come here for every week.

When Hasbro does a big launch like this, it's important to consider the audience. Hasbro is pitching the TIE Silencer to every boy in America - not just adult collectors with mortgages. The TIE Silencer could have been sold to millions of children, maybe a few thousand teens, and a number of collectors I would rather not disclose because everybody's calculations are different. I have a number based on what I see sell as an Entertainment Earth Exclusive - to me, the worst-selling item would be your "one of everything club" membership. Hasbro people have shared other larger numbers. Other people at other toy companies have different intel and have different numbers still.

It is my guess that there are indeed more than 5,000 American collectors who would buy almost anything - but there aren't necessarily 5,000 collectors where money is no object. The Sail Barge is a glorious item and you've got some fans waiting to see if it gets close before they throw their support behind it. (Just support it now, people.) You have some collectors who simply don't have the room today and don't think they'll have it in a year either - I myself will need to buy a special table or case for it, and I need to get my stuff in gear (and get rid of a lot of stuff) to make room for it. And of course, other collectors don't have $500 right now. (I assume some collectors will be paying $1,000 for a Barge in a few years if it gets greenlit.)

An item of this size isn't like buying a normal toy - that big TIE Fighter is almost like a piece of furniture, and I've seen loveseats about the size of this Barge. It's huge! Also a lot of Original Trilogy buffs have aged out thanks to time passing and Hasbro more or less abandoning the old movies for the new - people checked out. They tried life without collecting, and they liked it.

To answer your question, 5,000 is not a big number for any toy to sell - but the Sail Barge isn't just any toy. It's a $500 toy, and you have to pay for it a year early, and it's huge. If Hasbro had to sell 5,000 of a smaller toy vehicle, that might be easier to swallow - but this kind of selling is something Hasbro hasn't done before and there's absolutely no way I would throw my support behind any other toy at any other company. I know Hasbro is a company we can see in person and bark at if something goes wrong and they take our money - so for the time being, I've got no reason to not trust them to deliver the goods. Had Hasbro done this kind of campaign with something cheaper like an action figure or a $50 vehicle, I think it might have been supported faster. But it wouldn't have been as cool. Succeed or fail this is a heck of an endeavor, and I hope it works this one time. I also collect other Hasbro lines, and I don't think I would do this for Transformers even though I'm hardcore collecting Generations right now and find those to be more entertaining playthings.

Given the current rate of adoption, I don't expect it will get greenlit unless someone fudges numbers on the backend. If everyone that reads this column bought one or two, it'd probably get made - but not everybody wants to pay $500 and wait a year. I don't blame them.



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2. Hi Adam. I have two questions for you. First, why did Hasbro make the AT-ACT's legs short? Was it a design choice for the walking feature to work properly? Second, will we see a re-release of the Black Series 6-inch Bossk and IG-88 since now we're getting the other bounty hunters as shown at this year's Toy Fair?

Rereleases of old figures occasionally happen if there's enough support. (Cough cough Darth Revan cough.) I can't comment beyond that - I don't know what Hasbro is planning and it would be my hope they consider cranking anybody out from the movies on new vintage cardbacks. We like that sort of thing a lot.

The design of the AT-ACT was done long before the movie was completed, possibly based on early designs. Hasbro (and Kenner before) would always fudge proportions to get the best overall toy, which is why we had an X-wing with tiny wings, a TIE Fighter with a huge eyeball, and even the new Sail Barge is actually undersized. (Jabba's dirt boat is 30 meters long - scaled to 3 3/4-inches, that's about 5 1/2 feet.) Even the old AT-AT was a bit off just to make something they could sell and kids could play with, although with the price tag and the proportions, well. It is what it is.

Also consider the AT-ACT was $300 and the Sail Barge is much bigger and $500 shipped and is also a Sail Barge.




3. Have you seen the Mark Poon Mon Julpa? Admiral Screed? He will be doing pro customs of all the unproduced droids figures as well as the white witch. I have the Vlix (2.0) as well as the kit bashed Fett and they really are awesome. More expensive than I would like but I swear I like those two figures better than about anything made in the last 23 years....

Apologies to John Hodgman, but I assume this is a form of Buzz Marketing. Let's play.

I hadn't seen these before but every collector has their wants, needs, and standards. The greatest custom figure ever made is not an official figure, and we all draw the line somewhere. Maybe you buy all Hasbro, or all 3 3/4-inch, or all Hasbro 3 3/4-inch that isn't Disney-era, or sold at Disney parks like Droid Factory. I draw the line at custom figures - if I could just ask anyone to make me anything I could want, it's a black hole from which there is no escape. (Much like the regular line from 2006-2010.) I've known a few people to do Vlix figures, including ones cast from actual legit Vlix figures, but if it's not officially licensed I can't touch it. It's not real, and I don't want to pay for anything less than a real, fully-licensed, made-in-China Vlix. (If Hasbro does officially 3-D printed figures? Nope! Not interested unless the quality gets so perfect I couldn't tell the difference.)

This doesn't mean they aren't good - far from it. We've seen gorgeous work over the past decades from fans that show real talent and creativity when released from the constraints imposed by licensors, safety tests, style guides, and considering what needs to sell in the thousands, rather than the tens. I want something that holds up to abuse and functions as a toy - a mini-bust, a statue, these things won't do. If I can't play with it, what am I doing?



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4. Will TRU be getting in any new product at this point? I do see it making any sense, but I'm just thinking about the Solo toy launch...

Speaking of which, is there anything really planned for the Solo Toy street date?

I was told on Friday that Toys R Us would not be taking any new deliveries and whatnot, so what's in their warehouse now - and that does include some Solo items - will be sold off. We're seeing items breaking street date and going out. Stores will be putting out new stuff and trucks will be making deliveries, but TRU corporate probably has everything they're going to get unless there's something they paid for on a boat that has to be delivered. And that's possible, depending on their terms with the suppliers in China, Vietnam, and elsewhere. (I know how I do my business, not how they do theirs as the big guys get special treatment.)

Toys R Us will be an interesting beast to watch. I added this fourth question this week because we're already seeing them break street dates, because - really - what's Hasbro or Disney going to do about it? In the next month, Hasbro has Deadpool, Ant-Man, Avengers, Solo, and Transformers Studio Series items with street dates. Mattel has Jurassic World. If Toys R Us has product, they're going to sell it - and they're already putting it out. Heck, even before the official closings.

We are going to find out which toys make it out early as they show up, which is good and bad. The good news is for you guys - the bad news is for any retailer that plays by the rules. While you'll get your stuff early (possibly at a discount) other stores may find their hands tied, sales hurt, and consumers angered because they can't sensibly sell at or below cost as we may see Toys R Us do in the death spiral.

As far as launches go, you'll likely see some in-store gimmickry at Target and Walmart, plus announced (and maybe unannounced) exclusives. Toys R Us was the only chain to do a midnight launch across its many stores, so I wouldn't necessarily expect anyone to pick it up. That whole thing is kind of gross, and it's been happening for Star Wars almost exclusively over 2 decades. It needs to stop. It brings shame on all of us. Just put out the toys and call it a day.

I am not at liberty to speak on all of the marketing activations (this is what they call this kind of thing in the business) at hand for Solo. Low expectations and a small product line could mean increased enjoyment of both toys and movies, plus the smaller toy-movie window just makes me feel good. I don't think Hasbro or Disney did anyone a favor by giving us toys 3 months before the movies - especially since stores like Walmart might take the stock in August, not be allowed to sell it until September, and its automatic pricing computers say "Oh shoot this isn't selling over 50 days better mark it down" (or however they do it.) That's bad.

So yeah, welcome to a new paradigm. These dopey launch holidays will exist because some suit thinks they still work. And we're all acting goofy ratting out broken street dates when the infrastructure is set up so that by design 6-inch The Black Series will be put out because they're an "old item" since they kept the same assortment for four years. Fun business, eh? There are so many problems with this business that are baffling - I was at a Walmart Sunday that had 3 Sphero 8x10s of R2-D2, BB-8, and BB-9E with price tags of $129 a pop - but no explaining that they were something in the back you had to ask for help to buy. It just looked like an overpriced portrait. But nobody's going to do anything about it, so I'll just throw up my arms and watch things burn until new management shows up.



Well, it's been an interesting if not crazy week. From where I sit I've seen leaks of Target's classic Jurassic Park figures, MGA executives try to buy Toys R Us via crowdfunding, what seems to be a legit KB Toys Twitter account, and the beginning of the for-real closure of Toys R Us - at least in its current iteration. Someone could buy the name or swoop in, but the pulse has stopped and the organs are being harvested. (Read in to that as you will as you see things move around.)

Movers, shakers, opportunists, and visionaries are going to have a lot of fun jockeying in the next few months. We're probably not going to see a brick-and-mortar chain do anything worthwhile for Solo. We might see more products in more kinds of stores, as JC Penny and Walgreen's diversify their offerings while others look at Star Wars and flinch after recent fast markdowns cooling the jets of some surprisingly stunning figures. (Seriously, you're gonna like New Han, New Lando, and Tarkin 6-inch figures when you get them in your hands. You're also going to wish they redo some Original Trilogy faces.) While not explicitly our domain, Hot Topic has been an on-again off-again supporter of toys and is doing bonkers Funko business - the GameStop/ThinkGeek axis is moving into more plastic, too.

For Star Wars collectors it's probably the biggest period of uncertainty we've had in quite some time. The Barge skyrocketed in support this week - but will it be enough? The toy lines are looking like they'll have a bumpy year, and it would seem the prequel generation ain't gonna come back to collect. (I don't blame them - collecting all 92 is a lot easier than collecting all... however many thousand we're at now.)

What's really going to be interesting is how the timing is going to reshape the line as we know it. Movie toys typically start about 18 months before release, so it's possible Hasbro is coming up with things like what price points and technologies they want to infuse in the next movie line of Hasbro action figures. We don't know if Force Link will continue - or $50 vehicles. I have little doubt Hasbro is giving some serious consideration as to just how much they'll do, because to keep their dollars up they'll probably have to offer an even larger line. You're not going to get people with only 4 waves of 3 3/4-inch figures over 4 months - people will get bored and move on unless there's a "next thing" to keep them on the hook.

And of course, it's broken street date time so go have fun with that. Everybody seems to be breaking Studio Series Transformers, at least the grocery stores, so good hunting there.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.