Let's talk about in-store displays. Also the lack of 6-inch clones so far - and my ambivalence toward the upcoming sequel film as a means to an end. We'll also look at vehicles, and please send in questions for next weeK. That's all I got for the introduction, so read on!
1. Hey Adam. Great to see the FOTD back, even if it was for just a bit, which leads to my question. In regards to Commander Neyo in The Black Series you stated... "Should Hasbro introduce a 6-inch version eventually - and I'm beginning to doubt that it will be soon - I hope the deco issue is addressed." What did you mean by this? I for one am a big fan of the six inch line. I have one of each and seems to be growing at a steady pace. I see three or four waves a year and a couple exclusives. Thats not bad in my book, except for that Han repack in wave 3. However your Fotd on him made me think. Am I reading to much into it and setting up for disappointment?
I think you basically answered your own question, sort of. Hasbro showed us about 12 figures for the big figure line in 2013. Of these, 3 are from the prequels, and 0 have been Clones. Hasbro's character selection so far has been "AA" or higher - every character is pretty significant and recognizable. They all have pretty significant screen time and dialogue, and I count R2-D2's beeps and whistles here. If you like Star Wars, you'll immediately recognize Luke or Han or Slave Leia or Greedo. Neyo is a less significant character, even among clones this is one of the least important to Hasbro in terms of action figures. (Well, maybe Bly is less important.)
If you look at The Black Series 6-inch line so far, Hasbro hasn't tackled the main cast of any movie yet, and has barely scratched the surface of any minor grouping. There's no C-3PO, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Jango Fett (or any Episode II characters), and the (ahem) "rumor" list adds Clones and TIE Pilots, but it's still tip-top tier characters here. The only figure on the list that's surprising is Jabba.
2. [A few weeks ago you wrote] "My interest in the final movie itself [for Episode VII] is almost nil". Why?
Short answer: The Phantom Menace.
The movie itself was OK. I left the theater having gotten my money's worth.
The massive trove of toys, making-of books, documentaries, wildlife art books, encyclopedias, comics, and everything else were utterly fascinating. The movie itself almost felt like an afterthought, the enthusiasm for the project on the big screen didn't align to that of the games and other stuff. The leaked toy photos, the drama over the spoilery track names on the CD soundtrack ("Death of Qui-Gon"), years of "insider knowledge" turning out to be mostly wrong, and concept art get me going. I'm not kidding, I love reading about abandoned movie ideas and concepts from just about anything.
I remember before TPM came out people asked me - and this is before we knew what it was - "Would you rather be in line at the toy store or at the movie the day it came out?" and my answer was "The toy store, of course." The movie will always be with us, and as such it's almost the least important element of this whole thing. I'll always have to chase the toys. Everything else will color how we all perceive it, odds are I actually LIKE most of TPM because of all the junk I read leading up to (and after) its release. I think I'd be even happier - as would most people - if they weren't even given the option of seeing it. I realize this sounds a little silly, but on paper TPM is the greatest movie ever. On the screen, it is what it is.
Plus, EVERYBODY is going to see that movie. Good or bad, I'm going to get endless emails asking me to reenforce whatever their opinion of it was. (Predictions: the complaints will stem from insufficient roles for women and too many white people. I'd take that bet.) It's art, it is what you wish it to be. All of that other stuff lets me see how other people perceive the movie, or wanted the movie to be, and that whole culture is really exciting stuff. I assume Episode VII will be an epic disaster of studio involvement. The movie itself will probably be fine, but the struggle to get it made is probably going to be a story for the ages. I'm envious of whoever gets assigned the unofficial book deal behind this one.
To take this a step further, Transformers movies since 2007. I like the TV shows (some of them), I like the toys. I fell asleep during the first movie and didn't see the others. I still enjoy the other stuff that comes up, but film in and of itself just hasn't motivated me enough to go see it. I'll check out the other stuff as it comes up, though.
3. Biggs' X-Wing at Toys R Us — is it a straight up repaint? Or are there any retooling / added features that have been incorporated?
It's sort of new. A few years back, Toys R Us had a heavily retooled X-Wing in the Death Star Trench Run set, essentially an Ultimate Battle Pack with 3 figures as well as Darth Vader's TIE Fighter. Again. If you bought that set, you have the same mold as Biggs' Vintage X-Wing.
The highlights of that item include a new dashboard with controls - which is held in by string and can be popped off - a lightsaber storage slot, a rotating hidden proton torpedo launcher, and a targeting computer. There's also a door to cover the front landing gear now. Oddly, it seems nobody posted a photo gallery of this one - I guess I should've. (Oops.) It's a definite upgrade from previous versions of the "FX" X-Wing mold, so try to get one if you have the scratch. It's a neat upgrade.
4. I don't know how things are rolling in the rest of America, but here in east central Illinois we are not seeing a lot of the Black series in any size and I could care less considering they're asking ten dollars for a basic three and three quarters inch action figure. However, I think the Saga Legends and Mission Series are absolutely wonderful! I love the new sculpts, the classic five points of articulation,and the six dollar price point! I've been out of the game since Clone Wars was cancelled, but these new Saga Legends have brought me back into the fold. Having said all that my question is this; have you seen any advance lists of future waves for Saga Legends? I'm very impressed with the leaked photos I've seen. I'm hoping that future waves will include a rebel fleet trooper, A New Hope Princess Leia, and an Emperor's Royal Guard. As always, I would be immensely grateful for any light you could shed on the subject.
Obviously, I can't argue with you - the only real complaints I have about Saga Legends/Mission Series (SLMS? MSSL?) are that the deco needs some work and it got repetitive fast. The basic Obi-Wan Kenobi mold being trotted out 3 times and Darth Vader reissued already is kind of upsetting, especially when I'd rather see more Clone repaints or - frankly - more Stormtroopers, period. The whole line could be Stormtrooper + ______ and I'd buy it.
So, who's likely? Hasbro is actually not easy to read these days, as the Snowtrooper and Bespin Luke are strange given the current marketing plan of the line. Heck, Vader and a droid doesn't make sense either.
Rebel Fleet Troopers/Tantive IV Troopers are likely this or next year as their designs will appear on the new Rebels TV show. I don't know in which format(s), but they're in circulation, so that means we should get a figure or two at some point. I'd love to see Leia, and a new Leia SKU on a leaked list doesn't say exactly where she's coming so I'd say go ahead and get those hopes up. The Royal Guard I would classify as unlikely, which is a shame because I'd probably buy six of them if they were halfway decent.
5. Hi! Has Hasbro gotten to comfortable, cocky or just plain lazy? With all the trouble that they have had with selling action figures, why haven't they done a display like the Lego SW display that is currently in TRU and Target stores? They could make a bold move and a huge statement (for those of us who truly believe they are rather unorganized these days) by displaying ALL of the current years figures in each store. Much like the original, vintage card backs did. Hasbro could put up the display in August and leave it up, at least through Christmas. It will be argued that they change their line up too often for something like this to be realistic, but thats one of several things that they need to tighten up. When it comes to selling SW at retail, Lego is killing them!
I don't think Hasbro is cocky or lazy - we've seen some staff changes over the last few years, plus a massive seismic shift in the market. Going from a post-movie line, to a TV line, to a movie line again (but with the movie pulled out from under them) is a tough beast to tame, plus Hasbro serves the dual masters of collectors - probably mostly collectors now - while LEGO is more in the kid square, where it's safer. LEGO developed a line to survive with mostly kids - with no shortpacks, no chase figures, few exclusives (OK a few nightmarishly rare pieces), but generally speaking what they do works. It's also worth noting that LEGO passed Hasbro as the new #2 toy company, meaning that LEGO's meager product offering - mostly driven by young male sales - has surpassed Hasbro's giant product catalog. It's a different market.
It is difficult for any company to get a lot of shelf space - LEGO worked up to a full aisle over several years, and Hasbro has much of an aisle but there's so many different assortments with a couple of pegs each that I doubt Hasbro would want to trade sales real estate for marketing real estate right now. Showing off all the action figures would be a bad idea for Hasbro, mostly because... well, you tricked me into another distribution question. One of the reasons we see few figures on modern cardbacks is because Hasbro wants you to buy the figure you see. If you flip it over and see something you like more, you might not buy the figures you come across, and that's not what they want. LEGO has a very tight, small line with a couple dozen SKUs per year for Star Wars - because of this, it's much easier to make a different kind of brand statement at retail which you can't do if you aren't entirely sure when the next wave is going to hit. What the Danish brickmeisters do is something Hasbro could do for Nerf, but would be unwise for assorted, wave-driven toys.
Hasbro doesn't change their lineups as much as you might think - the big right-turn at Droid Factory was a really unusual case. Just from a pure logistics perspective, figures are made in China a couple of months (usually) before you see them on the shelf. The case ratios have to be determined far before that, and the tooling and decisions as to what the products are theoretically made 12-18 months before the figure is in your hands. We've seen some waves delayed considerably, making it even longer. If Hasbro were to release a tighter, more focused line - kind of like what we saw in 2013 - I suppose they could do as you suggest. However, dates slip. We saw with Vintage figures that Hasbro would sometimes push a wave back once or twice, so we'd get three waves at once - showing fans 30 figures they can't buy would be unwise use of marketing dollars. I think some sort of display would be smart for their toys, especially Transformers, but I don't know if a fixture like that would have the right effect unless someone changed it out. To be honest I'm a little surprised the Imaginext ones only have a handful of figures... and I have seen those broken into and pilfered a few times, too. Neat idea, but yeah, I'd guess that ain't gonna happen.
Oh shoot... I didn't write a finale. Hm. Well, if you like the whole fake retro Kenner revival I found out Zica Toys' Six Million Dollar Man figures are in the USA. The Alien figures - which are gorgeous - were based on real Kenner prototypes. Zica's releases seem to be wholly original, but certainly look superbly legit. I ordered a set from where I work (Entertainment Earth) so I hope those are here soon so I can test 'em. Zica says they're working on prototypes for four more figures - I confess I know next to nothing about Steve Austin beyond references on The Simpsons, Freaks & Geeks, and Venture Bros. but I can't say no to a good retro Bigfoot toy.
Yeah, there's not much for toy news on Star Wars right now. Maybe next week.
Still looking for a Life Force arcade cabinet... or conversion kit. Got one? Let me give you money.
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.