Q&A: Too Many Toys, Re-Menacing Phantoms, More Demand Issues

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, June 5, 2011

This week: Will we get sexy Kotobukiya statues of Star Wars characters? Is Hasbro trying to kill us with too many toys every year? And what do 3D reissues mean for toys as we move forward? All this and much more in this week's thrilling Q&A!

1. Kotobukiya. Love the stuff they do. Have a Star Wars license. Shunya Yamashita. One of my favorite artists of all time. I love what what he and Kotobukiya are doing for the Marvel and Dc Women!! Are you starting to get where I am going with this? How cool would it be if Shunya Yamashita, Kotobukiya, and Star Wars teamed up to make 1/7 , 1/8, or 1/9 scale female viynl statues. My first thought would be Darth Talon right out the gate. Shunya Yamashita's take would definitely add some sexyness to the Star Wars women, but I think the potential with this is awesome! What do you think are the possibilities of seeing something like this done in this lifetime? Any rumblings anywhere to be heard?

I've not heard many rumblings out of Kotobukiya, but there's definitely a precedent with the Shunya Yamashita female Ghostbusters statue wearing what can loosely be called an "outfit." It's possible they could do a "sexy Darth Talon" but really, what's the point? What are they going to do, replace her clothing with three eye patches and some high-heel shoes?

Anime-inspired Star Wars is an area that money could be made. The great manga editions of the original trilogy looked really cool, so aping that style for statues could be really exciting. Then again, a lot of the Ame-Comi figures are girls, or girls inspired by male characters. I'd say we'd probably be more likely to see "Sexy Darth Vader" or a female version of topless Darth Maul prior to Darth Talon, but who knows? The market's there, but it's clearly a little more adult-- this is something DC and Ghostbusters have embraced, but will Lucas? (Answer: as soon as someone at Koto or Gentle Giant proposes it and cuts a check.)

2. Star Wars: this is a toy business related question. In the late nineties, the line was much smaller. And then along the way Hasbro went crazy with product with multiple SKU's and tons of repaints and repacks and resculpts. Why the change? Did demand really grow that much? Wouldn't it be better from a business stand point to stagger some of this stuff or is the market able to absorb the massive amounts of little plastic men. I thought for sure having the main realistic line go on the shelves in tandem with the animated line and the greatest hits, repacks line (or whatever its called at this point) was too much product, but it seems successful. Not to mention, at that time, the animated movie didn't do so well in the theaters, although the show has been generally great on television. But how much is too much?

It might be good to look at Hasbro's product offering as a whole, rather than just our little line. Back in the 1990s, Hasbro was running multiple toy lines (along with Kenner) including Mortal Kombat, G.I. Joe Extreme, Aliens, Beast Wars, Predator, Aliens vs. Predator, Shaq Attaq, Starting Lineup, Total Justice, Batman, and I know I left a whole bunch off. Today, their boy figure line is essentially 4 big pillars: Marvel, Star Wars, Transformers, G.I. Joe, plus the likes of Nerf and Beyblade. Why am I bringing this up? While it seems there's a lot more, it's really just shifting around the focus: Hasbro won't pick up a Congo or a Waterworld any more, because the development costs can go into Star Wars where more money can be made.

It's the same thing with their board games-- it's better to rebrand, reskin, and make new spins on Monopoly and Scrabble than it is to invent something new entirely, although they did do pretty well with Pictureka!, and I'm sure I just bored the heck out of most of you. The point is this: Hasbro isn't thinking about the collector, it's thinking about the market. It's worth their while to offer a large array of Star Wars products, because that's what people want. They don't want Xevoz, they didn't want Stikfas, and a lot of other lines over the years didn't work... but this did, so we're going to get more. The fact that we like to collect it helps but a lot of the money still comes from kids.

The funny thing is if they did whittle down the line to 1990s levels, I guarantee you every site and podcast would have an editorial up about how the line is dying and the end is near. And back in 1995, the notion of 5 ships and 12 figures was actually pretty exciting, but today? Miserable failure.

We've come a long way, and largely because the market supports it. If collectors weren't still buying and kids weren't still lining up to get this stuff, we wouldn't be seeing hundreds of products every year. Hasbro seems to want to produce fewer products, but it doesn't seem to work out-- there are, however, longer gaps between gluts. 2011 has been pretty good so far with 3 vintage waves and a few Clone Wars waves in the first quarter of the year, as opposed to the horrible bore that was the top of 2010. So... I guess all I can say is save your money during the dry spells?

3. I for one am really curious to see how TPM3D does in theaters and how that plays out into the toy line. I by no means hate TPM, but it's not a great movie. I mean, the duel is awesome, but the rest... Will people shell out the extra money to see a bad movie in 3D with over ten years of Jar Jar bashing? Did Lucas fiddle with it? Did he make Jar Jar speak gibberish and give him subtitles like Chewbacca? Are you going to line up and see it at midnight?

The only one of the prequels I saw at midnight was Attack of the Clones simply because I didn't have much else to do-- I'm a lazy man and if I'm out at midnight, it's to go see a concert, to eat, or to go toy hunting. The movie will still be there the next day, and cheaper if I go before 6. I'm not particularly interested in seeing anything in 3D unless there are new characters or significant changes made, the gimmick isn't enough to get me to part with my money in the same way as, say, a lightsaber variation might.

While I do expect a series of edits, I don't know what we're going to get. We're all assuming that the Blu-Ray edit of The Phantom Menace will also sport some changes, like the new digital Yoda replacing the puppet for the Jedi Council scenes. (A preview can be seen in some behind-the-scenes featurettes.) For all I know, these changes are all being held back for the 3D release next year... giving you an opportunity to buy the 3D Blu-Ray of the movie down the road, thus rendering that exciting new purchase you've not yet made already obsolete.

I sincerely doubt the changes will be jarring or significant-- Mr. Binks will probably get a new CG model as the old one is dated at this point (Jar Jar can not impress in a post-Avatar world), and I assume most of the CG effects are going to see some degree of spit and polish. But as to the dialogue, the actors, and the story? I doubt we'll see too many changes. My guess is that the 3D reissues for the prequels will be disappointing at the box office, but it still might be profitable. The movies are in some respects ads for the products, and if it helps sell video games, toys, DVDs, and the TV show then it'll be a huge success in the grand scheme of things.

4. Since the summer movie season is making many retailers reset the toy aisles to coincide with the movie's release date, will there be any exclusive toys for the release of the blu ray star wars movies?


Very likely, but these haven't been announced yet. Deleted scene figures have been confirmed, but their status (i.e., exclusive or not) has yet to be determined. Also for the Blu-Rays are a series of 6 figure 4-packs, but these are basically previously-released figures in fancy movie poster boxes. Odds are any specials for September will be revealed in July at Comic-Con, unless Hasbro forgets or they leak early through Asian auction sites or the increasingly essential Sandtroopers.com forums.

5. I am very disappointed in Hasbro for the short sightedness of demand for the Gamorrean Guard. This one figure has been so difficult to find without paying a premium online. I was lucky to have my girlfriend find the last one at a WalMart while she was on vacation around Christmas. We get army building clones that pegwarm, but a hot item like the GG was so hard to find. Has Hasbro lost touch with it's consumer base? Their recent profit figures may suggest just that. Isn't business about giving the public what it wants without the excuses and secrecy?

There could be a variety of reasons he was hard to get, not the least of which is unexpected popularity. The 1997 Gamorrean was a pegwarmer, hanging around for a while and then getting blown out for a couple of bucks in 2000. With the added fur and soft goods, plus the fact that they aren't going to be able to reuse his body for another repaint down the road, the development is more expensive and, as of yet, they didn't put more out there. The demand on eBay is apparent, but it doesn't seem fans are complaining loudly enough for Hasbro to realize more may be a good idea. (Truth be told, most figures from waves 3, 4, 5, and 6 are a little tough to come by in some markets.)

More are scheduled to ship with Wedge Antilles, although so far it looks like that wave is showing up only online. (That's how I got mine.)

As to the nature of business? It's to make money. Hasbro makes money from collectors, but they also make a lot of money from games, pre-school toys, and My Little Pony. Star Wars isn't nothing, but with the frankly obscene number of SKUs they manage annually combined with a fear of poorly-selling products, I can't say I blame them for dropping the ball here and there. But on an Army Builder? That's just peculiar.


Not much new in stores this week for this stuff. BotCon was last weekend, though, and that seemed like a lot of fun. Cyberverse is going to be expanded to include the joyless and (from the episodes I've watched) largely not-fun Transformers Prime but before then, we're going to get Guzzle. So there's that. I also saw no fewer than 6 Power Core Combiner Grimstones at $13 this past weekend, and I'm being told Marshall's is getting the lost Reveal the Shield toys. So good hunting there.

Vintage wave 7 is now shipping from Hasbro, and wave 8 got delayed until October. October?!? I'll be old then! Miserable. It looks like most of what should be out by now is out, except for the Toys R Us exclusive vehicle-with-figure packs, samples of which are just now hitting international eBay sellers. For those of you on a budget-- and by "budget" I mean "does not see toys as a necessity"-- keep in mind that Kmart will be getting a vintage boxed B-Wing and Toys R Us will be getting a vintage boxed Y-Wing this year, and plan your purchases accordingly. This is in addition to the large-scale Republic Attack Shuttle this year, and what I'm going to ballpark as another $600 of exclusives between October and December. (Would it kill you to spread this apart, Hasbro?)

So in short: this is going to be a very crappy summer for Star Wars if you're a Hasbro-centric collector. So start saving your cash for the surprise announcements we'll all hear from eBay in comings weeks (but for reals at Comic-Con) as there are going to be some great items squeezed in near the end of 2011, and there are a few surprises coming up real soon that they'd scorch my butt if I said anything about just yet.

Oh! And I found some wild G.I. Joe Wave 5 this past week, and snagged Cobra Commander, Cobra Trooper, and Steel Brigade. I do suggest if you think you want a Steel Brigade, that you buy it.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with Q&A in the subject line.