Q&A: Wishes, Star Wars Rogue One, and the Little Guys

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 12, 2017

1. I have a question for you that I'm not sure has been asked of you before(at least in your Q%A).

Considering that you are in the toy industry, how would you run the Hasbro Star Wars toy lines if you were in charge of them?

Since you theoretically could be running the Star Wars toy lines some day, I think it's a fair question to ask.

Since I've got a paper trail a mile long, do not work at Hasbro, and have been writing about this particular line since its release in 1995, and answer questions like this one, I think it's a safe bet nobody will ever, ever ask me to run the line. I probably wouldn't ask me to run it. Especially with the new movies every year - I'm not 100% certain, but it seems Disney is calling many of the shots regarding what does get made for new movies since they control 100% of the assets. Since it takes 12-18 months to get a figure fully developed, by the time Hasbro sees the movie they may be on to the next film - or two films - without a moment to even think about the thing that just came out.

So let's boost this up a level. For starters, I'd love to see Disney spread movies apart to every two years to make them a true event. I'll even settle for 18 months - this would allow Hasbro a little more time to focus on Rebels, anniversary lines, and at least one token "classic" wave per year. I'd also like to see one token "classic" never-before-made figure every Force Friday as a reason for longer-term fans to go out, and not just people wanting to be a part of the new grouping. The Rogue One launch was pretty good, but I know a few of you guys skipped it. But would you have skipped it the salvo also included a new Rebel Pilot or Cantina Alien?

My big beef right now is probably collector marketing, namely that things collectors buy are not being announced, promoted, or marketed very clearly. If there are 3 3/4-inch figures, I'd love to see more specific plugs - be it on Hasbro Pulse, at conventions or at trade shows - announcing those items. Even if it's just "Here's the release date, enjoy" it would mean a lot to all fans.

I'd like to make sure that there would be some new form of engagement every 30-45 days for collectors in each format of action figure. New waves, repacks, something should be driving collectors to make a purchase and look at products more often than once a year for the September shopping holiday. Hasbro's going to be doing that this year thanks to the 40th Anniversary, but I'd love to see them have "Force Friday" for the big launch and a "First Friday" message to collectors every month with some sort of announcement of what to expect in the next 45 days, give or take. We're an active and receptive group who is actually quite literally demanding to be marketed to - all Hasbro or anybody has to do is say "Here's what we're shipping in case you want to buy it" and we'll start haunting the stores to look for it. Hasbro's really toned this down a lot - we used to get marching orders at every convention or trade show, now we're rarely if ever getting release windows with announcements... and we're not always getting announcements either.

The shape of the industry has made it difficult - but not impossible - to do big ships and playsets. I don't expect the rate at which these things come out to increase much, so even if given unlimited resources there are some things you probably would never see. But boy howdy, wouldn't a 40th Anniversary Death Star have been the perfect thing? Perhaps economics wouldn't allow it, but you know what they say - life will find a way.

Seeing as how 3 3/4-inch was the crown jewel of the line, it's my hope that someone did an audit of its decline - from where I sit, things started to get wonky during the 2010-2012 Vintage line with numerous repacks, quite a few repeats, and very, very few new-to-toys characters. The Black Series was even worse. The 5 jointed figures also started off with a couple of waves with barely anything genuinely new. You can't run a collector line on reruns forever, and at the same time consider that certain figures need to be kept in circulation. It's a balancing act.

Hasbro's doing an acceptable job. Given what they know (and probably don't know) it's amazing to see what we get for each new movie. It's easy to see some missteps in the rearview mirror, but right now the one thing I hope they consider focusing on the most is reinvigorating the 3 3/4-inch line - or at least giving it some more marketing. Their support of it, at shows and at retail, has felt limp for quite some time.



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2. I was really holding out hope for some decent 3 3/4" product announcement at Toy Fair. Now that it didn't happen, should I give up on my hopes for a decently articulated Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus in that scale? I fear Rogue One will become the forgotten stepchild of the SW universe as Disney moves forward. Chirrut just screams for SA treatment and I'm not switching scales to get it. So, is it just time to move on and give up that dream?

Buzz around the show floor makes me think we haven't seen the last of super-articulated Rogue One figures in the 3 3/4-inch format. I heard no specifics or release dates, but apparently there are plans to not end the line completely just yet. I'd love to see these two in this format, but I'd love to see anything in this format at this point.




3. Back in the 1990s, car maker Oldsmobile came out with a new slogan to reach a younger market. That slogan, "This is not your father's Oldsmobile," alienated older car buyers, didn’t work with the young, and is now referred to as the death knell of the brand.

The six inch figures are really nicely done, but I aside from a couple figures, In have no interest in this line. Like the car buyers who turned away from Oldsmobile, I’m spending my money on other interests. Ironically, one of those is a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. My question: Isn’t the 2017 Toy Fair Hasbro’s way of saying, "This is not your father's Star Wars?"

Thanks for all the great reporting. I may not be visiting as often.

There's not much to say other than "it is what it is." A car is a consumer product that applies to nearly any human being in almost every location in the USA. Action figures are a trend collectible, Star Wars being an unusually long-lived and popular one that has weathered countless competitors - and even survived extinction. It seems Hasbro is struggling with how they can make the smaller size viable. Or rather, there doesn't seem to be much of a struggle.

I disagree with the premise of your question, going back to that whole marketing issue. Hasbro sometimes neglects entire segments of their lines - the Robots in Disguise wing of Transformers often got skipped over in media presentations despite being pretty good, collector-friendly, and exciting. For whatever reason, they just choose to not promote it. We've seen Hasbro not put a lot of emphasis on the 5-jointed figure segment for a while, probably in part to collectors screaming how much they hate it - and then buying them anyway - resulting in confusion on what they want to present to the press and fan media at these events.

You're doing the right thing. If you aren't getting what you want, don't give them your money. At the same time, we had a freak glory age of retro super-articulated characters that will likely never come to pass again. At least not under Hasbro's current teams - with a new movie every year there's really no incentive to look back until sales start to suffer, and since there don't seem to be enough collectors going up to them at trade shows to request/demand/beg for a return to 3 3/4-inch I can't say I'm feeling super hopeful about their even taking the time to shine a light on it, let alone changing the product direction to what it was a decade ago.




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Hey, Indiana Jones 5 got confirmed! This may or may not be good news - the last movie in the series was roughly 9 years ago, and while it made money the merchandising didn't have enough momentum to keep going. Some of it was good, some of it could have been good, but the fact remained that it failed to click - well, minus LEGO. LEGO did what one might expect it to do over the long run.

As I mentioned last week, I'm a little more wary of franchises that go too long without reinventing itself - ours included. By killing off major characters or keeping them as a guest star, Star Wars gets to (try to) forge its own identity. Indiana Jones will probably eventually be someone who isn't Harrison Ford in the starring role, but it's going to be a while. Of course, after the recent loss of Carrie Fisher there's also the issue rarely brought up in polite conversation: will the cast be here to finish the movie? The apparently non-involvement of George Lucas is also unfortunate - we can crack jokes about the treasure being knowledge all we want, but the man's an idea factory and without him, it might not be exactly the same. Spielberg and Ford bring their own ideas to the table, but if we're progressing along in time this one could take place during the 1960s. What that means for villains in the supernatural realm is anybody's guess, but there's still a decent angle for monsters or ghosts or even another brawl with aliens of some sort. Or hippies.

The way Star Wars has gone, I don't expect any real Hasbro Indiana Jones products for a new movie beyond - at best - maybe a token wave of whatever figure style is popular at the time. I assume even a 6-inch line would be pretty limited in scope and appeal, as Indy never really had the tiny tots the way Star Wars does. Maybe there's a LEGO audience, perhaps Funko could make something of it, but one of the things that's hard to get everybody to remember is that while Indy is a sibling to Star Wars, it's a wholly different beast in terms of licensing and demographics. It skews older, and it never had the licensing support of our favorite space film.

With any luck, we'll get a good movie in two years that may even provide a send-off for Dr. Jones in his current form - the last attempt to pass the torch to a new generation didn't quite work out, but there's always an opportunity to recast Dr. Jones as a young man and do what America is currently very interested in doing: punching Nazis. That sounds like a good time.

--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.