Q&A For March 15, 2004

 

1. Are the animated figures really done? I still want a Padme, Threepio, R2, Obiwan in armor, and the new baddie (spoiler). Heck give me an animated Arc trooper, Kit Fisto, and Palpatine to round out the waves!

Aside from common place web petitions, how can we get Hasbro to get these made? They could be done in time for the series release on DVD. Oh well.
--Wedgered2

I answered this last week, but...

I think that Padme and Obi-Wan in armor are probably two figures that fans are always going to wish came out for this line, but as of now there are no known plans for them to be released. Hasbro's been quiet about this line due to its fast development and has yet to announce the possibility of more Clone Wars items since this year's focus is the Original Trilogy Collection. It would be great to see a few more figures, though...

And since we're on the subject... online petitions? These need to stop. Write a letter, or write two, tell your friends to write one. Short and simple, don't complain, just "Dear Hasbro, I enjoy buying your Star Wars Clone Wars toys and would like to know when you'll be releasing Padme and Obi-Wan in his armor in a cartoon style. Thank you, Your Name Here." Simple. No chance of them missing the message.

It's really easy to type your email address, but it takes actual effort to sit down, write a letter, and mail it out and most people give letters a little more weight. The whole e-petition thing, to me, is just not really a good idea in 2004.

2. I have come to understand that the new action figures since 1995 up until now are much better looking then the ones that I grew up with ,however I am a father of a 3 year old who basically has no choice in what he will play with because his daddy is still a crazy collector of this stuff.The vintage figures could hold a weapon ,todays figures are way too soft .There have been many times when he and I were playing and both of us would get very frustrated with these new figures.I wish Hasbro would make the figures and their weapons of a harder plastic.The Darth Mual with the bare chest is a complete piece of fall apart junk! I leave my stuff in the package but kids need to play with this stuff! Any comments?
--Bill

When you make hundreds of figures-- probably over 500 in 9 years-- there are going to be bum figures. That Darth Maul, while a nice looking figure, isn't exactly the sturdiest in the world, and Hasbro's sculptor acknowledged this at Celebration II. The size of the arms and the pegs to hold them together just didn't quite work, and as such, the play value of the figure is pretty low.

Aside from him, though, there aren't many figures that come to mind that practically disintegrate. The vintage line had only 96 carded figures from 1978-1985, a few more if you count the cartoons, and obviously they weren't shooting for action features or movie accuracy back then. The softer plastic is a safety thing, unfortunately, and it's how these are going to be from now on, most likely. It isn't just Hasbro, other toy lines are doing the same thing. As such, my advice to you would be to just buy him cheap vintage guys and reproduction weapons, or start to get picky about what you buy and play with. I haven't had that many problems with figures since 1995, myself, but then again I'm not doing as much playing as your son. (My main complaints are figures that don't fit in vehicles.)

3. How long do you think it'll be before we start to see images of EP3 figures?
--jedieb

If there are going to be sneak preview figures, I expect to hear about them soon and maybe see them during the summer. If there'a freak prototype leak, I think we might see figures before the end of the year but for Episode II, Hasbro was good about keeping things quiet until final packaged figures were eventually leaked on eBay or elsewhere. They also were sharp enough to show stuff at Toy Fair in New York for Attack of the Clones and I'm assuming they'll do the same for the next film.

While I've mentioned it before, I would really dig seeing another mail-in offer. Especially if it's a new Clone Trooper. (You can't see this, but I've got a sack of Jedi Points and an army of however many checks or money orders they want.) I don't know if this is likely to happen (a mail-in, I mean) since the current philosophy over there the last time I heard was essentially this: why have a figure as a mail-in when they could just as soon sell it in all the stores in the country? I understand where they're coming from, but discounted or free figures that I don't have to search for are really exciting to me as a collector. It's like Hasbro saying "Hey fans, we know you'll want this one, so give us three bucks and some Jedi Points and you won't have to hunt for it. Sound good?"

If we do see any figures from the final film early, it'll probably be something we already know, like the new General. But hey, I'd be happy with that.

4. Just bit disappointed where all this is going,I mean rehash stuff again, the 12 inch line right now stinks! The only thing I got was the Garindan and I redid him,I hate those GI joe bodies,this is just me. Most of clones stuff stink too. So these new vintage 12 inch is limited,is the Leia having rooted hair or that molded crap?
--Luanne

While I appreciate your boundless enthusiasm, 12" fans, you all seem to be missing one major point. There are only three 12" figures for 2004. Luke, Stormtrooper, Boba Fett. That's it. There will be no vintage Leia, there will be no rooted hair. From the sound of things, there will probably be no surprise exclusives either, which is a shame because the whole vintage concept really, really lends itself well to exclusives.

The 12" line hasn't exactly been going well, and it seems to me that many, many of the line's fans tend to do a lot of custom work on their figures anyway. My advice to you? Look into making your own. I've seen people mold their own action figure heads for 12" bodies, and if you know somebody that can sew, you may be the line's best hope at this point. Plus, this way you can just make what you want to see made. Hasbro's support for the line has waned for the year, but I fully expect more in 2005.

5. Do you think we'll see a Clone Starfighter toy for Episode III?

Has there been any rumblings from LEGO about what else they have planned for this year? I still would love to see a TIE Interceptor.

How is the decision made to decide what SW toys to make and what not to make? I realize you can't please everybody but it seems that HASBRO misses alot of opportunities to make money. For example the SA Clonetrooper appeared and vanished leaving alot of armybuilders forking cash to the secondary market. The Clone Wars cartoons seemed to light a fire in many anti EU fans but there was very limited product to get (this would have been the perfect place for the Clone Starfighter). And most disturbingly HASBRO doesn't support its video games with action figures. I think KOTOR figs would have done EXTREMELY well and the upcoming Clone Trooper game SCREAMS for action figures. Do you foresee a time when SW games can get the figs they deserve?
--Washington

While no word of any product for Episode III has been made official, nor have many of the vehicles that will appear in it, I think it's safe to say that if a Clone Starfighter appears on screen that Hasbro will want to make one. I do know a revised Jedi Starfighter is planned to be in the new film, and I'm personally hoping for that one.

I asked LEGO for you at New York's Toy Fair that exact question. "Will there be anything new to tie into the DVD?" I asked. "Nope," they said, "this is pretty much it until the end of the year." They have the license for a few more years, though, and I fully expect to see some more classic vehicles.

Hasbro's decisions to make product comes from a variety of sources. If a Hasbro executive likes an alien design, they can say to the Star Wars team that they think it would make a good figure. Sometimes, a figure can be made because a lot of hooplah is made about it online, positive or negative, and they know it would sell. (There's one in particular that got made this way at the tail end of Power of the Jedi.) There really is no one process that makes them stop and say "hey, we need to do this one" but they are often looking at an entire year's offerings, and need to balance things out with characters kids know and will buy (the oft-complained about repackaged figures) and the things we want and will buy (anything new.)

Hasbro does miss some opportunities to make a few extra bucks, some of which with good reason and others not so much. The entire Clone Wars line is named for the Clone Troopers, yet these were short-shipped and the hardest things in the line to obtain due to the repainted variation figures, the Wal-Mart bonus figures, and the super-articulated figure that was, in my opinion, short-shipped. Hopefully Hasbro will release this one in new packaging soon, because fans want it and they want lots of them. (I'd buy a few more, and most people don't even have one yet.)

As far as things like KOTOR, no, I disagree. Games don't necessarily translate into Star Wars toy sales, and most of our favorite Expanded Universe offerings are our own-- there's no one book, comic, or game that is going to guarantee a million-selling figure or anything like that. They might sell well for an average toy line but underperform for Star Wars, which is bad. I don't personally believe much of the Expanded Universe should make the transition to toy form with so many movie characters left to do, but there are some exceptions I think would work.

Most if not all fans know Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn. Their 1998 figures were great to have, but they weren't great. They were good, though, but I think revised versions would probably sell pretty well. Ditto with a Kir Kanos figure that has his helmet and robes and whatnot... if they can make an Expanded Universe figure that could be stuck in a movie setting and not stick out, I think that would be a good thing. And while I'm a fan of concept art figures, it seems that more of those aren't happening, which is a real shame because the Stormtrooper was probably the least interesting of those designs to translate to plastic. Still, I dig it.

6. What happens to product that never shows up in quantity like the Kamino wave of deluxe figures or the Spider Droid and play-doh maker deluxe wave figures. A few cases have dribbled found their way to Value City, but does Hasbro destroy unsold waves? Where do the Wal-Mart Wave 2 Cantina alien sets go? What about the Slave Leia or Unmasked Vader Unleashed? There is no way Hasbro makes so few that they never hit retail because evryone knows that they have to make a certain number of figures to break even.
--R2DTOY

Figures produced by Hasbro will eventually turn up somewhere. Sometimes low orders in the USA mean that they go overseas, but usually the production runs are pretty low. That second wave of Cantina aliens, for example, was produced as a super-small test run and all pieces have been sold out of Hasbro for a while now, meaning that those auctions on eBay are pretty much it. Quite often, figures do make it to retail and fans that aren't making frequent trips to the store will never see them because they come and go very quickly.

Lucky for you, three of the four deluxe figures you mention were rereleased. I personally saw that deluxe Obi-Wan at Wal-Mart in Tucson on Friday night last week, and the Spider Droid was repackaged in Clone Wars. These things will show up somewhere, but maybe not where and when you would have wanted them.

7. Why do stores hold on to product that is old without marking it down. Figures at TRU, K-B, and Wal-Mart will sit for years at full price before being marked down a dollar or two? The stores would do better financially to mark it to one or two dollars and take a loss. Target is the only store that moves product consistently. Everything sells because they turn over all stock within a couple of months or weeks! I've seen stuff at Target on clearance before TRU has gotten it in. That's partially why K-B is in trouble. I found a figure that has been sitting in the same K-B store since 1992. It's obvious to me, why isn't it obvious to them?
--Jason

This may surprise you, but stores can't just mark something down due to how management does things. I was informed that Toys "R" Us has a markdown policy that allows them to mark some things down through the entire chain, when it's obvious there's a nationwide need to unload something. There are some items that, in some regions or individual locations, just sit. There's no reason for a nationwide markdown because most locations no longer stock them, and for this, each store manager is allowed to mark down so much stock annually at their discretion. This is why you can go to some stores and still see Final Fantasy the Movie and Chicken Run toys, because the management gave a priority to some other thing to mark down.

Most Kay-Bee stores tend to sell through some items quickly, with others not selling regardless of the price. When I was in college, there were some ancient (and I do mean ancient) Free Willy Bend-Ems figures from JusToys in their discount bin. There's no way these would sell, even at under a buck each, just because the chances that a kid or collector would walk in the store and pony up for them were zero.

Also, keep in mind what we deem "obvious" isn't always so. Some people tell me that it's so obvious Hulk Hands weren't a big seller. Toy Biz tells me that the stores are selling out, and in my toy runs, I'm finding this is true-- the stores are just really good about keeping these in stock. They are selling well. These things happen and give an illusion that something is doing poorly and sometimes, they aren't. Kids buy more toys than we do, and when the company figures out what the kids want and how to get it to them, it's not something we realize. The best distribution is invisible distribution, no?

Kay-Bee, I don't get. The one by my house still has Candyman figures from an old Movie Maniacs series that no "free with purchase" offer could ever help them move. Some companies sell them stuff cheap, hence the low prices. Other times, they have money invested in product and need to make it back, and if they don't have something else that needs the space, there's no rush to move them out the door.

Finally, the Target factor. Target is crazy. Target's policy is, first and foremost, to have new, fresh, hip merchandise at their stores. They often jump the gun and blow things out, only to get them back in again at full price later. This is often a corporate thing to free up shelf space, but as you say, it's weird. I got the G.I. Joe playset that's based on the Clones Arena at a Target for ten bucks the other week. Target knows how important new stock is to its customers in all areas, not just toys, and caters to this. Toys "R" Us is the World's Biggest Toy Store (by claim) and as such, they tend to keep stuff in stock. Considering how quickly figures come and go these days, I find this to be a good thing. There are GI Joe figures I saw maybe once in 2003, never to be seen again. (Cobra Commander/Switch Gears, anyone?) It's a wacky business.

8. How many (and who might they be, if you don't mind) actually NEW figures will we be seeing in 2004? With the HOF assortment trickling out and the rehash line close behind, it just doesn't seem like a smart move by Hasbro. Have we not yet been milked dry with 10 different black vested Hans and 18 Tatooine Lukes? On top of that, it's been so long since the stores have restocked, it's almost like they don't really give a care either. I don't recall the year before the Ep2 figure release being this bad. It's almost like what's the point to race between stores for stuff we already have countless versions of?
--RC

Define "new." Does the new Luke Hoth from December qualify as new, or no? Everybody has a different opinion.

I think the HOF assortment is a good move. Most of the stores that got them here had them so quickly that I only see one figure from it left as evidence that it ever showed up in the first place. (Which is frustrating, as I want extras of that R2-D2 and maybe Stormtrooper.)

While I do not have a tally of figures for the year handy, rest assured, it's not exactly high. The focus of 2004 is the original trilogy, as fans are going to be buying the DVDs which translates to kids buying figures again, which translates to a need for Luke and Han to be on the shelves. Stores tend to restock a lot more than you think, the stuff just sells fast... I don't know how many of you have ever gone to the same store a few days in a row, but let me tell you, stuff can sell before you know you missed it.

The good news of this whole thing is it seems that most fans don't want the revised or repackaged figures. For me, this is a blessing in disguise. If you don't want a repackaged Luke, or have no need for it, you can save $5. For the rest of us and for the kids, hey, there's one more Luke in circulation.

9. Not that this has to be included in your QandA, but I was wondering if you have a complete list of 2003 Saga figures that were repackaged on the 2004 cards. Thanks in advance, love your site.
--Scott

There is no complete list yet, but you can find an image with every figure Hasbro has more or less confirmed to be on the new 2004 cards (the black ones) in our 2004 Toy Fair coverage. This image shows a lot of them, but from what I hear, not all of them.

10. Thanks for the great QnA column and reviews, but there is one review I missed

What was your reaction to the last Star War Celebration 2 in Indianapolis?

I attended Celebration 1 and thought it was a disaster, and was sad to hear the Indianapolis event repeated many of the same mistakes.

Your clear and frank review of the event might let people what to expect for Celebration 3, and would give some insight to those planning the event on what to avoid, what to improve, etc.
--Paul

While it is a little late for me to do a review, some impressions never hurt nobody.

On the whole, I got what I wanted out of it. My main priority for any and every convention, for myself, is to get the exclusive(s) I want. If I don't come home with the toy touted as the show's exclusive, I always, always consider it to be a bad show. In the case of Celebration II, the very first thing I did the first day of the show was to go over to the store and buy Jorg Saculs. And on the second day. (And on the third, a fan was nice enough to score them for me so I could wait in line with friends to get a Carrie Fisher signature.) As a collector, and I speak only for me, there is nothing more important at a convention that getting the stuff I want. Panels, exhibits of props, even clips from the next film are second- or third-rate activities. (As such, Celebration I wasn't exactly my favorite show due to the mud, weather, planning, and general lack of planning... and since there was no exclusive, well, eh. Some people had a great time, and for them, I am glad.)

That being said, the second- and third-rate activities weren't bad, there just weren't many of them that I really like. I have an opinion of most fan films that isn't likely to be popular, so an all-day exhibition of those, while a good idea to let people sit down and take a load off, really wasn't all that hot. I mean, most if not all were/are on the Internet. I did enjoy the props room, and I found "Star Wars in 30 Minutes" to be cute. The dealer's room was on the happy side of decent, and it was fun to see all the people from Hasbro.

On the whole, Celebration II was a big improvement. Last year at San Diego, Steve Sansweet said that their priority for Celebration III was to make sure nobody had to wait in line for hours for an action figure or a signature. This is definitely good to hear because there are countless solutions for getting around this, like, for instance, taking a number with a time stamped on it that says "be here at this time" and then things would go nice and quick.

As far as what people want to get out of a convention, well, I don't know. Fan gatherings were never big on my to-do list beyond getting to buy and see stuff I can't see otherwise. I really wish LucasFilm would up the ante by having the show either after Episode III is released or by showing the film there, because the one thing that baffled me about both Celebrations thus far were panels with actors speaking about movies that many, many of the fans sitting in attendance do not want spoiled for them. But that's a topic for another day.

In short all I want to see is a solid show with reduced wait times and toys for everybody. (Actually, if they really want to wow me, put a preorder checkbox for exclusive shirts and figures and stuff on the registration forms. They don't have to ID the figure[s], just say "__ Exclusive Figure $10" and put me down for whatever the max is so I can send a few off to pals elsewhere in the world.)

FIN

So, I went and saw Polysics from Tokyo, Japan last week at Modified Arts here in Phoenix. And then I had to drive down to Tucson to see them again at Solar Culture. If you aren't too old or young to go to a good, small club kind of show, you might consider going. If you like Devo or wacky Japanese stuff, and you probably should.

Has anybody in the USA ordered from HMV in Japan? I'm a-lookin' for some CDs and am trying to find places based out of Japan that aren't CD Japan because... well, shamelessly searching for early Polysics albums right now.

This week's reviews are the two new Target Glass figures, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul. No comics were released last week.

That's all for this week. So get those questions in for next week. Just email me with your inquiry, and we'll see what we can do.









 
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