Q&A For August 15, 2005

 

1. I know that Hasbro has said they are still scared about solid cases of any figure, even clones.

But still, I was wondering, why didn't Entertainment Earth, who you work for, didn't sell either whole or mixed cases or different clones such as the #6 red repaint, or forthcoming #41 blue repaint. At the very least, Entertainment Earth could sell sets of 4 or 6 of each figure. I would pay $7 or $8 per figure if I could buy army builders, en mass.

Speaking of which, does Hasbro still have plans for a "one of every figure" club as had previously reported at Celebration III?
--Eric

Due to how Hasbro does things, their factories and overall infrastructure is not really well suited to shipping solid pack cases of a figure unless the quantity was pretty high. In the case of Clones, yes, it would make sense to ship a case of 12 clones with 12 unique clones even if they were mostly (or entirely) repaints-- but for a company to ask for it requires a certain amount of lead time, a certain minimum order, and more importantly, assurance that the market could absorb them all. You never know when a figure will suddenly go from being hot to being peg warming poison, like the POTF2 Lando Calrissian or the Neimoidian Warrior.

As far as being accepting of higher costs go, well, not everyone is quite so generous with their money. Target's new Clone gift pack has five unique figures with an MSRP of $19.99, and because of margins, that'll be tough to beat. I would love to see a "shared exclusive" Clone assortment in which Hasbro repainted, repackaged, and reshipped a nice batch of Revenge of the Sith Clones so collectors, stoers, and so forth would get them, but because of the costs of making a run of an individually carded figure for a small market-- like Wedge-- there are some significant cost issues. I think the lowest I've seen Wedge go for was like $12, so to troop build these new clones, gift sets or mass-market (or wider release) options are the absolute best bets.

Last I heard of the "Complete Set Club," Hasbro was revisiting it, which I think is a fancy way of saying that they realized the timing wasn't ideal and decided not to go for it. Seeing as how the line is pretty much over except for the Fall assortments with the final 12, it's really just a rotten idea for them at this point. But for the next series, or the next? Could be good.

2. I was looking at the recently posted preview pics and was wondering what mold(s) they will be using for the [exclusive astromech] droids. Will they all be able to retract the middle leg or will that vary with the figure (i.e some with a fixed leg, some with no leg, and some with one that retracts)? -It would be a shame to wait this long for Hasbro to make a R2-A6 and then not have a retractable middle leg.
--Dave

The good news is that all molds utilize the retractable third leg. The bad news is that they aren't all using the same body mold, but the good news again is that they are all using the best mold for that style of droid presently available.

R4-A22 and R4-E1 both use the mold originally used in 2002 for R4-M9. This mold was later used for Star Tours R4-M9 and the Toys "R" Us exclusive R4-I9.

R3-T6 and R3-Y2 both use the R3-T7 mold from 2002. This mold was also used to make the Toys "R" Us exclusive R3-A2.

Finally, everybody else (including R2-A6) uses the ROTS R4-G9 mold which is currently thought to be the absolute best version to use. It isn't quite as elongated as the body used for R3-T7, R4-M9, and those droids, and seems to have an overall better sculpt, sculpted wires on the feet, and a third leg that retracts or extends when you swivel around the droid's dome. It's very similar to the Vintage OTC R2-D2 as well, minus the vac metal. The only thing I don't care for about this mold is the light-up eye, as that particular part of the dome doesn't light up. While these are still being tweaked, it appears that the final product will hopefully have the black center eye on all droids as appropriate. So, yay!

I should also add that I think the R4-G9 mold is beyond awesome because that third leg retracts fully into the body, which is something previous Astromech droids could never do. If you could remove the third leg, it would work, but otherwise you always had a little chunk of foot sticking out. So, this is indeed a happy day for fans of droids.

(And for those of you prepping the torches and pitchforks, I answer the questions I'm asked-- so yes, it's another droid question, and as it's asked constantly, it may be repeated.)

3. It was great to see all the photos your site had from the comicon show. Certainly I wish that Hasbro would have done more with the 12 additional ROTS figures, still though, the repaints look pretty shoddy. Were the figures shown at the convention Mock ups? Some sort of pre-production figures or were they the actual production models that we will end up buying in the store? Seriously, The grevious bodyguard looked like he had white out on him and the commander Gree looked like he was done with bad water colors. Please shed some light on this.
--Lee

It's my understanding that these figures were prototypes and/or possibly test shots. They were not the final packaged product, and as such, are subject to change. Some of these did indeed look like they may be hand-painted samples, and as such, I wouldn't worry too much about quality issues until they start showing up as packaged samples. That's usually when it's a good time to gripe.

4. i live in fl where for some odd reason, certain parts and stores in my state get the newer rots figs before anyone else and i would like to know why is that and also, how can i find the newer figs in a case assortment that they come in including the repaints. please let me know this so, my search for them will go alot easier.
--Joe

Since I was a wee lad, I've been struggling with this very question-- are the new figures out in my area? And if so, why can't I find them?

Right now, the first 56 Revenge of the Sith figures are available, and those last six are just barely trickling out. The next twelve, the repaints, won't be out for a few months-- think October, November, or December. The holiday shopping and shipping season is a nutty thing, because Wal-Mart can basically monopolize the shipping ports anywhere, so you never know if something can be delayed due to a mass movement of product elsewhere.

If you want new figures in this day and age-- and keep in mind, POTF2 just turned 10 this month-- let me give you some advice.
1. Hit the stores several times a week.
2. Order online. (Amazon, Entertainment Earth, eBay, KB, etc.)
3. Meet up with other local collectors and network.

That's it. Those are your options. If you don't frequent the stores, you can wait for them to show up, or you can order online. I'd love nothing more than to waltz in the store and get those Clone repaints I can't find, but well, I ain't that lucky-- and when it comes to things like the intentional variants, it would be nice if when there's an opportunity to make a new figure, they just made it a brand new figure. But hey, I'll take what I can get.

There's no easy solution to hunting, and in the past decade, I've found you can pretty much do everything on your own with a few exceptions. Just keep your eyes peeled and your feet shuffling through the aisles, and you'll be OK. I assume. I mean, those repaint waves SHOULD be out in decent numbers but you never know how end-of-the-line stuff does-- usually there's either too much or not enough of it.

5. Is it just me, or does there seem to be more multipacks now than there ever has been before? There's 5-6 Battle Packs, 3 Battle Arenas, 4 Clone Trooper packs, 3 Evolutions packs, the Droid multipack, and soon the Bounty Hunter multipack. Has there ever been a time where there have been more multipacks in such a short space of time? Why is Hasbro going in this direction do you think?
--DeadJedi

As a toy company, Hasbro's goal isn't so much "get out as many figures and vehicles as possible," but "provide a variety of items for multiple demographics at different price points." Hence, M-Pire, Galactic Heroes, and the Potato Heads.

If you like action figures, Hasbro wants to have something for you for $5.99, $9.99, $19.99, and so on-- otherwise, deluxe figures wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. Multipacks are, to some extent, spawned out of this-- the Battle Arenas are certainly a new type of action figure product at a higher price point that performs a different function than a basic figure. Battle Packs are a combination of an item for kids and collectors to get more figures (with old molds) to market quickly and easily at a very fair price, about $4 per figure. Evolutions are a collector-friendly item that takes something we like (super posable figures) and puts them out at a fan-friendlier price... $19.99 or more doesn't sound thrilling for three figures normally, but after last year's vintage line, these are indeed a fine option and a neat gift item, plus it's yet another way to sell fans a Darth Vader figure. In a movie year, there are more people looking at Star Wars, and retailers want higher priced items to sell-- and since basic figures are a perpetual top seller, these make a heck of a lot of sense to create.

Also, some figures in multi-packs would be turkeys on an individual card, and odds are there's really not a good place for a $10 VOTC Anakin Skywalker based on his Attack of the Clones outfit. But they stuck him with his Episode III self and Darth Vader, and the end result was a super-hit at a pretty darned good price.

So where does that leave the exclusive sets, like Droids, Bounty Hunters, and Clone Troopers? Exclusives (even the Battle Packs) are usually generated through a need to create an item on the cheap that doesn't require a lot of new molding, but is reasonably cool and (for the mass markters) will sell to people that AREN'T you-- not collectors, basically. Some of the Battle Packs, like Kmart's two sets (Death Star Throne Room, Jedi Temple Assault) are pretty slick-- they see a theme, and for the most part, cater to it. Some of them are just boxed sets of things you have-- again, not bad, but not exactly spectacular. The Bounty Hunter set was just a way to get a lot of figures in a theme out quickly, if it's a good set or a bad set remains to be seen. I'm not overly thrilled to see the POTF2 Bossk over the Saga one, but such is life, and at least it provides a way for the extremely lazy to get a Zuckuss without having to dirty themselves in the waters of the secondary market.

With the previously mentioned items, I have no idea if the exclusives were requested by a retailer or were things Hasbro went to them and said "hey, if you want a $20 exclusive, here ya go." The Clones and Astromech droids were requested items and were done as such because it was the best way to get the most figures to market in the least amount of time-- developing one boxed item takes a fair amount of effort, so if you're going to go for it, cram as much stuff in the box as you can and usually you'll have a more interesting item. Plus there's a cost issue... Wedge, Holo Emperor, and Holo Leia are about $13, but a multipack with new figures tends to range anywhere from $4-$8 per figure (before tax and/or shipping). Which is OK, assuming you want all the figures in the box, if not, well, I can see reasons for complaining.

I have no doubt you will see far fewer multipacks in 2006 due to the fact you will see far less product. Which is a shame, because I thought Evolutions sets were one of the finest things to see release.

Aaaaand since we're on the subject, the rumor mill has it that 2006 will have somewhere in the area of 50 (give or take) basic, open-stock figures. (In other words, things you can buy ANYWHERE.) This includes the figures that are expected to show up around December, and yes, this number (if accurate) includes the repackaged figures.

6. As an army builder I'm pleased that Hasbro is giving us both the red shock trooper and the special ops 501st. However I'm sure that I will not be able to find these in the numbers I want (20-30 of each) Any chance someone will make a clone trooper multi pack (utilizing the #41 mold) with repaints of these guys? there's so many other clones they could also make. the grey one with yoda and Cody's grunt spring to mind.
--Barbara

Based on what I hear the 501st Tactical/Special Ops Clone Trooper will be available heavily in the cases, possibly significantly heavier than some other figures. Hasbro is very much aware for the demand for this particular variety of clone and our desire to army build, the 501st organization's desire to buy a figure that was created as a homage to them, and the generally large clone popularity. Three will be available in Kmart's Jedi Temple Assault gift set, one will be in Target's Clone Trooper Battle Pack (if I recall), and a supposedly varying amount will be in the basic carded figure cases. Again, I'm not sure of this, but it's my understanding that each version of the 501st Trooper will be slightly different. The basic carded one has some great black battle scarring. The Kmart one, on the other hand, appears to be completely clean from photography-- and I believe both of these use the Quick-draw #6 mold but I am not 100% sure of this. As for the one that may or may not be in the Target set, I have no idea-- stay tuned.

If you want 20-30 of a figure, well, then you're in trouble. It's likely that Hasbro will make more clones (and remake clones) as they need to rerelease figures to cut costs in an assortment, which is fine by me-- they can repaint and repackage Revenge of the Sith Clone Troopers for quite some time and I think the market can take it, as long as they keep making sure that demand is met for the people that want at least one of each. Hasbro has been pretty particular about who does and doesn't get a big box of Clones and wants to make sure to fit the best product with the best retail partner, and they can only put out so much product at once. I think there will be many opportunities to keep releasing figures as the line goes on, and there will always be a time where you can pick some of these up on eBay on the cheap or when someone else dumps their army. For the short term, though, five packs of 501st troopers seems like merely a wonderful dream, and those of us who want a few-- I want at least 6, myself-- are going to have to wait.

There are still more "remix" cases coming out, including this one that shows mostly Clones and Vader and Battle Damaged Anakin. If these hit the stores, then there will probably be more Clones still-- Hasbro's still tweaking existing waves to meet demand for figures that EVERYBODY wants, like Clones, Anakins, and more. It's possible every market is different, but the current market in LA ate up pretty much everything but Neimoidians, Wookiee Warriors, and a few random Collection 2 figures depending on the store. So Clones are just one of many, many figures Hasbro is working hard at getting more of to stores quickly, and I hope Hasbro continues to recard and rerelease more Sith figures in 2006 as it seems plain to me people still really want them, and surely, Hasbro wants to sell them.

...although if Hasbro wants to retool an Anakin to make a new (non-dismemberable) Anakin/Darth Vader with his hood up and 4 or more Special Ops troopers, I'd be all over it. Or a set with Zett Jukassa attacking 501st clones while Bail Organa speeds away. There's opportunities here for the pickings.

7. In your most recent Q&A column, you wrote that, with a few exceptions, Expanded Universe figures are a "bad idea." Hasbro seems to treat the notion with similar disdain, but I honestly can't understand why.

While I presume that retailer reaction to the EU assortment must have been lukewarm, my experience was that those figures which did make it to the pegs lasted for all of about three seconds. I can accept that an EU-only assortment would be a marketing challenge ("Characters that NEVER appeared in the popular film series!"), but really, would slipping an occasional EU character into a standard assortment hurt sales? If recognition is the issue, it's hard for me to believe that kids or casual fans would see much difference between the likes of Jaxxon the Lepus Carnivorous and any of the J. Random Background Aliens (e.g. Dannik Jerriko, Teemto Pagalies or, fer cryin' out loud, BoShek) which have been found worthy of plastic enshrinement. Is Admiral Daala really all that much less recognizable than Kren Blista-Vanee? Do you have to know who Kir Kanos or Nom Anor are to say, "Hey, cool looking armored dude?" --David

While I have said that I believe entire lines of Expanded Universe figures are a bad idea, I rarely pooh-pooh the concept of putting a limited amount every year. Actually, I'm quite for it-- in moderation, we've seen some pretty neat figures based on areas of the films that never appeared in the movies, and Hasbro is certainly exploiting unused Clone Trooper concepts in 2005. As a main line? Yes, I think this would be bad. People shouldn't have to scratch their head when it comes to figures, and I hate seeing people in a toy store look at something and be confused by it. Sure, some people are basically functional illiterates who somehow get to the store, but unfortunately their impulse dollars are important to my favorite toy line of all time. Even non-fans need to see figures they might buy, because there's more non-collectors out there than there are collectors.

Hasbro can (and frankly, should) consider putting out characters from "off-screen" as time goes on. Repaints of existing figures into characters from the Marvel Star Wars Universe would be pretty easy. Luke with his post-ROTJ White Vest? It's a new Luke, kids would probably be interested in a sort of Jedi General Skywalker or some such thing. Hasbro could probably make a great Chihdo (of Rik, Dani, and Chihdo fame) with a simple head swap. And you're right-- some figures would work because they look close enough to the Star Wars Universe, and an occasional (like 1 every 3-4 assortments) figure would be fun to see. Kir Kanos could easily be made as a sort of "deluxe" Royal Guard, and could be produced using existing body molds. Who wouldn't love to see the ROTS Royal Guard retooled with a removable helmet, Kir Kanos' head, removable cloak, and additional weaponry? I'd drop $10-$13 on a figure like that in a heartbeat as an exclusive, and if you leave the helmet on, you could just as soon market it as a regular guard. Some of these are no-brainers that Hasbro will no doubt get to as time goes on.

I mean, you'd buy Black Hole Stormtroopers, right? (I would.) How about McQuarrie renditions of C-3PO, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and Darth Vader? I'd be all over these. Would they be big sellers? That I don't know-- the Fan's Choice McQuarrie Stormtrooper did well enough.

My problem comes from the whole "Oh, KOTOR can support a whole line!" and "let's do every single character from the New Jedi Order & Rogue Squadron novels" groupings. While some fans would probably love the characters, others just don't know who the heck Jania or Jacen Solo are, and random kid figures aren't necessarily the best choice for a figure. Neither is Jaxxon, although I'd push over any number of fans to get one added to my collection. Fans who love the novels aren't necessarily fans that love toys, so while it's true these characters could be as beloved as those on the silver screen, their low customer identification rating combined with the fact that many fans really in to the Expanded Universe don't buy toys (their money goes on books and games), Hasbro needs to take care to make sure they don't make a figure that won't sell. With the exception of Prince Xizor and a few Clone Wars figures, though, Hasbro's been stellar at identifying characters that WILL sell-- and let's face it, if you were in their shoes, you'd have made Xizor too.

Just because a concept makes sense doesn't mean Hasbro will jump on it. While they do enjoy repainting and reselling characters, they miss a lot of opportunities for whatever reason. If Hasbro was really concerned about their bottom line, we'd probably see about a dozen more holographic figures (where's Vader??), countless repaints of C-3PO and R2-D2 as other characters, every Clone you can imagine, and a buttload of alien X-Wing pilots from those comics and novels. But, we don't. I'd buy an Ibitsam figure.

If it were up to me, I'd say Hasbro should do a Fan's Choice figure in the very near future and all five choices are Expanded Universe. See how it does, and go from there-- if fan interest in the poll is high, and sales are also high, I'd be a huge supporter of Expanded Universe figures and even vehicles. (TIE Crawler? Yes.) But as it stands now, unless the figures are new versions of the core group (Luke, Leia, etc.) or very easily blend in to the line, I'd say pass on 'em. Hasbro has proven with countless offerings from Episode III that inclusion in a film isn't nearly as important as looking like a figure appears in the film. Ultimately, I want Star Wars to be a toy line celebrating the movies (and television) and their characters, but there's room for a small number of figures from elsewhere. Who knows, making a new Mara Jade and Nom Anor or Carnor Jax might cause fans to start collecting.

8. I am wondering if you heard anything further confirming or denying the above subject - just before Comic Con, there was word out that T.R.U. would soon be releasing 3 different exlusive Clone 3-packs, these being:

1/ 3X blue 501st Legion clone troopers
2/ 3X orange Utapau clone troopers
3/ 3X red clone shock troopers

Do you know if there was ever any truth to this report or was this just rumour? If accurate then it would seem funny that they weren't on display at Comic Con.
--Rhys

As with any number of items, nothing is definite until it hits stores. Numerous items get cancelled, delayed, destroyed, or just flat out never materialize all the time, especially in movie years. It's very possible Hasbro considered these items, but if they'll ever be released remains to be seen. I have never gotten a confirmation that Hasbro was developing these, but then again, they're not known for telling fans everything about their exclusive plans, and with good cause. As of yet, we still haven't heard all the 2005 Exclusives from what I've heard... if it's true, I don't know, but this whole Santa Vader thing sure as heck caught me by surprise! (Although if it's legit, I hope it has the "To Luke From Dad" Xmas package that the original artwork sported.)

9. What is the definition of a "chase" figure, and how does this differ from a variation?
--Scott

A "Chase Figure" is a term that came from "Chase Card," which was a trading card packed at a very low quantity in a retail box of cards. For example, there may be six special foil cards in a collection, but if you bought a retail box of 36 packs, you might get, at best, two foil cards out of it. Chase figures are based on the same concept, with a case of figures maybe having a figure in it, or maybe not. Toy Biz is a very big fan of this, but most other companies know it annoys collectors and to date, Hasbro hasn't done anything like this. Mattel made chase variants for Masters of the Universe which, again, didn't make them any more popular with collectors.

A chase figure could be a repaint, a variation, or even an entirely new character. It all depends on what the company wants to do to build up its bottom line, like the 1701 Tapestry Picard, which we shall never forget.

No matter what the glue-sniffing mouth-breathing person trying to sell you a figure might say, there are no "chase figures" in Star Wars because there's no money in them for Hasbro. Some figures are shortpacked (one in a case, or a limited number in a case), others are just popular to a fault (Darth Vader), and others are running changes due to marketing ideas (Black Clone Pilot) or corrections (Palpatine's Lightsaber). It's tricky, but by definition, there are no "chase figures" in the Star Wars action figure line. However, for Attacktix, the chrome base figures more or less fit the definition of a rare "insert" item.

10. I just got the Wookie flyer and was shocked at the size of the pack in figure. It's HUGE! It looks like King Kong on a unicycle.

Is he as out of scale as he appears to be or did I just miss that super-giant Wookie pilot in the movie?
--Anthony

He is indeed big, but I pulled out my Sneak Preview Wookiee Warrior (who is also quite huge) and compared the two, and from the look of things, they're about the same size. So if one is super-huge, they both must be, and truth be told we don't know just how big a Wookiee can get aside from being told that Chewbacca was a bit of a runt.

And for those curious, yes, the Sneak Preview Wookiee Warrior sits just fine in the back seet of the Wookieecopter. It's quite nice to actually see Hasbro come up with a vehicle that can have a figure sit in it that doesn't require significant bending of part of the figure to make it fit.

FIN

One common complaint I've been getting is that the Toys "R" Us Obi-Wan Kenobi Starfighter has the wrong label sheet. I've been hunting my butt off and can't find one to save my life (or the Yoda or Boba Fett cup figures), but I digress. My question to you is, has anybody got a good one? Also, has anyone that got a bum one wrote to or called Hasbro to complain about a replacement yet? I would, but I tend to wait until I have a toy in my hands until I complain about it to the manufacturer. So if you know, please do share.

What else? It's been a fun week. I live in Los Angeles and have somehow, astonishingly, managed to find the red, green, and blue Clone Trooper Deluxe 3-packs this week. (I'm shocked too.) So it can happen to you too, kids! (Still no Sith Eyes Anakin, Clone Redecoes, etc. Baahh.)

I am, however, very pleased with the Stass Allie with Speederbike set. It's a pegwarmer, so if you see it, you should get it. I wish it had a lightsaber, but the vehicle is top notch for a $10 item!

For next week, just email me with your question and I'll put it in queue. (If you do not put "Q&A" in the subject line I cannot guarantee it will get through due to the high volume of spam these accounts get.)

Click here to read the previous installment of Galactic Hunter Q&A!









 
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