Q&A For August 22, 2005

 

1. Is Hasbro aware, and maybe I'm the only one, that collectors are probably going to stop collecting Star Wars now that the final movie is done if they continue to constantly re-pack the same figures over and over? I've been collecting Star Wars for a very long time and absolutely hate re-packs. I understand the reason for them, but with Hasbro numbering the figures, the completist in me resents them very much. And I can't be the only collector out there who's tired of having to buy the same figures every year just because they want a complete numbered collection.
--Brian

This has been a really hot issue. Who, you ask, will buy these figures? Well, that's an interesting question which Hasbro and stores have yet to really answer well.

Obviously, there's a hardcore contingent of collectors that read columns (like this one) and some of them even write columns about how much more they know than those who get paid to determine such things. So this is what Hasbro should do... heh. But there's us, we're vocal, but we're a small group overall. Keep an eye on the secondary market, and you'll realize just what sells and what doesn't, and how there's not a lot of us to absorb the entire line. For those wanting a complete numbered set, it does indeed suck, but repackaging figures in 2006 is nothing different from what they did in 1978-1985, so this is something I can let slide, personally, but then again, I don't collect packaged so I'm very obviously biased.

Second, there's Johnny-come-latelys. These people are the single most important thing to the hobby of Star Wars collectibles continuing with an adult focus. New blood needs certain figures to get them started-- if I were to start buying these figures today, having none, I'd want figures like Darth Vader and Luke, even prequel figures like Darth Maul or Jango Fett. It is for these people, and the next group, that repackaged figures are a good thing... I'd rather Hasbro spend energies on developing new figures and rerun Han Solo and Darth Vader because, let's face it, they aren't going to get much better. Hasbro's done a great job and deserves to rest on their laurels so they can spend money developing new versions of characters that sorely need it (R5-D4), or brand new characters.

Finally, there's kids. Kids need access to characters that aren't obscure Cantina aliens, droids, and Clone repaints. Just think-- if you had to buy a figure for a friend's birthday, or for a nephew that may like the movies but not be hardcore, you'd want to get him a few core characters first, most likely. Keeping repackaged figures on the market allows Hasbro to get a few extra bucks from this market, which it sorely needs. There's a lot more kids than there are collectors.

Repackaged figures and repaints are good for Hasbro's bottom line but aren't all that wonderful for the collector that has it all. By making figures from old parts, Hasbro can basically subsidize the development of new figures with a safety net. So let's say Hasbro did some risky figures in 2003 like Wat Tambor and Wedding Padme. There were assortments shipping with repackaged Leia, Han, Darth Maul, and C-3PO at the same time which acted as a nice little safety net to make sure there were figures in that case that absolutely WOULD sell.

As long as Star Wars is a healthy mix of obscure characters and familiar faces, I think the line will be OK for years to come-- the trick is figuring out the mix. Just think about it-- all the kids that got in to Star Wars this year may have never seen Luke, Leia, or any of those old characters in the stores yet, and they certainly don't have access to eBay. This Fall, they're going to rerelease the Millennium Falcon, but, apparently, not individually packaged Han Solo figures. This can probably illustrate the need for certain figures to be on the market at all times, and I think repacks are the way to go.

"But what about carded collectors?" you ask. Well, I look at it this way-- for the collector looking to buy all carded figures or all loose figures, I'd prefer repacks. As a loose figure collector with an interested in packaged stuff, I'd rather have fewer Han Solos in my collection if I can help it-- the way I see it, I don't have to buy 'em, so hey, great. I'll leave them in the store for someone that wants them. As long as new figures see production (3 or so per assortment), I'm all smiles. They can slow down the rate of new figure releases, and that's great too-- we had probably over 100 figures this year between all the exclusives and everything, so anything to slow the flow is OK in my book.

2. I've heard the [Clone Wars] animated series will continue, but WHEN??? What will it be like-3 minute episodes, 12 minute episodes, what? And when will Volume II be available on DVD???
--kt

The question of the series "continuing" is a bit of a question mark-- there will be more installments of the Clone Wars in the next couple of years, but they would have to either be a whole new thing or flesh out the existing storyline, because we pretty much saw the beginning, middle, and end of these wars within the 25 episodes of the series. The CG series will be animated by the new Lucasfilm Animation division and probably be merchandised to kingdom come, or so we hope. Episode length, number of episodes, and the like are still supposedly up for grabs.

Volume 2 of the Clone Wars DVD should be out around December.

3. Will we see beasts repackaged? Such as the Bantha, Dewback, or Tauntauns? I am guessing we will never see the Fambaa again?
--Eric

Vehicles and beasts, going forward, are most likely going to be the domain of exclusives. So if you want these, you need to support the concept of exclusives-- unless, of course, the line continues to be a hit and the market demands more $15-$30 toys. The chances of you seeing the Fambaa again are about zero, but you can get one on eBay today for less than FAO Schwartz charged us poor collectors back in 1999. Due to its size and the fact all you could really do is just look at it, it isn't a really great toy to see again.

Now, the others are a big toss-up. We saw Tauntauns reissued a couple of years back at Toys "R" Us in a multipack at the staggeringly low price of $19.99-- frankly, I wish Hasbro would release these again, they were such a great item at an equally great price. There's no reason some of these smaller items won't return as Hasbro will need to recycle certain toys at a certain price point as the years go by, and the Bantha is one damn fine toy. There are no plans this week, but who knows what the future holds? But, again, who knows what eBay holds? You can get an unpackaged Bantha for about $16 and a boxed one for $30, which is in line with what it cost back in 1998.

4. I must really be out of the loop because I have a hard time understanding one thing. It seems to me that Asajj Ventress is a EU figure right? It very hard for me to understand why they did a figure of her during the AOTC series and continue to do new versions of her (ex. unleashed, jedi V. Sith). I dont think its a bad thing, I think she is defintily a bad ass! If Hasbro isn't very intristed in doing EU figures why did they decide to persue Asajj Ventres so far?
--D Money

Hasbro has some interesting policies on the Expanded Universe which can best be summed up by one simple phrase: stop second-guessing them. At Celebration III, I was told not to expect non-movie figures in the coming year. Yet Hasbro is making numerous Clones based on concept art, Asajj Ventress toys, and various other Clone Wars items. So... what's the deal? It seems to be that while comic, novel, and game figures are out of the question, Clone Wars and concept art, at the moment, is not so out of the question.

Ms. Ventress seems to be somewhat popular, except for the baffling selection for her in Unleashed-- her figure ain't selling. Much like Aurra Sing, she's a good toyetic character that gets a lot of attention and decent sales, so Hasbro went forward doing toys based on her. She's popular enough, although Mara Jade keeps getting the shaft.

The best way to look at this is not that Hasbro is ignoring the Expanded Universe, but they're ignoring what we think of as the Expanded Universe. If you get right down to it, a good chunk of toys from Revenge of the Sith proper never appeared on screen. White Clones? Jet pack Clones? The weird Clones from the 3-packs? Dragonfly Yoda? There's a lot of figures that might be Expanded Universe and we don't know yet, as the deleted scenes and hypothetical DVD cut of the film have yet to be revealed.

5. I'm a big trooper fanboy and my favorite trooper class is the Scout Trooper from ROTS. My question is how come Hasbro hasn't made him a single carded figure yet and do you think we will be getting any new troopers in the Saga Collection such as a SA Scout Trooper or SA Snowtrooper?
--G33FOUR

As stated above, we got like 100 figures this year. That's insane. Hasbro is cranking out figures at breakneck speed and as such, things get cut, lost in the shuffle, or are sometimes intentionally held back because they know they'll need a "hit" figure in 2006 and beyond. ANY figure is possible for a future release but Hasbro is keeping things quiet right now, and they're going to need more exciting figures to release as the line goes on, so I wouldn't expect to see every major trooper upgraded immediately-- but eventually, sure.

Hasbro could have just repainted the Power of the Jedi (and later Accessory Pack & OTC) Scout Trooper as a BARC Trooper, but fans paying close attention know that there are a few differences in the uniform beyond paint-- so while that can (and should) fly with Galactic Heroes, the basic action figure line should (and most likely will) give this clone more attention and love in the future.

The important thing now is to make sure Hasbro knows what you want-- so if you get a chance, ask them. If enough people ask for a figure or two, they'll be sure to do it faster.

6. Hey, its me again. Y'know how hasbro's been making Ep III figs of characters that were only in the movie for a second or two, well ive been wondering if they plan on keeping up this trend in the upcoming saga line or if theyre gonna keep their focus on the OT. Id like to see a Mon Calamari dancer or Veedaaz Awmetth, and of course George and his daugters in their senate garb. Also, why is it that all the jedi get the super articulated treatment except for Zett Jukassa? Id say he had more of an action role than any of the alien adults. His articulation was really disappointing. And finally, was Bariss Offee in EpIII at all? I dont remember seeing her, but the visual dictionary says she was on Felucia with Aayla. Is there a chance that she may show up super articulated in the near future? I was hoping to see her among the twelve revealed at celebration, after all, they did an amazing 12 inch figure of her!
--lowtek

When it comes to Episode III, what was selected and why has to do with what was in the script and early conceptual drawings quite a while ago. As such, some scenes may not have been finished or even considered when George Lucas said to Hasbro "OK, here's what we got, go nuts." While signs do point to Bariss being around during Episode III, obviously, she didn't make the final cut, which means anyone is more or less free to ask about putting her somewhere else in the world of Star Wars fiction. Heck, despite two different deaths being shot, we still don't know what's happening to Shaak Ti!

Things like articulation are determined by a variety of factors, like budget, and making a figure appealing. With all the super-posable Jedi, it's very likely Hasbro said "look, there's no way we can go back and do these again, let's do them right and be done with it." Who knows what the future holds for characters like Zett, or what the present held in the way of Hasbro needing a certain number of figures out at a certain time.

7. What kind of gun is the one the AT-RT driver comes with supposed to be? Not the oversized rifle but the smaller one with the sling. Some kind of sonic weapon? Some sort of space bazooka?
--David

Since Hasbro dropped the names of guns after OTC, it's hard to tell-- does anyone know if a resource book has this information yet?

8. In the past weeks, I have noticed that people are LONGING for clones. Everyone has their own favorite commander,infantry,ect. but i have been wondering this; with so many different variations that everyone wants, wouldn't it be smarter to make a delux "Make it Yourself" clone with multiple heads and gimics and stickers to use and place on your figure to make the one you desire? I think this would be an excellent idea for hasbro to look into.
--T

Hasbro hasn't been very keen on DIY projects, and I have to say I don't think most fans would like this. After all, as it stands we can take a white clone and do whatever we want to do to it with a paint marker. Labels aren't exactly a good thing as over time, glue dries, and then the labels just peel flake off-- of course, you can replicate stickers, too, but I've always been a sucker for paint. At this point, customizers can have a blast with the (usually) available white Clone Troopers, until Hasbro gets around to making their own official versions which they no doubt will as the years go on.

9. What do you think the chances are of us getting Daultay Dofine, or Tey How, or both in The Saga Collection Battle of Naboo wave, also is it true that Daultay Dofine was rumored at one time?
--Josh

"Rumored" is a fun word-- any idiot, myself included, can start a rumor. Numerous figures were on various lists over the years, and I'm under the impression that pretty much every character has crossed Hasbro's lips as a "should we or shouldn't we?" figure at some point or another. Despite my interests in them, I think the Neimoidians are probably about as likely to come out as any Expanded Universe character-- basically, it's all on Hasbro's whim. They haven't been big sellers, but they can throw pretty much anybody in a good four-pack and sell them, so here's hoping!

10. whats up with all these star wars exclusives? theres just to many of them and we have to go to ebay or online stores to find them. i'll most likely never see these until after the line is dead and people start putting there mind and money into something else. i never saw the target lava vader, target clone trooper or the early bird set. with all these exclusives coming, i feel i'll hardly be able get any of them. . why can't hasbro just evenly put them in all the stores like they do with every other figure?
--Troy

2005 is a big year, and everybody wants a slice of the pie. As such, there's a very big market for Star Wars items this year, and everybody's trying to cater to all the needs a fan may have this year. With some exclusives-- like Target's premium figures and their recently jacked-up cups ($12.99 each), these are special items developed for a special store to get us to go there and buy stuff-- not just the figures, mind you, but most big store exclusives exist so that you go buy toilet paper, water, and toothpaste while you're looking for the new rare toy. Other exclusives (Droids) were developed because the persons selling them said "Hey Hasbro, how about it?" or because an online venue like the Fan Club wants to offer a special item for fans. But when you get right down to it, there's a lot of crap coming out before the holidays.

The best thing to do here is pick and choose-- you can't get everything because apparently there's going to be a lot of it. So now's a good time to start picking what you do and don't want-- sticking to one scale helps. There's a cost involved with collecting toys which, well, is pretty high when there's a lot of high rollers. This will shrink as the line goes on, but for the time being, buy what you like and take notes on what you want to get later. Just be sure to get the exclusives you want first, because you never know which ones may be very short runs!

It's also possible-- and I daresay likely-- that fans are going to burn out a little by the end of the year. There's a lot of stuff coming, possibly too much-- thankfully (for some of us), repackaged Millennium Falcons and Bounty Hunter gift sets can be filed under "seen it, got it," but for those who keep things in the box, it's going to be a very expensive quarter. Target seems to have at least 3 $13 premium figures, Toys "R" Us has the Falcon, Diamond as the Bounty Hunters, KB has that set with the bonus Silver Vader, Wal-Mart supposedly has Separation of the Twins sets coming, EE has the droids, someone has the TIE Fighter, Kmart has the two battle packs, TRU has another battle pack, there's the shared Internet Exclusive Wedge Antilles, TRU also has the Holo Emperor, Target has Plo Koon's Jedi Starfighter, and there's probably going to be more. So just for exclusives, you're probably looking at over $300 with just those items, and that's leaving out Titanium, the rumored Santa Vader, any new Micro items if any are coming (as I have no friggin' clue about other exclusives at this point), etc.

With a market this crowded, you'll probably have to pick and choose, wait for clearance, or refinance your house/car. As I have no house and my car sucks, I plan on saving money by eating cardboard and old batteries. Choose carefully, take an after-school or after-work job, and make sure to get what you like while you can-- if you think something sucks, vote with your dollars and hope for a post-holiday clearance or Grandma to send you a big fat check in December. Since I count on neither, I'm going with the batteries and cardboard.

FIN

One question I was asked this week was if I read other forums since I obviously don't participate-- yes. Love to read them. As long as it isn't "I missed out on this figure in 2002, why won't Hasbro ship one to the store near my house?" thread. But I digress.

On to the subject of the Best Existing Line of Expanded Universe Toys and Why Micro Toys Were Better In My Day.

Last week, I went through the vast Pawlus Archives (a big stack of boxes) and dug up the ultimate line of Star Wars vehicles. Some fans think it's Action Fleet... it's not. Hasbro's trying to make it Titanium... it's not it that, either. Between 1994 and 1999, Galoob (prior to being eaten alive) cranked out the very first good modern Star Wars line simply known as Star Wars MicroMachines. While there were a few annoying gift sets, some hard-to-find vehicles, and enough "two old ships with one new one" packs to make you want to wretch, it did something no other line did, which was produce a nearly definitive line of vehicles from what was then the entire known Star Wars Universe.

Including a few redecos, there were about 65 vehicles from the original trilogy, Special Editions, Shadows of the Empire, and Epic Collections. (Epic Collections were the first "Expanded Universe" toys, before Hasbro applied the name to their own line of 3 3/4-inch-scale figures and vehicles.) Going through this line, it was a true marvel. With Hasbro, we're still begging for things like a Blockade Runner, Rebel Transport, Cloud Car, or even XP-38 Lars Landspeeder... and then I saw that I had them all, sitting in a tackle box in mint condition practically smiling back at me.

When I heard Hasbro was going to do a new line of Micro vehicles, I was crossing my fingers that it would be a relaunch of this line. The last time a MicroMachines-scale vehicle was released was the bonus X-wing with Jorg Sacul in 2002.

The figures and playsets were excellent as well-- as good as the vintage MicroCollection, the first really big Kenner flop for Star Wars. Galoob's lines had heads and weapons and vehicles that popped open and revealed a playset, or special playsets that were just wide open awesome. Sarlacc Pit? Yes. Endor? Yup. Death Star II with Shuttle Bay? You betcha. Heck, they even made a $10 Cloud City you can pop the top off of and have a whole playset inside!

Hasbro is trying to recapture the magic in the new Target-only line, but so far, they've been disappointing. The ships are a different scale, the figures are nothing to sing about, and the giant Invisible Hand for $22 is a piece of junk. The paint literally comes off on your fingers-- touch the blue on the conversion lever, and watch it disgustingly flake off. It's cheap. Even though they're using the Galoob logo on the back of the box of the latest releases (seriously, go take a look), I no like as much. (Maybe if they had display stands?)

Due to finances at the time (and overload of product), I never got the entire Episode I set and left the ones I did buy in their packaging, and today I don't even know which ones I'm missing. I'm gonna try to fix this in the coming months... and if you want the best line of vehicles to ever come out of the Original Trilogy, I heartily suggest you blow some cash on MicroMachines. I can assure you you'll never see the Tafanda Bay or Sun Crusher in a toy line again.

As I am a fan of tiny figures, I'd like to pimp two other things, one hypothetical one not.

While I personally can't currently afford a set, Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars Minis game is a micro and collector godsend. Each series has 60 fixed-pose, prepainted figures (or vehicles) from the ENTIRE saga. Not only do you get figures from all six films, you get figures based on concepts, cartoons, comic books, and more. The blind-box packaging, collector-driven purchasing, and flat out nutty level of creativity of the line is just incredible. If WOTC ever makes it possible for me to pick up the set without dropping $300 on 60 figures, I would happily do so. If the line keeps going, it could become the definitive line of Star Wars figures-- they're just doing EVERYTHING! If you're a collector that isn't already heavily invested in Hasbro's 3 3/4-inch line and want to something different, smaller, and more respectful to non-movie characters, you'll probably never see a better option. There's just so much great in it that it almost brings a tear to my eye that the crazy blind box shipping ratios prevent me from getting the complete set I so sorely want. This line would also be a great place to test the waters with characters from the likes of KOTOR and the even more phenomenal (and seemingly disliked by everybody) Tales of the Jedi characters. You can get away with a LOT when you have blind box packaging preventing people from actually deciding what it is they're going to buy. (I'm not a big fan of it, but it has its good points, like with the minis.)

The second line is, of course, hypothetical. It's no secret I'm not a huge fan of the current Titanium vehicle concept, but one of the offshoots not only caught my eye, but had me drooling. Hasbro's considering bringing back the concept (and hopefully not a direct reissue of) the 1982 MicroCollection, which I am convinced is the finest line of playsets ever. Multiple planet playsets connect to form a BIG playset. The vehicles were the same size and concept as Action Fleet-- the X-Wing and TIE Fighters are pretty much the same size. Ditto with the Snowspeeder. Hasbro, if you DO decide to go ahead with the "Micro Playset" concept with figures, please do include figures with your new "Action Fleet" size Titanium ships too. Seriously. I'd be all over that.

So your Action Items this week: take a look at the Star Wars Miniatures game. Do some research on the Micromachines line of vehicles, and let me know if you think they suck if you have a few minutes, nobody ever talks about anything that's more than six months old these days unless it starts with "How much is it worth?" While so many of us are clamoring for something NEW, it's amazing how much stuff-- GOOD, quality, amazing stuff-- came out over the past decade that nobody will probably ever collect on the scale of the Greatest Line Evar (with an A), the 3 3/4-inch collection of action figures. So for the collector wanting a good line that isn't the oft-discussed ubiquitous 3 3/4-inch line, the secondary market is an absolute treasure chest of amazingly great toys which you can buy, sell, and trade with your fellow collectors. Until Hasbro and WOTC crank 'em out in a more convenient format again.

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.)

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