Q&A For October 10, 2005

 

1. As it's pretty obivous Gree has the top of his helmet painted wrong, do you think there'll be a corrected change to him? I mean, even the stolen painted product that was at the Comic-Con (I think it was comic-con, right?) had the right deco. After all, there've been...three or four running changes to figures already, no reason they couldn't do it to him.
--John

Actually, it was Commander Bly that got pinched from Comic-Con, but your point on the figure being wrong is totally on the money. I don't expect there to be a running change, as this isn't a figure that will be shipping for long (the next collection comes in early 2006, folks) so right now, I think the Gree you have is the Gree you'll get. I hate to already say "well, here's hoping they do another one" but let's face it-- one with a better, more accurate deco, a blaster holster, "suspenders," and all would be a nice thing to have. Despite being the most popular thing going, Hasbro's ROTS Clones really don't follow the movie designs all that closely, with a few exceptions. Odd as this may be, it's interesting that we all gobble them up with glee despite them being less than authentic-- they're still awesome, though, but obviously, there's room for improvement.

2. A lot of the Q&A's seem to be about "why don't they make....." I'm going to guess that Lucasfilm or whatever division of it has likeness rights to, say, R5-D4 or Admiral Ackbar, but besides the (yawn) Tannika sisters (I don't care how you spell it),are there any of the human characters who fans have mentioned (Moff Jerrjerrod) might not be able to be made into figures for this reason? I guess this is another way of asking whether you know Lucasfilm generally obtained likeness rights for actors in the original movies? Like Major Derlin. And if Hasbro does Major Derlin, would the action figure have to be Made in America?
--Justin

While I have never confirmed it, my understanding is that everybody that signed with Lucasfilm after the original Star Wars basically signed a deal saying "we own your likeness." There are some exceptions-- the E.T. cameo in Episode I was just a cameo and Lucasfilm doesn't have any special deals here. But the long and short of it is that unless there's a memo I missed, everybody post-ANH is a candidate for a figure and like 99.9999% of ANH is supposedly OK. It's a weird situation and obviously due to legal ramifications, one they don't discuss much. The Tonnika thing was kept under wraps until all of a sudden when it was announced that there were deals tying things up, and I have never heard of any other character being held up due to legal reasons. (If I knew, you'd see some vague "rumor has it there were others" thing. There aren't any I know of, period.)

So what about that short list of human characters as of yet unmade in plastic? Well, truth is Hasbro has a big fat list of things to do and they tell me that pretty much every significant character is on it. R5-D4? Yup. Commander Cody? Absolutely. But some figures are on the list for a while, and things get moved around. A report from a convention around 1997 or 1998 said that Hasbro traded Grand Moff Tarkin and the Wicket/Logray Ewok pack in the release schedule due to fan demand, and I've been unable to confirm the possibility that R4-M9 in 2002 bumped the new R5-D4 from production until further notice.

So where's Major Derlin? Well, in Fall of 2000, he and Ben Quadrinaros were up for a Fan's Choice slot, and the winner was eventually Amanaman. Moff Jerjerrod, as far as I know, has never been rumored. And on the rough rumor lists for 2006, I ain't seeing him yet. Then again, I ain't seen any Death Star rumors yet. He's on my short list and is one of very few characters I very much want to see and if given the chance would push out. But then there's also Captain Needa-- where's he? There's still several figures that haven't yet seen plastic and might not for some time, so unfortunately, we still get to wait.

3. My two sons love the galactic heroes and jedi force line do you see them making any new ships?
--FriscoeKid

Hasbro said no new ships, but that doesn't mean the existing ones can't come out again. There's still a Naboo Starfighter, Speederbikes, Tauntaun, Wampa, and Reek to reissue from the original Playskool line. So that's Galactic Heroes. As far as I know there's no planned expansions for the regular Playskool Jedi Force line.

One of the more common complaints I get at this column from parents has to do with a lack of vehicles and playsets kids can use alongside their figures. Even though we've got quite a few this year, the Boga, AT-RT, BARC Speeder, and many others cannot interact with a figure in any way outside of hitting it. From the preschool sector to adult collectors, this appears as if it will be an issue for quite some time as it has been for many, many years-- Hasbro just doesn't want to do vehicles because they insist the market isn't there. Aside, of course, from reruns.

But reruns are better than nothing, assuming we get some nice recolors as a result.

4. I cant find a Republic gunship at any local stores(wal-mart, Target). So while at this one collectors store he had a ROTS gunship for $50, and AOTC gunship for $60. Are these good prices? Also I heard that there will be a clone wars cartoon commander cody figure coming out in a 3 pack. Do you know if he will have good articulation?
--Dan

The Gunships are still coming-- Amazon and Entertainment Earth have gotten more, so you need to monitor sites like those daily or sign up for alerts to make sure you get notices. (I advise just searching on "gunship" daily on your favorite online stores. I'm not kidding. Be obsessive, I believe there's some damaged box ones in the EE warehouses still.) Each Gunship is unique and as far as expense goes, it all boils down to what you want and why. The original Gunship was $39.99 at most stores, the Clone Wars one was $29.99, as was the newest one. Is it a $60 toy? Well, I don't know for sure-- for all I know fans will be bored with it next year and prices will drop. I personally would never pay more than I would kick myself for paying, and as such, I wait on some items to go down or show up as a trade (or in some cases, sell something from my stash on eBay to buy what it is I want, also on eBay.)

I personally think it's usually not a bad thing to pay 10%-30% more for an item that you think you may never see again, and as the Revenge Gunship usually topped out at $40 retail, I'd say that paying $50 or so for a Gunship isn't too bad. Although if it were me, I'd work my butt off trading for it or trying to find a way to raise the money for it, but that's me. Since a few more have since shown up, though, it might be worth waiting. This piece's value skyrocketed so quickly, it's a safe bet it might drop down again now that more product is finding its way to retail.

The Clone Wars Cody-- which has not been confirmed by Hasbro proper-- will not be a highly articulated figure. The animated figures never have more than 4 or 5 joints, if the figure had 6, that would be above and beyond the call of duty for this line.

5. I've seen a lot of pictures popping up of the TRU Holographic Emperor. Is he out yet? If not when is he due and will he be on the shelf or a behind the counter kind of deal? Also, I heard a rumor a while ago about Walmart Exclusive Bail / baby Leia and Obi-Wan / baby Luke packs. Any truth to these?
--Marc

While none of these have yet been officially released, people are finding isolated caches of the new Emperor figure. As such, it may pay to hunt, but he's not technically out yet. Also, the Wal-Mart Exclusive Bail and Obi-Wan packs were something I didn't hear confirmed while I was at Comic-Con, but a prototype supposedly showed up and I've seen the confirmation of these two reprinted in magazines. So it's likely, but Hasbro hasn't shown it to us yet. Given we saw the Target figures, it has me curious, but right now I'm expecting to see these.

6. I have a question regarding the Revenge of the Sith Red Royal Guard figure. A while back I remember reading on yakface.com that there might be a variation of the red guard by looking at the helmets. One had a shiny look that reflected light brightly and was a lighter red color. The other had a dull look that did not reflect the light well and had a darker red color. Upon inspecting my four red guard figures, I found that two have a "shiny" helmet and two have a "dull" helmet. Is this a variation? A running change? Frivolous junk I shouldn't waste my time worrying about? What are your thoughts regarding this difference?
--John

When it comes to variations, one man's treasure is another man's obsessed nerd fodder. I do not believe there to be a variation worth tracking down on the Red Royal Guard, but there is supposedly a change out there-- I'm pretty sure it's a production error and not a real running change. I wouldn't worry about it and as a troop builder that DOES care about such things, that's probably saying something. There is something Hasbro can do to change this mold to make it new, but obviously, this is not it.

7. I have a serious issue and I can't get anyone to give me a serious reply. My Wal-Mart has been sitting on three Polis Massan figures since, oh, May. No restock on Collections 1 or 2. Period. Its not a new symptom in collecting except that they have some fourteen pegs dedicated to three packaged figures. Total. They know they should have more in stock and they do not.

The Target across the street, they've done a bit better, but now they're sitting on the same set of Mas Ameda army builders (about seven in quantity) they've had since late June. I've seen a handful of figures come through there, but they were very obviously returns.

I hear your advice: ask a manager. The managers have a well-rehearsed line. "It's a problem with the manufacturer." I'd be inclined to believe this if it weren't for reports that other cities in my state (KS) have been running tons of new stock. I don't have the time nor money to go find product in cities 30 miles away when I live in a city of reasonable size and commerce. The expectation is not ridiculous. The product should be making it to my shelves. It is not. This isn't a non-movie year, this isn't a timeframe where no one cares what Star Wars is. I still (gladly) step around a group of eight year olds when I approach the shelves. Only we're all staring blankly at the shelves when I get there.

These are toys. I shouldn't have to be thinking about market price investments at eBay or EE in order to get my hands on them. I kneel at the alter, I recite the prayers, and time and again Hasbro forsakes me. Do they want my money or not? Or am I to buy an overpriced case at EE and help Wal-Mart stock the shelves with the duplicates I get left over from my cases? They can get them. Why can't my Wal-Mart?

Is there anyone at Hasbro I can contact to step around what is very obviously line of bull**** meant to pacify me while entire waves come and go in other parts of the country? Is it beyond reason to doubt the future of a line that is held by a company that cannot meet demand within three months of realizing it is short of supply?
--Michael

More than likely, your stores got figures and they blew out. If you hit the stores every day, OK, you may be right-- but I've seen numerous stores APPEAR that they never have new figures because the customers of that particular location frequent the store to the point where an entire case can be devoured in mere hours. I've gone to a few stores daily just to see if this was the case, and sure enough, it was.

You might be balking at "daily" but I'm quite serious. Once a week is not sufficient. Less than once a week and frankly you need to get used to the idea of buying online-- the popularity of these toys is that you really can't just phone in your toy hunting. It's not in Hasbro's best interests that all figures are available at all times, because then EVERYBODY'S a pegwarmer. Hasbro's goal is instant sell through, as is Wal-Mart's, Target's, etc. This isn't good for us, but it's how it was when the vintage line sold in stores too, with some characters at least.

Managers don't care. I hope I never told you to talk to the management because it doesn't work. I do advise filling out comment cards and writing letters (real letters) with something to the effect of "I buy toilet paper, some food, and other stuff at Target, and the reason I go to Target over other stores is there's a chance I might get some figures I collect. Lately, I can't find any there-- and as such, I've been going to Kmart more and more and their toilet paper is just as good." It's important to let them know that there's a chance they could lose ALL of your business if their toy selection doesn't buck up. It might work, it might not, but I can tell you I stopped buying ANYTHING from Kmart because there were no toys for the longest time. I usually won't buy underpants/socks/bottled water/etc. unless it's at a store where I'm waiting in line to buy a toy anyway. (I go out a LOT.) So to me, toys = my business. I won't go to your store if you don't have figures, unless, of course, that kind of store doesn't stock what I need. (Shoes, for example.) If you're the same way, make sure the store knows.

Most purchasing is done on the corporate level, so your managers can't do much unless they're being flooded in gripes, in which case they'll want to tell THEIR bosses about it so they can do something to get you to leave them alone. Me, I rarely talk to store employees because it's usually futile. Figure swapping, I bring up when I get mad about it. But that's it. I'll just go to the store down the street if I can't find what I want.

This is, of course, the reason that other alternatives like Amazon, Entertainment Earth, Shop Star Wars, and eBay exist. Three of the four buy direct from Hasbro just like Target or Wal-Mart. And two of them sell by the case because Hasbro makes cases that would really hurt the store if they didn't sell them by the case.

Hasbro is still figuring this out. The management changes and certain things get misunderstood. Like with Saga (the old one, not the new one), the idea of a "best of" assortment with characters the market needs came up, and it's already gone. There's nothing I'd like to see more than cases that can be broken up with evenly packed sets at EE, or cases with all new figures for retail. But you know what? Stores need old figures too, and Hasbro doesn't make cases to cater to everybody, just the big guys and what Hasbro thinks they need. More or less, they do good work, but it sounds like you're in a bad area. If nothing else you should be choking on Wookiees and Neimoidians in your area.

So what's the solution? Be a vulture, or buy online. That's the best way to collect, wait for figures to become "old" and buy them at lower prices when nobody cares. With the vintage line, I got most of my stuff in the post-ROTJ, pre-Heir to the Empire hammock where nobody cared and buying figures on the secondary market was frequently close to original prices, if not a little less or a little more. Heck, even during the vintage days there were figures I couldn't find. (I couldn't drive-- I had to beg my parents to order 4-packs from Sears or JC Penny that had 2 or 3 figures I wanted and 1 or 2 I didn't, ala the case situation that exists today. I HAVE Darth Vader, I don't want a second... but I digress.) Saga-era figures are cheap, can be had in collections for a fraction of the price, and you can usually buy a collection of figures with the rare figures for the price of just the rare figures. It requires patience, but obviously, this is something that we as a demographic are still cultivating.

Your area sucks. Or your expectations of how much work you have to do to find what you need are unrealistic. With 72 unique figures on the market today, plus redecos/variants/gift sets/etc., it's unrealistic to assume that your neighborhood stores will have everything because Hasbro is trying way too hard to offer a large amount of product all at once, and I should note that these 72+ figures were all released between April and October. Stores can't be expected to have the shelf space to have all new and old figures, plus there's always the chance the store has employees that ensure you'll never ever see figures on the shelves because they, like you, collect.

I thought Los Angeles was a black hole of new stuff, but some areas are, and others aren't. And other times I take a palette of figures at Wal-Mart and go through the cases. You gotta work at this. Toy collecting is still a luxury, and the concept of collecting NEW toys is a relatively new phenomenon-- back in the 1980s, people would laugh at you if you brought and sold current toys at a toy show. Buying new stuff is a business model many consider relatively new and, obviously, this is something everyone is still figuring out.

8. I've been curious about this for awhile. What's the deal with the big head/small head Han? Why did Kenner decide to change it?
--Matthew

The original explanation I've heard was that Kenner thought the vintage Han head in 1978 was too small and needed something that was more proportionate to his body. Thing is, the tiny head did show up on some later packaging in the USA and elsewhere, and the question has come up, why? Basically, the big head was done to improve the figure, but as many fans consider tiny head Han to be more accurate, "improvement" is a relative term.

9. I was at a local KB this week and was checking out there new ROTS multi pack with the silver Darth Vader. Has this version of the Vader figure been released in silver before?
--Rich

Yep-- this was the one offered in late 2004 at Toys "R" Us as a gift-with-purchase. If you're a loose collector, this is a set you can skip if you've got all 9 of these figures. At $39.99, it's a good set at a fair price, but without any stands (I hear), it isn't necessarily the way to go here.

10. Unfortunately, I understand that re-packs are a necessary evil because Hasbro is big business and like all companies try to get the most profit out of their product. But wouldn't it make more sense to balance out the load with more "New" figures in the mix? For instance, the OTC line consisted of approximately 80% repacks. How about reducing that # to say 50 - 60% ? That way, the kids can have their toys that we collectors already have and us collectors can have the new product that we want.
--Richie

Congratulations, you get your wish! The plan for 2006 is to do just this-- about 50% of the figures are all-new sculpts (although not necessarily all-new characters), and the other 50% are either repacks, repaints, or retools. Meaning same mold with new paint, same figure on new package, or a figure with different limbs and/or accessories. Don't be surprised to see things like an existing Trooper with a new gun, or a droid with planet-specific deco. That's the kind of thing the 2006 The Saga Collection is meant for, plus a few "greatest hits" to satiate kids.

To me, the ideal solution is this: keep two collections. Collection 1 is new stuff, meaning 2006 sculpts. Collection 2 is old stuff, meaning anything else.

Finally, OTC was a line that was made quickly. Hasbro was told "OK, we're gonna do the DVDs, make something quick" and this was the result. The point of the line was to be retro and have something for a mass-market line, and Hasbro really hadn't tried its hand at a Trilogy-focused mass-market offering since the Special Editions. (The tail end of POTF2 was meant for collectors and kids, but truth be told the bulk of Special Edition era releases were very collector friendly and not very kid and newbie friendly.) OTC has the right idea and frankly, I'm amazed fans want MORE new figures. At this point I most certainly want fewer figures to add to my collection-- I just want good ones. I'd rather have a year of nothing but repacks if the remainder of the figures were the remaining "unmade" Kenner figures and some good Expanded Universe choices.

If you're new, I know you find this astounding, but I think some of us old-timers know a thing or two and our screaming closets stuffed to capacity should speak volumes. There's only so much you as a collector can absorb, and while the "collect-them-all" fans are going to have a problem with variant carded figures, well, it's nothing Vintage collectors don't put up with. It's easy (and preferable) to build a collection in hindsight-- because I can guarantee you that odds are in 5 years you'll look back and see some sector of your collection as something you should have passed on. Unless you have massive amounts of space, in which case, OK, you've every reason to complain. So I'm fine with repacks as long as I don't feel obligated to buy them, and those two-inch holo figures may become a sore spot in that capacity if fans decide those are things worth re-buying a figure for.

FIN

So, first up: there's an Evolutions variation on the Sandtrooper. There are two very distinctly different paint jobs on the "dirty" parts of the figure. So now instead of having an intentional variation to get you to buy it twice, and having to keep your eyes peeled for the all-too-common figure swapping, there's also a running change which you may so choose to buy.

I got some more of the Final 12 this past week, and let me tell you, that new Wookiee stinks. I like the deco, I like the look, but the odor from the loincloth is insane. Hasbro, why do you hate me? Why must toys smell foul in this day and age? It's not like we're dealing with new materials here.

Oh, and you all saw that (haha, I am the shameless one) The Saga Collection Wave 1 is up for preorder, right? Ships in January, we're told. Should be out in/around February. I'm excited. Han's got a ball-jointed neck and it appears Leia's ponytail goes all the way down, much like the 12-inch figure from 2002 but unlike the 1983 and 1996 figures. Is it better or worse? I'm inclined to say "yes."

For next time, 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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