Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
October 16, 2006
1. So, I just got my case of TSC wave 7, and was sorry to see the same #46
Rebel Trooper in my box. Are both variations being equally produced?
Both are currently in production. As I get to work somewhere that allows me to peek in cases here and there, I can confirm both are shipping. Some cases have two of one ethnicity, while others have two of the other. As such, if you order a case, you'll get two of one (or the other) and not both. As there are currently no plans for this figure to ship in additional Saga Collection cases, you best be hunting for this one.
2. I've noticed on the comic two packs with Tarkin and the Death Star Briefing Room, the Tarkin figure are repaints of the ROTS Tarkin with painted grey hair. Are the molds of the POTF2 Tarkin unavaible? I would have thought Hasbro would have put that head on a new body. The POTF2 Tarkin looks more like Peter Cushing than the ROTS version. That one looks like a creepy mask.
While the movie does look like a mask, the figure's maskiness is basically due to coloring and paint. It doesn't have to look lifeless, but it's pale, and it does. The upcoming redeco Tarkin figures look a little bit better in some of the photos I've seen but as I haven't held final product, it could change. (And as I've held what I was lead to believe was a final Kir Kanos and they changed that, well, you never know.)
As far as heads go? Head swapping isn't as easy as "take head A, but on body B." It can be, but recently Hasbro started using ball-joints on the heads of figures regularly. (I think late in 2003.) Because of this, the old style of necks aren't easy to swap without some amount of retooling, and if Hasbro wanted to retool a part, they would probably be best served to just retooling the head. The 1997 Tarkin head is good, but not great-- they're capable of much better these days.
3. Do you know if Hasbro has any plans to help offset the rising cost of Plastics and the subsequent cost of producing SW Toys in general? As we all have seen, the cost of SW toys has grown steadily in recent years. Granted Hasbro is producing a superior product today when compared to the line as little as 5 years ago. The upgrade in quality has caused the price to jump some, but I assume that another factor causing the price increase is associated with the rising cost of plastics. Would a return to the smaller 'bubble' as used by the Kenner in the vintage line help or perhaps diminishing the Card size? It just seems that there isn't much more Hasbro could do to improve SW toys to justify the steady increase in cost (inflation aside). I figure that Packaging is always a good place to start to help defer cost so that the product doesn't suffer. What do you think?
Let's start with a brief history lesson. Today, we look at modern Hasbro/Kenner action figure prices for Star Wars since 1995 at toy discounters like Wal-Mart and Target (your mileage may have varied slightly):
2000: $4.99-$6.99 (Hasbro lowered their costs, but retailers did not)
It's a bit of a rollercoaster, and the "new price" at Target has, to my understanding, been seen only at newly opened Target stores and nowhere else. It's not a widespread thing yet, and over the years collectors with good memories will recall some stores changing prices per location, almost randomly. As far as I know, with The Saga Collection in 2006, the price has not changed from Hasbro to stores-- it's up to the stores to set their retail prices. As such, Target said "OK, let's jack up the price." They're doing the same thing with Transformers Classics deluxe class toys in some locations, as Toys "R" Us is charging $10.99 across the board so far but Target prices are both $9.99 or $12.99, depending on where you found them.
As of today, rising fuel prices, the desire for more profits, and our desire to pay whatever stupid prices are asked of us will lead to a price increase. They know full well that during a collector year, sales aren't usually hurt by higher prices. At this time, fan's balking at the price, lowering fuel costs, and an increased overall demand for the product are things that might bring the price down. If every kid in America wanted them again, I can all but guarantee a $4.99 price point again. The improved quality of the toys is largely offset by more repacked (and repainted) figures, and some items-- like the upcoming line of Marvel-based Comic Book 2-packs-- are bargains.
Hasbro (and stores) charge what they can get. The Vintage line, by and large, proved that if fans want a figure bad enough that the price is almost inconsequential. The figures are in some cases identical (or inferior to) those released in the basic assortment, yet fans are lining up to buy a lot of them for $9.99-$12.99, depending on the store.
Aaaand with all of this in mind, expect a price drop in 2008. (That's my guess.) The TV show should result in the line being tweaked to be more kid-friendly, and this also includes kid-friendly prices. My fear is that it will also result in a kid-friendly scale, as seen with the 2.5-inch G.I. Joe line, meaning we just might get our Turbo Tank but at a quasi-micro scale. This is just speculation, though, but as I know Hasbro reads this I figured it might be a good point to toss out a "a non-3 3/4-inch Turbo Tank doesn't count" message. We'll still want the big size to go with the 70+ different Clone Trooper figures that have been produced in the scale since 2002.
4. I was wondering when Darth Vader's starfighter is supposed to hit shelves? Is the R2 unit included? If so, is it a full removable figure or just the head part. If it isn't included when will it be released? Lastly, do you know if there are any plans (or what do you think the likelihood is) to make this vehicle in the titanium line as well? It's just a repaint after all. It seems (though you never can tell) that it would be a fairly safe item, sales-wise, to produce.
The action figure scale version of this vehicle should be in stores and week now-- it's expected in October and at press time, it has yet to show up. As it uses the same tooling as earlier Jedi Starfighters, it will have the "plug" version of the droid. A full-size action figure of Darth Vader's astromech, currently known as R4-K5, is due in early 2007. To go on a brief tangent, I say "currently" because Lucasfilm and Hasbro have been changing the names a lot lately-- in addition to the Entertainment Earth packs, R5-A1 has been officially renamed R5-J2 so anything's up in the air. But I digress.
A Titanium Series release of this vehicle is due in before the end of the year, and there's also a Transformers edition coming as well. I could be wrong, but I believe this toy has received more toys than any other Expanded Universe vehicle in this short of a time window ever. As it's an easy repaint, I understand why, but it seems are really gravitating toward the concept, which I feel could change Darth Vader more toward a Batman-type character for toys. It seems he's going to have more ships, special Clones (new deco for 501st, perhaps?), and other oddities as time goes on because Hasbro (and fans) will probably gravitate toward the "Darth Vader's [Insert Something Here]" concept. I mean, who hear wouldn't want to see Darth Vader's Protocol Droid? Darth Vader's Speeder Bike? Darth Vader's AT-AT? These things probably aren't outside the realm of possibility. But if there's any way we can get Darth Vader's AT-TE, hey, let's talk about that one.
5. Question 1: These Order 66 2 packs...I am confused...doesn't Hasbro corporate exist in the USA? So where do these Brits think they are getting their information from? This is the second "leak" that I have heard from the UK and it just seems absurd that the UK would get figure info before us. As I understand it, figures are sculpted here in the US and produced in very small "sample" quantities...then China gets the proof and makes the mass market items...so if I were going to get inside info it would be from Hasbro USA or China...certainly not the UK. Right. I mean I would trust your inside information over that source. But I fear if the Empire got word you were leaking the stolen plans...you would have a Death Star hovering over your house. I also noticed that the Order 66 packs are rumored to be Mace Windu and a Galactic Marine? Did anyone see the movie? Mace died before order 66...It should be Ki Adi Mundi right? And Who the frack is Commander Bow? Was I sleeping when they introduced all these characters in the movie?
Question 2: I was browsing the starwars databank and was checking out the various ships that were featured in the movies. Particularly Clone Wars and E3. The V-19 Torrent is an awesome ship and I would imagine that Hasbro could make one in the 19.99 price range if not the 29.99 range. Its quite obvious that the V-wing (which looks cool on screen as it zooms by, but catch it in still frame and what's the big deal?) could be a 19.99 ship for sure. I think it is rumored that the Vwing is a possibility along with the Sith Infiltrator would make it to plastic (which I would pay 89.99 for if they made it to scale). I guess I don't understand how TRU can charge 49.99 for a Tie fighter with over size wings (i think they are too big, slightly). It was a 14.99 item with the smaller wings. The TRU pack in was horrible...simple articulation Pilot when there is a decent articulated pilot on the market. I was however impressed and insulted at the same time with my Endor At-At. The Driver was the Saga 2006 version while the bike scout was the POTF version with a flip up helmet...Sad.
Question 3: I have read the recent increase in prices for Target on their figures. It is sad but if it brings fresh figures to the peg then that is cool. My problem is with the assortments. I am sure you have been asked this time and time again but Why does hasbro short pack the hot sellers and put 6 per case of the chewbaccas that don't sell....13 per case of the DarthVaders...(IMO, Darth is done...we have the best version that we could ever get and why keep pushing him...just stick with that one and put him in 1 per case). I just don't see why Hasbro can't give us 1 per case. It is up to us buyers to increase the amount of cases that our retailer buys. (Small retraction on that...Clones could be shipped as multiples...) Furthermore, my Target (which is not far from yours) still has not put out the new Kit Jedi Starfighter or Rouge 2. They tell me that they won't get around to repurposing the isle until the 15th but she said it may be the week after. So if they have them, why not put them out? Way I see it, my target will put them out just as Hasbro decides to halt production and this Target will sell out as soon as they hit the floor and not be able to get restock...(See question 4)
Question 4: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH RETAIL...I mean don't they want our money? Why can't they get on the wagon?
Long questions demand short answers.
1. Hasbro develops a product in the USA. Its international affiliates are kept up to speed on new releases and due to the difference in how these will be sold in other markets, other information and/or leaks get out. In this case, Hasbro might be trying to find a buyer for this product in Europe. As such, we're hearing loose lips announce ships, or in this case, clones. As far as all your specifics, keep in mind that a lot of products are based around the Expanded Universe and may include battles that Hasbro and Lucasfilm came up with to sell product. Commander Bow appears in novels/comics, and you can research him elsewhere.
2. The TIE Fighter was originally $19.99, never $14.99. Toys "R" Us' TIE is overpriced, but is $44.99-- last year Target was selling it in blue for $39.99 before the eventual clearance. Toys "R" Us sets its prices for exclusives and in the past, it has been revealed that they make very good money on many of their exclusives-- especially the expensive ones. If you don't like the items at the price, don't buy them-- send Hasbro a message. As far as other releases go, $19.99 is a "magic number." Hasbro has a lot of requests from retailers to make a good $20 product, which in the past has resulted in Battle Packs and Evolutions and, thankfully for us, the continuing new releases in the "Mid Size/Starfighter Vehicle Assortment." If we get a V-Wing or Sith Infiltrator, there's a good chance they'll be in this assortment. This has nothing to do with Hasbro's toy designers, but everything to do with the bean counters at toy stores everywhere.
3. See above for part 1. The assortments are sensible. At the risk of being a shill, I work somewhere that allows me to see Hasbro's exact case packs. And by an astonishing coincidence, we post these on the web for all to see. Vader packs at 1 or 2 per case, Chewbacca as well. As far as Target's exclusives go, each store is different and these were being held for a "reset" after the previous endcaps of Unleashed sold through. Over the past week, I've seen these ships at nearly every Target I frequent so if you aren't seeing them, well, try again. Target (and Wal-Mart) are pretty particular about when promotions start and certain products hit the aisles due to fear of the new cannibalizing sales of the old. While you're not going to buy a product you've seen before and decided against, there are more people who aren't collectors who might impulse-buy these items if not distracted by another product. You have to give the old time to sell before you crank out the new.
4. Nothing-- they want your money and they get it. Items are popular and sell out before you get there. Depending on your market and shopping habits, the fault may be your store's, may be your community's, and it might even be yours. And if you can't find what you want at retail, have patience as collectors have no attention span for most products and with few exceptions, you can buy a number of "rare" items on eBay for less than retail.
6. To the best of your knowledge, have there been any rumblings about the Vintage-esque figures for 2007 participating in the 30th anniversary collection's promotion? What I mean is; since the "Vintage" line started up in 2004, we've had Star Wars cardbacks, Empire cardbacks and Jedi cardbacks. Any rumors reach your ears that the 2007 figures could be on Power of the Force cardbacks, enabling them to include coins like the basic figures? I know some of the rumored figures, like Leia (Endor Poncho) were originally released on POTF cards, but I'm not too sure about others, like Luke, the Snowtrooper, IG-88, etc.
There have indeed-- but as to what it will be, that remains to be seen. Also, there's little chance of Power of the Force from what Hasbro said when last asked, but you never know. And for the record, Leia in her Endor Poncho was released in a Return of the Jedi package first, as were Ewoks Paploo and Lumat. The only figures released exclusively on a Power of the Force cardback in the United States were Amanaman, EV-9D9, Warok, Romba, Luke (Poncho), Luke (Stormtrooper), Han (Carbonite), Imperial Dignitary, A-Wing Pilot, R2-D2 (Pop-Up Lightsaber), Anakin Skywalker (also a mail-in), Barada, Lando (General/Pilot), and the Imperial Gunner. And depending on how you count them, Yak Face.
A mail-in figure, despite being rumored, might not happen due to another rumor-- and that's that the redemption rate for the George Lucas Stormtrooper figure was pretty low. It turns out most collectors who spend $50-$60 on fancy premium packaging figures didn't want to damage the packaging to get another figure. (Big shock there.)
My hopes are for a hypothetical mail-in "vintage" figure to be one of two things. Or both. It should be "legendary," like Gargan or some other figure that never made it out to shelves, or "mystery," because Gargan isn't a selling point to most fans. Nor is Vlix, who I would much rather have in my collection.
I don't know how many of you have seen the rumor list, but I'm really disappointed. IG-88? Bossk? Ugh. And I LOVE Bounty Hunters. It's just that IG-88 is spindly, and was done fine during Power of the Jedi. Bossk was one of the line's most perfect figures in 1997, and the 2003 release improved on him only just slightly-- you can't improve on perfection outside of articulation. While I do like Bossk, I think it's a very weak choice for a "premium" Vintage figure that's going to cost me more.
(So who would I pick? I'd pick to end the line because basic figures are often just as good as the Vintage ones. But if I had to pick it'd be Luke Skywalker in Stormtrooper Disguise, Wicket the Ewok, Snowtrooper, Gamorrean Guard, and Endor Leia. Although I have reservations about the last two selling well at a higher price.)
7. It was with borderline hilarity that I read the article describing the horrors of the potential markup to 8.99 for Star Wars figures. You know, in Japan we pay a minimum of 10 bucks US dollars per figure, and have been doing that for 6 years.
Also, it should come as no shock to anyone that the ships have fit issues with figures. Name an Ep. II collector who didnt rant and rave over the issues regarding Zem's speeder and Anakin's speeder. Hasbro has not learned from its 2002 mistakes.
By the way, why can't Hasbro (the people who made the perfect articulation figure in GI JOE) make a SW figure whose legs can extend side to side (that is to say, do the splits)? That would SOOOO help with making poses easier.
Just wondering on the last one, and ranting on the first two, but I would love to hear your thoughts.
When it comes to international complaints, your comments fall on semi-deaf ears. I don't like hearing "I live in X and we pay $Y." No matter where you live, if a toy isn't primarily for your market and is imported, it's a safe bet you're going to have to pay more a lot of the time. When Hasbro imported Zoids to the USA, many of them cost more than on store shelves in Japan-- and if you want something Hasbro didn't import, well, good luck to you trying to get one for a fair price. If I wanted Dr. Who toys from the UK, I'd have to pay more if I could get them at all. If I want Japanese Zoids and Transformers, I have to pay more. Likewise, if people outside the USA want Star Wars, they have to pay more. I can (and have) bought from stores Internet in Asia as it was cheaper than buying the imported versions, but this varies. It might be cheaper for fans to buy US toys from online US stores (or via Internet trading buddies) but your mileage may vary.
As far as the increase goes, it's too early to be able to identify it as a fluke, a one-shot deal, or a sign of things to come. Target (and even Wal-Mart) sometimes charge more for products that are priced cheaper across the board elsewhere. Back in the 1990s, Wal-Mart stores charged a whopping $2 more per toy for Galoob's line of die-cast vehicles that would become the basis for Titanium. And NOBODY COMPLAINED. The only thing that gets people to whine are basic figures, everything else seems to be more or less ignored. So to me, it's a "wait and see" issue, but really what it is, is a "don't buy it there" issue. By and large, collectors threatening to not buy figures at a teensy $0.60 markup are without teeth. If you won't pay $0.60 for a rare figure you can't find somewhere else, there's probably about 3,000 who will GLADLY buy them, and then sell them to you via eBay. (Granted, this won't last forever, but if Hasbro's quality gets ratcheted up with the price and people buy into the whole coin thing, well, there goes that.)
"Perfect articulation" is a bit of a sore spot. G.I. Joe figures are nicely designed but aren't perfect analogies to our favorite line. Every original Joe figure (as far as I can tell, with VERY few exceptions) is the exact same height, more or less the exact same body type, and shared the same upper-swivel arm piece connecting to the elbow. Modern figures have "band issues," where the o-ring that holds the figure together is too tight or too loose and cause the figure's joints to stand awkwardly or tilt a certain way. I loves my me Joes, but they aren't perfect-- and those rings rot over time, too. Since similar body types are a hallmark of Joes (which allows for easy parts-swapping), such a type of construction wouldn't work for Star Wars. Just hold any modern Joe next to, say, Bib Fortuna. I don't think I'd like to see Bib's unique garments, head, and other features conformed to the style of G.I. Joe.
(Don't get me wrong-- I love Joes. I own probably a hundred or so. Great toys, but they aren't constrained by existing designs like Star Wars, or a standard body type so they could be compatible with most/all vehicles & playsets.)
8. I am taking all of my figures out of the packaging (yea I know - why did I leave them in there in the first place)...looking for a way to store them..I've heard that tackle boxes have the correct dimensions in their little trays to hold the figures but all the ones I've seen only have a few rectangular slots...is there something out there like a tray with rectangular slots that can neatly hold figures and their weapons? Similar to the old figure cases from the 70's? Something with a lid that closes...I've even search on the internet for craft supply holders (like for those little beads and stuff people use to make crafts)and haven't found anything...any ideas?
I advise you look up Tackle Boxes from Plano. You can find these at Kmarts (almost always) as well as some other stores, and they cost $4 or $5 and can hold 12 or so figures each with their adjustable compartments. However, if you buy one or two and find it to be a perfect system, WAIT. Remember which one you bought, and watch for a sale-- Kmart has several 15% off sales every year, and if you're going to need to buy a few dozen of these things, 15% is a big savings when you're finding homes for 200 or more figures.
As far as leaving figures packaged goes, well, if you've made it this far, maybe keep them in there. It's an ideal storage system (if a little storage space-intensive), and as long as they stay in the package, you don't have to risk losing accessories or the occasional, unfortunate "paint migration" from a figure to an accessory or vice-versa.
9. Titanium Han Solo in Carbonite. It seems like a match made in heaven, no? Imagine a great scuplt, a paint wash, and Han Solo trapped in his carbonite prison made of REAL cold, heavy metal. So will it ever happen?? Think anyone at Hasbro has put this on the "maybe" list? Any rumors or suggestions at Cons or anything? What do you think about the idea?
On one hand, it's very neat-- but it might be better to do something like, say, Boba Fett with Han's Carbonite block. Given that the block itself is an accessory, a one-piece item with little decoration, $15 for such an item is probably suicide at retail. I think it would be awesome, I think a lot of collectors would flip for it, but the value isn't there. (Not that the value is there for this line as it is, $15 is too high for a figure in a Sea Monkeys tank.)
10. Think we'll ever see any other Podracer vehicles or has that day come and gone? I think a build your own Podracer set would be cool. As long as HAsbro didn't just barf up Anakin and Sebulba podracer parts to throw together or parts of the Falcon. Esspecially if it had some electronic component for racing, explosions, and maybe some Huttese sounds. Throw in two or three bonus Pit Droids or some alien mechanic. Love or hate TPM I think most collectors and kids would agree it was one of the cooler scenes in the movie.
There's no scene in the prequels that was more unnecessarily long than the Pod Races. And they had to make it longer on the DVDs. While the aliens had original designs that look wonderful, and the racers themselves are big and colorful and, frankly, very "toyetic," I think the boat sailed. Nobody played up the idea of Pod Racing beyond video games, and when kids did latch on to the prequels, it was because of Jedi and lightsabers and not the fast-moving seedy vehicles.
If vehicles were so popular Hasbro was scraping the bottom of the barrel for new concepts just so they'd have something to sell, I think we'd see these-- and Cloud Cars, and Rebel Transports, and anything else you could imagine. As it stands right now, the only NEW vehicle for 2007 that Hasbro confirmed is Darth Maul's Sith Infiltrator, and 2006 was just repaints and repacks with the odd retool here and there. I firmly believe if Hasbro were to do a new vehicle sculpt of any kind, it would be something that they feel they could repaint or would be such a big seller that a redeco is the least of their concerns.
I really do hope that we see more of the figures at the very least. If Hasbro was feeling saucy, what I'd really love is to see the "pack-in" for 2008 be MicroMachines-- so you could get Ben Quadrinaros with a little Ben Quandrinaros Pod Racer, or Luke with his Landspeeder, and so on and so forth. Maybe this would help boos demand for the more expensive toys, as Hasbro has been excellent at giving fans something that's close to what they want in order to whet their appetites for the bigger, more expensive item that they really wanted the whole time. Since the Episode I sales window more or less ended, we've received a grand total of 3 Pod Race figures-- Teemto Pagalies, Mars Guo, and Dud Bolt. So since 2002, when the then-new movie took over, and in four years, we have received exactly THREE Pod Racer figures. To me, this doesn't bode well, as Hasbro seems to be spreading these guys out as much as possible. (Although if we get 1 or 2 a year, I'd be all smiles.)
If you've not kept up on toy junkie news, here's what you need to know.
1. Target Fall Clearance. The Titanium Lava Darth Vader, Unleashed Boba Fett, and Unleashed General Grievous are all on clearance from 30-50% off, and it varies by store. As I know some of you haven't even heard that they were making a Titanium Lava Vader, let alone that it's out, there's your warning-- this is probably going to be a slightly tougher-to-find piece if you care of such things. (Of course, this is likely moot as if nobody wants something, it doesn't matter how hard it is to get-- it's worthless.) I waited on the Vader and while I always say we should support the good stuff... yeah. This is total clearance fodder.
2. Tower Records is closing. This may not effect you, but it's depressing as there aren't a lot of record stores out there that are both nationwide and not utter crap (although Tower is expensive). A lot of Star Wars books are on clearance, as are magazines, CDs, etc. It's probably worth a look if you're in the market for some Insider issues or were looking for some toys that aren't Star Wars.
3. New exclusives are hitting/have hit. If you haven't been hunting lately, the Toys "R" Us AT-AT, X-wing, and TIE are all in stores. As are (in many locations) Target's Kit Fisto Starfighter (which is really breathtaking, the paint is superb) and Zev's Snowspeeder. Oh, and the spring-loaded Lightsabers? I'm seeing those at Targets and Wal-Marts. So happy hunting.
4. Venture Brothers this week was really good. Trust me, you should catch a repeat of it if you can.
5. And you absolutely must read this, as it is funny because it is true.
So 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.) I pretty much emptied my backlog, I think there's maybe two left, and I'm probably gonna take a Q&A break after it hits zero.
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