Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
March 5, 2007

 

1. Hey. Got a couple for ya this time, after mulling over the Toy Fair stuff.

1. Are you disappointed with the size of the Infiltrator? It looks smaller than the Lego one. It's kinda sad. What kind of message will purchasing this send to Hasbro? If I pass on it because of the size issue (I haven't decided yet), do you think Hasbro will be even MORE reluctant to make new vehicles? Or should I buy like three V-wings to make up for it?

2. Does this "Force Unleashed" wave that's coming make you reconsider your feelings on the possibility of a (insert random EU title) sub-line that people keep asking you about? Or do you think you're still right and these figures will clog pegs for months?
--Brian

First, let's look at vehicles. Obviously, my mantra is often "vote with your dollars." As a community, we're all important-- our money dictates what sells, obviously, and as such we can also not buy things and send another message. Now, am I disappointed? Well, I have a room with like a thousand Star Wars figures and over a hundred vehicles, so anything smaller, or any news that a year will be mostly rehashes worth ignoring is something I consider good news. (Not as good as the announcement of Animated Debut Boba Fett, but a different kind of good.)

If you don't buy the vehicle, well, you won't own one. That's it. One sale isn't a big deal, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to say to Hasbro at a convention something like this: "Hey, I saw the new Sith Infiltrator, thanks for making it. It wasn't quite what I wanted, but I appreciate your making more vehicles and I totally love [insert product here] and hope you do more stuff like that."

It is unfortunate that it's smaller than the LEGO one in some respects, and in others, not so much. The Sith Infiltrator didn't really appear in any shots with other vehicles, so it's not a bad issue of scale like the AT-AT being much smaller compared to the too-big Snowspeeder. From the look of some of the photos, the item is basically proportional-- unlike the vintage cockpit-too-big, wings-too-small X-wing Fighter, it seems to be like a scaled down version of the prop. Not perfect, of course, but very good (or so it seems.)

Most vehicles are a little smaller because of hitting a certain price point. Look at the Republic Gunship, the various versions of the Slave I, and so on-- it's just the way the business works. That, and a $100 Sith Infiltrator would probably get even more complaints than this $20 one, which is at (roughly) the "birthday present" price point which, I'm told, is $15-$20 these days.

As far as "Force Unleashed" goes, well, your mileage may vary. From what I've seen so far, I like everything except Maris Brood (like Arden Lyn but not, also, if you're going to go with a tube top, well, um, why not augment the character?) and General Kota (with no characterization, he's just another old guy). Everything else seems great-- the two Stormtroopers are going to be huge. Darth Vader? Who isn't at least curious about that one? Juno Eclipse? Absolutely-- she's a female Imperial Officer, collectors will probably snatch her up. And a black repaint of anything, like the Shadow Guard, should be a no-brainer. It's a strong mix of things fans love-- troopers, Jedi, and Darth Vader.

Now, why not revisit another line in its entirety? Well, this isn't an either/or proposition-- this new series is being done to promote a new game, novel, comic, and whatever else they're doing. It's like Shadows of the Empire in 1996, and Clone Wars in 2003 (and beyond). The idea is to capture the momentum of something new and milk it dry run with it. I don't think any other old series is necessarily deserving of its own sub-line, and as far as I know this new series is probably going to be one or two assortments tops.

It also has a lot to do with the figure choices. This new series has 3 trooper army builders in it and Darth Vader, all of which are pretty much guaranteed strong sellers regardless of where they came from. The rest could be really hot, depending on their role in the game and beyond. It tends to be the new characters that suffer in these lines (Dash Rendar, Prince Xizor) but some of them surprise us and do very well (Durge, Asajj Ventress [not Unleashed]).

And, like the Dark Side, don't underestimate the power of marketing. Force Unleashed is going to be getting a lot of hype this year, and as it also has the "something new" momentum it will no doubt do fairly well.

While a lot of fans request/demand certain stories for the action figure treatment, I can't stress enough how divided fans are when it comes to most non-movie properties. There's no one sub-line that would probably delight the entire fanbase, regardless of what the 20-200 people on a specific message board might say. For example, I might be able to rally a number of fans who would be thrilled to see Hasbro devote its time to the Expanded Universe of the 1980s-- for example, Marvel Comics characters, the Droids animated series, and yes, the Ewok telefilms. Were this to happen, you'd hear complaints-- the same kind of complaints you might hear from an old fart like me who has no kind of interest about seeing the line shift its focus to non-movie characters from Lucasarts entertainment projects. So what's the best solution?

I'm all for "greatest hits" style Expanded Universe releases, or even some key series getting their own wave or two. Kids love Clone Wars, almost all collectors I meet do as well. It's not as divisive as some other properties, and courtesy of it being made as comics/novels/games/TV/etc., it's not as risky as focusing on a single story that may not have been a huge seller. I'm all for Hasbro doing whatever they think will sell, because, well, this year has been good to us so far. We're getting a cartoon Boba Fett, tons of McQuarrie figures, and if the rumors are true, Yoda on his Kybuck and Roron Corrob. In the past year, we've got the Republic Commando Delta Squad set, Foul Moudama, Mace Windu's astromech droid, Fordo, the Heavy Gunner Clone Trooper, Comic Aurra Sing, Shadow Stormtrooper, Kir Kanos & Carnor Jax, and a few other non-movie characters. Despite the complaints from fans, just those figures and sets brought us 13 Expanded Universe characters from existing properties, and that's not even factoring in the concept art (or Hasbro created) toys that you can have in your collection today (well, maybe not the Wal-Mart ones).

If Hasbro is going to keep cranking out about a dozen or so non-movie figures a year, I'm happy. I'd be happier if more were non-repaint figures, but the way I see it, the entire Vintage line had, at best, about a dozen figures a year total. Between the McQuarrie figures, animated debut Boba Fett, and the comic packs, it seems Hasbro might double that number this year alone. If we really, honestly end up with 20 figures this year from previously existing Expanded Universe comics, novels, games, and so forth (as in, not Hasbro originals) then I would have nothing to complain about regarding the selection of new characters.

2. Why do crappy Unleasheds (aka Jedi Luke) continue to be rehashed when the white Ep2 clone could be repainted green, yellow, or blue and it would fly off shelves?
--Eric

Again, vote with your dollars. If Hasbro finds that "crappy Unleasheds" don't sell, their exclusive development personnel and/or buyers will say "hey, stop selling this stuff to us" and that'll be that. However...

One of the reasons for the Unleashed-in-tube figures was to reissue them to the market again to see if there was a strong NEW audience for them-- as in, not me, and not you, but the 299 million Americans out there who might enjoy a toy in their life that don't live and breathe it. Most Unleashed figures tended to be pretty hard to get after an initial launch, so it was sort of a noble experiment-- the interest was there, so why not try it? Some worked, others, not so much. Also, I saw far more Boba Fett and General Grievous figures on clearance than I did Luke and Vader-- so it all depends on where you shop, and what it is the company is trying to do. I'm sure Hasbro is very much considering more Clone Trooper redeocrations as the line moves forward, but I can't say I'm honestly excited about the prospect of buying three more of that figure with nothing more than some new coloring.

3. I am an idiot I thought all the sound chip R2 units had the same chip just redone over the years. Could you make a list of the different sound chips in R2 units so I can make sure I have them all? The problem is mine are opened so I will have to examine each one!
--Nick

I can't make a good list describing the sounds, but I can tell you each of them are different and here they are:

There's one with a magnet in its "third leg" and that's the first one from 1998. It has orangey dirt on it.
There's one from 2002 with the assassin slugs, that's the second one. The noises don't particularly sound too much like movie sounds.
There's one from 2004 with Dagobah deco, no third leg, and specific ESB sounds. That's #3.
From 2005, there's one from ROTS that looks identical to the 2002 version, but has sounds mostly from ROTJ, notably the entry to Jabba's Palace. #4. It was rereleased in 2006 in "Greatest Battles" packaging. (Although now that I think of it, I never inspected the sounds personally. Allow me to do so for the column's answering of your question.)
#5 I don't know about yet-- it's coming, but the sounds are TBD. Should be the same deco as #2 and #4, and a Saga Legends release.

4. So, since we all know that the Titanium figures are dead, what will become of the ones that we saw images of, but never made it to retail? I'm talkin' the R2-D2, Luke Hoth, Jango Fett, Darth Maul, Shadow Stormtrooper, and Sebulba?
--RollaJedi

Hasbro hasn't announced (or mentioned) a Shadow Stormtrooper or Sebulba as far as I know, but some of the other figures are showing up in foreign markets and there are rumors they could wind up as exclusives in the USA at some point. You can actually find Darth Maul on eBay lately, so if you're prepared to shell out too much money, you're in luck-- otherwise, we have to wait and see.

5. Recently my wife and I sold our house. We are going to be building a new house starting in March, but it will not be done until October. I am guessing you can see where my dilemma is. What am I going to do with collection for that amount of time? I am packing everything into Rubbermaid totes, but where can I store them? We are going to be renting an apartment, but most of our stuff is going into a semi-truck trailer for storage. Space is limited in the apartment, so I am taking my Lego sets with me because my wife doesn't think it is very time effective to dismantle them and then reassemble them once we are in the new house. After all this rambling, I guess my question is, can my collection withstand being stored in a semi trailer for that amount of time? I live in Minnesota, so it not scorching hot, but there are several days during the summer where it can reach 90 plus degrees. Also, I have a quick question on Lego's. Is there somewhere that will tell you when a set is no longer going to be produced, before they stop showing up in stores? I ran into this problem with the most recent A-wing. All of sudden my local stores (Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart & Pamida) were out, and I can't find it anywhere.
--Ryon

Well, hopefully your apartment has a storage area, or you have family who's understanding of your plight. If not, I would probably avoid the trailer if you're really worried about your stuff, and consider a few months in air-conditioned storage. It's not a good option, but the heat can do weird things to figures-- I'd avoid it at all costs.

As far as LEGO products go, the lifespan seems to be less than a year on most mass-marketed items, with some LEGO exclusives (the $200+ stuff) lasting a bit longer. LEGO doesn't usually go out of its way to announce retirements, so my advice to you is to snatch up absolutely everything when it goes on a 20% off or buy-one-get-one-cheaper sale. I had a similar problem with the LEGO A-Wing that first came out, and I ended up picking up my local phone book and hitting every last store-- and this was a year or two after it was discontinued. And wouldn't you know it? I found one. It never hurts to make a really big run, and to check weird places like educational stores, bigger grocery stores, and online, Froogle.

6. Darth Vader - the past couple of years have seen a TON of more or less SA Vaders released. I can't keep track of them any more. Can you spell out as clear as day what are the main versions of SA Darth Vader that have been released (I'm guessing the VOTC was the first) and where they have been re-released? Please specify any significant variations. Also, in your view, which is the best one and does it constitute a more or less definitive Vader (e.g. VOTC Han is arguably the definitive Han Solo; but, arguably, there has been no definitive ANH Leia)? Along those lines, and perhaps most important of all, which Vaders can we skip?
--Rash

You can-- and should-- skip any and all figures you don't want. That said...

There have been a lot of Darth Vaders and there are going to be more, some better, and some worse than those you have. Right now, t he two best ones are the ones sold in the Evolutions set (2005) and the A New Hope Tin (2006-present), as those have ball ankles, shoulders, elbows, knees, and so on and so forth, plus cloth bits. They're excellent. There should be some new ones on the way, which also seem excellent, but those two are the best ones on the market right now. Each version has its pros and cons depending on what a fan wants, and it really isn't worth running down each version for what makes it great-- but if you can get both of those two, you should be pretty much set as far as the best Vaders go.

The "Vintage" Vader is great, but it doesn't have ball-jointed elbows, and its codpiece gets in the way of the figure sitting down. As such, I'd advise you to get the "Evolutions" figure and those based on that sculpt, like the Tin figure and the upcoming 30th Anniversary figure with Obi-Wan's empty cloak.

7. What are the best estimates for production run numbers of a typical figure? More to the point, given your knowledge of EE exclusives, what are those specific numbers and can you extrapolate from those numbers to get a reasonable estimate of Hasbro’s numbers for more broadly released figures? In the alternative, are there general assumptions as to the numbers for normal figures and exclusives?
--Mark

These numbers are, sadly, confidential-- but those I have been able to get, I mention. For example, most Target exclusives seem to be in the range of 50,000-75,000. Anything else, I either don't know or can't share under pain of death. It's my understanding that Star Wars figures in 1995 were made in numbers around 250,000, and around 2000, were reduced to under 100,000. I have no idea what a basic figure's production run is today, and given all the repacks, there's a lot of question as to what constitutes a "new release" or not. Basically, it's a very large number.

8. Can you tell me if the new Saga2 Combat engineer trooper has the removable belt, like the Evolutions grey Clone Commander, which changed the "skirt" to belt, or is it like the one on the yellow one (non removable)? I need to know that with some customizing ideas in mind:)
--Ivo

Uh... somewhat. It's movable, but it isn't meant to be removable as far as I can tell-- it can be cut off, though, so if you wanted to switch it out with another figure's, it's probably doable. But it's a one-time removal, if you catch my meaning.

9. I haven't opened but a few figures since 1977, so I must ask someone who does: Which clone troopers from ROTS and Saga lines have the removable helmets? Also, is the photo on the front of the card an indicator of which type of articulation that clone has? For example, the "super articulated" clone (ROTS #41) depicts a clone rushing toward you, while the standard variation has a simple standing pose.
--Gary

Very few individually packaged Clones have removable helmets. There's the AT-TE Driver, 501st Trooper, Airborne Trooper, Galactic Marine, Combat Engineer, and that's about all I can think of off the top of my head. You can find a lot of others in gift packs, based on those molds as well as the Evolutions Trooper molds.

The pictures on the packaging may correspond with some sculpts, but it's just a coincidence. The Super Articulated body has been re-used many times, so far on the Shock Trooper (Skirmish in the Senate, Saga Legends), Covert Ops Trooper, Commander Appo, 5th Fleet Security, Utapau Clone, Commander Gree, 442nd Siege Battalion (green), Mace Windu's purple trooper, and that's about it so far.

10. I've noticed that in your answers, you've become a bit of an apologist for Hasbro. I'm sure it's not intentional-you're just relaying the reality of the market to your readers. And this reality is often at odds with what your readers want to hear. Do you resent being put into a position where you're the bearer of bad news? I ask because I wrote about Macs for a decade, and frequently found myself in a similar situation, coming across as an apologist for Apple. (Or, worse yet, every time a friend's Mac had a problem, I was somehow put on 'trial,' forced into a position where I had to both defend myself and Apple!)
--Chris

Well, it sucks, and it's good. The problem is that in Hasbro's official Q&A, they can't get away with, for example, saying that a concept's potential market is probably far, far too narrow to warrant sales of a certain product. (Customization kits, I'm looking at you.) I'm also not on anybody's payroll for this column-- and unpaid workers can get away with a lot more because I don't think I can say anything to get me fired from Galactic Hunter. Because of this, I feel I am at an advantage. (Although it'd be nice to, you know, be some sort of paid Hasbro ombudsman or something.)

For example, today's question about the Sith Infiltrator-- does it suck that it's a little bit smaller? Maybe yes, maybe no. The best I can do is explain why I've been told it's smaller, or what I've observed to see if this is a valid reason. Outside of Bratz and Barbie, there don't seem to be a lot of high-end vehicles and playsets, leaving us with a market where touchy retailers won't devote big shelf space to big toys in the non-holiday seasons. If anything, we can blame Wal-Mart and Target as much as we blame Hasbro and a less-than-enthusiastic generation of tech-savvy kids raised on the Xbox and MySpace instead of big action toys.

Obviously, I'd rather be in a position where everybody likes what I have to say, but I get decent readership and people often keep coming back-- so hopefully I'm giving people what they want. I'm also not shy about letting people know what else is out there-- I read the Q&A columns on all of the fan sites, and there's so much great material out there to read that if you don't like one site's manner of presenting information, there are several more out there just waiting for you to discover them and love their perspective on the toy line. Given how many big sites there are, hopefully fans won't get upset, but will just move on and find the site(s) that best suit their needs. (Of course, I suggest you just read everything-- that way you're less likely to miss out on something good.)

Some people hate what they perceive a "love it or leave it" attitude, but I have absolutely no problem dumping a toy line if I don't like where it's going, or, in some cases, becoming more picky on my purchases. I try to write the best column I can, with what information I can scrounge up and share from my various odd jobs in the toy business over the years. I hope people like it, as I try to best serve the readership's questions. (Which, it seems, are pretty much 97% Hasbro based.)

FIN

I got the new Wal-Mart wave (thank you SO MUCH for your assistance/offers of assistance) and I gotta say, it's a crying shame these are so hard to get. Aurra Sing probably would have done quite well as a tail-end figure, as the character still has some popularity from her various appearances in the comics and novels plus she's a "chick with a lightsaber," and fans seem to like that. The figure is the same as the 2000 figure, but repainted with a soft goods scarf and a bonus green lightsaber. R4-M6 is a purple repaint of R4-G9 (and R2-Q2, R2-X2, etc.) The detail is good, it doesn't have the light-up eye (which I prefer), and I think the middle foot was assembled backward on it. Posing him can be a bit of a trial.

The rest of the figures come from the Cantina scene, and are mostly excellent. Labria shows that the original figure wasn't at all bad, it was just painted that way. The new one has subtle details like blue/purple veins on the back of his head and a more correct red skin tone. Nabrun Leids has a new silver body suit and a better painted head, and I gotta say, it was a mistake to not release it in the main line-- it just looks excellent, and they even added some paint to the gun. He comes with Kabe, which is almost identical to the original release but it has added paint applications to look less gritty and a bit more realistic-- it's a definite upgrade. Finally, there's Kitik Keed'kak, which Hasbro opted not to repaint. If you have the other releases, you basically have this one-- you'd be buying it again for the packaging and/or stand. It's still a delightful figure, though, and worth owning at least one of the many versions.

If you can find this wave, it's a good one-- it really is a pity about its distribution basically resulting in collectors having to pay out the butt on eBay, or to trade like crazy, or to otherwise beg to get these. Hasbro claims the distribution for these will be adequate, so we should probably see if a flood comes later-- but I'm not optimistic. While I find the whole hunt incredibly annoying nearly 12 years after Hasbro (then Kenner) seemed to be talking about improved distribution in stores, well, I guess it probably is always going to be this way. Hopefully the 30th Anniversary Collection will see better distribution than those last few Saga Collection releases have thus far.

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.)

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