Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
June 18, 2007
1. Since I can pretty well be classified as an "addict", I ordered the Celebration IV droids from Toyrocket. Maybe I missed it somewhere, but I was surprised to see a second card back showing through the clamshell. (Just to be clear, there is a normal card back to which the bubble is sealed, and a second loose one inside the enclosing clamshell case.) Though I usually open all figures, I do keep a few special ones carded, so I have been reluctant to rip this baby open and see what's what! Do you know what the deal is with the 2 cards? Did Hasbro initially plan to release this as a regular figure, and only later make it a C4 exclusive? Will I have to break the tape to find out?
What happened here is Hasbro provided an insert in the back for extra marketingy things-- plus it's a way to make the figure itself more "generic." By adding the insert, Hasbro can use the same figure packaging for Celebration IV, Celebration Europe, or anywhere else-- just change (or drop) the insert, and you can repurpose it for Toy Fair, a VIP Luncheon for Lucasfilm licensees, or, as you speculate, some regular consumer product. (Although it seems extremely unlikely that we'll ever see this as a regular figure in the current 30th Anniversary line.)
The SKU and assortment info on the box does not give any indication that it'd be in a regular assortment, but that's easy to change were Hasbro so inclined. I wouldn't doubt that at some distant point in the development of the line that Hasbro planned on these being regular figures, or perhaps planned on the other figures all being exclusives, but it's hard to say what the plans are. (Heck, that's a good idea-- I'd personally totally dig every McQuarrie figure or something like that being exclusive at a different store, if the quantities were there. That'd be fun.)
2. I have yet to see ANY McQuarrie figures in the wild. Do you have a reading on this - i.e. are these wildly popular? Are these the dreaded "short packs"? Will I have to start ordering cases? Oh that reminds me! When ordering cases, it seems the shipping dates from, e.g., EE, are later than the dates that the figures start showing up in stores. Is this a case of Hasbro giving big chains priority? It's real tough to wait! (Did I say I was an addict?)
They are indeed popular. I've seen all three in the wild, often before the other figures from the wave, but due to their special packaging and added collector interest, they are being cherry-picked. I've heard stories of people treating these like the Hot Wheels "Treasure Hunt" cars as a result, which is kinda doofy because it seems that they're making more of figures like McQuarrie Boba Fett than some of the other, non-McQuarrie figures in the line.
As far as cases go, I can vouch that Entertainment Earth's are based on information given by Hasbro, but sometimes items show up early or late. It's really a big crapshoot because you never really know when, down to the day, an item will ship. As such, sometimes you'll see items elsewhere first, but other times the online stores get items first-- which is a benefit you'll see if you pre-order on the first few days an item is available. Multiple shipments are the norm, be it Target, online stores, or anywhere, so hitting the stores often or ordering as early as possible tends to be beneficial. I don't think you're going to need to buy cases just to get the one figure, but hey, if you're swimming in disposable income there are worse things you can do with it.
3. Hi, Adam. Regarding Wave 3 of TAC, if I'm resolved to avoiding the repacks and cobbled-together figures, then should I pass on Darth Vader (#16), Luke Skywalker (#18) and Imperial Stormtrooper (#20)? Luke appears to have a new head sculpt, is that right?
Well, that depends-- what constitutes a cobbled-together figure and how much do you have to change for it to be "new"? For example, if the Stormtrooper was the same as its current release, but with Luke's head, is that a new figure or not? Is a new head enough to make a new toy? That's a tough call.
In this case, here's what these figures are. Darth Vader is the 30th Anniversary Tin version, which itself was retooled off of the Evolutions version. It has a removable helmet with Hayden's head underneath (kinda cool) plus Obi-Wan's collapsed robes. If you have the tin version, you may wish to pass on this one. If you don't have the tin version, you should get this one. The Stormtrooper is essentially the comic pack Han (or Luke) Stormtrooper body with new paint and a new head. The mold was derived from the 2004 "Vintage" figure, so it's essentially that with a new helmet. (Which, in my book, means it's new enough to buy.) Luke has a giant accessory, an all-new head, a retooled torso, all-new (and better articulated) arms, and new deco-- I just got mine the other day and I really like this figure, which was modified from the 2005 Early Bird Luke.
If you're looking to skip basic figures in the 30th line, you're going to find that most of the "repacks" are actually just different enough to make you mad. For example, Gunner Han Solo is the Vintage figure, but the molding has been changed on nearly every part of the body except the upper and lower torso as well as the upper legs. That's why I enjoy using the phrase "it's just different enough to make you mad."
But seriously folks, Wave 3 is great. Biggs' cape stains on his jacket are a little annoying (the figure's black coloring is rubbing off on the figure as blue, oops) but aside from that it's a really good batch of figures.
4. I have always wondered what TAKARA's relatonship is to Hasbro or Kenner. I thought they produced the Star Wars, GIJOE and Transformers in Japan. Was it just vintage stuff? Were they related to Kenner or Hasbro? A division of one of these companies? Maybe a distributor? Did they have their own product different from the US stuff? I'm confused? Guess I could research it but I thought I'd start by asking you.
It's complicated. Basically, the best way to look at it is that Takara (which has since merged with former competitor Tomy and is often referred to as Takara/Tomy or Takaratomy) is a unique toy company unto itself, or at least, it was. They have a relationship with Hasbro to engineer and design Transformers, and in the past, they have imported American toy lines like G.I. Joe. (While Hasbro brought Tomy lines like Zoids and Pokemon to the USA.) With Star Wars, a few companies over the years brought out the toys to Japan. For Star Wars, Takara brought out a lot of items, plus developed their own wind-up walking R2-D2. During The Empire Strikes Back, regular action figures came in little boxes from Popy. In the modern line, they were imported with a sticker by Tomy. It really seems to depend on the era and the product, there's no arm-in-arm relationship guaranteeing Takara stuff having to do with Hasbro, but they were close.
Basically, when it comes to foreign markets (before Hasbro established their own divisions internationally) they would license the product to a "local" toy company, who could either use the same (or very similar) molds and templates, or decide to go to Lucasfilm and make their own products-- which is what Takara and Palitoy did for some items in their own respective markets. Sometimes the action figures literally just were the US item imported with a sticker on it (Japanese safety stuff and all), and other times, it could be a variant or an all-new product. There's no simple answer, foreign toy collecting is a discipline unto itself and one could write books on it. It's absolutely massive.
5. Is it just me or wouldn't it be cool if they made the ghosts/spirit figures glow in the dark for/Ben, Yoda, & Anakin? There aren't enough toys that glow in the dark anymore. Is it more expensive to produce? Or even a glow in the dark lightsaber. You know not the battery operated ones but the cheap $8-9 ones? You know, actually maybe even lightsaber accessories for the figures now that think about it. There should be a glow in the dark clone battalion!!! That would rock! Why not? Or how bout the Funeral Pyre Vader having a partial orange glow in the dark feature?
Glow-in-the-dark toys are one of my favorite subsets of collecting, from the Ambush Predator to crappy convention exclusives. They're just fun, but as you say, rarely used. In 2000, I asked Hasbro about this (and the then-recently-cancelled Jurassic Park Chaos Effect line of the glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs they just cancelled, which I was really looking forward to) and was told something along the lines of "glow in the dark items are usually a sign that the line is running out of steam." With Star Wars, glow-in-the-dark pieces are extremely uncommon, what with the McQuarrie Stormtrooper from 2003 having its lightsaber be, if I'm not mistaken, the only action figure toy to use this feature.
Now a glow-in-the-dark Clone thing... man. Holy crap that'd be awesome. That may be the single best suggestion I've had sent in here in ages. Granted, odds are you and I would be the only buyers, but that would mean we could buy bunches of them on clearance. (Problem is, like the Jurassic Park dinosaurs, glowing in the dark is a dead giveaway to one's pursuers-- but it makes for a fun toy, and yeah, I'd get Clones with GITD markings on them.)
Hasbro tried light-up "Holographic Figures" for Episode I that were a little overpriced, but the concept was sound-- perhaps bringing back electronic lights or glowing plastic could be exciting for the next go-round of spirits and holos.
6. Seeing the new Galactic Heroes stuff being offered later this year, it seems fair to say that Hasbro is looking to complete a Galactic Heroes Cantina with figures based on characters previously released in the 3 3/4 line. Is this probable, or do you think they will stop with the diorama sets? I think it would be neat to get a Kitik Keed'kak (green colored), Dr. Evazan, Muftak or a Nabrun Leids Galactic heroes style! Also, I will probably be buying these sets (plus the Jabba's palace set) and I was wondering what the best thing would be to do with the duplicate figures (such as the Nikto, Greedo, and Garindan) who appear to be unchanged from the two pack releases. I feel like giving them away to our church's nursery, would that be appropriate? (I have a TON of Galactic Heroes im prepared to part with this way.) Also, it appears that the "Duros" character in the Cantina diorama set is based on Ellorrs Madak's friend Baniss Keeg. Any chance that means we'll see a basic figure of Baniss in the near future?
Also, every single one of my area stores is still choking on Saga figures. In fact, both Wal Marts in my area have shelves in the over stock section with JUST last year's Saga Star Wars stuff (including Asajj Ventress unleashed and Vintage figures). This seems to have an ill effect on how much new 30th anniversary stuff appears. Neither of these Wal Mart's seem to ever clearance out their Star Wars items, no matter how old they are. Why? I thought the Saga line was supposed to end in January but it still seems like stores are getting new shipments alongside the new line. Why is this?
Galactic Heroes is funky-- we're seeing Hasbro release toys for toddlers today that they wouldn't release without our kicking and screaming in the basic line a few years ago. As such, I find it hard to predict what will come out next-- I mean, Tarkin? Wuher? These are really odd choices given the reasons they gave for not wanting to do them as action figures a few years ago, but apparently, you can sell anything if it's vaguely cute and you get two of them for six bucks. I wouldn't put any figure past them for release in the line at this point. I'd absolutely give away duplicates to a charity organization that's interested, but I'd ask first-- some people don't like their kids playing with "war toys." (I've met some people over the years that think any licensed toy is bad for kids, obviously, my parents weren't among them.)
As far as your area goes, well, it sucks. I've got a Toys "R" Us near me that still has Unleashed Asajj Ventress, and she's from 2005, not 2006. There were figures from 2001 sitting in my Toys "R" Us and Wal-Mart stores in Phoenix until 2005, and I think I've told the story of the drug stores I visit that, this year, have figures from 1998 still. Not every store is capable of turning over product in a hurry and some stores just don't care about it.
The good news is that the Big Stores (Wal-Mart, Target, etc.) don't look at 2006 The Saga Collection numbers when ordering 30th Anniversary 2007 basic figures-- the SKUs are different, and the computers see them as separate entities. (Now, Saga Legends and TSC share the same SKU, so lots of TSC might prevent SL from showing up.) TSC should continue to ship through June/July (alongside Saga Legends) and has no effect on what stores order for 30th Anniversary. (We had the same situation with Heroes & Villains last year-- different SKU.) Fact is 30th Anniversary product is obscenely popular in most areas and flies off the pegs in hours-- so if your store got only 1 case, a single collector could buy it all up and you'd never know it was there. (I hit many stores daily many times over the past six or seven years just to prove this point-- the stuff is often there, you just miss it, no matter what the employees tell you because they don't know/keep track.)
Wal-Mart and other stores most likely will not clearance out TSC product because it has the same SKU as Saga Legends, which is is, obviously, new stuff. Depending on how their computers work, if you discount the SKU, that means the new stuff is on clearance as well-- and you don't want that. As such, don't expect to see any basic figures (except maybe 2006 Heroes & Villains) to get a markdown any time soon. However, the Unleashed figure, well, that's special-- it should be gone by now but odds are the chain hasn't the smarts to realize that a few pockets of it remaining are a problem and needs to be clearanced since most stores ran out of it ages ago. What you're seeing here is store clearance politics at work, some products languish for years because the clearance allowances given to the store management (which is often limited to a dollar amount per quarter/month/year) was given to other items which they viewed as more necessary to get out of the store.
Every store in my area is still getting TSC figures too-- that's the point, the line was supposed to last about 18 months and it started in January 2006. A lot of people still can't find Commander Appo and the green Clone Troopers, and Just Because You Have One Doesn't Mean Hasbro Should Stop Making It For Everybody Else. (Or JBYHODMHSSMIFEE for short.) Quite often I get fan complaints about an item being "overproduced" and "everywhere" that just came out, which is funny, as there seems to be an attitude from collectors that's something like "I got mine, Hasbro can stop making them now." I'm not saying you're one of these people, lowtek, I'm just exploiting your question to make this extra point because it's a frequent nuisance from people who write in seemingly angered that a store would dare stock any action figure that they already own in their collections.
7. The big question-will the mcquarrie concept Luke skywalker,r2d2,c3p0,yoda and obi-wan be available at retail at a later date? I cant see Hasbro not milking those molds for all they are worth.
The answer today seems to be no, but that doesn't mean we won't see them again in the figure as part of a boxed set, or repainted and brought back, or something else. I don't expect to see them soon given how easy it is to get the droids, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them at some point, some day, again. Just not soon, so if you're too cheap to drop $20 on them today, well, don't be because odds are we'll see a deco change and the coin taken out if they hit again.
8. I was just buying the Hasbro routine that the 7" Unleashed just wont work at mass market retail. So what do I see at my local Target last night? 7" TRANSFORMERS unleashed! If the 7" format does not work for Star Wars, how do they expect it to work for Transformers. Is this one of those "movie year" items?
Hasbro changes their reasons for doing (or not doing) something all the time-- so remember what the official answer is today could change a year from now as the team, market, and reality of the fan base changes. Part of the reason Unleashed "failed" at retail was because the line wasn't generating the profits retailers (and presumably Hasbro) wanted, which was compounded by the problem of the Asajj Ventress Unleashed figure which still plagues stores to this day. Stores don't see "the figure" as sucking, they see "the assortment/SKU" as a bad one and throw the whole thing out-- as such, we're in sort of a bad feedback loop for this line, and frankly I think we should just put a bullet in it and move on. The only new items we've got since 2005 are a black Stormtrooper and a retooled Clone with the wrong gun when compared to the show he was on. What the line needed to rope in new blood would be action-packed core characters, perhaps Luke & Leia based on poster art, or something like a Scout Trooper being attacked by Ewoks.
So, why Transformers? Well, Star Wars Unleashed tanked-- Transformers is a reasonably new "collector" segement, at least to most would-be toy collectors and/or adult buyers. In the past, Transformers collectors bought transforming robots, the same ones sold to the kids. (In other words, kinda what I wish Star Wars would be.) With the movie, Hasbro is applying its lessons learned from other properties to Transformers to see what happens-- very few non-transforming collector figures have been done for Transformers, and we rarely see more than one or two toys based on a character in any given line. If this new Unleashed Bumblebee takes off, odds are we'll see more. (A prototype for Optimus Prime has shown up on eBay.) We're also seeing three lines of Transformers "toddler" type toys, multiple price points of characters that transform, and all sorts of weirdness-- Hasbro is trying to see what they can milk from the cow of Robots In Disguise, and since Unleashed did OK for Star Wars, it's time to try it for Transformers. It may also interest you to know images of prototype G.I. Joe Stormshadow Unleashed have been going around, so the concept is a sound one (and no doubt easy to make), so it makes sense that Hasbro would try to apply it to its other brands. (Although Unleashed Cobra Commander, I'd buy.)
So in short, yes, it is a "movie year" item because in a movie year, lots of people watch the line that wouldn't ordinarily pay it much attention. You have to offer a wide range of products to catch the different markets. It's like cars-- some people want a $10,000 car, some want a $45,000 car-- you need to be ready with a product for each demographic, and this one is the collector market. I'm not a big fan of the movie designs, but if Hasbro did Transformers Unleashed based on the original animation designs from 1984 or so, I'd absolutely buy 1, 2, or them all depending on what happens. (Yeah I know some fans feel these characters have been done to death, but if I could get two unleashed figures based on Optimus and Megatron's fight from the movie, with battle damage and all, I'd pay whatever the asking price was.)
Although I gotta say I'm more than a little shocked they didn't do Unleashed with Marvel. Unleashed Spider-Man sounds like a wonderful item and something I'd probably not be able to help myself to adding to my collection.
9. I was wondering if you could tell me when the story line of the new clone wars cartoon is supposed to be in sequence as compared to the first 2 seasons, is it in between [ie, prior to the anakin/Assaj battle]. and I know the the last season led up into the rots story line.
I've read it takes place after Episode #21 (the Hypori rescue with the ARC Troopers) but before Episode #22 (Anakin and Obi-Wan go be awesome and stuff). So Anakin is a Jedi Knight, but he hasn't yet gone to Nelvaan. Asajj will be back because, well, you know how it works-- nobody is dead until you see them decapitated. (And fans of the comics know Asajj has not yet been killed off for good.)
10. I read somewhere (possibly here) that Hasbro is finally going to immortalize the Bespin "Ice Cream Maker Guy" in plastic. STOP THE INSANITY! I'm sure somewhere uber-nerds are rejoicing, but for us regular nerds... Offhand I can think of almost 20 central figures that deserve upgrades before we get around to Willrow Hood. I'd love for you to post this so the powers that be at the Big H can read it, more than I actually care about your response (but, I'd be lying if I said I didn't care so please respond). We should be harping on Hasbro to revisit Admiral Ackbar, Paploo, Wicket W. Warrick, Commander Gree, Ponda Baba, Dr. Evazan, Nien Numb, Admiral Piett, Gamorrean Guard, Hoth Rebel Trooper, Hoth Luke, Luke Death Star II, even Grand Admiral Thrawn, Zuckuss, Figrin D'an & Lak Sivrak (because even though he's been cut, he's stiller cooler than "Ice Cream Maker Guy"). Did I forget anyone? All of these guys should be high on the list for plastic reincarnation before Willrow Hood.
On second thought if Hasbro is going to do exclusive convention figures I nominate Mr. Hood to be next on the list.
Well, a convention exclusive is more than "idea which won't work at retail." It needs to draw in people at the show that aren't necessarily collectors, too, and the Ice Cream Maker Guy is pretty much a collector-only item. It's like BoShek-- there are people who will buy it for the completeness factor, the joke factor, and the ridiculous factor. There are competing "official" stories on this guy (some say he's going to be in a Battle Pack, other sources say individually carded) but either way, he's a figure that I think everybody, including Hasbro and collectors, know will be a weak seller. Odds are they're going to position him to be a lower-run item if/when he gets out.
As far as retools go, I'm gonna stay out of this argument. Every time Hasbro announces Figure X someone gets made that they didn't do Figure Y. It's also important for Hasbro to make new characters, no matter how lame-- if the line became nothing but retools and resculpts, I know I'd quit. Even the dumbest, lamest, most uninteresting figure is on some level more exciting to me than a new version of something I already own on some level. Not that I hate new versions-- the new Tatooine Luke is one of my new favorites, but I also wouldn't mind something I didn't have 20 flavors of yet.
I don't think it's so much uber-nerds who want this figure as a portion of the hobby who thinks it's funny-- which it is. Along with BoShek, who was famous for his mutton-chops and frequent mention in my column for a few years, the ICMG is a fan joke gone bonkers and one of the ultimate examples of how Hasbro can make anything and it will indeed sell. (If it sells when it comes out.) I've seen a lot of fans on boards go on about how they want Hasbro to do this figure specifically so Hasbro will take a hit on it-- which I don't get and don't appreciate seeing from collectors-- but there are people who are generally excited for it. If I had a decent (read: not the one I have) Cloud City Playset, I'd be cheering them on a little more, but as it stands a lot of figures are going to become residents of a shelf and not take an active role in my toy collection, which is kinda dull. BoShek at least was Cantina fodder.
I'm sure it'll do OK. It does have fan support, which the poorly selling Lushros Dofine did not-- so hey, who knows. Plus it's a human who isn't white-- it's not like there's a lot of those in this line, so just in terms of adding some visual variety, he'd look good on a shelf.
Vintage needs to die. I'm probably going to take every chance I have to take potshots at the line until we go without it for a year because, quite simply, Hasbro has done too good of a job of upgrading basic action figures since 2004 when such a line was genuinely impressive. That Han Solo from 2004 still makes my short list of favorite action figures that I own, period, and I've got a lot of action figures. This year's batch (which I more or less reviewed/gave impressions of on the EE podcast last Friday) isn't horrible, but they aren't as good as the new G.I. Joes seem to be, nor are they as exciting as the normal basic figures. The problem is Hasbro is spoiling us at $6.99, so a slightly different slab of cardboard at $9.99 just isn't going to cut it anymore.
If Hasbro were to change vintage slightly to, say, include a big accessory inside the clamshell (but not the cardback), OK, I'd be very happy with this line. Or a build-a-figure limb to make an Ewok or something, that'd be fine. It's just that the 2004 Vintage Darth Vader has had its sorry butt kicked by the 2007 Basic Darth Vader, which has more articulation and a big smooshed Obi-Wan cloak accessory. The 2004 Vintage Luke was awkward because of its soft goods, but the 2007 Basic Luke has very good articulation (not perfect, of course) and a big giant awesome moisture vaporator accessory. And could you imagine the rage we would see if fans got a vintage Jawa in 2007 like originally planned only to see the awesome Jawa with LIN droid that we just got? That's one of the best figures in the batch, too!
Vintage can still mean something, and it still seems to be selling. Sure, it's impossible to find Snowtroopers at a store, and yes, the notion that you probably have to buy a duplicate figure you don't want to send off for the coin set you probably aren't all that excited about will no doubt leave unclaimed product at Hasbro's fulfillment house, but hey, not my problem. (All I'm saying is if there's a trooper in the line, number of figures minus one should be the number you need to get.)
So where do we go next year? There's been a lot of buzz about the future plans for the line, and with good cause-- we're going to get fewer and fewer awesome candidates for the line, especially since Hasbro seems very hesitant to touch the original Power of the Force collection-- which I feel has the most potential. (But that's me. Figures like Stormtrooper Luke, a super-poseable Han Solo with non-melty Carbonite, and maybe even Yak Face could drum up interest nicely.) If they really want sales, I expect to see them do prequel figures in this style, like Darth Maul, Jango Fett, and General Grievous. Now THAT set of six figures would be the best thing ever, and would have something for everybody. Well, except troop builders. (But they're getting plenty as it is.)
Oh, and I spent a big chunk of Saturday morning hooking up my Super Nintendo and playing Super Star Wars, which I must say is still weird and still fun nearly... 15 years later? Yow. If you have it, pull it out again, it's good times.
Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with "Q&A" somewhere in the subject line and hopefully I'll get to yours in the next column!
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