Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
June 25, 2007
1. The Zev Senesca Rebel
Hoth pilot looked perfect! Since we haven't really had a brand
spanking new Luke Skywalker Rebel Hoth pilot since the original POTF2
version, do you suppose a Luke Hoth re-tool of the Zev is probable and
if so, when do you think it may happen?
While no plans have been made, I hope Hasbro does an all-new mold for a hypothetical Hoth Pilot Luke-- the figure of Zev is OK, and sure, Hasbro could do a simple head swap, but that's not too exciting really, is it? Zev has limited arm articulation and that's one of the first things fans whine about when complaining about old mold reuse-- and as such, I'd really rather wait for Hasbro to do a brand new one, but that might be a while. The last "new" one we got was in 2002 for Wal-Mart with their exclusive Snowspeeder, which itself was a retool of the 1995 one. So hey, who knows, Luke figures are pretty much always requested by fans so it's just a matter of time before we see yet another one.
2. I was planning on asking you if you can confirm which figures in Saga
Legends wave 1 were repainted in any way (other than the obvious Battle
Droid 2-pack and ROTS Clone) so loose completist collectors like myself know
ahead of time which ones to pick up. That said, i was wondering if you could
post an update column for every future Legends wave with this same info? A
lot of times i will find out much later that some figures are indeed minor
repaints and then it's too late and i never stumble upon them again.
There's a fine line between "new figure" and "variation." When it comes to troop builders, I'm willing to be fairly forgiving, with a minor change constituting a worthy purchase. But other figures? Not so much.
Darth Vader, C-3PO, Yoda, R2-D2, and the Clone Trooper (AOTC) are, to me, not significantly different. Slightly whiter whites or bluer blues do not a new figure make, if anything it's just a typical running change that's par for the course when you offer any figure for more than one run. So you can skip those unless you want the coins, and I have to say, you probably do want the coins. They're quite nice.
Darth Maul and the Shock Trooper are slightly different-- the shades of red are barely different, and Maul's face is basically a repaint. Grievous seems to be barely different, emphasis on "barely." If you have the old one, this one doesn't seem to be different enough to warrant a purchase. The "change" in Shock Trooper color is also exceedingly minor, and I'd even say you could stand to ignore this one too-- if you got the last version at Target, that is. (Which a lot of us did, for $5 per Battle Pack, rendering this an unnecessary addition to a loose collection.) The difference is so minor on the Shock Trooper I probably should have categorized it in the above paragraph.
As far as different figures you should absolutely buy, there are two: the Battle Droids and the ROTS Clone. These are, as you say, obviously different. But beyond them, I don't think the others are going to be worth your while as being significant changes. Plus that ROTS Clone is barely different, just "clean" compared to previous releases.
3. i know this may have a simple answer but i was wondering if the 12 mcquire figures mentioned on the cardback of the concept figures counts r2-d2 and c3po as one mcquire figure or two, i ask because its only one carded figure? (similarly with the yoda and ben concept)
To date, six have been released: Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, Stormtrooper, and Boba Fett. 5 are confirmed as coming and we've seen photos: Snowtrooper, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Darth Vader, and "Starkiller Hero" and Han Solo. A McQuarrie Rebel Trooper has not yet been shown, but is listed on the sticker sheet with the package of stands sold through Hasbro, which basically brings you up to
12 13. So it looks like, depending on who was doing the counting, there could indeed be additional figures on the way. This is not counting "General McQuarrie" as one of the figures-- but if he does count, that brings you to 12 carded McQuarrie figures, so either he's #12 or there's one more left to announce, most likely.
4. I'm a long time reader, first time questioner. I collect most things astromech, and the recent wave of droids based on the superior R4-G9 sculpt has been a dream come true. But why on earth did Hasbro change the side legs from hard plastic to some sort of rubbery material? For example, the RotS and Entertainment Earth exclusive droids all use the "firm" legs, but R4-K5/R4-M6/Comic 2-Pack R2 all have "soft" legs. I think the original legs look nicer and are less prone to bending, so I don't understand why they messed with a good thing.
It's complicated, and has to do with the kind of materials available at the factory plus Hasbro's decision to make changes based on safety, durability, and aesthetic reasons. The rubbery legs look very pure white, which is nice given many white plastics will eventually turn yellow-- but, as you say, they're rubbery. Really the only thing we can do is complain-- which is something I expect you all to do at conventions, because, well, where else are they forced to listen to you?-- but hey, your mileage may vary. My R4-K5 and R4-M6 aren't very rubbery... but the comic pack one and 30th Anniversary one certainly are.
5. Just wondering if the McQuarrie Luke is gone for good? I see its not
even listed at the Hasbro Toyshop anymore.
Since I don't work there, it's difficult to know-- when things are going on behind the scenes, stores aren't too big on sharing details. In this case, there were lots of bumps, and as such I would expect that, after orders are processed and cards are charged, more will be up for grabs down the road in a few weeks. Just keep checking back, but also be realistic-- if you can get this $15 figure elsewhere for $20, it might be a good idea to do so.
6. Is the Father's Day Gift Card 2 Pack from Wal-Mart the brand new VOTC
Bespin Luke and the Coin Album Vader?
At press time I still haven't seen one of these, but that's a different rant. The figure is modified from existing figures, with the 2002 Bespin Luke body and the 2004 Jedi Luke head. So it's different-ish, and the hand is supposedly glued to the arm. The Darth Vader is the saber-throwing Throne Room Duel one from 2003.
But seriously-- am I alone in never seeing this? I know a lot of you just plain don't care but I never saw one of these in the three Wal-Marts I hit multiple times a week or the one I hit once in a while (which I think is about all I have within an hour or two drive). I know we all like to complain about distribution, but from a few of you I've chatted with over the past month it seems a lot of stores never got these. What's the deal, eh? Some of us were actually going to buy these. (Well, OK, I was.)
7. Shouldn't there be an "ultimate" Tatooine Luke by now? (the vintage Han is pretty ultimate so it can be done). The vintage Luke seemed like a real missed opportunity. Now that they're kind of running low on figures that people would pay 10 bucks for, is there any chance that Hasbro would add some "do-overs" along with the next batch of vintage figures? A "Super-ultimate Luke" would be worth it to me. And an ultimate Ben Kenobi would too. Both figures had totally different Kenner cards for Return of the Jedi, so the nostalgia/packaging aspect wouldn't be redundant...
The conspiracy theorist in me says this is intentional-- Hasbro wants to leave some things to go back to in the future, so they don't put out all the ultimate figures and then fans can't say "well, we got 'em all, so let's quit." We haven't got a lot of "ultimate" figures yet, like a better ANH Obi-Wan or Leia, or the best-ever TIE Fighter Pilot. The Vintage figures are... well, let's be honest: overpriced and with few exceptions, not worth it. Luke in 2004 was an experiment to try something new, and you all see how that turned out. I'd personally love to see the 2007 upper torso with the 2004 legs and a brand new head-- that'd cover pretty much all of the bases right there.
I think do-overs have a limited chance of happening in the line, just based on what we've seen so far. Sure, there's an opportunity for them, but as a collector it's starting to tick me off. I don't like where the $9.99 price point is going given that just a year before fans bought in to the whole "let's overpay for a fancy box" concept, we were getting figures with accessories like an escape pod or Ewok glider, or even a giant figure like Jabba, for the same price. At this point, I hope we just see figures continue to improve in the basic line over time-- which they will-- and let's just kill the $9.99 vintage thing. Unless they want to do quasi-vintage packaging with a j-hook like they're doing for G.I. Joe as part of the basic line, which would totally rock and reduce unnecessary excess plastic and cardboard, thus putting less crap in our landfills. We're going to keep filling them anyway, so it makes sense to cut packaging corners where you can-- the "jewel case" has got to go.
8. I liked your comparison at the end of [a previous] weeks qna's about zizzle and
Hasbro large ship items. I often forget about this sweet piece. Toyfare
ranked it the number 1 "star wars toy of all time" at the time. This made
me think of Hasbro's comments on "rising material costs". If crude oil
dropped back to $20 a barrel would they venture more into larger items??
Three little letters: ROI. Return on Investment is everything, so what they tell you is true-- from a certain point of view. The $20 vehicles are doing crazy good business, so it makes sense to expand that product segment with things like the AT-AP (the "AP" stands for "Adam Pawlus") and General Grievous' Starfighter. The costs are low, the investment is much, much lower (big molds get to be expensive), and most likely, these products will have a very long lifespan at retail unless the line just up and ends.
Without the right support (movies, parents) even the best toys can't sell. A $100 AT-TE doesn't make a lot of sense, but maybe a $50 one does-- eventually. Hasbro can sell more people a Jedi Starfighter than they could a Republic Gunship just due to price-- lower priced vehicles sell more units, thus justifying the expense and investment of making the molds. The fact they're now seeing the mold gets 2-3 years of life plus repaint opportunities is icing on the cake, but the point is that almost any demographic can afford a $20 ship for a kid's birthday, or a good report card, or what have you while bigger ships like a hypothetical AT-TE are the kind of thing you get only if you've been really good that year. The potential sales on a cheaper toy is always going to be higher because of that impulse price point-- if Hasbro wanted to up and do almost any $20 vehicle, it would make more sense than almost any larger vehicle. Except, perhaps, a totally overhauled 21st century Millennium Falcon, which I'd go nuts over at this point. Despite not needing a third modern one.
The actual cost of oil doesn't matter so much as the chance to get a sale. If Hasbro could sell 100,000 AT-TEs over night, they'd make it-- they aren't as blind as you'd think, they're examining the market and likely sales, and stores like Wal-Mart prefer to devote shelf space to toys with a smaller footprint for higher turnover. You can sell dozens of $20 vehicles in a week-- but you might be lucky to sell a dozen or two bigger ships in a month in some locations, thus making the high-turnover items like $20 ships and $7 figures where Hasbro wants to focus its money. I mean, the Anakin Jedi Starfighter has been a consistent seller since about March 2005-- how many items does Hasbro make that have that kind of lifespan at retail? Not many, I can tell you. It makes the most sense to make items you can keep selling for a longer time and to more people, which an AT-TE is, well, not. But it doesn't mean we won't see one or that it might not be a hit-- it's just not on the radar for 2007 so far. (But signs are starting to point to 2008.)
This doesn't mean bigger ships won't work, it's just a factor of risk-- one that seems to be going down as fans show overwhelming support for the second or third issues of big ships like the AT-AT and Imperial Shuttle.
9. One of the vehicle questions from your June 4th column got me to thinking. BBI puts out some really nice military items which are to scale with their 1:18 figures (which, I guess are roughly the same size as a Star Wars or GI-Joe: ARAH figure), including modern-era fighter jets (perhaps you see what I'm getting at already).
I, myself, am no military collector by any stretch of the imagination (I don't really count GI-Joe: ARAH), but I've found myself picking these jets up and then thinking how wonderful it would be if I could get my hands on Star Wars fighters which are accurately scaled. This isn't a slam against anything Hasbro's made. I think their vehicles have generally been quite good. They just seem a tad small to my eyes (even the Power-FX X-Wing and its many redecos, which all look fantastic). I mean, as much as I love my Y-Wings, I would also love to get my hands on a larger Y-Wing, for instance.
So while it seems that BBI's jets are not swift sellers, they do appear to sell well enough to warrant new product now and again along with redecos, so that indicates to me a workable (at least) business model (not that I know a great deal about these things).
Anyhow, I guess my question is this: What is it about military toys that make people think it's okay to drop $100+ on a toy fighter jet that Star Wars ain't got?
There are lots of reasons, one of which is that the company isn't Hasbro. Hasbro is a really big toy company-- they hire bean counters specifically to tell toy designers "oh, you have to take a few paint applications out" or "you can't package so many awesome accessories in there" because they have thousands of SKUs in the market in a given year and need to try to make them all as profitable as possible. There are licenses involved, human resource issues, and so forth, so Hasbro has a spreadsheet somewhere that says they need to sell X units of toy Y for Z dollars to make it worth their while-- and if it doesn't work out, there's probably little chance of a toy seeing plastic.
Other companies like BBI are, well, different. They're not paying a license fee to George Lucas, they have fewer employees, they may even have more time on their hands due to a smaller company having a fewer hands in the pot and, at times, management that's more willing to take risks and/or better margins. (No licensing fee means the toy company can sell a similar product for the same price and make gobs more money doing it on a per-unit basis, but it's a pretty safe bet Hasbro sells more of its Star Wars vehicles.)
Most of it has to do with how a company thinks-- Hasbro knows the money is usually in smaller dollar items and as such, focuses their time and money on those, designing items that can be re-used later while trying not to make any toy that they'd be likely to get stuck with. Big toys carry a big risk, and there's a reason Hasbro is one of the top 5 toy manufacturers in the USA-- they make decisions that, while good for business, aren't always exciting for us. Hasbro wants to make money, and the reissues of ships aren't just for collectors-- they're also aimed at the new crop of boys who turn 5 or 6 every year and want a Y-Wing. They change it just enough so we'll buy it too, but if we weren't here, odds are we'd be seeing the exact same unchanged toy in a new box every time Hasbro did a new Y-Wing. By altering it, they get a "new" product out for less, and someday, maybe, we'll see a new one-- but I dunno if I want a new one unless it can split apart and be awesome like in the Holiday Special.
10. 2 quick questions:
1) Do you know the release date for wave 4?
2) Do you know about when we should start the UGH for 2007? I know Hasbro
releases a date, but the actual release date is usually 30 days earlier, so
For your first question, right now, the expected release date is July 2007. This may mean June in some parts of the country and August in others-- wave 3 is just hitting now, and lots of you write in complaining you can't find waves 1 or 2 yet, so Hasbro really doesn't need to put out new product as quickly as they do-- there's still money to be made off of the existing stuff first. (I'm glad they crank it out though.) Whenever you ask me a release date-- and Ryan, this isn't you, this is to everybody-- I'm going to point to Entertainment Earth. Because those are the dates Hasbro gives us to put up most of the time, and therefore, are what I feel are the most accurate.
On your second question, all signs point to August/September. Search on "ugh" at Entertainment Earth for the latest official release dates they got from Hasbro, as I work there and I tend to go with what they say.
You know, I had an idea for something at the end earlier and forgot what it was. I spent a good chunk of the week trying to find that "I Am Your Father's Day" set, which makes last week like the previous two months. It really is getting ridiculous, but at this point it seems the item was so hard to get in most markets that I'm banking on units sitting (rotting) in a warehouse somewhere, waiting to be unearthed to some sort of clearance sales.
Oh, and a question-- is anyone else's Vintage Hoth Han figure's waist screwy? Mine was a little stick, so I tried boiling, I tried freezing, and ultimately, just tried twisting it-- and it snapped in half. (Meaning that, at least mine, not only wasn't so great in its overall design but also was made poorly. Lucky me.) Does anyone else have one they opened that had a good waist joint? I'm curious if I just got lucky or they were all like that.
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!
Click here to read the previous installment of Galactic Hunter Q&A!