Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
December 10, 2007
1. Do you have any idea how long the Target Ultimate Battle Packs (the Hoth and Endor ones) will be shipping? I can't recall any other Target exclusives being promoted the way these are (the whole sweepstakes thing), so I don't know if these will only ship once and when they're gone, they're gone, or if I can count on at least a handful showing up later and going on clearance (the Target near me has cleared out at least a few of nearly every exclusive I can think of, from Order 66 to the Shuttle). I'm low on cash thanks to the holidays and I don't want to miss these.
The Ultimate Battle Packs for Target have already stopped shipping. It was meant to be a one-time, short-run promotion where Target has an item, promotes it, and gets it through the system quickly. Many stores have sold through them, while others still have some sitting around. If you really don't want to miss these, buy now-- sell some extra stuff you don't want off, sell some blood, and so on. Most exclusives actually decrease in price within the first two years, so if you can wait a while, you can probably snag them on eBay later for a fair deal-- but depending on where you live, you may not have a chance to get these in the new year. The holiday shoppers are a crazy bunch-- unlike us, they aren't very picky and tend to buy what they see rather than going to a half dozen stores tracking down one specific item. In other words, don't get your hopes up.
2. I have to ask: Why does Target need so many Star Wars exclusives this year? I've never been a completist, but as most of these exclusives are Clone Trooper and Imperial-related, it's hard to pass up any of these sets. I've been able to pass up the Endor Ultimate Battle Pack, as well as the Clone Wars ARC-170 and the TIE Bomber, but the other sets alone set that I did pick up set me back $100 (Hoth Ultimate Battle Pack, ARC-170 Elite Battle Pack, & AT-RT Battle Pack). Had I gotten them all, (and I'm still debating on the ARC-170 Fighter), my bank account would be out over $200. That just really makes my head spin. Now, I can see the two Ultimate Battle Packs, or the ARC-170 Fighter and it's accompanying Elite Forces Pack, but those four sets plus the AT-RTs plus the TIE Bomber is just insane. And that's not even tallying the Miniatures sets. I'm not whining that Target is trying to eat my money, I'm just trying to figure out why they've got so much going on this holiday season as opposed to years past (the Imperial Shuttle, Mace Windu's squadron Pack, Clone Attack on Coruscant, Shadow Clone Trooper, etc.). All these sets out at the same time is just as bad, if not worse, than all those "premium" carded figure exclusives they were trying to feed us in 2005 and 2006.
Premium figures better than Battle Packs? I assume this is hyperbole. If not... uh... wow. No, you'd be wrong there.
Why are there a lot of items out during the holidays? Simple-- easy money. Believe it or not, this isn't because Target is necessarily gunning for collector money. No, they're gunning for consumer money. It's not really about us so much as it is about the increased foot traffic in stores. They're seeing several times the number of regular customers now, so it makes sense to have an exclusive because that pretty much guarantees something will be on the shelf. (Regular product from Hasbro is a little hard to determine the flow. If you get a Hasbro exclusive, though, it tends to be a pretty big edition size and the store gets the entire run-- and can make it bigger if they want.)
Target has been getting a lot of exclusives from Hasbro since 2005-- quite a bit more than other stores, really. In the early days of the modern line, it was semi-common knowledge that an exclusive was typically granted to a partner who bought a lot of stuff, supporting not only the brand but Hasbro's entire product catalog. I assume this is the case today, as Hasbro has exclusives for Littlest Pet Shop, Spider-Man, Transformers, and more on a regular basis. Is this year particularly bad? I don't think it is, but then again, collectors as a group tend to see what they want rather than the big picture-- myself included. Let's go down the list, shall we? (And please forgive me if I left any of them out-- it's been a long week.)
2005 ($327 for the year, plus tax)
Star Case clamshells
Micro Invisible Hand Playset
Micro Turbo Tank Playset
Micro Tantive IV Playset
Micro Trench Ambush Set
Micro Bounty Hunter/Sith Set
Micro Battle of Hoth Set
Micro Tatooine Desert Set
Micro Space Assault Set
Micro Death Star Attack Set
General Grievous with Cup
Clone Trooper with Cup
Obi-Wan Kenobi with Cup
Darth Vader with Cup
Princess Leia with Cup
Boba Fett with Cup
Stormtrooper with Cup
Han Solo with Cup
Yoda with Cup
Lava Reflection Darth Vader
Clone Trooper (Saleucami markings)
Utapau Shadow Trooper
Lava Reflection Darth Vader (Anakin)
Lava Reflection Obi-Wan Kenobi
Plo Koon's Jedi Starfighter
Clone Attack on Coruscant Battle Pack
2006 ($203 for the year, plus tax)
Unleashed Boba Fett figure
Unleashed General Grievous figure
Rogue Two Snowspeeder
Kit Fisto's Jedi Starfighter
Demise of Grievous figure
Mace Windu's Attack Battalion Battle Pack
Skirmish in the Senate Battle Pack
2007 ($345 for the year, plus tax)
ARC-170 Battle Pack
AT-RT Assault Squad
Ultimate Battle Pack - Endor
Ultimate Battle Pack - Hoth
Galactic Heroes Jabba's Palace set
Galactic Heroes Assault on the Death Star set
Ambush on Ilum Battle Pack
Betrayal at Felucia Battle Pack
Order 66 set #1
Order 66 set #2
Order 66 set #3
Order 66 set #4
Order 66 set #5
Order 66 set #6
As far as I can tell, 2005 reigns supreme in terms of quantity. Most of the stuff was cheaper, but you have to remember the "rule" of toys is that anything over $20 is a pretty hard sell. After the little Shuttle experiment last year, I think pricey exclusives near the holidays will be the norm. If you recall, 2006 had a massive amount of product released in a very short window around October-December as well, with exclusives at numerous stores, the Tin collections, and lots of normal, non-exclusive product fired across our bow in a very short period of time.
This is normal-- it just means you need to adjust your priorities and/or savings. (Me, I squirrel away cash because I know most of the really good toys and video games are released to take advantage of the holiday buyer's season.) Target has an unusually high proportion of exclusives no doubt because they a) wanted them and b) like to make money. Hasbro also likes to make money, and since most fans really won't pass up a new item like this (and if they do this time of year, parents/gift buyers will get it instead) it's a good item to have given that basic figures and normal product tends to fly off the shelves. Having an exclusive guarantees you will have some quantity of product available in your store-- which your competition will not. (If everybody gets a $300 wad of exclusives next Q4, though, plus the release of Clone Wars product, I think that's going to be the straw that not only breaks the camel's back but also pees on the carcass. It's my hope that we see very, very conservative quantities of exclusives in Q4 '08 because, let's face it, who really wants to be made to quit collection for budget reasons?)
3. Are the new Republic Elite Forces
Mandalorians etc figures based on anything in the expanded universe
literature, games or comics? [edited for space --AP] Sure, Hasbro's team of creative geniuses (that's not supposed
to sound sarcastic, but for some reason it does when I reread it...)
comes up with backstory for them to fill out the back of the boxes, but
ultimately, they're still pretty odd, pretty cool, and take me right
back to 1979-1982 era and my boyhood dreams! Way to go Hasbro (and
Entertainment Earth)! Have you heard if any of these colorfully-helmeted
Mandies will end up making appearances in the new Clone Wars cartoon?
Right now, I know of zero plans to represent the Mandalorians in any visual medium (comics, games, TV, etc.) A few of them are appearing in Karen Traviss' Republic Commando novels, though, but I'm not entirely sure if the plan to put them in the novels came first, or if the toys came first.
It's my hopes that they show up in a comic or something eventually. The TV show would be cool, but that would probably means they'd have to reissue the figures or do an all-new Llats Ward and everybody because the people discovering the characters for the first time on the show would want one, too.
Depending on how these sell, though, I'm sure we'll see more in 2008 or 2009-- perhaps taken from the comics, perhaps from the games, perhaps elsewhere.
Another fun tidbit-- one I didn't quite grasp until recently-- was Hasbro's asserting that they were able to tell stories with their toys much like the comics, games, and novels share a narrative. So really, the Elite Forces are sort of their own thing-- it's weird to think of it this way, but all the non-movie merchandise out there (yes, novels, games, and comics are merely licensed merchandise) just add on to the movies, much like the toys. So unlike getting a book with a lizard-man with the hots for Leia and color-changing skin, this creation exists largely in your own imagination so far-- they might show up elsewhere again, but for now, the story starts with the toys until they show up again elsewhere.
4. I can't believe my eyes!!! You are saying that you'd like to see more clones or droids as build-a-figures instead of PLAYSETS? I understand the idea of "build-a-obscure character", but build-a-clone? C'mon man... I could buy 50 figures tonight and not clear the shelf of clones/stormtroopers in my area. I may be in the minority, but enough with the clones already.
Build-a-playset... now that's an idea! They've got us going with the Umpass Stay Drum, and the Han Torture rack, and the Moisture vaporator, and (earlier) the Stasis field Obi Wan was caught in.
I passed on buying Barada, Boussh, Chewbacca, Bib Fortuna... because they were characters I have before that were not significantly different. Package parts of Jabba's Palace with them to build a playset and I'd storm the stock room on horseback. I know they say "playsets... blah blah blah... play patterns", and "cost...blah blah blah", but would this not be a better use of Build-A-Figure goodness? Put them on comic 2 pack cards. Build-a-figure is HUGE right now. Pioneer Build-a-Playset!!!
Well, let me ask you this-- how much more are you willing to pay for a basic figure? Hasbro's probably going to jack up the price in 2008 due to Mattel's screw-ups causing the entire industry having to test and re-test absolutely everything for safety. Even though Hasbro has come through clean so far, testing costs a lot of money (I've recently found out about how much) so just who is going to pay for that? The government? No. Hasbro? No. The stores? No. You? Yes. So I'm assuming we're going to see a price increase in mid- to late-2008 already.
I'm not sure I think people want to be re-sold the same figures with a small chunk of a playset. Even if every figure came with a whopping piece of scenery (like the size of Umpass-Stay's drum, for example) it's still not very big. So let's say we take 6 figures from a wave to build a playset-- just how big could you make something that's cost-effective? At best, I think you'd get something the size of a vintage Mini-Rig-- making the packaging bigger isn't necessarily an option because stores like the current footprint of a 6-inch by 9-inch cardback that sells quickly and doesn't take up too much room. Build-a-playset would be cool, but I think to do something decent (say, the size of a typical $20-$30 playset) you'd need to spread parts out across an entire year, if not more than a year's worth of basic figures. Even to dismantle the supposedly crappy Death Star playsets from the 1990s and cram them, piece by piece, in with carded figures would probably take a lot of parts and pieces, while raising costs at the same time. It's probably not a huge incentive unless the end results would be awesome-- and most likely, they would not be unless Hasbro's goal was to replicate something like the Land of the Jawas playset-- which is a base with some cardboard (as you could print out the cardboard part from your printer).
I think including non-figure extras would make good sense, especially if Hasbro takes the approach they did around 2002. Including a big accessory that connects to another toy is always smart, like the Clone Pilot's cannon which snaps on the Republic Gunship, or the various pieces spread over several toys to make your very own Geonosis Droid Factory assembly line. So Hasbro has tried to do a build-an-environment before, but it was spread over a year and wasn't marketed very well.
While everybody wants playsets, we all forget the end result will probably suck. If Sideshow got the license, we'd be treated to small, low-run, high-end items that maybe measure a square foot for $100. If Hasbro did a build-a-playset, it'd be small and most likely expensive. And if they picked an environment most of you didn't like-- which is a safe bet, considering how many there are to choose from-- I'd have to hear people complain about being "forced" to buy it with their figures all year long. This is why the smart money is still on cardboard playsets. They're flat, you can package them on a cardback with figures, and they're cheap.
5. I was wondering if the Ambush on Ilum battle pack was still shipping. I never once saw this in the wild and it's not exactly cheap online. Also was this an exclusive? I've always thought it was a Target exclusive but I could be wrong.
This shipped to Target stores in January/February-- it was blown out in the Spring.
It very much IS cheap online-- it frequently sells for under $10 on eBay before shipping. Which is a steal, considering that just the Chameleon Droids are each so big that they'd be worth the ten bucks.
6. I haven't seen or heard any recent information on the exclusive Comic pack sets that Walmart is supposed to be carrying.Are they still scheduled to be released?When are they going to be released?Apparently not this year from the looks of things. I know I'm not the only one wanting an update on these as well as the Max Rebo Band sets.Thanks.
There has been no official update on these sets yet. Packaged samples for the three Comic Packs, the two Max Rebo sets, and the two Cantina Galactic Heroes sets have all surfaced recently either from Hasbro proper or from Asia-based eBay auctions. As such, some sort of production is currently going on-- it doesn't mean 100% that these items will never be cancelled, but it means things are going in the right direction. At this time Hasbro has not revealed any updates on either item, and I wonder if it has something to do with the sluggish sales of the frankly crappy overpriced two-pack of the repaint Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader Transformers boxed set clogging the aisles at some stores still. (I mean, I buy everything, and I didn't buy that.) So keep your eyes peeled-- things sometimes show up this time of year and, due to the ebb and flow of retail shoppers, vanish instantly because people who don't collect can easily snag them all as gifts in a short period of time. None have arrived at retail as of when I write this, and very few are up on eBay if any-- so we all just get to be patient some more. Lucky us.
7. I see the 2008 assortments come with stands which is great since I like them better than the coins, but I also see 12 or so of this years figures that came with a coin coming out again with a stand. Do you know how many will be reissued with a stand?
A final answer won't be available until the line is over, as Hasbro sometimes will all of a sudden say "hey, we need to fill out an assortment in a hurry, let's reissue so-and-so." Right now, the following have been confirmed as being reissued with stands but many more are expected to show up in future waves: Anakin Skywalker (Clone Wars), Clone Trooper (Hawkbat), Clone Trooper (Trainee), Jango Fett, R2-B1, Padme, Voolvff Monn, McQuarrie Rebel Trooper, Ewoks Romba & Graak, Clone Trooper (7th Legion), Rebel Vanguard Trooper, and the Destroyer Droid. (So that's... uh... at least 12.) Other McQuarrie figures are rumored, and let's face it, there's going to be demand for more variety in 2008 so it's a safe bet they'll rotate some of the best-sellers back in eventually. I'll be more than a little shocked if we don't see the Stormtrooper with Removable Helmet again, for example.
8. I finally picked up one of the new 25th anniversary G.I. Joe figures, namely Serpentor. The articulation is absolutely fantastic on this figure. Not quite as good as modern-day Microman, but very good nonetheless. I know many collectors would like to see this level of articulation as standard for the Star Wars line, but in many cases it is just not a good fit for specific characters. What confuses me is when Hasbro, trying their best to satisfy us, adds full knee articulation to a figure without ankle articulation. It drives me crazy as you are almost as limited in display poses for such a figure as you would be with no knee articulation at all. In such cases, I would prefer they just leave it out altogether and spend that tooling and production money elsewhere on the figure or to enhance another figure in the wave. What do you think?
Hasbro's decision to relaunch G.I. Joe as it did probably has countless reasons-- not the least of which being that the bulk of the line was repaints of 20-year-old figures and forced two-packs so most fans were left irritated that they had to buy figures they didn't want (or already had) to continue their hobby. That, and there's money in retro-- the old-school packaging has never been tried on the line, and doing another round of merely acceptable new sculpts would be boring. To do anything but the relaunch that they did would probably have been met in failure, rather than the insane sell-out line they seem to have. (Also, they're going to reuse the Hell out of these sculpts-- you think Star Wars has a lot of repaints? Watch the next year of Joe, especially the exclusives.)
Most modern Star Wars figures have acceptable articulation. I don't get why some fans think ankle without knees (or knees without ankle) is some sort of unholy sin. Sure, it's annoying, and I'd prefer both-- but at least Hasbro realizes that it's good to have added articulation in there. Sometimes figures' limbs misshapen due to the packaging or mishandling, so an added joint lets you make up for any design flaws that come from the materials.
I very rarely come across a Star Wars figure that bothers me in terms of a lacking joint. It does happen from time to time, usually only with droids (where it's hard to get right anyway), but other than that I'm mostly happy. With basic figures, I find it annoying if Hasbro cheaps out (Roron Corrob's elbows, anyone?) but for exclusive multipacks that have a lower price-per-figure, I can live with a little less at times-- as long as the figure can stand, sit, and carry its accessories. If Hasbro moved to Joe-level articulation for the entire line, fans would complain. Heck, Joe fans are complaining because Hasbro is now retooling the "crotch" piece of all new figures to allow for enhanced movement (like sitting) because fans asked for it. But the fans don't like how it looks. As you can see, there's no easy solution here since you're always going to make someone mad, so let's move on.
9. Hi Adam, through reading your great Q&As for some time now I've come to accept that Hasbro isn't very interested in SW action playsets...However an idea crossed my mind this past weekend...'IF' by chance there ever was a time for a cost-effective and simplistic design for a playset... it would be as follows:
With the recent release of the 'Battle of Endor' Battle Pack, Endor AT-AT and upcoming ewok figures, I can totally envision an Endor "Imperial Landing Platform" playset. Really all it would need is a single landing platform structure, as well as a corridor for the AT-AT to "dock" with just like in Episode 6. If they wanted to go a little bit extra, they could throw in the 'shield bunker' at the base of it, as well as an elevator from the top platform through to the bottom.
Second, a cost effective alternative to the rumored upcoming AT-TE might be the AT-OT, the troop transport seen in Episode 3 on Felucia (has it's own page in the Starwars.com databank)... it's really just a platform with legs, and if you ask me, a virtual playset considering you could probably fit 20 clone troopers on it.
Oh, and I've been meaning to ask you for a year now... Target does not have stores in Canada (to the best of my knowledge)...last year I discovered a couple 'Target-exclusive' Zev Snowspeeders at the Toys R Us in London, Ontario... I'm curious how that happens...and then why we don't see other Target exclusives (such as the AT-RT Assault Squad) at Toys R Us?
When it comes to playsets, one of the things I find when discussing the topics with fans is that nobody can agree on what to make. If Hasbro ever wanted to kill off the fans, they should get us all in a room together, drop in a few knives, shout out "Everybody decide on a playset and we'll make it!" and then run. The results would be a bloody, horrible massacre but at least in the end we'd end up getting something crappy and thankfully most fans wouldn't be left alive to see it suffer at retail.
So, you want an Imperial Landing Platform. I'd ask why, but at this point I probably shouldn't ask that any more. As an environment, it would have to be pretty big. The tower to dock with the AT-AT would eventually measure two feet tall upon assembly. The platform for the Shuttle would also measure a foot or two across. Anything on top of that (i.e., a corridor--- and let me say, a corridor doesn't have a lot of play value) would add to the cost significantly. Unless Hasbro decides to hire away the Ikea geniuses who can cram an entire shelf unit into a flatpack, I don't think this is remotely sensible unless Hasbro found a way to (you guessed it) build it out of the cardboard inserts used in other toys. An item of this size would probably be at least $30 or more, and the target customer would be spoiled children who have both an AT-AT and Imperial Shuttle-- otherwise, it's just not going to be any fun. A landing pad doesn't have a lot of play features, and as a toy, a playset should be played with-- not merely admired and dusted periodically. It could be a fun environment, sure-- but then again, so could a jumbo Death Star playset, an all-new super-fancy Millennium Falcon interior, the Cantina, Jabba's Palace (or Sail Barge), or Cloud City.
I expect demand for the AT-OT to go up in the next six months. Most fans have no idea what it is, but now that it has a Titanium Series vehicle coming out, awareness is sure to skyrocket. As it's not much of a playset, it might not work-- but as a vehicle, who knows? It's too bad its unique design most likely won't be able to reuse parts from other vehicles, but it's possible Hasbro will some day crank one out if the rumored new Clone-oriented toys in 2008 do well. (Which, if you haven't heard the rumors, are an AT-TE, a repaint of the V-Wing, and the V-19 Torrent Starfighter. The latter two haven't been discussed by Hasbro at any significant length.) I think most fans would love to see more vehicles but, like everything else, Hasbro is picky about what they do and what will sell well for them, so if something isn't highly recognizable or getting lots of screen time, I wouldn't get your hopes up.
(Also, you assume most buyers have 20+ Clone Troopers. While I believe everybody who reads this column likely does, that's a very small minority of the people who buy Star Wars toys so this could be a tough sell as a new version of the Rebel Transport, but with feet.)
Hasbro offers its exclusives widely to pretty much anybody internationally. If you can meet the minimums, you can have a US exclusive. If Toys "R" Us wanted more exclusives for their Canadian stores, they could get them-- you'll have to pester Toys "R" Us HQ in Canada for that. If you have an account with Hasbro Canada, ask them-- I hear Hasbro Australia is pretty liberal with those exclusives too, assuming someone asked to have them. (They're supposedly not very proactive about finding homes for all exclusives worldwide-- many, yes, but it takes a lot of effort and hassle to convince someone in Tokyo or Calgary that they need to buy thousands upon thousands of units of a single item for a single chain.) So in short, bug the crap out of your stores or get a job in their purchasing department at the corporate office.
10. I have noticed my new Saga Legends Imperial Officer (the first one, with the POTJ head sculpt) has blue eyes. I note in all of the online photo archives, the POTJ figure appears to have brown eyes. But, I seem to remember seeing the blue eyes before... do you know if this is a Legends variant? Or do you know if the original POTJ figure came with brown eyes and blue eyes variants that have heretofore yet been noted?
At first I was scratching my head, but you're right Tia-- the Saga Legends POTJ-headed troopers do indeed have much brighter blue eyes than the fairly dull brown eyed original release. As such, fans will be able to easily tell the 2001 release from the 2007 release. I have never seen any variants in that original POTJ figure (I've got almost a dozen-- gotta think about populating a hypothetical Death Star some day!) but this is indeed a sign of Hasbro once again changing up the deco for the new releases. (Which, for army builders, I welcome.)
This wasn't nearly as exciting a week as I would hope. Sure, I got torn violently from my toy runs due to other obligations, but it's not like much new was hitting anyway.
I did get my Attack of the Clones-themed 30th Anniversary figures, though. McQuarrie's Rebel Trooper is really retrotastic. If Hasbro/Kenner was capable of making figures with this level of detail in 1980, I expect it would look exactly like this. I think it'd fit in well with my Fisher-Price Adventure People Alpha Star vehicle from when I was a kid. It's sharp, has a two-piece helmet, removable armor, and a gun that goes in its holster. While I can honestly say I never once gave a single thought to owning a McQuarrie Concept Rebel Trooper before Hasbro announced the toy, I am most pleased with the end results.
Voolvif Monn is a lot of fun. As-- I think-- the fourth "let's take a Cantina alien and give him a lightsaber" figure, he's pretty slick. I'm more than a little concerned that gravity will do bad things to his oddly doggy-shaped legs over time, I won't know for sure about what might happen until it warms up and the heat makes the plastic softer. But if you live in Alaska, it should be fine forever. It has decent articulation, a good weapon, and holds together nicely.
Padme is OK. The face needs some work in terms of deco, although I'm not sure what would make it better. More subtle make-up, maybe? The arm articulation is good, the painted flesh vs. molded flesh looks funky, and everybody looks good in black leather. She also comes with a drinking glass. Basically, she's everything you would hope for out of this figure except a whip. (That's a joke, kids. Don't ask your parents what it means.)
The new Jango Fett is also OK. It's like Hasbro decided to make a quick-change Batman figure, but as Jango. The armor fits well, the poncho is very cool, and I like the sculpt of the "civilian" Jango under the armor-- but getting the belt and holsters off is a real trial. If you decide you want to display it with and without its armor, or think you'll be taking it apart a lot, I advise you to buy two figures because I think it's going to rip eventually. Good articulation, decent sculpt, face could be better. Has two guns and the Geonosis-style rocket pack.
The Clone Trooper feels like a relic-- like Jango, it's a "quick change" armor figure. The armor is very bulky but fits nicely and snaps on well. The figure's limited articulation and action-ish pose means that if I put it in with my 2002 figures, it'd fit right in. There are knees, but no ankles, and it's hard to straighten his legs out. The face is good, the holster for the gun is superb, and the armor is (arguably) disposable unless you want to use it for a custom of some sort. I still like it, but I don't see me buying an army of them. Maybe two or three total, if 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!
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