Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
June 9, 2008
1. It's great not to be an Indiana Jones figure collector. I picked up two (just two) from the basic figure line, just because I had one of the vintage Indy figures when I was a kid. The two figures are the basic Indiana Jones Figures with and without Jacket. Both have revolver and whip. Both suck. One sucks tremendously and the other has a single fatal flaw.
How can a company that has as long a history as Hasbro continually repeat past mistakes? How can an otherwise good Indy figure have peg holes in the feet that are at most 2 millimeters deep? Has the company never actually looked at their own damn stands? As for the truly horrible figure, how in the name of all that good and holy can they revisit the horror of the widespread stance with no leg articulation? The legs of this Indy are in almost precisely the same rigid pose as the legs of Ponda Baba from the "Cantina Showdown" 3-pack of 1997. I kid you not. Hasn't the POTF line from 1997 been completely panned? How can these legs resurface in 2008? The only way they could have made this figure worse is if they made him as buff as POTF Han Solo. All I can say is, "Thank God there is no maniacal addiction driving me to collect Indiana Jones figures."
One of the amazing things about this column is the frequent influx of Indy questions. As such, I'll keep answering them.
In the case of Indy, Hasbro's company line is that they're using a new factory who is still figuring out the ropes, basically. (So says the various Q&A sessions they've done.) Having dealt with factories overseas, I can say I believe it-- this sort of thing is hard to get right when dealing with a language barrier and a new production facility. I agree it should have been caught before going out, but some things-- like deadlines-- trump quality control. If you have a new movie coming, sometimes it makes more sense to release a pretty good product rather than miss the sales window. As a collector, this is heresy, but for business it makes sense. But peg holes, well, that baffles me-- Kenner got them right on every figure from 1978 to 1985, why is it a problem now? My guess is the sheer volume of product coming out of Hasbro makes it harder for someone to check off some of these details, but I don't know for sure.
I don't think the figures are as bad as you're saying, but they could definitely be better toys. Sometimes the stances are done to make the figure look appealing in the package, sometimes it's to enable an action feature to work properly, and other times, it's just the way that someone wanted to do it. It happens. Thankfully, as you say, it's not hard to skip on a bad figure.
2. What is with Sideshow's choice of characters for their 12" line? We are years into their license, and still we have not gotten 12" versions of such standards as C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Stormtrooper, Classic Vader, even cool stuff like Biker Scout, Sandperson, Snowtrooper or the bounty hunters (the Boba they sold was Medicom RAH, and like all RAH's, a tad too short to be in scale with Sideshow figs.)
Some of these characters are tough to pull off for sure, but that was the reason for the excitement over Sideshow acquiring the license - if someone could pull it off, it was them.
But who decided to do Praji before a stormtrooper? An Endor Rebel before a Biker Scout? Luke in Yavin outfit before a Hoth or X-Wing outfit version?
Was this all a ploy to do head swaps on their Sideshow bodies and drape them in yet another jedi robe outfit?
There have been a few other issues here and there - sculpts very hit and miss, monkey arms problems, a "make up" look to the face paint - but the choices of characters is what's emerging as the biggest problem. They - and we - are running out of time on this license.
Jabba was an act of inspired genius - but this is one of the few bullseyes of this line. With Hasbro's half-ways decent job on the Indy 12" - at a $20 price point (!) - I'm actually at this point beginning to hope Hasbro gets back into the 12" Star Wars business.
Much of Sideshow's decisions supposedly had a lot to do with tooling costs. Figures with mostly cloth outfits (or a new head or a helmet) are much cheaper to make than a fully armored trooper, and apparently Sideshow intended on saving those-- the sweetest plums, really-- for after the initial hype of the line wore off. Also, there's a lot of competing products (Medicom) and collectors have versions of many of those figures. While Hasbro's Scout Trooper 12-inch figure isn't perfect, it's really good. Sideshow has to up the ante considerably in order to make a compelling product.
As to the human faces, well, those are tricky. Can't say much there.
Hasbro will likely not get back into the 12-inch business any time soon, not because of any contracts, but because it's not their business model. Hasbro is a company that sells mind-bogglingly large numbers of several items to stores, while Sideshow is in the business of selling a few thousand figures direct to consumer. Simply put, it's not in Hasbro's interests to sell a low-volume line like the 12-inch line was. I'm sure the numbers are such that any of a number of companies would be beyond thrilled with it, but Hasbro wants to sell tons of items, using the economy of scale whatnots to bring down prices.
Simply put, Sideshow will take the time and energy to try some unique things (12-inch Jabba) because it wouldn't hurt them to try. If Hasbro sold items by the low thousands, it'd probably hurt them a great deal. That, and I'd also say that I think the 12-inch Indiana Jones line is barely acceptable-- a lot of those faces are just horrible. The costumes are nice, and the accessories are good, but there's really no reason they can't make a wonderful head in 2008 when they were doing a fine job in 1979.
I'll be curious to see if Hasbro and Sideshow continue the relationship. With the recent announcement of G.I. Joe in their stable, I think it's a safe bet it's going to continue for a while. I mean, if you think about it, it's truly baffling for Hasbro to license out the 12-inch G.I. Joe line considering that the entire invention was theirs, but it seems Hasbro is starting to be more in the business of character portfolios, and if someone is willing to pay them to put a ninja toy out that they would never produce, well, it makes sense.
Overall, I was a little happier with Hasbro's $20 12-inch figures due to lower expectations. (The first 12-inch figures out of Kenner in 1996 or so were pretty bad.) Odds are it won't make a lot of sense for Hasbro to do them unless they do an "indie film"-esque toy division that is genuinely interested in lower run items, but I wouldn't expect that any time soon.
3. I am aware of both your opinion and Hasbro's on playsets. But it seems to me if they ever made more playsets instead of trying to think up new ideas wouldn't it be easier to just use those Micro Worlds from the 80's as a template only increasing the size to fit 3 3/4 inch figures considering that they could make different sizes and multiple sets that would connect together into one giant world. What are your thoughts on this?
At Toy Fair, they said that 23 figures from the new Clone Wars line would be released in 2008. We have seen Wave One and the holographic Grievous. Of the remaining 14 figures, I am wondering if any have been leaked & will we see any at the San Diego Comic Con?
First: there will be leaks. There are always leaks. Just this week, I found scores of Transformers: Animated toys at retail-- their street date isn't for a while, I hear. But yet, I found them. Stores are unable to keep a leash on their stockers and it's really somewhat difficult to try to keep the genie in the bottle for so long, especially given Comic-Con is during the Clone Wars launch. Which is just ridiculous.
Aside from some Clone Trooper redeco test shots, Hasbro has been exceedingly quiet on what these first waves will be. I fully expect the traditional stuff like C-3PO and more Troopers and Droids, but honestly, nothing has been announced or leaked yet. But as product ships to stores in this era of cell phone cameras, even if they don't leak from China, it's unthinkable that we won't see them early. I figure we'll see most if not all of the stuff by July 4.
4. I've been collecting the new Indiana Jones line. Poor paint application (especially to the faces) aside, I like the figures and it makes a neat side shelf to my Star Wars collections. I just recently picked up the German Motorcycle soldier and it's pretty slick IMO. I was most interested in collecting the figures from the original trilogy but I thought it would be cool to get some of the new figures from the new movie. . . before the movie came out. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I for one did not like the new movie at all. It had its moments, but overall it left a poor taste in my mouth. I'll keep the figures from the new movie as they ARE part of the collection but I'm having a hard time convincing myself to get anymore that aren't part of the original 3. Here's where I ran into a problem: the mini relics that come with each. Some of these are pretty lame (a fake arrowhead? Seriously?!) but some are fantastic, and as I discovered, some of the movie relics do not necessarily come with the figures from the movie. Without giving away some of the mystery of what relic comes with what figure, I'll just say that one of the new movie figures [AP note: Dovchenko] came with a highly detailed Goblet of Kali (the skull mug that held the blood of Kali that Indy was forced to drink in ToD); and it's just freakin' cool! My question is, do you know if any of the other new movie figures come with any cool relics; especially the movie relics? If so, would you mind sharing which new figures I should buy to get the relics? Thanks!
A lot of figures have decent relics, but really what you need to do is research who has what and buy accordingly. What's cool varies from fan to fan, and I'd hate to steer you wrong. I mean, I think the Chachapoyan Temple Carving with that Raiders Indy is super cool, but you might not. This sort of haphazard blind-ish packaging of relics is sure to drive fans online to research who has what, and encourage purchases of figures fans don't want just for the artifacts. Ridiculous, I know, but effective.
I'll see if I can crank out an artifact list for you all soon.
5. When Vintage Han Hoth was shown at Toy Fair last year, a hood up alternate head was shown with it. And it was really pretty cool - hood up, hood down. Then the hood up head was quickly pulled from the Toy Fair display. Hasbro said that Lucasfilm didn't approve it due to something like quality issues. So vintage Han shipped with no swappable head.
Then along comes the new Droid Factory and (upcoming) battle pack versions. I pulled a close up image of that Toy Fair head and it's the exact same sculpt (and oversize goggles) used for the new sets. What gives? It's a quality issue last year, not this year?
It would have been a great addition to that vintage figure, instead we got that dorky scarf/visor/goggles thing.
It's just that I paid over ten bucks for that vintage figure, and now I get to buy it again (this time in sets!) with the head that was designed to be included with that vintage figure? So did Lucasfilm change their mind? Or did Hasbro tell a little white lie to ensure another figure could be made of the same thing?
It's my understanding that Hasbro's words were something like "the hood-up version was not approved." This can mean lots of things-- it wasn't approved to be shown, it wasn't approved for production, or it wasn't approved for this particular line because they wanted to use it later. It's in Hasbro's best interest to milk these sculpts for all they're worth, and well, we're seeing exactly that.
6. I want to be sure that I have a complete set of the TAC coins (which are every bit as cool as the old POTF coins, but I digress). How many different black coins were made, and which figures accompanied the coins?
There are 60 "basic figure" coins with 59 basic figures and 1 coin album. These, you should find easily, and there's also 10 variant gold coins to track down for Boba Fett (McQuarrie and Animated), Darth Vader (ANH), Stormtrooper (McQuarrie), Han Solo (Gunner), Luke Skywalker (Ceremonial), Chewbacca (McQuarrie), Mace Windu, R2-D2, Galactic Marine, Airborne Trooper, and Biggs Darklighter (Pilot). There are 8 Saga Legends coins-- one for each movie, and gold and black Expanded Universe coins. There are seven mail-in figure coins (including the New York Toy Fair coin and 6 vintage figures), the Comic-Con coin, the Celebration IV coin, the Celebration Europe coin, and then there's US and Europe versions of the McQuarrie Luke coin, the McQuarrie Droids coin, and just the US version of Concept Grievous' coin. Oh, and there's a gold Indiana Jones coin from Comic-Con. And I think that's pretty much the lot of it.
So you have...
60 basic coins
12 gold coins (Ultimate Galactic Hunt)
8 Saga Legends coins
3 "Convention coins" (4 if you count New York Toy Fair)
7 Vintage Mail-in coins (6 if you don't count the Toy Fair coin in the set)
5 Convention figure coins
1 Indiana Jones coin
So there's a lot. The black Expanded Universe coin comes with the Shadow Stormtrooper and Utapau Shadow Trooper.
7. Do you think we will see a re-release of the republic gunship this fall? My son is begging for one and there is no way I am going to pay the obscene second market prices. I think it would be a big dumb mistake not to release this highly demanded ship that is such a centerpiece in the Clone Wars at the time of its premiere. Don't you?
There will be at least one new Gunship in July (or around July) but Hasbro has yet to show it-- odds are it will match the movie/TV show but it's hard to know for certain.
8. how long will the Rancor thing be on the shelf. My son also went ga ga for it. Is it grab it quick or it'll be there at Christmas.
Knowing Target? It'll be gone before Christmas. I'd say get it now, as it seems to be selling fast, but keep in mind it's in 30th Anniversary Packaging and Hasbro said they want to phase that out for July 26-- and knowing Target's turnover on exclusives, I'd say it should be on markdown on or around that time. Don't expect to see this item in stores past July or August, and that's being generous. A new Rancor may replace it, though. If your kid really wants it, buy it and hide it somewhere. That, or prepare for eBay purchases, which could be higher or lower than the $39.99 asking price today.
9. I opened my han R-3PO set this morning and the leg to c-3px has ankle articulation. Do any of the c-3po molds have this?? I can't think of any!
No previously released C-3PO has an ankle joint in the 3 3/4-inch scale-- so if this one has it, it's the first!
10. It seems to me like Hasbro is changing their approach toward us, and in fact it almost seems like they are threatening us, "buy our merchandise or we may not make any more!" Let me explain:
Recently they made it a point to notify many, or all, of the various Star Wars figure sites to tell them, "hey, you better not wait for the Order 66 sets to go on clearance, because they're not going to. So you better buy them. Now." I suppose on the one hand this could actually be a helpful tip. But reading between the lines, it seems like they're saying: "Hey, you better buy these now, because we told Target that they would be big sellers, unlike the ones from last year that blew out at $2.50 a pop, so just to let you know Target's not going to mark these down, so go buy them. Now." And yet, interestingly enough, some Targets did mark them down. Hmmm. Granted the various stores have some discretion when it comes to markdowns, but if it was a company wide mandate to not mark them down, it wasn't enforced.
The thing is, Target has kind of trained us to wait for clearance. Personally, I buy stuff right away because I may never see it again, and worry about the clearance later if it happens. But in general, Target clearances stuff out FAST! So we get used to that, and now Hasbro is blaming us for that.
And the thing that really irks me, especially because I really am looking forward to it, is the ROTJ Rancor that was supposed to come out this year using the new mold. In one of the Q&As I read, I don't recall offhand which one it was, Hasbro flat out said, when someone asked about the ROTJ version, that due to scheduling issues, the Rancor was bumped, and as a matter of fact, if the TFU Rancor doesn't sell well, there's a chance the ROTJ version might not come out. Really? Threats to buy their merchandise? What gives?
They put the cost into a new mold for the new Rancor, and Hasbro is always quick to tell us how expensive molds are and that's why we don't get a lot of the stuff we want, so they're telling me that if I don't buy this version, which I don't care for as I don't buy EU stuff, they might not do the ROTJ one? Really? Huh. I was kind of under the impression that in order to recoup the cost of a new mold they have to repackage something several times.
So what gives? Is there a shift in attitude over at Hasbro? Is there someone new in charge? Are they not making enough money, or what?
The same guy-- Derryl DePriest-- is still in charge of most of the stuff on Hasbro's Star Wars team. He's a nice guy, and in the past couple of years he and the rest of the team are starting to pay much closer attention to the stuff we all post on forums, news sites, and yes, columns like this one. With numerous vocal fans taking the attitude of "I'll just wait for clearance," fans and the guys at Hasbro are both trying to get the message out of how the free market economy works-- that is, what you buy sends a message. While Target's clearances are insane, it does make a big difference. Not only does Hasbro and Target have to design product with the big red retailer's incredibly short attention span in mind, but they have to make things that fans will want to buy, regardless of age. This is a tricky prospect, especially when Target rarely gives any one exclusive more than two months.
Regarding the Rancor, putting out two Rancors in one year seemed odd-- so in a way, I'm glad Hasbro decided to push it back. I just got this one, and it's probably for the best to let some demand build up before releasing another one, especially at $40. (Or wait for a big Jabba's Palace push.) I don't think it was a threat so much as it was "we're not doing it now, yeah we know you know we were considering it, please buy the one that's available." As you pointed out, it's a safe bet that it's probably chatter. Today, it may seem like they're saying "oh, well, sales may make us not produce this item" but the reality is that if someone begs for an exclusive, and there's a mold sitting around, and a repaint would be easy to do, it's a safe bet that it'll happen eventually. But if sales and demand don't warrant it, "eventually" could be 2014.
And yes, if the Force Unleashed Battle Rancor doesn't sell well at all, it would probably be a safe bet Hasbro wouldn't want to make another version of the creature for quite some time. I don't know if you got one, but as it is, it's basically a normal ROTJ Rancor with a saddle, no chains, and some extra blue paint. Other than the pack-in figures and leaving off a paint app, the other version really isn't all that different, and I'm sure if a kid got this one and a new one came out for Christmas, it'd be a hard sell to parents. "Didn't you just get that?" or "How many of those do you have?" are the kind of thing I'd expect to hear. (Sort of like what I hear when I bought another Starscream last weekend.)
Who says you can't burn the candle at both ends? I'm still a smidgen swamped, so as always, please get your questions in ASAP. I'm considering revamping the column and how it works in order to provide more frequent and smaller installments-- is that something you guys would like, or do you prefer it weekly? Just curious.
It was yet another slow week for Star Wars, but boy howdy, it was a great week for Transformers. I found me a Ratchet at Wal-Mart on Saturday, which pretty much made my week. A few of you are probably watching Transformers Animated on Cartoon Network, which so far seems to be the best overall series based on the toy line. The voice actors are great. The guests are even better. Brian Posehn? Fred Willard? "Weird Al" Yankovic? It's just incredible. If they could find a way to shoehorn in Alice Cooper, Patton Oswalt, or Sarah Vowell, they'd probably have the best voice cast for a Saturday morning show ever. If you watched and dug Beast Wars, this is probably worth your while. If you remember liking the original 1980s show, you'll probably like this too.
Right now, I'm getting nervous for The Clone Wars. I'm both very excited and very skittish-- you see, someone decided to launch the entire toy line the same weekend as San Diego Comic-Con, so hardcore fans are presumably expected to be in two places at once. Seeing as how there will be exclusives at Comic-Con, Target, Toys "R" Us, and Wal-Mart, I'm not precisely clear on how any fan is supposed to complete their collection without calling in numerous favors. Although maybe the store exclusives will suck, so I won't have to care. But it's just really inconvenient.
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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