Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
July 13, 2009
1. How's it going. I've got a couple questions about B.A.D.s I was hoping you could answer. I decided to get completed B.A.D. figures of droids that were in the OT. Since I keep my stuff carded, I'm basically just getting them off of ebay. Now, my research indicates that U-3PO, R5-A2, 5D6-RA7, and R4-D6 are all OT based figures.
What I'm confused about is MB-RA7. When I saw that one, I thought, "oh, that's the droid that's in the sandcrawler." But, apparently it's from the EU. Isn't this the modern equivalent of the silver Death Star Droid from the vintage line? Or is this flat out not from the OT?
And is 5D6-RA7 an update of the POTF2 FF Death Star Droid?
Lastly, do you know if any of the upcoming B.A.D. figures are from the OT?
Always in motion is the future-- but my notes? Firmly grounded in the past. Let me dig up some dirt for you. Oh, and let me start by saying your research is on the mark regarding those four droids.
MB-RA7 is an interesting duck. Technically he's not even proper Expanded Universe-- rather, the character is an update of the 1979 Kenner Death Star Droid, which was silver with black highlights. The name comes from a quasi-EU source, as it's named after a character Matt Busch (MB, get it?), a good artist and nice fellow, employed in his "You Can Draw Star Wars" magazine articles. So depending on how you view the galaxy of Star Wars, this is indeed old school original trilogy... or EU crap. I put Kenner's and Hasbro's mistakes about a rung shy of Official Lucas Canon and above pretty much all the comics, books, or novels, so yeah, I'd say you can put this one in your OT collection. I consider it as essential a purchase as a blue Snaggletooth, which is to say, about as important as having oxygen, food, and my copy of "Origato Plastico" by The Plastics. Get one.
5D6-RA7 is indeed an update of that Freeze Frame droid from the final wave of that series, made an exclusive, and boy howdy was that annoying. And now here's a new one. But yeah, he's pretty much replacing that old one.
Additional OT droids confirmed by Hasbro-- and it's "OT", hypothetical complaining reader which doesn't exist, "OTC" is an abbreviation for the 2004 "Original Trilogy Collection" line, hence the C-- are R3-01 and R3-A2. A few other build-a-droids coming soon include R4-P44, R5-H6, and L8-L9.
2. At what point does Hasbro realize that $8+ for a Basic Star Wars figure is too much? They speak of "collector" money and purchasing habits not being at the levels that they were a year or two ago. Does Hasbro realize that maybe it's because other fans have similarly jumped ship due to the ever-increasing price hikes? If not for kids' interest in Clone Wars, I think that Hasbro would be in deep poodoo right now. That may be a stretch, but I'm not too sure I'm incorrect about it.
The question is really about the value of Star Wars as a property to Hasbro. It's generally one of their top sellers, they sell tons of electronic lightsabers ($20 model), basic figures (all 3 SKUs), and Star Wars Transformers, even though we don't even look at the roleplay toys and transforming ones as a group. If they're selling, that means someone is buying them-- those to whom we have given birth which will someday replace us all. Don't trust those short people.
In all seriousness, if you take us out of the equation the line could potentially be more profitable for Hasbro. If they can sell repackaged and repainted toys to a group of 4-11 year-olds, which increases every day, they save a fortune on tooling. Every small boy is probably going to get a lightsaber or a Darth Vader figure at some point in their life, and Hasbro made millions of dollars in the 1980s spread over only a few dozen action figures and vehicles. The value of engaged children, with parents supporting these purchases, is everything. There are huge advantages to a collector base that aren't necessarily sales related. For example, parents supporting child "collecting," or columns like this one. Thousands of you read my column every week, which when you get right down to it is free PR and advertising for Hasbro. And I don't get paid to do it. That probably doesn't hurt, that as a community we enjoy this hobby to the extent to which we are willing to do work for our favorite toys.
It's very true that kid interest means a lot to Hasbro, but it isn't necessarily everything. The line would likely be very different right now without animation to support the franchise, but the fact that nearly every house in the USA with kids has a Star Wars trilogy DVD or VHS set somewhere nearby helps a ton. Home video does wonders to expose kids to these things, and odds are Saga Legends would do well without us, and we all know how exciting most collectors claim to find those.
The line would be OK without us, but odds are it'd be dwindling something fierce without the TV show. It wouldn't die, though-- POTF2 went from 1995 to 1999 on the promise of a new movie, and it's possible that collectors could carry this line if Lucasfilm dangled a few more carrots about the live-action series coming to keep fans interested and engaged. Although it seems that a lot of us lost our trust with The Clone Wars movie, which I just rewatched at the end of June and still basically enjoyed for what it was.
...but I want to bring up another point that I discussed with Chris, and that's of "value." Is $8 worse than $7 if you collect loose figures? Not necessarily, thanks to the build-a-droid gimmick. It actually brings your per-figure price down slightly.
2008-2009: $6.85/figure (6-figure $7.99 BAD waves), $6.40/figure (4-figure $7.99 BAD waves)
Since I "collect them all," my price-per-figure actually dropped slightly. And I could probably sell excess droid parts for $1 or $2. This doesn't help carded collectors, but it really does show the importance of Hasbro finding a way to increase value along with the prices. For example, figure 2-packs being the norm would save a fortune on packaging and freight, and as I brought up last year, doing "vintage-style" packaging ala G.I. Joe 25th Anniversary would do wonders for reducing the amount of materials used and the dimensions of a box of 12 figures. Plus it'd energize a certain group of fans, I know I'd start collecting carded for at least a little while if something like that happened at a basic figure price point with brand-new figures and characters.
3. Last week you wrote this in your article:
"There's also the possibility that someone new might get a toy license, I know it's unlikely but I'd love to see Playmobil give it a whirl. I pick up some of their stuff from time to time and it's consistently sturdy, well-assembled, and packed with accessories and features. I got a good look at a $60 boat which features an exposed glass bottom, compartments to hide accessories, tons of moving parts, and the ability to float, plus working winches and other goodies. The next time you go to Toys "R" Us or a snooty educational toy store, take a look at this stuff and get a look at the kind of play features they include. While the company never licenses entertainment properties, remember, neither did LEGO until the announcement in 1998. (And in the interest of full disclosure, Playmobil Star Wars toys are the only line I could see pushing Hasbro Star Wars toys out of my heart as Most Favored Toyline. That's how much I admire their stuff. I'd shell out $50 for an X-wing in their style or $120+ for a Falcon, no questions asked. Also, their figures are cheap.)"
I, too, would very much like to see this. I, for one, would really consider collecting Star Wars Playmobil stuff if it ever came out. And I bet it would bring a whole lot of new customers to their product. Have you thought about dropping them a line and asking...no...demanding that they make this? :-) Has anyone ever customized Playmobil for Star Wars? Hmmm...
Anyway, yes, I would too like to see Playmobil pick up the Star Wars license, even if it was for an exclusive 1 time set.
Customs, yes. Good customs? Not really. This link has an award-winning custom Darth Vader, which is crap. Another iffy Vader, plus a rocking Luke, can be seen here. I've seen a few other custom Han and Luke figures, but by and large the bulk of them were hoax "real figures" which were off-model enough for a seasoned Klicky-afficionado to smell a rat.
Playmobil US has not been kind to me when I contacted them in pretty much any capacity aside from placing a phone order. Maybe I come off as creepy. I have my doubts that such a line would exist due to it being similar to Kubricks and Galactic Heroes in spirit, and Hasbro would probably stake anyone in the heart that competes with its figure-and-vehicle line. However, the playsets that Playmobil makes tend to be awesome, and designed to be expandable. If your family house isn't big enough, they make extra floors. If your grocery store is too small, they sell expansions. Imagine the Death Star you could make with that! And now imagine that you'll never see it.
The German toymaker, unfortunately, does not do licensed products. They did a few promotional toys here and there (Maggi), and incorporated some brands in the toys (Shell, DHL), but have never included an entertainment property. Fans would need to step up and demand it, as you say, and it's going to be more than me, in more languages than English, and from more countries than the USA, which is little more than a wart on Playmobil's posterior when it comes to worldwide sales. They do not have much of an interest in this territory.
4. Are the Saga Legends Han Solo and Chewbacca figures coming out on the Blue/White 2008 packaging or are they only in the Rust (Orange)/White 2009 packaging?
These two figures are debiting in the second (or is it third?) shipment of orange reduced-packaging Saga Legends. As such, no blue versions are known to have been mocked up, and none have shipped.
5. In my state there has been a serious drought when it comes to new basic figures. Is there a chance Star Wars products are being held to boost the sales of both Transformers & G.I. Joe? Call me paranoid, but I feel this same thing happened when the Indy products first came out.
Do I still have time to find the empire wave with the lighter silver U-3po parts?
The problem with distribution of collector brands is that collectors have money. Back in the day, collectors in Phoenix, AZ would, on occasion, write me complaining their stores never had anything. Part of the reason for this is because I was in their region and I am far, far more tenacious when it comes to new product hunting. Depending on where you live and how often you go there, it's entirely possible that it isn't the store, but you that are the weak link. Some stores get cases upon cases of new product, but it turns over quickly. In 2009, it seems the 3 new waves are shipping in numbers which are lower than we saw last year, which means people aren't waiting around for sales anymore.
I can tell you right now, if you are going out hunting fewer than 3 times a week, odds are it's you and not your area and/or your competition. As someone who has been to the same store several times in a week for various reasons, I can tell you stuff comes in and goes overnight, frequently. The same is very true with Transformers and G.I. Joe, there are certain products that fly off the shelves in a hurry while a precious few languish. I know that's probably not what you want to hear, but that's often the reality of things. Hasbro makes many tens (or hundreds) of thousands of these toys. The next time you go to the store, pick up random basic Star Wars figures and look at the build-a-droid part. This can tell you from which cases they were pulled, as so far Hasbro is only shipping HK-47 with wave 7, U-3PO with wave 6, and so on and so forth. If you see older figures with the newer parts, that means you missed out. (Obviously, you can't do this with the cartoon figures or Saga Legends... but there is a Saga Legends package refresh, so there's that.)
If you didn't pre-order the case with U-3PO and already receive it, you're probably totally out of luck on silver C-3PO. As far as I can tell, it only shipped in the cases with 1 set of Wave 6 and the additional 6 repackaged figures-- so at least you have some options for finding additional parts. But keep in mind it was only in the very first shipments, so you don't have much of a chance here.
That last question is basically a recurring theme I've had to write about since 1995-- not that I'm sick of answering it, but it's the honest-to-goodness truth with most stores in most areas. While there are some areas that aren't well-served by the toy fairies, I've found a number of small towns utterly packed with hot and hard-to-find product. It's not always easy to tell if you're dealing with a blank spot on the map, or with a competitive collecting community. Generally it's the second one.
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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