Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
July 27, 2009
1. Just to confirm: Is "The Legacy Collection" (blue/white card) changing over to simply "Legacy Collection" (red/white card)? That's the official name change for 2009?
Yup! The line look is changing, but the brand isn't-- which is unusual for this line, but I guess the current name works for now, until something far more fantastic comes along.
2. If collectors (such as I) do not open their figures, then what's the best way to store them? Walmart sells big, plastic, sealable tubs ... would these work, if stored year-round in a cool, dry place?
Possibly. Efficiency is a hard nut to crack, and you never know what elements will get in despite the best of preparations. This leads to numerous problems, such as spending more on storing a figure than it's actually worth-- which I've seen a few collectors do. These big bins should be OK for your carded figures, but keep in mind gravity or a slip-up could cause bending over time.
One of the more popular solutions I've seen was to use those long comic book storage boxes, sometimes combining these with comic book bags and boards to seal out the elements.
As to what I use? I've managed to score a number of empty Hasbro cardboard shipping cases, which work great. As long as you don't keep them anywhere near a water heater. (Trust me, don't do it.) These tubs are probably the overall cheapest solution for mass-packaged-figure storage, but be careful to make it so they are less likely to bend and crush one another, unless you don't care or have them in Star Cases or something.
3. Although I think you came close to answering it for me already last week when you wrote:
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.
I was wondering if you have any more thoughts as to why Kenner, in the vintage line, was "skimpy" on the variety of characters they made back in the day versus the sheer volume and "improved" re-versioning/reimagining of characters the modern line churns out (though as you point out we all like to complain as if we are somehow not swamped in anonymous background plastic!). I mean, I think if I take what you said one step further I might have just answered my own question. That back when more toys sold and it was much more a kid's hobby/passion, they didn't need to churn out so much variety because kids just mostly want their Vaders, Lukes, Hans, Chewbaccas and Stormtroopers and a few cool aliens. But...then I ask myself two things:
1) If more toy product sold then why weren't parents and kids clamoring for new figures to buy as gifts, etc as they came out in a trickle every 3 years or so?
2) If now, as Hasbro claims, we collectors are a small part of the market, why is there such a variety of characters produced? If kids are kids wouldn't they be just as happy with a repackaged 1995 Vader as a new super-schmancy removable helmet version? Or just as fine without a baker's dozen of background Cantina aliens from a film from the funky 70s? I can imagine a lot of two-birds-one-stone going on here (make a new Vader so collector's buy it and kids will too since they can't tell the difference or don't care as long as it's Vader) but do you have any more insight into what I am trying to get at here?
The toy market of 2009 is significantly different from that of 1979, or even 1984. Today, the lifespan of most action toys is meant to be six months, but it's generally a little bit shorter. In 1984, the intent was to have a successful toy on the market for about two years. The only modern Star Wars toys to ship for more than a year consistently are kid-driven products, like the Battle Packs, the Unleashed 2-inch figures, Galactic Heroes, Saga Legends, Lightsabers, Transformers, and so on. Which is interesting, because most toys in most lines don't last a whole season.
The reason kids probably aren't clamoring for as much product as we are is because of the simple matter of determining just how spoiled a kid could be. As a child it took me years to get to 40 figures in my toy box, and big vehicles were out of the question. Due to Hasbro not showcasing the entire line on the packaging, and the fact that kids aren't necessarily as cued-in as we are, they probably aren't aware of what's out there yet-- nor do they expect to get everything that gets made. There's so much new product being created that kids are generally happy with as run-off from the collector's line-- most items appeal to multiple audiences. Others, not so much. It's a weird chicken-and-the-egg thing, do aliens sell because Hasbro underproduces them, or could they sell better if in some cases Hasbro made more? Would Momaw Nadon 2006 be a hit if dumped in Saga Legends?
Collectors are a smaller part of the market, but we serve a purpose. We still buy a lot, and I'm not entirely sure which of the 3 basic figure SKUs is the biggest hit right now either. Hasbro gets a lot of ideas from us as a community, some of which are good, and a number of collector figures go on to be hits with a wider audience. The stuff does sell, but it's not necessarily going to sell at the same rate. Like I said, you can sell Vader after Vader after Vader to the world at large, because there are always going to be kids (and their parents) who decide they need one in their toy box or collection. The 500th Darth Vader action figure started life as a premium-packaged, higher-priced figure for adult fans. It went on to be repackaged and reused in multiple subsequent lines, and the mold is still being used to this very day. So yesterday's collector-quality figure could be tomorrow's big kid hit.
No matter the target demographic, it's always in a company's interest to make "improved" versions of a product-- Coke, Pepsi, the Nintendo DS-- these are all basically the same thing, but sometimes making a new one will entice fence-sitters to buy, show the world that the concept is still fresh, and stave of the final day where it becomes obsolete. Star Wars in the 1980s started to fail not just because the franchise faded, but because the product was stuck in the 1970s. For the same price as a Luke figure, you could buy Zap or Scarlett or Snake Eyes-- which could be posed every which way and had more accessories. Gimmicks like transforming action, more articulation, and better accessories aren't just for collectors. The Real Ghostbusters thrived on repainted figures with new gadgets, and a big part of G.I. Joe's appeal when I was but a wee lad was the movement. Other kids were genuinely wowed by bending knees and a hole in the back for a backpack. If you put a 1995 Darth Vader up against nearly any other action figure today, it's unlikely that kids would necessarily recognize it as being a good product. They're smarter than you might think.
So the short answer: expectations change, and Hasbro updates the line with the times to meet these expectations for all audiences. Without new characters, the line would get stale real fast, obscure or otherwise.
4. The Hasbro site says that in order to get the free Qui-Gon and Eopie figures we need to send in 5 proofs of purchase from the Build-A-Droid 87535 Asst. What does that mean? Where can I find those numbers? I have looked at the proofs of purchase for the figures I've bought and each one has a different 87-number on it. I would greatly appreciate any guidance you can offer...
87535 is the 5-digit assortment by which stores order the build-a-droid figures. So Target says "Hey Hasbro, we need more stock of the build-a-droid figures, 87535, send us some." All of the basic build-a-droid figures come IN this assortment. In the past, Hasbro put both the assortment SKU (87500, 85770, etc.) on the cardboard insert on or near the UPC. Today, they just put the individual figure's SKU on there, which is where you're probably going to be confused. You can find the 5-digit assortment SKU on the cardback, on the front near the hook where the figure hangs on the pegs.
So how do you know which UPCs should qualify?
EVERY individually packaged, non-exclusive figure released since July 2008 released on the blue and white, red and white, or orange and white packaging basically qualifies. So if you have any build-a-droid figure, they're good. If you bought any Saga Legends with the weapons locker, those qualify. Finally, if you bought any of the individual animated Clone Wars figures that weren't exclusives, those are good too.
With my experience with mail-in offers in the past, many times, they'll take anything. If you have only 4 qualifying UPCs but include the check, you can sometimes get away with throwing in an older UPC or something from an unrelated product and get away with it. Not that I advocate such things... but it generally works if push comes to shove. Remember, people who work at the fulfillment company probably don't like their jobs any more than you like yours.
5. If GI Joe gets the Pit is there something big coming for SW.
Yes, for this year it's the Turbo Tank. Basically, it's sort of the other way round-- because the AT-TE and Falcon did well, we've got the Pit. The success of the Butterscotch Pony toy for the FurReal Friends line helped pave the way for those other two ships... one hand washes the other, and then grows another arm. I think.
So Comic-Con was good. Two really awesome people stopped by to see me (I won't mention who to avoid name-dropping) but it's really awesome to see the people you a) grew up admiring and b) follow their work like a hawk stop by to say hi and shoot the bull for a while. You probably know who you are, so thanks muchly for the chats.
Hasbro's booth drew really interesting reactions, I think we're now at a stage where fans see what they want to see. Some saw it as being underwhelming and lacking while others saw it as shockingly robust with numerous excellent choices. My fanboy hat was elated to see Giran, a new Jedi Luke, R3-01, the Freeco Speeder Bike, the AT-ST, and so many other items up for grabs. The Funeral Pyre for Darth Vader set was a blemish on an otherwise shining product offering, and if you liked that set, I'm sorry. You're wrong.
Unlike previous years there was very little in the way of 3 3/4-inch toys that I couldn't find reason to love, the only exceptions being the TIE rehashes (too soon) and yet another X-wing. It's not a bad idea. I just don't really think it's good for the world to be offered another Big Wing TIE Fighter, particularly given the reaction to Diamond's exclusive model. And Toys "R" Us' white one, which you can still buy. There's nothing wrong with the X-wing beyond what appears to be another Q4 with $800+ worth of exclusives again, which may work for Hasbro but as a collector I have to say it's starting to make it look significantly easier for fans to start being picky.
Well, that's all for now. I just got back from Comic-Con, and on the way back it dawned on me that August 1 is the 14th anniversary of my writing about the modern Star Wars merchandising on the interwebs. My original email toy news newsletter started August 1, 1995, and I've since written for numerous other sites including Rebelscum, Yakface.com, and this one. They key difference today is that I've got a more specialized audience, focused mostly on Hasbro toys rather than Pepsi promotions and stuff movie theaters gave away. Ultimately I think it's slightly better to have some level of focus, because honestly, I don't think I could keep interested in covering Bend-'Ems and Taco Bell premiums anymore.
Oh, and that new Fan's Choice thing sound interesting. My push is Vlix. This is the one figure I absolutely want to have happen because it's really the only vintage-era figure which exists, but doesn't. (That Brazilian release is a load, ain't nobody able to get that action.) So VOTE VLIX, and vote often, or you're a commie. You aren't a commie, are you?
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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