By Adam Pawlus
Photography by Michael Sullenger
(SAN DIEGO, CA, July 18, 2003) Hasbro's big day featured a lot of expected announcements, some unexpected ones, and as an added bonus, some that probably weren't meant to be leaked just yet. So, here's the latest.
The Clone Wars are continuing, just not for very long. Hasbro confirmed that no new basic figures were in the works for 2004, but more are on tap for 2003 (Kit Fisto, Saesee Tiin, and rumor has it at least one more Clone.) Some assortments-- namely the multipacks-- still have quite a bit more life in them as well. In addition to the four known variations of Clone Trooper sets, a fifth will be released with a Clone standing and looking through binoculars. Other additions to the "army" assortment are Durge with his Speeder Bike and a new version of the Clone with his bike.
Basic figures and vehicles seem capped at what we've seen, but there will be some Clone Wars lightsabers of sorts. Repackaged weapons are expected later this year.
As you might have guessed, retailer support for Star Wars has been all over the place this year. Wal-Mart, for example, is showing limited support, carrying what seems to be only basic figures for the foreseeable future. While Kay-Bee, Toys "R" Us, and other retailers are expected to carry a little of everything, it was made painfully apparent Wal-Mart will probably become less and less of a key stop on a regularly scheduled toy run.
New Saga figures showed up on the show floor on Star Wars day, including the second Imperial Dignitary (the first being Janus Greejatus), the delightfully crowd-pleasing new Padme figure, and a big surprise with a Fan Club exclusive Santa Yoda, which will be released in a dome packaging similar to 2002's R2-D2 and C-3PO set. An exclusive chrome Clone Trooper, originally rumored to be a gift-with-purchase at Toys "R" Us later this year, is apparently now back to "coming-but-not-sure-where" territory. Kay-Bee is getting their own exclusive in the form of a poster featuring a most excellent image of Durge, so good that odds are many a collector will be wanting a couple. While not a figure, it's a heck of a nice promotional piece and should make a splash with fans of the series this fall.
Jedi Points are making their big splash, in a promotion that's sure to make many a collector happy, amused, and a bit upset all at once. Rather than a straight redemption program, Hasbro will be setting up a deal with eBay involving Jedi Points as the currency for Hasbro auctions. Items are still to be determined, but extra figures from previous exclusive accounts are definites, such as a few Jorg Saculs and Toy Fair Vaders. Hasbro made it clear that these were extras held for promotional use, and while some items would be available in small quantities, others will make several appearances throughout this "test run" which should last about three months. The promotion is starting in September, and Hasbro made it a point to drive home the possibility of this being the only appearance of a Jedi Points offer. Then again, it may continue, or evolve into something else.
Also previewed were the next wave of Unleashed figures due out in October featuring a spunky and bold new packaging style.
We're being told the recently released Jedi Luke figure will be corrected. Likewise, Han Solo will be making an appearance in his brown parka later this year. If this will be on the new packaging is currently unknown.
Lightsaber sales are through the roof this year, besting 1999 in terms of sales. This proves that kids still do have an interest in the line, and that this year's product problems are, in fact, related to retail buyer's lack of foresight more than production shortages or other similar problems. Hasbro made it apparent that, in case you were worried, they still very much want your money.
While not shown or discussed, recently leaked official-looking images hint that a variety of Episode II nightclub patrons are on tap. Obi-Wan Kenobi seems to be packaged with a chunk of the bar, as does everybody's favorite deathstick dealer Elan Sleazebaggano. Yet another Twi'lek girl is on tap as
well, again, sure to please fans everywhere.
The big news for 2004 is that Star Wars seems to be taking a page from Star Trek as far as figure distribution goes. The plan calls for one new wave a month with 3-4 new figures each and for the first seven waves, an accompanying deluxe figure should be on tap.
The schedule, roughly, is as follows:
WAVE 1: Hoth
Deluxe Wampa will be joined by basic Hoth Luke (with the ability to connect to the Wampa base and hang upside-down). If the recently leaked Asian catalog images are for real, it's entirely possible this wave will be rounded out by a new or perhaps resculpted Hoth Rebel Trooper, R-3PO (red protocol droid), and General Rieekan with a spiffy display accessory.
WAVE 2: Tatooine
Basic Luke Skywalker (Jedi Knight) will be released alongside figures to be announced later.
WAVE 3: Jabba's Palace
A deluxe Jabba the Hutt will be joined by other figures as of yet unconfirmed. The rumor mill has hinted at resculpts of Oola, Bib Fortuna, and others alongside new figures but this is as of yet completely unconfirmed. What is confirmed is that a new Jabba is on the way... and that's it.
WAVE 4: Yavin IV
Perhaps stretching the theme a bit, Hasbro will be including Captain Antilles and General Dodonna (both Fan's Choice winners) as well as other unconfirmed figures. It is assumed that the recently leaked image of C-3PO with an Escape Pod is somehow related to this set.
WAVE 5: Star Destroyer
Dengar will be released, this time with his backpack. Beyond him is anybody's guess.
Large scale vehicles are pretty much an unrealistic expectation in a non-movie year, and the AT-TE is almost a definite no-go barring a huge upswing in interest in the vehicle through, for example, a large role in the final prequel.