Interview by Mike Sullenger

Hasbro's Derryl DePriest and Randy Shoemaker duel with Attactix

GH: We're here today with Randy Shoemaker of Hasbro Marketing to talk about the new Star Wars line previewed here at Comic-Con. Randy, on behalf of all our readers, we'd like to thank you for the great execution with the Episode III product line.

Randy: It's been fun and hopefully everyone enjoys what we've done and we're happy to be here at Comic-Con and celebrating it with all the fans. Appreciate you guys' help as well.

GH: Let's start off with the Wal-mart Early Bird Kit. Personally, I thought it was a great concept and the best April 2nd retailer exclusive. Unfortunately, the marketing fell a little bit short on it and not everyone knew exactly what the promotion was all about. Having said that, when are the Early Bird figures supposed to ship?

Randy: We're expecting those to ship November or December at the latest. I know we've got a couple of people calling in to Hasbro and asking why they can't get them earlier. Quite honestly, it's just the fact that this promotion as we put it together came together a little bit late. It typically takes about 8-12 months to sculpt and manufacture. We're just limited as far as the production process right now. It's not that we're holding the figures for any reason except the fact that we don't have them ready yet.

GH: We've also received reports that Wal-marts have been pulling them or reallocating them to other stores that didn't hold the tent sale.

Randy: Right.

GH: It's a good idea because some stores in certain regions never received them.

Randy: Right.

GH: Well, hopefully they won't get marked down as folks wait for them to get marked down because we would like to see more of these type of mail away offers in the future. What's your take on that as far as the Wal-mart Early Bird reallocations and pulling of stock.

Randy: I guess what had happened was when we shipped these Early Bird Certificates, they all went to the April 2nd tent stores and that's about a thousand of the 3,500 Wal-mart stores. Part of the problem was that not every collector who wanted one was able to get one, and the ones that did want one, not everybody wanted their Early Bird certificates. There were plenty left over just because the fact of where they went to. So they have been trying to reallocate them, because we do have a fair amount of stock and are pulling some of them back. We don't anticipate that they'll mark these down. But we do anticipate is that they will pull back the stock and they may end up sending it back to us. So there will be a lot less. So if you do want one, get one now because I'm not sure how long they're going to last and we anticipate all the stock that's out there to either be returned to us or be reallocated to other stores.

GH: So is there a Wal-mart corporate directive for stores not mark them down and return them to the manufacturer?

Randy: As far as I know yes.

GH: Can you confirm some info we received that these will be pulled and re-released again for the DVD later this year?

Randy: Not that I'm aware of. No.

GH: The Fan's Choice polls were pretty well received in the past. Are there any plans to do more in the future?

Randy: Yeah, absolutely. We weren't able to do it this year because of the movie and all our 56 figures focused for Episode III. We didn't want to mix figures from other movies with the new line. So, absolutely. We plan on continuing to do the Fan's Choice and we plan on doing another one pretty soon.

GH: How about Jedi Master points? Is that something you want to take a look at again in the future, especially in light of this recent mail-away promotion you had with Wal-mart?

Randy: The idea behind mail-away promotions is interesting. We certainly like doing them. We have like a rich history, if you will, of doing those. So yeah, in the future we would love to do one. It just has to make sense and has to be the right promotion. In terms of the Jedi Master points, we tried something with that with the auctions. Not as many people were able to take advantage of it as we had hoped. So I don't see us doing Jedi Master points again in the future.

GH: Let's talk about the tail end of your Revenge of the Sith collection. There are obviously a lot of retailer exclusives coming out, especially with the Clone Troopers. There are a lot of questions as to why Hasbro doesn't produce all Clone Troopers using the super articulated #41 body. You already have the sculpt so you certainly can produce more variations using this mold. Is it a cost factor or you wanting to add a little more variety?

Randy: I think Derryl (DePriest, Star Wars Brand Manager) touched on this a little bit at the presentation. Basically, we know that people want clones. There are a ton of Clones in Episode III and similar to the upcoming Target one, there are a lot of Expanded Universe type of Clones. In order to take advantage of that and make sure that we have enough Clones out in the market. We only have one sculpt of that super articulated Clone Trooper so we're limited as to how many we can make and we don't want to stop making the white one as well because we know people want that. So, we use our whole library of Episode III Clones for the repaints and variations.

GH: Any possibility of doing solid Clone case packs in the future? For example, I know people are going to want those variant repaints, and the case assortments we've seen so far seem sparse like 1 per case each. So what's the possibility of doing solid packs in the future?

Randy: We get a little nervous about doing solid packs of any one figure, even Clones, just because of the back up potential.

GH: Well, could this be something you could do for HasbroToyShop for example?

Randy: Maybe. We've never done it in the past, but it's a possibility.

GH: Because I'm sure all the online retailers would jump on that. Collectors do order figure cases online. 

Randy: Absolutely. It's a possibility.

GH: Now, this is "hypothetical", so take is as you will. You've heard about the rumor with the Star Wars and Transformers match-up, I'm sure. Now "hypothetically"--- we've seen the marriage of Star Wars and M&M's after all--- what are your thoughts about this actually happening? "Hypothetically" speaking, of course.

Randy: Hypothetically speaking, I think it'll be pretty interesting because you're taking two outstanding properties that Hasbro owns and merging them together. Star Wars is a great sci-fi property as well as Transformers with a huge collector base as well as kids that are involved with these properties. The idea of merging these together seems like a natural to us, if we were to do it. 

GH: Are there any more plans to do Clone repaints like the #6 red Shock Trooper in the future? 

Randy: Not in 2005, but absolutely in 2006.

GH: Any plans on revisiting figures based on Ralph McQuarrie concepts in the future?

Randy: No plans that we know of right now, but that's not to say we wouldn't be interested in doing it. There's a ton of his artwork that's really cool and we would love to do. There's that Stormtrooper that we did in 2003 that was great and I think we got a lot of good response to that and we would love to do another one, sure. 

GH: Let's move on to the new Saga Collection. We have our Galactic Swami who predicted you would do more Vintage Original Trilogy Collection in the near future, this time with vintage Power of the Force figures and cards. Can you confirm, deny, or maybe just hint on something we can feed our readers with?  I know a lot of collectors are hungry for more VOTC.

Randy: Well, at this point I don't think I can really comment on that. There are some exciting things coming. We know the vintage collection from last year was very well received. We've got some plans for some pretty cool stuff coming out later this year that we'll announce soon. 

GH: The new card looks awesome. I spoke to one of your designers at C3, and he shared with me how he didn't like the way the bubble reflected light on the top portion of the Revenge of the Sith blister and how it obscured the presentation of the figure inside. It looks like you guys took care of that with the flatter top on the blister with the new Saga card. What are your thoughts on the design of the Saga cardback and the whole process involved?

Randy: When we came up with the Episode III design, we were excited because it was a new shape for the blister focused on Darth Vader rising out of the lava and trying to bring that Episode III feeling to life with the packaging. We know that the black and silver look from last year was a huge hit and brought back a lot of nostalgic feelings for fans. We wanted to merge the two concepts and bring back the black and silver because all six movies are now one saga, and that's what we decided to call it. Both Hasbro and the fans feel that the black and silver is the original and classic Star Wars line look for the toys and we wanted to bring that back and carry that forward. It's a melding of the two, where we have some elements of the Episode III design but with the black and silver look of classic Star Wars.

GH: Are we going to have numerical figure sequences again like in the past?

Randy: Yes. 

GH: Any possibility for Expanded Universe figures like the Republic Commando and someone like Quinlon Vos, who was actually mentioned by name in the movie?

Randy: We may get some troopers not necessarily from the films, but other than that, no future plans in the short term anyway for Expanded Universe. 

GH: For Saga, we have themed assortments based on battles from the films. We have the first one being Carkoon and the second wave based on Hoth. Can you tell us what other themes are coming up?

Randy: I would, but at the top of my head I forgot how it goes, so I can't right now.

GH: Can you tell us what figures are coming in the Hoth assortment?

Randy: Off the top of my head, I don't. But I can find out for you.

GH: I'll definitely follow up with you on that. You're really pushing the Titanium series for next year, including the new 3.75 inch forged figures, the vehicles, the 6" vehicles, and it looks like you have three or four possible concepts you're thinking about in the future. Why all this metal? 

Randy: We're excited about it. There's been a void in the market for smaller scale Star Wars vehicles. The reason why we did it is because we've heard from a lot of fans that they wanted them. The reason we're doing it in metal is not that it's cheaper. Plastic prices have increased. We simply wanted to make special collectibles. They have a nice weight to them and also the fact that they're vehicles.

GH: Is the fact that the metal can be sourced pretty cheaply and can be offered here at reasonable prices as opposed to the more expensive Japanese die cast imports a factor?

Randy: In Japan and here in the U.S., collectible companies that are making things out of die cast know that they're very expensive to make. We're happy and excited that we're able to make these collectibles and are happy the way the packaging turned out as well as being able to offer them to collectors at a reasonable price. 

GH: Let's move on to Battle Packs. Derryl mentioned at the panel that they're geared mostly towards kids. Any chances in continuing them in the future and including figures that were never produced like the Trophy assortment Obi-Wan from Episode I? 

Randy: No, actually. We're not planning on producing the Battle Packs after this year. As Derryl mentioned in the presentation, the first wave does have new figure sculpts in it and the subsequent two waves have existing figures in it. But we do have some new kid concepts for 2006 that we'll reveal soon. We'll see how the collectors are into it. 

GH: The Evolutions sets are awesome. They're brand new sculpts with super articulation and we definitely want them to continue. What are your future plans for this assortment?

Randy: As of right now, it's not planning to continue. We have the other Evolutions sets coming out at the end of this year and plans for other collectible items. You mentioned the vintage OTC. So there are some interesting concepts out there for collectors that we want to take advantage of. That's not to say Evolutions isn't coming back. But as for right now, we've got a couple of other things we're working on for next year. 

GH: How about Cinema Scenes?

Randy: The same. No plans right now. Some of the ones we did last year were pretty cool with the Jedi Council and Geonosis War Room. But no plans right now.

GH: We've also been told by the Swami that most of the vehicles next year will be rehashes, including a TIE Fighter with more accurately scaled wings. Are there going to be any newly sculpted vehicle for Episode III and the Original Trilogy like the Cloud Car?

Randy: No Cloud Car. I can tell you that. 

GH: Yeah, Brian Wilke (Hasbro designer) joked around with me that he hates the Cloud Car because it's like the taxi cab of the Star Wars universe. And I told him that makes the Landspeeder a Pinto and Sandcrawler a garbage truck. (laughs)

Randy: Well, I like the Cloud Car. I think it's pretty cool. But we don't have plans for the Cloud Car. For the vehicles next year, we're mainly focused on Titanium. Anything that comes out in 3 3/4 inch scale will be an enhancement to what's out there like the TIE Fighter with more accurate wings. We're tooling those up from scratch so it's gonna be pretty big and cool. But we will be making vehicles that we have better.

GH: We know there going to be action figure stands for next year's figures. Are there going to be any additional pack-ins or gimmicks?

Randy: Yes.

GH: Care to elaborate? 

Randy: (laughs) Derryl was gonna hold on to that for a surprise.

GH: Can you throw us a hint? Is it shiny? Is it black? Fruit? Vegetable? What is it?

Randy: It's...ah...what's a hint that I can give you without giving it away. I guess it's kind've shiny and somewhat translucent.

GH: I think we can get a little idea from that. 

We love the Mustafar playset. Are larger scale playsets less likely to continue being that we've had our last big movie and all? Even smaller playsets we can use with our action figures would be nice. 

Randy: I wouldn't say it's less likely. They're pretty expensive to make just because they're real big molds with a lot of plastic that goes into them. But we need to make sure that it's something both collectors and kids will like. We fully expect kids and collectors to be into Star Wars next year and the year after that with the television series. There's definitely some possibility you'll see playsets in the future. What they'll be based on is hard to say.

GH: There appears to be a trend in Hasbro scaling back to smaller scales like Titanium and the 2" Unleashed Battle Packs and letting go of their larger scales with the 7" Unleashed being put on hiatus and the 12" line being passed off to Sideshow. What are your plans for larger scale figures in the future and what more can you share with us about the 2" Battlepacks?

Randy: The thing is with some of these bigger scale figures, they're unfortunately a little bit more expensive and the amount of characters you can do that have a broad enough appeal is somewhat limiting. In the past couple of years, the 12" figures have really started to slow down and a company like Sideshow can do a real great job bringing those to light and it's more of what they do, so it's easier for them to accomplish. For us, working with Wal-mart and Target, we have to make sure to produce toys that move fairly quickly with both collectors and kids. 

We also started to see the Unleashed slow down a little bit. The decision to rest Unleashed, at least for next year, is not based on the fact that we're doing the 2" Unleashed. If the regular Unleashed were doing as well as we had hoped for, as it was doing at the beginning part of this year, then we were planning on doing a nice Unleashed section in the retail stores with both the 2" and 7" Unleashed merchandised together. Because the 7" Unleashed has slowed down, we decided to hold off on it for next year and focus our attention on the 2" Unleashed, which I think is going to be really cool.

GH: It looks really cool so far. I was quite impressed with the detail and quality of the sculpt. What's the pricepoint going to be and will it have playsets like Toy Biz's  Lord of the Rings Armies of Middle Earth line?

Randy: The pricepoint for the 4 pack of figures is $9.99. We'd love to do playsets and environment pieces. The idea behind the 2" Unleashed are the troop builder sets and diorama building and what you are going to see are a mix of core characters like Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Grievous and there are going to be a lot of troop builders like Clones, Wookiees, and Droids. We're gonna heavily weigh it towards the troop builders because that's what you would want to have to create these massive battles. The majority of the figures in the case packs will be troop builders and we want to do environment pieces and vehicles and things to build out your set.  

GH: I'm sure there's a little bit of sadness in having the 12" assortment leave your hands. Overall, what are your impressions?

Randy: We had a great run with the 12 inch and we know there are still some passionate fans out there that collect only 12 inch. The quality of work that Sideshow does is incredible. While we are a little bit sad to let it go, from us personally in terms of creating them, we are excited about the possibilities to what Sideshow can bring and look forward to seeing what they're going to come up with.

GH: Looking forward in the future for the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, are there any exciting things coming up that you guys are working on already? C'mon, I have an idea on how long it takes to develop this stuff so there are probably things in the drawing boards right now. (laughs)

Randy: We have things in the works but nothing I can share. But we're really excited about the 30th anniversary. We think 2007 is going to be another huge year for Star Wars. But we got next year and we've got some cool things coming out.

GH: Hey, you know I  had to ask.

Randy: Sure.

GH: Well, thanks a lot for a great interview Randy and thanks for putting out some amazing  product for us so far. We're enthusiastically looking forward to see what more you have in store for us next year.

Randy: Great talking to you.


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