When it comes to Star Wars collectibles, one can't help but think of the action figure line, and realted toys. Ever since that first Early Bird Kit, many fans have been captivated by the toys, recreating the stories from that galaxy far, far away, and even creating their own adventures.
The biggest news for Hasbro this year is obviously the return to the Vintage look at feel, not only to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, but also in an attempt to recapture the magic from the classic Kenner design. For many, this just IS STAR WARS, for the first time in years.
While setting up for a convention is always chaotic, you can't help but notice the Hasbro booth as soon as you walked in...the oversized cardback of Boba Fett greeted you from afar as soon as you enter the exhibit hall, inviting fans to jump into the "bubble" for a photo op. Looking past the cardback, you could see the display cases, showcasing the latest toys. Unlike Toy Fair, where you only get one shot at seeing the entire showroom, there were constant updates to the Hasbro booth, as new toys were added, the poses changed, and there were multiple opportunities to speak to the Star Wars brand team.
But not on setup day...everyone was WAAAYYYY too busy on that day. (Besides, there was a TON of other things to check out...more on that later...)
The display cases did not show off a lot of new stuff that was just seen at San Diego Comic-Con, which of course was intentional. Because of the almost back-to-back conventions, there was a need for Hasbro to hold back some reveals (despite the numerous eBay leaks)...so that they could make a big deal out of the toys. Besides, if you hadn't seen them before, they were new to you!
One of the display cases was set up as a tribute to the classic Kenner toys from The Empire Strikes Back. Many thought it might be a tease of things to come, but really it was just an homage to the line that started it all.
Perhaps the most impressive was the three dioramas that were displayed in the booth, showcasing the action figures in scenes from Cloud City's Carbon Freeze Chamber (with a lot more figures than were actually in that scene, but it was so cool anyway), Hoth (the same one from SDCC), and The Clone Wars (Ryloth assault) with the figures and vehicles recreating the action.
There was also a cool addition of a Droid Factory part swap station, where fans could trade in their extra parts for ones they needed. This was a great idea and it was very popular with kids of all ages. I couldn't help but notice that the visual guide for the Build-A-Droids included a red protocol droid named TC-4 (AKA TC-3 or TC-6, depending on which source material you use), which was curiously crossed out. I asked about this, and learned that is was in fact planned to be included in the 2008 line, but was pulled out when the TESB-themed wave was replaced by the repaint wave (TLC wave 3 from 2008), and never made it back in...although the mold was eventually used for U-3PO. Naturally, I suggested they make it, since the droid has a unique deco, and I was informed they will find a way to do it at some point, possibly in a multipack down the road.
At the back of the booth, there was a special area set aside for Hasbro sculptor Dave Vennemeyer. If you have an opportunity to meet Dave, savor it. The man is fascinating to listen to him talk about how he sculpts the action figures, and you can tell he loves his job. As a nice gift for fans, he showed off some of his favorite head sculpts (including a few new ones), and even the bodies of some recent and upcoming figures.
Giveaways The freebies given away by Hasbro during Celebration V included a Galactic Heroes Luke Skywalker (X-Wing Pilot) polybagged figure, and a different proof card for each day of the event. I grabbed a few of the cards each day, which broke down as follows...
Of course, the Anakin Skywalker figure will undergo a name change, so this one is the rare first edition! ;)
In addition, there was a double-sided poster that recreates the classic TESB poster with action figures, with a collage of different scenes on the back. (Photos coming soon!) Because of the erratic distribution schedule this year, there's not enough to do the normal group shot that we've gotten in past years. Hopefully, by next year's Comic-Con, we'll have enough to see that brought back.
Panel Update Friday was the official "What's New with Hasbro?" panel, which was pretty much the same presentation shown at San Diego. We had a pretty big technical issue while doing the live report from the panel, but I was able to jump to the backup plan without missing a beat. As is typical for Hasbro presentations, all of the NEW items were saved for the end, which made me somewhat impatient because of course I want to see the new stuff! However, there wasn't a whole lot shown that we hadn't seen before and the information revealed was conflicting to earlier reports. This caused an immediate uproar in the forums, because collectors want MORE news to soak up and critique. So, my mission was clear: time to get the inside scoop!
Interview, Part 1 So, really...here's probably what you're lookin for, right? ;)
After covering a few other panels on Friday's schedule and alerting Dave that there were new items being added to the showcase that needed to be photographed, I eventually headed back to the Hasbro booth prepared with a few questions from the fans, but also a few of my own.
The biggest question is about the release schedule, which has been all over the place in presentations and reality. This has not been the best year as far as new toy releases goes. This is something that has plagued nearly all of Hasbro's boys' toy lines this year. Personally I blame Iron Man 2, but I'm told this is not the case. It should be noted that release dates in any presentation are fluid...think of them as target dates, always changing.
Ideally, Hasbro wants to have a new wave of figures out every 6 weeks, but circumstances such as factory changes, multiple toy lines (in essence, there are 3 figure lines right now), and some things happening at the retail level...this has been an issue this year especially. So they intentionally decided to hold off for the new lines until the fall, in time for the holidays to re-ignite the lines. With any luck, 2011 will see a much better distribution schedule.
Another big question is in regards to the actual number of action figures for 2010. It was announced back at Toy Fair there would be 37 basic figures in The Vintage Collection, with 10 of these being "Greatest Hits" (repacks/refreshes, noted in bold below) on the new cardbacks. When I asked about this, we went over the official spreadsheet for 2010 and marked it up as to exactly what's what. Here is the official list:
Basic Figures 2010 VC01: Dengar VC02: Leia (Hoth Outfit) VC03: Han Solo (Echo Base Outfit) VC04: Luke Skywalker (Bespin Fatigues) VC05: AT-AT Commander VC06: See-Threepio (C-3PO) VC07: Dak Ralter VC08: Darth Vader VC09: Boba Fett VC10: 4-LOM VC11: (Twin-Pod) Cloud Car Pilot
* Although the figure is a repack, the cape is pretty significant, with interior pockets and lined with a hidden wire for posability, so Hasbro is counting this as "new"
** Wedge is still on the list, although they are creating a new head sculpt, which may push him back to a 2012 release....maybe. More on this in a moment.
*** This figure was announced by Hasbro to be a repack, although it was not shown.
You'll notice there are actually 38 figures listed. There is a thought that Wedge might still be changed in time to make the final wave for the year, but opinions differ on that. Basically the problem is that Wedge's head didn't look right on the body (the figure was originally part of 2009's Target-exclusive X-Wing Fighter set), so they wanted to fix it rather than release it incorrect...I mean, Wedge is like the red-headed stepchild of the Star Wars toy line...and he deserves a decent figure release. Whenever he eventually gets released, it WILL be on a Vintage card.
Themed waves will end starting with "wave 4" (Attack of the Clones theme). The waves based on The Phantom Menace and A New Hope will now be split up into non-themed waves, something we haven't seen since The Original Trilogy Collection in 2004. When I asked about the 2011 line-up, they called up the 2011 master list spreadsheet on the laptop and we started to go through the line, and only after a few moments did they realize that I probably shouldn't be seeing this info! ;)
In 2011, Hasbro has plans for a total of 39 figures in the basic figure line for The Vintage Collection, 7 of which will be refreshes. Some of the "new" figures will be all-new, and some will have some "slight modifications" made to them.
One thing I mentioned is that at Comic-Con, we are normally treated to a sneak peek at next year's line-up, but understandably, Hasbro had to hold back for Celebration V...yet we still haven't seen anything? So, be sure to check out the next Q&A session, because we should see the first wave of 2011 (the first mixed wave)...and it's a pretty good selection!
One interesting discussion about some changes that may need to take place in 2011...it's too early yet to confirm, but there might be a chance to get some additional figures into the 2011 line-up, and some figures from the hard-to-find Comic Packs may be carried over onto single cards (in fact, the Utapau Clone Trooper WILL be re-released as a single figure), as well as the Expanded Universe wave from Legacy Collection (a few of these are already on tap for a Saga Legends re-release. Look for the Spacetrooper next year.)
Speaking of Comic Packs, while Entertainment Earth picked up the final sets as exclusives, there was one that was revealed, but there hasn't been any word about....this is the Ralrra & Noghri Commando from Heir to the Empire. The figures were in fact sculpted, but they never made it to the tooling stages. It's likely we won't see them, as the focus on EU figures has lessened.
I also suggested (several times over the years, actually) that the Comic Packs should have had some ORIGINAL stories to them, instead of just reprints of issues that comic collectors may already have. Dark Horse would have encouraged this, but the reason they didn't pursue this is due to cost issue...the cost of producing an original comic would have made the set a higher price point that they wanted, so they left it as is. Since the line ended, I guess it doesn't matter anymore...
While we were talking, I kept glancing over at Dave Vennemeyer's desk to get a glimpse of reference photos of Aayla Secura...since I hadn't gotten a closer look at that point. The pages were picked up and brought over to me to see (and shoot a few photos of naturally!) where I found out there were actually 4 pages of reference for not only Aayla Secura, but also an all-new Dr. Evazan. And since if Hasbro is making a new version of Dr. Evazan, it stands to reason that they'd make a new version of Ponda Baba, right? Yes...both cantina aliens are slated for 2011.
I also used the same logic that since they are updating Aayla Secura (shown with a Jedi robe, that would place her as a comic book figure), it stands to reason that they'd make a new version of Quinlan Vos? Although there have been 2 Vos figures already, neither of them were in his traditional Jedi outfit, which is what fans voted for back in 2006. While there IS a new Quinlan Vos figure coming in The Clone Wars line, there are no current plans for a realistic version...at least not yet.
One of the fun elements for Saga Legends was the Fans' Choice aspect of the line, but that hasn't happened in recent years. After last year's Fans' Choice for an all-new character (which ended up being Bastila Shan), they wanted to take a little break...but they love doing the polls, so there will be more. Maybe not for Saga Legends though, as that line is now focused solely on kids...so we will see more main characters and troop builder figures in this line, including the Spacetrooper from the EU wave.
Bespin Han Solo is coming in 2011. A younger fan asked about the character on the poster, and why he wasn't in the showcase. I believe there was a new head sculpt shown in Dave's head sculpt display. Basically, Hasbro is spreading out the main characters a bit, so we'll see Bespin Han in one of the non-themed waves.
After I asked about the just-announced (at that time) Disney-exclusive Starspeeder 1000, which will be action figure scale at last! (Hasbro doesn't have anything to do with that particular vehicle.) But that led into an interesting discussion about the thought process behind the Star Wars vehicles. Initially, the goal is to design it to be as screen-accurate as possible (for a toy), and then whenever possible, add in some play features to it. The new Cloud Car for example...it's kind of a basic design, but there's plenty of room for hidden panels, features, and even an opportunity to add some additional details to the Star Wars universe, like the detachable halves.
The mini-rig concept that I loved as a kid....this is something that we may see more of in the Deluxe line. Although the goal will always be to stay focused on screen adaptations (movies or TV show, it is fun to do creative toys that look like they fit right into the universe.) I mentioned that as a kid, I couldn't afford the big Imperial Shuttle, but the smaller mini-rig version was a much more affordable option. It would be cool to see that concept again with maybe a smaller AT-AT or something. Nothing like that planned right now, but I think they liked the idea.
There's a LOT more to say about the Hasbro toy line, but that will have to wait...because on Saturday, August 14th, I was able to sit down with Hasbro's Derryl DePriest at the ForceCast booth for a lengthy Q&A session that our forum members sent in while I was at the show. I was able to ask the questions that you guys wanted to know, and while we may go off on a few tangents from time to time, but I think you will enjoy the ride. This interview will be released as a special podcast very soon. (Not to worry, I'll let you know when it drops!)
Joining me on this show is James Burns from JediNews.co.uk, who brings a great international perspective to the show and we really grilled Derryl on The Vintage Collection, vehicles, and a lot more.
We also went over the 2010 Rebelscum Wishlist Poll results, the 2011 lineup, and...well, why not just listen to the show!?
Apologies in advance for my lack of vocal skills...I lost my voice at the show, but I think I was able to work through it!