At Toy Fair, we had the opportunity to ask the Hasbro Star Wars team a few questions about the line. First we spoke with Derryl DePriest, then we briefly followed up with Jeff Labovitz.
SSG: When the 6-inch Black Series line launched last year, in another interview with SirSteve’s Guide, you stated that the future of both 6-inch and 3 3/4-inch was dependent on the level of fan interest. While collectors still want to buy new 3 3/4″ figures, there’s obviously been a lot of difficulties between distribution, characters that we’ve seen several times, Walmart just not carrying them anymore, Target and the DPCI issue…
DD: Walmart made a decision not to carry the 6″ figures.
SSG: And many [Walmart] stores don’t have anything but lightsabers. So when you guys look at these sorts of things and decide the future of the line based on fan interest, do you look at these roadblocks that prevent collectors from getting these figures, or is it just, kind of, the hard numbers that you look at?
DD: Well, it’s both. Obviously, when we set out to introduce a new line, the goal from the very beginning is to get the maximum distribution we possibly can, not only satisfy the fans but to make sure financially we’re getting every ounce of support behind the line that we can. So we fall down if we don’t get retailers on board to support it. That’s a key pillar. Having Walmart not on board with the Star Wars 6″ program was a tough blow for the program. However, other retailers did benefit, and fans went there. Six-inch was a very successful launch for us, even despite Walmart not being involved in the 6″. As a result, Star Wars 6″ is gonna be ongoing this year, Walmart will be back on. That’s good news. And they’ll be back on later this year.
SSG: Okay. The other part of the question – with the 3 3/4″, it kind of seems – I don’t know if “phased out,” but a little more favor is being given to Saga Legends figures and 6″ figures. Are they kind of going away, the super-articulated 3 3/4″?
DD: Well, no, super articulated 3 3/4″ is not going away. We just don’t have a lot to, new figures to announce here at the show, we only announced two. Because last year we announced so many of the waves already. So those are all coming out, there are waves coming out in the Spring that we didn’t talk about, and you see some of those over there – Torynn Farr, Ree-Yees.
SSG: Still great stuff.
DD: Still great characters coming out, and you’ll see a brand new line in the Fall on a new TIE Fighter-inspired package designed to separate it further from the 6″ Black Series.
SSG: So that’ll be in the Fall?
DD: That’ll be in the Fall, yeah.
SSG: So along the lines of the packaging, so everything else is going to be in the kind of Rebels-inspired look this Fall?
DD: That’s correct.
DD: But I will say as a follow-up to your question though, the Saga and Mission, the new figures that we introduced, the simplified articulation, have been very, very well received by our core audience, which is kids. And possibly some fans, too, who appreciate the simplicity of those figures. So those have proven to be a very successful introduction for us and will continue on.
SSG: Okay, cool. Speaking of that, will we see Rebels characters in either realistic style or super-articulated style, or is this kind of it for now?
DD: No, we’ll be focusing on Rebels in the Saga, Mission, and 12″ Heroes line. We do not have plans to bring them into Black Series right now. You know, with time, that could potentially happen.
SSG: Like The Clone Wars.
DD: Just like Clone Wars did. But the goal is to put them in Saga and Mission. Now, what we’re doing differently than we did, say, with Clone Wars – Clone Wars had a whole separate line, separate from the movie figures. We’re actually mixing [Rebels and realistic] together, even though the style is a little bit different, from a kid lens they all play together. So we’re keeping true to the style of Rebels, which is a little different than the quote-unquote “realistic” figures, but we’re packing them all out with the intent that they can all play together.
SSG: A lot of stores – Walmarts – still have pegwarmers from the Episode I releases of two years ago – the 3D glasses figures…
DD: The Vintage line?
SSG: The Vintage line and Discover the Force. Is there any plan to remove those from shelves to keep figures flowing?
DD: You’d have to ask Walmart.
SSG: They love Ric Olie, but…
DD: Our focus is on the current line in front of us. However, those figures don’t get in our way, if that’s a fan concern – they don’t get in the way of us introducing our new lineup, at all.
SSG: Good. We had a question about the $20 Class II line – is that kind of transitioning into the new Rebels ships, or is that a different thing entirely?
DD: Yes, that’s transitioning into the new Rebels ships, so that will be the line that you’re seeing. So you won’t have – I don’t know for sure if you won’t have classic vehicles in there, given the newness that’s coming in Rebels we’re focusing there for the Fall. They’ll three ships that are here [Inquisitor's TIE Advanced Starfighter, The Phantom, AT-DP] and then there should be at least one more ship coming in Spring of ’15 as well.
SSG: And are these at the $20 price point?
DD: Yeah, $20 to $25.
SSG: Great. So there’s a few figures still coming from the Legacy Collection/Droid Factory cancellation last year that haven’t made it out. Realistic Rex…
DD: Realistic Rex is coming.
SSG: In The Black Series?
SSG: A-wing Pilot?
DD: We gotta ask Jeff, he’ll know for sure.
SSG: And the two build-a-droids – Mace’s droid and…
DD: We gotta ask Jeff on these.
SSG: Second Utai – same question.
DD: Second Utai… Doubtful. Very doubtful.
SSG: We were happy to get the second Imperial Scanning guy this year.
DD: I know, that was a very important figure to get out, after saying for years we’re trying to bring him to retail. It took an exclusive to do it, thankfully Kmart stepped up on that.
SSG: Yep. So it doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore, but at the launch of Black Series a lot of figures were falling off the cardbacks in the store.
DD: Yeah, so we fixed that quickly. That was obviously, that was a defect from our manufacturing… I won’t go into the details on that, but as soon as we saw those – which we didn’t have on any of the product that was shipped to Hasbro, ’cause we check everything as soon as we get it – we pounced on that, got it corrected as quickly as we can. But we know there are still figures out there that are taped up.
SSG: Did you guys tell the stores to do that?
DD: That was their own solution. But we did, once we got this, we notified all the retailers quickly of the problem that we had and the solutions that were in place to basically correct the issue and they were all happy with the proactive stance on this. And we learned about this from collectors sending us pictures as soon as they were hitting the pegs and we jumped into action.
SSG: They seem to be doing fine now.
SSG: The 41st Elite Clone Trooper in The Black Series was missing a lot of its paint. Then we saw pictures that it was going to be coming with some corrected parts, but not 100% corrected parts.
SSG: When will we be seeing that?
DD: You’ll be seeing him very soon in Spring. The goal is, I thought at least we were correcting at least all the deco on that, but I don’t know for certainty if we got – might have been a concern about some of the lower leg deco.
SSG: His belt, his midsection, his hands. A lot of them have been fixed, but…
DD: That I don’t know. But the goal is we should be producing as many of the ones with the corrected deco as much as the ones with the uncorrected deco.
SSG: He’s shipping with wave 2 and 3, but we won’t see the corrected one for a while still?
DD: Yeah. The corrected one should be phasing in, like now. We’ve had the corrected one at Hasbro for a number of months, so it should be finding its way out to retail very soon within retailers that are replenishing The Black Series.
SSG: We had a question about the [6"] R2-D2, with the action feature of the turning the head and the leg (coming down), and now we see that Jabba is coming with a similar thing. A lot of collectors are kind of iffy on action features – I mean, it’s different than blasting a Force effect out of their hand or something, but still – are we going to be seeing more of this?
DD: No, we won’t be seeing too much more of this. We’ll look at it
whenever it’s kind of a fun thing to do and whenever we can do it without sacrificing the aesthetics of the figure. That’s the important thing in Black Series, is the aesthetics. But if there’s a fun thing – and our designers have heart for hiding things and putting things in – they want to put it through, we’ll take a look at it. If it costs out, it makes sense – ’cause it’s another internal mechanism – we’ll let ‘em have at it. We want people to be passionate about their craft; we don’t turn it down. As long as Jabba looks phenomenal, have at it.
SSG: So there were a couple figures from the Legacy Collection/Droid Factory revival that didn’t make it out in the Black Series yet, though most of them have. He said Rex will be coming in Black Series.
JL: Yep, he is.
SSG: Great. Do you know about the A-wing pilot?
JL: Yeah, I don’t think he’s gonna come back, not currently.
SSG: Okay. What about Jabba’s droid R5-X2?
JL: No, I’ve already been asked about him. Yeah, he’s not.
SSG: He’s really cool!
JL: I know.
SSG: What about R8-B7, Mace’s droid?
SSG: We already have one of him [from The Clone Wars Rise of Boba Fett battle pack] so… He said the second Utai is pretty unlikely.
JL: Yep, I concur.
SSG: Anything we could change… Petition Disney to put him in Episode VII or something?
JL: No. [laughs] That would be fun.
SSG: A lot of times when new lines start, they tend to be front-loaded with main characters – of course you’ve got to sell them to retailers, you gotta sell them to new fans. But it happened with Episode I two years ago, it happened with Black Series last year with the main characters we’ve seen a lot – Anakin, Biggs, Scout Trooper – and then they kind of don’t sell through as well. Are you guys monitoring that?
JL: Yeah, we do our best. As you know, we make a lot of these decisions months and months in advance – six to nine to 12 months before the product hits shelves, so we do our best and we think we choose the right characters to carry forward and to wait, but we don’t always call it dead-on. So it’s an imperfect science.
We also heard that 6″ Boba Fett will be re-released, but we do not know when.
Thanks again to Derryl, Jeff, and the whole Hasbro Star Wars team!