We continue our Q&A with Jeff Labovitz, global marketing manager for Hasbro Star Wars.
SSG: So, first of all, I wanted to ask about the Captain Rex figure that we see. A couple years ago, you revealed a Phase I version with the Episode II-style helmet. Is that one still coming in the Black Series, or is this one all we’re going to get for now?
JL: For now, this is the Rex that we’re going to get out there. In years to come I think you’ll see our focus more on Rebels and the original six movies and, of course, new entertainment to come. So we’ll be doing less Clone Wars in the future, but Rex is so important that I can see us going back and mining that and doing all possible variations of Rex because he’s so strong.
SSG: Okay, great. Then as far as Expanded Universe, with that now being Legends, is that something you probably won’t get to much anymore?
JL: Yeah, exactly the same sort of message there, where there’s so much to work with with Rebels and the six movies and the new movies to come. We’ll be spending a little less time, at least for the next year or two, on some of the Legends, or Expanded Universe product. We’ve got long memories and a bright future ahead of us. It might take us years, but I think we’ll end up going back and mining all those great figures from that universe.
SSG: Was that on marching orders from Disney?
JL: No, no. We have a terrific partnership with Disney and Lucasfilm and they are certainly not directive in that way. We partner with Lucasfilm and Disney to make the best possible product for the fans. With great entertainment coming, there’s just so much to do, so much to focus on, and that’s what we’ll start on.
SSG: Great. So for years, Hasbro has had a monopoly on 3 3/4” Star Wars figures, and now that you’re moving into 6” it seems that a couple Japanese companies are going to move into the 6” figure area as well, like Bandai and Square Enix. Even though those will mostly be available overseas, do you see those as competition, or do you see them as something separate entirely?
JL: Yeah, we see that as different, for a different type of consumer. We’re going to continue moving forward with the highly articulated, highly decoed Black Series 6” and 3 3/4” figures for years to come.
SSG: Great. In Saga Legends, the Jedi Luke, Clone Wars Obi-Wan, and Snowtrooper are being rereleased after they were released overseas first. So was Darth Maul – will Darth Maul still be coming out in the States?
JL: Yeah, that’s the plan.
SSG: In the next wave or so?
JL: Yeah, he actually is in the next wave, so we hope to get him out there.
SSG: Great news. A lot of fans were surprised to see Walgreens exclusives. Other companies are doing this as well. What’s the story behind this sort of unexpected partnership?
JL: We’ve always done good business with Walgreens and they’ve spoken up and they want to be a destination for fans, for collectors. We’re certainly happy to partner with them on that. What we love about it is that there are so many stores and that makes it, hopefully, a little bit easier for fans to get the product that they want. So I think it’s the start of a very successful partnership on fan-driven items.
SSG: Great. I have a couple other exclusives questions. So now that Disney Store is carrying Star Wars items including Black Series figures and Saga vehicles, are there any plans for you to release exclusives there?
JL: Yeah, we’re talking with them about that now. So we don’t have any concrete plans yet, but absolutely you could see exclusives with Disney.
SSG: Awesome. You’re doing something with Amazon this year [the Jedi Force six-pack].
JL: Yep. Amazon’s another terrific partner that we’ll be doing a lot more with in the next year or two.
SSG: What about Brian’s Toys? They got Jocasta Nu a couple years ago.
JL: That’s a good question. There is nothing solidified in the plans but they also are a really good partner so I could see us doing more with them. Perfect outlet for Jocasta Nu, the type of figure that may not make as much sense to go to a massive retailer like Walmart, Target, Toys R Us. So for those types of outlets for that type of figure, it’s a terrific place for it.
SSG: Right. Celebration VI was the first Celebration since the first one to not have any exclusive. Will Celebration Anaheim return to form next year, or is it too early to talk about that?
JL: Too early to talk about it, yeah. Can’t wait, though. I’m looking forward to 2015. It’s a big year!
SSG: So in the new black-and-blue line, I see we’ve got some repaints and retools, like Han’s head on the Stormtrooper body. Are we going to be seeing many straight repacks or retools of the existing characters?
JL: No, that’s not the plan. We’ll do it where it’s appropriate. Even with Han Solo, we made sure to correct the neck collar so that it would make sense and you wouldn’t see the gap. Likewise, if we were to do a Luke Skywalker in Stormtrooper disguise – just saying – we’d make sure to tool up a body that was a little bit shorter. So I don’t think we’ll go in the direction of pure repaints. We’re trying to make the best possible representation we can at this $20 price point with the best figures possible. That’s the direction we’d like to stick with.
SSG: What about high-demand figures like Boba Fett or Darth Maul repacked into the black-and-blue line?
JL: We’re planning that for, right now, Fett and Stormtrooper. We’ll see if there’s others that will follow. Those are the first two.
SSG: Awesome. So the new Jabba’s Skiff Guard figure – some fans were surprised to see a generic name on the package. There’s some behind-the-scenes stuff with Lucasfilm – is he Sgt. Doallyn, is he Bane Malar, is he Brock Starsher. Was that the reasoning behind his generic name or was it something else?
JL: Yeah, there’s no big secret there. It’s because he’s been known by so many different names we just didn’t have resolution in time on exactly what to call him. So that’s how we ended up where we are. But fans know who he is, and they got the toy, so that’s the most important thing.
SSG: We can call him whatever we want.
JL: Right. As long as the plastic is right. That’s the first priority for us.
SSG: There’s also the black-suited guy with the same helmet. Is there any chance we might see that eventually?
JL: That’s a very open-ended question! There’s always a chance, but he’s not in the plans for the next year.
SSG: Great. So we’ve seen a lot of Clone Trooper updates with the Vintage 2011 body, including the green Sergeant and the blue Lieutenant. Are there still plans to update the Captain and Commander, the red and yellow ones?
JL: Actually, I don’t believe that’s in the plan right now, because we are going to be doing less of that for the next year or two. So I don’t think there’s plans to update those bodies.
SSG: Okay. One more clone figure question – the 41st with the gray stripes that’s in the Black Series. When I asked Derryl at Toy Fair, he said that the refresh of that figure with more deco was going to be released in about equal numbers. So far, it’s shown up internationally, but I don’t think anybody’s found it in the States. Are there more plans to get that out there?
JL: Yeah, that’s the goal. In all these cases, we want to make sure what product gets available internationally is also available in the US. So we’re working with retail to try to get that figure out there.
SSG: Okay. Do you know offhand if it’s shipping on the black-and-orange card or if it might be rereleased eventually on a black-and-blue card?
JL: Could go either way. Most likely it would be on the new card, but not sure yet.
Thanks to Hasbro and Jeff Labovitz for answering our questions.