Last week at Comic-Con International 2012 in San Diego, Hasbro was able to give us at SirStevesGuide.com an official interview with the Hasbro Star Wars brand team members present, a few hours after their Hasbro Star Wars Update panel and just after they had put into their display cases the newly-revealed items from that panel.
We were given interview with Derryl DePriest, Jeff Labovitz, and Brian Merten. Since Hasbro's time was limited, we jumped right into the questions...
SirStevesGuide.com: So Clone Wars has been kind of on the back burner, and you mentioned Clone Wars will be back. Absolutely has, I've seen two waves in the past eight months.
Hasbro (DD): Well, there may be distribution problems, but definitely not the back burner as far as...
SirStevesGuide.com: How many waves are planned for this year, then?
Hasbro (JL): In general, we've shifted the strategy a bit to move away from, you know, multiple waves - lots of waves. So we've condensed them. But like three to four strong waves in Clone Wars.
Hasbro (DD): It's pretty loaded this year.
Hasbro (JL): Yeah, really.
Hasbro (DD): Came out in the front.
SirStevesGuide.com: I've only seen the two waves that we've seen on pegs or on even, to be honest, even in promo images.
Hasbro (JL): More to come.
Hasbro (DD): How many figures total are planned for the Clone Wars?
Hasbro (JL): That's the nineteen number - the so-celebrated nineteen figures - which we announced at Toy Fair.
SirStevesGuide.com: Half are new, right?
Hasbro (DD): And that is down from previous and that is because we've found that line, that as much as there is fandom, fans, the majority of audience for that is kids. So we do monitor all the data, so...
SirStevesGuide.com: So are kids still responding to it?
Hasbro (JL): Well, yeah. It's still a hit TV show, strong show. Season Five is about to kick in, the story arcs are just getting cooler and cooler. So I think there's a lot of love for Clone Wars. It's a terrific show. For kids and adults. We support it wholeheartedly.
SirStevesGuide.com: We haven't seen any Clone Wars exclusives, that I can think of, in the past few months. Maybe even longer than that.
Hasbro (DD): I think there's one in the case right over there.
Hasbro (BM): There's the Sith Witch-slash-Nightsister...
SirStevesGuide.com: Yeah, okay. One of my guys wanted me to mention that. So the design clearly is the Mother Talzin, but the paint is the regular Nightsister, right?
Hasbro (BM): The paint the regular, but the sculpt is not Mother Talzin.
Hasbro (BM): Because she had some very particular jewelery and her hat is just a little bit different. This is actually originated from... Can I say that?
Hasbro (DD): Yes.
Hasbro (BM): This is the Sith Witch. That was announced, the one that never made it.
SirStevesGuide.com: Oh! Oh, nice.
Hasbro (BM): So we really are trying to figure out how... we heard everybody go crazy when that thing was not out. So how do we get it out? How do we do it? And it's all of the sudden, "Oh!"
Hasbro (DD): And I think the style lends itself well to both worlds [animated and realistic].
Hasbro (JL): Yeah, you can straddle this across both worlds.
SirStevesGuide.com: Yeah, it definitely does. I've noticed a lot of Clone Wars figures as they come later and later, they've been getting more of that cross the line.
Hasbro (DD): Yeah. Deliberately so.
SirStevesGuide.com: Since I've still got you, why does the Armored Savage not have his lightsabers in that pack?
Hasbro (BM): ... I don't know.
SirStevesGuide.com: Oh. That's a rare thing for you, sir.
Hasbro (BM): Not for me. I will be honest with you. If I can answer, I'll answer. I don't know. I'm going to look into that. Sorry.
SirStevesGuide.com: Not at all.
Hasbro (BM): Sorry, I stumped you there.
SirStevesGuide.com: No no no, I stumped you.
Hasbro (JL): That's a good answer.
SirStevesGuide.com: Prices have gone up on vehicles ten dollars this last year. And, at that time, almost nothing shipped new. Very little, I think one or two waves were shipped at all, and none of them were new, they were just repacks. What has been happening there and will we see a return to new tooling or at least tooling that was hard to get?
Hasbro (BM): Aside from exclusives?
SirStevesGuide.com: Aside from exclusives, yes.
Hasbro (JL): In the mainline, you're right. Due to costs, and labor costs, and the plastic costs we did have to raise the price. And it's a massive tooling library we have. Very high quality vehicles. There is certainly more we would love to do and there is plenty that we can do as exclusives. You will see some interesting vehicles coming out in 2013.
SirStevesGuide.com: New ones?
Hasbro (JL): New ones. We can't talk a lot about that yet. Hopefully, you'll be in Orlando when we can share some news. Our goal. What helps us, as much as it helps the fans, is being able to get good, solid, high quality 3 3/4 vehicles, core classic vehicles in fans' hands. We realize that the price now has become prohibitive to a lot of folks who are paying the mortgage, and the babysitter, and so our goal is to find a way - any way possible - to get good vehicles out there with a very healthy, nice price point. Preferably around 19 dollar, 20 dollar mark. So hopefully we can figure that out for 2013.
Hasbro (DD): Yeah. Right on.
Hasbro (BM): And you thought Derryl gave long answers.
SirStevesGuide.com: So, with Build-a-Droid, is there going to be a continued lack of theme for each wave? Because you guys have moved away from theming and a lot collectors don't really understand the voice of each wave without theming.
Hasbro (BM): Really?
SirStevesGuide.com: Yeah. It's like "it's just stuff". You know, it's like, "Oh here's this and here's that." With Return of the Jedi, here's the Death Star. The scenes used to be concentrated where you did a case and it would be like Tatooine.
[This question causes the Hasbro team some surprise and confusion, and prompts a lot of fast discussion, thinking that we're asking for themes to come back - JT]
Hasbro (BM): They'd rather have themes as opposed to...?
SirStevesGuide.com: No no no, I'm just saying they don't understand how it works now.
Hasbro (BM): Well, they're the cool figures.
SirStevesGuide.com: Is that it? Is that just how it's planned?
Hasbro (DD): Yeah, it's, you know, there's no right answer for everybody. So, when we were doing themed waves, the prevailing voice on the forums seemed to be "Hasbro, go away from the themed waves", because you had guys say, "I don't want an Episode 2 wave." You know, believe it or not, people are still like "original trilogy." So the best way to get, we think, the best figures out there was to break the theming. We responded to the fans on that. So, that's what we'll continue to do, is not have, you know, movie themed waves coming. We will continue to mix it up between the series to give the most traction for every wave. Somebody should always have something to have an access point to with every wave.
SirStevesGuide.com: No Ahsoka figure has ever shipped with her last name on it. No "Ahsoka Tano". Why?
Hasbro (BM): ... I don't know.
Hasbro (DD): [Laughs] That's a good question.
Hasbro (JL): I do know the answer to that and there's a reason we're not doing that. Just like, with a lot of figures, due to certain trademark-related issues that, you know, sometimes we use the name, whole name, and sometimes we abbreviate. In this case, we have to abbreviate the word.
SirStevesGuide.com: I know the [someone from] packaging isn't here right now, but you guys just did the Imperial Navy Commander figure. And they changed the face, why change the face on the card?
Hasbro (DD): Do you want to answer this one as well?
SirStevesGuide.com: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm supposed to ask. Was this someone's uncle wanted to be famous?
Hasbro (DD): [Laughs] No, actually, we've gone away from recognizable likenesses in many cases. And, you know, we work with Lucasfilm on those likenesses. Right.
Hasbro (JL): Right.
Hasbro (DD): We get strong direction in many cases, so.
SirStevesGuide.com: This is the card back photo itself?
Hasbro (DD): Yes, the photo. Yeah. That as well.
Hasbro (JL): So, it's always very purposeful. Not because we're trying to make someone's uncle famous.
SirStevesGuide.com: Why that specific face?
Hasbro (JL): It's because similar to your question about Ahsoka. There's sometimes some sort of preexisting issue that, you know, we will be working with Lucasfilm to...
Hasbro (DD): And that's about as far as we can go on that.
SirStevesGuide.com: So the wave numbers have changed on the cases. They used to be a solid number and now they're 1.1, 2.2, 2.5. Why is that?
Hasbro (JL): Yes. That is because we are trying so hard to develop these interim waves to get re-release figures out there. So after we plan, you know, a year and half in advance what waves we're going to do, we start to see things get a little bit bottled up and we want to react quickly. So we stick in between waves and that's where you get those other numbers.
SirStevesGuide.com: Is it hard to get retailers on board with that kind of ordering system where you move it a little faster?
Hasbro (JL): No, not at all. No issue.
SirStevesGuide.com: Because it seems to me like it was all done like with the ratios. You know ratio 1, ratio 2.
Hasbro (JL): Yeah. No, they's no relationship between that numbering system and retail issues.
Hasbro (DD): They don't even speak that language. That's our internal language. Our systems are relatively flexible, but once it's set up, that's it. That's why you get the inbetween.
SirStevesGuide.com: On the figures, more and more of the Vintage Collection figures, which are supposed to be top notch and not have to be redone, the hinge joints in like ankles and knees are not getting painted. So there's a significant mismatch. It's tan hinge on a black piece. Why is that and how can that be addressed?
Hasbro (DD): You take it.
Hasbro (BM): They actually will scratch off any way. If we can save that paint operation for something that's more impactful, we're going to do that.
SirStevesGuide.com: Why not shoot them on the same color tool if it's available?
Hasbro (BM): That's the way that the tool is laid out.
Hasbro (DD): It's a complicated decision. Really, figure-by-figure, how it's laid out.
Hasbro (BM): You might think that it's easy. Oh, just make another tool. Well, that costs money and it's going to take away from something else on the figure.
SirStevesGuide.com: So Kithaba. His card back picture is actually just a reverse of Barada and photoshop to look like Kithaba. Why?
Hasbro (JL): That I do not know the answer to. I wish.
SirStevesGuide.com: Lucasfilm gave it to you or...?
Hasbro (JL): I don't know the answer.
SirStevesGuide.com: Oh, okay. Alright. Thank you very much.
- - -
And with that, our time expired, so there you have it for our 2012 SDCC Hasbro Star Wars interview. With the questions that couldn't be answered, we were asked to follow up later so keep an eye out for Hasbro's responses to those.
We would like to thank Mr. DePriest, Mr. Labovitz, and Mr. Merten, as well as everybody at Team Hasbro who made this interview possible.