• SSG's Comic-Con Hasbro Star Wars Interview

      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.

      SirStevesGuide.com: Oh?

      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.

      SirStevesGuide.com: Oh, the [Target-exclusive Maul / Nightsister / Savage] battle pack, yeah. That's right.

      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.

      SirStevesGuide.com: Really?

      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.
      Buy the hottest collectibles from: BigBadToyStore.com and BriansToys.com.


      Comments 13 Comments
      1. bigbarada's Avatar
        bigbarada -
        Thanks for squeezing the Kithaba question in there at the last minute and it's funny that they didn't know the answer. The card back is starting to grow on me in that way that these kinds of quirky things often do, but it still would have been cool to have a true Kithaba card back when the figure was released.

        The question about mismatched plastic colors in the joints is satisfactory enough. I kind of imagined the solution wouldn't be as simple in reality as it seems to us sitting behind keyboards.

        You listed the names of each Hasbro rep at the beginning of the interview, but do you know what specific responsibilities each of these guys have or do they basically all just have the same job?
      1. JediTricks's Avatar
        JediTricks -
        Sure thing. Derryl said he'd try to get us answers on the 2 "I don't know" ones, so we may have follow-up on that one later down the road, I'll keep you in the loop.

        The thing about the joints is what I've been saying for a couple years, even talked to the Hasbro SW sculptor Dave Vennemeyer about it last year, but I know what you mean, it helps to hear it right from the source.

        Great minds thinking alike BB, I put in a request for their current official job titles not 3 days ago, and will update the article once they get back to me. I was going to go with the previous ones, but Derryl I think has multiple titles and I know Brian has taken on a second job on the team.
      1. Darth Duranium's Avatar
        Darth Duranium -
        Anything in the follow-up questions about the Titanium Series by any chance?
      1. Mr. JabbaJohnL's Avatar
        Mr. JabbaJohnL -
        Great job on the interview! It had a good mix of questions, many of which I'd been wanting answers to for a while.

        The Nightsister answer is interesting. I thought that maybe it used parts from Mighella, but the fact that it was the Sith Witch (based on early Darth Maul concept art, of course) is even cooler.

        Hopefully they're able to deliver those lower-priced vehicles, even though the Class I has slowly been creeping up to that price. (Speaking of which, where's the Class I dropship that's been seen overseas?) I'd like to get more info at CVI.

        The first few Ahsoka figures actually had her last name on the packaging, but it's interesting that it's a legal issue. I had wondered if it was some sort of name-recognition thing from Lucasfilm. I wonder what the legal issue could be, though? Is her name similar to something from another property?

        The INC photo is another interesting issue, as they've been able to do things like release Cal Alder's photo for the Echo Base trooper. I guess they just didn't work out the likenesses back in the early days, leading to the Tonnika sisters and less-obvious things like this. God bless you for keeping the uncle joke.

        The case numbers thing is also interesting, that these are basically extra waves. I'll be interested to see how this continues in the future.

        Now we just need to ask them what the hell happened to the Q&A program . . .
      1. JediTricks's Avatar
        JediTricks -
        Quote Originally Posted by Darth Duranium View Post
        Anything in the follow-up questions about the Titanium Series by any chance?
        No, anything follow-up is an "I don't know" answer in this interview. I didn't get a chance to ask about Titanium Series partly due to the limited time we had, and partly due to a conversation with Derryl the day prior where he explained how Titanium Series got the axe again -- something like "cool expression, but it wasn't performing at market" type of situation, bottom line was it wasn't selling and it's out, as a fellow fan I can't say we didn't expect this to be the answer, but it lowered the question's importance on my very long list, sorry.

        Quote Originally Posted by Mr. JabbaJohnL View Post
        Now we just need to ask them what the hell happened to the Q&A program . . .
        This was also answered in the booth the day prior, actually. Derryl and Jeff were talking about how time-consuming it became, to the point where answering the questions was interfering with managing the brand. Jeff seemed pretty unhappy about the matter, he seemed genuinely distressed that it was something that couldn't work out.
      1. Mr. JabbaJohnL's Avatar
        Mr. JabbaJohnL -
        Quote Originally Posted by JediTricks View Post
        This was also answered in the booth the day prior, actually. Derryl and Jeff were talking about how time-consuming it became, to the point where answering the questions was interfering with managing the brand. Jeff seemed pretty unhappy about the matter, he seemed genuinely distressed that it was something that couldn't work out.
        Ah, okay, that's unfortunate but it's pretty much what I figured. If they could cut it down even further - like one question per site per month, or something - then that would still be better than nothing at all. That communication is most helpful when it's not just coming during conventions, especially when this year has had so many problems that needed addressing.
      1. JediTricks's Avatar
        JediTricks -
        Quote Originally Posted by Mr. JabbaJohnL View Post
        Ah, okay, that's unfortunate but it's pretty much what I figured. If they could cut it down even further - like one question per site per month, or something - then that would still be better than nothing at all. That communication is most helpful when it's not just coming during conventions, especially when this year has had so many problems that needed addressing.
        30 questions instead of 60 questions still seems challenging, especially after Hasbro had to let go of so much staff this year. The problem is that Star Wars really is such a powerhouse of fan interest that Hasbro needs to recognize its unique situation and create a new staff position who can do that stuff but still be involved with every part of the line, but it's not like that staffer's pay would grow on trees so the money would have to come out of the brand - it's a difficult trade off.
      1. Darth Duranium's Avatar
        Darth Duranium -
        Quote Originally Posted by JediTricks View Post
        No, anything follow-up is an "I don't know" answer in this interview. I didn't get a chance to ask about Titanium Series partly due to the limited time we had, and partly due to a conversation with Derryl the day prior where he explained how Titanium Series got the axe again -- something like "cool expression, but it wasn't performing at market" type of situation, bottom line was it wasn't selling and it's out, as a fellow fan I can't say we didn't expect this to be the answer, but it lowered the question's importance on my very long list, sorry.
        Thanks, JT. Once again, you came though with some info about the line, cheers for that, very much appreciated. Judging from my search of other sites' SDCC Q&As, you were the sole journalist to ask about our poor old Titanium Series, so I'm doubly grateful.
        Agreed, it was not the news we wanted and it's not unexpected that the axe fell again. Sure wish they'd put a little more effort into the relaunch, they really phoned that sucker in and paid the price. So I guess we can forget the Shadow Squad/TIE Crawler 3-pack, unless they turn up at discount stores later in the year, by some freakish miracle.
        Can't imagine them doing a Trek line now, either. Sigh. But at least the suspense is over.
        Titanium is dead (again). Long live Titanium!
      1. bigbarada's Avatar
        bigbarada -
        Considering how those Titanium 3-packs retailed for about $30 each, I don't see how Hasbro could have expected them to be anything but a failure. Most long time collectors probably had all of those vehicles already and the price tag wasn't very casual consumer friendly, which is what would have been needed to revive the Titanium series. Packing them individually at $10 each would have made it easier to make a couple of impulse purchases, but if you didn't like all three vehicles in the pack, then $30 was too painful of a price. At least it was for me. I've had my eye on that AT-TE/Gunship/Hailfire Droid pack since they first came out but I just can't pull the trigger at that price. If I could have bought the AT-TE and Hailfire Droid individually, then I would have done so months ago.
      1. JediTricks's Avatar
        JediTricks -
        I didn't even get the chance to ask about Titanium, Derryl saw me and brought it up on his own, he knows that's one of my babies. I think the relaunch was meant to test the waters with kids, see if they'd spend the money required to justify the line continuing.

        They have a Trek license with Kre-O, so who knows! That'd probably work better than SW because they'd not have to worry about a kid market with those.


        BB, I thought the Titanium 3packs were $20, but I didn't buy them. $20 wouldn't be crazy for them, but for collectors they really weren't useful packs so it'd have to be all lifted by casual consumers.
      1. sebillba's Avatar
        sebillba -
        Thanks for the write-up JT, we appreciate all the work involved. Some interesting stuff there, particularly about the Nightsister / Sith Witch. Shame you ran out of time before you could ask the Utai question, as that's the one I was waiting for most of all - any chance this might be coming in a follow-up?
      1. Darth Duranium's Avatar
        Darth Duranium -
        Quote Originally Posted by JediTricks View Post
        I didn't even get the chance to ask about Titanium, Derryl saw me and brought it up on his own, he knows that's one of my babies. I think the relaunch was meant to test the waters with kids, see if they'd spend the money required to justify the line continuing.

        They have a Trek license with Kre-O, so who knows! That'd probably work better than SW because they'd not have to worry about a kid market with those.
        Hehe, that dead baby's suddenly got a lot of distraught godfathers. *click-click*
        Cool that you were sorta known as the Titanium Guy by Hasbro.

        It would be nice to see a Titanium Trek line but I don't think the numbers could be kept low enough for Hasbro to make it a sell-out. Hasbro wanna sell 500,000 of each, not 10,000, it seems to me. Dunno if there's enough support for our niche. But hey, ya never know. And whew, that Kre-O Ent's pretty chunky, IMO. I think Lego's would've been much nicer.
        BTW, yes, the Titanium 3-packs originally retailed for $29.99, hard to believe I know.
      1. JediTricks's Avatar
        JediTricks -
        Quote Originally Posted by sebillba View Post
        Thanks for the write-up JT, we appreciate all the work involved. Some interesting stuff there, particularly about the Nightsister / Sith Witch. Shame you ran out of time before you could ask the Utai question, as that's the one I was waiting for most of all - any chance this might be coming in a follow-up?
        Glad to hear that, thanks. I was quite impressed to hear about the Sith Witch figure, that was fun.

        We have Celebration VI coming up, so hopefully we'll get a chance to ask it there.

        Quote Originally Posted by Darth Duranium View Post
        Hehe, that dead baby's suddenly got a lot of distraught godfathers. *click-click*
        Cool that you were sorta known as the Titanium Guy by Hasbro.

        It would be nice to see a Titanium Trek line but I don't think the numbers could be kept low enough for Hasbro to make it a sell-out. Hasbro wanna sell 500,000 of each, not 10,000, it seems to me. Dunno if there's enough support for our niche. But hey, ya never know. And whew, that Kre-O Ent's pretty chunky, IMO. I think Lego's would've been much nicer.
        BTW, yes, the Titanium 3-packs originally retailed for $29.99, hard to believe I know.
        Yeah, it's cool to be known by Hasbro for something other than bad behavior.

        Hasbro's turnover is based partly on pricing, if they only moved 1/5th then they might try it at a higher pricepoint. But the tough part there is expectations, you charge more, you have to deliver more (generally in paint).

        The Kre-O Enterprise was cute, really didn't so bad to me, LEGO doesn't like those kinds of lines and probably would have done something blocky the first pass, then they'd release a second attempt that was better.

        Ouch, those really went for that much?!? That's abominable. Even at $20 these seemed like a difficult item to market, so at $30 they seem impossible.
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