Earlier today at Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, Florida, 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 and Brian Merten. Since Hasbro's time was limited, we jumped right into the questions...
SirStevesGuide.com: We just want to start off with the green packaging, is that essentially Movie Heroes?
Hasbro (DD): Yes, Clone Wars and Movie Heroes and the vehicles, that'll be our whole spring line. And you'll even see a little bit of the green infused... like, Fighter Pods and things like that too. So there will be that new look.
SirStevesGuide.com: But that one doesn't have a line name?
Hasbro (DD): Uh... no, you're right. It just continues, it's just like the green version of whatever we called this year, what did we call this year?
SirStevesGuide.com: I guess the collectors will all figure that out.
Hasbro (DD): Yeah, yeah, the collectors usually tell us what it's called.
SirStevesGuide.com: So, last time you guys did the Droid Factory Legacy Collection figures, some of the cases would have repacked figures like clones or army builders or popular carry-forward [figures] with redundant parts, are you going to do that again this time?
Hasbro (DD): Yes, we'll be doing that again, yes.
SirStevesGuide.com: Might that be a way to get out some of the harder-to-find Vintage figures?
Hasbro (DD): Well, usually when we do carry-forward or repack figures, they're kind of our best sellers or greatest hits. So, the Jacen and Jaina Solos and, I think, Shaak Ti from The Force Unleashed, characters like that, won't be part of the Droid Factory; but we are still looking at ways to get those figures back out in some way, so maybe as an exclusive or something.
SirStevesGuide.com: So, 4 years ago it was "animated only for the Clone Wars" but now we're starting to see a few realistic ones, so why is now the time, what was the change on that?
Hasbro (DD): Well that's a heck of a good question. We just felt that the time was right after almost 5 years with the Clone Wars to finally start crossing over a little bit and looking at Clone Wars as we would any Expanded Universe source - actually, Clone Wars isn't Expanded Universe, it's in-universe storytelling, it's canon - so to look at that as part of that realistic universe that we do, whether drawn from comic books or video games. And Lucasfilm agreed that the time was right to look at that. We wanted for the first several years to keep the lines pretty much separate, but now we've fulfilled on that huge promise of Clone Wars, tons of figures, it was time.
Hasbro (BM): They're 3 and 3/4, they're both canon, let them work together.
SirStevesGuide.com: You were trying to do running changes a lot a couple years ago, and there were 2 figures that never made it out - the 2nd Utai, and the 2nd Imperial Scanning Crew - what's the status on those?
Hasbro (BM): The 2nd Imperial Scanning Crew... that's a *really* good idea, and I think we should do it *soon*.
SirStevesGuide.com: Like the K-mart packs, maybe, for both of them?
Hasbro (BM): Do you know something I don't?
Hasbro (DD): That would be a great format, wouldn't it?
SirStevesGuide.com: Oh, so what about the Utai?
Hasbro (DD): Ok, so the Utai, right now the Utai is not in the lineup, but we've actually heard it here at the show a few times, people are wanting to see that, so that might be a good example for, maybe, that 2-pack format or another format to get out. It's not in the line but we will take it under advisement.
Hasbro (BM): That answer isn't as happy as the Scanning Crew answer.
SirStevesGuide.com: So HasbroToyShop, I don't know how much control you guys have over that, but they've only recently started selling [Star Wars mainline Vintage] single figures again since the deleted scenes wave in March. Is there any way to ensure that those can be more available going forward, since collectors just can't always afford or don't want the entire case?
Hasbro (DD): Well, HasbroToyShop sets their own strategies there in how they want to sell inventory. We'll talk to them, see if there's interest. I would imagine that they're going to base it on the success that they're having now with figures, whether they're going to continue it, it may not be a systematic effort. I don't really know, I don't have the answer, but we will talk to them, get a case going on that comment.
SirStevesGuide.com: Ok thanks. For Titanium Series, we haven't really seen anything new since the repacks in January, and some fans have seen a listing on the Walmart website for a Shadow Squad set, so what's the status on any of that?
Hasbro (DD): [to Brian] Did you do that set?
Hasbro (BM): I only wish that I did! (laughs)
Hasbro (DD): [to us] No, that's not... I don't know what that is. But there's no new Titanium packs planned for next year.
SirStevesGuide.com: Is it just not hitting what you need it to with these packs?
Hasbro (DD): Yeah, basically. It's that there's been a struggle with Titanium, it's a niche collecting interest, very niche, so it's always a struggle for us to do anything new or hit our numbers with Titanium. One of the reasons why we retired it - put it on hiatus originally - was because there's not enough collectors compared to standard 3 3/4 on it.
SirStevesGuide.com: Over the past couple of years, especially right now with Qui-Gon and [Ep 1] Obi-Wan, you've packed the same - not just the same characters but even the same figures - in multiple lines at once, like Vintage and Movie Heroes and they're kind of hanging around. Is there any worry that that's kind of accelerating the ceiling on those figures being hit, or are they still selling through?
Hasbro (DD): Well, yes, so we've actually found the ceiling, that's...
Hasbro (BM): (laughing) That's the good part!
Hasbro (DD): Well, that's the key to learning so that we can apply that learning to our future releases. Previously, those figures would kind of sell every month in, month out, they were greatest hits, and we need those, we need those to help offset all the new tooling in other figures, but now we've had... the surprise is that we've kind of reached saturation on these. Obviously we want them to continue on and find new audiences all the time, which kind of underscores a challenge that we have right now with Star Wars is we don't have an inexhaustible collector base, and we have to learn from the current release quantities and use that to influence what we're doing next year, say with Droid Factory or Clone Wars and any other lines, to make sure we don't over-release.
Hasbro (BM): Are we going to be smarter selecting figures? Yes. Are those main characters gonna go away? No they're not, because imagine a kid coming into Star Wars and not having the ability to get an Obi-Wan, it's just not a good solution.
SirStevesGuide.com: The most recent Battle Packs, the Bespin and Naboo ones, we were wondering the genesis of that idea was, because they've got the great sculpts, but the reduced articulation and some other things point that they're more for a kid line; and some of them like the great sculpts seem more like a collector line, some fans would guess it was for budget reasons. So what was the original impetus of that?
Hasbro (BM): The thing really behind those, it's quite simple, whenever we sell or do a figure, we always want to deliver against the core essence of the character, so whether it's aimed at a collector the most important thing is to deliver the essence of that character as it's understood today. So, with the battle packs it delivered some figures that collectors would want to see but also figures that kids would want to see. I think you will see things where the product is definitely aimed at a kid - aka these vehicles here [referring to the new Class 2 Fleet vehicles, the Obi-Wan Ep 2 Jedi Starfighter, Republic Fighter Tank, and Ep 2 Slave I], where we're definitely delivering against the proper essence of the vehicle, the character, we're definitely putting the play back into the hands of the kid. We understand the core collector experience. We're not walking away from collectors, we understand that a lot of collectors have different needs, like diorama guys need more points of articulation, guys that are collecting and posing their guys up, they need that sort of fun side. I hope that answers your question.
SirStevesGuide.com: You mentioned there's no new Signature Series Force FX coming, there's the Ultimate FX but that's for kids. So what's the backing away from that? Because, you know, when Master Replicas had the line they were able to sell to smaller shops and that sort of thing, and that's kind of where a lot of the market was, I guess. Is that the difference in it?
Hasbro (DD): When we took it over, we were certainly hoping to do the same thing that Master Replicas had success with, which is selling literally individual lightsabers to the mom-and-pop shops, anybody who wanted to buy that way. Unfortunately we haven't been able to do that, so we've made a decision as a company that we weren't going to add more sales force or a... in fact, we had plans for a whole business-to-business system at one point that would have facilitated that. So our plans to really be able to do that never materialized because Hasbro made a decision on that, so, that's one thing. So really the only way to get them now is, if you're what we call a "market 6 customer", supports a $5,000 minimum order, so it's very different from the way Master Replicas did it before, and as such we've never really been able to capitalize like they did on the true volume potential, like here at these shows for example. And we won't be addressing that anytime soon.
SirStevesGuide.com: What's your involvement with the Disney Droid Factory [at Disney Theme Parks], do you make the tools?
Hasbro (DD): Yes, they're using the tooling library that we built for the core parts that we already had tooled, and then we were faced with a choice - whether to build tools or allow Disney to build their own tools - and we chose the latter just because they have the resources to be able to do that, and they were gonna manage the logistics. It made sense. So it is under license from us, and we don't work with them that heavily actually, they'll select the parts, and there is an approval stage we go through, but basically we don't manage them with a heavy hand, we let them have fun and roll with it, and we're thrilled with the results. And it seems to have found a huge following which validates the whole reason we embarked on Droid Factory in the first place - which is to allow you to build and customize your own droid experience, which is signature action.
Hasbro (BM): It's not really build, it's more customization of your droid.
Hasbro (DD): [to Brian, jokingly] Well, we call it "BUILD-a-Droid".
Hasbro (BM): Sure!
Hasbro (DD): So I'm thrilled to see it find such an appreciative audience, of course. And that's why our love for it has inspired us to bring it [Droid Factory] back again.
We would like to thank Mr. DePriest, Mr. Merten, Hasbro's own Mr. Mark Boudreaux (while not appearing in this interview, Mark was part of the official interview time and used it to walk our own SirSteve through photographing the just-put-into-the-display new vehicles), as well as everybody at Team Hasbro who made this interview possible.