Despite the madness of this year's SDCC and the continued popularity that Hasbro's Star Wars display garnered, Hasbro was gracious enough to give us a little Q&A time.
At the busiest Comic-Con ever, there wasn't a whole lot of time for anybody. Team Hasbro Star Wars was always in demand in and around their booth, there wasn't a moment when the exhibit hall was open that one didn't catch a glimpse of the gang in their Star Wars 08 gray baseball jerseys (they brought up at their panel on Friday that the jersey is ironic, they don't actually have a softball team) or even the Indiana Jones shirts. Friday was their big panel, which we already covered here. Saturday, Tycho and I got together with Hasbro's Derryl DePriest (Star Wars brand manager), Brian Parrish and Mark Boudreaux (Star Wars designers), and Brian Wilk (Star Wars exclusives designer) - pretty much everybody making choices and doing design on the line - to discuss SSG's most recent figure poll results (extensively put together by fellow forumite Mad Slanted Powers).
While most of the Hasbro team had to catch the red-eye back to Rhode Island on Saturday night, Derryl and Mark stayed behind to finish up the last day of Comic-Con. So on Sunday, after tons of scheduling conflicts and just missing each other issues, I finally caught up with Derryl and got to represent our readers with a little on-the-spot Q&A session. Derryl was kind enough to give up a little of his off-the-clock time for some Q&A so I made it as quick as I could. While he and I talked at one corner of the Hasbro booth, Star Wars fans kept coming up to Mark Boudreaux and getting his autograph on their big Millennium Falcons (Mark being the designer of this amazing ship) -- it was quite an exciting and almost surreal Star Wars collector experience....
SSG: With the recently shown "Assault on the Shield Generator", why are there only 4 figures with this set instead of the slideshow image's 5? Will this be the first of many battle packs with less than 5 figures and no vehicle or large accessory to make up for less? If so, why is that? Do you think the line can handle the change?
Hasbro: People should get used to 4 figures in Battle Packs, and that's not the case of us gouging, it's the case of... because we could have put the price up on Battle Packs, but $20 is an important strategic pricepoint. And because a lot of our Battle Packs aren't collector-targeted, they're generally kid-targeted, so doing neat things like the Shield Generator [Battle Pack] is kind of a new approach, and that's because we want to get some collector-focused ones in there, but the focus will still be on the kids' stuff. So, our choice was either put them up to $25 still with "5 figures worth", or start to take it out, and we made a decision that "keep it at $20", and that meant that we started to have to compromise. Even with what we showed you, that was a recent decision, the only way to afford that set.
SSG: That's across the board, right, not just this wave?
Hasbro: That's going to be the direction we're going across the board.
SSG: Are you going to work a little harder for new figures in these packs then?
Hasbro: In Battle Packs? In Battle Packs we're going to have the same kind of approach we've had, so you'll see, you know, the Arrest of Palpatine, you know, that may come down to a 4-figure set, but ideas like that are still critical, which is it has a high hero content, we'll still all those kid-targeted sets where nothing changes, they're all existing figures mixed in with, you know, new figures or new sets that meet the collectors' mentality. It's still gonna be a kid-first focus, but we want to get some cool collectors focus in there too. Do we think the line can handle the change? Obviously, you know what, unfortunately, that's kinda what we're faced with...
SSG: So it's a reality either way.
Hasbro: Yeah, it's a reality either way, and we chose this decision to keep it at $20 rather than [go to] $25.
SSG: It's been 2 years now since we were told in Q&A that the Titanium Series line would have an Outrider entry in 2008, and with this Comic-Con showing off a ton of great new molds - or rather, in this case, "dies" (they're cast from dies) - the Outrider not among them, what is happening on that front?
Hasbro: I'm not the expert on Titanium, but we can get you an answer on that. Actually, the guys who are the experts are not here right now. So, the Outrider is an important EU vehicle and I believe it is gonna show up next year. I want to say it is going to show up next year, and it should. We had to delay some tools in this so that's why...
SSG: Ah, ok. Was that for budgetary reasons, or something else?
Hasbro: Well, yes. I mean, Titanium is still coming out of an era where the focus in Titanium kinda ballooned up in a lot of areas, now we're back to where we started from. It just takes a while for all the new tools to get online. When I took over Titanium at the beginning of last year, the direction was "let's get some new tools out there," it just takes a while to do that. And we can't do as many as we want as fast as we want.
UPDATE - Hasbro has gotten back to us, and here's the official answer...
Hasbro: The Outrider is slotted for the end of 2009, if the current schedule holds.
SSG: With the ROTS line, we got a couple vehicles that have removable droid slots, but due to some issues, the droids don't actually work that well with them. Both ships have enjoyed repaints, the Jedi Starfighter almost too many to count, so there are plenty of droid slots in collectors' hands which don't actually accommodate astromech droid figures. The ARC-170 holds the figure too high and so loose that play is hampered; the Jedi Starfighter also holds the figure too high and the mold cavity doesn't actually have enough room to accommodate the feet despite trying; and those aren't the only vehicles with droid slot issues - the Naboo Fighter and Y-wing suffer dedicated droid domes instead of actual droid slots. Granted, Lucas approved prequel designs that "bend" physics to get astromechs into their slots, but with the figures I've experimented with this and found many astromech droids would fit if only they didn't have their feet. But collectors shouldn't have to hack off their droids' feet, so might Hasbro consider making a "pilot" astromech body that could have removable lower legs, perhaps for the Naboo Fighter separately removable legs as well? Will the new Clone Wars Jedi Starfighter have the same issue?
Hasbro: Ok, that's interesting. I mean, kind of, the plug [in the ROTS Jedi Starfighter] was meant to be the pilot astromech, right? So, you know the issue how the body can only accommodate a figure of a certain height. Rather than spend a lot on a pilot astromech that has little leg extensions, we just did the plug and you can put yours in there. I dunno, that's an interesting question, we're not designing that but we could consider that, take that back to the team and look at that.
SSG: Although we know that you've handed the baton off to Sideshow for the 12" line, in a recent Q&A you answered that you were thinking of making a return to the scale but had made no decisions. You've got 12" Indiana Jones figures simultaneously as Sideshow's, and The Clone Wars seems to have more kid factor which means a need for a lower pricepoint, which isn't Sideshow's thing, showing both precedent and motive for Hasbro restarting a 12" Star Wars line. If you were going back to 12" with new Clone Wars, how about re-releasing some of the better 12" figures of the past, like Vintage-style Boba Fett, R2-D2 with tools, the Jawa, C-3PO - stuff like that which Sideshow isn't really focusing on right now - to test the waters?
Hasbro: Our take on Sideshow, on 12-inch, is Sideshow's still our partner for the high-end, and with Indy we wanted to test the water with 12-inch to see what the kid-enthusiasm really was. And it is kid-targeted, there's some collector figures in there. It's possible we could look at a return to 12-inch, but it's not high on our priority list right now.
SSG: When we go to Sideshow and ask them "where is X, Y, or Z - where is Boba Fett, R2?" they say "well, we depend on what Hasbro's done before. We don't want to step on that too much. We want you collectors to be able to use that." So it seems like there's a need for the product, and it's just not being met anymore.
Hasbro: I wasn't aware of that actually, that stance from Sideshow.
SSG: Yeah, they told us very specifically that, and we collectors were all surprised because we didn't realize that they were going to lean so heavily on what came before.
Hasbro: Ok, that's interesting... Hmm, you know what? We'll take that into advisement. That's actually an interesting take on it. But, 12-inch just is kinda a wait and see on Indy, and right now we're still not certain how the year is really going to end up.
SSG: Well, keep in mind, you guys have tooling that's just not getting used. You know, the R2-D2, the C-3PO, that doesn't go on a GI Joe body, and Sideshow's not making it right now. If you make it, you're not really losing anything since the budget's already done for those when they were first made.
Hasbro: I wasn't happy with the bodies that we did have.
SSG: The GI Joes?
Hasbro: Yea... Oh, no no. The [current] GI Joe body we like, it's the previous bodies we had for Star Wars that we weren't so happy with.
SSG: Oh, I see what you're saying! The older ones from the 90s, big muscles and tapered more?
Hasbro: Yeah, we never want to do those. So it is kinda a wait and see, but it's not high on our priority list right now. Instead we've been letting Sideshow run with it, but knowing Sideshow isn't going in this area, maybe we should look at it.
SSG: Will the weapons in the clone weapons locker pack-ins for the Saga Legends line be changed out for different accessories as the line continues? If not, why not? Would this not be a simple way to get more desired accessories into the hands of consumers, and keep variety fresh which could help sales?
Hasbro: It's certainly possible, we didn't really have any plans right now, but we could at a certain point make that change. If we did it, we'd want to do it in a way that would signal that it was a new weapons assortment, and we just don't have any plans for that. It could be that maybe these run for a year and then we switch 'em out for different ones.
SSG: Well, I mean, if the line is popular, you've got a lot of the same weapons coming in, and we just wanted to... There's a lot of weapons these guys want more and more of, and nothing wrong with getting those out too.
Hasbro: Yeah, let us... you know, give us a list of the ones they want and I'm sure it's probably, you know, the regular clone long rifle and stuff like that. So why don't you guys let us know which ones you'd like to see, say, if after the first year, if we think about another year, we'll see if the concept continues.
SSG: Sail barge, sail barge, sail barge... This is a follow-up to the question we actually just sent in via regular Q&A.
Hasbro: Here's the deal, I mean, we're gonna learn a lot from the Millennium Falcon, but whether the market will be able to support vehicles this large at this price, so far the response has been amazingly positive, and we hope that that shows justification for vehicles that can break that $100 pricepoint. The problem with sailbarge is that it's not an iconic vehicle, it's no Millennium Falcon by any stretch.
SSG: Well, of course not, but Jabba the Hutt is iconic, people know him almost as much as Vader and Yoda, it's his ship, his name and image will be up in the corner [of the packaging]. It has a big giant cannon, all sorts of stuff, and a lot of the main characters battling on or near it, it's a big part of the first half of the film. And it's also in the new show.
Hasbro: Right, I know what you're trying to justify. If you asked on the man on the street what it is, they won't know. That's where we're at. It is [in the new show], but we're at "wait and see".
SSG: See? I try to cover all those bases, I don't want to let you get away with anything, heh heh.
Hasbro: [Chuckles] Right. So it's wait and see. Let me tell you that it's great that we're having this conversation because a couple of years ago we couldn't have even conceived of this. We need 100% of fans to show their support for the Millennium Falcon, and that will... keep allowing us to be able to go to, you know, the powers that be and say "and we found the next opportunity", so let's keep that going, but let's start with making sure this one is a success.
SSG: This one concerns the often asked-about speederbike. With last year's StarWarsShop.com exclusive, other recent entries, and now a new Hoth Speeder Bike battle pack, we have officially seen the one millionth recycle of this mold. While this was one of Kenner's fine efforts back in its day, the vehicle no longer is as accurate as the line demands, and the mold seems to be getting a little long in the tooth with parts like the (inaccurate) landing gear and rear flaps no longer being properly effective. Why have we not seen this piece phased out in exchange for the vastly-superior 2002 Attack of the Clones speederbike mold? Just resculpt the rear end with the blankey and add a clear stand, and you're good to go, and it's even an existing part. You can deliver 2 giant all-new vehicles and 2 nifty starfighter vehicles to us all on the same day, one would think swapping the old Kenner speederbike for the newer Hasbro one would be cake. Now you'll tell us why it's not?
Hasbro: We actually tried to switch to that one for this vehicle, but we're having a problem finding those parts. They couldn't locate it in time to do the speederbike set, and we're not sure we'll be able to put that one back together. Totally recognize and understand, we know it ourselves that we want to see that bike out there, so... With time, we hope to recover that one and get that one out there.
SSG: It's come up a couple times now, so what's the deal with no live action versions of the new Clone Wars characters? You had a Lucasfilm-approved costumed person as Ahsoka in your booth just yesterday.
Hasbro: That Ahsoka as if she was a real world person, but [the costume brought to Comic-Con] was actually developed by Disney, that's from Disney Star Wars Weekends, where Clone Wars is a big focus. Now, obviously, that was Ahsoka fully realized. The stance is, right now, we are keeping animation separate from The Legacy Collection, and that's purposeful, we want to completely focus our new tooling in that area, you know, for Clone Wars, and focus new tooling on the Original Trilogy in this area. So, we're gonna run them apart for a long time, we don't have any plans to merge them. So when you say "why not?" The answer is we're treating them as 2 separate entities. Down the road, who knows what will happen, but right now, we have - trust me, believe me when I say, we have no plans to cross them over.
SSG: The Force Unleashed delay, what do you guys think about that? If the game had come out on your timeline, you might have had a big success, and now people aren't going to remember it as well so you're going to have to refresh it...
Hasbro: Actually, you know, The Force Unleashed figures were amazingly popular, and they've cleared retail, it's been absolutely fantastic. So, they've been a huge success without the game coming out. Our problem now is gonna be, people are going to want more Force Unleashed figures at a time when we've kinda shifted our focus some. Now you see with the Greatest Hits figures, we're starting to weave a little bit of those back in there, that way back we said we're not going to have enough of them? We're going to look to get some of the other Force Unleashed figures back out, so it's actually the opposite here, Force Unleashed's delay hasn't hurt us, in fact it's going to give us another opportunity to look at those figures again and get them back out to market.
SSG: What about the lightsaber, the role-play Lightsaber? I mean, that thing's been on shelves since January. It's doing ok too? I mean, it's seen a little more time.
Hasbro: The role-play Lightsaber's still gonna be out this Fall. It was a huge hit, which is interesting because, to do a kid-targeted lightsaber with a new feature, 2 new features, kinda shows you don't need the entertainment context necessarily, that kids want lightsabers in all their forms, which is great for us. But that one will be back out there in the Fall.
SSG: On behalf of my readers, I'm supposed to thank you for the Yarna figure yet again...
Hasbro: You're welcome!
SSG: And for the Indy line, even with the bumps in the road it's been great having the world's greatest adventurer done in this format after all these years...
Hasbro: Ah, fantastic! Thank you, thank the fans very much.
SSG: And the vehicles. And the McQuarrie figures, and just the whole last year in general seems to have worked out great, to thanks! And especially thanks for Q&A which has done a great job.
Hasbro: Thank you very much, all the fans who've helped support us that's gotten us to a great place. We couldn't have done it without fans and the feedback and everything.
So there you have it, a little Q&A action representing the SSG readers, and we're working to get a definitive answer on the Titanium Series question as soon as possible.