Yes, we've had the polls, the reviews, the individual discussions and all that, but since we're onto a new year and a new collection, let's share thoughts and observations about this past year...
The Basic Figure Collection:
With no new film to promote, this year was about the anniversary of ANH and celebrating the saga itself. Figures were drafted from all six films, from video games, animated series and comics...creating one of the most varied collections within a year yet.
To add to the "special" feel, Hasbro included many "over-the-top" (but very welcome) accessories with many figures and harkened back to the original "Power of the Force" line by including commemorative coins with each figure.
Another great tribute that met with overwhelming success was the "McQuarrie" signature series of figures based upon the conceptual artwork of the legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie. These figures were superbly executed, and an unexpected wonderful gift to collectors who've been fans for the 30 years as well as the young fans who had chance to tangibly experience the true roots of the saga. A wonderful idea that it would be great to see the Hasbro team expand upon with other artists throughout the saga.
They (thankfully) limited "action" features on the figures, instead going for more detailed sculpts and paint apps, creating (for the most part) some really great additions to the overall collection. Some included cloth accents like capes and such with better success than ever before.
Some older characters that saw release as figures in earlier years were re-done with great results, most especially the "Vintage" line which concluded it's handsome series of high-quality "updates". Unfortunately, the lead characters saw light action this time around in the basic line...with heavy hitters like Chewbacca and Leia MIA, Han Solo in a modified re-issue of a superior figure (at least the second figure in the line featuring everyone's favorite scoundrel was an interesting scene-specific one) and Luke faring worst of all. All three releases featuring the saga's central hero featured head sculpts that were severely lacking.
The waves were (for the most part) evenly packed with new figures each time and even the continued "Galactic Hunt" figures, with it's gold-highlighted packaging, was more plentiful than the first time out.
Hasbro also tried a new approach with basic figures this year with a concurrent line to the Anniversary Collection...the "Legends" line, consisting completely of re-issued figures from previous collections, some of which were selected by fans via an online poll. Never during their original release were army-building favorites like Clones (and others) so available in large numbers.
Both figure lines looked attractive on the new packaging art that was created for the year, a special die-cut, angular card featuring bold graphics and stunning artist renditions of the characters under a sturdy, well-pressed bubble. The packaging actually managed to stay fresh and competitive looking throughout the course of the year and weathered well on the pegs and shelfs.
If there was one snag in the basic figure line this year, it was once again (sadly) distribution. There were several months early in the year where pegs were bare with no new product after the first two waves. Rural area markets were hit especially hard by a void of product. Hasbro frankly offered explanations on Q&A sessions on fan sites as well as at convention appearances...there were coin production issues that held up production and the like. But once distribution did really kick in, another issue arose...many markets were seeing floods of "Legends" waves filling the pegs at the expense of the new figures, causing even more frustration in the collector market. Hasbro did their best by jump-starting waves towards the end of the year, with some markets seeing later waves before others. Unfortunately as the year ends, there are still some areas that only saw brief, if any, appearances of figures in anything after wave five.
One strong suggestion to Hasbro if they ever opt to try this approach at duel figure lines again would be to schedule the release of the new figures first, giving them a head start on the year so that the re-issue line would land more heavily on the hoilday shopping season when folks would more apt to want basic hero/villain/armybuilder type characters, allowing the main (new) line to fully saturate the market.
It wasn't a disaster this year, but acquiring these great new figures was more work than it needed to be....
This past year saw the "Battle Pack" concept really take off....these themed packs were reminiscent of the classic "Cinema Scenes" from the early '90s, but in lieu of having new figures, instead featured re-issues, re-paints and re-works of characters from previous lines. The themes were imaginative, but geared towards the more gift-oriented and exclusive sets were assembled for various retailers, especially towards the end of the year when several exclusive sets featured previously released vehicles and beasts.
One multi pack concept that really took off in a very positive way this year were the 2 figure "Comic Packs" featuring a comic along with the figures. This line changed from it's ealry look of garish repaints to well-crafted original figures of comic characters many fans never expected to see the light of day.
It's a collection that if handled with the same high quality as this past year, should flourish in '08.
It was a nice surprise to see two new vehicles amidst the huge collection of Jedi Starfighter repaints and other vehicle re-issues. The Sith Inflitrator was long-awaited by collectors, and while many were disappointed in it's lack of scale, considering the price point and availability Hasbro was aiming for, it was fairly well-executed. While it's "action feature" of (non-movie related) expanding nose did keep the ship from being a perfect display piece, it moved off the shelfs well. The V-Wing was an unexpected surprise. very well done.
This "novelty" line showed surprising strength with both adult and kid collectors...resulting in a year long flood of new cute versions of all the familiar characters. By the years end though, pegs were awash with the little guys and it will be interesting to see where this one goes next year...
Having had the pleasure of meeting and talking with many of the fine folks on Hasbro's team at ClV this year, I see a line being created by a team that truly has genuine enthusiasm and love for Star Wars, not to mention the chops to pull off some amazing concepts and collectibles. Despite the distribution mis-steps early in the year, Hasbro's efforts for the Star Wars 30th Anniversary were stellar....an amazing collection that answered the call of collectors by including many characters never before featured as a figure and keeping it all fresh to further engage new fans...congratulations on a great year Hasbro!
Here's to more playtime in that galaxy far, far away....