- OPENING REMARKS -
Regarding SW collecting in 2011, I'm going to say what's on all our minds -- 2011 sucked. It was a complete flame-out, due almost exclusively to Hasbro, I'm sorry to say. I cannot think of a year more frustrating, this year had horrible distribution problems start to finish, canceled and moved waves, missing figures, endless reissues and repaints, and price increases, while also delivering less figures and vehicles. (Heck, the best vehicle was the Starspeeder 1000 from Disney which had no Hasbro work on it.) On top of that, a change in personel at Hasbro caused Q&A to flounder for the first time in 5 years, and the Blu-Rays came and went without a bump in interest from general consumers, they sold well but didn't really get folks talking again. The Clone Wars tv series chugged along, but minds were hardly blown. Celebration VI was announced as another hot summer visit to Florida in 2012. Rick McCallum confirmed that the live-action TV series has been put off for several more years and maybe dead altogether, and also said The Phantom Menace in 3D might be the only film in the saga to get 3D treatment if it doesn't do well. StarWars.com closed down their forums, their online shop abruptly shut down. The revelation that Lucas decided to bring back Darth Maul for the Clone Wars.
Some interesting things did happen this year too though, TRU had a few really surprisingly good sales on basic figures; Disney Parks' Star Tours 3D sequel came out and has been extremely popular; Kotobukiya delivered Han Solo in Carbonite ice cube trays; LEGOland California opened its Star Wars miniland section; Robot Chicken Star Wars 3 was better than its predecessor; Family Guy wrapped up their parodies with an ROTJ episode; LEGO released a half-hour animated Star Wars special that was fresh and amusing; there was a lot of Star Wars-themed charitable contributions... um, I'm stretching here folks, because it's really difficult to find anything to crow about for 2011. It's like Star Wars collecting was already over for the entirety of 2011 and we've been stuck suffering through our hope that it'd get better, the powers that be kept saying maybe it would, and then each time a faint sign of hope before disappointment. So it didn't suck, it was just, er, "challenging" (that's obviously code for "sucked big time").
- BEST ANIMATED 3.75" FIGURES -
I barely remember what basic figures came out this year. Animated Chewie and shirtless Savage Opress, that's all I remember. Ok, I remember a little more. Space Captain Rex, Commander Jet (finally!), Castas, Cad Bane v2 with TODO-360, the Aqua Droid, Commander Colt, and probably Seripas and armored Savage though I still haven't found them. Shirtless Savage is a really cool figure, excellent paint and sculpting, great range of motion, a very expressive and dynamic figure. Unfortunately, I think I just named 4/5ths of the figures in CW, there weren't enough new figures this year, but at least most were pretty good.
- BEST REALISTIC 3.75" FIGURES -
Very little to choose from here, thanks to a whole wave getting shifted to 2012, and a lot of snorey recards instead of the exciting ones we should have gotten. I really have to give props to the new AOTC Clone Trooper with its all-new body that finally throws out the marshmallowy trooper armor we were stuck with from 2003, replacing it with film-accurate shapes and sharpness (yes, its helmet is too big, but if you raise it up a little it looks great). Captain Fordo was good too, even though he still doesn't get his own name. Bom Vimdin looked great, sharp sculpting and paint. Han Bespin was pretty good, Lando General was pretty good although his cape has huge elastic and he's why Han's boots are wrong (Hasbro shared the lower body). Ponda Baba I guess will round out my calls here, although as adequate as the figure is, somehow it doesn't feel special perhaps due to too many old Ponda releases, or maybe Hasbro just waited too long.
- WORST 3.75" FIGURES -
Can I pick on distribution and pricing problems? No? How about all the recarded Revenge of the Jedi figures that overflowed the pegs and pushed out the Evazan wave? Vintage didn't have too many bad figures because it didn't have many figures at all, I'll call out the AT-RT Driver for being bland and not special; Logray for being overpriced; AOTC Kit Fisto for being ROTS Kit Fisto; the AOTC Super Battle Droid for being a mediocre repaint rather than a new figure and then pegwarming super hard for it. For Clone Wars, I've got to hand it to El-Les, an overly-colorful, mopey-faced figure for an uninspiring, wishy-washy character; TRU's exclusive Stealth Ops Clone when almost the identical figure as a basic yet also with more accessories was hitting pegs; and Kit Fisto and Plo Koon in snow gear, Plo Koon's mask looks WAY weird, and because do we really need the B-team in a new hat?
- BEST BATTLEPACK / MULTI-PACK -
I'm giving this handily to the Disney Parks-exclusive Star Tours Travel Agency. It is a great pack to represent Star Tours, bringing together droids and an alien and some luggage, plus an all-new not-terrible stand for the WA-7 droid figure.
- BEST 3.75" VEHICLE OF THE YEAR -
Were there vehicles this year? Did I already use that gag? The Mandolorian Shuttle didn't make it to shelves that I saw, the walking cannon thing didn't inspire me, Class 1 fleet flopped on its face and canceled its better pieces. So that leaves me with... um... the repaint of the Saga Landspeeder, and the Republic Attack Shuttle, both were overpriced, but only 1 was new, so it wins by default. The 2 sweetest words in the English language: DE FAULT! DE FAULT! DE FAULT! Anyway, the Republic Attack Shuttle is an ok vehicle, underscaled compared to what I would have hoped and lacking external lights, but it has a nice build and sculpt, and its features are wildly numerous and fun. It was just too expensive for what it was, I didn't get it until Amazon discounted it heavily, that was a great surprise because without that, I wouldn't have bought it.
- BEST 12"-FORMAT FIGURE -
I'm going with Sideshow's Commander Bly, despite his color being not film-accurate and his straps being too high and his visor not raising high enough. I really think the paint weathering was well and above anything else I've seen from Sideshow previously, the care taken with the entire tone just comes alive so much better than previous Clones they've done. Cody was really cool and had more going on overall, but Bly's mixed-media stuff and weathered paint just makes him a stronger choice for me.
- 2011 STAR WARS FIGURE OF THE YEAR -
Which prize pig gets the award for best porker! That's how I feel on this one, no standouts, just best lipstick-applying pigs; the figures themselves weren't bad, but the lines they were in ruined them. Last year I was excited about numerous figures in the running for this title, this year Hasbro's lack of inspiration for the line is palpable and I can barely care about the figures I've named above. For me, it comes down to shirtless Savage Opress vs. AOTC Clone Trooper -- yes, another face-off between animated and realistic! I swear, totally unintentional. While TRU made it possible for me to actually army-build the Clone at a decent price, and I've had fun coming up with poses for them, Savage Opress is the most striking figure, it gets the most attention in my place of any new figure on display... if only they hadn't made him Darth Maul's brother, he could have been so much cooler without losing those dignity points! But Shirtless Savage Opress has an amazing facial expression, fantastic paint work, and cool axe weapons... and there's just something "Star Wars special" about the figure which the Clone doesn't have since there's so many white-armored troopers already. There you have it, Savage Opress my figure of the year for 2011, a totally wrong-headed choice for a totally wrong-headed collecting year. May collecting in 2012 smite 2011 most heartily in the face!