Toy Fair 2015: Hasbro Star Wars Q&A with Jeff Labovitz

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At Hasbro’s Toy Fair press event, we spoke with Jeff Labovitz, director of global marketing for Star Wars, and asked him several of our questions about the line.

toy-fair-2015-logo

SSG: I wanted to ask about Saga Legends figures.  Due to case assortments and online pre-orders, we’ve seen figures through number 28, but figures number 19, 20, and 21 are conspicuously absent from the upcoming cases.  At last year’s Toy Fair, there were plans to repack Mace Windu and the 501st Trooper and bring out the Darth Maul that was released outside the US.  Are these three those missing figures?  Have they been cancelled?

JL: You know what, I have to check that.  I don’t have the answer to that.  I’ll have to check to see which ones are going to be repacked, reissued.

SSG: That leads me to another question—those Digital Release Commemorative Sets.  You’re not showing those here.  You probably can’t talk about those?

JL: Right, yep.  We’re not going to be talking about them today.

SSG: Since we don’t know anything about the digital release, probably can’t commemorate it with any sets yet.

JL: [laughs]

Stormtrooper Commander and Hera Syndulla on display at Hasbro’s ‘Twas the Night Before… party at New York Comic-Con 2014.

SSG: So some of the main characters from Star Wars Rebels—Zeb, Sabine, and Hera—were released in two-packs with Stormtroopers.  Will we see them on single cards down the line?

JL: The single card versions aren’t currently in the plan, but I imagine we’ll get to them, particularly in the future when there’s another version of them.  Who knows what they’ll look like in future seasons, so there will be reasons to do all-new versions of them.  They’re all great figures.

SSG: Yeah.  So why were they chosen to be in a two-pack as opposed to the single card?  Any reason in particular?

JL: No, it’s just a good way of getting them out there.  We like to vary the price points and let people get two at a time and build it.  There wasn’t a driving force in deciding who’s in the two and who’s in the one.

Ezra Bridger (Cadet) and Kanan Jarrus on display at Hasbro’s ‘Twas the Night Before… party at New York Comic-Con 2014.

SSG: Another Mission Series set has Ezra in his cadet uniform, when he’s in Imperial disguise.  He comes with a regular Kanan.  Why was Kanan chosen here over, like, another cadet or Chopper in his black-painted Imperial disguise?

JL: We love Kanan because he’s such a strong character and he’s really resonated with fans, so we wanted to make sure we did something to honor that relationship that’s really brewing between Kanan and Ezra.  It’s such a fantastic part of the show.  So we wanted to get that storyline across, that Ezra and Kanan have this connection.

SSG: So after a late launch, some of the Rebels Saga Legends figures made it to retail and sold very quickly, but we’re nearing the end of the first season and most of the figures are still in short supply.  A lot of fans assume they’re being held up due to the Port of Long Beach contract disputes.  Is that the reasoning?  Are you allowed to talk about that?

JL: Yeah.  There’s always reasons for distribution not happening exactly as we wish, and yeah, there’s certain issues with the ports.  We believe we’re going to be able to get product out there, and all the figures that folks are asking for.  So we’re doing our best to make sure they hit shelves.

SSG: Okay, great.  Do you know if these figures will be shipped to regular retailers on the same plan or might they be shifted to TJ Maxx, Five Below, kind of discount retailers?

JL: We’re trying to get them out to retail, to mass-channel retail.  That’s not to say they can’t also appear in those channels over time, but we want to get them out in the Toys R Uses, Walmarts, Targets, the main mass-channel retailers.

SSG: Did you feel that missing the Christmas window, was that a big detriment to the success of the line?  Is that a missed opportunity?

JL: No, it’s been a very successful launch.  The show has done phenomenally well.  The toy line is exciting.  We don’t think it has any impact.

SSG: Okay, great.  So it seems that Saga Legends has been the only line to have these kind of shipping issues, with Command and Black Series and Mission Series getting out, more or less, in good numbers.  Is there any particular reason why only that line was affected?

JL: I think that’s what’s noticed maybe the most, but it doesn’t necessarily affect certain assortments.  It affects all of them to different degrees.

SSG: So the new TIE Pilot carded Black Series 3¾” figures have tape securing the bubble to the cardback.  Back in 2013, when The Black Series first launched, there were issues with the figures falling off the cards and so stores would tape them up.  But that hasn’t really been an issue for a while, so why was this solution added to the TIE Pilot card?

JL: Just in case.  We want to make sure that the blisters stay on.  We know how important the packaging is, particularly for Black Series, so we want to make sure there aren’t future issues.  These things can creep up from time to time in any manufacturing process, so the tape is our way of making sure that the best possible packages get out to retail.

SSG: As if I haven’t been nitpicky already, I’m going to get real nitpicky on this one.

JL: Sure.

Luke Skywalker on display at New York Toy Fair 2014 without any facial scar deco.

SSG: So the 3¾” Hoth Luke figure includes painted Wampa scars on his face.  But when he was originally shown, I believe at Toy Fair last year, he didn’t have any.  When the Wampa hits him, his goggles fall off, but the figure has the goggles.  So it’s accurate for the one second that he’s falling to the ground.

JL: Yes.

SSG: Was there any reason that the scars were added later?  Just to make him more action-oriented?

JL: Yeah, just to add more life to the scene and to be more a movie replica.  Who doesn’t like battle action scars?

SSG: We’ve seen a lot of updates to figures from the ’90s the last few years, and lots of Imperial officers, but Admiral Piett is one that hasn’t had an update since 1998.  Is there any particular reason we haven’t seen him?  I know sometimes the Imperial officers aren’t the highest sellers.  Are there any plans for him?

JL: No, we have no reason to avoid him.  He just hasn’t been on our short list yet.  But thankfully our Star Wars fans have very long memories and very good patience, so we’ll get to it.  We’ll get to all the good ones.

SSG: Okay, great.  For The Black Series super articulated 3¾” figures, in addition to the distribution issues we mentioned, and the Droid Factory being shifted off…

JL: That’s old school!

SSG: Yeah, that’s from a couple years ago.  So now the $10 price tag has been raised in some stores to $12 or $14, so a lot of collectors are saying, maybe that’s my breaking point.  Is there any reason behind the price hike?  Is that the Chinese labor going up?

JL: No.  I mean, the short story is that we don’t necessarily control pricing in all instances.  So that’s the price that some retailers have chosen to go out at.  I think they’re great, high-quality figures.  Of course every year there’s cost increases, and just the nature of the toy business.  So we want to make sure that we’re delivering great toys for the appropriate price point.

SSG: If the factors out of your control keep driving the prices up, would it ever be possible to have a hybrid between the lower-articulation Saga Legends figures and the higher-articulation collector Black Series figures, kind of how it was before 2010?

JL: That’s a good question.  It’s not currently in our plan, but it’s certainly an option we could look at for the future.

SSG: Okay, great.  Of course we’re all excited about the new releases, but collectors, as you said, have those long memories and there’s certain figures that we’d appreciate still seeing.  Darth Malgus and Starkiller are now shipping and hitting a lot of fans that didn’t get them the first time, which is great.

JL: Yeah!  Love ‘em.

SSG: Is there any way that maybe fans could vote on which repack figures, or you might have a pre-order sort of thing, like say, “we might release this figure, who’s interested in this?”  Is that a possibility?

JL: Yeah, it’s a really good question.  We’ve talked about going back to a fan vote and somehow incorporating that into The Black Series.  There’s nothing planned short-term, but it’s certainly something that we’d like to seriously consider because the fans are the most important piece of this puzzle.  We want to make sure we have the best product for the fans.

SSG: Great.  

JL: We’d like to go back to some kind of vote in the not-too-distant future.

SSG: Awesome.  As far as repack figures, would it even be possible to have some of them available online, like another run of figures that were probably expensive to tool up but didn’t get much of a release?

JL: Yeah, it’s definitely possible.  That’s always a discussion that we have with certain retailers, and we’re investigating options like that.  We know there’s some figures out there that have a very high demand but aren’t necessarily at retail.

SSG: Okay, great.  So now on the 6” Black Series, was there any reason in particular that the 6” Yoda has the double-jointed elbows but no knees?  He’s a stiff-legged old man.

JL: [laughs] Well, Yoda is 900 years old, so hey, he’s got some knee problems!  Don’t we all?

SSG: [laughs] So was that like a costing choice, or was that because he’s so old and you didn’t feel like it was necessary for the figure?

JL: Yeah, we didn’t feel like it was the most necessary thing.  As we talked about before, we want to make sure we have the right price point and we have the right features and what fans are looking for.  So we didn’t think knees in that instance for this character were necessarily as important as making sure we had other features, like the elbows and the soft goods and some of the other pieces.

SSG: Cool.  On the 6” Wampa, some of the early photos showed him with unpainted horns.  Do you know if that was an issue with the photography sample or is that how the figure’s going to ship?

JL: We actually have it right over here.  When you can check it out, how the horns look.  We have him right on-shelf.

Wampa on display at New York Toy Fair 2015 with the horn deco restored.

SSG: Okay.  Originally, it had the horns, and then [the paint deco] was gone for some reason.

JL: Yeah, as you know that happens between photo samples, and at different points in our process, we do change things around a bit just based on the types of models or samples that we get.

SSG: But how it looks here will be how it ships?

JL: Yes, that’s the plan.  That’s right.

SSG: You guys released a lot of big vehicles between 2008 and 2012, and we haven’t seen any for quite a while.  Overall, it seems like a lot of the Hasbro lines are looking for more of a budget type of toy.

JL: Hmm.

SSG: Is that the reason there hasn’t been any?  Or just that there hasn’t been anything to go after, no good options?

JL: No, there’s plenty of options.  We’ve got some exciting things planned for the rest of this year.  We love big vehicles.  We love big playsets.  We love big vehicles that can serve as playsets.  We love it all, so we have some very big things in our future.

SSG: Is the Ghost outside the realm of possibility?

JL: No, definitely it’s not outside, no.

SSG: Great.

JL: It’s not something that’s in our immediate future, but we love Rebels.  The Ghost is so iconic and certainly a great option.  The Ghost would be great.

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Thanks again to Jeff Labovitz and Hasbro for taking the time to answer our questions!

Check out our 2014 Hasbro Q&A sessions from Toy Fair, San Diego Comic-Con (part 2), and New York Comic-Con.

If you have a question you want us to ask Hasbro at a future event, please post it in our forums!

12 COMMENTS

  1. The big vehicle answer, avoiding the Ghost, as “next?” So if it’s another, is it the Sailbarge at last?

    I don’t think it’s a prequel re-release, though it could be Ep.7. But I don’t want to let Jeff get away with a Falcon or AT-AT re-release though both vehicles make an episode 7 appearance and could be produced with new soundtracks.

    A BMF with Daisy Ridley’s voice is not going to count for me.

    But the blockade runner or star destroyer are also interesting E7 and Rebels relating possibilities. Oh yeah. Slave-1 again doesn’t count.