SDCC 2015: Hasbro Star Wars Q&A with Jeff Labovitz

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At San Diego Comic-Con, we spoke with Jeff Labovitz, Hasbro’s director of global marketing for Star Wars, and asked him several of our questions about the line.

Star Wars The Black Series Jabba's Rancor Pit (in package)SSG: The Toys R Us exclusive Jabba’s Rancor Pit has a newly sculpted Jabba along with the previously released Rancor and a couple other figures.  Will this new Jabba be available separately?

JL: Not planned right now.  But it’s such a great tool.  It’s something we can absolutely look at.  It’s a great figure, and we can’t get enough of Jabba, right?  Everybody loves Jabba.

SSG: Yep.  So, the Yavin Ceremony Leia was bumped from her case assortment due to issues with her robe.

JL: Yes, we wanted to get her robe just right, because you’ve got to get everything about Princess Leia just right.  So we actually had to find the right vendor with the right type of robe—the right fabric—to get as close to on-model as we could, and that’s why we chose to delay the figure just a little while in order to get it right.  But she’s coming.

SSG: Still in the pipeline, right?

JL: Oh, absolutely.  We love it.  Absolutely.

SSG: That’s good to know.  Many of the Star Wars Rebels figures remain very popular, but also difficult to find, especially Chopper.  Will they be repacked for season two, or are there plans to sculpt new versions of the characters?

JL: There will be a combination of the two.  We absolutely want to get more of the Rebels figures out there.  And just because we’re getting into The Force Awakens and some new movies, we’re absolutely going to keep doing Rebels and classic figures.  So we know we want to get more Chopper out there, Sabine, Hera, Zeb—all the big ones.

SSG: Will we still be seeing a good amount of support for Star Wars Rebels and the previous films this fall, or will the focus be pretty much on The Force Awakens?

JL: There will be a bit of everything this fall.  Right on September 4, set for Force Friday with the movie line, there’s a lot of movie product, but there’s still Rebels and classic in there.  Once you get past that first wave—so a little bit later in the year—there’s even more Rebels and more classic.  So all told, a good percentage of our line is still dedicated to the best of classic, and Rebels especially.  So we celebrate the entire saga throughout the whole year.

SSG: That’s good to hear.  So The Black Series 3¾” line has included a few repacks, like Darth Malgus and the Imperial Navy Commander.  How do you typically determine which ones to repack?  Is it ever determined by their secondary market value?

JL: No, absolutely not.  Most often, we look on the fan sites and we get a sense for what figures are in the highest demand, and that signals to us that we want to get more out there.  So that’s what led us to reissue Gamorrean Guard, the Imperial Navy Commander…  So we pay close attention to the sites and we do the best job we can at getting the figures out there.  It might take us a little while, but we have long memories and we know that we don’t get enough figures out there at times.

SSG: So we just finished the first Fans’ Choice poll for the 6” line, and Darth Revan was determined to be the winner.

JL: Yes!  Darth Revan!

SSG: Are there any plans to do another fan poll for 3¾”?

JL: You know, that’s a good question.  We haven’t planned that yet.  That’s a great idea.  We love the Fans’ Choice poll.  It’s about time we brought it back!  It was such a success this time.  We absolutely want to keep that direct connection to the fans going.  The trouble is, you guys voted on such great figures, we want to do all of them.

SSG: Yeah, we love all of them, too.

JL: Yeah, they were so good.

Hasbro PulseSSG: That brings us to our next question.  What kind of content can we expect from the Hasbro Pulse program?

JL: There will be steady content over the next few weeks and months—all the new figure waves.  As soon as we get closer to September 4—Force Friday—right after that date we’ll be able to share a lot of information about our line and detailed interviews with our designers and sculptors, a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of what goes on in the making of our toys.

SSG: Lots to look forward to.  There’s been a lot of attention lately on the number of female figures in action figure lines, from Rebels females arriving after the male heroes to Black Widow not appearing in some Avengers toy lines.  Some of this might reflect the notion that boys don’t want to play with girl characters, but that comes off to many fans as a little old-fashioned.  Marvel lines, for instance, have had several females in recent waves—each wave has at least two female characters—and we have already had four Leias available this year, so it’s not like there have been no female action figures.  Regardless, has any of this attention caused you to rethink how you’re going to handle female characters in the future?

JL: We’ve always thought of Star Wars as for everybody.  And we’re so excited, we just revealed Ahsoka Tano in a realistic sculpt from Rebels and what her figure looks like decoed.  We’re very excited Sabine Wren came in second for the Fans’ Choice poll, so she’s absolutely now in the line.  We were dying to do that figure.  And we’ve got much more to come, certainly for the movie line, and beyond.  The benefit of the new entertainment and the new television shows is that there’s so much in terms of strong female characters, and we like to celebrate it all.

SSG: Sounds very good.  For years, you guys have said that playsets were just not feasible in the Star Wars line because kids were just not that interested in that play pattern.  However, with Avengers: Age of Ultron, we’ve seen some modular playsets for 2” figures.  Even though that was not done by your team, but the Marvel team, is this something of a test to see if they’re still viable for Star Wars?

JL: I’m a huge playset fan, so I’m sold.  I think what you might expect to see in the future are playsets that maybe find their way into large vehicles.  So think of vehicles that can be combined with playsets.  We certainly want to take that route.  Because the beauty of Star Wars—not only are the characters so important, but the vehicles themselves are characters in themselves.  But unique to Star Wars, the environments are so signature, whether it’s the interior of a Star Destroyer, or Death Star, or Hoth.  Those are such fertile ground to have great play.  We absolutely want to chase that for the next few years.

635609291983368805-Hasbro-Rebels-Ahsoka-and-Darth-Vader-Action-Figures-1-SSG: In the new Universe two-pack line, which includes Ahsoka and Vader from Rebels, they’re listed at $14.99.  That’s a bit up from the current price point at $9.99.  Will these figures be of a higher quality, or is it just that the $9.99 price point isn’t sustainable anymore?

JL: At Hasbro, we don’t always control what retail prices the figure’s at, so you’ll see some variation.

SSG: The upcoming Star Wars Risk game is labeled as part of The Black Series.  That makes it the first product outside of action figures to use that name.  Why was this name expanded beyond figures, and what else can we expect under The Black Series banner?

JL: We felt like it was a great match for Risk in particular, because it’s a strategy game and it aligns itself very well to a premium line.  To us, Black Series is as authentic as we can make something, high-quality, so that can certainly stretch well beyond figures and vehicles.  Now you’re possibly seeing it in role-play as well, with the Force FX lightsabers.  So a very premium strategy game seems like a very logical next place to go as well, where we can take these games that have very authentic pieces and plus them up even more.  So we’re not ready to talk about what’s coming next in Black Series, but more to come for sure, beyond just figures and vehicles.

SSG: Thanks Jeff for your time, and on behalf of the community at SirSteve’s Guide, thanks for everything.

JL: Thank you for your support.

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Thanks again to Jeff Labovitz and Hasbro for taking the time to answer our questions!  Thanks also to Justin Aclin and Brandon Rohwer of Hunter PR for arranging the interview!

Special thanks to figrin bran for conducting the interview!

Check out our previous Hasbro Q&A sessions from Star Wars Celebration Anaheim and Toy Fair 2015, as well as our 2014 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!

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