We spoke with several members of the Hasbro Star Wars team, including Steve Evans, design director; Joe Ninivaggi, senior brand manager of global marketing; and Steve Bono, Lead Design on The Black Series.
SSG: You mentioned that some more of the first 3 3/4” Force Awakens wave will be shipping again. Are those going to be produced on the same cards and with the same accessories as the first batch, or will it be more like the Kylo Ren and Stormtrooper repacks from wave two with the new art and accessories?
SE: The wave ones, when they come again, will still be the same wave ones. We’re just gonna push more through.
SSG: Okay, great. Will the upcoming Force Awakens figures be coming out on any more set, intentional release dates, or is it just when they’re available?
JN: We plan out waves, as we always typically do. There are certain figures or certain things we’re not going to have out until after the movie, by design with Lucasfilm and Disney, so there’s definitely more coming in spring. In terms of like a Force Friday-esque sort of September 4, “that’s the date,” we don’t have that planned right now.
SSG: Are you guys going to be releasing any creatures from The Force Awakens, like the luggabeast or the happabore, in the 3 3/4” line?
SE: There is no plan at the moment for that. I think that we’ve almost got too much to choose from! It’s a good place to be. We have so much to choose from that we’re trying to produce, and then, obviously, moving into the next movie. So at the moment, there’s no plans that I am aware of in terms of 3 3/4” to do creatures, but I personally certainly like the idea of creatures, and it’s finding the right size and kind of value price point to express those.
SSG: Speaking of price points—we know that you guys don’t set the retail prices, but what is it about the Armor Up figures that make them almost twice the price of the Build-a-Weapon figures? The parts seem to be the same size. Is there a manufacturing issue?
JN: It’s not a manufacturing issue. Each of our markets do set their own price, in the US especially. When we look at the Armor Up value in terms of toyetic play, and what goes into the plastic, it does look— Okay, when you look apples to apples, it looks like the armor and the Build-a-Weapon piece are similar, but the toyetic value and what goes into that particular piece…
SE: Yeah, and just to add to that, the armor itself has more separate pieces. We have a POM plastic, which is like a memory plastic, which is a very specific type of plastic that allows it to clip on and clip off. So the complexity, whilst it’s not super complex, is certainly more than we have on the Build-a-Weapon, which is usually a single mold, or maybe a two-piece mold. So there is more involved in the armor construction.
SSG: We know now that single-packed, super-articulated figures are exclusive to Walmart. Will we be seeing any of these in any other format, like the Jabba’s Rancor Pit exclusive set? Might there be any other sets or anything with those figures, or are they just Walmart for now?
JN: 3 3/4” super-articulated figures are exclusive to Walmart right now. If we decide to create packs like you’re talking about, like the Black Series packs for TRU—while nothing’s in development as of right now, if we did that, it would stay to Walmart. That scale, that expression, is currently exclusive to Walmart.
JN: We had this conversation with the gentleman at the panel today. We have a lot of love and passion for super-articulated 3 3/4”. As time has gone on, and we’ve introduced Black Series 6” and we have our five-point articulated figures in the 3 3/4” range, the niche for 3 3/4” super-articulated figures started to narrow a little bit from a sales perspective. We know the fans have a lot of passion for them, and we were really thrilled that Walmart accepted this as an exclusive, and kept it alive. It’s something that we can kept it out there as a test to see how they do, with the hope that they do well enough to warrant going into main line and expanding more but, at least in the short term, doing more with Walmart and getting more figures out there. That is our wish and our goal, so we’ll see how it does.
SSG: Yeah, the collectors definitely want to see more of them, as you know.
JN: Yep, absolutely.
SSG: So all the Phasma figures look great, but we haven’t seen any shiny vac-metal figures in a few years, like you used to do Threepio.[Hasbro reps smile]
SE: I’m going to answer that one! I know we haven’t. [laughs] I have a bit of a penchant for vac-metal and the need for that. And there are certain manufacturing and certain kind of environmental issues with actually doing vac-metal. We’re actually investigating right now different approaches that isn’t truly vac-metal but still delivers a very shiny, reflective look. It might not be vac-metal or quite chrome plated. Great example is the 12” Phasma that is coming out…
SE: …uses this new kind of very shiny, highly reflective metallic paint, which is safe environmentally and easily manufacturable. So all those resources we have to take into consideration. So, plain and simple, vac-metal isn’t as easy as it used to be, in terms of applying it to the figures.
SB: We had quite a lot of discussion about vac-metal amongst ourselves. It’s a big topic because we have some passion for that look, and we all remember that original Threepio figure that was so shiny gold.
SSG: Speaking of Threepio, are these issues why we haven’t seen a 6” Threepio so far? Or did that not have anything to do with it?
SE: Again, it’s one of those— There’s so many characters to choose from. I think Threepio is definitely a character that we look to do, and look to review to do. As I say, there are so many characters that are coming out as the story gets released. Watch this space, is probably the best answer to that. But I will say, when we do a character, we want to do it right. If we bring out a shiny, chrome character, it’s got to be good enough, especially in Black Series. I don’t want to do a mottled kind of dull painted Threepio.
SSG: So obviously right now the focus is on The Force Awakens, but Rebels just got the repainted Y-wing Scout Bomber vehicle with Kanan. Will there be any more newly sculpted Rebels vehicles, like a blue A-wing or the red B-wing at all?
SE: There are plans with Rebels. We certainly like the idea of peppering Rebels into the line. So, as you say—we got Force Awakens, we got classic, we got Rebels. Rebels has established such a fanbase young and old. We particularly love the storytelling and the music, in particular. So we’re not walking away from Rebels at all. We’ve seen the popularity. So figures developing into vehicles is probably a natural progression. Knowing that we produce X number of vehicles, and we have to choose which ones to make depending on which story is being told, whether it’s The Force Awakens… But yeah, we’re still developing Rebels product indeed.
SSG: Okay, cool. Can you talk about any more of your Micro Machines plans? You showed a couple new vehicles and figures. Are there going to be any more playsets or anything you can talk about?
SE: I think that whole strategy of large playsets and smaller playsets and the battle sets and the deluxe sets and the basic sets and the blind bags, that whole gamut of complex to just pocket money, allowance buying, we’re keeping that model. So we’ll still develop at the price points we’re seeing at the moment. There’s no plans to change that. The only plan is to add innovation, add new play features, but we’re very happy with that spread of product.
SSG: Can you say anything about Titanium Series vehicles plans? Are there going to be any more four-packs, like the first set that was released? Or maybe any larger sets than that? Or is is just sort of the single packs for now?
JN: Primarily single packs, but yeah, the multi-pack—we launched with that and there are plans to do more multi-packs in the future.
Thanks again to Steve Evans, Joe Ninivaggi, and Steve Bono and Hasbro for taking the time to answer our questions! Thanks also to Brandon Rohwer and Justin Aclin of Hunter PR for arranging the interview!
Check out our previous Hasbro Q&A sessions from San Diego Comic Con, 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.
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