Before we get to the good stuff and our Hasbro Q&A that we held with them at Celebration, let's appreciate again the talent that designed the above, because this deserves serious praise! This Ahsoka Black Series 6" figure was proudly shared by Hasbro at Celebration, and shows the quality and attention (and listening to fans) that has been put in to this line. I thought it was truly quite stunning and courageous of them to show us the first (I can recall) prototype of a figure in a long time.
On a related note, I'm finding it's getting just too easy for some to bitch about Hasbro recently. Yes they make products we love, and as collectors all across the globe we are deeply, deeply passionate about, however, I'm quite appalled over the last few months at how rude and childish, some friends, sites and forums have been in their comments and posts about them. Like truly spoiled brats, bitterly whining endlessly and sarcastically about every petty, minute detail, it's been quite sickening to hear and read, especially just how strongly worded some of it has gotten. Really epic 1st world problem stuff, that's just in my view, getting out of hand.
Maybe I'm getting older and more appreciative of simpler things, and maybe working and living around the world, and being in the toy trade, has let me appreciate much more of the complexity of the global logistics involved, but I also think at Celebration I got to experience yet again the fun of Star Wars. Being with people I cared about, and just enjoying this hobby and the toys we all have, as well as all the products, as they are, and not having such a stick up your ass about them. I care about Hasbro products a lot, but let's all try and remember...they are toys and bitching is easy and lazy.
I'm not excusing Hasbro, nor am I sucking up to them as I've seen some people accuse sites of recently. (You truly just can't win with some people.) Hasbro have faults and as a global company not immune to making mistakes, but they have done I think a very fair job given the Lucasfilm/Disney changes, and over the years and at several Celebrations have treated me with much respect, and taken the time to discuss my thoughts and questions on their products, the result of which is below.
I hope you find it useful. Rant over.
FLYGUY: I'm here at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim with Jeff (Jeff Labovitz) and Joe (Joe Ninivaggi) of the Hasbro Star Wars team. A couple questions for you today guys, but first, you've seen ‘the trailer’?
HASBRO: Oh like so many times! (lots of discussion between us all on favourite aspects of the trailer and geeking out from us all.)
FLYGUY: So a lot of people watching that trailer, are clearly older fans with a strong vintage interest, which has endured over the years and gone on, and whilst I know we can't talk about new products, what's your thoughts on potentially how the (vintage collection) line could come back again?
HASBRO:Yeesss! We absolutely love the (Vintage) line and its something we talk about frequently with Lucasfilm, and even though we had a partnership with them to have it out only for something like 10 months, it went on for what? Two or three years?So it did so well, and there was so much love that went into that from our design team, that it just kept going.
We wanted to put it to rest for a little while though, and now there is so much entertainment coming with the new movies and more, that there is a lot to do. However, vintage is very close to our hearts. I'd say the closest things to our heart is that line, and the black series, and so both fall into the same boat, and fans love it too, so it (Vintage) will be back. It's not on the short term plan, but just one of those things will come back.
FLYGUY: Following on from that, even with Saga legends it seems like a missed opportunity to have had those figures, put out on those (Vintage) cards. (I shared a fan card back creation to illustrate the point-example above) It's also just been one of those things that fans are so keen on, such as exclusive collector cards (proof card giveaways at SDCC etc) so from them, and a lot of our readers and YouTube subscribers please, please, bring these cards back, even if no figures on them, we want the cards!!
HASBRO: Again not on short term plans, but long term it will come back!
FLYGUY: On to The Black Series now, what has been the most cost & time intensive figure so far in the line? I've heard Bossk was one of the most intensive tooling figures to date, but what’s been the most challenging figure overall?
HASBRO: You know it’s interesting with these figures as often times it’s paint apps and decor is what drives a large part of the cost, but when we do these figures, we want to them right, so its something we take into account when we develop out the line, so Boba Fett in particular, he’s got very colourful armour, so that is one that is more expensive, but he is worth it, worth every penny!
FLYGUY: Agreed! Well you did re use that figure as well with the Proto Fett and could re use it other mando’s such as Jodo Kast? (Hint!)
FLYGUY: New box art is looking great for the Black Series 6” and love the new design. Is this something you are going to keep in the same size (thinking of collector continuity) but just tweaking the designs and colours as you go along?
HASBRO: Yeah! that’s what we've been doing along the line with orange, blue and the new for 6” for fall 2015 design, so we are always optimising, we're always trying to give something fresh. Black Series is so near and dear to our hearts we want to make sure the packaging representation is as cool as the figure itself.
FLYGUY: It’s (nearly) all about the packaging I find.
FLYGUY: The Black Series line was touted at launch as a predominantly (packaging wise) minimal line, and focused on cool design, and not a lot of colour. Recently thought we had a Target exclusive which had a beautiful full colour diorama in pack, and I wanted to know what the thought process was behind this? Collectors want cardboard dioramas...
HASBRO: Yeah we did a few of those, I mean the Target pack was great, and we also did as you know, the Han & Greedo Cantina Scene, and we are always looking for ways to package them, and Black Series is always great for scene representations.
Black Series is also really all about creating figures that literally feel like they are coming out of the scene that you know and love, so of course the packaging plays that role and we want to replicate those scenes, so you'll definitely see more!
FLYGUY: The Black Series Commander Cody is beautifully done, aesthetically overall it's flawless from what I can see, but one small thing, what about the Emporer Palpatine hologram? Was it a cost issue that it wasn't included, as we had this in the 3 & 3/4 line, so any chance of us getting this as an exclusive pack or mail away down the line? Hell, give us an Order 66 pack with a repack Cody and others, as collectors we’d love that! Even sending away like vintage days where we send away for these things like the Hologram? Possible?
HASBRO: Yeah, we'll see what we can do, it’s good feedback, and we like hearing this kind of information!
FLYGUY: I asked yourselves and others at Hasbro last year at Celebration Europe II and I have to ask again, as I get asked a lot about... stands. We have beautiful figures, that do stand pretty well, but fans are having to use the old hexagonal stands from Marvel legends.
Chinese eBay sellers are selling these, and a lot of fans and our subscribers do think stands would be ideal (even as a standalone SKU).
I understand it would be a cost issue, but any option to make them available or is it just off the table cost wise?
HASBRO. No I'd say nothings off the table, were continuing to look at that. No you're right, its very fair feedback, and a lot of the figures do stand very well, but when it comes down to a cost decision, I mean, when putting money into beautiful works of art as figures, when it comes down to the stand, we almost always gravitate to improving the figure first, but its still an excellent point.
FLYGUY: Sponsors keep fan sites alive, paying for hosting and trips like this to Celebration, and recent feedback from some sponsors is that they are not too happy with Hasbro Toy Shop selling with free shipping and twenty percent off coupons and (Hasbro) selling on eBay at ten dollars a figure, with free shipping (Boba Fett & Stormtrooper 6”). All at prices that distributors and vendors can't even get these at...
Many sponsors (and business insiders) are saying this just kills them, and not good or fair at all. Most customers love it of course, but long term, what they don't see, is that this is devaluing your product and giving a false expectation (of cost) for your figures, isn't it?
HASBRO: Hasbro Toy Shop will always do things in a certain way as we give them stock, and they are our own company, and we want to make sure we have the direct connection to the fans that want the product. Everybody gets the products in the same way, nobody is shown favouritism or special deals, so haven't heard of that before, but we'll take it back and discuss it.
For distribution in general, it does us no good, and our design team no good, to make products that no one can find, but we hear you, and fans are very vocal about distribution too, so were working very hard to make sure that everything we reveal, can get in to fans hands.
FLYGUY: Solid cases have been a big hit for army builders and collectors and troop focuses. Rumours are that these are going away. Any comment?
HASBRO: No you're right we are very happy with them and who doesn't want to army build!? And with the new movie, plenty of troopers to come in the next movie, so plenty of options to army build in the future, so cant see solids going away anytime soon.
FLYGUY: The west coast dock strikes that happened affected Sideshow, Mattel and you guys were impacted too. What plans, contingencies or strategies have you in place for the future? Are you moving to east coast for shipping, or what options do you have? As you know it did cause a big issue in getting stock out there...
HASBRO: Yeah, we have a very flexible team, a really talented team in operations who are experts that have a few different options, because as you've said before, we want to get our product out there, so thankfully Hasbro as a global company has terrific resources, engineering and logistics, so we can tackle these as they come up.
END OF INTERVIEW
Our thanks again to Joe, Jeff, Justin & Brandon for their time.