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JTA Exclusive: Hasbro And JTA Talk Shop - A Casual Conversation....

Posted by Paul | October 09, 2015 at 10:51 AM ET

As usual, the annual ‘Twas The Night Before NYCC Preview Party was a blast. Hasbro entertained guests from around the globe at the beautiful Metropolitan Pavilion in NYC. The environment was relaxed and the discussions informal, which all worked together to make visitors feel comfortable enough to “geek out” with each other. Although Hasbro didn’t schedule any formal Q&A time with various sites for this event, Hasbro Marketing Director Joe Ninivaggi was kind enough to speak with JTA and answer some of those pressing general and broad questions that are driving us batty. This is a relaxed and informal summary of the talks that took place, not a word for word verbatim transcription. However, the final draft of this was approved by Hasbro per our request. (more....)

I brought up the utter confusion surrounding Force Friday and how we still haven’t received any official announcements from Hasbro on anything that’s been released. I suggested that once everything is official if they could provide some sort of checklist for us and our readers so the community has a better grasp on what’s going on with the various lines. (Hasbro was aware of the checklist we worked on with Yakface.com and other sites. They seemed impressed by it.) I brought up that this information should be arranged by waves and approximate release dates. As for the limited reveals last night, X-wing Pilot Asty, General Hux and the others were supposed to be surprises as well. Hasbro is disappointed/frustrated by all the leaks because it steals their thunder as to when these items are to be officially revealed. They conceded that some of this is completely out of control, but once these toys hit the warehouse, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep these items off of the radar. Besides, Hasbro emphasized that if items arrive to the warehouse and they’re not announced, that’s a late reveal and actually not an ordinary situation. As a result, planned events become “not as exciting” because the stuff has already leaked out. I then brought up an idea to maybe showcase more than 4 or 5 new figures, but the production schedules, what can be revealed on what date and others factors play into why this is easier suggested than done. Should the Star Wars collecting community be finding out about new products via these leaks? Absolutely no. So, this might be hard to iron out until the film’s release, but know that what’s transpiring is not what Hasbro has planned for us.

As to why there are no The Force Awakens basic figures to be found hardly anywhere, well, this is a multi-layered answer. Due to the secrecy in product getting revealed and other factors, the production timeline was significantly compressed. This meant that not all of the ordered product could be manufactured in time for Force Friday. In fact, I had brought up a statistic I had heard from multiple retailers that only 10% of the stuff per account of average was received. However, this stat cannot be confirmed by Hasbro. Retailers in general did not receive their full orders for Force Friday but Hasbro cannot specify a percentage. But instead of filling orders completely for just some, Hasbro “shared the wealth” across the board to ensure that everyone had at least something for the event. Clearly, this didn’t work out for everyone as some stores barely had enough merchandise to satisfy even a handful of people. (And this varied depending upon where you live.) Hasbro is manufacturing the quantity of product that is needed and by November we should be seeing frequent appearances of these figures. Don’t resort to scalper prices on eBay!

This is why we’re seeing a delay in release dates of currently expected products. And for exclusive program items (like the Amazon and Entertainment Earth exclusives for example) they typically get released later in the year, around November anyway. Some retailers have chosen to pre-sell some of their exclusives earlier. However, the majority of exclusive items are not late; they are hitting on or around their intended time. (Blame this one on the retailers.)

I developed a strong conversation surrounding The Black Series [Phase III] 3.75” Walmart exclusive line. Fortunately, Hasbro’s designer Steve was able to join in on the conversation. (More on this soon.) Just like The Force Awakens line, not all of the TBS3.75 figures made it out. We should be seeing more of wave 1 shortly as well. Wave 2 will go up for pre-order sometime this month, but likely won’t hit Walmart brick and mortar until November. Hasbro explained that all of the Original Trilogy figures released in this line will be repacks. There will be NO NEW Original Trilogy figures. (The same is true for Prequel Trilogy figures.) The focus is on The Force Awakens right now and any slots for OT will be figure we have already seen at an earlier time (save for the delayed Princess Leia). About Princess Leia Organa: her soft-goods fabrics were completely redesigned to be aesthetically more accurate to the costume in the film. They completely redid the patterns to make the best action figure possible. The designers are excited for her release. Steve also discussed that Luke Skywalker and Han Solo also received/will be receiving soft-goods that were completely reworked for these repacks. (Editor's Note: What a shame that they went through the effort to rework Luke's soft-goods yet they totally designed the cloak incorrectly AGAIN with sleeves! Hasbro: Luke's Jedi Knight cloak doesn't have sleeves!)

As to the other choices of what OT figures to repack? Hasbro intentionally chose characters that have some sort of tie-in to The Force Awakens. I countered that with “that isn’t what a collectors’ line is about. That’s what you do for a mainstream lineup where you’re worried about other buyers. I suggested that straight repacks in this line is dangerous and that if some slots must be reserved for repacks then they should be fulfilled with action figures the adult collecting community is desperate to see again. Listen up JTA readers: Steve, Hasbro’s designer, physically wrote down in his notepad Emperor’s Royal Guard as our #1 choice to see re-released. He also made notes of better Darth Vader choices (we’ll develop this more in a moment), Ponda Baba and Ahsoka from The Vintage Collection. Hopefully this will mean something for us. Speaking of Darth Vader, I respectfully asked why in the world the 2005 ROTS 500th Darth Vader was used for a collector-focused Star Wars line. I honestly got the impression that they thought it wasn’t a bad choice at all. I personally was expecting them to say it was just an oversight, a mistake, but they truly believed it was a good Darth Vader choice because of the sculpt and that it hadn’t been available for a while on the market. (That’s when I gave them three other Darth Vader action figure choices that would have made a whole lot more sense.) Of particular note, Joe stated that, for one reason or another, not all of their molds are longer available, which may influence what sculpts are used as repacks. I asked for further developments on this, but Joe couldn’t get into it.

ALSO! I asked Steve to PLEASE consider taking The Black Series [P1] Darth Vader (#26) and tweaking it to be Episode V/Episode VI specific and throw it into the Walmart exclusive line. He also made a note of that. I showed him a picture of the figure in our RDRs gallery and we obviously went over what parts would need to be revised to make it specific to the OT, but in my opinion he seemed on board with the suggestion. This means however that he was appreciative and receptive to the suggestion, but this doesn't mean it's a guarantee that it will happen. Let’s hope it does comes to pass. It would literally be the greatest Darth Vader action figure ever produced based on the Original Trilogy of all time!

What the heck is up with a $5 up-charge on the Armor Up figures? We all want to know, right? I basically said, with all due respect, that is was an outrage. Hasbro confirmed that $12.99 was the intended MSRP And this decision in my opinion as well as what Hasbro alluded to is due to the complexity and volume of plastic required for the Armor Up accessories. I did express my opinions that nothing too different than what is being offered in the Build A Weapon line is in the Armor Up line and that these figures should really not have its own sub-line. Just throw them into the Build A Weapon line instead.

That pretty much finished up our casual conversation with Hasbro. Be on the lookout for our Q&A as soon as humanly possible.

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