I just wanted to take a few moments to offer my thanks and gratitude to the people involved for the incredible experience and enjoyment received from Hasbro’s first HASCON event in Providence Rhode Island. In it I also share a couple of interesting tidbits. So click through if you’re interested.
Firstly, I must thank Chris, Michelle, Chewie and Oreo Swanski (Chris Swanski is co-owner of BanthaSkull.com) for graciousness, like-minded camaraderie, and a place to stay for the entire elongated weekend. It was a blast hanging out with you all and the laughs were nonstop. Your comfortable and beautiful home in addition to the leisure activities offered were better than anything a hotel could offer. So thank you for that. I am blessed to call you friends. I would also like to personally thank Marissa Connelly and Alyssa Hackmann at Litzky PR for organizing all of the press/media aspects of this event for us. They did a fantastic job coordinating interviews, planning and organizing and I thank them for their quick turnaround. I also thank them for their pep talks, encouragement and candor. I received incredible insight from them with regards to JTA’s strong working relationship. As you know, there is a great strain being felt between fan sites as some choose to not follow intended protocols when it comes to leaks and breaches for new Star War toy news. While I can’t go into specific details right now, (the conversations were off the record) it was relayed to me that there is light at the end of this dark tunnel for those that are abiding. Simply put, we’re stoked beyond belief. It will benefit YOU too. More to come!
I would also like to thank Steve Evans and Joe Ninivaggi for always having smiling faces when they see me (and not running and hiding) and for giving me honest feedback about the site and our role in the collecting community. Some may find us a bit abrasive, but they are absolutely unequivocal in their feelings about us and how necessary a loud mouthpiece (like JTA) is important for the brand. They truly read your comments, my reviews and our ideas for the Star Wars line in our articles and are extremely thankful for the good, the bad and the ugly so that they can either move forward with what’s working, or change something that isn’t. If Steve Evans is eating Froot Loops, he is likely checking out the fan site community. And as always, it’s wonderful to catch up with Andy Ochiltree, Steve Bono and Mark Boudreaux (who is probably the sweetest man I have ever met) to discuss everything Star Wars and Hasbro. What an honor it is to interact with the guy who made every last Millennium Falcon vehicle for the Star Wars brand. Wait until you see the Rogue One Hovertank in person. It’s going to knock your socks off. I would also like to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to Steve Evans for hooking me up. I owe you one big time, brother.
As far as the actual event, HASCON was intensely better than I expected it to be. Because all of their licenses are represented there, convention space was spread out and it didn’t feel like any area was overbearing (save for the Hasbro Toy Shop line at the beginning of each day). Hasbro had three Star Wars panels: a general product reveal panel, a Forces Of Destiny (those new dolls are pretty amazing) panel, and then a “History Of The Black Series” panel which went into incredible depth about the design, look and feel of the line and early packaging concepts that didn’t make the final cut. All Hasbro staff were approachable and engaging. I really appreciated their interest in not only interacting with media, but showing an intense passion for the primary customers they serve: young kids. I witnessed all Hasbro employees, regardless of pay grade, show an incredible amount of interest in the young fans and it really showed me where they stand in the sea of the community. There was no feeling of neglect. They definitely proved that all fans matter to them and that it’s all of us who make fandom what it is today. There was something for everyone. Chris and I even persuaded a young boy to attend the event (a prompting from the young boy’s father who explained he had some anxiety to attend) and we later bumped into him at the show where his dad explained that his son had a blast once he got over his apprehension. This is what this show was all about this past weekend.
You see the “professional” side of things like the interviews and the press photos and the showroom galleries. But there are countless hours spent having “off record” one on one conversations with Hasbro that remind and reassure me that what I do with JTA is important and that Hasbro sees us as important. Human beings do seem to need an unhealthy amount of reassurance it seems to feel value and worth, but for me it serves as a reminder that no matter the personal feedback I get from critics, that what we’re going is in line with what Hasbro wants to see. The days were a blast. Chris and I had long conversations with Mark Boudreaux and Chris Nadeau (Creative Director, Hasbro Star Wars) and when we weren’t talking to people at the convention we were discovering even more how eerily similar we are to each other while reminiscing about growing up in the 80s. Could anyone ask for anything more? We were two peas in a pod. It was great. Between being able to navigate the convention floor with ease to enjoying plenty of extracurricular activities (like looking for the nonexistent lobster claw pastry) when seeing the wonderful and clean sites of Massachusetts from Rhode Island.
I would like to leave you all with something. Much of this opinion comes from the many off-the-record conversations we had with Hasbro. But they absolutely care about what you think they’re doing with it. If you think for a moment it’s moot to not express yourself in the comments, well, you couldn’t be more wrong. They are reading, taking notes, acclimating to our needs and developing a killer run for The Vintage Collection. Maybe we’re not seeing it or feeling it now, but there are great things coming: multipacks, OT characters, other characters I cannot say, and vehicles. Hasbro blatantly admitted they brought back The Vintage Collection this time without an end in sight (a rumor we revealed very shortly after its official announcement). We need to foster this plan and keep giving them enough ideas and options (above and beyond what they’ve already planned) to keep the momentum going. Again, they are taking notes. Anyway, this was one of the most fun, energetic and exciting events I have ever attended that involved Hasbro. SDCC and NYCC just really aren’t my scenes. Good company, great friends and a fun time always seem to make this hobby a little more enjoyable, especially when there is great news around the corner.
Simply put, this was one heck of a weekend. You should definitely consider it for you and your family in the future if they do it again.
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