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It's The 40th Anniversary Of My Favorite Star Wars Film And I Don't Care

Do you know how bad that headline is? I can’t believe I am conceding that, but it’s true. And it’s all Hasbro’s fault. OK, that’s a bit much and hyperbolic. But they aren’t without blame. Take a walk with me down memory lane, and see if you agree with my assessment that the Hasbro Star Wars brand is walking in a minefield with no escape plan. The lack of respect for the 40th Anniversary of the most toyetic Star Wars film should be clanging in your ears and burning your eyes that things are in complete chaos and disarray in Rhode Island and that perhaps they’re the wrong gatekeepers for Star Wars action figures. (more….)

I quickly learned that I have always been a Star Wars collector first and then a content enjoyer second. This realization came to me at a very young age. When my younger brother tried to recreate and augment scenes from Star Wars, and The Empire Strikes Back to enact, I was busy making checklists and photographing group shots like a professional photographer with my Polaroid camera. I wasn’t making toy photography (what a curse that’s become to the hobby, eh?), but archiving my collection and trying to figure out what I still needed. I remember going to Toys R Us for my 11th birthday and finding thirteen new The Power Of The Force figures, only to come home and carefully open them up and place them neatly in my storage container where they’d live for the next decade until the Star Wars toy line relaunched. And it wasn’t long after Star Wars toys received a rebirth that I started learning about characters from the Expanded Universe under the POTF2 era. And purchasing Kyle Katarn felt as important as buying the latest Stormtrooper or Darth Vader figure. I knew nothing about Kyle Katarn or the character’s relevance in the Star Wars timeline. Because Kenner or Hasbro produced it, I needed it for my Star Wars collection. It was that simple. Then I began understanding the character. During this time, the community was united, and while competition existed, there was a shared drive and goal, and we all longed for new Star Wars content in any shape and form. A few years later, we discovered that George Lucas would direct the Prequel Trilogy and a new fever for Star Wars hit fans. None of us could contain the excitement, and the unbridled enthusiasm for anything Star Wars toy-related was nearly incalculable. Hasbro couldn’t produce enough Star Wars stuff for us.


After the Prequel Trilogy came and went, the population of Star Wars fans changed. Some were disenfranchised by the new films, which affected the collecting community’s landscape. Hasbro claimed year after year that the size of us lessened each year, and while there is truth in that assessment, there was a strong underground of impassioned and dedicated collectors who kept the brand thriving and alive. How could something seemingly perform poorly continue so strongly for so many years until the Disney takeover? We didn’t need new Star Wars content, it seemed. We were just as excited to get a new wave of figures based on A New Hope as we were getting the latest color-flashed Clone Trooper. Then The Clone Wars were announced, and while many of the older fans felt indifferent about the new television series, we all knew deep inside that it could only help the Star Wars brand bring us the most remarkable new toys. And it did. Hasbro delivered one of the brand’s most outstanding items ever produced, the “Big” Millennium Falcon. But they also had the fantastic AT-TE available at the product launch. None of us needed to see one second of The Clone Wars before buying multiples of the vehicles, action figures, and other toys supporting the new era of Star Wars. Their existence created new excitement for the brand, and we bought everything. And while many of us noticed a slight lack of Original Trilogy products, there was still enough out there to satiate us. Hasbro introduced Build A Droid, and despite mixed responses, it went over exceptionally well. No matter the problems, I was thoroughly engaged. So was everyone else from my perspective.


However, a couple of years out, negative things like nonexistent distribution and terrible case assortments began plaguing the line. And we all know it reached a devastating peak in 2012 (the Great TPM 3D Debacle). Some of you will STILL FIND figures from 2012 at your local Five Below. Maybe not. I digress. Add to the mix increasing prices, and the Star Wars line became frustrating to the longtime collectors who spent all their extra funds on novelty items they probably didn’t need to purchase. And for reasons unbeknownst to us, Hasbro refused to note how destructive it was to launch a new line look with straight repacks, a practice that continued to the relaunch of The Vintage Collection. They did it in the basic figure assortments, comic packs, battle packs, vehicles, and retailer exclusives that began deteriorating in quality and MSRPs. This approach clogged the pegs and disabled the replenishment system. This perfect storm worked so adversely against those that supported Hasbro for years that they started walking away out of pure misery and frustration, reducing the collector size even more. After a short revival with The Vintage Collection that didn’t last long enough to make an impact, Hasbro canceled the line, and 3.75-inch collectors were inconsolable and angry. To pour salt into the wound, Hasbro started focusing on The Black Series 6-inch line, and their faithful decades-long supporters felt betrayed and insulted. All we asked for was equal treatment between the two lines. But Hasbro had a mission from the start, and now we know where they stand today. But like anything they produce, you can only go so far with a tooling budget, and it’s evident Hasbro exhausted that much more quickly than they did with the 3.75-inch line. As bad as things got, I still had hope and remained engaged, but it was a bleak period to maintain that hope.


Yes, The Vintage Collection is back, but big whoop. Hasbro has given us some beautiful surprises and a few much-needed characters. Still, overall, it focuses on characters I have ZERO interest in and Disney Star Wars sources I will never watch. There aren’t enough figures released in a year. And why can’t they REPACK figures they never released in the line (the vintage Kenner packaging) instead of repainting past releases? The Disney+ population is not the people who are purchasing The Vintage Collection now. And if you are buying them, it’s likely you are because they’re part of the case assortment you ordered or because you need one of everything. It would be an anecdotal rarity that you are excited to purchase these characters. Sorry, there is no convincing me otherwise. The current Hasbro Star Wars team has handled the brand so recklessly over the last few years. From the laughable 30,000+ units of the HasLab Razor Crest (more units of this exist than some basic figures) to the constant repacks and repaints, the line is an absolute bore. But if I am honest, I think 6-inch collectors have more reason to be frustrated. Their line is horrific as of late. It’s anxiety-inducing to hear the Hasbro toy announcements. And it’s sad to see fan sites, many I’ve never heard of, function as PR mouthpieces instead of trying their best to be journalistic and try to trip up Hasbro in answering something they don’t want to answer. For the record, I received many threatening phone calls about revealing stuff from interviews Hasbro didn’t want for public consumption throughout the years. I remember Entertainment Weekly picking up one of my stories and then being forced to change the answer they gave to make them look better. But at least I fought to get answers for the people I represented. Regardless, I still held on, believing the best was yet to come.


So, here we are in 2023. We’re about ten months out from 40 years passing by since the best Christmas I ever had as a nine-year-old boy, receiving my incredible Return Of The Jedi collection. I didn’t watch the film on a device for instant gratification. And I had to wait until the end of the year to get the toys. I remember wanting them so badly throughout the year when we visited the toy stores. We had to wait until tickets were available at our local theater. And my father, who did nothing with us typically (all he did was hunt deer in his free time), took my brother and me to see the film. It was the most fantastic experience of my life. And that Christmas was the best Christmas ever. The memories will never leave me. But what can I say about this year? I don’t see anything worthy of commemorating the four-decade anniversary of the most excellent Star Wars film. Does it affect my love for the film? Absolutely not. But nothing is keeping me engaged with Hasbro, and this is something that they don’t seem to be aware of, which is dangerous. I have been feeling this way for years now. And it’s reaching a peak. I know things are different now, but this difference kills the hobby. Kids don’t want toys (generally speaking). That’s evident. And that also means gift givers aren’t buying toys despite what you gear those crazy people on YouTube tell you. So the landscape for retail must change. I am not asking for retail to be like it was a decade ago (as lovely as that would be for me). No, but there are many things Hasbro can do to make things better for the people who have given somewhere between five and six figures of their hard-earned money throughout the years.


It’s the 40th Anniversary of the most “toyetic” film in the Star Wars universe. Where are the new Jabba’s Palace aliens and skiff guards? How inconceivable is it that we have The Khetanna but not a super-articulated Barada? Also, where is Velken Tezeri or Gailid or Yotts Oren? Where is an updated Chief Chirpa? Where is a correctly colored Logray? Where is T. Dren-Garen or that colorful Weequay that pops out of the side hatch of The Khetanna? How can we have that side hatch on The Khetanna but not the Weequay that pops out of it? What is Hasbro’s defect? Where is a super-articulated Sy Snootles and the Rebo Band? How can I properly dance to “Lapti Nek” without them? Where the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is my Jabba The Hutt playset in vintage Kenner packaging? How many times do we all need to ask for these things? Where is an all-new Imperial Shuttle? Where are the “many other” Rebel Commandos we need in super-articulated form? And what about the Original Trilogy characters that pop into the Disney Star War content that they could produce under ‘that excuse’ to make longtime collectors happy? 8D8 and EV-9D9 come to mind. It’s egregious we don’t have either of the torture droids added to The Vintage Collection. Where is an all-new Tessek? My gosh. Do you know how often JTA has personally asked for this character for The Vintage Collection? I would even take an Ewok Village to satisfy my ROTJ 40 celebratory needs. Where the heck is Sim-freaking-Aloo? It’s no secret that the toy line kept my interest in Star Wars strong. But the Hasbro Star Wars brand is in the weakest state it’s ever been in that I can recall. But I don’t think I am alone in these feelings. Not all Star Wars content is going to be perfect. We all know that Disney Star Wars is far from perfect. But an excellent toy line helps us look past its blemishes. I would encourage Hasbro not to be indignant or plead your case better to Disney if you’re stuck with a shortlist of characters to always focus on with each series. It’s not working. And your customer base continues to dwindle. Even if the products are late, please do something to make the 40th Anniversary of Return Of The Jedi extraordinary and exceptional. Right now, it’s pitiful, and this GOAT film needs a little respect.

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