We'll get this on the front page tomorrow, but here's Part 1 of my report from the Hasbro booth! Enjoy!
Another Comic-Con has come and gone, and once again Hasbro has left us with a lot to look forward to and consider. Collectors had a lot of questions on their minds going into the big event this year. Yet at the same time a lot of the new stuff shown in San Diego last weekend wasn’t entirely unexpected. Hasbro’s worst kept secret this year was the return of the Droid Factory concept to the basic figure line, which of course meant that the super popular Vintage Collection would have to be put on hiatus for an undetermined amount of time.
Once again, Droid Factory is coming to us in a line called the Legacy Collection. Each wave of figures will have a buildable droid, which is their clever way of getting us to buy every new figure that gets released for their droid part. This also opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities for getting various new droid characters in the line. The first buildable droid we’re seeing in Wave 1 is the pilot of Count Dooku’s solar sailer, FA-4, who has made appearances in both Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars animated series. The other buildable droid in Wave 1 is the protocol droid TC-70, who fans of The Clone Wars will remember as Jabba the Hutt’s translator in the 2008 film. It seems the return of Droid Factory is giving Hasbro a chance to produce some memorable droid characters that have shown up in The Clone Wars in the realistic format. And that’s awesome because if you’re a Clone Wars character who’s not Obi-Wan, Anakin, Ahsoka, or some kind of clone trooper, then your chances of being released in the animated format seem to be getting slimmer and slimmer as the TV series and its dedicated toy line appear to be winding down. (More on this in a moment.)
The attention to Clone Wars droids continues in Wave 2 of the Legacy Collection, which will bring us a realistic version of Mace Windu’s striking astromech droid R8-B7 (who was last seen in the Toys R Us exclusive Rise of Boba Fett set). The other buildable droid for Wave 2 is R5-X2, the long-awaited red and white R5 unit seen among Jabba’s entourage during the Podracing scenes in The Phantom Menace.
With the return of Droid Factory, two classic droid characters on a lot of people’s minds are 8D8 and EV-9D9 from Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi, who both haven’t seen release since the Power of the Force 2 days. During my first visit to the Hasbro booth on Friday as I prepared for my official interview with the Star Wars brand management team, I asked Derryl DePriest if they’d be showing up in this format. I was told that they’re under consideration, but would most likely come to us in the Vintage Collection when they do finally get released. It’s encouraging to hear the Vintage Collection being referred to in the future tense still, because obviously collectors will be anxiously awaiting the return of this classic beloved line look. (And as for 8D8 and EV-9D9, I have to agree that it would be most fitting to see modern versions on vintage cards.)
I took advantage of a few extra minutes chatting with Derryl to ask a few more specific questions about the line. As we checked out the upcoming Republic Trooper figure from The Old Republic and took his helmet off for some pictures, Derryl expressed how glad he was that characters from this popular new video game installment got to see release in the Vintage Collection this year. I brought up the game’s Jedi protagonist, Satele Shan, and he told me that she is definitely the first character up next for release, although she isn’t scheduled yet.
The Clone Wars line had a disappointing lack of presence both during the Friday morning presentation and at the booth. Nothing new was revealed that we hadn’t seen before, and the only new Clone Wars item still yet to be released that was shown was the upcoming Target exclusive Darth Maul Returns Battle Pack. This Battle Pack features Darth Maul in his first animated appearance, a re-release of the highly sought after armored Savage Oppress figure, and what is supposed to be a generic Nightsister figure. Derryl revealed that the Nightsister figure in this set was originally supposed to be a Sith Witch figure based on the Expanded Universe, and was planned for release in the Vintage Collection before it was decided that it would be a good fit for this multi-pack. It certainly looks more like a realistic figure than its two animated counterparts, and this explains why. It is not at all intended to be Mother Talzin. Unfortunately I asked Derryl if the specific character of Mother Talzin would ever be released in either the animated or realistic line, and he said it was very unlikely. I guess Talzin suffers from the ‘old ladies in robes don’t sell well’ mindset, although I think her action-oriented appearances in Clone Wars episodes such as “Massacre” would make her exciting enough to warrant a figure. She’s certainly an important enough character, but sadly it seems she’ll always be a hole in our collections, and the Nightsister/Mother Talzin figure will have to do. The good news is the Nightsister figure does look fantastic and is very well sculpted and articulated.
While we were on the topic of Clone Wars stuff, I asked Derryl when and how we’d be seeing the Pong Krell figure that was confirmed in the last of 2011’s Q&A sessions, and got more bad news. The fan-favorite scheming Besalisk general has been postponed, and isn’t even scheduled for 2013 anymore. It sounds like we’re going to have to make a point of telling Hasbro that we’re very interested in seeing this figure released as soon as possible. The line won’t be complete without him.
Shifting the focus back to movie stuff, I also asked Derryl if we’d be seeing an ‘ultimate’ figure of Princess Leia from A New Hope (without the awful swivel elbows) any time soon. The answer was no, which was actually a little surprising since it’s been a long, long time since we’ve seen Leia with the classic buns ‘do in the line. However fans of the Original Trilogy still have plenty to be excited about in the coming months.
A lot of great stuff is coming to us from Endor in particular. While I was at the booth on Friday I saw Brian Merto (who is in charge of bringing us exclusives) showing off the upcoming Toys R Us exclusive Speeder Bike with Biker Scout set. The bike is an incredibly cool all-new sculpt, replacing the decades-old mold that had been reused countless times. It’s lost the (often annoying) ‘exploding’ action feature but still features all kinds of good stuff such as an attachable cannon and a neat ‘hovering’ display base. The Biker Scout is a mostly new figure with ball-jointed hips to ride the bike and neck articulation that allows a greater range of motion than a standard ball-socket joint (including allowing him to look forward in the direction he’s traveling on the bike).
Another exclusive Return of the Jedi vehicle coming up is a new AT-ST repaint in gorgeous Vintage Collection packaging. This Kmart exclusive is meant to be the specific AT-ST that Chewbacca and his Ewok companions hijacked in the film. Perhaps the coolest and most unexpected new reveals at the entire show were two Kmart exclusive figure two-packs to go along with the new AT-ST, one of which features its two drivers and the other one which includes its two Ewok hijackers. They come in some really cool Special Action Figure Set packaging, and Derryl says he’s excited to see a two-pack that features Original Trilogy army builders (the AT-ST Drivers). He mentioned that it could be the first of many similar releases along these lines. Wouldn’t it be cool to get a Gammorrean Guard two-pack like this? (I made sure to suggest it to them.)
[Stay tuned for Part 2 of my report from the Hasbro booth, where I’ll be covering the details of Sandtroopers.com’s official interview with the Star Wars brand management team.]