This article is part of our New York Toy Fair 2020 coverage, you can find Hasbro and Disney press releases and press photos here: New York Toy Fair 2020.
You can listen to the entire interview on JBT (the JediBusiness.com podcast) episode #31 which also has a breakdown of all the news together with a fireside chat featuring James Burns from JediNews. Below is the loose transcript of the exclusive Hasbro interview.
Can you tell us more about the just revealed Black Series Snowspeeder?
We are very excited to get it into the line, it's our first multi-occupant 6" hero vehicle. The only one we've done before was the TIE Fighter. It's us testing the waters again with the large scale vehicles and the anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back allowed us to do that. The story of the vehicle goes back further, when we were at the Lucasfilm archives collecting all the information on the Boba Fett helmet we were also able to collect a lot of information about some of the original film maquettes. That was imperative to shape this into a Black Series level vehicle. We were able to catch a lot of details like some of the Aurebesh characters which we have never seen on the body before, and we were actually able to translate that into the deco scheme. It also allowed us to get an understanding of true proportions. How closely did the pilots sit to the front, the rear and the fuselage? It is a true 1:1 scale of the T-47, the vehicle has opening air breaks, it has removable battle damage from the side, it has an opening cockpit which has the grab handles for the upper canopy. It has an harpoon line which can detach from the body and an about 18" cord which can retract into back into the body.
Eric, who was the designer on this vehicle, had an awesome time incorporating the landing gear because that was something which was never addressed in the movie. They have the vehicles hovering in the movie and then they sort of just drop on the ground. That's something which we really wanted to shape for the vehicle itself, having the landing gear be able to deploy but also have a smooth transition into the body when its in flight-mode so that we don't see it.
During today's presentation you mentioned that there are eight different versions that you can make with the Black Series 6" Hoth Rebel Trooper?
The figure itself has removable goggles, it has a removable scarf which can be positioned up or down (same for the goggles), it comes with two different rifles, and it also has a swappable face plate. So you can remove the face from the figure, and then take the backpack which has an access panel where the extra face is stored. So this way you can change the portrait of the character. If you calculate that you can have goggles up/down, scarf up/down, two different faces (plus two different weapons), it comes out to about eight different combinations. It's a phenomenal figure, and the real insight there was being able to show as much love to rebel troop building as we do for villain troop building, because with Stormtroopers, they are all going to look the same. For the Rebels however we really wanted to diversify them.
Will The Black Series 6" Archive Line Continue?
There is every intention to continue the line. Similar to what happend in 2017 where the archive line was replaced by the anniversary line, that's where we brought smart repacks back and were able to make small improvements to figures like Luke and Lando (photo real).
J.B. edit: -> Sam got the date wrong (Archive didn't start until late 2018/early 2019), but basically, because there is the ESB Anniversary line this year which already includes repacks (with improvements made to some figures just like in the Archive line), that's why there aren't any Archive figures being released currently.
Will there be more Empire Strikes Back Retro figures later in the year?
Walmart approached us, and they were really excited about the program which we did with Target. They wanted an opportunity to do something great with it and it aligned perfectly with the 40th anniversary. There was also an already existing game which we were able to bring back. If there is continual demand for it and we see that it has the performance like the initial line had last year, then there is absolutely an opportunity to see it continue into the future.
Are Mini-Rig vehicles an option for the Retro Collection?
It really comes down to demand. Vehicles themselves take up a substantially larger amount of shelf space (J.B. edit -> he was referring to RETAIL shelf space, not your collection shelf space). What a retailer would be looking at is definitely being able to asssociate that with great success to be able to drive a more bolstered line. If there is demand for it we'd love to approach the subject and do it.
Is the sticker on the retro figures easier to pull off this time?
It's not instant peel-off, but the tackiness of the sticker was addressed to be easier. In addition we also read a lot of the fan comments in regards to liking the distress on the cards, but not that it was identical on each card, so we did differentiate it. So the stressing on each card is individual by character.
Will we see Dryden Vos in the Vintage Collection anytime soon?
Building out the crew from SOLO is lower on the priority list, but this is the second request today for a SOLO character in the Vintage Collection. The biggest thing is finding the right place to be able to go back and revisit a lot of those characters. We have a lot of other crews that we are trying to address. While there is no immediate plan for it, but if that's what the community is looking for then certainly keep the comments coming so that we can make it happen.
We haven't seen a lot of Vintage Collection reveals today, are we going to see more for the rest of the year? You know people are going to say that the line is dead with only one new figure shown.
I totally get that. The biggest thing with that is understanding the number of conventions and reveal opportunities that we have throughout the year, in addition to globally. Before it used to be NY Toy Fair, see you in San Diego and then see you in New York. Now we have two separate events before we even get to San Diego, we have Celebration this year, we have all of our global conventions in addition to New York. There are a lot of conventions and we want to ensure that we have something to share at each individual one. We don't want to get to a convention and not be able to share anything, and the biggest thing is sharing the love so that at each of those events, that there is something for people to get excited about.
Watching the presentation today, I was jealous of the Marvel line and their big Build-A-Figure pack-ins. I know we have the Deluxe line, but what about Build-A-Figures for The Black Series so that when somebody buys an entire wave they would get an additional figure out of it?
We have looked at it and we love the idea, but there are definitely different practices and priorities in terms of Black Series and what we are able to accomplish in Marvel Legends. There is a greater number of unique tools that go in to Star Wars, each figure is generally 100% new tooling, versus the ability to have a vast Universe of different costumes to be able to start to get more and more of those characters out. There is also a preservation that we need to have for the package itself. We don't do a lot in terms of having different floating body parts. As you might have seen with some of the Build-A-Figures, they looked incredible, but in some cases the Build-A-Figure piece was the centerpiece itself in the package and the figure itself was over in the corner, and that is something that both, Hasbro as well as the licensor, really want to protect is the preservation of that package so that it is about the actual character on the inside (J.B. edit -> and not a floating body part which distracts from the actual figure)
Is there a Black Series packaging change coming or are we sticking with Black/Red for now?
I can't speak to anything, but there are a lot of up-coming reveals and conventions happening. We have broken into tripple digits, that's something that we are aware of.
Do you have any updates about HasLab? Is HasLab still a thing for Star Wars?
HasLab is absolutely still a program and it's still very much in its infancy. When HasLab was introduced, it became a thing because of the success of the Sail Barge. It's allowed HasLab to work as a platform for all of Hasbro's brands. We had the Unicron as part of the Transformers scene which was a success and the Marvel team teased a HasLab project today. We woud love for HasLab to be just about Star Wars but it's about being all-inclusive of all the Hasbro brands. It's also about ensuring that the fan community, especially for ones which cross-saturate across different toy lines, isn't having to compete for where to put the money in terms of supporting a different campaign, and having those annual projects to help bolster each line. We are very much aware of HasLab, it is a very real platform for us and we have lots of things we'd love to visit shortly.
Thank you to Hasbro and Sam Smith for the interview opportunity.
Other tid-bits from the show floor, speculations and rumors
Last year's Black Series 6" Fan Vote Winner Luke Skywalker (Dagobah) was not on display, but he'll be shown off later in the year. During the Hasbro presentation the Marvel team announced that they will be implementing pinless joints in some figures (old man Hawkeye for example), which are said to look aestethically nicer with the same range of motion. Was Luke held back from the show floor because he'll have those new joints and they want it to be surprise for another reveal event, or was the figure already too far along in the development process for those to be implemented? We can't wait to find out.
There was not much talk about the 8" Hyperreal action figure line on the show floor. Luke Skywalker (Bespin) was on display next to Darth Vader, but we didn't hear anybody talk about it or inquire about more up-coming figures. The display with the Hyperreal figures on it was also in the far corner and the middle shelf, which didn't get much attention. Luke Bespin looked great by the way, but it's currently unknown how deep Hasbro will go with this line and for how much longer it will continue.
Baby Yoda will be among the hottest toys during this year's Holiday season, get ready for an onslaught of Baby Yoda merchandise from a ton of different licensees. Magnets, stickers, posters, action figures, plush, ktichenwares, dishes you name it, Baby Yoda will be everywhere. A bakery within walking distance from Toy Fair was selling self-made Baby Yoda cookies and it was nice that Star Wars seemed HOT and TRENDY without feeling as if there was a marketing machine behind it driving it. The Marvel team showed off a baby Hulk figure during their main room presentation, but the overall response was, ah, no, not as cute as Baby Yoda. Let's hope that we are not going to burn out too quickly, and that season 2 of the Mandalorian will be as much fun as the first one.
The Mandalorian in general came up a lot on the show floor and with more episodes coming out later in the year we will likely see more figures from that show as well. If people like it and keep demanding more figures from it, well, what other chance does Hasbro have but making it eventually? So keep those comments coming and what characters that you'd like to see.
The Rise Of Skywalker was almost non-existent. Nobody talked about it. Hasbro had last year's Triple Force Friday TVC and TBS figures on display, along with the two up-coming Black Series figures of Zorii Bliss and the Knight Of Ren, but that was it. There were no rumblings about anything coming up from TROS whatsoever and if you are a fan of the movie you'll have to be patient for more figures. There was definitely more Clone Wars talk than TROS talk on the show floor and it was hinted at that there would be Clone Wars figures coming down the pipe.
Even though COVID-19 was not discussed on the show floor, it's safe to assume that it will have an impact on production and distribution. Here is a public statement by Hasbro's CFO Deb Thomas: "There is disruption to our supply chain and commercial operations in China as travel is limited and employees and factory workers have been delayed in returning to work. The impact to our business to date is small, but it is challenging to quantify the potential magnitude at this time, as it will depend on how long it takes to contain the outbreak. If it takes a significant period of time to control, there could be a larger impact on our business."
And that's it for the exclusive Hasbro interview and show floor rumors/report. Thank you guys for being awesome and for reading!