This morning we had the privilege to speak with the Hasbro Star Wars Brand Team via a Zoom conferencing video call in an exclusive Q&A session. We spoke with Patrick Schneider (marketing) and Eric Frane (design) and were joined by the good folks at Star Wars Figuren, Toy Shiz, Planete Star Wars, and Coffee with Kenobi. Make sure to check them out for potential coverage of today’s session.
We have transcribed our interview answers for you below and make sure to let the brand team know your thoughts by commenting on our socials.
From4-LOMtoZuckuss – It is becoming clear that 2020 will be a transition year in many ways for Hasbro’s Star Wars line due to brand team changes, a renewal of the Star Wars license, no new feature film focus and now a worldwide pandemic. Is there a concern of losing collectors due to an absence of products on the shelves and are initiatives like Fan First Fridays being used to keep collectors engaged in a time when compared to previous years there is considerably less product to collect?
Hasbro - Thank you for the challenging questions as we never want to answer just the softball questions and I’m sure you guys are happy to comply with that. Thank you and we never feel bad about engaging in a real way. In terms of 2020 being a transition year, in terms of brand team changes, as a part of any company, there are changes and 2020 is not that different from recent years as we know that there have been key changes in the team in 2019, 2018 and obviously you are seeing different faces with me and Eric then you would have two years ago. So that is part of it and one thing I really appreciate about Hasbro is that they build up that next wave to replace people who have left. Joe Ninivaggi used to do these interviews from the marketing side instead of me and I have stepped in and hopefully done an okay job. And Eric is obviously a key member of the team and super smart and knows far more about the brand than I do, he stepped in seamlessly when Sam left. Sam stepped in for Steve Evans so we are not really concerned about that and that’s because I think the team has done a great job of building out the full supporting team so we can step in when needed.
In terms of the feature film focus and the current situation in the world, it is crazy that there is no movie this year but we have more Star Wars entertainment than ever before and honestly it is entertainment that we all love. The Clone Wars had an amazing finale a couple of days ago. Obviously The Mandalorian is a small tv show that everyone is excited about so we’re excited and we know there is demand there for those properties and that is without even getting into the whole catalog of movies, entertainment, and the whole world of star wars that we like to no end.
And finally, in terms of the current situation, we actually did discuss that with things like Fan Celebration and Pulse Fan First Fridays about whether it was the right time to move forward with things like that. Obviously, we ultimately ended up deciding to as were like in this current situation we still need things to get excited about, we still need joy and happiness and we have honestly seen a great reaction both in terms of fans response and in terms of sales so honestly the brand is stronger than ever. We are excited about it, the business is strong so we are excited to keep pushing forward and we are certainly hopeful for a return to normal in the future
From4-LOMtoZuckuss – Many of the items revealed last week featured either 40th Anniversary Collection packaging or Kenner-inspired packaging, will we see this year the red Black Series packaging finally be retired after sustaining for five years?
Hasbro – that is an interesting question, in terms of the reveals last week definitely many of them were in that 40th Anniversary COllection and it was kinda similar to 2017 when we had the NeW Hope 409th Anniversary collection and a lot of items were in that I think it is also partly a function of the fact that for whatever reason a lot of, in fact, all of our spring waves in The Black Series in the red packaging was revealed last fall at our global conventions and so they are probably just less on our mind. But with that being said with last week the Luke and Yoda two-pack was in that line look, the prototype Boba Fett helmet was as well. So it is definitely something we are always looking at. Obviously the Black Series line has moved from the orange to the blue to the red. We wanted that red to take us through the full Trilogy and something we are evaluating for the future and again I don’t think I am breaking any news that at some point in the future we will likely shift and when we do we will be advised by Insights and our tools and by your guys and whenever we do hopefully you will like the look of it and I look forward to chatting at that point.
From4-LOMtoZuckuss – Last week we saw the reveal of The Vintage Collection Luke Skywalker in Stormtrooper Disguise which is a great reuse of a last year’s exclusive but he like a majority of this year’s 3 ¾” offerings so far have been reissues and repaints. Is Hasbro seeing less return or value in creating new molds and sculpts in their heritage line as it appears there will only be 5 or so new sculpts added to the line in 2020 or will we see a return to form in the coming year?
Hasbro - Absolutely, so one thing I will say at the front and it sounds trite but we really do love both expressions in the Black Series and The Vintage Collection. Obviously, on the Livestream, I revealed breaking news that Vintage Collection is my personal favorite, and at the same time we also said, I said, publicly that I really would love to see a Black Series Jorus C’boath in terms, you know, of publishing. That’s not coming anything soon because there’s my personal fandom and then there’s what’s right for the lines and for the business and so in terms of The Vintage Collection, obviously again it is amazing, we love the heritage, we love the world-building. At this point, we are delivering what the market demands, in terms of the difference between Black Series and Vintage. In terms of new tools, again just like the packaging question, there were certainly figures revealed last year at our global contentions that are now coming. And that is because we are trying to spread that news out. So obviously The Mandalorian, Cara Dune, The Power Droid, we have K-2SO, so there are certainly some new items coming into the line and there will be more revealed later this year that will come in 2020. But we are also trying to be smart about the figures and basically deliver more figures by doing kinda more kitbashing and from reading comments on all of your sites and others I think there is an appreciation for that and an awareness that if we are able to get more out by doing some of that kitbashing then that is a good thing. So I think basically we are trying to do that and do that balance of bringing out new sculpts while also getting as many characters in the line and as we always say is just for fans to vote with their wallets and if we see increased demand there we will obviously meet that.
From4-LOMtoZuckuss – We will end by thanking you for coming through for long time Black Series collectors with the release of the Han in Carbonite! Are there any differences, beyond the stand which is included, that sets it apart from the original 2013 release?
Hasbro - So at the moment other than it is coming on the 40th card back there are no differences between that 2013 release and this one. The main reason we put it back out there is obviously it came out in 2013 so it has been a long time since it has come back, it was also part of an SDCC exclusive is it is even limited who could get it. So we really wanted to be able to bring it back for wider distribution so that more people could get it. Obviously a very important figure for not only The Empire Strike Back but just for Star Wars in general as it relates to a lot of different characters in our line And it was just one of those things, it felt like the perfect opportunity with the 40th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back to bring that figure back in particular especially since it was so limited and it hasn’t been out in seven years at this point. That is the main thing but basically there are no differences between the previous one and this one.
From4-LOMtoZuckuss – With the Fan Vote Winner Luke Dabobah with all new Yoda, was there any special engineering that went into it that is above and beyond the typical 6” mold that allowed for its balancing abilities and is it considered a Deluxe figure set?
Unfortunately, we ran out of time and all fan media partners were unable to ask their final question, so we will hold on to this one for a future opportunity.
We’d like to again thank Hasbro for the opportunity and encourage fans and collectors to let them know on sites and social what figures, scales, and lines you want to see in the future. Also do not forget to cast your vote on the next Black Series Archive figure which is currently taking place. Polls close on Friday!