Has Hasbro forgotten how to use the Force?!
Since the return of the franchise in 2015, we have gotten a new Star Wars movie every year starting with The Force Awakens. This also meant a whole new wave of exciting merchandise to coincide with the release of these movies. I remember the time when the Preques were released, and every store was filled to the brim with dozens upon dozens of action figures and you could find every single character you could possibly want. Whether you wanted a figure of Padmé Amidala or Anakin Skywalker, you could get one, even if your favorite character was a secondary one like Bail Organa, they were catered for too. However, things are very different with our current crop of new movies and it feels like things are getting worse. The selection process from the pool of characters is odd now and sometimes it even feels totally random. I want to focus on the 6 inch Black Series line from Hasbro in my analysis but this issue has also extended to Hasbro’s other lines.
When a new movie is being released, logic dictates that you focus your toy lines on this new movie and release figures from that movie. It was what Hasbro had done with The Force Awakens. Their first four waves for this movie contained 99% of figures from The Force Awakens. Three waves were released in 2015 and the fourth one was released in 2016. Rogue One had only two waves dedicated to it (and a third wave with only two figures but it came months later) but it still had a good ratio of figures from the movie (98%). However, starting with The Last Jedi that’s when things completely changed. In the first wave there were a total of 7 figures but only 3 were actually from the movie. It was the wave that was released during Force Friday II, the major worldwide release event for The Last Jedi toys and having only three characters from that movie for such an event was extremely strange. Three more waves were released afterwards with a majority of characters from The Last Jedi.
For the upcoming release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the same problem has struck again. The first wave only contains 3 figures from the movie (the 3 others are from A New Hope). This wave was the only one to be released on April 13, though some stores were lucky enough to receive the second wave as well. That second wave had one character from Solo and one from the other movies. The next wave will include only one character from Solo and two from other movies. While the fourth wave will include only characters from Solo!
The Force Awakens:
When Revenge of The Sith and The Phantom Menace were released, there wasn’t just one wave released during the Force Friday events, it was most of the line. Now, you can wait months to get the next wave depending where you live because of the poor distribution from Hasbro. But my point here is that Hasbro doesn’t seem to know how to celebrate the release of these new movies anymore, it’s not their main focus while it should be. Perhaps, they’re not able to keep up with one movie per year. Characters from Star Wars Rebels or A New Hope or any other previous movies shouldn’t be in the opening waves of the new movies. These figures from older Star Wars content should be released in other waves. A good strategy would be to have the model of The Force Awakens – four waves focused on the new movie and then there can be other waves with figures from other Star Wars content. Four waves would allow Hasbro to release all the important characters from these movies before moving on to something else.
However even when they did that with The Force Awakens, they weren’t able to release all the important characters and made an extremely odd choice of characters. The first wave was the only good one, it had – Rey (w/ BB-8), Finn, Kylo Ren, Chewbacca and a First Order Stormtrooper. Five of these characters were main characters from the movie, plus a trooper. It started to get messy with the second wave – Poe Dameron, Captain Phasma, a Guavian Enforcer and Constable Zuvio. Poe Dameron was a main character from the movie and Captain Phasma was a secondary one. However, Constable Zuvio wasn’t even a secondary character, he was just a background extra, if you blinked during the movie you missed him, even if you didn’t, you probably haven’t noticed he was in the movie until your fourth viewing. So why release a character like that amongst the initial waves? He took the spot of a main character – General Leia Organa. A figure of Leia from The Force Awakens was released in 2017 – two years after the release of the movie. How is that even possible? It doesn’t make any sense!
Fans have been really angry about it. And the worst thing is that it’s not the only time it happened. Still looking at this movie, Maz Kanata and Luke Skywalker also got a figure two years later. The second outfit of Rey was released three years later. Kylo Ren without his mask was released one year later. Han Solo, (arguably the star of the movie) was in the fourth wave of The Force Awakens while characters like a Snowtrooper, Constable Zuvio and Ello Asty were released before him. And there are still no figures of Lor San Tekka and Snap Wexley. The inescapable fact is that releasing these characters so late after the release of the movies will only get attention from the collectors. And yet, the same collectors will be angry because of the long wait to get them two years later. Kids want the figures from the movie being released at the time, which is understandable. If you look closer, I think you can notice a certain pattern here. I’ll talk about this pattern later when we have seen the waves from the other movies.
Now about Rogue One, with fewer waves as The Force Awakens, there were even less characters produced. To this day, there is still no 6 inch figure of Bodhi Rook, an essential member of the Rogue One unit. The two Asian characters Baze Malbus and Chirrût Imwe, also huge characters in the film were released mid-way through 2017, about six months after the release of the movie. And there are absolutely zero secondary characters from the movie in Black Series line, not even Mon Mothma or Bail Organa or even General Draven. Galen Erso and Saw Gerrera, instrumental characters to the plot of the entire saga also have no 6 inch figures produced as of this date.
The Last Jedi:
The Last Jedi suffered from the same problem as Rogue One. There was only one secondary character released (DJ) and not even all the main characters were produced as an action figure. The first wave only included Rey, Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. Fans had to wait until wave three to get Supreme Leader Snoke and Rose Tico! Admiral Holdo has been confirmed as an action figure set for release at the beginning of 2019, TWO YEARS after the release of The Last Jedi and there has been no word about General Leia Organa but DJ got a figure before them both.
Solo: A Star Wars Story:
Solo: A Star Wars Story is being released soon and after four new movies, does Hasbro learn from its mistakes with their character choices? I would say both yes and no. Yes because we’re getting Han, Lando, Chewbacca, Qi’Ra, Tobias Beckett, L3-37, Val and Enfys Nest. That’s basically all the main characters only minus Dryden Vos and Rio Durant. Obviously to get them all, you’ll have to wait until August – 3 months after the release of the movie. But still, it’s an improvement over The Force Awakens with the two-year long wait for Leia and Maz Kanata. No, because there’s still some odd choices being made. Qi’Ra and Val are both released in their secondary outfit and we know that it’s unlikely Hasbro will release them in their primary attire anytime soon. Plus, Chewbacca is an exclusive, he’s a main character, logic would want him to be in a regular release. Hasbro still has problems to deal with when it comes to their selection process but I would say if they continue on the path they are with Solo, things are getting better on this level. Because in terms of the composition of waves, problems are still persistent and don’t seem to be getting better but before going further into that, let’s talk about the pattern I mentioned.
Female characters are neglected by Hasbro. It’s a truth that hurts, especially at a time where we are getting more strong female characters and more diversity in our Star Wars movies. Facts don’t lie – Maz Kanata, Leia (The Force Awakens) are two female characters who got a figure two years after their movie was released. Amylin Holdo is in the same situation. Rey in her second outfit from The Force Awakens got a figure three years after but Finn got a figure in his second outfit, just one month after the movie was released. Mon Mothma (Rogue One) and Leia (The Last Jedi) still have no figures. We could add secondary characters like Tallie and Paige to the list as well. Qi’Ra and Val are first released in their secondary outfits while the male characters of Solo are first released in their main outfits. It’s not Black Series but we all remember The Force Awakens Monopoly that didn’t include a Rey figure – the lead of the movie. Things need to change, Hasbro owes that to Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm is making amazing new Star Wars movies with great diversity and that same diversity should be represented in the toys. Kids need to be able to buy the toys of characters they identify with at the time of the movies’ release.
Now, I want to talk about the last problem, I mentioned earlier – the composition of the waves. It’s an issue that can easily be fixed for when Episode IX will be released. Toys are supposed to promote the movies and the movies help to sell toys. The two are needed for it to work so it would make sense that the characters from these movies are available at launch like it was for the Prequels. It’ll obviously boost the sales and that would go a long way to appeasing Hasbro’s shareholders. Its a fact that sales for the toys weren’t as high for The Last Jedi as they were for The Force Awakens. There are a lot of factors to put into consideration. One of them is what I’m talking about it here, another is also how far in advance toys are released, it should be closer to the movie like it’s been with Solo: A Star Wars Story. And that’s the movie I’m going to take as an example on how to solve this problem of composition of waves. These are the four waves focused on the movie, plus the exclusives and ships/creatures:
Wave 1 (April) – Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Range Trooper, Tarkin (ANH), Death Star Trooper (ANH), Jawa (ANH)
Wave 2 (May) – Qi’Ra (Corellia), 4-LOM (ESB)
Wave 3 (Soon) – Tobias Beckett, Han Solo (Bespin) (ESB), Rebel Fleet Trooper (RO)
Wave 4 (Unknown) – Val (Mimban), L3-37, Imperial Patrol Trooper
Exclusives: Chewbacca (May), Mimban Stormtrooper (May/June), Admiral Piett (June) (ESB)
Ships/Creatures: Dewback w/ Sandtrooper (April) (ANH), Swoop Bike w/ Enfys Nest (August)
You see how the characters are scattered across these waves and how only two waves are released by the time of Solo‘s release. Fixing it is actually quite easy. For the ships and creatures, Enfys Nest would have been better released in April instead of the Dewback. As for the waves, this is a composition that would have made more sense to promote Solo:
Wave 1 (April) – Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Qi’Ra, Tobias Beckett, Chewbacca, L3-37
Wave 2 (May) – Range Trooper, Val
Wave 3 (June) – Imperial Patrol Trooper, Mimban Trooper, Han Solo (Bespin) (ESB)
Wave 4 (August) (Non-Solo wave)- 4-LOM, Tarkin, Jawa, Death Star Trooper, Rebel Fleet Trooper
That’s exactly the same figures but released in a much more organized way that helps promoting the movie and allows people who have just seen the movie to go buy the characters they love from it.
Since the beginning of the Black Series line, Hasbro has made vast improvements to the overall quality of their figures. Now they’re even using the digital print tech for the faces and the results are simply amazing. But, Hasbro still has problems to face like releasing more female characters, making wiser choices for the characters they release to promote the new movies and the composition of their waves. These are major issues but the good thing is – they can be so easily fixed if Hasbro put in the effort. So, Hasbro should think about it to improve things for the next movie release in 2019.
I want to say that I’m big fan of Black Series range of action figures, you can tell from the volume of reviews I write for Future of the Force. Thus, I feel it’s important to talk about these issues and to be vocal about it because there are some changes that need to be made to improve all of this and give the fans a better all round experience.
Hasbro has the power to bring us all together at a time when we should be celebrating the release of each and every new movie…not two years after the fact, but in the here and now when it matters most.
The Force is with you Hasbro, you just need to learn how to use it!
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