As I’m sure you’re aware this year marks the 40th Anniversary of the release of Star Wars (aka A New Hope, or Episode IV). As a Star Wars fan, I’m extremely excited about this milestone for the Star Wars franchise, but as a Star Wars collector, I’m a little less enthusiastic. That shouldn’t be the case, but as a collector, I feel as though you guys just don’t have a solid grasp of what we, the collector community, are looking for these days. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve hit some serious home runs this year. Many of the 6″ Black Series figures are some of the best figures you’ve ever produced (Episode IV Obi-Wan, K-2SO, etc.). However, given the news that is leaking prior to Toy Fair, it appears you guys are about to drop the ball, big time, in regards to the 40th anniversary, and I’d like to plead my case for what I think you should do.
The core piece of the Star Wars action figure line has always been the 3.75″ 5POA figures. These are the ones that started it all back in the late 70s for Kenner, and truly revolutionized the world of toys and collecting in general. From what I’ve heard, you guys aren’t planning much for the 3.75″ line for this 40th anniversary celebration. In fact, the people I’ve spoken to say that the main thing you’re releasing is a “new First 12″ set of 6” Black Series Figures. While I’m excited about the possibility of new figures for original trilogy characters like the Jawa and Death Squad Commander, I’m extremely bummed to hear that you won’t be paying homage to the line that literally brought you to the dance.
In recent years I have been critical, but accepting overall, for your lack of imagination when it came to new lines and figure packaging. However, now is the time to break out braintrust of your art department and create something that will wow the masses this year at Toy Fair, or Celebration, or wherever it is you choose to debut this new lineup of figures. The way I see it, there are five things you can do to please us as Star Wars collectors, and those are:
- Bring back vintage style packaging.
The packaging design today is bland, unimaginative, and far off-base from the history of the franchise. Star Wars is bright, bold, and colorful. Star Wars is fun and carefree. The packaging you’re producing today is dull, monochromatic, and just flat out boring. Bringing back things like the double piping, original Star Wars logo elements, and the “Collect Them All” cardbacks would go a long way to pleasing this old Star Wars fan, I can assure you.
- More Detail, Less Gimmicks
I get what you’re trying to do with things like Armor Up and Build a Weapon, but to a collector those things are worthless. Granted, your target audience is children, so maybe I’m completely off on this one, but it just seems like an unnecessary pack-in. When I was a kid, all I wanted was a figure that closely represented the character, and whatever weapon(s) or accessories they carried with them or used in the film. I think if you focused more on getting the details right on the figures themselves (Rey’s head sculpt comes to mind) and included more accessories that were true to the film, or at least made sense (build a droid, or build a figure), maybe you’d get us on board a little more.
- Vehicles and Playsets
Kenner’s original Star Wars line was filled with playsets and vehicles. Nowadays, we’re lucky to get 1 or 2 vehicles from any given movie or tv show (where’s the Ghost?), and even then we’re getting many things that were never even seen in the films themselves. I’ve heard you say that playsets aren’t really in your roadmap… Why not? Other toy lines seems be doing fine with playsets. Look at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line. They have a giant sewer playset, and every time I look at it, all I can see is the Death Star playset that never was. They don’t even have to be super detailed, or even made of plastic! One of the things we underestimate is the power of imagination. The reason the kenner line was so successful is because it facilitated the use of your imagination. The figures didn’t look exactly like their on-screen counterparts, the playsets were cardboard, and the vehicles had electronics that sounded more like alarm clocks than X-Wings and TIE Fighters, but they did the job! We don’t need NERF gimmicks or app-controlled vehicles. Yeah, that stuff might be cool, or you might have a license deal w/ the company (NERF, I’m guessing) but that adds no realism to the toy, and doesn’t encourage imaginative play whatsoever. Please rethink your strategy on playsets and vehicles. The worlds and vessels of Star Wars are part of what makes it such a special thing, and kids and collectors alike would love to revisit that in smaller plastic form on a daily basis if possible!
- Background Characters
Yes, I’m well aware of the figures that you’ve produced, like Hassk Thug and Moroff, etc. However, these are only scratching the surface of the characters you could be producing. You now have 8 Star Wars films, two animated TV shows, and a truckload of books and video games to pull from. Start digging through these properties and giving us characters we’ve been longing for since the birth of the original line. You’ve undoubtedly seen the lists that have populated various collector blogs that say things like “Top Ten Star Wars Figures They Never Made” or even our podcast where we talk about it in several episodes. This is a thing people want. This is something you can do. But for whatever reason you’d rather repack Kylo Ren or Captain Phasma 10 times instead of investing in these characters. While we’re on the subject, maybe you should work on improving your relationship with Disney or Lucasfilm, or whomever is in charge, so that you can get a more accurate list of the characters that will have meaningful roles in the film(s). That way we won’t get stuck with pegs full of Constable Zuvios again… Just a thought.
- Get Back to Your Roots
I realize that the future of Star Wars lies within these new movies, and with the new characters. However, let’s not forget where we came from. It’s time to resurrect the Vintage Collection and devote it strictly to the Original Trilogy. Randomly throwing in an OT character into a modern wave just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t want a Farmboy Luke on a Rogue One cardback, or Princess Leia from ANH on a Force Awakens cardback. I want those characters where they belong… on the original style cardback with a vintage-focused design, specific to whatever film the character is from! This is what made you who you are today. These characters. These figures. Denying that is foolish, and I think you know that.
BONUS IDEA: We’ve talked about this for a while on our podcast, but I really think it’s time to discuss it in more detail. I’d like to suggest that you convene a panel of “Fan Advocates” to consult with you on a regular basis. I’m sure you do focus groups, and I know you speak to certain collecting blogs/personalities. However, from what I’ve seen, most of those people wind up being enamored by the fact that they were chosen for such a privilege, and thus never really offer any criticism that amounts to anything. I’d love to see a group of fans dedicated to helping you see things from our perspective. That way, when you bring in a Millennium Falcon that has a pop-up NERF canon, we can tell you that A) that wasn’t in the film, and B) it’s completely unnecessary, etc. I’m sure my opinion matters very little, given my lack of prominence in the toy review universe, but I’ll even volunteer to be on this committee if it helps at all.
Honestly, I think you’re doing a good job with the line(s) overall. My complaints are quite minor in the grand scheme of things. But this is a year that you cannot afford a hiccup, and I want to see this be a year of fun and celebration for new and old collectors all across the world. Please don’t think that I’m just trying to bash you or put you on the spot. I just really care about this, and I’m hopeful that you do as well. In any case, thanks for listening, and I hope to one day have the opportunity to talk more about this with you in an official capacity, not just by me hitting send and hoping it somehow reaches your doorstep.