January 4, 2017 – In his weekly Q&A column (sidebar at right), Adam Pawlus at GalacticHunter.com is frequently asked: “When will ‘X’ figure or ‘Y’ vehicle be made? It’s the ‘N’th anniversary of (insert Star Wars film), and now would be a great time to see these missing figures/vehicles.”
As Adam often responds, for all your N’s, X’s and Y’s, you may as well take a long Zzzz. Odds are, many of the hoped-for items will never see the light of day.
Missed Opportunities Since Day One
During the early years, Kenner produced and sold over 100 unique Star Wars action figures from 1978 to 1985. From the beginning, however, fans noticed some odd incongruities: Why would Kenner make two types of Bespin Security Guards and eight Ewoks (two of which, Warok and Lumat, look very similar), and yet bypass some obvious choices previously discussed HERE.
Among the vintage-era missing: Rebel Troopers (to oppose our armies of Stormtroopers); Sand Troopers; the pig-faced Dr. Evazan (to help Walrus Man retrieve his arm); Grand Moff Tarkin; Slave Leia; a Y-Wing Pilot and others.
Yes, eventually all these action figures were made, but it took years, if not decades, to reach collectors.
Slave Leia took 14 years (POTF2, 1997).
Han Solo in Stormtrooper Disguise, 18 years (POTF2, 1995).
And Grand Moff Tarkin, an incredible 20 years (POTF2, 1997).
But nearly 40 years later, we still do not have the Dejarik monsters or the Tonnika sisters (unless you count a Micro Machine likeness of Brea Tonnika figure in the late 1990’s from the old Action Fleet line). For reasons explained below, we will likely never see the Tonnika sisters.
Why Some Things Get Made, Others Never
Why do some Star Wars vehicles and figures get produced and others languish on the drawing board or merely in our dreams? There may be a dozen reasons. Some are obvious (budget decisions), and other explanations the public will never really know.
Here are some considerations:
1) Profit Motive: First and foremost, Hasbro is a for-profit business which has to meet shareholder expectations. So between the myriad of costs on one hand (design, tooling, materials, distribution, etc.) and pursuit of profitability on the other (how much should Hasbro charge and how many units should be produced), Hasbro must walk a fine line.
Some of the costs are recurring and predictable. For example, up until the early 1990’s, Kenner (now Hasbro) had to pay George Lucas approximately $100,000 per year plus royalties for exclusive licensing rights to make Star Wars toys. [Source] Those payments now go directly to the Walt Disney Company.
Other costs (materials, energy, labor) can fluctuate quickly.
In short, Hasbro will not produce a new Star Wars item unless there is a reasonable return on its investment. And pricing one of the larger toys, such as the Rogue One Rapid Fire Imperial AT-ACT, can be tricky. Its initial MSRP was $299.99. But in recent weeks, vendors such as Amazon (now $236) and Target (now $150 at some stores) have marked the price down considerably.
If Hasbro takes a loss on the AT-ACT, it may be hesitant to release large, complex vehicles in the future.
2) Hasbro Discretion and Internal Decision-Making: You may remember that from the early 2000’s through 2010, Hasbro released a veritable flood of Star Wars figures and vehicles, week after week. But by 2012, Hasbro had hit the brakes in what turned out to be a lousy year for the toy company and collectors.
Why did Hasbro pull back? We may never know. Hasbro keeps its decision-making process a closely guarded secret and, more so, in the era of Disney.
Adam Pawlus speculates HERE: “The problem is a mix of bad line planning (Hasbro’s assortments), fan fatigue (admit it), and a lack of a push from Lucasfilm that gave the line enough gas to make it to the finish line. 2012 was a bad year – most toy lines have bad years early on and it kills them. Our line keeps going. I’m sure we all see the writing on the wall for The Black Series 3 3/4-inch, but well, it’s been a good run. Golden ages never last forever.”
3) Demand: The demands of Star Wars collectors do not always align with the demands of the larger toy-buying public. The Nerf-firing abilities of the TIE Striker and U-Wing, for example, have met with a collective groan from collectors. But Nerf guns are popular with parents and kids.
Sometimes Hasbro goes to the other extreme and appears to cater to the collecting community. Some of the weirder releases have included the corpulent dancer, Yarna D’al’ Gargan, and the Rancor Keeper (Malakilli), two characters you would never want to meet in a dark alley. Or how about everyone’s favorite drug-dealer, Elan Sleazebaggano?
4) Timing: Hasbro does not control the release dates of movies and requires a lead time (say, 12-18 months) to design, produce and distribute its product. So when the release dates for Rogue One and Star Wars Episode VIII (May 26, 2017) were first announced, Hasbro realized it only had a five-month gap between the two movies. This small time interval may have cut short whatever vehicles and figures would normally have flowed from The Force Awakens and Rogue One.
Although Episode VIII has since been pushed back to Dec. 2017, the new release date was announced too late. Whatever toy decisions Hasbro has made for The Force Awakens and Rogue One have already been made.
5) Legal Reasons: Certain toys will likely never be made. The Tonnika sisters, for example, reportedly are on the Do Not Produce list.
Lucasfilm reportedly neglected to obtain a signed waiver from one of the twin actresses. One of the actresses has since passed away (she had already signed a waiver), but the survivor has so far declined to sign. Therefore, the odds of the twin Cantina patrons being produced are somewhere near zero.
Custom-made Tonnika Sisters are your best option if you absolutely have to add these figures to your Cantina collection. There is also the slim chance that once the surviving twin actress passes away, her estate can always sign a waiver or release. But then again, Hasbro could still decline to produce the figures. (See No. 3 above)
6) The Unknown:
Finally, there are the unknown factors influencing what gets made.
There is probably a degree of arbitrariness – an occasional decision made on a whim by an unknown player. And there are always changes in management and the decision tree. Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012 is the starkest reminder.
So what seems like a no-brainer to the collecting community (Build Jabba’s Sail Barge! Release a new Death Star playset!) faces new obstacles – capricious decision-making, new management, economic uncertainty in the markets.
And yet, there is always hope. If Hasbro is willing to charge nearly $300.00 for its Imperial AT-ACT, surely it can produce Jabba’s Sail Barge. Strip out the electronics, and the Sail Barge can be produced for much less.
Likewise, the timing for a new Death Star playset couldn’t be better. The planet-destroyer is front and center in Rogue One, and the 40th anniversary of A New Hope is fast approaching.
Add in the the missing aliens from the Pod Race, the Cantina and Jabba’s Palace, and you begin to realize: Your collection will never be complete.