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Hasbro’s STAR WARS Team Talk New Toy Tech, Countdown to Force Friday

On September 1st, fans will get their first chance to purchase (and in many cases, their first look at) the initial wave of toys for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In the meantime, however, toy stores will be far from dead zones when it comes to the Rebellion, the Empire, and the First Order. New characters will continue to roll out in figural form, and they’ll even have some nifty new design elements to make them better than before.

Because yes, Hasbro knows the human figures in the Rogue One series were a bit of a disappointment, likeness-wise. At San Diego Comic-Con, Steve Evans, design director on the line, told us why:

“Numerous things go into making something right,” he explained. “Sculpting, clearly. The material that they use: the opacity, how glossy, how soft. There’s a lot of variance you can get with PVC and the material used to make the head sculpt. Then, of course, there’s the deco. So there are some which we get really good, like Lando—I think that’s a really good example of a traditional paint application—and there are some that are not so good. And there are ones that we go back in and change, and there are ones that we learn from. Some of the Rogue One figures were a little bit soft and translucent, but I know this new technology will really dial that in.”

So what is the new technology he’s talking about? “It’s taking high-resolution images of Daisy Ridley and Temuera Morrison—which we’re using on Rex—straight-on photography, and we’re using a new process where it’s kind of printed straight on to the actual plastic sculpt for the head. It’s very lifelike, and there’s less likelihood of slipping. It’s all one print in one go [as opposed to multiple paint applications].” There’s some friendly rivalry between Hasbro brands, as the Marvel team boasted of doing the new process first on their Tom Holland and Kurt Russell movie figures, but as Evans puts it, “they got us on that one, but we’ll get them on something else.” And Joe Ninivaggi, marketing director for Star Wars at Hasbro, reminds us and his in-house competitors, “We’re Star Wars!”

At this time, there are no plans to revisit Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor; Evans will merely say that as A-listers, they’re always on the table as possibilities.

One technique the team is less likely to use any time soon, however, is vac-metallizing (to give Threepio and Captain Phasma the shiny sort of finish they have in the movies)—Evans says it is possible, but the current process isn’t very environmentally sustainable with its chemical byproducts. He’s optimistic that there are ways to make the process better, but it’s not as simple as just doing a repaint. “If I took the Threepio here that we did now, I couldn’t vac that,” he says by way of example, as “you have to mould, to prepare the tools in a different way. We still want to do vac metal, but I’ll only do it when the price is right, and the consideration for the environment is correct.”

When the 6-inch Black Series began, it took some tweaking to get the quantities right, and as a result, many figures from the early waves proved quite hard to get. Nowadays, retailers from Walmart to Walgreens tend to order them promptly, but are there chances that some of those harder-to-get figures might receive another shot at retail?

Ninivaggi says yes: “We’ve been talking about this a lot lately. We’re about 160 figures in by the end of this year, so there are a lot of great figures from the past that fans today can’t get their hands on. We’re looking at ways to do greatest-hits kind of stuff, or repack those. I definitely think, probably in 2018, you’ll start seeing some rereleases of those.”

Asked if Supreme Leader Snoke is coming soon, both Evans and Ninivaggi pretended not to know who that is, until an errant comment about not knowing what scale he’d be in prompted a “Well, YOU don’t” from Evans. We shall have to see, but both of them also said Lucasfilm still works with the Hasbro team to preserve spoilers, as Snoke’s appearance was in The Force Awakens, and that sometimes means not showing the toy sculptors everything.

Though last year’s AT-ACT came out at a $300 price point, Evans says there are no regrets on that score even though it went to discount status fairly quickly. Calling a project that big and ambitious a “halo project,” he told us that just making an AT-ACT that could walk was such a large goal and one that pushed them. “We’ll never stop doing those crazy halo projects. It’s fun and it’s a lot of learning.”

That said, there is no other $300 vehicle imminent, at least as far as they could tell us. The biggest-ticket item revealed so far is the 6-inch scale Dewback, which joins Rey’s Scavenger Speeder and Luke’s Landspeeder in a series of mid-size “rides” for said scale.

As for whether The Last Jedi toys will be the only ones available next year, both team members said no. There’s no algorithm, but they do have an “instinctual formula” to pepper in the classics even when a new movie is driving the main line, and next year will see a return to all retail outlets of super-articulated 3-3/4 inch figures, though the basic 5-point articulated style introduced for The Force Awakens will continue as well.

One thing that won’t be continuing in the immediate future? The Nerf darts that many Rogue One vehicles came with. It was one of many attempts to experiment and invigorate, but for now it’s on hiatus.

Are you planning on standing in line for Force Friday this year? Hit up our comments section and let us know if we’ll see you there!

Images: Luke Y. Thompson

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