SDCC13: Star Wars Interview with Hasbro's Derryl DePriest and Jin Han
Inside The Black Series: Boba Fett, Troop Building, Ewoks, More...
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By David Yeh
Hasbro’s Star Wars has taken what feels like the longest hiatus this year with nothing new since The Phantom Menace Vintage Collection. But with the Black Series coming very soon with both 6” and 4” figures, we thought it was only right that we talk to Hasbro about what state everything was in.
Derryl DePriest is the Vice President of Global Brand Management at Hasbro and Jin Han, the Design Director of Star Wars (You can follow him on instagram at @jinhan_art) were both kind enough to spare some time with Figures.com.
Figures.com: So Jin, you’re based out of Rhode Island with Derryl as well?
Jin: Yes, I am!
Derryl: We both came out of Southern California, like you David, but moved to Rhode Island for the toys.
Figures: Oh really, where are you from?
Jin: Originally Los Angeles.
Figures: We’re just a bunch of Los Angeles and Orange County peeps representing here! But let’s talk toys! This is the first time Hasbro is doing a true six inch toy line for Star Wars.
Figures: You’ve just revealed that the Speeder Bike is coming next year in 2014.
Figures: Are you limiting yourself to one vehicle a year or will there be more?
Derryl: It’s a start. Here’s where we are with six inch right now: We’re on the verge of launching it and we made some assumptions that this will be really big for the fans and we’re planning for the future. The next thing fans want to see on the shelf are vehicles but we’re taking small steps in doing that. If things unfold like we think, and the fan demand is strong enough, it opens the doors for things down the road. But you know, the Black Series six inch line will have a long life, we hope. We have lots of opportunities and years of figures hopefully.
Jin: We’re going to open those floodgates and do as much as we can.
Figures: How long have fans been asking for six inch figures and how much convincing did it take for you guys to finally do it?
Derryl: [laughs] I’ve been on the Star Wars brand now for ten years overseeing the line and six inch has been one of those things that’s been in the conversation for quite a while. But our 3 ¾” system has always been such a big thing with so much fan interest, we felt that this year was a great time to introduce this. And especially with new entertainment coming, fans really need something new after 2,800 3 ¾” figures. There’s a lot of guys on the sidelines who don’t know where to start or have seen everything they needed to see in that format, so we wanted to start fresh again.
Figures: How many figures are you guys looking at per year?
Jin: At the moment we’re looking around fifteen or sixteen possibly new sculpts per year. We are being very selective about which characters we’re putting out there. We want it all to be the best of the best A-level characters first.
Derryl: That’s about four waves. Every few months we’ll have a new wave and we want to keep that regular so you’ll always have something new to look for and find. And we want to get back to not only the six inch line but the four inch line as well. So we have a fresh start with the Black Series in both scales to really start that cadence and that’s our goal. About four new figures every few months or so.
Figures: Let’s talk about that for a moment if we could, because it’s always been great getting the first wave because it’s 100% brand new. The second wave would come out but would have only a small amount of wave 2 and the rest would be wave 1... Folks would buy all the new wave and you’d end up with overstock on the old one. Is that something that will change for The Black Series? New figures every wave and if there’s demand for a figure in wave 1 you’ll address that later?
Derryl: That’s exactly the way we’re going to do it. For instance, Boba Fett is part of the Comic-Con exclusive but he will be coming out in a normal wave as well. We already know that the demand for him will be huge so we’re always looking for opportunities for a re-release where we would fit him in whether it’s another wave or as a greatest hits. We don’t want to leave any fans behind really. Our mentality is to get the numbers right and make sure we don’t over-release and then we’ll address the hot figures when it happens.
Figures: The exclusive Boba Fett features his Empire Strikes Back colors. Will the standard release without the Carbonite block also be Empire Strikes Back colors?
Jin: For now. We looked into the possibility of doing the Return of the Jedi version but there are some tooling differences so we wanted to release him sparingly and not put out another version too quickly.
Figures: You don’t want to wear the fans out too soon, having just bought the character.
Jin: Right, yes. Since these are $20 figures, we don’t want the fan to feel that it’s “too much”. We really want the fans to be able to buy every figure and really go deep into the line.
Figures: Have you decided how you would handle troop building in the Black Series?
Jin: That’s where the reuse of characters will come into play. We will strategically place the troop builder so that fans can get another Sandtrooper or Stormtrooper. And we’re going to be very careful because what we don’t want is to have pegwarmers on the shelf. We want to make sure that demand is always there and we need to be very smart about how we rerelease certain figures.
Derryl: And we have a lot of "hero" characters to work with so we plan to not get super obscure stuff out so soon and we know that the troop builder mentality is there, and that helps us.
Figures: In regards to smaller figures, how are you going to address that in the future? I know R2-D2 is by himself but what about other figures?
Jin: Unfortunately we need to think about the business side as well and we’re going to focus on putting out the best possible characters. With Artoo, we have all these great accessories, the rockets on the side, the opening compartments... and if you spin his head, the third leg goes into his body. That’s a mechanism that we cost into it so fans will get that play value when they open it.
Figures: What can you tell us about Wave 3?
Derryl: We will announce it soon, maybe not in time for Celebration, but we’ll figure something out. Maybe in time for New York Toy Fair.
Figures: Shifting gears to the four inch line Black Series, are there any re-releases or are these brand new figures?
Derryl: For the most part there are a lot of new sculpts but we were very smart in tooling re-use, especially in the troops. That helps us get the new sculpts for Luminara, Pablo Jill, Mara Jade, etc. These are designed to follow the same mold as “Vintage Collection”, with that same emphasis on articulation and deco. Black Series means premium.
Figures: How many four-inch figures do you have slated for Black Series?
Derryl: That’s a good question. Roughly our goal is to have 24-25 different or updated figures to collect. That would be our goal.
Figures: For the simpler four-inch line with the Kenner-style points of articulation, is this line gunning it for the long run too or is this a sort-of one-off?
Derryl: Not at all, we’re going to go deep with our commitment to this line. Something we really realized is that kids or moms can’t afford deep into the Star Wars line with the really articulated figures. At $10 each you can’t afford to create this rich Star Wars fantasy. This is a very important development for us as we discovered that kids don’t value articulation the way we as long term fans do. They need to fit into their vehicles, hold their accessories, and to make them affordable so you can get two instead of one makes the play of Star Wars much more robust.
Figures: And this would be great for troop builders who just want Stormtroopers to stand there, for example.
Jin: We are not shorting the sculpt quality on these either. If you get the Stormtrooper or Shocktrooper, you will see that they sit very well with the highly articulated figures.
Figures: Changing gears a bit, for the Star Tours attraction, Hasbro released two new figure packs for Star Wars Weekends this year. Will there be more down the line or next year?
Derryl: For Star Tours probably not, but we will continue our relationship with the Disney Parks to bring out some new things every year.
Figures: Did you see the Starspeeder 1000 toy that they made?
Derryl: Oh I loved it!
Figures: I was begging you guys for the last ten years to make something like that and now I can finally stop!
Derryl: Oh I know, I know, you in particular! It’s a great vehicle and not something that Hasbro could produce as the economy scale just didn’t make sense for us. But Disney did it, it’s amazing, it’s so fun... just the audio on that is a treat, you know, with the things you plug in and the doors opening... it’s great.
Figures: It really is... and before we bring this to a close, I’d like to request Ewoks in the Black Series 6” line sooner than later.
Derryl: You got it! Alright, Jin, you heard it right here. Get on that!
A huge "Thank You" to Derryl DePriest and Jin Han for the interview opportunity!
By David Yeh