Interview with Hasbro’s Star Wars Brand Team (SDCC 2013)

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While at San Diego Comic Con in July, our own Nemo Eight had a chance to sit down with Hasbro’s Star Wars brand team. We’re only getting around to posting it now because, well, we have no excuse whatsoever. Anyway, enjoy! –PG

Nemo Eight: So… I’m sure you guys have or will be getting the same questions every day, so I will get to those but first thing I want to do is just kind of go down the line, and if you could introduce yourselves, and what I’m really interested about, basically, you guys have THE DREAM JOB of all of us. But at the same time, I’m sure every day isn’t planning out lines and designing figures and doing all the fun stuff, so what I’m really curious about is, like, what is an average day for you guys? Like what’s an average day of the dream job? So I’ll start with you, Jeff.

Jeff Labovitz: I don’t know if there is one, I think that’s what I like most about the job. So, some days were doing line planning, some days we’re looking at packaging, some days we’re talking about reference material, new entertainment, some days I’m spending off-site with Jin Han and the design team…across the board we’re doing all sorts of things to put together these great toys for kids and for fans, from costing to demand planning, to line planning, to packaging, to promotional materials. I mean, it’s all talking about Star Wars, but in different ways.

So I like it because there isn’t one day and one thing we do every day. We’re with each other all the time, working in cross-functional teams; people smarter than me in design and finance and engineering – that’s what I like about it.

Daryl DePriest: It is my dream job, so I came to Hasbro, you know, because of the brands and, ya know, and being a huge toy fan; So, that, that keeps me going, you know, despite the difficulties. Sometimes, like Jeff talks about, we’re in three years at once, ya know, if you think about it. We’re, we’re, you know, we’re right now trying to still do ’13, we’re planning ’14 and, and then we’re starting to wrap our heads around ’15.

Daryl DePriest: So it can be very confusing, you know, sometimes, just, just what we’re working on right. I just wake up every day and realize, like you said, how lucky it is to deliver that will someday impact kids’ future lives just like Hasbro products did with me when I was a boy.

Nemo Eight: Jin?

Jin Han: Like everyone, I came to Hasbro because of Star Wars. And, it was one of those no-brainers, you know, why wouldn’t somebody come here. The day-to-day stuff, like with what Jeff was saying, it is different every single day – even on the design team. One day we’ll be sitting around talking about what characters we’re going to select, or, another day is going to be drawing up some kind of off-color concept that who knows if it’s ever going to be made?

Nemo Eight: (Chuckles) Right.

Jin Han:  And then other days we’re sitting down talking about the business side of things, figuring what we’re going to do for product, so…that’s what I like about working at Hasbro. There’s a lot of opportunity to do a lot of different things and we’re not just stuck designing. Because once you start looking at the ins and outs of the toy industry, that’s when it starts getting really fun. What I always like to tell fans is there are reasons we do what we do, there’s so much more involved. What’s fun is for us to try and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and really deliver what the fans really want. And hope that we’re doing as good a job as we possibly can.

Nemo Eight: Well, absolutely. As a fan that’s one of the things that’s most interesting to me – looking at things from the inside. That balance of the business and creative. Like the five-points-articulation [on the 2013 Saga Legends line] – I understand the business side of that, but also the fun of getting back to the Kenner style.

Jeff Labovitz: That’s right.

Nemo Eight: Okay, we’ll go into just the generic questions now that I’m sure you’re getting every day. [Star Wars Black] 6″ is obviously a huge deal. I’m curious what brought that around, at long last?

Jeff Labovitz: Oh, we’ve been dying to do that for years.

Daryl DePriest: Yeah.

Jeff Labovitz: Three and three quarter inch can be daunting. There’s a lot out there, it can be hard to get into because there’s so much. Six inch lets folks start over, and new folks can come into the franchise as well. And it lets us do things with the figures we haven’t been able to do before, in terms of level of detail, and quality, and articulation. So it’s a real labor of love and a very reasonable price point, it’s a very collectible price point, so it was an easy decision to finally pull the trigger on it. There’s great entertainment coming. We’re hoping Black Series, due to fan support, is going to keep going for the indefinite future.

Nemo Eight: So you’ve got the three and three quarter inch line and the six inch line are both using that same sort of banner target. That is leading to a little bit of confusion. Will there be sort of a differentiation to the name, like, I don’t know, “Obsidian,” or, or is just kind of Black across the board?

Daryl DePriest: No, no, it’s all Black Series. Black Series is, at the very top level represents the premium expression. The best figure we can deliver in that scale. So, from that stance it was easy to say “it’s all Black Series.” These are the highest quality versions of these figures that we’re probably, that we’re ever going to make in these scales.

Jeff Labovitz: Yesterday we had massive news with the six-inch Speeder bike coming out in Fall of ’14, more than a year from now, and that’s just Black Series, so not a special sub-brand or designation. So ‘Black Series’ could apply itself to any expression. It’s the best that Hasbro can do.

Nemo Eight: So that’s conceivably something that might fold into other brands. Or…

Jeff Labovitz: It’s specific to Star Wars.

Nemo Eight: Okay.

Daryl DePriest: And the reason it’s unique to Star Wars is because of black being such an important part of the Star Wars iconography. The original packaging [had a lot of black], the scroll you see at the start of the Star Wars movies – we kind of grabbed that. It takes a little bit of its cue from the vintage line, and carries that forward but allows us to rebrand it as a really premium expression.

Nemo Eight: Very cool. Well, one of the things that’s awesome about the six inch line is all the accessories: interchangeable heads on Maul, that kind of thing. I saw the gloved hands for Han Solo – killer detail. I was wondering, what are some of the other accessories that we might see in that line, like for Greedo or Leia?

Jin Han:  What you see out there is what it’s going to be. R2 has a lot of accessories, but we’re allowed to do that because, you know he’s a little bit smaller, but what you don’t see on the packages – if you spin R2’s head that third leg goes up inside his body. So we try to maximize the play in the figures, but not get too kid-centric.

It’s more for the collector. So we might have [fewer] accessories but that means they have that much more deco, that much more soft goods stuff on them to make up for that.

Jeff Labovitz: I think the goal was to take the figures as their most iconic, and scene-specific almost at times, and whatever that figure is associated with we tried to include. So we’re not just trying to add accessories to add value, we wanted to make it meaningful. And like Jin said, if there aren’t a lot of accessories, maybe there’s more of the money that went into incredible deco and building that up, or R2’s play feature.

Nemo Eight: Well, very cool. I got the two minute warning here so…I have to address the sort of exclusive situation, just because it’s been a hairy beast. So I was wondering if you guys could kind of talk about what a convention exclusive means to you when you put it together, what you’re going for there, and also, I mean I know Boba Fett is going to carry over but, you know, it’s Han Solo (in carbonite). Will that be something we might see redeco-ed later on, or…?

Daryl DePriest: Okay. I’ll address that. Hasbro’s approach to exclusives can vary by team. On the Star Wars team, we really like to have our Comic Con exclusives, and by the way Boba Fett will also be available at Celebration Europe as well, and in addition might even be in Japan.

Jeff Labovitz: Possibly.

Daryl DePriest: Possibly.

Jeff Labovitz: Definitely at Celebration.

Daryl DePriest: But we like to use our exclusives as a launch point for things. The last several years have done that, they’ve all been like an introduction to something coming in the fall. So a start if you will, to get everybody excited. So the Boba Fett will be exactly the same as the one coming in the main line, so everyone can get the same Boba Fett, exact same deco. We would not rule out the carbonite block coming out in the future, though but if it did it would probably come out in a different form, like maybe with a red glow. But it’s not in the line plan. It just may be years out. We know that fans will have an itch that can’t be scratched until they can get this version they can put on their shelves too. But fans should be patient with us so. It may be a while, it’s not right now in the line-up.

Nemo Eight: Okay, well, very much looking forward to that. And on a final, sort of exclusive note, a couple years ago they showed Luke with the Funeral Pyre for Vader?

Daryl DePriest: (chuckles) Yeah.

Nemo Eight: Oh, I want that so bad!

Daryl DePriest: You want to see that?

Nemo Eight: Yeah.

Daryl DePriest: Well that’s, that’s one thing we’ve talked with a bunch of retailers about and we just can’t get the support for that thing. So, that one kind of remains on the back burner, as it were.

Jeff Labovitz: Aaaaaaay!

Nemo Eight:  Well done, well done.

Daryl DePriest: You know, maybe, maybe some time in the future, but not right now.

Nemo Eight: Okay. Thank you guys very much!

Comments now closed (6)

  • "These are the highest quality versions of these figures that we’re probably, that we’re ever going to make in these scales."

    Until we run out of stuff to do in 3.75" and want to redo the core characters again. Which should be years down the road with new properties coming up.

    • That is a pattern I've never, ever minded collecting Star Wars on & off for about twenty years now. It gives me new things to collect, the improvements made in sculpt, articulation, and design are always welcome. No one says you have to "upgrade" every time they do a new figure

  • I'm not really knocking them, more poking fun at the statement. More toys on the shelf means more future collectors which means Star Wars keeps on truckin.

  • Great interview and for the most post seemed like honest answers from them and little spin… But they totally missed the boat on the Black thing. I understand their rationale, but it's one of those things that sounds a lot better on paper than in execution. Both scales could have been called Black, but they need some other quantifier as well.

  • I'd be happier if they would work on their face sculpts. Not that I care that much as I don't collect Star Wars anymore…although some cartoon accurate Ewoks and Droids figures might get me back in.

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