When I was 19 years old, I stood outside a Toys “R” Us for hours, waiting for midnight so I could buy toys from Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. It was mere weeks before the movie was released, the hype was at an all-time high, and I spent a lot of money because of it.
That kind of excitement doesn’t happen anymore though. Sure, the internet has been a huge factor but, in recent years, Star Wars toys simply do not always get released in perfect sync with new movies or shows. In fact, sometimes it’s months between an episode of The Mandalorian and toys from that episode.
Is it because Lucasfilm is just that secretive? Is it by choice? This was one of the many questions we had for the team at Hasbro when we spoke to them at San Diego Comic-Con last month. We already chatted all about the Ghost Haslab, and now below, you can read our interview with Patrick Schneider, Hasbro’s global marketing director for Star Wars and Indiana Jones, as well as Chris Reiff, the manager of product design for Star Wars. They explained why the toys aren’t released like they used to be, how they use feedback from the fans, the process for bringing a character into a toy line, and if Indiana Jones toys are done.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Germain Lussier, io9: I want to talk about the timeline. Years ago, I used to line up for Star Wars toys weeks before a movie came out. Now, with the internet, you can preorder—but lately it seems like toys aren’t hitting shelves for months after movies or shows are released. What is the reason behind that? Is it that Lucasfilm is worried about things leaking, is it just a production thing? Tell me a little about why that has changed in the last couple years.
Patrick Schneider: Yeah, it’s not a Lucasfilm thing at all. I think a lot of it was the pandemic and kind of the supply chain issues from there. And we’re really coming back from that. So Andor last year, we revealed those items, we had some of those on the shelf for the show. Ahsoka? We’re pretty much back to normal here. We’re revealing Ahsoka items before the show launches. They will be on the shelf while the show is still airing. We’ll certainly have some fast follows. We’ve always had those. I’m thinking of, you know, 2016—we had Finn in his stormtrooper disguise. That was months after the movie. So we always have those fast follows. But now that the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, now that we’re figuring out those supply chain issues, we’re getting back to that day-and-date model, which we know is so important
io9: So we can expect that for future shows too? Star Wars has Skeleton Crew, The Acolyte, and Andor 2 on the way. I know we don’t know what Hasbro is doing with them yet and you can’t comment on the future. But for toys related to upcoming Star Wars projects, can we expect them to be released faster?
Schneider: Those are big beats for Lucasfilm. It’s safe to assume we’ll have some product behind them. And the current plan is to get those synched up with entertainment.
io9: Are these timing issues something you’ve seen the fans get upset about? Have you actively been working to improve it? It sounds like maybe you have.
Schneider: Yeah, we spend a lot of time listening to the community. It’s one of the reasons we love coming to shows like [San Diego Comic-Con]. It’s our chance to speak with members of the community in person, hear what’s on their mind, what they want, and what they’re concerned about. We love doing Q&As at the panels. We do a lot of listening online. There are several websites I read on a daily basis to try to make sure that we’re covering them all. So we definitely try to stay tapped into the concerns of the community. We know that that’s something that they don’t like. We know it was exacerbated by the pandemic.
You mentioned preorders; it’s interesting. Five years ago, we didn’t do preorders at all. Those are really targeted to what makes the community the happiest. So we started with them when the lead times got a little too long. We experimented earlier this year with a livestream where we didn’t do any preorders. We heard “No, we liked them. We just like them when they’re executed well.” So we’re trying something new here at SDCC where we revealed some items and they’re on preorder today, but then we carved out all of our Ahsoka items and said, “We know it’s a pain point to try to get 20 items at the exact same minute. So let’s split these out into two different beats.” We know shared wallet is a big deal as well. It’s hard to spend all that money at one point. So we’re trying that out and we’ll rely on the community to let us know if it works.
io9: Yeah, at the panel someone mentioned a character they wanted and you guys seemed pretty open to considering it. What is the process there? Like, do you hear “Character X” and think “Oh, that’s a good idea,” and start working on it? What kind of levels does that have to go through?
Schneider: [Laughs] This is a lot of it right here.
Chris Reiff: Yeah. You’re looking at it. [Laughs] No, it’s involved and we have discussions across the whole team. I mean, it’s a collaborative process both internally and with Lucasfilm. But we’re all fans. We all basically want the same stuff, but it’s a matter of how much of that stuff we can fit in the pipeline at the same time. So prioritizing which figures when, what times with entertainment, all those sorts of concerns. Thankfully there is a glut of Star Wars characters and content so we have selects for years, and it’s just a matter of really prioritizing what’s more important and in particular moments—like you said, trying to match up with entertainment so we can deliver that sort of stuff. Classic Star Wars isn’t going anywhere … so that’s always going to be healthy stuff to do. But do we want to replace something at times with content? Like we probably wouldn’t replace an Ahsoka figure timed with the Ahsoka show with a Yakface figure.
Reiff: But we do answer those things when we can, and try to balance it. And we talk amongst the team, we kind of align internally and then we meet with Lucasfilm and make sure some of the content downloads they’ve given us from their strategies—that everything kind of lines up, and hold hands together all at once.
io9: That speaks to my next question, which is the Finn you announced yesterday in the pipeline is the first mainline sequel trilogy character in a while. Like, there definitely was a step away from the sequel trilogy, so with that Finn, is it something we could maybe expect to see more of?
Schneider: Perhaps. It’s all on the table. Like Chris said, it’s an embarrassment of riches. So everything’s possible, I think—and again, it comes from the community. I think we were reading some chatter online about how we haven’t had sequel trilogy characters in a long time. And I think Finn particularly has never been done with photo real deco in the Vintage line. Photo real deco hit in 2019. So we’re like, “This is a pain point for the community. It’s something we can easily address.” He’s been on that card back, but never in photo real deco, so it’s great to get him back out to the line. And it’s interesting; Force Awakens, it was an amazing movie and great moment, the whole trilogy for Star Wars. So certainly an area for us to mine in the future.”
io9: Finally, you work on Star Wars but also Indiana Jones and I have been eating up those Adventure Series figures. There’s a rumor going around that the figures recently announced would be the end of the line; is that true or can we expect to see more?
Schneider: That’s definitely not something we’re saying publicly so I’m not sure where that comment came from. No, basically, you know, we don’t comment on anything beyond what’s revealed at this point. We’ll see how it does. A lot will depend on the reaction to this line. Personally I love what Chris and the team have done. I would love to see more come down the line. So we’ll see what happens.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.