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Hasbro VP of Global Brand Management

On Friday afternoon I got a chance to spend some time at the Hasbro booth with Hasbro's VP of Global Brand Management Derryl DePriest.

I started by once again delivering our wishlist poll results, which he was very excited to see. Derryl says that our readers always do a great job of putting together good lists from each of the eight categories (click here to view this year's results). Then he informed me that he's planning another official Fans' Choice Poll in the near future now that they've produced a lot of the characters from the previous poll. It will involve all the fan sites that participate in the Q&A sessions compiling lists of their top ten most wanted characters from across the saga and then eventually voting for a winning character to be produced in the line. We're anxious to hear further details about this exciting project, since it will be the first time an official Fans' Choice Poll takes place that Echo Base News will be able to take part in now that we're part of the Q&A sessions. It's time to start thinking about your most wanted characters! After that I was able to conduct a brief interview with Derryl, mainly focusing on next year's Episode I plans, the future of Battle Packs in the realistic line, and also bringing some of the recent concerns of the Star Wars collecting community to his attention.

This got answered at the panel earlier today, but maybe you could expand on it a bit. Will we be seeing any figures from The Phantom Menace in The Vintage Collection on new Episode I cardbacks?
"Yes, and the reason why we haven't had any Phantom Menace to date is because we held them off, because we knew the 3D release of The Phantom Menace was coming. Originally, we were supposed to have Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul earlier this year. We knew Episode I was coming so we held them all, and we put them there as well as developed a lot of new figures that fans have never seen from Episode I before like a Quinlan Vos figure, one of my personal favorites. We're seeing what the packaging looks like for Episode I, and it looks fantastic on the Vintage card just like Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith do."

Will there be a Darth Maul resculpt next year with more ball-jointed articulation?
"We're likely to use our Evolutions Darth Maul."

Is there a Classic Trilogy 'big vehicle' planned? Maybe a repainted Slave I from The Empire Strikes Back?
"No, not this year, but we're optimistic that a repainted Slave I might be coming as soon as next year. We revealed here at Comic Con all of our products that are coming out for the rest of the year."

Will there be more Battle Packs featuring realistic figures, army builders in particular?
"No. Possibly 2012, but certainly no more for this year. Our Battle Packs focus has mostly been on The Clone Wars. Next year we're going to focus more of those themes on Episode I. We actually showed one today, an exclusive that will be coming to Target that allows you to get troop builders both on the Gungan side and the Separatist side from the Battle of Naboo. In the future in that format we really want to do a lot of those."

How about a 3-pack of Gamorrean Guards?
"That would actually be incredibly awesome. That's actually a really good idea because the Gamorrean Guards have been so hot. I like it!"

Our next question is about case assortments. A lot of people are concerned about the pressure of carry-forward figures being put on both The Clone Wars and the Vintage Collection lines. For example, if you look at Wave 10, 11, and 12 of The Clone Wars line coming up with Even Piell and Seripas, out of all 36 figures in those three case assortments, only about 16 of those are brand new figures, so a lot of collectors are concerned that the new figures are going to continue having difficulty reaching the pegs.
"The challenge with newly sculpted figures is we can't afford to build whole lines on newly sculpted figures so we have to have carry-forwards. The thing about Clone Wars is that carry-forward figures actually sell better than any new, obscure figure. I can guarantee any hero Jedi we carry forward is going to sell better than Even Piell and even Seripas. Even though those are cool characters for fans, kids don't reach for those figures first. They reach for the hero Jedi figures first, so we have to carry forward the new figures. They're the ones that actually help get the more obscure and new figures into the line. So what fans don't know, because we don't announce it, is how many we release of each character. We do have a very good handle on what the demand for Even Piell and Seripas is going to be and we match our releases to that. Now things can change. If Clone Wars slows down, then we have a problem. But right now we think we have a good handle on what the volumes are going to be and we think that everything's going to be able to be released on time without a problem."

Now, it's a similar situation in The Vintage Collection, too, and a lot of people are concerned about all the carry-forward figures in the line. And people also wonder why have a Saga Legends line on the pegs alongside The Vintage Collection when the Legends line is composed entirely of the kid-popular repacks whereas Vintage is supposed to be more collector-oriented?
"Well, again it's a necessity because the troops in Vintage sell very well. There's another truth to Vintage that maybe we haven't talked about with fans, and that is any hero Jedi, Darth Vader, any of the core iconic troopers sell much better than new obscure figures that we do, so that says not all figures are created equal. We need the real heavy hitters to drive the line so we can pay for all the new tools we want to do for like a Jabba's Sail Barge guy or a lesser known Ewok or something like that, so we have to do carry-forwards to be able to pay for the line, and even in Vintage it behaves a little bit like Saga Legends in that the real A-tier characters do rise to the top, you know, the R2's, they still sell well. Now we might be able to assume that that's due to kind of a casual fan, maybe a fan who's not in it for every single figure who just cherry-picks their favorites. It's not such an easy answer because a lot of those figures have been out before. There could be casual fans who just like the cardbacks, but don't want them all. The reality is we probably have some of those guys, who aren't the active forum guys who are kind of more casual and who want to share figures with their kids, but there might also be kids buying Vintage too because that's the only place you might be able to get, at the time, you know, a Vader that's not available in Saga Legends, so they might reach for Vintage. There's something going on in Vintage that makes the heroes rise to the top as well, and we have to release them and make sure that they're constantly available in the quantities that we need to propel the line."

Well, our sponsor BigBadToyStore.com...
"Oh, an excellent retailer. Love them!"

BigBadToyStore.com sells the new cases of twelve figures including all the carry-forwards for $105 whereas a set of just the six brand new figures is around $70. What do you think this shows about the demand for the carry-forward figures?
"The demand is low for carry-forward figures because collectors already have them. However, in the past we have developed exclusive programs just for this channel, to concentrate only on new figures. It was a disaster for us because we would commit to cases of only the new figures. We would design six figures at a time and pack the extra slots with troopers, and in 2008 we ended up holding a massive amount of inventory in our warehouse, built for this channel. It worked fine for about a year and then we just ended up holding a lot of inventory that I eventually had to write down. So we learned that we cannot satisfy both of our needs, the mass retail needs and the collector needs without incurring tremendous risk, and we've decided to put the risk on our relationships with mass retailers and we can't do things a different way because that product isn't going to ship to Walmart or Target. The case packs heavy on new figures, no Vaders, no Lukes, no, you know, Qui-Gons, and Obi-Wans, those are not good to ship to anywhere else other than the collector accounts. When we were left with that inventory it was bad for the company because I went out on a limb to sell that and we had to end up writing off quite a bit, so...short answer, there isn't another way unfortunately to create a better path. I think Big Bad Toy Store has the right model, to take those out and sell them for a higher price collectors are willing to pay, and sell the rest at probably a lower price, you know, just like others do."

Our next question is about a figure that's been carried forward many times in The Vintage Collection that hasn't been too popular with some fans. It's the Revenge of the Sith plain white Clone Trooper. A lot of people have noticed it reaching the pegs with the helmet already yellowed. Is that something Hasbro's aware of?
"We are very aware of that. We've been aware of this for months now. Actually, the collectors on the fan sites brought this to our attention. The samples that we have back at Hasbro, the early production samples, they weren't like that. So, the fans alerted to us to this, so thank you, and we found the nature of the problem very quickly and have made a change so at some point once that new change starts to hit you'll see that the helmets aren't yellow. So we fixed it. The second thing is we've learned that we might have reached the ceiling on plain white clone troopers, right? We might have found the saturation point, finally, after years of releasing millions of these figures. Fans have kind of said it's enough and we're now turning our attention to different color versions of the clones rather than just the plain white to get some variety."

I'd like to thank Derryl DePriest for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to answer our questions!

We'd like to hear your opinion, too! What do you think about the future of the line? Click here to enter the forums and post your comments in our special report thread.

Interview by David Delgado.

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