Today Star Wars Action News was privileged to be one of only three fan sites participating in a Q&A with the Star Wars Brand Team at Hasbro. The topic was, of course, their current crowdfunding project for the Khetanna — Jabba the Hutt’s Sail Barge playset that measures 4-feet long.
Participating in the conversation were our long-time friends from Hasbro: Steve Evans (Design Director for Star Wars toys), Mark Boudreaux (Senior Principal Designer for Star Wars toys), and Joe Ninivaggi (Director, Global Brand Strategy & Marketing – Star Wars).
The conversation revealed some new information about the current campaign, and also had a nice video tour of the newly painted Sail Barge.
You can read the transcript of the interview below, but the high points are:
- The Yakface figure included with the Khetanna, on the Power of the Force card with the silver coin, will have the lowest production run of any modern Star Wars figure (assuming the Barge’s numbers don’t end dramatically above 5,000)
- If you live in the US or Canada the crowdfunding is the only way you will ever be able to buy the Barge. If the Barge is backed then Hasbro will make a small quantity of Barges available, but only for those living outside of the US and Canada.
- The paint on the barge took over 200 man-hours. (The design of the barge took over “one thousand” Mark half-joked.)
- The team is looking at only one Star Wars HasLab project per year. HasLab will do multiple projects per year, but the others will be for Marvel, Transformers, and My Little Pony.
- This is the team’s first crowdfunding effort and they’re using it as a learning experience. Future HasLab projects will take current feedback into account regarding payment plans, cost of items, duration of the campaign, etc.
- The Barge is incredibly cool with so many details that can only be seen close-up, including a sink faucet in the galley and a retractable microphone in Jabba’s dais.
- If the Barge is funded the Hasbro team is looking at producing an updated Jabba the Hutt figure with an improved paint application and perhaps facial sculpting from their previous efforts.
Below is an rundown of the conversation.
The team started with a run-down of the Entertainment Weekly reveal of the painted Sail Barge, and the inclusion of the Power of the Force Yakface figure. Steve said the paint job was “200 man and woman hours” of work, to which Mark added “And that’s just to paint it. Not including the work that’s been done since… another 1,000 hours there.” They also noted a pick-up in orders since yesterday’s news, but they still need almost 1,800 orders in 12 days.
Then the Q&A Began
Question: What is your ideal rate for Star Wars campaigns? One per year, two per year, etc?
Answer: Joe said HasLab will likely have multiple initiatives per year across Transformers, My Little Pony, and Marvel, but they are starting with only one Star Wars initiative per year “and take it from there.”
Q: Why was a payment option not made available for the Barge as other companies do for items of similar price.
A: Joe replied, “I think this will answer a number of questions but this is our first time doing this. We’re learning a lot on this. HasbroToyShop, which, of course, is our partner that allows us to sell directly to fans, they’re set up a certain way and we went out with this particular model. There’s always opportunity to learn in the future, we’ve definitely seen that come up as a request and something that would hopefully make the product more accessible to all fans.”
Q: At Toy Fair Steve told Star Wars Action News that if the Barge is funded then there may be opportunities for it to be sold other methods. And on the HasLab FAQ it states “We reserve the rights to make the products (or similar versions of the products) available at other sources, such as online stores and retail locations, but such availability is not guaranteed.”
But in an Instagram post on March 19 Hasbro said the Barge would not be available via traditional retail outlets.
Can you clarify these statements? Is it possible the Barge will be available at retail if it is funded?
A: Steve clarified that if you live in the US and Canada then backing at HasbroLab.com is the only way you will be able to purchase the barge. There are no plans to take this to retail in the US and Canada. However, since only US and Canada can purchase from HasbroLab.com then, if the Barge hits its 5,000 orders, they would make an additional, limited quantity available to international buyers only.
Q: People say there’s not enough time to budget for a $500 item in the time of the Barge. In the future can we get a bit more notice?
Steve said they are getting insights daily and have learned a lot going for future projects like this. Their team read studies indicating 45 days is the optimal time for crowdfunding* and that longer campaigns have lower success rates. For future crowdfunding campaigns they will look at “everything” and see how to adjust timing.
(Note: In my own research I’ve read campaigns over 30 days have a lower success rate. Either way, Steve’s point is valid. -Arnie)
Q: Perhaps in the future could Hasbro announce the campaign at Toy Fair, but launch it at San Diego Comic-Con so collectors have a few months to save up, not just 45 days.
A: Joe said that is a good idea and they may look at doing that next time. They added that projects do not get much more ambitious in terms of size and price than the Sail Barge. They’ve wanted to do it for decades. But they know that price points for future items don’t always have to be this expensive.
Q: The Jabba on display in the published Sail Barge photos looks like the Toys R Us exclusive from a few years ago. Is it an old Jabba or is it a new Jabba?
Mark clarified that Jabba is the same sculpt that came with the Jabba/Rancor set, but they wanted to make a special Jabba for the barge so they’re looking at enhancing his deco. The photos released show more weathering on the body and highlights to the face than the Jabba/Rancor set had. They’ll be looking at techniques, either photo-real or more traditional techniques, to make this new Jabba noticeably different from the older version.
Q: Can Slave Leia be rereleased to pose in the Barge
A: Steve said for characters that enhance the Barge, they’re doing Yakface and Skiff Guard. They’ll look at other background characters from these scenes if the Barge is successful. As for Slave Leia–no plans but they’ll look at it.
Q: If the Barge meets its goal of 5,000, but not much higher, will this carded Yakface with the coin have the lowest production run of any modern Hasbro Star Wars figure?
A: Steve gave an emphatic “yes”. Historically Hasbro does not give production numbers for its products, but Steve compared the Yakface to their San Diego Comic-Con exclusives. For that convention he said they produce more than 5,000 of the exclusives (“not a lot more, but more”).
Steve added that Yakface on the Power of the Force card will not only be a “physical rarity” but also an “emotional rarity” given how Yakface and Blue Snaggletooth are the holy grails to many vintage Star Wars figure collectors.
Q: How will Hasbro handle broken/missing parts, and keep backers informed of progress?
A: Steve said for broken parts the usual Hasbro policy to contact Customer Service applies.
But Joe went on to say that the packaging team has been challenged to make the box secure. Additionally, they hope for the box to have nice presentation, including perhaps trays that slide out when packaged. They hope to make the experience of the unboxing as cool as the item itself. They feel presentation is really important with this, so it needs more than just printed inserts. “This is a vintage item, after all, and we want to make sure to present it,” Mark said.
In regards to communication with buyers, Joe said “It’s not everyday you buy something for $500 and don’t get it for a year afterwards.” As such, if the project is successful, the Hasbro team plans to take backers on a behind-the-scenes journey, keeping them updated with the inner workings of Hasbro on how the Barge is made and shipped.
Q: Will there be tape on the Vintage box?
A: The team asked what we would be interested in, and unanimously the sites requested no tape on the Vintage box, just a flap-fold, and tape the shipping carton.
There was also discussion if the Yakface will be shipped inside the same box as the Barge. Steve said they don’t know for sure–currently it is in the box but that could change.
Q: With less than two weeks away from the end of the campaign, with about 1800 orders needed, what is the mood at Hasbro? How has this impacted you emotionally?
A: Steve said, “We’re on the edge of our seats. The trajectory is what we expected. It spikes, levels off, and spikes in the end.” He said that the released pictures of the painted Sail Barge helped make it real for some people, and adding the exclusive Yakface also helped.
They all agreed the campaign is emotionally draining. “It’s taken up a lot of our time personally and we have invested ourselves greatly on something that doesn’t yet exist,” Steve said. “I feel confident because it’s a great project but it’s up to the fans.”
“You don’t want to see a grown man cry,” Mark added on as the interview came to an end.
Then we were treated to a video tour of the painted Sail Barge and the Hasbro team pointed out many features that have not had much attention from fans:
- The jail in the lower level has a sliding metal door to differentiate from the wood. The Barge will come with two metal chains of different sizes to put different character sizes (perhaps a human and a Wookiee?) in the jail.
- In the galley they wanted to “set a tone for the interiors” and then let fans embellish and fill it out to what they felt their fantasy for Jabba would be. The Barge has a kitchen counter, a couple sinks, faucet, and Chupas hanging from the wall in the back, setting the stage for how fans might like to complete their diorama. That’s one of the reasons they wanted to go with the Sail Barge: it’s awesome to start with, they said. Very iconic, a great movie beat with lots of characters involved, so they wanted something that could really push dioramas to the next level and interact with a lot of your characters both new and old.
And they have some “Work in progress” images of painting that will be coming soon.
- Next to the galley is the armory. Axes are mounted to the wall as decoration. They also have some horn racks on the back wall where you can hang your blasters, staffs, etc. and there’s a table in the back where you can repair your weapons.
There are a couple staffs in the model photographs that were released, but those are not included with the barge. You will need to supply your own weapons and staffs. The axes on the wall are permanently attached decoration.
- Moving into the lounge it’s more about comfort. A lot of wooden surfaces, wooden walls, wooden floors. There are opening and closing shutters on either side, as well as the dais which you can move back and forth a bit to adjust the floor plan.
- You can actually pull the microphone out of the control panel on Jabba’s dias. It’s attached to a cable and for production they’re going to increase the length of the cable so you can have a C-3PO figure hold it.
- One question they had was about foot pegs. They talked about it and, other than 2 foot pegs on the platform on the deck cannon, they’ve elected to not include foot pegs in the vehicle itself. They didn’t want to disrupt the aesthetics by putting traditional foot pegs and they didn’t want to limit character placement.
- They have the rancor trophy mounted to the wall, Ishi Tib heads, a Gammorrean Guard head, and Jabba’s mural mounted to the wall. They wanted to include all the details seen in the film and then let you embellish with your own accessories.
- There is a side hatch with a larger port where the Weequay can come out to surprise Luke (it’s larger as the barge isn’t QUITE to scale with 3.75 in figures).
- They worked closely with Lucasfilm for all the details on the cockpit. They went to the archives and looked at all the reference photos, and also went into the vault to get any inspiration they might need to include other details.
- There is a corridor so a figure can walk from the Cockpit all through the ship.
- There will also be a trap door in the deck above that goes down into the jail. A button on the side will allow you to activate the trap door. “Gotta have some fun right? It can’t be all serious display stuff,” Steve said.
- They’re making a subtle revision to the rail so if you have a Vism with a cannon open stock it will be able to fit onto the rail.
- The sails would be removable so if you wanted to open the deck up for play it’s easy to do. The sails will stay in tact but you’re able to lift them off!
And with that Steve concluded the interview saying “Thank you for all your support. Fingers crossed, trust in the force, #BacktheYak, #BacktheBarge!”
If you want to order, the campaign is open until April 3, 2018. You can back the project now at HasbroLab.com
You can see newly released photos of the Barge and its accessories in the gallery below!