FulguroPop : How much consumer research is done to determine the toyetic factor of a character ? Sometimes in collector lines you see very obscure characters that don’t sell very well. In Black Series we have the example of Constable Zuvio.
Patrick Schneider : Don’t mention Constable Zuvio. [laughs]
FulguroPop : I won’t, well just one time. Forty years ago, when Kenner was making Star Wars figures they used ot make obscure characters that kids bought.
Patrick Schneider : In 40 years, Constable Zuvio is gonna be the most popular character. [Laughs]
FulguroPop : How are these decisions made, about which character gets done ?
Ran Sun : For Transformers, especially when we think about movie figures like Studio Series, first and foremost we look at our fans voices. Our fans are very passionate and they really like certain characters from this movie or this character from that movie… So we listen to them on social media. And then we look at the characters that made a more lasting impact from the film and then we choose those characters and make them into Studio Series. And for Generation, our core items, we look at the story we’re going to tell. So, for Prime Wars, The Power of Primes, we want to make sure all the characters are revelant for the stories.
Ryan Ting : We have a great partnership working with Marvel Studios as well as Lucasfilm and Disney, so a lot of time in the very early meetings when they are planning the next films, they say “Hey Hasbro, is there anything you’d like to see ?” and we can say : “yeah, it’d be if such a character can have this kind of weapon or this kind of armor.” And sometimes they take our feedback into the film. I doesn’t mean to say that, it’s not something we ask for but it’s a great partnership. We usually say “from a toyside these are the kinds of things that do well” and they consider it which is pretty cool.
Patrick Schneider : Constable Zuvio is a great example. As we mentioned, it takes 18 monthes to make a toy. For Episode IX, we have already started. We can’t say anything but they have started shooting so anything that changes in the course of the movie, we can’t change that. So Constable Zuvio was going to be featured more prominently, by the time we found out he wasn’t, the toy was already processed. We also do a lot of consumer research. We did a research study in the end of 2016 for Hasbro Toy Shop that was featured the fans sites, so that was 2 years ago and fans are now seeing the results. We have alot of other tools but speaking with fans at Cons and reading their comments online.
FulguroPop : And are consumer researches global or only focused on the US market ?
Patrick Schneider : Global as much as possible, yes.
Ran Sun : Absolutely.
Ryan Ting : Actually there is a study that kicked off for all the main brands in the US, France and China.
FulguroPop : Over the past year, the quality improved drastically for both Black Series and Marvel Legends, the faceprint technology is amazing. How did it impact the sales ?
Patrick Schneider : Yes we call it the Photo Real Technology.
Ryan Ting : I don’t think we can comment on sales but the fans response has been great. The fans are noticing and appreciating it. For Marvel it’s great because we have so many movies… We have three movies a year now, the more movie based products we do as you can see we have our tenth anniversary line there [on the booth where the interview was recorded], we can really bring out new characters and update old favorites like Tony Stark with Robert Downey Jr’s face and we are super happy to do that.
Patrick Schneider : This was our biggest weak point with fans, we read it online : the sculpts were great, the articulation system was great, the deco on the rest of the body was great. With the Photo Real Technology, we took our biggest weak point and turned it into our biggest strength. We’ve launched an Archives line at San Diego. I think for fans who are getting into Black Series but also for those who already have figures like Luke Skywalker or Anakin Skywalker, having the Photo Real deco is fantastic. We are so grateful.
FulguroPop : Is this new standard something permanent ? Could it disappear if it’s deemed to expensive.
Patrick Schneider : No, it’ll never go away. There’s no price too high for delivering this level of quality. I think we can say it will not go away as the tech is expanding into our Vintage Collection as well, starting in 2019.
FulguroPop : It’s interesting because it is said that making Black Series has almost the same cost as making Vintage Collection figures. Is it true ?
Patrick Schneider : If you are applying the same level of quality to both scales, the only difference is plastic.
Ryan Ting : We’re committed to offering the best premium action figure. And photo real is a great success and for Marvel and Star Wars we will continue to do that in the future.
Patrick Schneider :We are always talking about what would be the next step so moving backward is not an option.
FulguroPop : In 2018, Hasbro launched Haslab to fund Jabba’s Barge. Is it something you want to expand to other brands with new playsets or large vehicles like the ones Hasbro used to make for Star Wars (AT-AT, Millenium Falcon…) ?
Patrick Schneider : I don’t think we can comment on any specific future plans. But what we have said in the past is that the barge was a tremendous success. We are so grateful for the fans who made that happen. We are excited to see what Haslab holds in the future.
FulguroPop : Do you guys in the US see the European market as one big 300 million consumers market or as 27 smaller markets ?
Ryan Ting : Everyone is a prioruty to us; The entertainment is global. Everyone has a huge comic convention that we are attending in Paris, in the UK, in Italy. It’s a big market for us. We continue to hear what you guys want.
Ran Sun : With our packaging we are making it more inclusive with four language packaging. We have different lines for Generation because for markets like France or the UK, they’ve known Generation for very long. There’s a G1 nostalgia in western European countries. But there are other markets in the EU that don’t have G1 references but they have the Transformers movies. We celebrate all our fans from the ’80s G1 nostalgia to kids who grew up in the 90s… I myself grew up in the 90s I watched the Michael Bay movies and that’s how I got into it. All of these fans have a way to connect with their brand. We want to cater to everybody including all the countries in the EU.
Patrick Schneider : Having 20 different markets in the EU is challenging and that’s partly why Haslab was not available in Europe. We are working on solving these issues and we are comitted that we are going to get the barge to Europe. We want future Haslabs to be global. We had never come to European Cons before this year but we recognize the point so we are here in Paris, we’re going to London and to Lucca. We had last year a fan summit in London with all our European markets for Marvel and Star Wars. We are doing so again this year to discuss all the challenges and figure out how to overcome them.
FulguroPop : We’ve already talked about consumers back then bought Prune Face but are not buying Constable Zuvio Today. How do you explain it ? Is it because of a lack of curiosity or because the market is more competitive ?
Patrick Schneider: The fans today are just as passionate as they were back then. I think you are right, this a very different landscape. There are a lot of different entertainment IPs 40 years ago there was a movie every three years so when you saw a character like Prune face in those yeas in between… Whereas these years after The Force Awakens there was Rogue One, Episode VIII… With that kind of new content. You know, the head of Disney [Bob Iger, NDLR] said they’re gonna step back a little on Star Wars films.
FulguroPop : With new TV Series for the Disney Streaming Service, there will probably be a new interest in Star Wars.
Patrick Schneider : That’s right we’ll get those products as well.
FulguroPop : I know you don’t want to comment on sales, but how did the the 40th Anniversary packaging fare for the Black Series ?
Patrick Schneider : I can say that the 40th Anniversary did do very well for us. That movie, A New Hope, has such a special place in fans heart, so does The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the whole Original Trilogy. Without getting to specific, we certainly gonna celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back in some ways.
Ryan Ting : We have the Tenth Anniversary for Marvel Studios a great way to celebrate, not 40 years, but we are getting there. We got a lot of characters we never did before (Red Skull, Yellow Jacket) in the 6in Legends. We want to celebrate the upcoming comic anniversary as well. In NYCC, Marvel revealed they doing a Marvel 80 year anniversary of Marvel Comics in 2019, so we will have some products for that as well.
FulguroPop : Thank you, guys.
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