Interview: Hasbro’s Star Wars Team Discusses Recent Toy Announcements and “Return of the Jedi”‘s 40th Anniversary

At the beginning of October during Hasbro Pulse Con, the popular toy company Hasbro revealed a number of new toys and action figures for its Star Wars line, including The Black Series and The Vintage Collection.

And last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Jing Houle and Chris Reiff from the Hasbro Star Wars team as part of a roundtable interview to follow up on the Hasbro Pulse Con announcements. Below are the four questions I was able to ask of the team and their responses about items from the Return of the Jedi 40th anniversary collection, Star Wars: Andor, the original Star Wars film A New Hope, and the recent HasLab campaigns.

Mike Celestino, Laughing Place:  In terms of the Return of the Jedi 40th anniversary series, how did you decide which characters to reintroduce to The Black Series and Vintage Collection lines, and which ones to bring in for the first time, such as Wicket?

Chris Reiff:  Well, it’s a balance of a lot of things. Wicket, for The Black Series, is one of those figures that… he was missing, or at least felt missing. So I think he was an important one to get in. Otherwise, it’s looking for those main cast, key characters in there that really define what that entertainment’s about. For Return of the Jedi, you see that we kind of covered all of those main cast of characters. And Wicket had such presence on-screen; he was an important one to add to that list. So it really is just about covering off those key characters for those anniversary beats.

Jing Houle:  Yeah, we felt like it was his time to shine. [laughs] Hopefully all the fans agree with us. It’s a great figure.

LP:  Andor is already a big hit on Disney+ with older Star Wars fans such as myself. But because the tone of this series skews a bit older, do you find that your team at Hasbro is targeting the toys more at adult collectors?

Houle:  We don’t discriminate here. [laughs] Certainly adult collectors are more likely to have seen the show, and like you mentioned it’s well-received so far. We are certainly fans, and we love it ourselves. But it’s action figures that we’ve been revealing, so anyone is free to play with [Cassian] Andor himself, or any of his companions that we’ve put out there, as long as you’re 4+, as you know. [laughs] But it’s great that Andor is definitely hitting on some of those fanbases that you’re mentioning, as well. We think that’s great.

Reiff:  Yeah, you probably won’t see Andor things coming to Mission Fleet, but in our figure lines, yeah… [anyone is welcome].

LP:  Can you tell me about the Cantina Band troop-builder boxed set? Where did that idea come from and what is the appeal, both for your team and for consumers, of buying all seven of these characters at once, instead of multiple copies of identical figures?

Reiff:  That whole program of the troop-builder sets is a fun way to get multiple figures out to people in a more cost-effective way, because we’re not putting each of those [figures] in their own package. Not having to deal with the same sort of issues, it can be more efficient that way. That helps on cost for a troop-builder figure, but it also lets us play with some things. The Cantina Band specifically was one of those ones that came out of [our] great partnership with Lucasfilm. We were trying to figure out how we wanted to do those figures. I think initially we were talking about doing them as a couple of four-packs, and that didn’t [pan out]. How was that going to make sense? And it was through discussions with Lucasfilm that we settled on, ‘Well, let’s make this one a special one, and do the entire band as one set’ instead of making it a troop-builder where you’d have to buy multiple sets. ‘Let’s just do one awesome set,’ kind of in the same vein, but deliver all those instruments and get all those characters in one hit. I think that worked out great. The response to the news has been great; it looks amazing.

Houle:  It’s a band. We wanted to keep the band together. [laughs] We’re not breaking up the band.

Reiff:  It’s so fun to have the whole lineup [of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes] in the artwork for those boxes. Our team has done such a great job on those things. I think it’s working really well.

LP:  Lastly, I want to ask about the two recent HasLab Star Wars projects that failed to make their funding goals. I personally was really disappointed by the Black Series Rancor not becoming a reality. Is there ever a possibility of something like that making a comeback, or is it dead forever?

Reiff:  Well, I think the fact that it didn’t fund speaks to the [lack of] demand for it, so I would say it’s unlikely that that will show back up. If [the demand] wasn’t enough to fund there, it’s unlikely that it makes sense to release otherwise. Does that change in time? Maybe. There’s not a hard line in the sand saying ‘never,’ but I think there’s a tape across the surface that says ‘unlikely.’ There’s nothing saying it can’t ever happen; I just personally think it’s unlikely. But we’ll see where things go.

Houle:  Thank you for supporting that. I know that there is a group of passionate fans. We read that and heard that. But the beauty of HasLab is that we get to vote on things, and unfortunately that didn’t come to completion. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t future [Star Wars HasLab projects] in place for us to think about for the future.

For additional information on Hasbro’s recent announcement and to pre-order some of the above toys, be sure to visit the official Hasbro Pulse website.

Mike Celestino
Mike serves as Laughing Place's lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly "Who's the Bossk?" Star Wars podcast. He's been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.