Interview: Hasbro’s Indiana Jones Team Discusses Indy Action Figures, the Appeal to Kids, Short Round, and More

As I’ve been saying quite a lot lately, it’s going to be a big year for Indiana Jones. With the new film (the first for the character since 2008) Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny being released this summer, there’s a sizable marketing push for Lucasfilm’s second-most-recognizable franchise for the first time in 15 years.

That’s where the popular toy company Hasbro steps in. Recently the company has announced a new line of Indiana Jones toys and products tied in not only with Dial of Destiny, but also the previous four movies in the franchise. And this morning I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with two members of Hasbro’s Indiana Jones team (Senior Global Brand Manager Patrick Schneider and Product Design Manager Chris Reiff) during a roundtable-style interview about the new six-inch Adventure Series line, the more kid-friendly Worlds of Adventure line, the Indiana Jones Retro Collection, and more as the new toys are getting ready to hit shelves.

Mike Celestino, Laughing Place:  For the six-inch-scale Adventure Series, it’s great to see so many variants of Indiana Jones himself, but will we be seeing more supporting characters from the original films?

Chris Reiff:  [We have] nothing specific to tell you that we haven’t already revealed, but with each successive wave there are more supporting characters coming. The movies are about Indy– obviously he’s in the title– so he’s kind of our leader there, but it’s important for Indy to have his foils, so [there are] plenty of those coming.

Patrick Schneider:  Yeah, and I would say we’ve revealed a lot of those already, with Toht and Sallah and Marion and Belloq and Donovan. Like Chris said, ‘More to come.’

Reiff:  I think we would love to do every human, alien, [or] whatever you see in Indiana Jones [films]. Yes, I threw ‘alien’ in there. [laughs] We would love to do that, but for right now the line is kind of what it is. You will learn more of that line as we get a little further into things, but it’s all gonna be about how successful things are– and so far it’s been amazingly successful– so we’ll see what the future holds. We would certainly love to go deep and continue making Indy toys.

Schneider:  As is true for all of our brands, we try new things [and] we see how they do. So as always, we’re eager to see the consumer reaction to Indiana Jones. We saw a great reaction to [the announcements at] PulseCon, and we’re seeing [a] great reaction to last week. The sentiment [is] very positive, which is very nice to see, and the pre-order results were extremely strong as well– record-setting, in some cases. We were [thrilled] to see that. If fans of all ages gravitate to the line, that’s what we look at, and we’ll certainly take that into account for future decisions.

LP:  With the Worlds of Adventure line, the Action Crackin’ Whip, and Whip Action Indy, it seems like Hasbro is targeting younger Indiana Jones fans this time around in addition to the existing older fans. Can you talk about the strategy behind bringing toys and merchandise inspired by this franchise to a new generation?

Schneider:  It’s interesting– this is actually kind of the opposite.This is the first time there’s been a targeted fan line. Obviously the original Kenner line was all about kids. It’s funny to rewind 15 years and just remember where the fan toy business was in 2008. [Our] lines were more targeted at kids. We knew there was some fan pickup, but we weren’t designing the toys with the more adult fan in mind. So it’s really the fan side that’s new this time around. But that being said, as we said at PulseCon [and] as we said last week, we definitely were excited for kids to experience Indiana Jones as well. I’ve said a few times [that] Indiana Jones [as a franchise] is what it is because kids in the 1980s loved it. Chris and I were kids during the original trilogy of films. It’s magical for kids. I watched Temple of Doom– I think that was my first Indy movie– for the first time at a second-grade sleepover, which is not the recommended way to first experience Indy, but it’s just magical for kids. We want to be Indiana Jones. I definitely wanted to be Indiana Jones. The brand has appeal to kids; that is certainly evident.

We’ve also done a lot of research, we’ve done focus groups and quantitative research, some social scraping. [The brand] definitely over-indexes on affinity with kids, so we are confident that kids– just like adults– are already excited about Indy, and are gonna get more excited. Adults like me, I dressed my son up as Indiana Jones for Halloween two years ago. I can’t wait to start playing Indiana Jones with him, and we know that toys are the ways that a lot of kids get into brands like this. In some cases it’s a first handshake with the brand, so we’re excited for a new generation to experience Indiana Jones, and we’re excited to be playing a small part in that with our toy line. We think Worlds of Adventure– that depth of play– the [Action Crackin’] Whip– I have a lot of fun with it, probably too much for an adult, but it’s awesome– and then Whip Action Indy provides that great hero character. We’re really excited for kids to experience Indiana Jones.

LP:  For the Retro Collection, what is the process of selecting which figures from the original Kenner line are being reissued? Is there a chance we might see that entire line and all the playsets released in the Retro Collection?

Reiff:  There’s a chance. We don’t want to shut the door on any possibilities, but it’s not in [the] plans currently. There are more Retro figures coming; I’ll tell you that– stuff that will be exciting and new. But the core ones that we’ve revealed already, that’s it for the recreation stuff for now. We have a certain number of figures that we’re trying to do in each segment, and [we want to make sure we are] doing the right ones and matching them up with what the plans are.

Schneider:  We hadn’t seen Indy in his Retro form since the 1980s, and we’ve seen a lot of positive response in Star Wars in doing figures that have never been done in that Retro style before– Grand Moff Tarkin, the new entertainment figures, [etc.]– so we thought that would be fun to explore as well. Certainly we know that more casual fans are more drawn to the Retro figures, so that’s where we’re hunting right now, but who knows what the future could hold?

LP:  Coming out of this past week, actor Ke Huy Quan is having a moment with his Golden Globe win and all the attention he’s received from Everything Everywhere All at Once. Hasbro also just announced that Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom will be getting the six-inch-scale Adventure Series treatment. Can you talk about the specific design choices that are going into the new Short Round figure?

Reiff:  He’s such a great character, and the actor being back in everybody’s consciousness again is amazing. [With] all the work he’s been doing, it’s so strange to think that he just kind of went off the board for so long and then showed back up, and is back with the force he is. Personally, I would love to do something with him [on a promotional level], so maybe the PR team that’s listening in can figure something out. [laughs] That would be great. But figure-wise, in designing those figures, it’s fun to do kid-sized figures in the six-inch realm. Six-inch-scale realm [I should say], because obviously [the Short Round toy] is not [going to be] six inches. It’s also the kind of thing where we’re looking at ways to make him more meaningful as a smaller figure. His presence is a little less than Indy with whips and everything else going on, so [we’re] finding ways to address that and give that figure a little something special that makes him feel different. As we get into revealing more details on that, you guys will see what I’m talking about, but it’s fun. He still has all the articulation of a regular six-inch-scale figure, but looking for those details and messing around in that world is fun. It’s a nice bonus [of the character].

Schneider:  I’m loving the frame-up that the Golden Globe win and being announced for the Adventure Series are [both highlights of his career]. [laughs]

LP:  I’m curious what the fan and consumer response has been to the new packaging for Hasbro’s six-inch-scale lines of action figures. I could see fans who like to keep their figures in the box not responding as well to the lack of a plastic window.

Schneider:  It’s interesting– Chris and I and most of the team work on Star Wars and Indy. Indy’s obviously a new brand [for the six-inch lines] so it doesn’t have the same history as other brands do. It wasn’t a change of packaging; it’s always been in this packaging in the current formation, so that’s one nice thing– we always designed [this line] for this packaging. The Retro [Collection] figures, just like Star Wars Retro, are staying in that classic packaging. That said, we’ve certainly heard similar feedback, and we’re always eager to hear what the community’s saying. We’ve certainly heard some comments that we like to hear, that the images on the front showcase these figures better than a window box. That’s certainly unarguable– these are super-articulated premium figures, the poses that they’re able to achieve are impressive and we like seeing those showcased. But we’re certainly hearing more feedback– I’m not gonna say it’s equal– from fans who would like to see the product through those plastic windows, so we’re taking that into account. We’re listening and we’re always looking to the future of what we can impact, but that’s the response that we’re hearing.

LP:  I was excited to see the toy version of the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra you announced during PulseCon. Are there plans for more Indiana Jones roleplay artifacts like that?

Schneider:  As always, [we] can’t reveal anything, [but] obviously we were excited for the Staff of Ra piece. And as with other areas, we’re monitoring demand [and] seeing what the interest is. If we do any [further] artifacts, we’re excited to see the response they’re and we’re confident they’ll do well.

Lastly, a fellow reporter participating in the interview asked if Hasbro would continue making Indiana Jones toys after this year’s marketing push for the franchise comes to an end.

Schneider:  If there’s the demand for this to continue on, it’s in all of our interests. If there’s the demand out there, we all win if we keep delivering products. All that said, it’s certainly the case that this is the first line since the last movie, so that’s the history and the cadence. Movies definitely provide a great rallying point for toy lines; we see that in other brands as well. Some brands continue even when there aren’t movies– Star Wars is a great example. We’ll see what the future holds both in terms of entertainment and product. We would love to keep doing this if the demand’s there.

For additional details and pre-order information on Hasbro’s Indiana Jones toy lines, 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.