AwesomeToyBlog interviews Hasbro’s Marvel Team

SDCC 2013 logoDuring SDCC, I had the opportunity to chat with Dwight Stall (DS) and Adam Biehl (AB) about all things Marvel at Hasbro. This conversation happened before the Marvel panel and reveals Saturday. If you’re a long time reader of the site you know that I use every opportunity I can to lobby for Dazzler – this was no exception. I hope you enjoy this interview.
ATB:  So…the Marvel lines. I’ve heard some rumors that things are changing. What’s the 30 second version of what’s happening to Marvel Universe and Marvel Legends?

DS: 30 seconds? Marvel Universe and Legends are going to be infused into newer, bigger brands for a better opportunity for us and for the fans to get the figures that they want the most. The important things for fans to know; same types of bodies, same type of articulation, same type of deco and most importantly the same types of character selections. Infused on the Legends side infused with some of the fantastic Marvel movie type characters.

ATB: So there will be more synergy with Universe and Legends with say, an Avengers line, and a movie line, etc.

DS: Yes. Exactly.

ATB: Will movie lines continue to be concurrent, or will it all be one big effort? Will there be, say, and Iron Man 4 line, a Thor 3 line, or will it all be under one umbrella brand?

AB:  We will make choices based on the film and based on the character opportunities and what we know about the films but we will lean more into these big themes. This is really about marketing and making it easier for the retailers to carry. The biggest complaint we get from the fans is ‘you’re not getting to the waves’ or ‘you’re not getting to the variants’. We’re trying to change our practices a bit to make it easier to get that stuff out there. The retailers love to lean into the big events. The movie events…the animation. We’re looking into some techniques to allow this stuff to get out there in a wider spread at retail. By doing what we did with Iron Man this year we added in an additional SKU of legends, in addition to regular you had the Iron Man 3, and that’s working really well right now. The fan response seems really positive with what we did with Iron Man 3, and we’re going to do more of that in the future.

ATB: How are you addressing how the first wave hits big, and then it takes forever for wave 2 and 3 to show up? Wave 1 always gets stuck.

AB: There’s always going to be a bit of a challenge there. We call it the “pounce”, and the pounce has something to do with the collectors and a lot to do with everybody else. Whether it’s kids or casual collectors, the folks that are pulled into these brands because of the movie events – everybody is pulled in at once. So we try to have our second wave timed alot closer to our first wave to make it easier, but alot of it has to do with the retailer’s ability to flow through the goods fast enough.

ATB: Thor’s a great example. The third wave figures were incredible, and also incredibly hard to find because the first wave is still on pegs.

AB: It’s amazing, if you were to look at the sales flow and the pulse is like this (makes a spiking hand gesture) and then it goes dead until the fall…

ATB: The DVD releases and holidays?

AB: …Yea, because people get reminded it’s out there with the films and, to some extent, the animation. We’re constantly reanalyzing every year because we’re a bit of an embarrassment of riches with up to three movies a year and up to three shows a year. We’re also asking how we retool the way we do this to make it easier, so we’re looking at ways to address variants in the future – so those get out there earlier. We’re looking at ways to balance the movie lines a little better, and all the changes we’re making now that fans are realizing at the show, and we’ll announce in the future are 100% focused on getting the stuff out there so people can grab them.

ATB: I’ve just gotten Mysterio and Elektra from Amazon – and Mysterio is fantastic. Well worth the wait since I saw it here last year. But now it’s time for my annual question..I used to ask this all the time when we had Q&A. There’s a certain disco singing pop star who is lacking representation.

DS: Think so?

ATB: I know so. I had to buy a minimate to get here…hundreds of Universe and Legends figures – and two minimates. I officially think the line could use more disco.

DS: Alright, a little dazzle?

ATB: A lot of dazzle.

DS: >chuckles< Noted.

ATB: On the Avengers Assembles line, there’s the 5pt articulation line and the more the collector targeted figures. Are those going to exist in the same stores, or will there be a split – similar to how some of the Joes went to Dollar General/Family Dollars and everything else was in traditional retailers.

AB: So we make, as you can tell by looking at our cases and going to retail we try to cover as many scales and price points as possible. We do that to allow different retailers to differentiate from eachother. You can see today an expression of a 5 point articulated low cost figure at a Walmart and you can see a slightly different one in a dollar channel. It might not have some of the gear or the accessories – just a figure in a coffin pack. The new ones you see today in the round packs those you’ll find everywhere.

ATB: Great.

AB: We’re going to do those, we’re going to contine to offer, around $10, the guys with a few more features. Sometimes the features will be additional articulations, sometimes it will be a cool projectile. Then seperately we will do the collector’s 3 3/4″ .

DS: You know, we always like to do everything we do at the highest level possible. The first launch wave of those (5 pt figures) were the vehicle drivers. This is when we said, ‘we need this. This is an opportunity. We need to explore this.’ That’s what we had available to use for dollar stores. Now as we’re moving forward from scratch, while they’re still very simple, they’re a solid figure.

ATB: They look great. I recently got the new 5pt Vader, and while I didn’t think I’d like it…I love it.

DS: Great! In the end, alot of it is the quality of the sculpt. The technology and the way we do things at Hasbro have really gotten better. Even just compared to ’06 or ’08, it’s changed, it’s evolved. It’s gotten better.

ATB: Yea, looking back at wave 1 of Universe – it’s night and day. Marvel Universe is my favorite line, so I really appreciate you guys taking the time to talk today.

AB: You’re welcome, anytime.

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