Last week at Comic-Con International 2012 in San Diego, Hasbro was able to give us at ActionFigs.com an official interview with the Hasbro G.I. Joe brand manager, Derryl DePriest. Mr. DePriest is not only the brand head for GI Joe right now, but also Hasbro's Star Wars brand, and personally has been a lifelong collector - even writing a book about classic G.I. Joe before coming to work at Hasbro.
Since Hasbro's time was limited, we jumped right into the questions...
ActionFigs.com: Aside from what had already shipped, the Retaliation line is delayed until February of 2013. And that's got a lot of fans worried, since there will be absolutely no G.I. Joe presence in stores during the holiday season - what's out seems to be selling pretty well and will probably be long gone. But there have been a lot of figures from the past two or three years that have been really hard to find at retail, as well as things like the basic Cobra Viper and Cobra Trooper that always seem to sell. Have you considered simply re-releasing any of these figures on the same cards, to cut back on production time, so that there's something on shelves around Christmas?
Hasbro (DD): [An audio glitch deleted the first bit of Mr. DePriest's answer, but the jist of it was that Retaliation's delay came as a surprise to Hasbro as well, and they found out less than an hour before the press release. - ed.]
[...] We looked at all of our production times. The big problem was, anything that was still like short waves that would have been the right ones to bring back out, and we know what those are. You know, some waves that were short shipped of our last couple years. Those have already been closed down and clearanced out of retail. I would have had to re-release them in new packaging, at least the barcodes. Looking at the production timelines, there was no chance. They would basically hit retail in December and would have to be clearanced out in January. Nobody would do that. So, it caught us kind of at the wrong time to be able to do anything else other than, you know, kind of the path that we're on, which is, we're going to sit tight and we're going to release the movie line.
ActionFigs.com: Ok, that makes a lot of sense. I didn't realize that about the barcodes.
Hasbro (DD): That's a great question. But because those have already been deactivated, the retailer can't reactivate them. At least, all it takes is like one or two accounts that can't reactivate, and that means we're not in business.
ActionFigs.com: Gotcha. And this is on a related note. Some of the figures that were practically impossible to find, and I'm sure you know which ones those are, like the Rock Viper and Crazy Legs and several others. Is there a chance that those might get released in the Retaliation line or some other future line going forward?
Hasbro (DD): Yes, there is a good chance that they'll be released in a future line. One thing that I've always taken very seriously, being a fan myself, is availabilty. A lot of things are sometimes out of our control, and when our markets choose to make release decisions, sometimes it's too lightly released or the distribution is poor. Case in point, the Dollar General figures this year, the distribution is very spotty, so we're working on getting broader distribution on those. With the figures that are tough to get, it's my charge to work with my team to try and get those out in broader distribution. So, we don't leave fans really short on a great troop builder like the Rock Viper or on a core kind of iconic character like Crazy Legs. So, I ask folks to be patient with us and we'll work through these. They may not come out on a single card. I think that's one question I want to ask the fan community, you know, you, is, do you have to have them on a single card? Or if they were part of a multi-pack set like the Tough Wave or the Lost Wave or something like that, does that satisfy the need?
ActionFigs.com: I probably wouldn't be the best person to answer that because I actually open all my toys. People probably have different prefences on that.
Hasbro (DD): I think that's valuable intel like that. So what we'd like to find out is overall, kind of the feelings of the market. So if you could kind of get a read on the pulse, that would be great.
ActionFigs.com: I'd certainly try my best to do that. I don't know if the Kwinn, and I believe there's a Data Viper and a couple of other figures that we've seen prototypes of a few times, and I don't know if those actually made it to the carded stage of production or if they're cancelled entirely.
Hasbro (DD): Well, right now those are all on what we'll call hiatus. So, they're not dead. In fact, at GIJoeCon we showed about 40 different figures from the vault. Those are all figures that had gone pretty far into the design stages, but not necessarily tooled. I believe Kwinn actually is tooled. I'll go out on a limb and I'll say that Kwinn will come out. Won't come out in '13. I hope I'm wrong, but there's a strong possibility he'll be out in '14. And it's one of my priorities to make sure Kwinn gets out. I've loved Kwinn as a character ever since we did the comic packs back in the day, and I really tried to get him in. This is a great version planned.
ActionFigs.com: I have to say, just personally, I really appreciate hearing that, because I just about had a heart attack when you released the Arctic Snake Eyes with the weasel skull necklace. I went crazy over that one. Shifting gears a little bit, I don't know exactly what the situation is with Renegades.
Hasbro (DD): Go ahead and finish that question and I'll finish answering your other one.
ActionFigs.com: Okay, I didn't realize they were related that way.
Hasbro (DD): No, they're not, I realized I didn't finish it, so let me just finish it.
ActionFigs.com: Okay, go ahead.
Hasbro (DD): Okay. The second part is, from those 40 figures we showed at JoeCon, one thing we determined on the spot with the fans who were there is that we're going to do a fans' poll, and we want fans to vote. So we'll be doing this, probably through gijoe.com, our website, and we want fans to vote on those top 40. If history is any indication, like we've done on our Star Wars fans' polls, there's a good chance we'll do a good number of those figures. So the Data Viper has a real good shot.
ActionFigs.com: A lot of people are clamoring for him.
Hasbro (DD): Okay, sorry, Renegades.
ActionFigs.com: The first is kind of toy-related. I was wondering how you came about with the decision to make Firefly who was in one episode and seems to be dead at the end, but there's not a Roadblock figure. And that Roadblock would be remarkably different from any other Roadblock figure.
Hasbro (DD): That's a good question. The main thing was tooling in the waves. We did have Roadblock in the plans. But it came down to just how we allocate our tooling. We knew Firefly is a character that has a lot of interest on the Cobra side, so he just became the one we picked. And we knew Firefly was going to play a big role in the movie, so it seemed to really make sense at the time. I actually don't know the specifics to the Firefly figure, if it was all new or if we were able to reuse existing tooling. Our decisions at the time for the last Renegades figures we did were all based on making sure that we had good tooling and kind of the best lineup.
ActionFigs.com: And if I could squeeze this in. I don't know exactly how familiar you would be with it, but Renegades in general kind of ended on a cliffhanger and seems to be kind of in limbo.
Hasbro (DD): There are no plans to do any more Renegades [episodes] right now.
ActionFigs.com: Have you considered maybe continuing it in comic format or some other format?
Hasbro (DD): Not comic. I know we did try to look at doing a direct-to-DVD or something like that, but the kind of numbers didn't make sense. And our entertainment focus has shifted now in a new direction. Now we're into what's the post-movie follow-up that we do. I'm not saying TV or anything, but what's the story that we'll tell after TV. So we kind of figured, Renegades, we've gotta kind of leave that one in the past right now. Not to say that someday there won't be a finish point.
ActionFigs.com: I mean, it would be nice to get the story wrapped up.
Hasbro (DD): It's not in the plans right now.
ActionFigs.com: We're almost out of time, so I don't know if I have time for this or not. There haven't been a whole lot of female characters and it looks Retaliation is a shift in another direction. I don't know if that's entirely based on the characters in the movie. But, oddly, like, my 5 year old daughter, Renegades was her favorite show, so she was excited when Scarlett came out.
Hasbro (DD): We've definitely had different opinions of females over the years. It's true they do not sell as well. They sell fine to collectors, but when we're also hunting for a kid audience, you have to be very careful about female figures you put out. So I would say we're not going to go entire lines without female figures. We'll make sure to get some in there, but it's going to be a measure of quantity. The best place for it is multi-packs and some exclusives and things like that. We're looking for those opportunities in '13 and '14. Good question. Great questions!
ActionFigs.com: Thank you.
[One last note: at the end of our interview, while our audio didn't get this one either, we asked the possibility of a female Cobra trooper, and Hasbro's response was that they've never thought of that, but was receptive to the possibility. -ed.]
- - -
And with that, our time expired, so there you have it for our 2012 SDCC Hasbro G.I. Joe interview.
We would like to thank Mr. DePriest, Mr. Moscone, and everybody at Team Hasbro who made this interview possible.