Conventions Interviews

TWG’s Interview With Hasbro’s Emily Cantelupe and Joe Ninivaggi

TWG had the opportunity to talk with Hasbro’s Emily Cantelupe (Senior Product Designer) and Joe Ninivaggi (Director of Product Development) at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con about the new Forces of Destiny line as well as the upcoming figures in The Black Series line.

TWG: When Lucasfilm approached Hasbro with the Forces of Destiny project, what was that conversation like? What does the line mean to Hasbro?

Emily: I’m newer to the project, but I know that Lucasfilm is developing the shorts and that just really inspired us to just make these kinds of new forms of figures, which could expand the audiences and types of play that we could reach with Star Wars.

Joe: This is an example of us working with Lucasfilm from day one sort of in conjunction developing this together, so it’s one of those things that was a natural sort of toy and entertainment at the same time. It’s testament to the great partnership that we have with them.

Padmé Amidala figure unveiled at SDCC 2017. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

TWG: The first wave of Forces of Destiny figures includes notable characters, like Jyn Erso, Ahsoka, Sabine, Rey, and Leia. And now, Padmé! Describe the process in putting this particular figure together.

Emily: Our adventure figures come with a combination of materials, and going into a doll like this, it’s a combination of soft goods and hair. Of course, with our Star Wars figures, it’s not just normal hair. We’ve got intricate styling in the hair to bring these sort of galactic princesses to life, so there’s all kinds of detail in that whole outfit. Also, we think about the action side of it. For Padmé, it’s that bringing up the blaster action. For Rey, slashing with the lightsaber. It’s really going beyond your average doll.

Hera and Ketsu from Star Wars Rebels highlighted in the background. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

TWG: Could we expect a second wave of figures for characters like Hera Syndulla from Star Wars Rebels?

Emily: We’re absolutely aware that fans love Hera. We’re working to bring as many characters as we can out for each wave and I think there’ll be definitely opportunities for her in the future.

TWG: And it’s also a matter of interest, right? Fans need to go out there and buy these figures in order to show that there is an interest.

TWG’s Johnamarie holding Rey’s Extendable Staff.

Emily: Absolutely! And like we said in our panel, it’s a conversation and we want to hear from you, so if you guys keep telling us what you’re interested in, we’ll keep listening.

TWG: In that case, Ketsu Onyo, too! I know she also has a short and I’d love to see her as a figure, as well.

Emily: I’d love to see her come back in our shorts, as well!

TWG: Is there anything else regarding what went into making the Forces of Destiny line that you want fans to know more about?

Emily: Check out the roleplay side of the line, too. There’s a lot of fun stuff, like Rey’s Extending Staff (as seen on the right). We’re going beyond the figural as well into that kind of product, so look forward to all of it.

TWG: The Black Series 6-inch Hera figure was delayed for a time and I know that caused an upset in the fan community, so take this time to express why there was a delay and when could we see her? Force Friday, probably?

Black Series Hera Syndulla coming out this fall.

Joe: You’ll definitely see her this fall. You wouldn’t think that green skin tone would be tough to nail, but it was in this case. We started getting some early samples and we weren’t satisfied with how it matched up to the reference, so we kind of had to put her back in there and make sure that it was right. Ultimately, we wanted to get her right to get her out there for the fall, so everybody could be happy with her and we didn’t have to do a running change (a variant).

TWG: I noticed that her lekku markings were being repeated on the figure we saw at the Hasbro Breakfast. Was that a mistake because it’s a prototype? Or is that intentional?

Joe: You know, I’m not really sure. I’ll have to check on that. That is a prototype, so that will be something we’ll fix. We adhere to the reference religiously, so I’m sure it’ll be accurate when you get it.

TWG: Are there any plans to release the rest of the Ghost crew, like Ezra and Zeb?

Joe: We know that there are definitely ones missing from the 3.75 and 6-inch. Rebels is coming to an end, for sure, but we always keep going with developing figures against old and new entertainment. We just released Captain Rex and Clone Wars has been gone for a while, so we’re well aware. We’re talking through sort of when those figures will make it into rotation, but I’d expect to see them.

(Photo: Lucasfilm)

TWG: Yeah, the concern is that once Rebels is done, it’s going to be forgotten because it’s one of those things that is left off to the side. At least, some fans perceive it that way.

Joe: No, especially with a line like Black Series that’s fan-focused, we have to take a little bit of breathing room with some of this. There’s so much entertainment, which is phenomenal, and we like to—when a new movie comes out—really hit the line hard with that movie, but we’ll never ignore what’s come in the past. That’s from the very first movie to all the animated entertainment. You’ll even see, we have Doctor Aphra and we have expanded universe characters, so there’s so much to do. Just because a series is ending and something new is coming out, it’s not the end of our expression for it.

TWG: Also, you mentioned classic figures for the Vintage line at the panel and Rogue One was included in that conversation because they have a classic feel. Star Wars Rebels also has that classic feel, so could we potentially see more of those animated characters from Rebels in that line?

Black Series Captain Rex figure as presented at SDCC 2017.

Joe: We’ve been talking about that a lot lately.

TWG: The Captain Rex Black Series figure was revealed earlier today, and he’s one of my favorite characters. Could you talk more about the technology used to capture Temuera Morrison’s likeness?

Joe: Yeah, so we have a new process that we’re applying basically in spring 2018 and beyond. Captain Rex is actually the first product you’re going to be able to get with that. He’s our HASCON exclusive, so if you come to HASCON, you can get him early.

TWG: I will!

Joe: Good, please do! Tell your friends!

I won’t get into the specific technology, but it’s a new mapping process that allows us to really take photo-real accuracy of a character and apply it to our figures. So our sculpts have been growing leaps and bounds in terms of the quality. Our team is just killing it with that. We’ve been frustrated with being able to really get the paint to sort of justify the amazing sculpts that we have, so that new process is letting us do it. You’ll see that with Rey and Rex, just early examples, but we have a lot more coming.

TWG: My Twitter account was blowing up with pictures of Rex. It was wonderful to see that reaction, and people are already asking, “Are we going to get Fives? Are we going to get Echo? Are we going to get Wolffe?”

Joe: These are all questions we ask ourselves. So many clones, so little time!

TWG: Anything exciting for Star Wars Rebels fans in the near future, especially with the Forces of Destiny line?

Emily: Rebels is a great opportunity for female characters. There’s a lot of strong women in that series, so I think it’s definitely something we’ll keep paying attention to in our line.

TWG: I also have friends in the retail business who are having a tough time with case assortments. It also affects the amount of figures that show up on the shelves. Are there any plans to change that up and make it easier for retailers to purchase figures that people want to see on shelves and buy?

Joe: We’re doing a couple of things. It is a learning process. We never really know what figures are going to sell more than others, and we have a good guess, but the way we kind of assort our figures, sometimes we underassort a certain figure. You might have seen that with R2-D2 with the 40th Anniversary collection and we’re getting more of him out there. The other thing we’re doing is all our 3.75 and 6-inch figures, we’re making them available as solid packs for retailers, especially retailers that offer an online component, which is pretty much every major one. They can buy a solid pack and have a lot more of a certain figure that has a high demand. It’s an ongoing process and evaluating the line and just trying to make sure that we get the right ones out there.

TWG: I also have a few fan comments and questions. Someone said, “Please remind them that after 4 years there is still no Padmé in the 5 points of articulation line! We need Padmé!”

Joe: Duly noted!

TWG: Also, “What would C-3PO & K-2SO say the odds are of us getting a Star Wars Rebels Gootie Terez figure one day?” And that’s a character that was introduced in Iron Squadron.

Joe: Right! I wouldn’t say no, but it’s certainly not on the short list.

TWG: And Jedi News specifically asked, “Why is Aphra down as Legends? When is she coming out?”

Joe: That was a mistake and the person who made that mistake is going to be dealt with. Severely.

TWG: Putting them in the dungeons, I see!

Joe: Yeah, exactly!

TWG: And Clone Wars Ahsoka in the 6-inch line. Is that a possibility?

Joe: It is a possibility! Again, that’s not on the short list. We have the Rebels version of her out there. I love The Clone Wars version. I’m sure we’ll get to it eventually, but nothing in the near term.

TWG: Finally, I know you can’t tell us anything about the Force Friday products, but if you could only give us one tease to make us think about, what would it be?

Joe: I can’t tell you anything about Force Friday!

TWG: I figured, but thank you so much, guys, for giving us these answers, especially after watching that panel. May the Force be with you!

Something I tragically forgot to ask was whether the Forces of Destiny line might incorporate female villains in the future. I know that’s something the fans have been wanting to know. Personally, I don’t think they will, since the Forces of Destiny line is more focused on the heroines and their heroic actions. That said, I will keep it in mind for whenever I have another opportunity to talk with them again.

Have any thoughts to share after reading through our interview with Hasbro’s Emily Cantelupe and Joe Ninivaggi? Share them in the comments section below.

Note: This interview was edited for clarity. Content was not altered.

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2 comments on “TWG’s Interview With Hasbro’s Emily Cantelupe and Joe Ninivaggi

  1. Pingback: ‘Star Wars: The Black Series’ 6-Inch Captain Rex Coming to HASCON – The Wookiee Gunner

  2. Glad to learn that the delay for the Hera figure is due to them wanting to get things right, and not due to some malicious intents :-)

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