It has been five years since we sat down with Sideshow Collectibles to discuss their then newly-announced Star Wars 1/6 scale high end collectible action figure collection. In 2005, this was something that a small group of Star Wars aficionados including this writer were dreaming about for years. While Sideshow wasn’t well known in the larger collecting communities, many 1/6 scale collectors knew that Sideshow’s 12” figures set the standard, and in many instances were years ahead of their competition. Looking back at the interview I had with Brock Otterbacker and Jared Chapman in October 2005, my excitement for the line they announced at that summer’s San Diego Comic Con was equally matched with their cautious optimism.
In 2005 Sideshow Collectibles wasn’t a household name, but that was five years ago. Now they are the leader I high end collectibles and have succeeded where so many other companies failed, all the while keeping in mind what is the most important part of success: Your customers. As they continued to raise the bar, they also used their success with Star Wars to help other spectacular companies find their audience, creating a very welcoming environment for the collecting community.
While at this year’s Toy Fair in New York, I had a chance to look back over the last five years with Brock, and after a series of follow up questions, we are able to present the following look at what has happened since the 12” Jedi Luke was officially announced.
RS: During our conversation in 2005, Sideshow was playing it safe with the scope of the 1/6 scale collection, with no plans of going beyond the standard pre-existing buck bodies, and characters such as the droids, Chewbacca –or Wookiees altogether-, and no General Grievous. Where do you stand five years later?
Brock: Right now it is a matter of almost anything being possible. General Grievous is possible. The Droids are definitely possible. Chewbacca I’m still saying, is impossible but hopefully my saying that will make it possible, since that’s how it goes. I think we were right to be very cautious at the beginning because that is what we thought-just use the bodies we had, knowing that we’d be able to use them for many characters.
What we discovered is that we could push this a lot further than we originally thought we could, with environments, creatures both large and small, and now we’re looking at smaller vehicles and characters that don’t have traditional body parts. The Gamorrean Guard is a great example of where we shoot for something that uses all brand new parts.
It has really been the dedication of our team to push it as far as we can and our desire to pass our own limits, but more importantly its been the response of the fans and them asking for more, demanding more, and us accommodating them because they are great ideas.
RS: Many of them are asking for Chewbacca…
Brock: We want to do Chewie, but how do we do it? People have their ideas on how we should do Chewie, but the majority of the ideas wouldn’t work in production. It’ll happen someday, but we have a lot to figure out first.
RS: With 2010 being the 30th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and we already know that we will be seeing Yoda, is it safe for us to hold our breath waiting for any other iconic (partially armoured) characters that debuted in that film?
Brock: Boba Fett? That’s what everybody wants and we’re aware of that and we are working on him, but we’re probably not going to see him in the next few months.
RS: Like Darth Vader, there are many legitimate versions of Boba Fett (in armour), with the all-white prototypical armour, the animated coloured armour from the Holiday Special, The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi and so forth, all of which the character is wearing essentially the same armour. Is there a chance that we’ll see something similar to the Cobra Troopers in respect to multiple versions of the character released in a short period of time?
Brock: That I honestly don’t know. We’ll have to get the first one out of the gate and make the plan from there. Boba is a ways off and we want to make sure that he’s right. With Vader we had the advantage of having a taller body that we were able to modify to fit him and the fabric elements of his costume that hides a lot of the articulation that tends to come through on some of the other figures, but Boba Fett has pretty loose fitting clothing and if we don’t get it quite right aesthetically it just won’t be right with the armour over it. With the Boba Fett Premium Format Figure we were able to sculpt the body under to give it a human form. Of course this is a concern with any figure we do, but having the addition of the armour and most importantly he is so iconic that we have to take our time with him. We took our time with Vader and we were pleased with the results, the fans were too, and we just want to have the same results with Boba Fett. Be patient, you’ll get Boba Fett and collectors will be very satisfied with it.
RS: Were you happy with the height of the Darth Vader figure?
Brock: I actually like the height. It gives him a dramatic look in the line. Vader is a statement piece. He’s a big boy and he’s going to tower over everyone.
RS: What is coming up with the Legendary Scale Bust Collection?
Brock: We’re going to take a different take on them than we do with our other Legendary Scale Busts. Depending on the type of character it is, there may be a slightly different style to the busts, and in the next couple of months you’ll be seeing some more of that line. Armoured characters will still have that going for them, but collectors can expect something pretty cool for the characters in robes and capes.
RS: Like what we saw with the early production designs at last year’s San Diego Comic Con presentation?
RS: With the Luke Skywalker Vs. Wampa diorama, Sideshow was able to expand upon the actual screen in the movie and give us a bit more of a character study by having Luke instinctively reaching for his lightsaber as he reacts to the Wampa’s attack. The concept fits seamlessly with what is shown on screen and doesn’t contradict the film at all. In fact, it adds to the scene. Is this an approach we will see more often in future releases?
Brock: It is something we’re going to be addressing through a lot of different products, not just the dioramas. There are a lot of things that happen off screen in Star Wars; a lot of stuff you can assume happened; things you think might have happened. The prequels proved that is the case with a bunch of stuff we assumed was one way and it wasn’t. Our idea is tell the story in between the frames, the stuff you didn’t see. Something you only got a hint of. There is a great example of that, for instance, in a new diorama that we all love, that takes place during battle of Endor. That’ll really hit the geek nerve in every good way. There may be some people that don’t like it, but if you get [the concept] you’ll love it. Can you tell me how many times you’ve watched those movies?
Brock: Neither can I, and those frames are ingrained in our memories, like the battle of Darth Vader and Obi-Wan [as seen in A New Hope and the SSC diorama], but sometimes the more interesting story is happening right outside of that frame. Like the example you brought up with Luke Vs. The Wampa. In the movie you just see a couple of shots of Luke’s face, then the Wampa’s face, the Taun Taun’s head, and the Wampa’s hand and that’s really all there is. That works for a film, but not for a diorama. What if we just sent you a box with just a head of the Wampa, the head of the Taun Taun, and the face of Luke and said ‘hey, make your own story’… and threw in some playdoh to make your own diorama. We want to be able to contribute to it with our interpretation.
This segways into something we will be debuting in the next few months, maybe some time after Comic-Con. I think we’ll be talking more about it there. I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re talking the idea of showing you what might happen between the frames, but something a little bit bigger. No in terms of scale so much as… something else.
RS: You’ve worked with Hot Toys on your aromoured figures. What exactly was the relationship in this case, and what was their involvement in the creation of those figures?
Brock: They really helped us out with the bodies, especially with the articulation to make the bodies work like the ones they have. They are partners of ours and we do distribution for them pretty much all over the world except for Asia and they do some distribution for us in Hong Kong and that region. That’s the partnership, and its very strong and we’re proud of it and we hope they feel the same. They are a great company and the fact that we were able to help bring them to North America and Europe and get them into more peoples’ collections is great. We’ve all watch them grow exponentially over the past few years and its awesome stuff they are churning out.
RS: Many collectors talk about wanting to see Hot Toys do some Star Wars figures in the same way they were able to do Terminator figures through the Sideshow License. Is this something that has been discussed internally?
Brock: Its been discussed, but Star Wars is a deal we have with Lucasfilm and Hasbro, and its our pride and joy, but you never know what the future brings. We’re pretty proud of what we’ve done with our line and we’re going to keep going with it.
RS: The Prometheus body recently saw an upgrade that makes it taller and includes a redesigned torso as well as a new back end. When it comes to characters such as Lando, which was released on the older Prometheus body, will the newer versions of the character be on the new body or will you use the older body for scale consistency?
Brock: For us it’s about looking out for what is best for the character.
RS: When we spoke last on this topic, you mentioned that Sideshow might consider revisiting a figure somewhere down the road and offer a deluxe version that would update it. This has become a popular concept with other companies, and as such, where do you stand on the idea now?
Brock: In the 1/6 scale realm there is always room for improvement. We’re always improving the body, the way we go through production, changing factories, and trying to add intrinsic plastics to give a more realistic skin tone. We’ve talked about coming back to a few of the earlier figures and doing deluxe versions of them. How cool would it be to do a Jedi Luke that comes with everything he used in the film? The poncho, the helmet, the vest from the beginning of the film, the robot hand, the shot hand, everything would be a brand new sculpt where we attack it from we here we are at today. I think that would be a cool thing to do, and it has been discussed, so if the reaction is positive to that sort of idea –and it would only be for a few selected characters, and not the whole line- it could happen.
It's a cool evolution to look at. I know its apples to oranges but Hasbro does the same thing. They are always improving the figures, and its cool to see the evolution. I still have my Power Of The Force figures from the 90’s and those are fun, they are cool. In a weird He-Man sort of way I like those figures. They are awesome, but looking at what they are able to do these days, its just as cool. We want to be very selective and respectful to the fan base. It’s really for specific characters only.
RS: What about multipacks? We’ve seen a Palpatine & Darth Sidious and the Luke & Han Stormtrooper two packs, and people have gone on about wanting a Yoda multipack (even though that seems weird), but what about more two packs that follow the disguise theme of the two released sets, like perhaps Anakin & Padmé in the outland peasant disguises from Attack Of The Clones?
Brock: Definitely. In the case of Palpatine we had two cool versions of him done and we thought we could really make it work as a two pack. That’s how that one came out. Has it been talked about with other characters? Absolutely. We’ve got one coming out later this summer that is a bit different. The characters are popular, but it just makes sense to have them in a two pack, or maybe it’s more of a two and a half pack…
RS: We’ve seen the Premium Format Collection go back to the Expanded Universe, and in doing so, breaking all kinds of pre-order sellout records. Does this mean we’ll be seeing more Expanded Universe in this scale?
Brock: We knew Darth Talon would do well because of the design of the character, she’s sexy and she’s evil –which always does well. We thought she’d do well, but not that good. To be completely honest with you, that caught us off guard. With Expanded Universe, if the design is right and there is a desire for the character then there is no reason we shouldn’t be doing it. So yes, there will be other characters. We’ve talked about doing some fan favourites like Mara Jade and maybe some slightly more obscure ones.
RS: Will the Bronze line continue?
Brock: Yup. We’ve got a few planned actually, but bronze has such a limited collectors base we really want to make them special. So once a year, maybe twice in a year feels right for that.
RS: Will we be seeing more scaled environment dioramas?
Brock: If you are talking about just the little ones then Yes. We’re doing those, but that’s about as loaded an answer as I can give you.
RS: What do you have in store for us this Summer?
Brock: We’re not attending Celebration this year because it comes two weeks after Comic-Con, but more importantly it falls on the same weekend as our main man Scott Klauder’s wedding, so we’re all going to be attending that. So the only thing we may have planned during Celebration is some announcements. It’s all about Comic-Con. It’s all about the month of July. To specify, Comic-Con is, for us, the pinnacle but we think it is a bit odd to cram everything into four days, and its hard for collectors to have to process all of it all at once, so for us this year Comic-Con will be the full month of July. For us, in terms of pre-orders, there is no reason to cram it all into four days.
RS: When can we expect to see a focus on The Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones?
Brock: That’s a good question. The majority of our focus right now is A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back with some of the Prequel stuff peppered in there, and we feel that’s the appropriate way to do it.
For the second part of this interview, follow this link to our sister site Cool Toy Review.