With many of us hunkering down at home right now, I thought it might be fun to offer our readers something that we haven't done for seven years. That's right...the last time we did a Gentle Giant Ltd. Q&A was in 2013
when we exclusively revealed the Grand Admiral Thrawn Mini Bust! Over the weekend, I spoke with Chuck Terceira, President of Diamond Select Toys, to pick his brain about the current state of Gentle Giant Ltd. and what we can expect from them for the rest of 2020 and beyond. This was a no holds barred Q&A and we hope you enjoy!
Chris Wyman: Chuck, thanks so much for clearing some space on your calendar to chat with me today about the current state of Gentle Giant Ltd.’s Star Wars product lines! To start things off, can you tell me how you first got involved with Diamond Select Toys and who your favorite Star Wars character is?
Chuck Terceira: I can give you the short answer. I started at Diamond Comics over 20 years ago to be the toy buyer and start the toy division. Shortly after that, Steve Geppi founded DST to make products aimed at an area he felt was under serviced at the time, collectors and the specialty market. After about a year of its creation, I was added to the staff at DST. When I was little and the movie A New Hope came out, I liked Luke and would play as him with friends, and used anything I could for a lightsaber. Now, I am not sure...maybe Han? Might still be Luke too if I am honest.
CW: It’s been just over a year since Diamond Select Toys purchased Gentle Giant Ltd. and we’ve seen some great stuff solicited and released thus far. How was that first year for you guys and what’s been your favorite product line or individual collectible to work on up to this point?
CT: For sure it has been a steep learning curve and we’ve tried to do more good then not good. I’ve been very lucky to have Dev Gilmore on board to help guide our path with the history and knowledge he has for the franchise and collectors. We’ve had to spend much more time then we expected working on the website, but we’re confident the changes we have made will be seen as improvements. I am very happy with how that is evolving. For products I am most pleased with, the Dreamer Statues of Luke and Rey. I am most impressed with the work the team has done on the 1/6 scale Vader. For upcoming, I love what we are doing for The Mandalorian – I really like that show, as well as the new 1/7 scale animated line.
CW: I’ve noticed some newer product line names that have popped up over the last year or so which includes the Milestones Collection (1:6 scale Statue) and the Dreamer Premier Collection (1:7 scale Statue). Are these the new and official names for the 1:6 & 1:7 scale lines moving forward?
CT: Yes, that is correct. It's more a branding issue and a continuity of messaging issue then anything else. GG LTD was already doing 1/6 statues for Star Wars and DST had several lines existing at that scale and had for many, many years sold under the Milestones line, so we brought the SW line under that banner. As such, our plan is to make the bases more thematic and when it makes sense, to make for more dynamic poses and displays then the black base GG has been using.
For some reason, GG was calling their smaller scale pieces “Gallery”, which for DST, is a huge issue. We've had a robust line for several years now of our PVC statues produced under the Gallery banner. So our thinking, as well as sales and buyers thinking, was that both lines could not exist with that name. We already had a smaller more basic pose and base line called Premier and again, it had existed for years. So we decided to roll that into what was the GG Gallery line. The two scales are very close to each other and the pieces we have displayed in the office seem to fit very well. I understand on the face, any change will be upsetting to collectors and we hope they will at least stick around to see how it goes. We had to move the product forward to try to improve on the sale GG LTD had been having while respecting the legacy and what the collectors loved about the lines.
CW: I saw a new 1:7 scale animated Star Wars Bust line revealed during Toy Fair this year that will debut with key characters from Star Wars: The Clone Wars & Star Wars Rebels. Can you talk about the thought process behind starting a new line in a slightly different scale than the current 1:6 scale Mini Bust line and also tell me what the official name for this line will be?
CT: Well, while we were new to the inner workings of GG LTD when we acquired the select assets, many of us were fans of the brand, the product, and the Star Wars franchise, and pretty much all of us had pieces in our collections. One thing we noticed was GG LTD had never done “screen accurate” busts from the animated shows. We have a huge love for what Dave Filoni and his team had done with The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels and while the “realistic” take on the characters was very neat and had it's place in fans collections, this seemed like an oversight to the team. DST has, what we think, is a very good team for the animation products we have done. Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League of America & X-Men have all been very well received. Barry Bradfield, Robert Yee and Paul Harding really wanted to get a crack at the SW products! As for the scale, we gave that a great deal of thought and really viewed this as a new line, not a line extension from the GG Mini Bust line. After all, there were already great pieces in that line that DST had shipped like Hera and Ahsoka. The thinking was it would not make sense to have two of the same character in the same line with two styles and looks. Also, it was not fair for collectors of the Mini Bust line to have to re-buy the same characters or collect a look that they did not like. Since our other animated lines were in the smaller scale, it made more sense to match that and also allowed for a full breadth of characters and a lower SRP. It was simply going to be a decision not everyone was going to support no matter which way we went. The new 1:7 scale animated Star Wars line does not have a title yet.
CW: I think we were all surprised with this COVID-19 Virus and what it’s recently done to everyday life. How has this affected product release dates for you guys or is it still too early to tell?
CT: Oh for sure, no one on this side ever expected anything like this. It does seem silly to talk about collectibles while all of this is going on, but we also know sometimes someone’s hobby or focusing on something else can be of real value at a time like this. Once the virus hit China, all our ship dates were changed and now that this is worldwide, it's having an even greater impact. We have issues all along the chain that we try to work through on a daily basis. I have great faith in my teams in the states as well as China to do the best job possible and hopefully the impact to collectors will be as minimal as possible. We will continue to post updates as often as makes sense on the website and socials.
CW: With the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi back in 2017, to date, we’ve gotten a Luke Skywalker Mini Bust, a Praetorian Guard Statue, an Executioner Trooper Statue and some Porg Bookends. Needless to say, the Episode VIII shelf has some room for more characters. Are there plans to continue making product from that film?
CT: As you know, whatever was done before last year, DST had no control over. GG LTD made those decisions, but as I said, Dev is still here guiding the brand and we are aware of the past history. I will say from what we have seen, the sales on the products from 7 & 8 were not too strong. I know those movies, as well as 9, have their fans and those fans might say GG just never did the right products or characters or formats, and they might be correct. However, we can only go by what we know. For sure the door is not closed to the ST products and we ARE working on a couple pieces for The Rise of Skywalker right now. We were not allowed all access to all of the movie before it came out so some work could not begin until after the movie came out. We’re keeping a very close eye on it and listening to fan feedback, so if there is demand, we’re happy to satisfy it.
CW: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hit theaters last December and it looks like there are just three pieces up for Pre-Order at this time…those being the Sith Trooper Mini Bust, the Kylo Ren Dreamer Premier Collection Statue and the Kylo Ren Legends in 3-Dimensions Bust. I would imagine there are some very requested characters, especially in the ever popular Mini Bust line, that fans would love to see. Names like Emperor Palpatine, Poe Dameron, Zorii Bliss, Babu Frik, Lando Calrissian, C-3PO and more. Can you speak on when we might see more characters from the final chapter in the 9-film Star Wars Saga?
CT: As I mentioned before, we are working on some, but I have to ask..are you SURE there is lots of demand for these “very” requested characters? The overall demand for busts and SW products is not what it was 10 or even 5 years ago. It's not just a GG issue either. The brand is VERY strong with The Mandalorian & The Clone Wars and more new content to come, but you all know what the production runs on collector products were in the past compared to now. We would very much love to make more products from the new movie. It’s not like we’re sitting behind our desk wringing our hands thinking how can we stick it to fans and not make busts they want that will make us money…right?? We just, as of yet, have not seen enough fans that would want to buy a bust have that personal affection for some of those new characters that makes sense to justify going to production, but for sure we’re watching it and perhaps as more time passes, fans affection for those characters will grow.
CW: In speaking with other collecting friends and colleagues, I can definitely say that there's a desire to have a lot of these characters on the shelf, though I certainly understand if you can't sell 500-700 of something, how it likely doesn't fit into upcoming plans.
CW: We are now in the second quarter of 2020 and to date, only three Mini Busts have been solicited for Pre-Order. There were only eight available in 2019. This eighteen year old collection is arguably the most popular Star Wars line for Gentle Giant Ltd. and the one that fans seem the most eager to collect. Will there be a greater focus on the 1:6 scale Mini Busts for the remainder of 2020 and beyond?
CT: I would not say MORE of a focus, saying that implies there is less of a focus at this time. The Mini Bust line is never far from our thoughts. As you said at the start of this interview, it's been one year since we started this process. In that time, we had to sign the license, transition the company, hire staff, create a line plan and open a California office. In the beginning, our focus was on producing all the product GG LTD had promised to fans, but had not produced, while also looking into the future. Could we have rushed out a few more pieces? SURE...but we’re not going to do that. It takes about a year to create a collector product and deliver it to market, so I would say to collectors, you are only just beginning to see what we have in the works for the Mini Bust line & other collectibles and GG LTD in general.
CW: I want to take you back to San Diego Comic-Con in 2008. There was a rather incredible Deluxe R2-D2 Statue that was revealed at the Gentle Giant Ltd. booth. It was listed for Pre-Order and then delayed for a long, long time. Finally, in August of 2013, the project was canceled and we’ve never seen anything featuring R2-D2 pop up again. Given the fact that this little droid is featured in every single Star Wars film, including all of the newer ones by Disney, and the fact that he is the only main character from all three Trilogies to have not been made in Mini Bust form, might we finally see something on the horizon for the blue & white astromech?
CT: I am aware of that piece and in fact, I asked about it shortly after the acquisition! It seems with everything that was going on with that piece when they costed out the production, it was so high, the thinking was it was priced out of the market for most collectors and in that time, some 1/6 scale R2 stuff had come out that had filled the nitch the piece would have filled and we did not receive anything on this item at the time of the acquisition, so there is nothing for DST to work from if it even did make sense to bring back.
CW: Let’s talk about the 12” Jumbo Vintage Kenner line. For a while, these were being released on a fairly regular basis. Over the last year or two, it seems to have dropped off. Are there plans to continue this line past 2020?
CT: I think the thinking over at GG had become...they had done most of the characters or looks that would justify a new production. I can tell you we have had many discussions about this line and where to take it. I will say for as certain as I can, under the current situation, the line is not “dead”. We are working on a new piece that will fit into fans collections and exploring new ideas that would allow this line to continue into the future. That is all I can say right now.
CW: Does Gentle Giant Ltd. still have the Scaled Replica license to produce the Mini Helmets and will we see any new products in that line upcoming?
CT: Best I can answer that is there are no plans at this time for any releases in that line.
CW: Is the Classic Bust line that was exclusive to the Premier Guild and GameStop all done or will we see any other characters released? This is the only line that we’ve seen represent Poe Dameron, so that’s a big hole in the regular Mini Bust line for sure.
CT: At this time, Game Stop is not interested in busts or looking to go deep into exclusive collector product.
CW: When you are considering characters for new product, what goes into the decision making process and how many ideas that are brought to the drawing board actually see the light of day when all is said and done?
CT: Oh, for sure there are items we discuss that do not get made for a variety of reasons. We look at sales history, fan request, current media, personal interest, line building, price point & release schedule. Lots of factors as well as a our contact at Lucasfilm Ltd. He’s a big fan in addition to working there, and we bounce ideas off each other every couple weeks or we fly to San Francisco and chat. It can be fun...it’s fun to uncover a character or a key moment that has not been presented and bring that forward or a new movie or property and see what is planned and what we can now bring to collectors.
CW: It seems like every Star Wars licensee is trying to get product out featuring The Child from The Mandalorian as quickly as possible and rightfully so. Is that a character you guys have on your radar for one or more of the product lines?
CT: For sure! The show is great and there are lots of things in it that translate to products for collectors. We showed several pieces at Toy Fair in February, but we showed them behind our curtain due to licensing and sales issues. The scale and size of The Child was something we had to work out as well.
CW: If San Diego Comic-Con and/or Star Wars Celebration Anaheim has to cancel this year due to the COVID-19 Virus, would you postpone the exclusives for these shows to the next year or roll them out through the website starting with the Premier Guild?
CT: We have just started to discuss that and as of now, our working plan would to be to have them offered online and kind of build from there, but lots of factors come into play and we have control over very few of them.
CW: A Christmas tradition that started sixteen years ago, first being offered just to extended business partners of Gentle Giant Ltd. and later to the Premier Guild members, ended in 2019 when there was no annual Holiday Gift offered. Will we see that tradition return this year?
CT: YEA, Bottom line… that sucked! When we made the acquisition, we found there was nothing planned or done for the holiday bust at that time. We also found out no production work had been done on the PG gifts, show exclusives or the items that had been solicited. Also, the webstore was in need of several updates. So, we had to make a list of priorities and how to tackle them. When it came to the holiday bust, it was really an easy call. We had to get what had been announced and promised to fans done first as well as re-confirm and protect every order on the website. There was no way we could get the holiday bust done on time and the last thing we wanted was to bring out another late project. We do have one planned for this year, however with everything going on, we’re falling a little behind, but I still think we can pull it off and begin the tradition again.
CW: Is the new 332nd Clone Trooper Mini Bust going to feature the same Deluxe arm options as the original Clone Trooper (Special Ops) Mini Bust from 2006 or will there be any differences other than the repainted helmet signifying Ahsoka’s battalion?
CT: The 332nd has the same arm configurations as the trooper did before. When we were at Celebration, we saw the footage and asked Lucasfilm Ltd. about the origins behind the scene. It was VERY cool, and we like it very much and saw it as a key moment in the evolution of the character. So, we asked them if it would be OK to make product from that part of the show and they agreed. Then, we went through the GG archives to confirm they had done that look, and we found the right piece. We checked with the factory, but they no longer had those molds, so we looked into new molds and if we should make it deluxe at $120.00 or try and make a less expensive version with just the one pose. When we looked at the costing, we realized even at today’s costing, due to the fact that the sculpt work had already been done, we could deliver the more deluxe version at the price of today’s standard mini bust. Then, we decided the best way to keep the production number small and deliver this to collectors in a fun way, was to make it a PG and Emerald City Comic Con exclusive. This year was supposed to be our first time ever in that part of the country. Sadly, when the show was canceled, we had to come up with another plan, so we went forward with production and came up with the idea of making it PG / GG LTD webstore exclusive rather than offer it to one retailer or all specialty shops or such. We also decided to offer it while season 7 of the show was going on and ship it to fans at the end of April, right after they see the episode. Hopefully, collectors will enjoy it and take it for what it is, a small run fun item, timed to take advantage of a current story line. Something I think comes along rarely.
CW: Gentle Giant Ltd. partnered with Nissan to produce 1:1 scale replica Death Trooper, First Order Executioner Trooper & Range Trooper helmets (essentially Statues), which came with the purchase of a new Limited Edition licensed Star Wars vehicle or, by winning a contest that Nissan was hosting. It looks like there was no helmet offered in conjunction with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in 2019. Is that line something you could see continuing into the future to be made available to Pre-Order rather than just being tied to vehicles and contests?
CT: I believe that was brokered by GG Studios and we had nothing to do with it. If they were to ever ask us, we’d love to do anything along those lines if it could be worked out.
CW: The Star Wars Rebels Maquette line was looking great with Ezra & Chopper, Zeb Orrelios, two versions of The Inquisitor and a Stormtrooper, but then no Sabine Wren, Hera Syndulla or Kanan Jarrus to finish out the line properly. Has anyone gone back and really looked at past lines to see if there were any characters that got missed that would have really completed it for fans that wanted a full representation on their shelf and is that something you guys would ever consider doing?
CT: I was told those pieces did not do that well and there was not much interest. If I found out differently, I’d be happy to try some more, but I am not sure I get the sense that it would be successful enough to carry a super deep line. Three or four MIGHT be possible.
CW: You and I have discussed this before, but it’s been almost a year since that conversation, so I wanted to ask if you think there would be any potential to go back and create Mini Busts based on some of the old Star Wars Legends books, Star Wars comic books and LucasArts video games to partner with previously released characters such as Darth Malak, Darth Nihilus, Darth Revan, Darth Talon, the Death Trooper, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Republic Commandos, Shae Vizla, Starkiller & the Stormtrooper Commander. It would be such a thrill to see names like Kyle Katarn, Jan Ors, The Dark Trooper (in its different phases), Jerec, Prince Xizor, Dash Rendar, Satele Shan, etc. I did see that a 0-0-0 Mini Bust is on the way from the newer Star Wars: Darth Vader & Star Wars: Doctor Aphra comic book series, so that gives some hope!
CT: I LOVE the old Tim Zahn books and when I was younger all I had to get me though the gaps in time with no movies were the old Marvel comics and the book Splinter of the Minds Eye. I would love to do stuff from any of that. However, from what I am told, you and I are most of the market of collectors that would be interested. IF there was interest and Lucasfilm Ltd. allowed, I’d love to do busts or statues. The Triple 0 is yes, a little bit of a test, so we’ll see how it goes and take it from there.
CW: It's the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and you guys just solicited the new 1:6 scale Milestones Darth Vader Statue to celebrate that. Is it safe to assume that we’ll be seeing more from Episode V before the year is over?
CT: YES. Vader is a big part of what we have planned and it’s a massive piece. Something like it has not been done by GG in the past…we really feel it’s a cornerstone piece and hope fans will be pleased when they see it in person. We have several other TESB products planned and hopefully they will move along and get done in time!
CW: Characters from Jabba’s Palace and the Cantina seem to be some of the most requested of any. With hundreds of Mini Busts produced already including over a dozen from these two scenes, is it safe to say that we’ll eventually see characters like the Rancor Keeper (Malakili), Ephant Mon, Tessek, Duros, Arleil Schous, Hem Dazon, Kitik Keed'kak and the rest of The Modal Nodes?
CT: As you say, many have already been produced from those moments in the movies. They are some of the coolest parts of the movies. This past year we held a Twitter and in-person poll to let fans pick which character we would do for the PG gift. Ponda Baba won the poll, so the bust is going into production. If there is enough demand, we would love to do more characters like that. We do plan to have the poll again this year and we’re moving in that direction.
CW: Once the Premier Guild Member Gift products are caught up from the previous year, going forward, what kind of release schedule would you like to see for future offerings? Perhaps an annual membership that starts on January 1st and ends on December 31st with a specific renewal period and with the Gift products shipping in the second or third quarter of the year they are produced?
CT: I think it would be cool to follow a calendar year and I thought that made sense, but once I dug into what the club was and how it functioned, I realized it might not be practical. The idea is the membership starts and includes SDCC and the summer shows. So, we want to make sure members get a full cycle of shows as part of the membership. Right now, it's going to end June 30th and the new year would start July 1st. That would have included SDCC & Celebration. I think we’re going to stick with that for 2020, but with all shows up in the air, we’ll see.
CW: Are there plans to continue producing products for the Enamel Pin line that debuted as four different San Diego Comic Con exclusive sets in 2018?
CT: As of now we have no plans to continue that line, it's just not an area we think we can handle properly.
CW: Gentle Giant Ltd. has always tried to make joining the Premier Guild enticing by offering exclusive product only available to members and allowing members to Pre-Order convention exclusives that they would otherwise have to travel to a specific convention to obtain. How would you feel about members having the opportunity to vote for the next Mini Bust or having an annual “Premier Guild Fan Choice” specific Mini Bust?
CT: That was exactly the intention with the poll we did last year at Celebration. We for sure will do it for 2020. The intention is it’s something that would directly appeal to those devoted fans. I am not sure if we would do a poll that is JUST to those folks and not allow anyone else to participate in any way.
CW: Chuck, this has been a blast and I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to answer all of these questions for our readers on Rebelscum.com. Hopefully this will be a fun and informative read for everyone stuck at home right now and give us some much needed Star Wars fun to look forward to in the not so distant future!
CT: This was fun, we should do it again soon...but not too soon...(laughs). I very much appreciate that fans care enough about what we do to take the time to write questions and read things like this. That is a passion we share and have no plans to ever take for granted.
Hopefully, everyone enjoyed this Rebelscum.com exclusive Q&A with Gentle Giant Ltd. and are just as excited about future offerings as we are! Chuck did tell me that if possible, he may send us an exclusive reveal for a new product, so stay tuned...
If you aren't already signed up, you can check out the three different levels of membership available for their Premier Guild right here