Posted by Chris on March 13, 2013 at 10:08 PM CST
We recently sat down with Ashly Powell, Director of Product Development for Gentle Giant Ltd. to discuss what we might be seeing from them in 2013 and beyond, her take on Disney acquiring Lucasfilm, new Star Wars films, her most wanted character, Celebration Europe II plans and so much more. She also gives us an exclusive reveal you will only see right here on Rebelscum.com!

Chris Wyman: 2013 has started off with a bang for you guys as a ton of product has already been released. How many different lines are you currently producing?
Ashly Powell: It has been quite busy over here! Well, we are making tons of product over our various licenses and categories. It’s hard to throw out a number. But as for licenses, Star Wars, Marvel, Sucker Punch, The Walking Dead (which I am super pumped about), The Hobbit, Pan’s Labyrinth, and our own line, Honey Trap.

CW: Out of all the different lines that you produce, which one are you most passionate about?
AP: I have to say that I really love them all. Granted, a job is a job, and sometimes you just want to get a product completed. But that is the joy of making the collectible products we do. There are always challenges and things you can’t always plan for, so you do the best you can. However, The Walking Dead series is something I am really excited about because I am a huge fan of the show.

CW: Can you speak on the status of the Bust Ups and Mini Helmet lines?
AP: Not yet. Maybe soon. =)

CW: With the release of Episode I in 3D last year, understandably, we saw several Episode I characters solicited. Among those was Jar Jar Binks, which turned out fantastic by the way. How has this piece in particular been received by collectors since its release?
AP: Well, as you might imagine, we had every response from being ecstatic that we were finally making him, as well as “hate” mail. He is such a love/hate character. And either fans/collectors love him or hate him. I think we had to make him – everyone knows who he is and was a top requested character for years. I think we hesitated releasing him for a while because we knew there would be some harsh backlash. Also, as you can see, he was extremely limited. But I love the way he came out. And having him as part of our limited holiday gift release with Christmas lights wrapping all around him and a silly santa hat, just played up to his character’s personality.

CW: What are your thoughts on Disney acquiring Lucasfilm and are you excited about the new films?
AP: I think it is a great opportunity especially from a licensee perspective. We already have great existing relationships at Disney and now to bridge both together will be great. More films, means we can keep on making cool products.

CW: Given the new Star Wars trilogy and spin-off film news, it looks like Gentle Giant will have a minimum of five more movies to continue creating Mini Busts, Statues, Dioramas, Maquettes and more. Has there been any talk yet about release schedules for these types of things to coincide with the tentative 2015 release date of Episode VII?
AP: Not yet. Of course we can’t wait to see what it’s going to be about and how we will be able to a part of this new chapter in Star Wars.

CW: Do you feel that, with all these new movies coming, some of the characters that are still missing from both the Prequel and Original trilogies in Mini Bust format may be put on the back burner or will you continue to spread out the production of who we see giving attention to both old and new?
AP: Absolutely not. Over the years we have tried to balance the original trilogy/prequel and expanded universe characters evenly --- and where they made sense. (which is tricky!) It will just be another juggling act to ensure we are tapping into each one of our collector’s collections.

CW: Let's talk about Grand Admiral Thrawn. He's been at the top of most polls as a character that many, many collectors want to see done in the Mini Bust format. Any chance of seeing him in the near future?
AP: Funny you ask. We have actually just completed Thrawn and I would love to share him with you first hand!



Personally he reminds me of “Data” from Star Tr…. Crap, I better not finish that. I should be fearful for my life now. I really love Yasalamir, kinda interesting for a Star Wars character to have a “pet” hanging around with them. Expect Thrawn around October/November this year.

CW: Are there any favorite characters of yours that you'd like to see produced that haven't been yet?
AP: Actually yes, I would love to see Jek Porkins. He would be great! I have others, but this guy has been standing out to me lately. I think Hasbro just released an action figure of him. I am kinda dorky when it comes to favs. I don’t always go for the “top tiered character”.

CW: Lucasfilm is hosting Celebration Europe II in Germany this July. Will Gentle Giant have a presence at the show? Perhaps a show exclusive or two?
AP: Gentle Giant will not be at Celebration this year in Germany. However, our European distributor will be…and may have an exclusive just for the show! (of course we will have this available to our PG Members)

CW: Will Gentle Giant be at any other shows in 2013?
AP: Right now, we are just planning for San Diego Comic Con. But that could always change.

CW: Hasbro recently announced their new 6" scale Star Wars Black Series action figure line. We've read reports that Gentle Giant partnered with them to help create this new line. Can you speak on what your involvement was in this?
AP: Yes, Gentle Giant has been working very close with Hasbro’s talented Art Directors in creating this line for them. Personally, I have not had a hand in this project. But, I have seen it being worked on in our studio. And I can’t say this without it sounding bias, but they kick-***! It really takes action figures to the next level. Hasbro has done an outstanding job with this new line.

CW: Recently, the Emperor Mini Bust and Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot Jumbo Kenner 12" figure were both initially announced as in stock items ready to ship for Premier Guild Members which resulted in quick sell outs. Given the popularity of that process, will we continue to see products announced and then immediately available at the same time in 2013 and beyond?
AP: Yes, I think there might be a few items that this will be the case. For us, we thought it would nice for our collectors to be able to place an order for a NEW item and get it shipped right away.

CW: With the release of the Jumbo Kenner 12" Gamorrean Guard, there were ten new characters featured on the cardback that had previously not been announced. This line seems like it's going very well. How long can we expect to see these vintage style figures in production and do you think that now, given the high demand for them, you will get to all of the original vintage figures?
AP: We have some amazing things in store for this line. We most likely will not be doing every figure, but highlighting most sought after, and certain characters. Right now, we are into the Bounty Hunters and next up is Hoth!!! I can’t wait for everyone to see our display at Comic Con.

CW: Will there be any more vintage playsets produced for the Jumbo Kenner 12" figures?
AP: Nothing set in stone right now.

CW: It's been a little while since a 1:6 scale statue, animated Maquette or Diorama was announced. Is there anything new and exciting going on with these lines?
AP: Yes, but I can’t say. You are going to see something amazing coming this November/December for the animated line. And we have some other statues lined up as well.

CW: With the announcement of the 2013 Premier Guild Membership and the new Mace Windu Mini Bust, this marks eleven years since the character was first done in Mini Bust format. Of course, the 2002 version was without arms. Are there plans to revisit the Zam Wesell, Padme Amidala, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi characters from Attack of the Clones as well?
AP: Absolutely. When you spend this many years creating a line, it slowly evolves and takes a life of its own. With technology, and the amazing talent we have working on our products - they just keep getting better and more detailed.

CW: What goes into the decision making of which characters are done for the Premier Guild Member gifts and the exclusives that you produce throughout the year?
AP: We plan out our line plan at least a year in advance. Of course things change, get dropped or added. We look at all kinds of things. What characters do we want to make that we haven’t yet, what are our collector’s asking for, and a lot of times we like to choose characters that make sense for our core collectors. That’s who we feel joins our club. Die-hards. We want to tailor to their “most-wants” and give them something really special and unique.

CW: The Princess Leia on Speederbike Diorama was shown at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con and announced as a Spring 2010 release, but we never did see it produced. Is this product still coming or was it cancelled completely?
AP: This item may still see the light of day. But for now, is still on hold for some technical reasons.

CW: The R2-D2 Statue was first announced in 2008 and has been pushed back several times. It's currently listed as "Postponed". Can you give any insight into why this piece has seen such a long production life and if it's nearing completion to finally make its way into collections around the world?
AP: Boy, you are really dishing out some good questions. This guy has encountered many delays at the factory level. We have had to switch factories, and during the sampling process have encountered some unforeseen challenges. He is still in the works and I would love to say he will be coming out this year (my boss would love to hear that too!) But I am unable to say that 100%. But we are still working on R2.

CW: Are there any other cool Star Wars projects that you are currently working on that you can share with us?
AP: Well, I already did a Thrawn unveil…and of course we have all of our Comic Con items coming up….so I hate to spill all the beans in this interview. Just know that we have some really amazing things coming up this year. We continue to strive to do better and create masterpieces for our collectors. We really appreciate the continued support of our collectors and receiving feedback (good or bad) and I look forward to sharing more updates soon!

CW: Ashly, thanks so much for sitting down and chatting today!
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March 20, 2013  Gentle Giant: New Items In Stock For Premier Guild Members
March 13, 2013  First Look - Gentle Giant: Grand Admiral Thrawn Mini Bust
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