Star Wars is definitely no stranger to cute, toyetic designs. From the droids of A New Hope all the way to the collectibles tastemaker that is Grogu, the franchise has a knack for cutesy designs easy to transform into must-have toys. So that its latest series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, was primed and ready to go with the next potential toy hit is no surprise — what might be a surprise to some fans is just how quickly it turned around.
Hasbro, like many collectibles and toymakers lately, has been unable to escape the ongoing, overlapping shipping crises brought about by the aftershocks of the equally ongoing covid-19 pandemic. So the fact that there isn’t merchandise for L0-LA59, or Lola to her fans, on shelves timed with her buzzy arrival in the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t too much of a surprise. (It’s due out starting late summer 2022, and into the fall.) But what might be surprising to Star Wars fans — especially ones now used to seeing toys months in advance of their intended release, or pre-ordering figures now that have been given 2023 release windows — is just how rapidly we got to see the toymaker’s plans for the droid.
The same day Obi-Wan Kenobi hit Disney+, Hasbro revealed prototypes of two animatronic versions of the droid and a companion series of collectible figures, with details in hand for fans attending Star Wars Celebration last week in Anaheim, California to get a closer look. That’s something the company could do thanks to its close relationship with Lucasfilm, even at the height of the company’s secrecy surrounding upcoming projects — especially its slate of streaming shows.
“For [Lola] in particular, we’ve done it before, but, it was working back-and-forth with the studio even as they were developing it,” Chris Reiff, a product designer on the Hasbro Star Wars team, told Gizmodo on the show floor at Celebration this past weekend. “So, they were doing test footage — or we saw test footage — of them just doing tests [of the droid], like, on a stick. ‘How is it going to move around against this crazy background?’ — looking at the puppet, seeing how she was going to move and what features she was going to have. We keep saying partnership, but it really is: it’s intrinsic to what we do and makes what we do, in the way that we do it, possible. And that’s that communication challenge — getting those assets in the way we get them so we can develop all the stuff, and do it after [the series has finalised design]… the larger Lola we have, the fuller one, the animatronic? She’s a really nice, accurate piece, because we had files from the production.”
But even before those designs were finalised, Hasbro and Lucasfilm were eager to see the droid come to life on a toy shelf. “Honestly, no one makes these iconic, loveable, recognisable characters better than Star Wars,” Patrick Schneider, the Hasbro Star Wars team’s Global Marketing Director, added. “And I do think Artoo and Threepio, the Ewoks, the Porgs, BB-8, Grogu… when Lucasfilm told us Lola [is] going to be big, Lola is going to be adorable, Lola is going to be the next big thing — they know what they’re talking about.”
It’s not just Lola’s cute aesthetic that makes her a standout to the Hasbro team for building merchandise around, of course — her connection to Obi-Wan’s secret breakout character as the companion of Vivien Lyra Blair’s young Leia Organa obviously makes fan demand even higher for toys of the diminutive, cutesy droid. But while neither Reiff nor Schneider would tell us just when they learned that Lola belonged to one of Star Wars’ most legendary characters, they knew that even without her connection to Leia the droid would be one to watch in the series.
“I think the key is looking at the product, regardless of whose droid it is,” Schneider said of Hasbro’s eagerness to put some big bets on Lola. “You’ll see it, obviously, with our Vintage Collection and our Black Series figures because — that’s [the characters that] we want. Obviously, I won’t say anything about episode two or who you see in it, but, there’s some interactions there. But Lola absolutely stands by itself. We knew it was going to be a winner regardless of who it originally belonged to.”
Hasbro’s three initial L0-LA59 products — a basic electronic interactive figure; a more detailed, animatronic replica of the droid; and then a two-pack of 2.5-inch plastic figurines as part of the Grogu-focused “Bounty Collection” line — will be released beginning in late summer 2022, and into the fall. They’ll cost $US39 ($54), $US90 ($125), and $US17 ($24), respectively, with pre-orders set to open this week on June 1.
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