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Tag Archive: Hasbro


Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re not a player of Dungeons & Dragons, a new journey through the hills and valleys of the roleplay game that started it all will get you up to speed quickly.  Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History is a comprehensive, authoritative, and licensed look back at nearly 50 years of gaming, storytelling, and artwork.  If you grew up with the game you are certain to find both nostalgia and page-after-page of new information in its more than 700 color images from the past, images of heroes and villains, monsters and other creatures, that brought in some 40 million players over the years.  Boasting some 10-15 million active players today, D&D now features the results of writers/D&D celebrity fans Michael Witwer (D&D historian), Kyle Newman (director of the movie Fanboys), Jon Peterson (game historian) and Sam Witwer (actor, Being Human, Smallville, Battlestar Galactica) pulling together published images and source art from each edition of D&D’s core books, supplements, and modules, magazines, advertisements, tie-in products, sketches, and draft rules.  Their sources include the archives at Wizards of the Coast, private collectors, and more than 40 designers and artists from every era of the game’s history.  Released in two editions, fans old and new can choose from the standard 448-page hardcover alone or a special edition Hydro74-designed boxed set with some intriguing extras.  You’ll find a 14-page preview below courtesy of publisher Ten Speed Press.

This… treatise… this behemoth of a book is smartly designed so readers can approach it for a quick burst of throwback fun or a detailed dive behind the creation and many changes of the game and the companies behind it.  You can find a side-by-side evolution and comparison of monsters and other characters, soak in old maps and character sheets, and compare the covers and key art across all editions.  Possibly the best contribution is comparative images showing specific pop culture sources for many of the designs that made it into the early books and supplements, everything from Frank Frazetta Conan the Barbarian paintings to panels of comic book art from Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales.

From Guidon GamesChainmail to TSR to Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro and the latest 5th Edition rule books, the D&D story is one of corporate takeovers, failures, successes and strategies, all to survive and ultimately consolidate with games including Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, World of Warcraft, and the entire Milton Bradley tabletop game catalog, all under one umbrella.  It all started with creators Gary Gygax and David Arneson, and their efforts to build on miniature figure battle games from centuries past, and modern rules for gaming that had a historic source:  sci-fi/fantasy author H.G. Wells first penned a gaming rulebook for miniatures titled Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books, an influential book inspiring gaming to this day.  The founders would pull in amateur artists and eventually professional artists, sprouting from a small headquarters in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, ultimately the source of Gen Con, the gaming convention that has been tied to D&D since the beginning.

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You wouldn’t think it would be that much of a challenge.  Transformers movies are about Transformers, right?  And yet, how often have the movies tended to gloss their way over each transformation to or from a car or jet or other vehicle?  The latest trailer for Bumblebee looks like Hasbro and Paramount are scrapping the Michael Bay style and about to deliver the goods.  And not just once or twice.  Great transformations happen all over the new trailer released this morning for the film heading to theaters this December.  Jet and helicopter to cars and then Transformers and you can actually see the components change instead of a magic CGI flash?

At last.

Everybody who has ever loved a car can see something of themselves in the trailer for the latest film in the Transformers movie series.  If you’ve ever seen an old car on its last wheel and thought there was something more to be brought back, then the young Oscar-nominated actor Hailee Steinfeld is you as we meet more of the film’s human star in the second trailerIn the same way that R2-D2 and BB-8, or Number Five, or WALL-E, or CHAPPiE, or Marvin, or Iron Giant were made lovable in their iconic sci-fi films, Paramount and Hasbro are turning back the clock, and at first glance they may finally get it right.  More heart.  More Transformers!

It’s a car, but it might as well be alive.  And better yet, BumbleBee–that classic toy yellow Volkswagen Beetle turned Optimus Prime-protector–is returning to its VW roots as this film shows him back in 1987, instead of the Camaro incarnation we saw in the movies.  And if your favorite Transformer is Optimus Prime, this trailer won’t disappoint.

Check it out:
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Review by C.J. Bunce

As we wait for December’s release of the prequel Transformers story Bumblebee coming to life in theaters, the largest and most comprehensive reference guide to the classic toys, comic strips, and comic books of the Transformers franchise is on its way.  Transform and Roll Out: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to the Transformers Franchise (1984-1992) takes the deepest dive yet offered into the early days of the favorite toys and comics of a generation.  Meticulously compiled by Ryan Frost, the book will take you back like never before as he dissects each story with summaries and cross-references.  The result is a massive 820-page historical document that Transformers fans will return to again and again.

Divided into large sections on the toys, the comics, and the cartoon series, the book breaks down the toys by their release and characters, and the comics chronologically based on release.  The greatest effort is in the third section, where the author provides production information and describes plot points of the animated series, identifying characters, creators, writers, and voice actors, and he even pulls key quotes from the episodes.  Did you know the popular tie-in novelist and comic book writer Donald F. Glut wrote for the animated series?  The original actor for Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes BackClive Revill–provided voices on the series.  Frost even attempts to locate the early story’s likely location for Mount St. Hillary, Oregon.

Frost recounts how Hasbro tapped then-Marvel Comics staff editor Denny O’Neil to be the next Larry Hama–the renowned writer he took the G.I. Joe toy line from toy to comic book form.  Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter didn’t like O’Neil’s story treatment so staff writer Bud Budiansky stepped in, ultimately naming most of the characters and assigning them their memorable personalities, powers, and abilities.  Budiansky would edit the series, with well-known writers taking on the stories, including Ben Mentlo, Ralph Macchio, and Jim Salicrup.  Other creators would add to the series, including Bill Sienkiewicz, Michael Golden, Herb Trimpe, Mark Texeira, Charles Vess, Alan Kupperberg, Tom Morgan, and Mike Zeck.

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Everybody who has ever loved a car can see something of themselves in the trailer for the latest film in the Hasbro Transformers movie series.  If you’ve ever seen an old car on its last wheel and thought there was something more to be brought back, then the young Oscar-nominated actor Hailee Steinfeld is you in the first trailer for this year’s Christmas release of BumbleBee.  In the same way that R2-D2 and BB-8, or Number Five, or WALL-E, or CHAPPiE, or Marvin, or Iron Giant, were made lovable in their iconic sci-fi films, Paramount and Hasbro are turning back the clock, scrapping the Michael Bay model that audiences have been tiring of, based on box office trending in the franchise.  Less action, more heart.

It’s a car, but it might as well be alive.  And better yet, BumbleBee–that classic toy yellow Volkswagen Beetle turned Optimus Prime-protector–is returning to its VW roots as this film shows him back in 1987, instead of the Camaro incarnation we saw in the movies.  Whether he is your favorite Transformer or whether that honor falls to Optimus Prime, this new film may be just the thing to jumpstart the franchise.

Steven Spielberg is again executive producer.  This entry looks more like a Spielberg picture than more recent sequels.  In case you missed it, here’s the trailer for BumbleBee:

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Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner previewed the near future for Hasbro licenses and products at New York Toy Fair 2018 this weekend, including the creation of a new initiative called HasLab.  According to the company, HasLab will be an avenue to bring “dream projects” to fans.  In essence HasLab is a financing vehicle whereby fans willing to prepay for an item can do so via Hasbro’s new online crowdfunding.  As with other Kickstarter or Indiegogo platforms, if the presales don’t meet the demand target, buyers won’t be billed for the product.  But if the target is met, buyers will be charged and the production will proceed.  First up?  Apparently Star Wars fans have been clamoring for a classic Kenner 3 3/4 scale version of Jabba’s Sail Barge from Return of the Jedi.  

Although diehard fans have been building scale versions for their action figures for years, including most recently via 3D printing, Hasbro displayed its mock-up at the show this weekend.  On the design side, to create the Sail Barge (called The Khetanna in the books), Hasbro tapped Mark Boudreaux, principal designer on Star Wars for Hasbro and one of the creators of the original Kenner Millennium Falcon, and designer on other toy vehicles from the Star Wars line including the AT-AT, X-Wing fighter, and Boba Fett’s Slave 1.  Modeled using Lucasfilm digital archives and set photos, the final toy is expected to be a little more than four feet long.  It will feature classic Kenner style packaging, a 3 3/4 scale Jabba the Hutt figure, and lots of features.  The required target to proceed is 5,000 units, and the base purchase price is $499.99.  As of this morning 611 backers have contributed, with 44 days left before the program is closed.  Check out the details at the new HasLab website here.

The mock-up of the ship definitely has echoes of the original Star Wars Death Star playset. And it has the historical feel of an early clipper ship, including a brig in the lower deck.  Here is a video preview of the Sail Barge playset:

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Netflix is now carrying a new documentary television series that delves into the creators behind some of our favorite toys from the recent, and not so recent past.  The Toys That Made Us features four episodes in its first season of streaming, each focused on a toy line that should bring in a good cross-section of fandom.  The choices for the first shows include Kenner’s vintage Star Wars action figures and playsets, Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, with an emphasis on the 3 3/4″ line of action figures, Mattel’s Barbie, and the Mattel’s Masters of the Universe No doubt Barbie and G.I. Joe should pull in the older crowd, while the latter half of G.I. Joe and Star Wars will pull in the kids of the 1970s and early 1980s, and Masters of the Universe the kids of the 1980s.

Not a show for kids and not another show about toy collectors, the series devotes plenty of each hour to interviews with designers, marketing, other businessmen discussing the nuts and bolts of negotiating deals, like the lawyer for Kenner discussing the greatest toy deal negotiation ever, and the later not-so-great negotiation because of a loose-lipped CEO.  The Barbie episode features a Barbie expert continually bashing the character as a “hooker” as if she has some sort of love-hate relationship with the doll.  But the politics of toymaking is interesting fodder for the right audience.  Should it be a surprise that toymakers have the same ugly corporate politics, the downsizing, the layoffs, and the takeovers, like every other company?  Prepare yourself for several CEOs and designers as they tiptoe, or not, around decisions and employers they wrestled with in the past as toys and brands came and went.  The creators look back both with nostalgia and anger at the former toy companies that eventually terminated their employment.  So look for an unusual take on these toys and these companies.

The next four episodes will be launched on Netflix later this year, and include Hello Kitty, Transformers, Star Trek, and LEGO.  Sometimes what the show chooses to tell is as interesting as how the show tells it.  The eight toy lines chosen no doubt came from the producer’s own focus groups, like the ideas behind some of the toys they discuss.  If The Toys That Made Us really is a one-time thing, someone else should come along and continue the idea with all the other major brands and influences.

We want to see an episode on Marx toys, including little toy soldiers and the 12-inch action figure series.  We also want to see a history of the broad Mego line of figures, Hot Wheels, Stretch Armstrong, and Big Jim.  How about companies like Fisher Price, Playskool, Playmobil, and Radio Flyer?  A series like this needs to cover more “recent” but still classic toy lines, too, like My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, and figure out a way to capture famous classic toys like Spirograph, Tinker Toys, Play-Doh, Etch-A-Sketch, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, and the ultimate multi-license toy, Viewmaster.  How about a tour of the Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers factories of the past?  Who put out more great board games than these companies?  It’s easy to imagine entire episodes on the history of games like Clue/Cluedo and Monopoly.  And how about featuring a current game company that’s been around for decades, like Wizards of the Coast?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Axis & Allies is a classic wartime strategy board game that you’ve likely encountered either yourself or found a good friend playing over the years.  First released in 1981 by Nova Game Designs it has continued to be re-released from the likes of Milton Bradley, and it currently is a game produced by Wizards of the Coast and Avalon Hill under the Hasbro umbrella of companies.  Thirty-six years after its release it remains a fun and competitive game in various versions of play with a loyal following, continuing to be the focus of tournaments at Gen Con and other venues throughout the year.  This month Wizards of the Coast is releasing an updated edition of the game celebrating the 50th anniversary of Avalon Hill.  The company had tapped Axis & Allies original game designer and creator Larry Harris to take another look at the game and develop a special anniversary edition with updated features and gameplay.  The result is the Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition, a giant, beautifully designed edition featuring plenty of extras, including two completely different games in one box as compared to the classic standard edition–one with a scenario beginning in the Spring of 1941 (the Axis attack) and the other beginning in the Spring of 1942 (from the traditional version of the game).  The detail and complex strategy allow for an unlimited level of historicity depending on the desires of the players.  The out-of-the-box version will test players’ skill in planning, including short-term battle tactics and long-term strategy, and as with the original game there’s also room for luck to have a hand in the outcome.

The Anniversary Edition, originally released in limited quantities in 2008 and out of print since, includes more than 650 game pieces, including some updated sculpts of tokens compared to the standard edition.  It’s housed in a deluxe sturdy box that features a gorgeous painting when the eight game piece boxes are housed together.  The gameboard is a whopping 24 x 46 inches.  Recommended for players 12 and up, 2-6 can play, each representing one or more of the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom for the Allies, or Germany, Japan, or Italy for the Axis.  As compared to the standard edition Italy is feature of the Anniversary Edition, which balances out the board 3 to 3 (allowing for more players than prior editions).  As with Italy during the real war, the prospects of a single player representing Italy winning the game in a six player game will be a real challenge, but we figured a cunning or lucky player may be able to make it work.  China also has a different configuration in this edition, allowing for further twists to the game depending on how it is used to manipulate the balance of power across the board.  The key update for 2017 is an updated rulebook correcting past errors.

You really get your money’s worth with the giant board, extra features, and 650+ playing pieces in the Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition.

We set aside an afternoon to try it: my friend (who is a regular gamer, but hasn’t played Axis & Allies in years) and I (new to wargame/combat board games) made it through two complete rounds in 6.5 hours, but that time included initial board set-up (punching out pieces, etc.) and reading instructions.  Those familiar with the standard game will have no problem completing 4-6 rounds in this time, which appears to be the norm for a complete game.  The winner of the game is the first to capture a set number of major city capitals.  Each side starts with a designated number of cities (based on which scenario you play) and players decide in advance whether 13, 15, or all 18 capitals is the goal, which may shorten or extend the time of gameplay.  Paper money is used as IPCs or “industrial production certificates” and each of the six major countries is paid each round to represent a rough correlation of the actual military spending during the war.  We played the Spring of 1941 scenario and this meant Germany was powerful with Japan in a good position to strike, but the United Kingdom is entrenched upfront by design as a military stronghold with resources that, along with the resources of the United States, kept the balance in favor of the Allies for the first round.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Arriving in book stores today is the next fandom book from Star TrekStar Trek: The Book of Lists is the first book to include information from the first six Star Trek television series (including the Animated Series, but not yet Star Trek Discovery) and all 13 films including Star Trek Beyond.  Noted trivia compiler and writer Chip Carter has amassed 100 lists that will tap the into recesses of any Star Trek fan’s memory.

Carter nicely pulls together lists of topics both inside the various Star Trek timelines and real world trivia about the making of the shows.  Altogether you’ll find 100 lists ranging from in-depth comparisons of episodes to quirky oddities.  List #90 includes actors who appeared in both the classic Adam West Batman television series and the original Star Trek series.  How many can you name?  Carter came up with nine.  List #40 includes twelve popular holodeck programs.  List #66 includes ten episodes that directly tie back to prior episodes from other Star Trek series (an example is the NextGen episode “The Naked Now” and the original series episode “The Naked Time”).  Can you think of fourteen different drinks (List #25) mentioned in Star Trek series (and that doesn’t include Raktajino)?

Star Trek: The Book of Lists makes for some great content that could be used as an extension of the popular “Top 10 list” party game Outburst In Outburst one player reads a subject to one or more other players or teams who must try to come up with all the entries on the list.  Here you could randomly flip to a page and read the subject, allowing others to try to list all the items Carter included in his list.  Tally the wins and hand the book over to the other side, taking turns, making for a fun game for any ad hoc assemblage of Star Trek fans.  It would work particularly well because most of Carter’s lists are not exhaustive.  For example, List #82 includes nine costumes created for the shows that were worn by one character and later re-used by a different character in a later episode.  In fact this occurred literally hundreds of time throughout the Star Trek series, so you could give bonus points to someone who can think of entries not included on Carter’s lists.

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The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise.  Your kind made a wasteland of it….  Would an ape make a human Monopoly game, with ape street names? … Don’t look for it, Taylor.  You may not like what you find.  –Dr. Zaius (paraphrasing a bit)

In its most recent earnings statement, toymaker and licensor Hasbro reported that its gaming unit revenue for the second quarter was up significantly over last year.  Its franchise brand revenues, driven by growth in games like Monopoly, resulted in a 21 percent revenue increase for the company, to $545.7 million.  What does that mean for fanboys and fangirls?  Not only is Monopoly thriving, the 115-year-old marathon board game about real estate that we’ve all played over the years is here to stay.  Although it was slow to adapt to computing (the bootleg game Monopole was popular before then-owner Parker Brothers jumped in), to keep up with the times Monopoly partnered with municipalities, sports teams, movies, and other brands to keep Monopoly fresh.  What?  You missed the U.S. Navy edition?  The Ford Thunderbird edition?  The Superman Returns and Pokémon editions?  The Heinz, Doctor Who, and Batman and Robin editions?

It’s a madhouse.  A madhouse! … We finally really did it.  You maniacs! –Astronaut George Taylor

For its next franchise tie-in, Hasbro has partnered with 20th Century Fox Consumer Products to release this summer’s strangest mash-up game: Monopoly: Planet of the Apes Retro Art EditionIt’s not just your typical Monopoly tie-in with a popular franchise.

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Perhaps it is in part because of the influence of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, but it looks like finally, after decades of 100 male Star Wars action figures for every one female figure for kids to play with, times may be changing.  It was sad for two generations of girls–and boys–that you could quickly list all the named women characters of Star Wars, both from the original trilogy: Leia, Aunt Beru, and Mon Mothma, and only a few more with the prequels: Padme, Shmi, Adi Gallia, Zam Wesell, Dorme–and Beru again–with even fewer made into toys that would allow kids to see themselves in Star Wars characters.  Disney was surprisingly slow to integrate Daisy Ridley’s Rey into all the various toy lines early last year, but recent announcements indicate the franchise is trying to catch up.  A new line of 11-inch format dolls from Hasbro looks to be a step in the right direction.

One of this weekend’s Star Wars Celebration 2017 announcements is Disney and Lucasfilm’s Forces of Destiny, a series of animated shorts highlighting the heroism of the women of Star Wars.  Although it would seem adding the women of Star Wars to each of the other toy lines in the franchise also makes sense, Forces of Destiny attempts to bridge action figures and the traditional Barbie-type 11-inch doll.  The release announcing the new doll line made clear that these toys aren’t about make-up, mirrors, and dresses.   “Star Wars Forces of Destiny is for anyone who has been inspired by Leia’s heroism, Rey’s courage or Ahsoka’s tenacity,” said Kennedy.

The toy line is also taking a cue from a successful G.I. Joe toy series, calling the toys “Adventure Dolls,” which will feature hands that can hold weapons and feet that aren’t pointed like traditional dolls (that were intended to allow for high heels).  The Forces of Destiny dolls will be anchored by a web series of animated features in July, followed by an eight-part series on the Disney Channel this Fall that will include the voices of the actual Star Wars film actresses, including Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens’ Rey), Felicity Jones (Rogue One’s Jyn Erso), Tiya Sircar (Star Wars Rebels’ Sabine), Ashley Eckstein (Star Wars Rebels’ Ahsoka) with narration by Lupita Nyong’o (The Force Awakens’ Maz Kanata).

Here is a preview for the new Star Wars Forces of Destiny:

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