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How Hasbro Created its 6-inch Jabba the Hutt Action Figure

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Hasbro

When attendees line up outside Comic Con International for tonight’s preview, there’s one exclusive they’ll be probably more eager to get their hands on than any others: Jabba the Hutt, the first figure in Hasbro’s Star Wars Deluxe Black Series. The 6-inch action figure comes in a replica of the character’s throne room—complete with space for last year's SDCC exclusive, Han Solo in carbonite!—and includes Jabba’s hookah and his cackling sidekick, Salacious Crumb.

It was easy to choose which character would be the first to get the 6-inch treatment in the new Deluxe Black Series line. “Jabba’s sort of a no brainer for ‘deluxe,’” Sam Smith, Senior Product Designer of the Star Wars brand at Hasbro, says. “He’s such a quintessential Star Wars character and we knew he would be awesome at this scale.”

MAKING THE BLACK SERIES

Top: Photo reference for Jabba's Hookah. Bottom: Photo reference for the frog in Jabba's hookah.

No matter which character they’re making a figure of, the team always starts by gathering reference. Usually, that means amassing as many photos of the character and its accessories as possible to ensure film-level accuracy. “Many of the classic archival items are based on image turns rather than 3D scans or renderings [of puppets] since the costumes are delicate and, in most cases, require a person to be in them to capture the images,” Smith says. “Instead we refer back to the many on-set photos, film screen shots, and Lucasfilm-approved reproduction art. In some cases, there are so many images and pieces of reference out there that you start to notice subtle differences in features, accessories, etc. Here we work closely with Lucasfilm to ensure we are replicating the approved, on-canon elements.”

After determining how much articulation the figure will have and deciding on its features and accessories, all the information the team gathered goes to the sculptors, who develop a model. “This is a close partnership that consists of a lot of back and forth and attention to the small details,” Smith says. “We’ve also moved to a completely digital sculpt environment. In the past, we would go through a lot of wax stages, but everything created for Hasbro’s Star Wars Black Series has been done digitally, which makes the process more fluid.” During this period, the team is in constant contact with Lucasfilm for input and approvals at each stage of the figure’s development.

Top: An image of Jabba's sidekick, Salacious Crumb, from the movie. Bottom: Hasbro's 3D sculpt of the Crumb figure.

After the final digital sculpt is approved, the team develops a “tooling copy”—an initial prototype of what will hopefully be the final functioning action figure, and which serves as a blueprint for the final figure—with its Hong Kong-based factory. “During this stage, we are developing deco [i.e., paint, graphics, etc.] based on painstaking review of reference,” Smith says. Finer details, like a figure's eyes, are painted, while larger areas of the figure, like legs in pants, are molded in a certain color plastic, and details are applied in paint. Graphics are applied in a process called tampo printing; they’re tapped or pressed onto an item with a soft-tipped, automated arm/finger.

“When deco is approved and we have our final paint master model,” Smith says, “we then hand the model over to our factory to reproduce it in a consumer format.” The process consists of multiple rounds of reviews to ensure that the figure is an accurate replica of the approved model; Smith says that during this time, the team is evaluating the mold layout and colors, draft angles, deco application, soft goods application, and even the packaging layout. Once Hasbro and Lucasfilm have approved a pre-production sample from the actual line, they proceed with the final production.

Modern technology has made the whole process much easier than it was a few decades ago. “We have the advantage of being able to quickly obtain assets and concept art much earlier in the entertainment development stage,” Smith says. Instead of drawing sketches with pencils, designers use Cintiq drawing tablets, and concepts are vetted digitally instead of on physical boards. Wax and physical models have been replaced with digital modeling and 3D printing, which allows the team to “test out new concepts, new articulation, etc. and can make changes on the fly,” Smith says. “We can also rapidly deploy new concepts and get much faster approvals internally and with Lucasfilm. Gone are the days where we are left waiting for faxed input and approvals.”

JABBA’S CLOSEUP

Photo reference for Jabba the Hutt.

Besides his sheer awesomeness, there were a few other reasons why Hasbro chose Jabba to be its first 6-inch figure. “He’s big enough to work within the scale and create a commanding presence when placed alongside our other 6-inch figures, but he’s not too huge like a Rancor, which wouldn’t fit on shelf at your local retailer,” Smith says. “We also like that he allows the 6-inch line to break the typical humanoid form. Apart from R2-D2 all of our previous offerings have been bipeds.”

And because Tatooine's slug-like kingpin loves to chat about his palace and carbonite-encased conquests, the figure also provided the designers a fun opportunity for an action feature: When you push down on Jabba’s arm, his mouth moves. To pull it off, “his whole upper body needed to be sculpted from a softer rubber material,” Smith says. “We also installed geared linkage between his arm sockets and the mouth to get the effect. But this is Hasbro’s Star Wars Black Series, so it wasn’t enough to include this feature. We had to include it in a way that still allowed the arms to articulate for the kind of display flexibility our customers have come to expect from the line.”

The 3-D exploded sculpt of the Jabba figure.

The figures in the Deluxe line include oversized aliens and figures with vehicles and, Smith says, “Scale is the biggest challenge. We have to generate packaging off of the tallest and deepest characters. Bigger characters also mean heavier plastic weight and require a more defined center of gravity to ensure they will display and articulate properly.”

And then there’s the details; 6-inch figures just have more of them. “At this scale we can really run wild in a way that 3.75-inches doesn’t afford,” Smith says. “Hair especially gets much more attention and detail to ensure we’re getting the right highlights and patterns that normally wouldn’t be included in smaller scales. Surface textures are more intricate because they can really be seen and appreciated. We also try to get more weathering and wear on the figures to get closer to film accuracy.”

There are more deco ops, or paint applications, than on the 3.75-inch figures, and more tampo hits, too. And there’s much more detail on all of the accessories, from buckles to buttons to blasters: “A blaster in 3.75-inch may have been in a single molded color,” Smith says, “but in 6-inch, we add the finer details that really bring it all together.”

The SDCC exclusive throne-room set. A stand-alone Jabba figure will also be available.

In all, making a new figure is a process that involves a number of designers, engineers and product managers, a sculpting team, the model shop, a factory 14 time zones away from the Hasbro crew, and branding and marketing teams. “It takes a village,” Smith says. “ A village of super-obsessed Star Wars fans.”

Not going to Comic Con, but want one of these sets for yourself? You're in luck! A limited number of Hasbro's Comic-Con International 2014 special edition "Jabba" sets will be made available on HasbroToyShop.com following the convention.

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A Brief History of the High Five
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Since 2002, the third Thursday of April is recognized as National High Five Day—a 24-hour period for giving familiars and strangers alike as many high fives as humanly possible. A few University of Virginia students invented the day, which has since evolved into a “High 5-A-Thon” that raises money each year for for a good cause. (For 2018, it's CoachArt, a nonprofit organization that engages kids impacted by chronic illness in arts and athletics.) Here are a few more facts about the history of the hand gesture to get you in the high-fiving spirit.

UP HIGH

That may sound like a lot of celebration for a simple hand gesture, but the truth is, the act of reaching your arm up over your head and slapping the elevated palm and five fingers of another person has revolutionized the way Americans (and many all over world) cheer for everything from personal achievements to miraculous game-winning plays in the sports world. Psychological studies on touch and human contact have found that gestures like the high five enhance bonding among sports teammates, which in turn has a winning effect on the whole team. Put 'er there!

DOWN LOW

There is some dispute about who actually invented the high five. Some claim the gesture was invented by Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Glenn Burke when he spontaneously high-fived fellow outfielder Dusty Baker after a home run during a game in 1977. Others claim the 1978-79 Louisville basketball team started it on the court. Since no one could definitively pinpoint the exact origin, National High Five Day co-founder Conor Lastowka made up a story about Murray State basketballer Lamont Sleets inventing it in the late '70s/early '80s, inspired by his father's Vietnam unit, “The Fives.”

Regardless of which high-five origin story is more accurate, there is little question of its roots. The high five evolved from its sister-in-slappage, the low five. The gesture, also known as “slapping skin,” was made popular in the jazz age by the likes of Al Jolson, Cab Calloway and the Andrews Sisters.

GIMME FIVE

As the high five has evolved over the past few decades, variations have developed and become popular in and of themselves. Here are five popular styles:

The Baby Five
Before most babies learn to walk or talk, they learn to high five. Baby hands are much smaller than adult hands, so grownups have to either use one finger, scrunch their fingers together or flat-out palm it.

The Air Five
Also known as the "wi-five" in the more recent technology age, this one is achieved just like a regular high five, minus the hand-to-hand contact. Its great for germaphobes and long distance celebrations.

The Double High Five
Also known as a “high ten,” it is characterized by using both hands simultaneously to high five.

The Fist Bump
It's a trendy offshoot of the high five that made headlines thanks to a public display by the U.S. President and First Lady. Instead of palm slapping, it involves contact between the knuckles of two balled fists. In some cases, the fist bump can be “exploding,” by which the bump is followed by a fanning out of all involved fingers.

The Self High Five
If something awesome happens and there's no one else around, the self high five may be appropriate. It happens when one person raises one hand and brings the other hand up to meet it, high-five style. Pro-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page made the move famous in his appearances at WCW matches.

YOU'RE TOO SLOW!

Don't fall for that old joke. The key to a solid high five is threefold. Always watch for the elbow of your high-fiving mate to ensure accuracy; never leave a buddy hanging; and always have hand sanitizer on you. Have a Happy High Five Day!

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Why a Train Full of New York City Poop Was Stranded in Alabama for Two Months
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Residents of Parrish, Alabama probably aren't too fond of New Yorkers right now. That’s because the town is currently home to a full trainload of poop courtesy of the Big Apple, as Bloomberg reports. Some 200 shipping containers of treated sewage have been stuck in Parrish for more than two months while the town takes landfill operators to court.

New York City doesn't keep its own sewage sludge to itself, and it hasn't for decades. In the 1980s, New York City was dumping its "biosolids"—the solids left over from sewage treatment, i.e., your poop—into the Atlantic Ocean, where it settled on the bottom of the sea floor in a thick film stretching over 80 square nautical miles. When the government banned the practice of dumping waste straight into the ocean, the city had to get creative, finding a way to get rid of the 1200 tons of biosolids produced there every day.

Enter the poop train. As a 2013 Radiolab episode taught us (we highly recommend you listen for yourself), treated sludge was eventually shipped out to other states to use as fertilizer in the 1990s. After farmers in Colorado began noticing better growth and fewer pests in the fields they grew with New York City's finest sewer sludge, growers in other states began clamoring to take the big-city poop by the train-full, too. That tide has turned, though, and now no one wants the city's poop. Because of the cost of running the program, the train to Colorado stopped in 2010.

Now, biosolids are instead shipped to landfills upstate and in places like Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to The Wall Street Journal. And Alabama. For more than a year, the Big Sky landfill near Parrish has been accepting New York City biosolids, and the locals who have to deal with trainloads of rotting waste aren’t happy.

Normally, the sludge would be loaded onto trucks and then driven the last stretch to get to the landfill. But Parrish and its nearby neighbor of West Jefferson aren't interested in playing host to those messy poop transfers anymore. As the two towns take the landfill operators to court over it, the trains are stuck where they are, next to Parrish's Little League baseball fields. The trainload of sludge is blocked from either being sent to the landfill or back to New York City. While the city has stopped shipping more waste to Big Sky, it essentially said "no takebacks" regarding what they've already sent south. Short of a legal decision, that poop isn't moving.

Needless to say, the residents of Parrish would really, really like to resolve this before summer hits.

Update: Parrish residents can officially breathe easy. The last of the sludge has now been removed from the town, and Big Sky has ended its operation there, according to a Facebook post from Mayor Heather Hall. The containers that remain have been emptied of their smelly cargo and will be removed sometime before Friday, April 20.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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