Hasbro
Hasbro

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

Hasbro
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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ESA/ATG
The European Space Agency Needs Help Naming Its New Mars Rover
ESA/ATG
ESA/ATG

The European Space Agency is hosting a competition to find a snazzy new name for its ExoMars rover, Sky News reports. The rover will be deployed to Mars in 2020, so the winner would be playing a small role in the progress of space exploration.

At the contest's launch, British astronaut Tim Peake described Mars as a place where humans and robots will someday work together to search for evidence of life in our solar system. To this end, the ExoMars rover, which will land on Mars in 2021, will drill up to two meters into the planet’s soil and collect samples, the ESA notes. "The ExoMars rover is a vital part of this journey of exploration, and we're asking you to become part of this exciting mission and name the rover that will scout the Martian surface,” Peake said.

However, the agency is well aware of past public naming contests that have gone horribly wrong (we’re looking at you, Boaty McBoatface), so it’s rigged the rules to prevent such a spectacle. Instead of a public poll, suggestions will be submitted privately to the agency, which has created a panel of judges to choose the winning name.

The winner of the contest will also receive a trip to Stevenage, England, where they’ll get to see the Airbus facility where the rover is being pieced together. The contest is only open to citizens of the two dozen European countries that are partners in the ESA.

To enter, submit your name suggestion online before October 10, 2018, along with a brief explanation (under 150 words) of why your name should be chosen. Click the following PDF link to see the full terms and conditions [PDF].

[h/t Sky News]

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iStock
Fearless Man Slices 26 Watermelons on His Stomach in 60 Seconds, Setting New Record
iStock
iStock

Ashrita Furman, a 63-year-old New Yorker who holds the world record for setting the most Guinness World Records, just achieved another one. This time, it was for the most watermelons sliced on top of his stomach in 60 seconds, Nerdist reports.

Furman came up with the idea for the record himself, and while he didn’t have any competition, Guinness stipulated that he had to slice at least 20 watermelons to be recognized. He managed to cut through 26 melons with his tool of choice, a katana, in less than a minute. (He walked away without a scratch.)

Check out this spectacle (and serious ab workout) for yourself:

“I’m really thrilled,” Furman told Reuters after pulling off the feat. “My first reaction is I’m relieved that I didn’t kill myself and the second is that I’m exhilarated because it is not only a skillful record, but also it’s something that I invented and now it’s out there and other people can challenge it.”

Furman, who has been called “Mr. Versatility,” currently holds more than 200 Guinness records. He set his very first record in 1979 after completing 27,000 jumping jacks, and he hasn’t slowed down since. In the past near-40 years he has set the record for—among other feats—the most knives caught in a minute (54); the greatest distance traveled while juggling on a pogo stick (4 miles, 30 feet); and most grapes caught in his mouth in one minute (86).

[h/t Nerdist]

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