Crowdfunded Star Wars Rancor figure is ‘surreal’ to work on, designer says

Hasbro designer Eric Franer highlights the HasLab Rancor prototype’s articulation. Hasbro Return of the Jedi,

Hasbro designer Eric Franer highlights the HasLab Rancor prototype’s articulation.


Hasbro

Return of the Jedi, the final movie in the original Star Wars trilogy, features one of cinema’s great monsters in Rancor. This massive beast lives under Jabba the Hutt’s throne room and dines on the crime lord’s enemies until his unfortunate encounter with Jedi troublemaker Luke Skywalker. 

Hasbro wants to bring your Return of the Jedi displays to the next level with its Black Series Rancor figure, currently available to back on its HasLab crowdfunding campaign platform. We’ve previously only seen digital renders of the figure, but CNET can exclusively reveal new photos of the prototype in its unpainted (and mildly spooky) form.

If this Star Wars collectible must be yours, you’ll need to pledge $350 before the end of Monday, Dec. 6. 

It’ll be at the scale of your 6-inch figures and tower over them, standing at 17.5 inches tall. The figure’s arm span is 42 inches, and its height jumps to 27 inches if you raise the arms. You’ll also have plenty of posing options, since it’ll have 45 points of articulation (so you can have him gobble up Luke and take vengeance, if you’re so inclined).

The figure needs to get 9,000 backers before it’ll enter production. As of Wednesday, 5,000 people are on board. If the campaign is a success, the Rancor is scheduled to ship in spring 2023, just in time for Return of the Jedi’s 40th anniversary on May 25 of that year.

HasLab Rancor face closeup

Look that cute lil face — the prototype sure is photogenic.  The Rancor’s canon name is Pateesa.


Hasbro

It also has four bonus tiers, but only two have been revealed so far: a 6-inch-scale Gamorrean Guard figure on a lovely retro cardback if it hits 11,000 backers and a Rancor pit display piece with skull accessories for 13,500 backers. We’ll update this article as the other two tiers are revealed.

The guy you see in the photos with the prototype is project designer Eric Franer, who’s built up a stunning portfolio of Star Wars collectibles in his six years working at Hasbro. I got to interview him via email about making an epic Return of the Jedi toy, why crowdsourcing was the best option and his longtime love of this iconic movie monster.

Thanks for your time, Eric. The Black Series Rancor is looking impressive, most impressive. What made HasLab decide to make this guy?
Franer: Thank you, it’s such a pleasure to get to share some insight into this exciting HasLab project with you. The Rancor has always been on our list of the figures we were considering after the success of the first Star Wars Haslab — Jabba’s Sail Barge

As I mentioned during Hasbro Pulse Con, I have been pitching the Rancor as a Black Series item for years. To me, the Rancor is the ultimate Star Wars beast, ever since its debut in the original trilogy. It seemed like the perfect time to bring the Rancor to the line, especially since it will be 40 years since Return of the Jedi was released. I love the character, and it’s been a dream to get to work on it.

HasLab Rancor arm outstretched, with designer Eric Franer

Franer stretches out the Rancor’s arm like a proud dad.


Hasbro

Why did you opt for crowdsourcing instead of a traditional release?
The great thing about HasLab is that it allows us to put out dream products like the Rancor. With a figure this large, it isn’t something we would be able to do otherwise. The Black Series Rancor is the largest Black Series figure we’ve ever made, and the sheer scale of this figure is a big undertaking for our team. 

Between the deco, the articulation and materials we used, it just wouldn’t have been feasible as a regular release. We’re grateful that we have a platform like HasLab to give us an opportunity to create figures and vehicles that otherwise would never have been possible.

Can you remember your first experience of seeing the Rancor scene in Return of the Jedi?
I remember watching Return of the Jedi in my living room as a kid. My dad had shown me the original Star Wars trilogy, and I was obsessed with the Rancor as soon as I saw it. I actually wore down the original VHS of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi because of how often I watched that scene. 

As a little kid, I thought the Rancor was real. The design of the creature looked so real to me. The size, the roar, the claws, the teeth, his slimy mouth, just everything about him was beastly. I spent the next few years collecting all the Rancor toys I could get my hands on. I played that scene over and over again, on repeat, because it just impacted me that much as a kid.

HasLab Rancor waves, with designer Eric Franer

The Rancor waves to its many fans and admirers.


Hasbro

Why do you think it stands out among the greatest movie monsters? 
The Rancor is so iconic, everything about the design is perfect, from the maquette and stop-motion animation to the sound design. The effects still hold up today and that’s because of the amazing artistry that went into the original design and movie. Very few creatures can withstand the test of time and still look impressive 40 years later.

The funding page notes that you guys saw the original movie prop up close and in person. What was that experience like? Is it tucked away in the Lucasfilm archives, like the Ark of the Covenant?
Our sculptor Tom was lucky enough to see the prop in person. He was able to visit the archives and scan the original prop. I was definitely jealous, but he brought back invaluable references that we were able to use to develop the project, so I can’t be too mad. The archives are amazing — so much Lucasfilm history is there, and the whole place does feel like the warehouse that the Ark would be in.

HasLab Rancor arm claw

What big claws you have Mr. Rancor.


Hasbro

Tell me about the process of making such a massive figure, from initial conception to finished product.
We first develop the overall concept for the figure which outlined, what features it will have, articulation level, gathering reference, and part breakout. We also collaborate closely with our partners at Lucasfilm who work with us to further develop the concept’s direction. From there, we move on to sculpting the figure based. 

It is important that the product will look and function like our initial design, so begin prototyping the figure at various stages to see how it will look after production and ensure we are happy with the functionality. Once the sculpt gets approved, we move on to paint and begin painting the model to use as reference in our factories. We develop multiple models, finally ending in a first prototype fully painted model so we can review the offering as a whole.

HasLab Rancor fist

The figure’s fingers are articulated, giving you more posing options.


Hasbro

The drool hanging from its mouth is a magnificent detail. What element of this figure are you most proud of?
The drool is such a fun detail, I am so happy we got it in there. It really pops in the photography for it! I am extremely happy with how the head turned out in general, the teeth look amazing. The range of motion on his jaw, the drool, and just the emotion you can get out of the head is so good. It looks like it’s lifted right out of the movie.

So far, you’ve revealed two backing tiers — the Gamorrean Guard and Rancor pit scenery backdrop with bone accessories. At what point in the design process do you decide on tier rewards?
We decide on the tier rewards very early in the process. Like everything we do, we work very closely with our partners at Lucasfilm on the offerings and development. Since the tiers are a bonus to the Rancor, we need to align early to make sure that everything works out and functions the way we want it to.

HasLab Rancor hooves

You know what they say about Rancors with big hooves.


Hasbro

If this campaign is successful, the Rancor is scheduled to ship to backers in spring 2023 — around the time of Return of the Jedi’s 40th anniversary. How does it feel to potentially be part of that milestone?
It is surreal to be part of it. Growing up, I honestly never thought I would have a career surrounding a property like Star Wars, so to be part of Star Wars history and to be able to contribute in any way to that legacy is an amazing experience and an honor. 

We are so lucky to be able to work on a brand like Star Wars. And agree, this is great timing to the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, so if there’s any time to do the Rancor, it’s now.

HasLab Rancor, with designer Eric Franer smiling

“Very few creatures can withstand the test of time and still look impressive 40 years later,” Franer says of the Rancor.


Hasbro

The photos you took with the prototype look like they were taken in a location outside the office. Do you put a seatbelt on the Rancor when it goes in the car?
Of course, we need to be safe, especially since he is the size of a child. Always practice safe driving, especially with precious cargo.


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