More Force Friday Tales
The Force is Strong with the Fandom...
When I came home from work on Thursday, September 3, 2015, my wife got an unexpected question. I was just as surprised myself. I asked her if she would go to a midnight opening of Toys"R"Us for the launch of Star Wars: The Force Awakens merchandise. Because she is wonderful, she agreed.
But it was a strange request. See, I have not jumped on the hype bandwagon. Ever since the director was announced, I have had nothing but doubts. I find JJ films to be adequate entertainment but little more, and I felt his Star Trek films were actually out of line with the tone and feel of the entire series. Even when seeing the figure leaks over last few weeks, I was curious at best... but then Hasbro got me with that same old nostalgia trick by putting Micro Machines back on the shelves. I loved Galoob's Original Trilogy run in the 90's, and I was open to renewing that pursuit. Plus, the LEGO Millenium Falcon seemed legit, and I thought I might treat myself. So I figured "why not, you only live once right? It's been 10 years since the last opening of a proper Star Wars film, and we may never encounter this level of enthusiasm again. Let's enjoy this brief geek culture moment."
Now, time for flashback. In 2008, I was covering the San Diego Comic Con, and the nearby Toys"R"Us opened at midnight in conjunction with the Clone Wars animated movie (I think). I remember at the time being shocked at the number of people there, I didn't think the Force still had such a pull. Granted, I was at the arguable mecca of geekdom, and perhaps interest levels there were more concentrated than among the general public, but I remember a certain energy in the line. Though the prequels had tainted Star Wars among most folks, many fans still had faith in the force.
Flash forward now seven years later, and once again, I'm surprised by the attendance. My wife and I arrive at TRU about 11:45 PM. I had expected maybe 15 to 20 dudes my age or older casually sitting around waiting for the doors to open. Seems I am out of touch. At least 100 people in the 18-45 demographic were standing in line waiting their first chance at a Kylo Ren, BB-8, and of course those new Stormtroopers.
I heard the usual conversations taking place: why overproduction killed figure values during the prequel era, how the laser discs became an important item in the '90s (you may remember the whole "buy it now, for the last time" marketing campaign), and of course, reminiscing about the last time they were out at midnight hunting for Star Wars. About 5 to midnight, the evening manager came out and made some announcements before opening the doors. I did not hear them, but the gist was, "free stuff; limited quantities; please don't destroy the store, we would like to get home by 3 AM." I felt embarrassed for all of us that she felt the need to voice said request, but such is fandom.
We made our way through the doors, and I saw the employees handing out posters, but by the time I reached the desk the prints were gone. But the collectible LEGO brick was available, so I was happy.
Despite Micro Machines being the hook that snagged me, my wife and I went directly to the LEGO. To be honest, by this point, I had my sites my heart set on the on the Millennium Falcon, even if it the cost was a bit of a stretch (I could sell some stuff in my current collection to cover it). My wife, knowing that I am the indecisive type told me to grab the set while I could and hold onto it as we made our way to the through the store. It was a good thing she did. Within two minutes of my grabbing it, another collector literally brought a cart into the LEGO aisle and just started taking 2 to 3 of each TFA set off the shelf. It was kind of unbelievable that it happened, and I was relieved that I took my better half's advice. On reflection, I felt the store understocked the larger LEGO stuff. Adult collectors were clearly going to be the bulk of the midnight shoppers, and we are the ones that drop $150 on a children's toy at midnight when we have to go to work in the morning. (Yep, let that sentence sink in for a second).
My possible souvenir for the evening picked, we made our way across the store into the action figure section. It's hard to describe what we encountered there. First, it felt like some shortage of a vital resource had been announced and folks were just getting whatever they could. On the way home, my wife told me that she witnessed a few later arrivals sprinting to the action figure section in hopes of finding some specific character only to be filled with disappointment upon reaching the aisle and finding it in relative shambles (guess the manager was right to make her announcement). Second, this was the local community shopping; many of these folks knew each other, and a few even swapped goodies to help each other out; some also seemed to be vendors, either buying up or checking the lay of the land of what would be "hot items" on the collector market. Third, from what I could tell, the 3 3/4" figures are still the bread and butter of the line. Our TRU had plenty of stock and a fair share of emptied pegs.
A few other tidbits:
I did not see a single 6 inch Star Wars black figure the entire evening, and I am guessing that, like Target, they were extremely limited. We found a very well stocked Micro Machine section, but truth be told, they were an utter disappointment and almost entirely untouched. I had heard rumblings online that these slipped passed quality control, but seeing them first hand sealed the deal. It's neat to see them back, no doubt, but it's pretty clear that Hasbro is taking the "cheap for the kiddos" approach on this once-revered toy line (guess that the Titanium series is the adult-oriented offering - a bummer, to be sure. Funny thing: for the price of the LEGO Falcon, I could have gotten nearly the entire run of Micro Machines for the new flic, had tiny versions of the full run of major characters and vehicles, but I was not swayed (plus, like I said, I'm still not sold on how good the film will be).
JAKKS' larger figures went mostly untouched, but their 4-foot Stormtrooper impressed me. It was arguably one of the coolest sites in the aisle. The role play items had gotten some attention, too. Didn't see a single Kylo hiltsaber, though.
Of course, we need not worry about inventory at all. The Force is strong with the fandom, and all companies involved intend to cash-in. If the film is as successful as many are predicting, the merchandise behemoth that is Star Wars: The Force Awakens will dominate tog aisles from now until next summer's tent poles take over the shelves.
And let's be honest, an event like "Force Friday" is just as much about the experience itself. There's more to tell about mine, but that's not for this article. I'll just say that I loved it, and I look forward to the next one!
- CJ Stunkard
To buy action figures, take a look at BigBadToyStore.com, TheToySource.com, Toynk.com, BriansToys.com, ToyWiz.com, MonkeyDepot.com, and EntertainmentEarth.com.
For hobby miniatures and all your gaming needs, visit MiniatureMarket.com.
Re: More Force Friday Tales
Ha! I was there as well! South Lindbergh store, right? As a fan of the site, it would have been cool to meet you! Anyway I was there for the 6in Black figures as well and was pretty dissapointed when I didn't see a single one. However, as you've stated, it was more about the experience. I did nab a few of the cool Hot Wheels die cast ships. Oh but I will also like to add, I made a stop by Target this morning (on Hampton Avenue) before work and was able to get my hands on the entire first wave of the Force Awakens Star Wars Black figures. Talk about amazing! I love the Black series and was really excited to get my hands on them. Not only was I forth in line but no one else seemed interested in them so I was able to get my pick of the litter. This was perfect for me seeing as I'm an in-the-package collector.
Hope you enjoy the new Falcon and may the Force be with you, my friend.
Re: More Force Friday Tales
Hi Gene, Thank you so much for the comment (so sorry for the delay in responding). I'm not sure we were in the same place. I was in Newark, Delaware...yeah, THAT Delaware. Glad you were able to find the Black series thereafter! Oh, I hear those hot wheels are far superior to the Micro Machines. I wonder how they compare to the Titanium line.
Thanks for the well wishes!