May the toys be with you!
Today we cannot imagine a Star Wars universe without being flooded with all kinds of toys, t-shirts and shampoo bottles. It has even become normal that Lucasfilm has created its own merchandising holiday “Force Friday”.
And to think that movie merchandise was by no means commonplace at the time Star Wars was produced in the 1970s. The huge Star Wars merchandise market can be traced back to a deal that George Lucas concluded in 1973 with production company 20th Century Fox. Fox had little faith in the success of Lucas’ upcoming ‘sci-fi’ film and signed a deal with the young filmmaker in which Lucas waived $500K in directing fees in exchange for merchandise rights. This is probably the best deal that Lucas has ever concluded and also the deal that turned him into a billionaire.
Millions of fans around the world now own action figures and spaceships, as toys or collectors’ items. And with the continued appearance of new films, TV series, and animation series, the toy market continues to expand.
The best known producer of Star Wars figures is Hasbro, the toy company that took over the Kenner Company in the early ’90s. Today Hasbro has the master license from Lucasfilm to produce all official Star Wars toys.
During last week’s annual Toy Fair in New York, visitors could marvel at and drool over Hasbro’s upcoming range of new action figures and vehicles. Which announcements are most likely to make the fans happy this year?
With the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back there is a lot of attention for retro figures and vehicles.
Vintage Collection Slave 1
For example, we can expect a new version of Boba Fett’s Slave 1 in the 3.75 “Vintage Collection. Personally not my favorite ship, but the retro look with “Empire” logo looks fantastic. And this time, a nice stand has also been thought through which the ship can be placed “upright” (like an elephant’s head trophy on the wall …). Frozen Han Solo is also included. But the whole thing comes with a hefty price tag of $149,-. Slave 1 is estimated to arrive in April.
Black Series Imperial Probe Droid
The menacing Imperial Probe Droid made quite an impact on the icy world of Hoth. This droid, like thousands of its kind, were sent into deep space by Lord Vader to search the edges of the galaxy for the hidden rebel base, and, particularly, for young Luke Skywalker.
Soon you can use this droid yourself to locate any hidden 6-inch scale rebels as Hasbro’s popular Black Series line celebrates the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back with the 6-inch scale The Black Series Imperial Probe Droid deluxe figure. This item will be available to ship by the end of April 2020 and carries a price tag of $29,99.
Black Series Snowspeeder
“Right now I feel like I could take on the whole Empire myself.”
Every Star Wars fan knows these words, spoken by Dak Ralter, Luke Skywalker’s gunner during the Battle of Hoth. Though Dak did not exactly defeat the Empire himself, it sure is about time he gets his own action figure (if he hasn’t already in some collection I lost track of).
Dak is included in the 6-inch Black Series Snowspeeder, the release of which was just recently announced at the annual New York Toy Fair (February 22 – 25). This Episode V Snowspeeder is estimated to arrive in June 2020, and will cost $119,99. Personally, I’m excited about everything with a The Empire Strikes Back logo on it, but the Snowspeeder has been my favourite vehicle since I first saw the vintage version on display in a shop window in 1980. And with the fine detail, weathered look and larger scale the Black Series brings to the Star Wars toys, I’m like that fourteen year old again that can’t wait to spend his savings to own a tiny part of that amazing galaxy.
You can watch this video in which the designers take you “Behind the Design“
Black Series 6-inch figures
In 2017, Hasbro added the special Star Wars 40th Anniversary Black Series Wave 1 and Wave 2 figures. They are not packed in the usual boxes, but on large cards mimicking and paying homage to the vintage line and to the cards those figures were on when Kenner was making them in the early 80s. These are not new figures though, but merely re-released key characters from earlier Black Series waves.
This year, it only seems logical for Hasbro to follow up on the tradition by introducing a 40th Anniversary Wave for The Empire Strikes Back.
The first wave of five figures will include princess Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker (Bespin outfit), Yoda, an AT-AT driver and Han Solo and is set to be released in April 2020, followed in July by Wave 2 which includes a Hoth Rebel Soldier, Lando Calrissian, an Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot, Luke Skywalker (pilot) and R2-D2 (Dagobah swamp appearance).
All 10 figures feature vintage design and packaging and will cost $19,99 each.
Retro Collection 3.75-inch figures
For all fans and collectors who are unlucky to be born after the original trilogy and have therefore missed the opportunity to buy the first series of action figures from Kenner, in their original packaging and for regular retail prices, you can stop feeling miserable. Hasbro has created the so-called Retro Collection line.
The Star Wars Retro Collection figures are faithful reproductions of original Kenner 3.75″ figures which were made in the late 70’s to the mid 1980’s. The Star Wars Retro Collection packaging was given a used look with a big red sticker on it which made it very easy to differentiate them from original Kenner figures. The first wave of figures involved six well-known characters from Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope and was released in 2019.
This year, Hasbro’s Star Wars Retro Collection is dipping into The Empire Strikes Back with a line of action figures featuring Yoda, Leia, Luke, Lando and more as they appeared in the 1980 film. The 3.75-inch figures are $9,99 each and are set to hit stores this summer.
Vintage Collection Imperial Troop Transporter
Shock & Awe, that was my reaction when I saw the Imperial troop transporter in The Mandalorian episode 7: “The Reckoning”. Even though the first Kenner toy from 1979 has decorated my own display cabinet for years, the Imperial troop transporter had never appeared in a Star Wars live-action scene up to now. This new The Mandalorian version looks a bit more streamlined and weathered than the 1979 version, and it’s definitely a very cool addition to the vehicles in the Star Wars universe.
Hasbro brings out a nice copy in its 3.75-inch ”Vintage Collection”, which gives the box a pleasant retro look. The transporter will cost you around $72,- and is estimated to arrive later this month.
“The Child” animatronic edition
Last but not least, we will stay with The Mandalorian, because if this TV series has already achieved anything, it is the worldwide embrace of “The Child” aka Baby Yoda.
The life-sized animatronic edition really stands out among the various Baby Yoda products. With sounds and moving body parts, this creature comes closest to a real cuddly baby. You can already place pre-orders for $59,99. But your patience will be tested as “The Child” won’t hit the shelves until the end of November 2020. Maybe Hasbro has decided to wait for Season 2 of The Mandalorian, which conveniently starts around the holidays season this fall. And believe it or not, “The Child” even comes with its own teaser trailer.
Hasbro’s missed opportunity of presenting 2019’s ultimate Christmas gift can still be made up this year. So, what’s your favorite Star Wars collectible to look forward to this year?