You read that correctly. No, the toys are fine. (Mostly.) Not thrilled with how they’ve added nonsensical combat armor to all their 3.75″ action figures (which they most certainly will not be using in the film), but who cares. Those extra pieces of plastic are disposable. What I’m referring to was last night’s midnight madness, the start of Force Friday, and how many fans were less than satisfied, myself included. Here’s a list of the coolest new items released from the Force Friday event.
Force Friday was toted as being the biggest day in Star Wars merchandising history – and it very well might have been, the earnings have yet to be calculated – but for the average fan it was poorly handled. I was one of the “fortunate” few who got to attend the special release party in the Toys ‘R’ Us in Times Square. And by few, I mean about 500 or so individuals. I had my mind set on three figures (all in the classic 3.75″ range): Kylo Ren, Rey, and whichever figure set came paired with a BB-8. Well, I came away with one of those.
When I got there, just before 10Pm, the line was a reasonable 200 count. My wife and I sidled ourselves in, tried not to sweat too much, and answered a lot of questions from perplexed tourists who barely knew what Star Wars was. I was initially very disappointed with the waiting experience. I expected a ton of excitement, the Imperial March blasting on repeat, and a ton of cosplay. Alas, no music in the queue. There were a few costumed individuals though, including a hoard of Jedi and Sith cosplayers who were ushered in first to give the crowd some levity when they entered. The staff at Toys ‘R’ Us did an interesting job at keeping the crowds happy. They played a trivia game, giving away old junk toys that were so hideously cheap they were actually fun to play with. They also gave away a limited edition Lego piece, which was much appreciated.
By the time 12AM rolled around there was a big countdown and a roar of applause. We moved foreword slightly… Only to get into the store some 20 minutes later. Apparently they were letting people in 100 at a time. This is a reasonable amount I guess. I was in the 3rd batch or so. My wife and I had an enjoyable time looking at all the cosplayers who had lined up for pictures and the like. When we were finally up top I gaped at all the new product. It took me straight back to my childhood. I immediately booked it to the classic action figures section. It was only about a quarter of a wall… The backbone of the entire Star Wars toy history was relegated to a section equal in size to the Black Series 6-inch figures section (which were gone by the time I got around to them). Actually, the entire Star Wars setup was only big enough to house 20-30 people. There was some pushing, but not a lot – I expect it was mostly just shuffling and bumping. Either way, the remaining toys in the range I sought was a dismal display. More like midnight sadness.
The FunKo Pop! section was a single shelf on a wall. Suffice it to say the only figures that remained were the unremarkable Poe Damerons. That’s not to say that they didn’t have any reserve stock. On the contrary, staff were constantly pulling out boxes of both Black Series stock and FunKo Pop! figures, but they too went like hot cakes. The issue this produced was that nobody wanted to leave until they restocked the shelves. I was among those many who were kinda patiently waiting to get their hands on a Kylo Ren figure. I ended up just getting the Pop! version instead. I ended up leaving without all or most of my intended purchases simply because I felt bad for the hundreds still waiting to be let inside the building.
This was a hugely unregulated disaster. What they needed to do was restock between letting waves of individuals in. Trying to restock shelves while a hundred or so individuals are reaching out to grab it before it reaches its peg is awfully frightening. As much as I felt bad for the workers there who clearly just wanted to go home, they really should have been far more prepared, with a larger stock of shelves and pegs, better crowd wrangling, and an actual plan for restocking. I still cannot get over how few 3.75″ figures their were.
What was pretty cool was that Steve Sansweet from Rancho Obi Wan had brought some of his classic collection, and it was all in strategically located glass cases. I was a bit led astray though. I know Steve was in attendance, but I didn’t get to see him, or attend his fabled signing.
I had the opportunity to play with the new remote controlled Sphero BB-8 toy. Wow. That thing is too cool. BB-8 is going to be a monstrous hit with this new movie. I can feel it. The employee wasn’t supposed to let me play with it though, apparently. So that was a neat thing that happened.
Overall, I have to say this was extremely disappointing. I won’t lie and say I didn’t have a ball picking up NEW Star Wars figures, but its execution couldn’t have let me down any more than it had. After hearing about all the other horror stories coming out of Targets and Toys ‘R’ Us and even Walmarts around the country, I have to say this is a deliberate strategy from the higher ups in marketing. In 1999, when the Phantom Menace released it’s first wave of merchandise, they overstocked with too much product. Now it seems they’ve done the exact opposite in trying to avoid that same mishap. When Force Friday rolls around next year, I do hope they learn from their mistakes.