The official “street date” that Phantom Menace toys and related paraphernalia were supposed to be released was today, January 30th—but as you saw in the gripping "Phantom Phindz, part 1+2", stuff has been leaking out here and there all month. Toys R’ Us even went crazy this past Friday, and set up a huge display in the front of all their stores packed to the gills with new Star Wars stuff (photos courtesy of Valerie’s phone):
We went there Saturday, and I grabbed the little LEGO “Naboo” planet set from the same series as the Sebulba/Tatooine one. It’s fun, but let’s face it—a Naboo starfighter pilot has nowhere near the star power of Sebulba, because you know that he’s an “especially dangerous Dug”. I also had a couple of nice coupons, and was able to get 2 new Battle Droid figures for the price of one. I merely liked Battle Droids before, but the Clone Wars cartoon made me love their resigned existential angst. There were a few other things I might’ve bought, but Toys R’ Us’ prices are crazy high these days—when they absorbed FAO Schwarz awhile back, maybe they were infected with FAO’s High Price Virus (HPV). It’s too bad, because I try to support TRU over their more evil counterparts, like WalMart, whenever possible—since they’re the last major toy store left—and I’ve gladly paid a dollar more there for something I could get elsewhere for cheaper…but their Star Wars ships were $32.99, while the same ones are at Walmart for $24.96, and that’s just nuts.
After TRU, we hit a Target and a Walmart, both of which were woefully understocked; I guess the Target’s excuse was that they were remodeling the store, but Walmart was like a Soviet grocery store—complete with Soviets.
Our last stop was Wegman’s grocery store, which was probably a bad place to go in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, since it was mobbed with people (some of them may have been Soviets, too). Luckily, though, I chanced upon the latest issue of “Star Wars Insider” magazine, which was a special issue dedicated to The Phantom Menace in 3-D—so into the cart it went without a second thought. I was really hoping to find more Cheerios or other General Mills cereal with those Phantom Menace pens, but there wasn’t a single box to be found. My last hope was the yogurt section, and though at first it looked like they only had Spongebob Gogurt, I was delighted to see the Phantom Menace Gogurt sitting there. Each tube of Gogurt has a glow-in-the-dark (so they say!) “Slurp Saber” on one side, and a different Phantom Menace character with some inane trivia question on the other. When I got home and opened them, I was thrilled with the line-up of characters I got: Jar Jar, Boss Nass, R2, Anakin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, a Battle Droid, and Darth Sidious. That’s what makes The Phantom Menace Holiday 2012 so exciting to me—the ability to go into a grocery store 13 years after the movie was released, and walk out with a tube of blue yogurt with Boss Nass sternly glaring at me on it!! It’s like he’s looking at me and spitting, “WHO’S dissen HISSEN??”
The whole “Slurp Saber” thing is bizarre—like most glow-in-the-dark things, it says to hold it up to the light to “charge” it…but by doing that long enough, you’ll heat up your yogurt, and the prospect of warm yogurt is pretty gross to me!! It also seems like trouble to have a Slurp Saber fight, because it’s inevitable that one of them is going to burst all over the place—at least if you’re really putting any passion into your swordsmanship slurpsmanship. I tried to get it to glow after I ate one, but lost interest after about 5 seconds of holding it up to the lamp; anyways, after all the yogurt is out of it, it’s pretty…uh, flaccid.
I like the obnoxious title of this post, it sounds like a short-lived website in the summer of 1999, maintained until the 18 year-old site owner went off to college and lost interest by October of that year.
Like I’ve said, I love walking into stores and seeing the return of The Phantom Menace! Even if it hasn’t/won’t reach the ridiculously operatic heights of the 1999 marketing blitz, it’s still great to see, for a couple of reasons—my affection for the characters and the movie first and foremost, but also, it must rankle those sour snakes who hate TPM with all their hearts (no matter how cold and tiny they may be).
A few weeks ago, the same fateful day that Valerie and I found the TPM Cheerios, I found these three notepads in Target’s “$1 Spot”:
I don’t really have much use for notepads these days, never mind 3 of them, but for a dollar each, I wasn’t about to pass them up. The one with the Naboo Starfighter and Darth Maul vs. Obi-Wan pad both have really nice heavy cardboard covers, and the middle one, described as a “journal” (for who?? maybe a leprechaun who leads an uneventful life—it’s really small) has a cool lenticular cover that changes back and forth between the TPM movie poster and an image of the space dogfight. I haven’t seen these at any of the Targets I’ve been to since, so I hope they get more—you should grab one or all of them, just in case you get laryngitis and need to write out basic demands for your loved ones or servants to follow.
A week and a half ago, I set out early one cold morning and came up with this batch of victory:
That LEGO set is excellent; for some reason, Sebulba and his podracer are representing the entire planet of Tatooine—as if it wasn’t just the Boonta Eve Podrace that he was trying to repeat as champion of, but the whole damned planet.
The Darth Maul and Anakin “vintage” figures were found under shady circumstances at one of my local Targets—I’d gotten there soon enough after they opened that the Target dudes were still stocking the shelves in the toy department. Rounding the corner to the Star Wars aisle, I steeled myself for the usual disappointment of finding nothing that I wanted, and at first glance, that was the case. Upon reaching the actual pegs, I was stunned to see that the only Star Wars figure hanging there was Darth Maul—the hardest-to-find figure of this “wave” of TPM figures (I’d found most of the TPM figures I’d wanted the week before, all but Darth Maul and Anakin)! I was delighted to find him, and threw him into the cart. I slowly made my way out of the toy department, glancing at the clearance endcaps along the way, when I saw something that caught my eye—stuffed behind some unwanted toys were about six more Phantom Menace figures, including the Anakin pictured above. What was strange was that the toys hanging above the stashed figures were sort of swaying, as if somebody had just been in that area…and seeing as that I was one of only maybe 2 or 3 other customers in the store, and nobody was anywhere near the toy section, my theory is that one of those poor Target stockers had tried to hide those figures there until they could buy them on their break. I was glad to negate their unfair advantage with my retail eagle eyes! I also grabbed that Darth Maul PEZ dispenser during that Target visit; it’s hard to believe it took them this long to produce one of him…though most characters from The Phantom Menace have been treated like lepers by the licensees of Lucasfilm over the past 13 years, Darth Maul has always remained popular.
The last item I found that day was the plastic Darth Maul store display in the upper-left of the picture. I had gone to Wal-Mart in hopes that they’d inexplicably have put out all their Phantom Menace stuff despite the January 30th “Street date”, and they hadn’t…except that this brand new store display was just laying on the floor of their squalid toy department! I love any kind of store display items like that, and so I threw it in my cart. As it was just a piece of promotional material and had no price, it wasn’t like I could buy it—but you never know what kind of Wal-Mart employees you may have to deal with; I’ve asked to take stuff like that even as they’ve been throwing it away as garbage, and been harshly denied, but then, I’ve also dealt with really friendly employees who’ve just given me parts of store displays when they were taking them down. I decided to just play it cool, threw a couple of things like soap into my cart, and went to the checkout. Since that little sign is just flat, I left it in the cart as I put my items on the counter, and decided to strike up an absurd conversation with the clerk about how much my wife and I LOVED the Dial Cranberry Anti-Oxidant soap I was buying, and how she MUST try it. Since she thought I was deranged for being so enthusiastic about soap around 830am, she just smiled politely and said she would—I knew she was lying—but my tactic of misdirecting her attention worked, and I wheeled my cart and my new Darth Maul store display out the door to freedom. Since magic is really all about misdirecting the audience while you perform sleight of hand, I’m classifying this as a magical act, or maybe even…a miracle???
This ran about 8 times longer than I had planned, so part 3 will follow tomorrow! If you dared to read this far, thanks.
Portraits of Uncelebrated Characters of The Phantom Menace #1: Aldar Beedo
As far as brilliant and bizarre background characters go, The Phantom Menace is an embarrassment of riches. In this on-going but irregularly-scheduled series, I’ll draw one of these great weirdos, and you can print it out and tape it up inside your locker or whatever.
Aldar Beedo is one of the podracers in the Boonta Eve Classic, he has an elegant neck-frill of some kind, and I love his kind of hangdog expression. He knows he won’t win the race, but he’s like, “What the hell, what else am I going to do for Boonta Eve?” It’s how I feel every New Year’s!!
I love walking into a store a month or so before Halloween or Christmas and seeing their “seasonal” section stuffed to the gills with holiday decorations and festive junk—I’m bound to buy something, just because I can. Just like the ramp-up to those slightly more established holidays, if you pay a visit to your local stores, you may start to see Phantom Menace-related items on the shelves. I’m not really talking about the toy aisle, though of course I’ll cover that soon enough.
One of the cheaper thrills to be had, Phantom Menace-wise, is the new Cheerios cereal promotion which includes one of 8 figural pens in every box:
When I first heard about this online a few weeks ago, I was pretty excited—ever since the glory days of 1999 omnipresent Phantom Menace saturation, it’s been the black sheep of the Star Wars movies (or maybe of all popular culture), and has been severely under-represented everywhere for the past 13 years. My wife and I found some a couple of weeks ago, and as there was a “4/$10” sale on Cheerios, we bought four boxes.
I had pretty good luck right out of the gate—out of the 4 boxes, I got 4 different pens: Yoda, Artoo-Detoo, See-Threepio, and TPM-era Anakin. I don’t mean to be so ungrateful to chance, fate, and the people who shove Star Wars pens into boxes at the Cheerios factory, but the secret truth is that I didn’t get the one I wanted the most: Jar Jar. Don’t get me wrong—under any other circumstances, I’d be thrilled to get those characters in a box of cereal; God knows I’ve bought cereal before (and will again, for sure) to get far less grandiose prizes. The thing is, the promotion is specifically to promote The Phantom Menace in 3-D, and yet, there was a golden Threepio, just as he never appeared in The Phantom Menace! Why couldn’t he be the ‘uncovered’ version of ol’ Threeps?
That aside, since I’m truly not so bent out of shape over that, and I know that beggars can’t be choosers—it is great to get Star Wars pens in Cheerios, after all— the kind of muted half-disappointment I felt was because Yoda, Threepio, and Artoo are perpetually available on hundreds of different items every year. No doubt, it’s because they’re so iconic, but it was a bit of a bummer that just when The Phantom Menace finally gets its “moment” again, the marketing/licensing people go the safe and kind of boring route and throw in those characters in their most commonly-seen forms. When was the last time you were in any store and saw some kids’ t-shirt with, say, Watto on it?? Yeah, probably 1999!! I think I was spoiled from growing up with Star Wars and seeing bizarre things like Tauntaun or Sy Snootles plastic heads filled with candy on 7-11 counters. I get that they’re going to produce what sells, but sometimes, the era of “brand icons” is a real snooze. If I had kids, they’d have Watto t-shirts, even if I had to make them myself!!
As a post-script, I got another 3 boxes about a week ago (maybe we’ll start doing Cheerios-based arts and crafts projects here), but my luck ran out, and I got another Yoda, Threepio, and Artoo. I ended up trading the spare Threepio to a guy on a Star Wars forum for Jar Jar, but he wasn’t interested in Yoda when I offered my extra up for a spare Darth Maul pen he had. The search continues for the rest of them, and it seems that the pens are now showing up in specially marked boxes of Lucky Charms and Reeses Puffs, if Cheerios are too dangerous for you. Oh, and the empty boxes make great Phantom Menace Holiday decorations, too—just like the boxes of Chocula, Frankenberry, and Boo Berry that I tastefully placed in our living room during Halloween!
Hi, welcome to The Phantom Menace: The Holiday. Tired of the internet-fueled hatred aimed at The Phantom Menace over the past 13 years (with some exceptions, like these fantastic sites:http://starwarsprequelappreciationsociety.wordpress.com/and http://acertainpointofview.net/ ), I’ve decided to try to balance the sour suck of these grousing grumps with something FUN. I know that the concept of celebrating The Phantom Menace as a holiday sounds absurd, and yeah, it is—but make no mistake: I LOVE The Phantom Menace. There will be no apologies from me for ANYTHING in that movie, from Jar Jar Binks to “Yippeeeeee”. You’ll never hear, “Well, the final duel with Darth Maul is pretty cool, but that’s about it” here. If you love The Phantom Menace and have had to live in secret shame for the past 13 years, this is your safe place!
How do you “celebrate” The Phantom Menace Holiday?? I don’t know, exactly—I’ll be figuring it out as I go. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been decorating our house for the holiday, and I won’t stop until it’s ridiculous enough to take and post pictures of. Of course, like any holiday worth its salt, it’s not solely about putting up decorations. The “true meaning” of The Phantom Menace Holiday, to me, is about defiance, and about loving what you love even if the whole world is against you (and it really seems like that’s the case if you’ve been on-line for at least five minutes since 1999). Even if I just made that up as I was typing this, it sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Though I’m totally prepared to celebrate this new holiday alone, I’d prefer not to…I’d rather it was like Halloween or Thanksgiving than a birthday, does that make sense? I encourage you to comment or add pictures or links or whatever you want. When you make up your own holiday, there really are no rules! I’ll likely post at least once a day here, so check back tomorrow when you’re bored at work. Please join the Facebook group, too!: https://www.facebook.com/groups/224462200970268/