Among the many bizarre decisions Hasbro Toys made in their Star Wars product lines last year, putting out multiple releases of the same (previously released) figures in different packaging and different pricing at the same time was the most baffling. The two biggest offenders were Qui-Gon, with three simultaneous releases: QGJ1, QGJ2, QGJ3 …and with a whopping FOUR simultaneous releases, TPM Obi-Wan: OWK1, OWK2, OWK3, OWK4 (there were also multiple Darth Mauls available simultaneously, but at least they were different figures/sculpts). So, in February 2012, you could conceivably walk into your local Walmart and emerge with seven differently-packaged/priced versions of the same two products. Not surprisingly, when I went to Walmart yesterday, on February 12, 2013—over one year later—all three packagings of Qui-Gon were hanging there on the pegs, as were three of the four packagings of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Insane…and yet, what follows is a mostly positive post on a set of Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul figures released in 2012!
The “Duel On Naboo” Battle Pack wasn’t even released until Spring of 2012, long after TPM3D had left theaters, and by that time, everybody (even me!) was completely over figures of these three characters…wicked hot synergy, Hasbro. When photos of the set leaked out a couple of months before it was released, there was even more outrage on top of the sense of overkill, since the figures—-though completely brand-new—-had only 5 points of articulation each. If you’re not familiar with the shadowy world of action figures, a “point of articulation” is any joint or moveable part on the figure. Most of the vintage Kenner Star Wars figures from the 70’s and 80’s had 5 points (legs, arms, head), but in the past decade or so, modern Star Wars figures have evolved to a place where they’re expected to have between 12-14 points of articulation (head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees, ankles). If these three figures had this level of articulation, this artwork on the back of the package wouldn’t have been quite so ridiculous:
huh???? I’m all for artistic license, but in a world where a simple action figure package typically has two warnings on the front telling the consumer the same thing (“Ages 4 and up” and a redundant “WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD Not for Children Under 3 years old”…well duh, that’s what “Ages 4 and up” suggests), aren’t we supposed to conclude that the average consumer is a drooling, mouth-breathing troglodyte? Even with the “PRODUCT SHOWN IN FANTASY SITUATION” in the small print, I would think Hasbro would want to accurately portray this product. This is about as close as you’ll get to posing these figures as they’re seen above:
…and it took a couple of minutes to even get these figures that close to what’s pictured! I guess this wouldn’t strike me as being so odd if the art on the back of the package portrayed the characters in this dynamic scene instead of the figures (which it clearly is supposed to—you can especially see that on the leg joints in the artwork). Hasbro, there’s no shame in using nice, naturalistic photos on your packaging—I feel like it’s worked before:
When it comes down to it, unless Star Wars toys are packaged in the iconic, timeless, and perfectly-designed and just plain perfect black-and-silver Kenner “vintage” style, I’m just going to rip them out of the package anyway—so do all the crazed photoshopping you need to, Hasbro!
If you look at the first picture in this post, you’ll notice the tell-tale Target clearance sticker on this set. Though I found these figures very shortly after they were released last spring, I just couldn’t bring myself to get ANOTHER iteration of these three characters; I was too burned out on them. I knew I’d buy them eventually, and I had counted on “eventually” to be whenever they hit clearance—which they did, last month. I rarely ever “wait for clearance” with Star Wars stuff I want, for a couple of reasons: sometimes, if you don’t buy something at first sight, you won’t see it again until it’s 400% more on eBay; and also, I feel the need to put my money where my mouth is, and do my part to ensure that Star Wars figures continue to be produced…if everybody “waited for clearance” (and a lot of people do), they’d just stop making these things, as Hasbro is a business and not a charity. Luckily, the gamble paid off this time, because I kinda LOVE these figures.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my super-articulated Gamorrean Guards, Bossk, Chewie, Vader, Jar Jar, etc.—-but there’s nothing as appealing to me as the simple charm of actual vintage Kenner Star Wars figures.
As much as I’m loathe to admit to being susceptible to nostalgia, it’s not only that…I just love that those figures were TOYS that could and did take a complete beating over years of play. For me as a kid, the Star Wars movies and Star Wars toys became a circular thing: the movie made me want the toys, the toys made me want to know/experience more about the movie, which made me want more of the toys/figures, etc. I really enjoy looking at pics of people’s Star Wars collections that are filled with Gentle Giant mini-busts, high-end statues, Sideshow 12” figures, and similar items, but for me, it’s always going to be Star Wars toys that I’m fascinated by. The three figures in this Battle Pack, despite their inability to be posed in a million ways, feel like play-with-‘em-in-the-dirt, throw-‘em-off-the-porch, stick-‘em-in-your-pocket toys to me.
If you squint out the much more detailed sculpting and smaller head on the Obi-Wan figure, you would almost think that these figures are from the same era…which, of course, is why the majority of Star Wars collectors hate this set.
This is complete Star Wars collecting treason, but I wish that the main modern Star Wars action figure line had been like this all along. I have a fondness for the “Power of the Force 2” figures of the 1990’s, which had many of the same qualities as the vintage Kenner figures, but their steroid physiques and harsh face sculpts were sort of gross, and now look extremely dated and “90’s”. I’m not wishing all of the superb super-articulated figures of the last decade away at all—I love them, have most of them, and I’m all for things evolving in new directions—I just wish that this “vintage aesthetic” had been continued as the standard action figure line, while super-articulated figures were like a deluxe companion collection (which is kind of how they started out — though if you want to get technical, this came first.)
The retail price on the main Star Wars figure line (most recently “The Vintage Collection”, which uses that impeccable Kenner packaging style, but not the Kenner figure style) has been gradually rising over the past 6 years or so due to a number of things—increased materials costs, rising labor costs in China, increased shipping and freight, LFL licensing fees, and maybe just a pinch of greed—so that what was once a premium price for a specialized sub-collection of figures in 2004 is now the norm. Multiple points of articulation drive the price up; more molds need to be created for each part, more labor is necessary to assemble all the different parts, etc…When the price of figures is that high, parents aren’t going to buy their kids a bunch of them; they’re going to get them one or two, or just pass over a $10 3.75” Star Wars figure in favor of something larger that seems to be “more bang for the buck”. Or, for $5 more, they’ll just walk over to the electronics section in their Toys R Us and grab a $14.99 Wii game, counting on it to keep their kids occupied for hours. When that happens, the whole symbiotic relationship between Star Wars and Star Wars toys falls apart…which is bad for the whole franchise, as I’ve always seen Star Wars action figures, more than anything else, as the entry-level ambassador for Star Wars as a whole: they’re a cheap gateway drug into a much larger world.
This past weekend, the 2013 International Toy Fair began in New York City, and the Hasbro Star Wars presentation revealed that in addition to a $10 “collector”-targeted line of super-articulated Star Wars figures (“The Black Series”), there would now be a line of $5.99 figures, each with only 5 points of articulation, known as “Saga Legends” (a recycled name in the world of Star Wars figures)…and they’re manufactured with the same type of plastic as the vintage Kenner figures! The figure selection for the first wave or two consists of mostly AOTC/ROTS main characters (as its release was going to coincide with the
postponed cancelled AOTC3D/ROTS3D releases)—Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Clonetroopers—but as the line goes on, it’ll include characters from all the movies and The Clone Wars. I don’t understand why Star Wars collectors (hardly a monolithic bunch, but filled with a loud and vocal minority of whiners) can’t see this as the best of both worlds—super-articulated figures as we’ve all grown accustomed to, and a much more affordable line for kids that, if it’s successful, will financially bolster the production budget of more “collector”-quality figures. The only bummer to me is that Hasbro didn’t shift to this model before TPM3D came out, so I could’ve had a chance to get a truly vintage-style Jar Jar figure, and not just a (mostly) great modern Jar Jar figure on a vintage Kenner card. Life would be dull if there was nothing left to hope for!
When super-articulated Star Wars figures were first on the rise, there was a guy on the rebelscum.com forums whose sig line was “SA or GTFO!!”(“super articulated or get the f@$# out!!”)—My wife and I still have a laugh over that line…it’s so over the top, and it’s hard not to take it literally: the image of this guy roughly pushing somebody out of the room if they present him with a Star Wars figure incapable of moving its ankles, or bending its knees, is hilarious to me. I hope that dude accepts that lower-articulated Star Wars figures, like those in this set, aren’t a threat to him and his sweet, sweet SA figures. There’s no need for Kenner-articulated figures to GTFO, they can exist peacefully on the pegs alongside their fancy 14 points-of-articulation brothers and sisters…everybody wins!
In honor of the release of The Phantom Menace 3D one year ago today, I drew this picture of a bemused Captain Tarpals. Why the enigmatic smile, Captain? Sadly, we’ll never know, because he took his secrets to the grave! We’ll never forget you, Cap…OR The Phantom Menace returning ever so briefly to theaters in tastefully understated 3D.
This one goes out to both TPM3D and the dearly departed Captain Tarpals:
Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Kick-ass Kwanzaa! Sweet Solstice! Rockin’ Ramadan! Lovely Life Day! Wicked Winter! (“happy holidays” is lame—better to be ridiculous than generic!)
Star Wars “Fighter Pods”—sure, they’re a supreme rip-off, but sometimes a set is irresistible…like this one:
Ahsoka! Goldie the treacherous Astro Droid! Holographic Leia! Kid Ani! a Naboo Starfighter! SOLD! As for the actual “game”, who cares?! How much of a “rampage” can you really have with a poor man’s cross between Beyblade and Squinkies?? I just want the figures and ships, and it feels like the “game” aspect is what Hasbro uses to justify these being sold for absurdly high prices ($3 USD for 2 tiny figures??? WTF), and preventing them from filling some capsule-toy vending machine at the more reality-based price of 2 for 50¢.
Though it’s kind of a drag to have another Darth Maul instead of a more obscure character from The Phantom Menace, apparently, Hasbro didn’t think that Jira would move too many units. Whatever. Darth Maul, Ani, and the Naboo Starfighter do form a nice little TPM sub-theme.
Though some of the ships in the Fighter Pods line don’t translate so well in these scrunched-up, super-deformed versions, the N-1 Starfighter works great in this style. Anakin fits inside, though opening the ship reveals how it’s basically lower-quality than even a Happy Meal Toy:
Despite the rip-off pricing, I’m glad I got this…I don’t think we’ll see a year like 2012 again, when there have been more Phantom Menace-based toys on shelves than at any time since the semi-innocent days of 1999-2000—and that’s kind of sad. Not that I don’t roll my eyes as I rifle through peg after peg of the over-produced and still omnipresent TPM figures from nearly one year ago—preventing newer Star Wars figures from making it to retail, and causing people to (unfairly) resent TPM even more than they did before—but it’s shame that Hasbro couldn’t have squeezed out a few more interesting items (like an action figure-scaled Bongo) instead of putting out the same Obi-Wan Kenobi figure…in four different packages…all at the same time. It’s official: The Second Golden Age of Phantom Menace Toys is pretty much over. Instead of ending on that bummer note, maybe this group shot of TPM Fighter Pod figures will bring a wan, bittersweet smile to your face:
"Don’t forget us when your fancy Episode VII comes out!!"
BEWARE the ghoulish gallop of the HEADLESS GUNGAN!! Happy Halloween!
How about a speed-round of Phantom Phindz?
Yeah, I’ve covered both of these figures before…but not for half-price! I had gone to Toys R Us about a week and a half ago, and saw a full case of the wave these are part of. Although I knew I wanted additional Vintage Jar Jars, I thought I’d wait for a sale, and my gamble actually paid off for once—two days later, Toys R Us started a “Buy One, Get One Free” sale on Star Wars figures! Sorry, BOGO50% off and BOGO75% off, you’ve been destroyed by a superior bargain. When I made it back to the store the day after the sale started, everything else from the wave was gone but these two. I’m sure most Star Wars “fans” made it into the aisle and slumped their shoulders in rage and bitter despair when they saw that the only thing left was the glorious Gungan, but obviously, not me! $10 bucks for 2 figures is a superb deal these days, and the sale lasts through the beginning of November.
My wife and I were at this weird and huge flea market/antique mall outside of Buffalo, NY last week, and of course this Hungry Hero Jar Jar jumped out at me when I passed the booth he was in. What was annoying was that there was no price on him, and nobody that I could see manning the booth. Though I already have HHJJ , I never had the little green chubas that came with him; when I bought mine at retail in 1999, some chuba thief (ironic, isn’t it?) had robbed Jar Jar of them…but what do you expect when they’re only attached with velcro? After we were almost done, Valerie said that she had second thoughts about passing up a pair of earrings she’d seen, and I waited in the car while she went back in. She came out carrying Jar Jar and the earrings she’d wanted, and right there on the spot, we renewed our wedding vows. Not really, but I would’ve!! It was very sweet of her.
The reason we were in Buffalo to begin with was to check out the Buffalo Comicon, which was apparently super-successful…and super-crowded. There wasn’t a whole lot of what I was looking for there, but when I saw this Anakin soap dish for a measly buck, I wasn’t leaving without it—he goes so well with our Jar Jar soap dispenser that it looks like some haughty European designer renovated our bathroom.I might have to hire an attendant to dispense towels.
Now THIS is soapdishing! (???)
Everything is explained here, by Adam at Nilbog’s Storybook Land:
Now THIS is Podracing!
Only one word can adequately describe Adam’s actions: WIZARD.
Gasgano’s rating: 4 THUMBS UP
You know what? I typed out and then deleted the original title of this post, because I just couldn’t go with “Makin’ Whoopee with Jar Jar Binks!”. Even I have standards. Instead, a barely-there pun using Whoopi Goldberg’s name…clumsy, inelegant, and dumb, but at least it doesn’t make me cringe or die inside.
When the Celebration VI exclusive Jar Jar whoopee cushion was announced, I instantly started thinking about how I’d get one, as I wasn’t going to Celebration VI. You may remember my pathetic open plea on this very site, which surprisingly actually ended up working! A really nice guy named Jarrod grabbed Jar Jar for me after seeing my post, sparing me from cut-throat, cold-blooded eBay profiteers. Jarrod, I think Qui-Gon Jinn was talking about you when he said, “He gives without any thought of reward”—thank you again! (and thanks to Karen for putting the word out, too).
I was pleasantly surprised with the high quality of the Jar Jar whoopee cushion—part of me had feared that he’d just be some cheap piece of garbage made of stitched-together carpet remnants and stuffed with a used sandwich baggie as a “whoopee cushion”, or almost as bad, some mangy, threadbare thing soaked in gasoline that you’d win at a traveling carnival. But no, he’s really nicely made, and was manufactured by Comic Images, the same company that puts out a host of other stuffed animal-ish Star Wars merchandise.
The actual whoopee cushion stuffed inside of JJB’s plush body is a perfect color, as it matches the chubas that came with the classic "Hungry Hero Jar Jar". I half-heartedly started to blow into it, but had a moment of clarity and realized that I didn’t really give a damn about the whoopee cushion function, and decided not to bother filling it with my acidic spittle. As admirably ridiculous as the concept of a Jar Jar whoopee cushion is—and I hope it provides hours of fun for kids—-I just can’t imagine placing this on somebody’s chair and rubbing my hands together gleefully as I wait for them to sit down. Hasn’t poor Jar Jar suffered enough at the world’s hands without being sat upon for cheap laughs??
It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized what this Jar Jar reminded me of—
…a Pound Puppy, just like the ones my sister had when we were kids! In a more perfect world, they’d launch a whole line of whoopee cushions in this style: “Gaseous Gungans”! The “gross-out toy” genre of the 80’s is back in full force with The Trash Pack, so why not give every kid on the planet a chance at a flatulent Boss Nass?? Yet another missed opportunity, Lucasfilm. Look, even George Lucas himself loves this thing:
(picture from the twitter of @lfensterman)
I don’t know how well the Jar Jar Whoopee Cushion sold at CVI; a quick look at eBay completed auctions had them going for between 30-50 bucks, so maybe they were a hit. I wish more Star Wars licensees would realize that with the right concept and quantities, Jar Jar (and other neglected prequel characters=most of them) items are viable products. Until they do, here’s a picture of Whoopee Cushion Jar Jar about to eat a bone, since he vaguely resembles a Pound Puppy:
Do you remember the brief, probably never-to-be-repeated (more on that in a future post) Phantom Menace wonderland back in January/February? Fresh new TPM products on store shelves, Jar Jar Binks pens in Cheerios, goofy glorified tops with Sebulba stickers on them in Happy Meals? Ring a bell? One of the few TPM-branded things I didn’t buy back then was the Toys R Us exclusive “Podracer Pilots” 5-pack. Not only did I already have all five figures in it, but the price was nuts—it vacillated between $24.99 and $29.99…for five old re-released and unchanged small-sized figures. The only thing “new” about it was the five Podracing flags included, and though I held that set in my hands many times over the past 6 months or so while in TRU, I could never justify spending that much money for a few flimsy flags.
Dropping the price of the set to $12.79 creates a ton of justifications, however— “I’ll always regret it if I don’t get the flags for those podracers!” “I can always use back-ups of these figures, since some of them have really small parts that are easily lost!” “$12.99 for five figures is insane 1978 Kenner pricing, and only a FOOL would pass it up!” But I still had some weird reservation about buying it until my wife rolled her eyes and grabbed it off the shelf, muttering something about me bringing it up out of nowhere in two years—“Do you remember how stupid I was back in 2012 when I didn’t pick up that podracer set? It haunts me to this day.” (that kind of thing happens in our house more than you can imagine.)
If you don’t have any of these figures, this is an absolute steal at $12.79 (it’s at or around that price until September 22, 2012), as a single Star Wars figure will run you around $9.99 these days. This would make a great Christmas or Hanukkah present for Star Wars-loving girls and boys; if I was like 7 years-old and ripped the wrapping paper off of a box of five outer space weirdos with removable goggles and guns, I’d be thrilled. It’s too bad Hasbro couldn’t have thrown Ody Mandrell in this set, as he’s the only previously-produced podracer that wasn’t available at retail in 2012.
The figure that has aged the worst in this set isn’t Gasgano, who has some of that “Kenner Charm” that the original TPM figures have—though his arms fall off even faster than the original 1999 release—but Teemto Pagalies…though there are exceptions, most of the 2002 Hasbro Star Wars figures are deeply flawed as toys and “collectibles”, and poor Teemto suffers from a really awkward sculpt. Clegg Holdfast is the best figure in this set, and easily could’ve passed as a “Vintage” figure slapped on one of those beautiful black and silver cards. Mars Guo and Dud Bolt, who came out together in a 2-pack in 2006, still hold up well. The flags are ridiculously cheap, consisting of a plastic stick and some razor-thin sheets of acetate, so I’m glad I didn’t spend 25 bucks for this set just to get them!
(l. to r.- Mars Guo, Gasgano, Dud Bolt, Clegg Holdfast, Teemto Pagalies)
For whatever reason, this set is still at full-price on tru.com, so you’ll have to make a trip to an actual TRU to get this fantastic bargain. My only regret is that I didn’t stare into the cashier’s eyes while paying for this and declare, “Now THIS is PODRACING!”
Sometime after The Phantom Menace came out—I can’t remember the year, it could’ve been any time between 2001-2005 — boxed bundles of overstock packs of Star Wars “Collectible Card Game” cards started showing up in Toys R Us stores. As any habitue of TRU stores over the past decade or so can tell you, it’s pretty common to see this kind of product; some unknown third party company buys up excess warehouse lots of different cards, throws them in a flimsy package, and sells them to TRU as a discount item. What’s not so common is for the packages to be masterpieces of cosplay gone horribly wrong:
Before descending into the madness of this box, I should point out (why?!? I’m not on trial here!) that I’ve never played a Star Wars CCG, though I have hundreds of the cards…I just don’t have the patience for it. In the days before every Star Wars image you could think of was readily available online, CCG cards were a good photo source for tons of super obscure characters and objects—I’m pretty sure I have one called “Blue Milk” that’s just a picture of Aunt Beru’s Tupperware pitcher. This package contained all-Phantom Menace cards, I think they were from a game called “Young Jedi”.
The seedy company (no name or copyright information appears ANYWHERE on the box) that put this out surely wanted to avoid a lawsuit from Lucasfilm, while still screaming “STAR WARS!” to any potential consumer—so they showcased the worst cosplayers that the former Soviet Bloc had to offer. I really wish I could remember what year I bought this—upon looking at the box, you’d think, “oh, it’s obviously supposed to be Revenge of the Sith imagery,” with the flames and General Grievous-esque dude on the lower left…but I seriously think it was released closer to Attack of the Clones, and all the cards were TPM-based; it’s also possible that lower-left dude is supposed to be a Clone Trooper. There’s also the back of the package, with an altered SR-71 Blackbird that’s clearly supposed to be Queen Amidala’s Royal Starship:
WTF. I could swallow the three knock-offs of Amidala, Anakin, and the Clone Trooper/Grievous(?) on the front, but that ship is over-the-top. “AXIS”?? They’re flying for Hitler now?!? What kind of Star War is this????? I’d like to imagine that this packaging fell through a dimensional rift from one of those dime-a-dozen alternate history realities in which Germany won WWII. “Herr Lucas, the Fuhrer finds your Prequel Trilogy WUNDERBAR! He especially loves your Jira character, the sand witch who can detect weather changes in her bones!”
Until I found this in a box in our basement last week while searching for something else that I never ended up finding, I hadn’t laid eyes on this package since I bought it, whenever that was. I was probably too bowled over by the bizarro cosplayers to really look closely at it before, but if I had, I would’ve discovered that in the alternate reality that this package came from, journeyman actor David Keith was flying the Queen’s AXIS starship in service of the Third Reich!!!:
Wow, Leibniz was right, this reality really is “the best of all possible worlds”. I like my Phantom Menace free of any Nazi associations, thank you very much!
Is anybody going to Star Wars Celebration in Orlando this week and planning on visiting the Celebration Store? I hate begging for favors, and really, I hate even asking for them, but the prospect of missing out on this makes me sick:
It’s a Jar Jar Whoopie Cushion, and it should be obvious why I’d want something this ridiculous. It’s $20 in the Celebration Store, and if anybody’s willing to grab it for me, I could paypal you $35 in advance—20 + 10 for shipping (I think you can ship it directly from the CVI Store?) + 5 bucks for your trouble…and of course full credit in the inevitable TPM:TH post about it! If you can help me out, leave a comment here or on the FB page. Thanks,
Welcome to the 100th post on TPM:TH! It’s not like any 13 year-old with a smartphone can’t make 100 posts on tumblr in the space of a few days, but I feel like most of the time, I’ve tried to put some effort into this. If you’ve been reading all along, thank you for sticking around—I really appreciate it.
You may remember Part 1 of the TPM Holiday Decorations, and while I took everything seen in Part 1 down months ago, the contents of the room featured in Part 2 have stayed exclusively TPM since January. It wasn’t easy finding other places in the house to store away the huge Hasbro Millennium Falcon and AT-AT in the meantime, but keeping them in there would’ve killed the Prequelicious mood. A lot of Star Wars fans have a “Star Wars Room”, but I’m not sure how many people have one that’s solely comprised of TPM stuff —and this isn’t even all of it (If you do have an exclusively TPM room, please send me pics, and I’ll post them here). I usually rotate the contents of this room out a few times a year; doing that keeps things fresh, and it prevents stuff from being stuck unappreciated in a lonely box somewhere in our dank basement. Though I’m changing the room over to a particular “All Star Wars” theme that I’ve wanted to do for awhile (which wasn’t possible before this year), I’ve loved walking into this room and being bombarded with The Phantom Menace every day.
You can check out The Phantom Menace Room in varying degrees—if you just want the casual tour, watch this video (for best effect, go fullscreen):
…but if you’d like a more immersive experience than some shaky-cam video can provide, click on any of the photos below for an album containing detailed pics. There are few things more satisfying than covering the top of a credenza with cheap 13 year-old kitsch that was ultimately available for pennies on the dollar at closeout stores. If you have a question about any of the items pictured below, don’t hesitate to ask— I’d be more than happy to answer!