Japan has always been the world leader in “Super-Deforming” beloved characters (Luxembourg is a close #2), and in 2000, Tomy Japan produced a line of super deformed TPM characters called “Palm Talkers”. The gimmick of these involved two metal contacts on the bottom of each figure that would conduct either through placing them on metal, or holding them in the palm of your hand—the figure would then say a couple phrases and light up in some way. It’s thrill-a-minute stuff. Hasbro put out a line of Palm Talkers in the US in 2001, but they were all Original Trilogy characters…the usual suspects: Vader, Boba Fett, Chewie, Artoo and Threeps, and a Stormtrooper. The TPM product backlash had already begun, so Hasbro didn’t release the Darth Maul, Battle Droid, or Jar Jar in the US (though Yoda made it out in 2005)—which is a shame, because Jar Jar is a natural fit for this style of toy!
The USA’s loss is Japan’s gain! The JJB Palm Talker is high on my list of Jar Jar artifacts (JARtifacts??); he oozes charm. Unlike the later US Palm Talkers, which were a really hard plastic-y vinyl, Jar Jar has a rubbery vinyl body that fits over the electronic parts. He only says two phrases, which you can see on the packaging, but they sound 100 times better than the weird robo-actors that did the Commtech Chips for the TPM action figures. It’s also nice that you can take him in and out of his packaging without destroying it.
Oh, and the batteries are still going strong 12 years later—though it’s not like I’ve sat there for the past 10 years with him in the palm of my hand, telling me who he is (and that his people are xenophobes) over and over and over. Really, I would’ve bought him even without the talking gimmick, just because he looks so cool. If you want to see how he works, check out this video—but don’t feel compelled to watch the whole thing; you’ll get the gist in the first 20 seconds or so:
Jar Jar ‘77 ?