The Force Awoke… but Harrison was asleep.


teaserAround the globe Star Wars fans turned out in droves on “Force Friday” to get a first look and crack at the first wave of toys from the upcoming “Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens” film. But not in my quaint little town in the Ozarks. But honestly I can’t say they missed much. Except of course the event itself which in my opinion and reason I rolled out of the house, is more important than the actual merchandise. But again not many others in my neck of the woods saw it that way, except for Doug.

dougThe Doug I speak of is Doug Hutchcraft who works alongside his father Ron Hutchcraft and his ministry. I met Doug about five years ago when I interviewed him for my “Here, There and Everywhere” program, about an online outreach he was a host and creator of (The Doug & Jon Show). Following the interview Doug and I discovered that he and I were on the same bus that loved the toys of our youth although he did admit his brother was cooler since he, like myself loved Mego toys. He even shared with me what was to be a surprise for his brother that Christmas; an FX Exclusive Greatest American Hero “Ralph” figure. Needless to say we hit off well.

Over the years since then Doug and I have crossed paths in town and online and its always a treat to chat with him even for just a few minutes. He’s just one of those “good guys” you hear about. “But Jim, this little trip down Geeky Memory Lane is all heart touching but what does it have to do with the September 4th Star Wars toys roll out?” you ask. Actually everything.

As I alluded to in the beginning of this article the toys themselves weren’t terribly exciting. Even to a hard core fanboy like me. The initial rush of seeing them was cool and all but the new faded pretty quick. I’ll get to that more in a moment. Right now I want to focus on Doug and what was really great about the night; Star Wars kinship.

When I first got to the local Walmart here in Harrison at about 11:45P it was pretty baron. The only exception being the overnight crew going about their duties restocking the shelves. Otherwise the store was pretty empty with the exception of a couple folks grabbing some cat food, another couple doing their grocery shopping without the hassle of the crowds and of course the apparent loiterers who really didn’t have anything else to do at 11:45P on a Thursday night in Harrison, Arkansas. They did however show an interest in the Star Wars themed cupcakes that were a part of the nights planned festivities. Speaking of which, I forgot to grab one. Dang.

boxesTalking with the fellow who was in charge of the event, Department Supervisor Bill, he was very bright and chipper about the roll out despite the lack of attendees. But you’d never know it talking to Bill. He was genuinely positive and happy that his store was offering up this event just in case the throngs decided to make a last minute appearance. I appreciate that too.

lotAfter chatting with Bill for a few minutes I started checking out the new toys. At first I was really disappointed as all I had seen were the repackaged lightsabers, some new Lego sets and a couple other rehashes. That was smile worthy. I followed that quick glance by getting a bit more serious in capturing these first in hand views. New 6 inch Black Series figures were cool but not terribly exciting and the same thought crossed my mind as I looked over the 3&3/4 assortment. I started to loose heart but then I heard someone say; “Wow!” I turned and there was my pal, Doug and his single syllable interjection sparked that magic button in me as to why this was indeed more about the event than the toys themselves.

doug2Of course being a father of a nine year old boy who is a proud carrier of the Star Wars flame, Doug was looking to get an early jump on Christmas and the potential problems that come from late season scalpers. But it was also clear to see the joy that was sparked in “little Doug” too. I picked up a quick soundbite for the video below that served as my “grown up reason” for being their but once that was out the way Doug and I started rummaging through the displays with true fanboy fervor. I of course was the tour guide since I had beat him there by like 15 minutes. I was seasoned and happy to share my knowledge of the terrain.

legoAs Doug continued to absorb all of what he was sure to light up his little boys eyes he and I (along with Bill) started chatting up all the great Star Wars memories we had as well as our high hopes for the bright new Disney future. This went on for about an hour before we both knew it was time to go back to being responsible adults and go home to our very understanding wives. Plus we needed to let Bill work without us constantly going; “OH! LOOK AT THIS ONE!” with every new box unpacked. And that’s when it all really hit me. We not only had fun but Doug and I shared a moment. And that my friends is what the big roll out was really all about. (By the way Doug, i hope you picked the Mrs. up some flowers or something to show your gratitude. I did. You don’t get to be an old geek by being a fool  😉 )  

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So with that said I’ll close up this long and wordy introduction with these final notes for the sake of history; 1. Thank you Disney from bringing back the Star Wars magic. 2. Thank you Walmart in Harrison for setting up the event, and 3. Thank you Doug for being a fellow fanboy and friend and now permanent resident in my cache of good memories and moments.

The Force will be with you. Always.

Jim 09/04/15 1:49 AM

Now here’s the highlight video…

And my thoughts on the actual products…

finnThe figures look great. The villains are fantastic. The representatives of the First Order (what ever that means) are incredibly cool looking. The assumed heroes however are pretty boring. Originally I was going to grab Finn along with Captain Phasma to commemorate the night but I decided against it. Why? Well, simply put: he’s a boring toy. “Oh look! It’s a guy in a brown jacket and a flat black jumpsuit underneath it. Yay.” Captain Phasma however is simply put, bad ass.

mineNot only does he have the sleek new stormtrooper armor, it’s metallic AND he has a gun and a CAPE! That’s a keeper right there. And honestly he was the only figure that had that kind of “POP” going for him. All the rest were just, meh. Not bad but without a real connection or understanding of whom the character is in the grand scheme of this expanded Star Wars universe I just couldn’t commit my $6.94. Yeah I’m cheap but hey, I want to be entertained.

I do find it neat that each of the basic figures comes with a part that goes to a bigger weapon of some sort. Nice ploy to move more figures BUT I don’t know if the final assembled product is really worth buying yet another Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker. Although I do admit I am pretty pleased with the price point for these basic figures. I like the idea of a kid today being able to do what I did all those years ago and being able to pick up at least one figure at a time without having to break the piggy bank. The deluxe offerings however I think is a bust. From what I could tell they were the same limited articulation figure(which I do like, btw) but some token accessory that apparently is important enough to garner the “deluxe” distinction. An extra $6 for Jedi Luke to have a hat isn’t what I call bang for my buck.

hanbobaOutside of the action figures some of the other toys did look pretty cool though. The two packs featuring the “Mashers” versions of Han Solo and Boba Fett are just neat and look like a lot of fun. It’s like customizing but with zero rules.

jarjarJar Jar Binks’ head on Darth Vader’s body? Now that’s just evil but then again the ability to rip Jar Jar apart, put him back together and then do it again and again is an action feature I do believe a lot of folks would have enjoyed back in ’99. But I digress…

lotOverall the assortment in my opinion was pretty weak, especially considering there wasn’t a 3&3/4 version of BB-8 available. That little dudes already hot and I’m sure will be a must have for kids so it really was a let down that he wasn’t available. I’m sure that will be remedied soon enough but until then December is a long way away as far as the attention span of todays toy buying audience. But of course, time will tell.

That’s my two cents and with that said, to you I say,

Now, Go Play!

Jim 09/04/15

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