Star Wars Prototypes from way back when…


sWith Star Wars Celebration in full swing and the 40th anniversary of the greatest movie of my childhood being celebrated like never before, why not take a look back at some of the fantastic product that never saw retail shelves? Thanks to the January ’99 issue of Tomart’s Action Figure Digest , there are some fantastic pics of on-produced or released prototypes from the Micro Collection line of metal figures and playsets.  And just like the article on Mego’s Marty Abrams, it’s so cool seeing where it all came from, Action figure and toy fans.

Jim  04/13/17

Iconic creator of Darth Vader’s helmet available for a comment? Yes please!


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Your  opportunity to meet one of the most humble, sweet and talented men (along with his lovely wife) is available this weekend at Visioncon in Branson. Of course I am referring to Mr. Brian Muir who is the reason my childhood and most of yours too, and today’s pop culture has the iconic Darth Vader Helmet as well as the Stormtrooper, and many other facets of the Star Wars Universe… and still so much more. From Harry Potter to Guardians of the Galaxy to Little Shop of Horrors, Mr.Muir absolutely has earned the respect and title of “Living Legend”. Again I will stress to all of you within driving distance to take advantage of this possibly once in a lifetime opportunity to chat with him. This opportunity is so unique for our area folks, don’t miss it. Believe me when I say, you will be forever glad you did. I know I am. – Jim 02/26/17

P.S. I’ll be sharing more of my chat with Mr.Muir in a few days but for now please be a pal and help spread the word. This event is over Sunday February 27, 2017.

http://visioncon.net/content/guests/guests.php https://www.facebook.com/events/1836791509943697/ https://www.facebook.com/brian.muir.94 #visionconmo #visioncon #brianmuir #bransonmo #DarthVader #StarWars #LivingLegend

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Star Wars REBELS Jedi Temple Guard scored but a question has arisen… How do you like to collect?


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My latest “Holy Grail” piece. We love him and perhaps he can submit us for the trials. Cuz we’re ready. Oh yeah, we are ready!

I got him! The phantom that made a man out of Kanan. Well, a Jedi Knight in a Star Wars Universe where that didn’t seem possible at that point in the story-line, which is pretty awesome in and of itself. You can watch a scene from that epic episode right here….

*For those who want to get a better understanding of who and what the Jedi Temple Guards were, check out this video from YouTube User the StuppendousWave, by clicking HERE. Tell ’em Jim sent ya 😉 

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I remember seeing him on the shelves in 2014 but was unplugged at the time. BIG mistake on my part, but corrected now.

Now… isn’t that the most bad ass piece of Star Wars you’ve ever seen? Well, outside of the showdown with Darth Vader between Kanan, Ezra and Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice Ahsoka Tano. That was simply incredible. Oh, and Kanan’s battle with Maul. And… you know what.. I could go on and on … but I won’t. I’ve raved about the REBELS show for a long time now and it’s for these reasons. Great story with great characters. And with that said I will repeat myself on this one point: This is IMO the first new Star Wars in a very long time. I’m in no way knocking Episode 7 at all and most certainly not Rogue One which I find to be the BEST Star Wars movie to date, in regards to it being a fantastic MOVIE that HAPPENS to be set in the Star Wars Universe. But back to my point:

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One day I’d like to see Ralph McQuarrie make it to the animated universe that his concept designs inspired for the show.

With REBELS, in my eyes, being the first NEW Star Wars in some time, I really connected with this show as a fan. And being a product of the original merchandising golden age of the 70’s and 80’s, I had to have the figures and ships. Too bad I was late to this party and revelation because the first issues get pretty pricey on the secondary market. Which is cool. I have no issue with supply and demand dictating price when it comes to vintage or out of circulation collectables. Now in regards to toy scalpers and hoarders, I still say they should be executed in a hardcore Darth Vader manner. Which leads to my next point and question:

How do you and how do you like to collect?

For me, the thrill was always in the hunt, pre-internet. Flea Markets, random junk shops and thrift stores, regular retail when the new stuff came out and before the “greedy toy mongers” raided everything and of course local comic book shops, when they still existed. But nowadays, it’s so easy to just “go buy it” online. Well, if you have the cash of course, but if you do, you can. I’ve done that plenty times over the past few years but it wasn’t very fun. It was a bit of a bummer really. So what I’ve opted to do is create a set of guidelines for my online hunting. The main one being price. It’s no secret to anyone who’s followed this blog at any point over the past decade that I’m a cheap guy who is a sucker for a sale. You can see that in my blind bag obsession series.

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The Grand Admiral shall be mine! (And hopefully in the wild.)

What this has done though, has put a challenge back into my collecting. And I like it. I do admit it took some time to develop the patience but thankfully, a line such as the Star Wars REBELS series has given me something to focus on and want. This Jedi Temple Guard has actually been on the list for a long time but there was no way I was going to pay the crazy money people were asking. So in the end I scored this guy via an eBay auction for $10 less than the best price I had ever seen. And that thrills me. Now there’s only one figure left of the existing releases I need: Grand Admiral Thrawn. And now I face the same old situation of figuring out where to buy him.

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So thrilled when I found her hanging on a peg. The joy of a successful hunt.

Thrawn if you don’t know, is part of the most recent wave of Rogue One figures that have been released, along with the REBELS version of Princess Leia. I’ve held out from just buying him and Leia online even though she was pretty cheap. Right at or just under MSRP with free shipping in many instances. My patience paid off however, as I did score Leia in the wild at a Walmart out of town from where I live. There was only one left and no sign of the Grand Admiral but it has encouraged me to keep looking, although the reality is It’ll probably never happen due to the really spotty releases from Hasbro and the apparent reluctance of retailers from ordering more Star Wars products since most places still have a glut of Force Awakens and Rogue One toys on the shelves. So, I’m going to hold out a little bit longer.

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Picked these two up in a trade solely for the purpose of making THIS meme. A fanboy can dream.

Now I pose the question to you; How and where do you buy your favorite little playthings? Ebay, Amazon, from a Facebook group or other online source. Or are you like me and establish guidelines for your purchases or trades? Speaking of trades, what’s your thoughts? I’ve made some fun one’s just for the sake of it. Like anyone I could use and would prefer cash but at the same time it’s nice to freshen up a collection AND make someone else really happy. Isn’t that one of the biggest aspects of this hobby? I know I think so. But more importantly I want to hear what your take. My inquiring mind wants to know.

Now, Go Play! Jim 02/16/17

P.S. If you do like to collect via online retailers (or don’t have many local options like me) do me a favor and click around the links here at the Toy Box and check out the cool stuff that Entertainment Earth has to offer. They have some really cool exclusives you can’t get anywhere else. Plus there’s always some cool sale going or free shipping offers. And when you do make a purchase it helps me earn some brownie points and hopefully do some more reviews for them. I do appreciate it a lot! 

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She was OUR princess. The passing of an icon – Carrie Fisher 12/27/2016


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Words are hard to say yet easy to find in discussing the loss of Carrie Fisher. And millions from all over the world are doing so at this very moment (12:47 PM 12/27/2016), so pardon me if I ramble. But I can’t help it we lost OUR Princess.

carrie-fisher-d54648ab-445c-4b53-adb3-4e99365bd04fOf course Carrie Fisher was far more than a fictional character, and no life should ever be trivialized in such a way. But the particular fictional character she brought to life is one that changed the world.

leiacell2187-xlargeThe character of Princess Leia was so incredibly important on so many levels. She was the damsel in distress that wasn’t actually helpless. She was just stuck at the moment Ben, Luke and Hon went to save her. That broke the mold. But not in an in your face way. She was one of the boys but at the same time a lady that captured the hearts of many, many young boys before we even knew what “the girl next door” meant. And frankly I can’t think of any other character that has done that since. Seriously, I can’t.

We saw this coming… but the sting remains.

carrie_fisher_2013When it was announced that she had the cardiac arrest episode, all we could do was hope… and we all did. Even if most of us knew that the odds of survival were minimal, and quality of life was most certainly not going to be at the levels she had lived up to that very moment on the plane in L.A. But we had hope. Damn it.

Why are we so affected?

download-1For all of the obvious reasons as stated above but if I may add, she was also the first person / actor to be brought into all of our homes in the form of toys and merchandising. This is not to sound cold, in fact the complete opposite is true. We knew her. We held her in our hands. Some of us even WERE her at Halloween for decades
and now as cosplayers at conventions. Her image and creation were a part of our everyday lives for almost all of our lives. Literally. For nearly 40 years, Carrie Fisher’s lovely face was with us. And while those images will remain til the end of time, the spark behind those bright brown eyes is forevimageser extinguished.

But what about Star Wars?The giant Dewback in the middle of the room.

While writing this I’ve unplugged from the social world but I’m sure there are millions folks asking that same question. And I’m sure there equally as many arguments about motivations in making such assumptions at this time. But as far as I’m concerned it’s a fair argument and just concern. Again, for all the same reasons I’ve listed above. Princess Leia is OUR Princess, from OUR Star Wars, without her, it simply can’t be the same. And this isn’t just fanboy raving, it’s fact.

mark-hamill-denies-fumble-in-1977-star-wars-did-luke-skywalker-call-princess-leia-carrie-fisherWithout Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford’s agreement to return to the galaxy far, far away, there would have been no “Episode VII – The Force Awakens”. Well, I’m sure Disney still would have made one but without Han, Luke and Leia it simply wouldn’t or couldn’t have been the same for fans. Even the new “Rogue One” acknowledges that by bringing the Princess back, if only briefly (but to great effect with those dazzling brown eyes and giant buns).

It’s not petty … it’s reality

paul-walker-cgi1We saw how well the makers of ‘Fast and Furious’ handled the death of Paul Walker. And no disrespect to Paul or his fans, but this isn’t the same.

How will Lucasfilm and Disney explain the loss of OUR Princess? I know that will be the toughest job any writer, producer, director has ever had to face. And that’ just for Episode VIII. Her shadow and spirit will carry on to Episode IX as well. And even more so than Han Solo.

Because this is real.

This is finite.

hqdefaultThis is the end of Princess Leia. CGI can only go so far and there’s a big difference in the hearts and minds of fans when it comes to a legendary actor in a legendary role, receiving post life props like Peter Cushing just received than the Princess that came back into our lives, aged and with more stories to tell. But how can you tell them without Carrie Fisher? You can’t.

The takeaway….

In the end, no one is immune from death’s grasp. No one. But we can learn a whole lot from the lives that death takes and the reminder that it gives us all that every second is precious and they are numbered but we can’t see the clock.

So let us mourn.

Let us celebrate the life and legacy of Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia.

hologramAnd more importantly let us do the same for ourselves, our friends and our family. Embrace them NOW for in life that is truly our only hope.

God Bless You, Carrie Fisher and may you rest in peace, Princess.

Jim 12/27/2016

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Guest Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens X-Wing Fighters From Hot Wheels!


Hi! I’m not Jim-I’m John. This is still his Toy Box but he’s allowing me to play in it for a while. Lets see what Santa left me under the X-Mas tree!

Star Wars The Force Awakens X-Wing Fighters. Die-cast metal par excellence` from Hot Wheels! Although Hasbro is releasing their own line of vehicles under the Titanium line for some reason they let Hot Wheels release vehicles form the new film as well. The Hot Wheels ships are slightly larger than their Titanium counterparts depending which ships you buy, and seem more durable. I managed to get the White X-Wing with blue marking and Poe Dameron’s Black X-Wing with orange markings. Interesting that for these toys and in a Star Wars film this is the first time we’ve seen these color combinations for the “good guy” ships.

Most models in the films avoid using any sort of blue colors because it interferes with the matte process combining models with backgrounds. You might hear mention of a “Blue” squadron fighter but likely won’t see them or a pilot bearing a blue insignia in the old films because of this. However in todays digital realm the blue color does not interfere with CGI so they can have it and show it off. I’m trying to remember if there actually was an X-Wing with blue markings in the film but honestly I can’t recall; they move so damn fast onscreen.

Poe Dameron’s black X-wing is quite striking with it’s orange markings and twice as hard to photograph even in outdoor light and with a camera that has a good macro feature. I also have to wonder if this color scheme foreshadowing a dark turn for the character? That would be an interesting twist.

Looking over these ships you have to notice that the X-Wing has got a makeover for the new film, (or a facelift and a nose-job would be more accurate). There are a variety of reasons why the design might have changed. The intakes are now 1/2 circles like in the original paintings Ralph McQuarrie did so many years ago, (when George Lucas was trying to sell the concept to 20th Century Fox). Hasbro actually released just such a toy a few years back with their Star Wars Alpha – X-Wing Concept series in the late `90’s/early 2000’s. I don’t have it handy as I type this article but I’m sure I can dig it out for a comparison in the near future.

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The half & half interlocking wing design is probably a cool feature but these ships are static; the wings do not retract or extend and I’ve not seen this interlocking wing feature in any old trilogy concept drawings that I can recall. There is a blue and white Hot Wheels X-Wing with the wings folded up as well. That’s probably a nice variant for the completist but I’m on a budget and I like the X-foils extended for battle. Tho it has been shown on screen that an X-Wing can only land when the wings are in the folded position. The laser cannon mounts are made of a durable rubbery/plastic so they may bend out of shape a bit but not too badly.

Also the fuselage nose is much shorter now. While the first 2 changes can be attributed to a cool design I have to wonder if the shorter nose was budgetary, (because it’s cheaper to build a shorter full-size prop), or was J.J. Abrams thinking of the Kenner X-Wing design from when he was a kid? To fit the action figures Kenner fudged on the scale a bit and shortened the nose of their toy all those years ago. In the the late 1990’s they released a larger and more accurate X-Wing toy that held action figures and boasted a lot more sound effects too! If you compare the two ships you can see the difference. I wonder if the new X-Wing that fits action figures is the old Kenner X-Wing fighter body with new wings and intakes. Something we can investigate in a future Toybox if Jim is willing.

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I also noticed that of the four engines in back the two bottom ones are shorter in length than the top ones. I’m really not sure why this is. I also have a die cast Titanium X-Wing and it has the same odd feature. Again, something I’ll have to dig up for a follow-up.

I was unable to get the white & blue X-Wing on it’s own so I had to settle for a 2-pack where it’s packaged with the First Order Transporter. This is a simple but nonetheless, cool ship as well. Not unlike the transports that delivered troops to Normandy Beach on D-Day it is a practical ship which we should have seen in many of the other films. No screen-time has been given to show how they get their soldiers from location to location from the Star Destroyer and this addresses that question. The design is sleek and the details liven up what would otherwise be a plain, rectangular ship.

The ships no longer have the old style, display stand the Titanium series used in the past but instead come with these new finger mounts named a “Flight Navigator Accessory”. You mount the ships on this clear piece of plastic and slide the other end on your finger and run around the house like your holding a pair of scissors to act out dogfights and other adventures. It’s probably a neat idea but being an adult I couldn’t fit it on any finger but my pinky. Rather than look foolish sticking my pinky out with a die cast vehicle I will probably just hold it in my hand and run through the house-and still look foolish! It also indicates these are geared towards kids and not adults with nothing better to do than buy toys. Heresey I say! I will have my Star Wars toys! For their price and size these are a great value and well worth having. They’re great for the shelf at home and probably for keeping on your desk at work.

Now, Go Play!

John Michaels 01/XX/16

John1Editor’s Note: John has been a longtime friend of Jim;s and the Toy Box an I’m truly thrilled to have him taking a more active role in the play days around here. He’s far to humble to boast on himself so I’ll so it for him. He’s a great artist and model designer / builder and more importantly a guy that has encouraged me to play in so many wonderful ways! You’ll easily see why I’m thrilled to have him hanging with me in the Toy Box. – Jim 

Disney Force Awakens Deluxe Figurine Set – Article and Review


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“Okay. Who took BB-8” “Jim, did it. Well actually he didn’t. He left him out of the shot. But he’s in the gallery so chill out!”

The Force Awakens is obviously a power house at the box office. As of right now it’s toppled pretty much every box office record including top grossing film in the United States of ALL TIME. And rightfully so. I know Alicia and I truly enjoyed it. And that “WE” there is very important considering she wasn’t the biggest fan of the Star Wars Universe. She’s an admitted Trekkie and I love her anyway. No house divided here, gang.

Old Solo is not amused at spoilers.
Old Solo is not amused at spoilers.

Myself being the bigger Star Wars nut I must admit that I was a little nervous going in. Not terribly but a little. I think those nerves came from the unknown that was the story itself. What could it possibly be? With all of the pre release merchandise I honestly  had no clue what was coming. I avoided all of the theory’s and potential spoilers and the teaser trailers didn’t really give away very much. And now in hindsight I really applaud and appreciate Disney and JJ for that.

And now on to another thing that I want to show my appreciation for to same said party’s is this really cool “The Force Awakens Deluxe Figure Play Set” from the Disney Store. I really, really, really dig this one for so many reasons:

12490324_943751098995602_231618545_oFirst I appreciate the assortment. It’s pretty much every key cast member except for Luke but then again we know how much of a role he played in the film now don’t we. 😉

12494465_943751102328935_1923599201_oSecondly I like the overall look and design of the figures. Just as much detail as the 3&3/4 action figures and only slightly less than the Black Series. And that leads to my third point of appreciation… the cost.
For $19.99 you get 10 figures. That’s $2 a piece and is PERFECT for my current penny pinching goals. Sure I picked up a few of the regular figures because I’m well trained by the Lucas Marketing Machine but now I’m FREE! And I don’t say that lightly. (To note all of the one’s I did get are now apart of Kaitlynn’s collection, more on that in a second.)

jawaSince way back in ’79 when I got my first Star Wars Figure (plastic cape Jawa from a Kroger store) I have been a slave for the format. So much so that I was able to move forward following the demise of my beloved 8 inch Mego figures. So much a slave was I that I never gave these type of figurines a chance until now.

"Han, I wish you would grow old and dusty with me." "We're halfway there, Leia. Halfway"
“Han, I wish you would grow old and dusty with me.” “We’re halfway there, Leia. Halfway”

Prior to this Force Awakens set I had seen three original trilogy sets at the Disney Store but passed. Even at the 2 for $10 price point. They weren’t action figures so why bother? Even the Super Deluxe Original Trilogy set was tempting but not enough to get me to break away from my old habits. But this time something happened. Something finally snapped the chain that had been binding me since childhood. What could it be?  The answer finally came to me: I grew tired of waiting for local retail and or Hasbro distribution to catch up. And in this one set I was able to get everybody in one shot and in same size scale. Well except for BB-8. He’s a bit bloated for the scale. Eyeballing him I’d venture to say that he is more in line with the 6 inch Black Series figure that came with Rey but I can’t be 100% sure of that but I know it’s close.

Speaking of scales these are a tad bit smaller than the 3&3/4 but not by much and not enough to make that much of a difference while gathering dust on my shelf ( I would venture to guess that the slight difference has something to do with licensing). Which was the second major point in acceptance. Believe it or not dear reader, I don’t really PLAY with my toys. They sit on a shelf or hang from a tack in the wall. That’s about it. Now Kaitlynn’s collection is a whole different ballgame. You have no idea the amount of fun adventures she shares with me and her mother everyday. As it should be. That’s not to say adult collectors shouldn’t play. Not at all. It’s just the realization I finally had in accepting something new despite decades of old habits. I guess you could say I had an Awakening of my own. Go figure.

Whew, that was quite a reflection. Now let’s get on to the review in one thing I will probably always be a slave to: structure and format 😉 ….

What it is – Star Wars The Force Awakens Deluxe Figure Play Set from Disney

Where they came from – The Disney Store – Branson, MO – $19.95

12494027_943751168995595_1881023612_oThe Good – As I mentioned I am very pleased with the detail in these figures. Mind you the paint app is a little (and I mean little) sloppy and with just a smidge more attention paid in production these would be quite fantastic in the likeness departments. I’ve put together a gallery of the figures so you can see for yourself. And to contradict myself a little they did inspire me to play a little with them. You’ll be able to see that goofiness very soon in the Goofy Stuff section of the sight and on Facebook. You’ve been warned.

The overall quality and durability of these figures is also worth noting. These things have a nice weight to them and can handle a tumble or two. Trust me on that. No need to try it for yourselves at home.

And of course the price point is another wonderful aspect of this set. Sure kids may not be terribly thrilled with toys that don’t move BUT I can see some joy coming for them with these serving as excellent room decoration, cake toppers or take along in the car toys. Can’t loose a blaster or lightsaber if it doesn’t fall out of the figures hands.

The Bad – Nothing worth writing about. Sure Luke being in the set would have been even better BUT the value alone makes complaining way too trivial.

Final Thoughts – While I have discovered my freedom from being completely locked in to old habits, I’m almost positive regular figures will be added to the Toy Box. Of course they will! There’s new Star Wars: Rebels figures coming in the 6 inch Black Series so I must once again give into my old master’s calling. And with that being the exception, there’s really not much more I could or should say at this point. So may I invite you to the Gallery so you can check them out better and then hop on down to your nearest Disney Store or Online and grab yourself a set. You may be pleasantly surprised if your like I was up until now and you break free from the limitations that were created a long time ago in a decade far, far away.

Now, Go Play!

Jim 01/06/16

THIS is the one that turned me into that kid from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away again.


“The Force Awakens” has most certainly scratched my Star Wars itch BUT it’s got nothing on THIS, dear reader… Join me on this journey full of Christmas magic and Brother-in-Law love…

When I was a kid in elementary school there was nothing cooler to me than pop up books. I mean nothing. Action figures? Awesome! Model kits? Fantastic! Pop Up books? Unbridled JOY!

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The first pop up book I recall holding in my hands was one for “The Empire Strikes Back”. Sweet lord I loved that book. Never owned it though. The copy I saw was in the school library. So while  I could check it out, marvel at it for a little while I would begrudgingly have to return it so I wouldn’t be cursed with a late fee and an evil look from the librarian. The circle of life at Landmark Elementary, circa 1980. Now, thanks to my awesome brother in law, that last part can finally be flushed from my memory and replaced by Christmas magic.

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This year as I sat down with my family, sharing in the fun and fellowship that comes from exchanging gifts with those that you love (that you hope won’t suck) I was handed one last wrapped wonder that was fixing to transport me to a time and place from long, long ago. I said “Thank you,” as Derek passed it too me. Little did I know how truly thankful I was about to be.

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I opened the rectangular package with adult like composure but as the cover was revealed the engines of my internal time machine roared to life! My eyes locked onto the cover of this beauty: Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy by Matthew Reinhart. Then, I opened it and I was GONE!

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Page after page, flap after flap, the most memorable moments from my childhood not only came back but surrounded me, just like the Force itself. The 7 year old me was there. Amazed! Enthralled! And I must admit, a bit rude as everyone else in the room disappeared. Sorta sorry about that, gang. Blame Derek while I continue to thank him. Now back to the book…

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luke

Each and every page is amazing in art, story and engineering. If you are a Star Wars fan and don’t have one you are totally cheating yourself out of some seriously awesome goodness. And while I truly loved and enjoyed “The Force Awakens” none of its practical or computer generated special effects can touch the ones that are popping out from these pages. A jagged and ragged looking Kylo Ren lightsaber thrashing through bulkheads and people is lackluster compare to the battery operated, LED ones wielded by Luke and Vader in the back of the book. Not even close.

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Below, you can see some more of my more favorite scenes that come to life but I implore you to shop around and get one for yourself or for someone that you love. Do me a solid though and point them back here to the Toy Box. I would love to hear the stories and thoughts that you or they have after experiencing this awesome book. And again to my awesome, fantastic and beautiful brother in law, Thank You, Derek! You gave me more than a gift, you sent me on a journey through time fueled by Christmas magic and love.

Now, Go Play!

Jim 12/29/15

Utinni!
Utinni!
Wretched hive of scum, villainy and AWESOME!
Wretched hive of scum, villainy and AWESOME!
Yeah, yeah. These ARE the droids I was looking for :)
Yeah, yeah. These ARE the droids I was looking for 🙂
Can't love these scoundrels enough!
Can’t love these scoundrels enough!
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Solitaire with a Sith? Oh yeah!


Really cool dollar store find: Story of Darth Vader playing cards. This deck of 55 cards starts with Anakin and his creation, C3PO to the final “Ghost shot”. Really neat and really cheap. To note: there’s 3 Jokers, power of the Dark Side I guess and I just realized this, little whiny Anakin programmed 3PO… explains a lot when you think about it. Anyway, great distraction for $1. Now, Go Play! – Jim 12/07/15

Cool box art...
Cool box art…

It really does tell the full story of the rise and fall and redemption.
It really does tell the full story of the rise and fall and redemption.

Again, great artwork!
Again, great artwork!

 I'd take pictures of all of 'em but I really do have a life ;)
I’d take pictures of all of ’em but I really do have a life 😉

Never play poker with a Sith. The deck is stacked against you, kids!
Never play poker with a Sith. The deck is stacked against you, kids!

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  😉 )  

hers

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

He’s basic, he’s black and let me say he’s bad @$$! (Shut yo mouth!)


Image6The 12 inch Darth Vader from Hasbro is one bad, straight armed dude! Being that I’m a retro kind of guy this figure really POP’s for me. No frills just a Darth Vader toy to be played with. The simplicity in the design (7 points of articulation) in my opinion lead to three strong points for me:

1. Durability – less parts = less potential for breakage,

ARTICULATION

2. Price Point – a much more reasonable MSRP than most other toy fare on the racks these days and the most important one is point

pricepoint

3. Imagination – Sure it can be frustrating that the Dark Lord of the Sith can’t bend at the knees or elbows but that doesn’t take away from the overall fun and play-ability of the toy. You have to use your imagination.

Image1

Image5With the price point I am admittedly more forgiving on some of the details in design. Some things such as the molded plastic tunic looks clunky as part of the legs and the cloth cape could stand to be wider and cover the shoulders. Neither however are a deal breaker for me.

Image8The packaging is also impressive to me. Not so much in its graphics but in the boxes design. It’s one large sheet of cardboard that is folded. Simple and efficient. This can lead to damaging the package as far as collectors may note but at it’s core this is a toy to be played with. If you want a high end collectible this is not the toy for you. But if you want a toy that is meant to be just that then here you go.

Image4In the end I call this one a win. Mind you I’m not a big fan of the other selections from this line (Anakin, Obi Wan and a Clone Trooper) but that’s just me. If they released more of the original characters in this format I would pick them up though. Also to note, for me this is a very nice alternative to the Jumbo Vintage figures by Gentle Giant. I do like those and would like to pick up a Lando Calrissian as a novelty item to add to my collection but the price point is a killer for me in regards to collecting them all.

One final point that I like about this particular figure and line is that he and his other Star Wars Universe pals can play in scale with heroes from the Marvel Universe. The Titan Series featuring Thor, Captain America, Wolverine, Spider Man, Iron Man and a big honkin’ Hulk all feature the same limitations in design but who cares? They are in scale toys from various licenses and they match, just like my beloved Mego’s of old and the new Re-Mego’s from Bif Bang Pow and Figures Toy Company.

Maybe it’s OCD but I’ve always liked things to match. Even as a kid the style difference between Kenner’s Star Wars and Hasbro’s G.I. Joe Real American Hero figures may have been 3 & ¾ but were night and day in their make up. As far as the debate over the play-ability and which is better of those all I can say to that is… what style is the hottest pre sale item around? That’s right the Retro Kenner, baby!

Now Jules and Vader can team up for the most bad ass Blaxploitation flick in the history of awesome! Say “You don’t know the power of the dark side” again, mo$&*@%$^! I dare you, I double dog dare you mo$&*@%$^!”

Dark Side Pimps

Now, Go Play! (and May the Force be with You!)

Jim -02/28/14