A Triple #ForceFriday Reflection

triple-force-friday-tall-B-1This past weekend saw the release of the new merchandise for not only Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker but also The Mandalorian and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. While the title implies this should have been the biggest celebration by three of Star Wars merchandise in years, in reality, it included none of the fanfare, bells nor whistles we’ve seen in the past four years of Disney-era Star Wars films.

Unlike every major Star Wars film merchandise release date since 1999’s The Phantom Menace, there was no wide-spread midnight event taking place across the country or world. This is mostly due to the lack of Toys ‘R’ Us in the United States and fellow retailers like Target not having anyone to compete with for Star Wars money. With nowhere special to be, as our state only had two Wal*Marts participating in special midnight events and they were nowhere near any of the main population centers, we headed to our local 24-hour Wal*Mart around 10:30 PM as that is when pallets typically are moved on to the floor.

We were not shocked to learn that the Wal*Mart employees had zero clues of the release date and when probed for information we found they were way more concerned with Frozen 2’s merch release which was also on October 4th. And not to jump ahead, there were five pallets of Frozen 2 to the single pallet of Star Wars at our local store. As we waited, we took the opportunity to order Luke’s X-Wing Fighter from Hasbro Pulse in the fear that it may sell out in the next month.

After enlightening them about the release date, they proceeded to look for the pallet and eventually rolled it out at 11:55 PM. This particular store only had the PDQ display that included just two of the Wal*Mart exclusives: the Carbonized Jet Trooper and the TVC Lando Skiff Guard. The rest of the display included just two sets of the new TVC wave, two sets of the new Galaxy of Adventures wave and just one full set of the new TBS wave. There were no gold figure two-packs, no First Editions, and no Skiffs. We did notice as we were browsing the pallet as a few other collectors began to arrive as the time had officially crossed over into Triple Force Friday, that many of the TVC bubbles were crushed. And additionally, there were no advertisements, signage or any other promotional items to advertise any upcoming Star Wars media properties. We were surprised to see that no space was even made in the aisle to accommodate future Star Wars releases.

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After chatting with a newly met local collector in the parking lot until about 1 AM and nursing a serious cold, we called it a night with the TVC taken care of and a few TBS figs as well.

Following a few hours of sleep, our alarm rang at 6:15 AM in time to rally for a trip to Target for their 7 AM opening. When we arrived, we were 6th in line and by the time the store opened there were a few others behind us. Many of the people ahead of us went straight for the just-released Funko Pops! NYCC exclusives and Target exclusive Futura Pops! Target set up an endcap and a special stand in the main aisle for new Star Wars merch but did not expand their aisle square footage. They put up one promotional Rey and Kylo display which was very similar to their The Last Jedi display which required you to place your hands on it to activate it but it was not working at the moment.

Target had exactly one case of TVC and two cases of TBS on the pegs. Missing from our Target was their exclusive Carbonized Mandalorian figures, but they did have their exclusive TBS Collectors Mystery Box in stock. A few of the collectors grabbed the TBS wave and the TVC wave and left quickly for the checkout. We decided to linger for a bit to see how many others were going to arrive and see what they were looking for. As we waited, we decided to pick up the entire Galaxy of Adventures line as Target had the Treadspeeder and multipack which our Wal*Mart did not. We left after about 45 minutes and observing only two other collectors arrive looking just for the TBS figures. We saw no other person buy any of the GOA figures or the new diecast ships from Mattel.

Our next stop was a different Wal*Mart which we received word had the golden figures. When we arrived we learned that in each case the Han and Leia two-pack is short packed and was missing when by the time we got there. We grabbed the two others and headed to a third Wal*Mart to look for our missing set. Our third trip was wasted as that Wal*Mart did not put any merch out and again the staff was clueless to the date and/or event.

Headed home to get some much-needed sleep, we awoke in time to grab the kids from school and hit Target once more to show the 9-year-old all the new merch. While browsing the LEGO we received word that our good friend Jason found the third gold Skywalker Saga set for us in the next town over. Junior decided he needed the new Finn and Poe Chose your Destiny book so off we went to open our Galaxy of Adventures figures.

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As Triple Force Friday came to end, we couldn’t help but feel unsatisfied as even though we found the merch we wanted, after 24 hours we were done, complete on the figures we wanted that was available at retail. The day lacked the excitement and hype of those in the past. We missed the fan events, freebies, giveaways, and collector camaraderie that has accompanied Midnight Madness and Force Friday events of yesteryear.

The following day, we decided to see what else was out there and made a trip to our local Fred Meyer store in search of the new Topps Journey to The Rise of Skywalker card set and the new Micro Force WOW! Sabers said to be showing up there. Unfortunately, our local store had downsized their toy section and had neither of them nor much else for TROS. The simply had the two 12” Hero series figures on the shelves and nothing else.

Once home again, we began calling around to the Game Stops in our town in search of Commander Fox. After 5 tries, we were able to find what may have been the last one in town and after a 15-minute trip, both Fox and a Carbonized Second Sister were added to our weekend haul.

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One the final day of the weekend, we made one final toy run and this time it was to a Barnes and Noble as word had spread that they were the only brick and mortar store to be carrying Poe’s TVC X-Wing Fighter. To our delight, they had two left and we were able to pick the better of the two boxes to take home.

As collecting goes, we had a very successful weekend and know that there were many out and about on TFF who did not. But what we have found with the loss of TRU and midnight events, is that fellowship with our fellow fans and collectors are what make release dates truly special. Having worked at TRU during the first Midnight Madness in ’99, been in attendance in ’02, ’05 and ’08 for the others as well as Force Friday in ’15, Rogue Friday in ’16, Force Friday 2 in ’17 and Wookiee Weekend in ’18, we are sad to see such a fun and supported event become an afterthought to all of the companies involved.

Articles have surfaced indicating that a lot of merchandise has been held back by Hasbro due to spoiler-material but that is hard to believe as their competitors such as LEGO and Funko released loads of characters and vehicles that Hasbro did not. Not having a dedicated 3 ¾” action figure line for the release of Episode IX may very well be one of those decisions that are talked about for years to come. Much like the overproduction of wave one of the Episode One line in ’99 or the rejection of The Epic Continues by LFL in ’85. These are decisions that have changed the future of the 3 ¾” line in the past and we fear that the absence, of a line which has been beloved for over 40 years, this Fall may once again affect the future.

In 2019 we will see the end of the Skywalker Saga but we have already seen the end of Midnight Madness/Force Friday.