Later this week, stores across the nation will be open at 12:01 AM Friday morning for the big release of the first wave of merchandise for The Force Awakens. Dubbed “Force Friday,” fans everywhere will be lining up outside of their local retailers to get their first crack at the merchandise (myself included, of course). Now, for most Star Wars fans, this sort of release isn’t uncommon. Previously dubbed “Midnight Madness,” events like Force Friday have been around for over 15 years, going back to the release of The Phantom Menace. I was four for that event, and by the time of Attack of the Clones I wasn’t engrossed enough in Star Wars to be interested in attending. For Revenge of the Sith‘s event, I was interested in Star Wars but wasn’t quite the toy collector I am today (of course, within a few months I would be well on the path). I have, however, attended one Midnight Madness event: in 2008, for the release of the tie-in merchandise to Star Wars: The Clone Wars. In the start of 2008, Hasbro was winding down the Thirtieth Anniversary Collection of action figures, and in February of that year they showed the first waves of their upcoming action figure lines: The Legacy Collection, which would feature characters from the movies, and The Clone Wars, which, well, duh. Also shown were roleplaying sets, vehicles, and really all manner of toys that would be later available. Of course, none of the toys were immediately available, leaving customers in a tantalizing wait for products. Several chains had Midnight Madness events in the past, but in 2008 the action was centered around Toys R Us (TRU). For this article, I’ll discuss what was available, the promotions that were being run by Toys R Us, and my own personal experience at the event. First, let’s take a look at the items that were being released. I’m going to focus on Hasbro, but I’ll throw in a quick list of what Lego released as well.
First wave of The Clone Wars
The first wave of Clone Wars figures was a hot commodity at Midnight Madness, but they might have been hotter were it not for their animated style. A lot of fans were anticipating/hoping for realistically styled figures that would display seamlessly with their figures from the films, but that was not to be. Fans mostly came around on the animated style (and it helped that some of the figures wound up seeing realistic versions down the line), so by the time Rebels came around fans knew to expect the animated look. The first wave was a mixed batch in terms of quality. The clones are really well done (the weathering in particular was great), but Yoda was not particularly well liked. Grievous looked great, but couldn’t stand up well. What’re you gonna do?
Hasbro rolled out several new mid-size vehicles for Midnight Madness, including two that, despite not first appearing in The Clone Wars, got their first action figure treatment from it. The V-19 Torrent showed up in the Clone Wars microseries, along with earlier comics, so its inclusion in the new line made me in particular very happy. The Homing Spider Droid first appeared in Attack of the Clones, but wasn’t made as an action figure vehicle until now. These two vehicles got collectors hyped, but not to the same degree that the next entry did…
The Clone Wars provided the perfect excuse for Hasbro to go ahead and make this beast of a vehicle. Retailing at $99.99, the AT-TE could hold up to 20 figures and came with a unique Clone Trooper as well. This thing was high on my list of most anticipated toys for Midnight Madness, and you can bet that I got one when it was first released. The impressive thing is that this wasn’t even the most expensive Hasbro toy at Midnight Madness, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
The Legacy Collection, wave 1
While it was The Clone Wars that actually “earned” the honor of a Midnight Madness event, The Legacy Collection was still making its debut as well. The first wave focused on Return of the Jedi, and is notable for including the first three figures based on the “sandstorm” deleted scene (Leia and Lando would appear later), as well as an action figure of Yarna d’al’ Gargan, one of Jabba’s dancers who, despite being an anticipated action figure by collectors (for reasons I still don’t understand), warmed the pegs like no other. The Legacy Collection is known for its “Build-a-Droid” pack ins: each figure comes with a part to build an extra droid action figure. This being an eight figure wave, there were two astromechs to construct.
The Legacy Collection, wave 2
In a twist at least I wasn’t expecting, the second wave of The Legacy Collection was also available at Midnight Madness. The second wave was a last hurrah of sorts for Genndy Tartakovsky’s series, featuring eight figures based off it. I, obviously, was incredibly excited, and bought most of the wave that first night. The figures are all very well done. Obi-Wan has a weird sort of grimace going on, but looks fine with his helmet. These wouldn’t be the last figures from Clone Wars, but with the presence of the animated figures along side this wave, it certainly felt like a changing of the guard.
Dagger Squadron B-Wing
I wasn’t sure if the Dagger Squadron B-Wing (a Toys R Us exclusive) debuted at Midnight Madness, but in the course of my research I saw a video that had them present, so I figured I’d included. Dagger Squadron was present in the Dark Horse Comics of the Expanded Universe, and was the most prominent B-Wing squadron to come out of it. Featuring stickers allowing the owner to display the ship as any squadron member’s (Red Dagger, Blue Dagger, etc.), the vehicle also had swap-out cannons for more display options. Yes, I own one. Obviously.
Just a bunch of different Evolutions Packs
Again, these were something that I wasn’t sure about being present, but upon doing some research into the Rebelscum forums I determined should be included. These were really well liked (well, the Imperial pilot one was received more tepidly), but the Amidala one knocked out a bunch of costumes for her, and the Rebel pilot ones introduced some never before produced characters, and gave us a sculpt for a female pilot. Good stuff. All of this leads to the biggest item of the night, the aptly named…
Big Millennium Falcon
Now, when I call that the “Big Millennium Falcon,” or “BMF” please note that this is the accepted nomenclature among the collecting community. It’s somewhat inelegant, but quite accurate. The Millennium Falcon has existed in toy form for decades, but in 2008 Hasbro upped their game and sculpted a new version. Larger, and featuring numerous bells and whistles, the ship was initially revealed by Hasbro in a manner straight out of Seinfeld: asked about it in a Q&A session, Hasbro said “it *is* real, and it *is* spectacular!” They weren’t lying. It was $150 at launch, but could eventually be found for less with a little looking. I wound up getting mine for $100 at B&Js a few months down the line.
A bunch of Lego sets
Lego released a few other sets around this time, but they were exclusives and wouldn’t have been at Toys R Us’s Midnight Madness events. Anyway, The Twilight was a TRU exclusive, the Republic Gunship featured several different stickers so you could change up the nose-art, and the sets were, on a whole, pretty nifty. I wound up getting the AT-TE, Gunship, and V-19. All fun sets.
Holographic General Grievous
Another TRU exclusive, the Holo Grievous was actually part of a promotion that was being run at Midnight Madness: if you purchased $30 of merchandise, you’d get a free figure. Savvy shoppers, such as me and my father, wound up checking out separately to get more than one of the figures. Pure genius, I say.
Also, if you spent enough on Legos, you got a free poster. Woooooooooo.
Anyway, let me talk about my personal experience with Midnight Madness. If you haven’t gathered, I spent a bucketload of money that night in July, and if you know me and want to do the math, I was only 13 at the time. In order to get such money, I worked out a deal with my dad: we’d just taken down some trees, and were left with a bunch of logs. I’d get some money for each hour I chopped. As it happens, I wound up chopping a lot of wood, and ended with money to spare come Midnight Madness. We went to the nearest Toys R Us having an event around 10:30, and there was already a sizable line. What’s nice about that sort of thing, however, is that you already have something big in common with the people you’re next to. I can’t say I made any lasting friendships, but at the same time I had a great time chatting with people. It was kinda nuts when we made it in to the store, but I did wind up getting pretty much everything I wanted. Here’s hoping Force Friday will be similarly successful.
-I’ll try to liveblog my experience at the Toys R Us in Times Square tomorrow. The Disney Store there is also having an event, so I’ll be trying to make it to both.
-Photos are mostly from, of course, Rebelscum’s excellent Photo Archives.