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New 'Star Wars' toys ready to hit shelves in force

Top retailers are teaming up with Hasbro Inc.  and other toy makers to launch the much-anticipated products linked to the next -- and final -- chapter in the “Star Wars” movie franchise, “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith.”
The Force is strong with Hasbro, Inc. as its most diverse and highly innovative line ever of Star Wars toys and games hits store shelves worldwide April 2.BW
/ Source: Reuters

Jedis are coming to a store near you.

Top retailers are teaming up with Hasbro Inc. and other toy makers to launch the much-anticipated products linked to the next -- and final -- chapter in the “Star Wars” movie franchise, “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith.”

In a move to attract adult collectors -- a very dedicated segment of the Star Wars fan base -- retailers also will be offering exclusive products, extended hours, parties and other events.

“This is the end. It’s the sixth and last. The toys are good and they’ve done a good job with them and they will attract fans,” said Maria Weiskott, editor-in-chief of Playthings, a magazine that covers the toy business.

From a Darth Vader voice-changing helmet, board games, and a bevy of action figures to plug-and-play games and updated light sabers, toy makers are rolling out items that will appeal to hard-core collectors as well as to kids who actually want to take the merchandise out of the box.

“The entire line looks fantastic,” said Philip Wise, a Star Wars enthusiast who runs the Star Wars fan Web site TheForce.Net. “I’ll be there at the store just like everyone else. It’s always a big party. Being a Star Wars fan is all about lining up for something.”

Toys R Us Inc. will be opening doors at 316 stores at 12:01 a.m. on April 2. The company expects the biggest celebration to take place at its Times Square store where fans are being encouraged to come dressed as their favorite Star Wars character.

The retailer, which just agreed to be taken over by a group of investors, will be exclusively giving away a “Holographic Yoda” figure with a $35 purchase at Times Square on April 2, and at other Toys R Us stores starting April 10 with a $25 purchase.

Just like 1977
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the No. 1 toy seller, is hosting an event called “48 hours of the Force.”

At 400 Wal-Mart supercenters, there will be interactive toy and game demonstrations from Hasbro, product sampling, Star Wars character appearances, and free Star Wars force-detection collectible cards.

Wal-Mart will also mimic a 1977 “empty box” promotion. At the same 400 stores, customers will receive an empty box containing a mail-in certificate that they mail in to get the four Star Wars action figures: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2 and Chewbacca, a Wookie.

This same promotion was done for the original “Star Wars” movie after demand exceeded supply for Star Wars toys.

The 1977 empty packages that were not redeemed are now worth more than the redeemed figures, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said.

Other exclusive toys available in limited quantities at Wal-Mart include die-cast vehicles and a Star Wars figure carrying case with bonus figures.

All 24-hour Wal-Mart stores will also start selling Star Wars merchandise at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 2.

Target Corp., the No. 2 discounter, will exclusively sell a “Lava Reflection” Darth Vader action figure, which is Darth Vader with a red holographic flame on his chest. It also created an exclusive Star Wars gift card containing a sound chip with Darth Vader’s breathing and a glowing light saber.

“The figures are going to be hot. The press kit from Toy Fair sold on eBay for $1,100,” said Chris Byrne, an independent toy analyst. “The light saber plug-and-play game is going to do very well. There’s a trend in movie toys with role playing.”

Spoiler alert
Meanwhile, since the movie doesn’t hit theaters until May 19, some die-hard fans might want to watch out. Some of the new merchandise has “spoilers” -- details and content that will give away the new movie’s plot twists.

Call Upon Yoda is a talking, story-telling doll that rattles off many sayings of Yoda, the wizened Jedi master. He also spills the beans about the new movie’s plot.

The Trivial Pursuit “Star Wars” DVD has clips from all six movies and footage of Star Wars fans acting out scenes from the movies.

Hasbro says the sneak preview offered by certain toys won’t ruin the movie experience for fans.

“The toy collection we’re launching will get fans as excited as they could possibly be about the movie and toy line overall,” said Eric Nyman, Hasbro’s director of marketing for Star Wars merchandise. “The hints that exist will get people more excited.”

Hasbro will also sell a “Star Wars” version of chess, Risk and puzzles.

Even though this is the last movie, Hasbro doesn’t expect the popularity of the “Star Wars” franchise to disappear after the film leaves theaters.

“We see it going into 2006 and beyond,” said Mark Blecher, senior vice president of marketing for Hasbro games. “We have the license through 2018.”

That gives Yoda time to train a new generation of Jedis.