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Rise of the Return of the Attack of 11 Star Wars Collectibles from 11 Episodes

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

With the final chapter of the Star Wars trilogy of trilogies about to hit theaters, let’s look back at the history of the franchise in terms of Star Wars collectibles. Which character (and related collectible) was the most significant from each movie? It could be the most popular, the rarest, the most controversial, or the most ground-breaking. Also, let’s look at these in the order you’re supposed to now watch them, instead of when they were actually made.

Star Wars collectiblesEpisode I – The Phantom Menace: Let’s just get this out of the way. It’s Jar Jar Binks. It has to be Jar Jar. Fans of the original trilogy (or the middle trilogy depending on how you count) had some trepidation about reviving the franchise for a trio of prequels. And much about Episode 1 was not received well when it hit theaters. History has been a bit more kind to the movie in the 20 years since its release, but poor Jar Jar was hated then and his persona has aged even worse. Some sort of talking Jar Jar figure has to be it. Perhaps one that dances as well?

Episode II – Attack of the Clones: “Boba, I am your father!” Boba Fett rivals several other characters for coolest rogue in the universe (Apologies to Han Solo and Lando Calrissian). This film concerns Jango Fett, Boba’s father. Well, Boba is his clone, so “father” is a loose term. Either way, Someone from the Fett lineage had to make this list, and since they’re genetically identical, it’s Jango time!

Star Wars MerchandiseEpisode III – Revenge of the Sith: Remember that plucky kid who won the pod race in Episode I? No spoilers, but it turns out he becomes the baddest of the bad, Darth Vader himself. If you watch the movies in order, this is the first on-screen appearance of Vader. This movie doesn’t have a lot of strong collectible contenders contemporary with the film’s release, so let’s go more modern with this diorama of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi dueling for the first time.

Episode IV – A New Hope: Over 40 years after its release, this movie has held up impeccably well. The entire cast of characters and the spaceship designs haven’t lost any of their magic over the years. This was also the dawn of the modern collectibles age, and the studio was not at all prepared for the popularity of the movie or the toys and other products it would inspire. One thing they did get right at the time… The Marvel comics adaptation of the saga. When the movie hit theaters, “Star Wars” issue #1 was not far behind. Lessons were learned, memories were made. Issue #1 combines everything great about the movies plus the world of comics. And there are some rare variants, too.

Star Wars ToysEpisode V – The Empire Strikes Back: In the first movie (or fourth?) Princess Leia was kind of a MacGuffin, a damsel in distress in a frumpy gown. But in this installment, she busts out a laser rifle on Hoth, and then gets several chances to be the hero in ways viewers never saw coming. And let’s face it, the scene with Jabba the Hutt and Salacious Crumb is memorable for so many reasons. So, this Funko Pop set with Leia, the giant space slug and his jester works.

Episode VI – Return of the Jedi: By the time the third installment (or sixth by this count) arrived, toy companies and collectors were becoming savvy on how to deal with collectibles. Tons of action figures were sold, and many of those were preserved in their packaging, so many of them are not all that rare. On the other hand, a pre-production glitch created one unintended collector’s item. Early versions of the movie poster referred to the film as Revenge of the Jedi, but for various reasons, Lucas decided to change the title to Return. So original posters with the early title are worth a lot more than the official version. (Just make sure it’s not a reprint!)

Star Wars collectiblesEpisode VII – The Force Awakens: A lot of folks saw this film as something of a reboot/remake of the first Star Wars movie (or the fourth… you get the idea.) Our hero Finn impersonating a Stormtrooper, Kylo Ren wearing a black mask and cape (nowhere near as menacing as Darth Vader ever was, though), and Rey… okay, not a damsel in distress, but a fierce fighter right from the get-go. But the movie, from a collectible standpoint, belongs to BB-8, especially the remote control version!

Episode VIII – The Last Jedi: No spoilers here, but it’s neat to see Luke Skywalker again, especially with Han Solo and Leia in short supply. Let’s just say Rey really owns this movie. So any figure where she’s wielding a lightsaber fits the bill here. (Not that she’s the Last Jedi referred to in the title or anything. No spoilers, remember?)

Episode IX – Rise of Skywalker: Baby Yoda isn’t in this movie, is he? Since it doesn’t come out until this weekend, we can’t be sure. So far, the available collectibles haven’t revealed any apparent spoilers. Regardless, it really feels like nothing in this movie can’t possibly top Baby Yoda.

Bonus episodes:

Rogue One – A Star Wars Story: This is a strange entry into the Star Wars Canon… it’s a prequel to Episode 4, but not part of the three other prequels. So there are a lot of characters who were never heard from before or after. So let’s give this to K-2SO by default.

Star Wars toys

Solo – A Star Wars Story: Not a character, but it’s gotta be young Han Solo’s Speeder, right? Sure the Millennium Falcon is the coolest spaceship of all time, but what piece of junk did Solo pilot before that piece of junk? Also, the rocket engines in the back look like the taillights of a 1960s Ford Falcon. That’s the kind of loving detail that makes the Star Wars saga so great.

If you have other suggestions for the most significant collectible from any of these movies, please let us know in the comments!

Baby Yoda From a Toy Industry Perspective

Thoughts of Richard Gottlieb from Global Toy News
Richard Gottlieb is the Founder and CEO of Global Toy Experts, the globally recognized consultant to toy industry leaders. In addition, he is the Publisher of Global Toy, the toy industry’s independent voice.  Richard is also a member of the hobbyDB Advisory Council.

Whether you call him Baby Yoda, or “The Child” as the Walt Disney Company would prefer, he is the best thing to come along for the toy industry this Christmas season……except that he didn’t. At least not as a toy. That will come later, much later.

It is crucial that we study Disney’s decision to postpone licensing until after it introduced Baby Yoda. It teaches us in the toy industry some valuable lessons: We don’t count as much as the entertainment side of the business, and Disney may have just launched a whole new paradigm in how studios introduce new characters.

The Walt Disney Company chose to delay the introduction of Baby Yoda because it a) wanted to create a sensation with its new Mandalorian franchise and b) more importantly, it wanted to generate a frenzy of interest so that consumers would subscribe to the new Disney+. In doing so, the company was willing to forgo the resulting revenues from consumer product sales. They saw the loss of consumer product dollars as an investment in what was a larger target, launching their Disney+.

The Walt Disney Company’s decision certainly made sense to its senior management team, but it was an unmitigated disaster for the toy industry. Think of not only the missed Baby Yoda toy sales but the loss of incremental revenue that any hot toy brings as people invade the toy department in desperate search of the latest hot toy.

Yes, Disney will capture some sales later but the demand will be satisfied far more quickly. To paraphrase an old saying: Time waits for no man, and it doesn’t wait for the Walt Disney Company either.

But what comes next? Has the Walt Disney Company created an alternative paradigm for launching new characters? Will content producers in television and movies feel that keeping a secret about a new character or plotline outweighs the incremental value of toy sales? We will have to wait a few months to get that answer.  Or what do you think?

This post was initially published here.

Hey, That’s Not Santa! Collectibles in Claus Costumes

santa claus lead

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

One of the greatest, most mysterious super-spies in history is hitting his busy season. He’s been surveying you and everyone in the world ’round the clock, ’round the calendar. He’s been compiling notes on everyone’s behavior in order to exact his own special brand of justice. But on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus rolls up his sleeves and really gets down to business.

As Christmas approaches, he has a network of “helpers,” doppelgangers who pop up at malls and shopping centers and street corners all over the world in December to give the illusion that he’s close by. Of course, some of those Alt-Santas have other motives, many of them quite naughty indeed. Here at hobbyDB, we decided to compile a list of Santa’s subterfugers (is that a word?) from the benign to the sinister to the positively evil. And of course, we have our own intel on each one.

yoda darth vader santaHarmless Imitators

There is a long history of fictional characters donning the red suit mostly for good natured hijinks, or simply to sit in the chair at the mall. Generally affable characters such as Yoda, Mickey Mouse, and Freddy Funko have all gone red for non-canonical merchandising reasons. Which really fits the spirit of Christmas if you think about it. Heck, even Darth Vader can be found in Santa garb, but since it’s not in any of the movies, we have to assume he was just goofing around, right?

gizmo gremlinCuddly But Creepy

Anyone who doesn’t think of “Gremlins” as a Christmas movie really needs to have their spirit checked. The Gremlins start out cuddly, but (Spoiler alert for a 35 year old movie) if they get wet, or are fed after midnight, they turn into horrifying little monsters. So it’s tough to say which side of the fence Gizmo, seen here, falls on. Also, is he really impersonating Santa, or just wearing a hat to be festive? Intentions and consequences unclear.

jakc skellington droppoGood Intentions, Bad Ideas

Jack Skellington has to go here, right? Sure, he plotted to take over Christmas, and sure, he usurped the good name and costume of St. Nick, and sure, he actually hijacked the sled (Spoiler Alert for a 25 year old cartoon) and attempted to deliver the goods on his own… but he swears it was all in good fun. Okay, and a bit of jealousy. However you want to judge his intentions, he probably could have done some jail time for his malfeasance if he ever went to court.

funko psycho santaAlso in this category, we have Droppo, the lovable goofball from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, possibly one of the worst holiday movies ever. In any event, Droppo dons the suit to cover for Santa while he… look, I don’t want to spoil this one for you. You really should watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of it, though.

“Looks Kind of Scary, but Who Knows?

Psycho Santa’s main motive is… well, that’s hard to say. He’s a crazy goblin-looking creature, with wily eyes, a mischievous grin, and a creepy tongue dangling out of his gap toothed mouth. The Psycho Goblin character is an original Funko creation, so he’s still building his back story.

santa grinch

Your heart’s an empty hole, Your brain is full of spiders, You’ve got garlic in your soul

And of course, Santa’s most sinister imposter has to be the Grinch, right? His elaborate scheme to steal the spirit of Christmas by stealing the materialism of the holiday was diabolical. He didn’t just wear the suit, he mimicked the sled, the reindeer, the mannerisms. And of course, (Spoiler alert for a 50-year old cartoon) his diabolical plot could only be derailed by… his own heart. Now for a real mystery… in Who-ville, does the real Santa look human, or Who-man?

robot santaWhat if Santa is some kind of Robot?

Oh, wait, you thought the Grinch was the best of the worst? In the year 3000, Santa’s duties are relegated to a harmless four-ton robot from Neptune. Well, Futurama’s Robot Santa Claus would be harmless, except he was erroneously programmed to judge the naughty from the nice with extreme prejudice. (Spoiler Alert for a 20 year old cartoon) He deems just about everyone naughty and worthy of a death sentence. 

Speaking of robotic Santas, over the years, “Doctor Who” has ended many of their seasons with a Christmas special, some of them featuring Santa.  It makes sense: He doesn’t hop across dimensions, and he doesn’t travel in time, but Santa does manage to cover a heck of a lot of square miles in an absurdly short amount of time. So it figures he would know Doctor Who to some degree. But he’s the good guy. In most of those specials, anyway. One year did feature a super creepy Santa Robot, the kind who occupied the uncanny valley, so he was the stuff of nightmares.

eric cartman santa suitThe True Meaning of Christmas is Ham… no, Presents!

The very first five-minute South Park cartoon features Santa Claus battling Jesus to settle the true meaning of Christmas. As bad as that Santa might sound, (and in subsequent appearances he’s not the nicest guy) he’s not an imposter, so he doesn’t really count for this list. On the other hand, Eric Cartman has been spotted in a full Santa suit several times over the years. Whatever his specific motive might be at any time, we can assume that Cartman Claus must be the most truly evil imposter of all.

Regardless of intent, it’s clear that the spirit of Christmas lives inside all of us. So merry Christmas to all and to all… make sure you look closely at who actually slides down your chimney this year.

Do you have a favorite undercover Santa Costumed character? Let us know in the comments below!

The Evolution of Lego Minifigs, Brick by Brick

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Lego is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the the Minifigure this year, but the history of block-based humans goes back further than that. So let’s take a look at The Evolution of Lego Minifigs (and their blocks in general) over the last 50 or so years.

The first Lego building sets were designed to build, well, buildings. Vehicles weren’t something that needed to be constructed, because Lego originally made separate, somewhat realistic cars and trucks to go with these sets. Those vehicles were eventually discontinued, so eventually the first wheel sets were added, allowing kids to build cars and trucks. But it would take several more years (and a change in scale) to bring about anyone to drive those vehicles.

Lego patent printsLego’s’s first wheel and tire pieces had a 2×2 stud arrangement in the middle of the hub. A human figure scaled to that size would need to be about 4 inches tall. Those would probably be too big and require too many new parts, so Lego balked at the idea at the time. They offered head and shoulder pieces with moveable arms, but the rest had to be built from regular bricks.

The first Lego Minifigs appeared in 1975, along with smaller wheelsets. This was from the days when Lego blocks came only in black, white, red, yellow, and blue. And green baseplates. And clear window bricks. And a few gray pieces, but only technical ones like wheel mount blocks. (Okay, they actually had quite a few different colors going on back then.) And just like that, the Lego universe was dominated by a scale somewhere around 1/48.

Oh, and they weren’t officially called Minifigures yet. But we’ll go with that term for now.

The original Minifig head shape was a bit of a departure for Lego, as round pieces were not part of the universe yet aside from wheels. Also, the diameter of the head was a bit wider than a single stud brick, so it couldn’t be used in certain tight areas. But the shape and size just seemed right, so it stuck. The body had no moving parts, so fitting a character into a car wasn’t really even a consideration. Most of the time, adding a passenger meant just setting aside the legs and installing the torso and head. Some new bespoke pieces included a police hat, a farmer’s hat, and a bit later, simple male and female hair pieces.

lego original minifigsAnother feature lacking in Lego blocks at the time: There were no graphics printed on any of them. Some sets came with stickers, but permanent markings were years away. So that meant blank head pieces at first.

The heads did come with a new feature that was fraught with possibility. The diameter of the neck was perfect for nesting in the middle of of a 2×2 array of studs, meaning it could be centered in a way that threw the entire grid into a new dimension. That may be overstating things a bit, but soon after those pieces came out, smaller cylindrical parts debuted that had the same feature. Coupled with the happy accident that a 1/3 thickness plate could stand on edge between the studs, suddenly the world of Lego was pointing in all kinds of new directions.

lego first minifigs1978 brought a major evolutionary step in the Minifig. Moving arms and legs, as well as printed features including faces. Early ones had only one expression, a simple, noseless happy face. And they were yellow.  (Different facial features would not appear until 1989 with the first Pirate sets, and eventually, heads with faces on the front and back would become the norm.)

lego piratesThe legs fit the same dimensions as the early non-moving ones, but the torsos were now wider, as the arms stuck out from the width of the body. While we’ve become accustomed to this style, it did lead to some changes in the engineering of Lego kits. If you’ve noticed how real cars are getting bigger and bigger (along with the average real person), it’s happening in Legoland, too.

Vehicles, previously 4 studs wide at this scale, suddenly became six or eight studs wide. And that was to accommodate a single, centrally seated passenger. For them to sit side by side required space between the seats, as well as space on the sides.

lego space minifig1979 saw possibly the most important development in Lego history… the introduction of Lego Space sets. These featured new wing shapes in several sizes, new clear canopy parts (even molded in translucent colors!) and cylindrical and cone pieces. And a lot more gray bits. The characters now had a spiffy space helmet option and back mounted air tanks. (The tanks attached by being placed on the neck before the head went on, making the space people just a bit taller.) Sales rocketed to new heights, and kids fell in love with the new parts.

For several years, the yellow brick head and hands remained the standard. The folks at Lego liked the idea that even though only one skin tone existed, it really didn’t match any actual human hue, so in a sense they represented everyone and anyone. It also meant characters who wore yellow looked sort of naked.

Around the turn of the century, Lego was struggling financially. Their toys were immensely popular and beloved, but costs were spiraling out of control. In order to keep up the precise, durable quality of the brand, they had to raise prices just enough to become an issue with consumers. Also, there were some issues with protecting the copyrights on their designs, so competitors popped up, some with lower prices, most with lower quality.

lego star wars minifigsThen came the first licensed sets. And despite the extra cost for the licensing rights, they were a huge hit. Instead of generic characters, buildings, and cars, these sets represented real fictional characters (if that makes sense). 1999 saw the first Star Wars sets, and more evolution came about. While the bodies mostly remained the same shape and size, new helmets and hair were introduced. And for some of the monsters, new molds were created, with head shapes almost completely devoid of lego simplicity. A shorter leg piece was introduced for the Yoda figure. And in 2003, for the first time, more realistic skin tones were used. By then, the color palette for other bricks had exploded into the dozens, so this didn’t seem too earth or space shattering.

lego ninjagoLego managed to right the financial ship by creating their own new original universes that didn’t require any additional licensing fees. The Ninjago series, introduced in 2011 has been one of their most popular lines ever. And best of all, it brought back the traditional yellow skin tones. Throw in the success of The Lego Movie and other assorted video game and entertainment properties, and the company is brick solid again.

The Lego Miniverse is now filled with thousands of different Minifigs of all shapes, sizes and colors. Superheroes (DC, Marvel and Pixar), Pirates (Caribbean and otherwise), wizards, and all sorts of movie and TV tie-ins can peacefully coexist in one toybox. Most licensed Minifigs now go with an approximation of the character’s skin tone, but there has been a notable recent exception.

lego simpsonsThe whole bricktone thing was all brought home with the first Simpsons set in 2014. While each character had distinctly molded heads, most of them were once again yellow, which in a way, makes them the most Lego-y of all characters.

What is your favorite Lego Minifig? Let us know in the comments!