Merchandising a New Generation: The True Success of Shadows of the Empire

ShadowsnovelIn 1996, a year before The Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition was released in theaters, LucasFilm gave us Shadows of the Empire, a massive multimedia event that had all the trappings of a feature film without actually being one.

The novel, set in the period between The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, had been a no man’s land up until that point.  How did Lando end up in Jabba the Hutt’s employ? When did Luke build his new lightsaber? Why didn’t Leia try and get Han’s carbonite frozen body back before Jabba hung it on his wall?

It would be a lie to say that I didn’t get caught up in the hype.  My parents bought me the book which I devoured at an absurd rate.  At that time I was heavy into the Star Wars Expanded Universe, having worked my way through the Thrawn Trilogy and some of the X-Wing: Rogue Squadron books along with a smattering of others (yes, even The Truce at Bakura). Later that year I got the N64 exclusive Shadows of the Empire video game which was primarily told through the new view of Dash Rendar, a rapscallion Correllian smuggler with a loyal sidekick, who is very much like Han Solo … but with bigger shoulder pads.

dashrendar

And of course that wasn’t all, there was the requisite action figure line, comic book tie ins, official soundtrack (for a book!), t-shirts, statues, t-shirt and limited edition collectible plates.  Shadows of the Empire was a phenomenon, one that proved that Lucasfilm didn’t necessarily need a film to support its …. ahem empire.

That massive merchandise consumption demonstrated that there was a whole new generation of fans ready to consume Star Wars in every possible format.  As part of that generation, this was our 1977, the first real bit of Star Wars that we could say that we witnessed first hand and embraced as our own.

The one unfortunate result of the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm was the great culling of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which made the events of Shadows of the Empire no longer canon. However, a few items from that chapter in Star Wars history remain.

Dash Rendar’s  Outrider was confirmed as canon earlier this year at Star Wars Celebrations, and the Black Sun criminal syndicate has been a part of The Clone Wars series and has been mentioned on recent episodes of Star Wars: Rebels.  So pour one out for your homies Dash Rendar, Prince Xizor and Chewbacca’s Mohawk, as they are no longer with us.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 Trailer Will Give You All of the 90s Nostalgia Feels

The 2014 live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a blockbuster hit, grossing nearly $500 million worldwide.  While it may not have hit all the right chords with fans, next summer’s installment, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of The Shadows, looks like it may have captured the right balance of comedy and action.

teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-2-out-shadowsAs someone who was the target demographic during the absolute peak of the TMNT craze in the early 1990s, this trailer is giving me some strong nostalgia feels.

Bebop. Rocksteady. Casey Jones. Baxter Stockman. And is that Dimension X?!?!?

The 2014 Turtles movie kind of fell flat for me and kind of forgot that it was based on a property that was supposed to be fun.  Between everything I’ve seen in that trailer, combined with the prodigious use of Run-D.M.C’s Tricky, I think I am all in for this go around.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows will be in theaters June 2016.

The Captain America: Civil War Trailer Is Here, And It’s Awesome!

The teaser trailer for Captain America: Civil War  debuted last night and it … looks …. AWESOME. The Russo Brothers are back to direct the sequel after the success of Captain America: Winter Soldier and from the 2 1/2 minutes of footage we have here it looks like they are picking up right where they left off.

There is a lot to digest in this trailer.  Picking up after the events of Age of Ultron where there is a movement afoot to hold the Avengers accountable for another international incident involving significant collateral damage.  This movement appears to headed up by none other than General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt reprising his role from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk).  Iron Man agrees, but Captain America does not and what happens is heroes fighting heroes.

Iron Man.  Captain America. Black Widow. War Machine. Scarlett Witch. Falcon. Hawkeye. Ant-Man. Black Panther ….. BLACK PANTHER!!!!

BlackPantherLet’s just talk about Black Panther for a minute. His costume design is fantastic and the trailer gives us our first official look at T’Challa other than concept artwork or leaked set photos (which doesn’t give the suit justice).

I’ve long held a soft spot for Black Panther, when I came upon several old issues of Marvel Premiere from the 1970s. It looks as though the Russo Brothers’ interpretation of the King of Wakanda may be spot on.

Captain America: Civil War will be in theaters May 6, 2016.

 

This Japanese “Star Wars” Commercial from 1978 is Absolutely Insane — 30ish Days of Star Wars

Back In 1978 the Japanese-based Hagaramo Foods Corporation decide to cash in on the Star Wars craze.  Except they didn’t sell sugary cereal or action figures as their primary product line was canned foods, which is notoriously boring.

hqdefaultWhat better way to get people excited about eating their product than to have a splashy, special effects laden commercial with the likes of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker? Now I’m sure there was Japanese ad executive who said, “of course we can get LucasFilm to sign off on this!”

It should come as no surprise that LucasFilm did not sign off on this licensing agreement which led to one of the most insane Japanese commercials in the history of insane Japanese commercials.

I’m not quite sure what my favorite part of this commercial is.  Right now it’s a close tie between the explosive entrance of Darth Vader and the roller skating C-3PO serving up a delicious tray of sea chicken in the most hilarious way possible.

I don’t know about you, but I could go for some sea chicken right now.

via [Tech Crunch]

Galactic Book Club — Star Wars: Aftermath (2015) – 30ish Days of Star Wars

On a recent business trip I finally had a chance to finish Star Wars: Aftermath, which had been sitting idle on my Kindle for a few months.  When Disney acquired LucasFilm, one of the big changes was the wholesale removal of the Expanded Universe from the Star Wars canon.  Major story lines and characters that cropped up in books, comics and video games over the last 35 years would not referenced in any of the new movies or media.

Star Wars: Aftermath was the first novel in the “Journey to The Force Awakens” and would tell the story of what happened in the events immediately after Return of the Jedi.  What happened after the Ewok’s victorious yub-nubs on Endor and the statue of Emperor Palpatine was pulled down on Coruscant? Author Chuck Wendig was tapped by the powers at be at LucasFilm to provide fans a new launching point for the Star Wars universe.

Continue reading

Join the Fight Against the Empire in Star Wars X-Wing (1993) — 30ish Days of Star Wars

xwing_coverIn the halycon days of 1994 my parents made a huge investment in a monolithic 66mhz computer that ran Windows 3.1.  One of the features that had me super excited was the double speed CD-ROM!  I’m sure my mom intended it for purely educational purposes, as Microsoft Encarta was one of the first purchases she made.  My dad on the other hand, had other ideas as one of the first CD-ROM games he bought for me was Star Wars: X-Wing.

Star Wars: X-Wing allowed you to jump into the cockpit of the titular Incom T-65 starfighter (or the the A-Wing or Y-Wing) and fight the Galactic Empire in missions set before and leading up to the Battle of Yavin.

1993_X-WingBy early 1990s standards, the game play in X-Wing was amazing.  The ability to use a joystick, while using keyboard controls to balance shields, engine speed, and lasers was about as interactive as you could get.  There were cut scenes (albeit hand drawn) and music pulled from the movies.  Star Wars: X-Wing had a couple of expansion packs B-Wing and Imperial Pursuit and spawned a few sequels.  This game made an indelible mark on my young gaming life, and as far as Star Wars games go was probably my favorite until the release of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron for the N64

In 2014, the games were repackaged and available for download on GOG.com for all you nostalgic X-Wing jockeys out there for a very reasonable price.

Infuriating LEGO Math: The “Scooby Doo” Edition

img160x210_scooby-dooOn August 1st The LEGO Group will be releasing their line of sets based on Scooby Doo, which is a franchise that has been on television in one variation or another since 1969.  Cartoon Network is launching a new series, Be Cool, Scooby Doo, later this year and I guess it seemed as good a time as ever for some new merchandise.

Our LEGO Overlords are quite cruel when it comes to these licensed themes, breaking up teams across multiple sets to ensure that parents and AFOLs alike will have to spend a good amount of money to round out the group.

The members of Mystery Inc.are spread across five sets in this initial wave, with Shaggy and Scooby in every single set.  Velma and Fred appear in only one set each, with Daphne making an appearance in two sets.  There are two variations of Scooby Doo, one sitting and the other standing.  The sitting Scooby appears in two sets while the remaining three have the standing variants.

In order to complete the Mystery Inc. squad (that will give you both Scooby variants) you are going to have to pick up 75902 Mystery Machine, 75904 Mystery Mansion, and 75901 Mystery Plane Adventure at a total of $139.97!  Zoinks!!!!!

I have a distinct feeling that 75902 Mystery Machine will be the hottest seller of the bunch, and may prove difficult to locate at retail, much like 76031 The Hulk Buster Smash was leading up to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Keep in mind this pricing is based on the prices listed at LEGO Shop @ Home.  If you are shopping at Toys R Us or any of the big box retailers expect to pay a little bit more of a markup.

Arm Chair SDCC ’15 – Hall H Line Chaos, Transformers Combiner Wars, Mondo’s Mutant Turtles and More!

ArmchairSDCC15The dust has settled on the first day of San Diego Comic Con as attendees are hurrying back to their hotel rooms to try and flip exclusives on eBay or sneak into industry after parties.

While the big panels in Hall H are gearing up for Friday afternoon, there still was a fair bit of awesome stuff coming out today.  Read on for some of the highlights from day one!

The Hall H Line Almost Descended into Chaos!

Apparently some unscrupulous Hall H line waiters exploited a weakness in the crowd control barriers and were able to sneak through an area that was intended for ADA use.  their victory was short lived as the Internet outed them and the SDCC Sheriffs sent them packing.

[via Comics Beat]

AutobotTF_SDCC Combiner Wars Seriess … COMBINE & ROLL OUT! 

Hasbro announced that a “grown up”  animated Transformers series will be debuting later this year on Machinima.  It will be based on the current theme of Combiner Wars, so expect lots of gigantic robot on robot action with none of the Micheal Bay!

The Autobot combiner Superion is featured on the key art which was unveiled at the Hasbro panel, so I imagine that he will be playing a big part along with Devastator, Bruticus along with the all-new, all-female combiner Victorion   [via io9]

Mondo Goes Mutant

SDCC TMNT MondoThe Austin-based purveyors of limited edition posters, vinyl records and t-shirts quietly got into the collectibles game last year.  One of the biggest surprises in their booth was that they acquired the license to produce 1/6th scale Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures.

These fully articulated action figures will have interchangeable heads for their comic and cartoon appearance along with a smattering of other accessories.

The word is that each of these figures will go for roughly $150 and Mondo is committed to producing the core characters.  The display was littered with teasers like Krang, Mousers and a 1:1 scaled Casey Jones mask.  These really do look fantastic but are WAY out of my discretionary spending budget.

[via Awesome Toy Blog]

Ben Affleck Will Direct the Solo ‘Batman’ Film

Everyone assumes at this point that part of getting Ben Affleck to sign on as the Caped Crusader was to guarantee that he’d get to direct himself in the planned stand alone Batflick.

Ben-Affleck-Batman-The biggest news is that Geoff Johns, DC Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer will cowriting the film with Affleck also.  It will be a while before Batman starts production as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League are all ahead of the project.

[via Comics Alliance]

The Uncanny & Unspectacular Marvel Experience

The Marvel Experience was billed an immersive multimedia event which allowed fans to interact with their favorite superheroes from the Marvel Universe.  The $30 million dollar production was set for a nationwide tour after premiering in Philadelphia in June.  However the production was beset by technical difficulties and poor reviews from the press and fans alike.

marvel_experience

The remainder of the tour was abruptly canceled by the producers, leaving many ticket holders disappointed, probably less so than those who actually went to the event.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Producers of the show — which includes 360-degree projections, holograms and a 4D motion ride — said Sunday that its big debut in Philadelphia will be its one and only stop. The Chicago, New York and St. Louis legs have been canceled.  Refunds will be available. No reason was given for the show’s abrupt cancellation.

The underlying reason why The Marvel Experience was shuttered was due to the fact that it was an overpriced mall attraction fraught with technical difficulties and poor word of mouth.

Reddit user Trill_McNeal relayed this rather ridiculous anecdote from their visit

We got stuck in the holding chamber between the two domes (where you get the safety briefing from spidey) for about 10 min. The hulk arm that was supposed to open the door at the end of the video malfunctioned and the door would only open a few inches then it shut. The workers just looked at each other and shrugged and let the video play again and tried to open the door at the end. It didn’t open so they let the video play again. It wasn’t a big deal, there were only about 20 people there at that point and we just thought it was amusing.

In his review on Philly.com, Nick Vadala expressed that the lack of cohesion was problematic and that technical difficulties were ever present.

At various stages, video screens froze and restarted themselves entirely. At others, Halloween costume-quality props hung a cheap pall over the Marvel Experience’s shot at being immersive. Not exactly what you’d expect for about $50 a person.

Interestingly enough, The Marvel Experience had already been retooled after its initial test run in Arizona last December.  It seems as though Hero Ventures was never able to execute their vision. This seems to be a trend as they were also behind the abomination that was Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.

LEGO Unveils Another Unobtainable Comic Con Exclusive

If anything has been consistent about the pop culture nexus that is San Diego Comic Con is that year after year The LEGO Group’s exclusives remain the most ridiculously difficult to obtain for non-attendees.  It appears that the 2015 slate of exclusives will continue that trend; with the latest, an awesome brick built homage to Action Comics #1.

TLG_SDCC_DCSuperman

The 145-piece set does a pretty remarkable job of recreating Joe Shuster’s iconic comic book cover.  Like the other exclusives from The LEGO Group, a raffle will be held on site each day to determine who will be able to then lineup and purchase this set, which will sell for $39.99.  Expect this set to be at $250.00 on the secondary market by the time the first scalper clears the booth.

TLG_SDCC_DCSupermanBox

via [The Brick Fan]