Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A galaxy of new toys rings in 30 years of 'Star Wars'

By Anthony Breznican, USA TODAY

The Empire Strikes Back is turning 30, and its birthday party will be held this summer in Orlando.

Celebration V, a convention of Star Wars fans that Lucasfilm hosts every few years, will have a special focus on the 1980 film during its weekend run Aug. 12-15.

Carrie Fisher is the first celebrity guest confirmed. "Princess Leia is going to be there, and she's always a huge, huge hit," says Steve Sansweet, Lucasfilm's head of fan relations.

Details can be found at

And no birthday party would be complete without toys, a staple of Star Wars fandom. Hasbro is releasing a series of new toys Aug. 1, including a new version of the AT-ATs — those giant, snowbound metal dinosaurs from the opening Empire battle sequence on the frozen planet Hoth.

The toy retails for about $100 and is 2 feet tall and almost 21/2 feet long. "It's absolutely suitable for play with a kid," says Howard Roffman, Lucasfilm's head of licensing. "But if you're a collector, it's also a trophy piece."

A decoration for a desk? "A big desk," Roffman says.

Hasbro also is putting out full-scale Boba Fett helmets with electronic sounds and phrases — probably all of the bounty hunter's lines, since he had only a handful.

And a collection of new Hasbro action figures based on the Empire characters will be released. They'll be new designs but with vintage packaging and photos of the 1980-era toys on the back. Hasbro also is repeating a giveaway from the original Empire release. Fans can mail in proofs of purchase from the action figures to get a free Boba Fett.

That toy will be a vintage design, with one big exception: The original was touted as having a firing rocket on its back, but at the last moment, those ejecting plastic nubs were declared a safety hazard and glued in instead.

"That was a big disappointment at the time. They couldn't do it within the safety standards," Roffman says. "But they have been able to make it work now." The rocket part is a little larger, to avoid the threat of swallowing and choking.

Roffman jokes: "It took 30 years for the dream to be realized."

1 comment:

Octopunk said...

I noticed that USA Today changed "Star Wars" to "Empire" on their site, which is nice because they looked kind of ridiculous.

I wonder about this:

"'They couldn't do it within the safety standards,' Roffman says. 'But they have been able to make it work now.' The rocket part is a little larger, to avoid the threat of swallowing and choking."

Really? Or was there just a high level of paranoia at the time because that kid choked to death on his older brother's Battlestar Galactica missle that he fired into his mouth? (Or so the story goes.)