When Star Wars: The Phantom Menace premiered sixteen years ago in 1999, action figure collectors had gone a decade without any new 3 ¾-inch action figures from the Star Wars franchise toy line. Hasbro released updates to the original trilogy beginning in 1995 as Lucasfilm rejuvenated the toy line. At midnight on May 3, 1999, the day of the release of the new trilogy action figures and ten days before the film’s release, Toys ‘R’ Us stores saw waiting lines similar to what we would see for the first week the movie screened in theaters.
The general public had no “first look” at the new line other than a sneak preview figure of Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu, so fans had to decide quickly upon inspecting the new figures whether they were going to jump in with both feet or ignore the line altogether. Instantly appealing figures and characters included Qui-Gonn Jinn and Darth Maul. Wave 1 included eight figures: Anakin in Tatooine outfit, Battle Droid, Darth Maul, Jar Jar Binks, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme Naberrie, Queen Amidala in Naboo outfit, and Qui-Gonn Jinn. Each came with a Commtech chip (Commtalk in Europe) which produced sounds from the movie if placed on a separately purchased Commtech reader. All card backs featured the face of Darth Maul.
September 4, 2016 is the scheduled release date for the first wave of action figures from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Somehow, the first wave of figures hit the streets this week and made it to eBay, and they reveal twelve new action figures for Hasbro’s now (again) Kenner-branded line. Is one of these going to be the next Jar Jar Binks?
As with Episode 1, a villain was selected by the marketing folks at Kenner to be featured on the card backs, now the Darth Maul-esque Kylo Ren. The twelve featured character figures are Captain Phasma, Constable Zuvio, Darth Vader (presumably the line is including classic figures), Finn in Jakku gear, First Order Stormtrooper, Flametrooper, Kylo Ren, a young Luke Skywalker in what appears to be Bespin fatigues, Poe Dameron, Resistance Trooper, TIE Fighter Pilot from the First Order, and Rey from Starkiller base. Hey, where’s the BB-8 sphere droid?
Each figure includes an accessory that combines to form one of four droid or equipment units shown on the card backs.
New photos released this week, including a stunning photo of Mark Hamill being scanned for a 3D image–presumably to be made into a hologram–show the elder Luke Skywalker in an updated version of Alec Guinness’s robes. Light tan with a hood, with white interior robes, and Hamill with his great beard–this version of Luke will certainly be featured in coming waves of the line. We also caught sight of a new Sandtrooper similar to the original Episode IV version.
Just remember, the original trilogy proved that you shouldn’t buy these for investment. Those figures barely make their original price back these days on eBay.
The first wave of figures are expected to be in general release September 4, 2015.