Tonight is that Black Friday prequel known to Star Wars toy fans as early Christmas. Only last year it was labeled Force Friday, so this time around it’s called Force Friday II. Force Friday II is that off-hour store raid where you have the chance to be the first on your block to say that you own the umpteenth variant of a Boba Fett action figure (seriously, another classic Boba Fett is hitting toy stores tonight, and no, that doesn’t mean he is going to be in the new movie). The first Force Friday was September 4, 2015, with new toys for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but for whatever reason we didn’t have a Force Friday last year for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Those toys were first widely released September 30, 2016. The same kind of thing happened earlier, including way back with the prequels, and to a less coordinated extent with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Only back then you had to know someone who knew someone who was in the local distribution chain who would sell you (under the table) the only three Yodas (with the orange, not the brown snake) that shipped to your town for what was then a steep upcharge of $3.50 apiece (flash forward a year later when Target had an entire wall of the exact same action figure on clearance for fifty cents apiece). These days retailers are required to stick to schedules or they risk losing future opportunities.
If you thought George Lucas had the tie-in marketing game perfected, you haven’t met Disney.
“Force Friday II weekend” kicks off tonight at midnight local time. Disney marketing refers to it as the launch of new products “inspired by Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s the variety of stores that makes this year’s early toy store raid so unusual. Bed, Bath and Beyond, Staples, Kohl’s, JC Penney, Hot Topic, Brookstone, are involved. For Star Wars? Yes, and Target, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Wal-Mart, and other stores like you’d expect. Disney actually issued a pdf file listing all the stores having events early Friday morning. Star Wars: The Last Jedi tie-ins are serious business. And they will be everywhere. Campbells’ soup labels? Yes, even grocery stores are heavily involved in marketing the December 2017 film release.
So maybe your best bet is to gather up the gang in the car and go for a drive around town and just look for store lights. If it’s midnight and they are turned on, the store is probably selling some kind of Star Wars exclusive, and store-by-store you can try to amass a small portion of the giant haul that will be what stores are carrying in plentiful supply by Christmas. Or just go to StarWars.com for an extensive list of what is available, and where. Note: All stores in all locations may not be open tonight.
The big draw for Star Wars toy fans are always the classic-sized Kenner action figures. In a throwback to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace action figures, which included a “CommTech” chip that allowed the action figured to “talk,” be prepared for the new line of action figures to include what Disney calls the “Force Link,” which combines a wristband with action figures and vehicles to play sounds or phrases from the movie.
Just remember: Most Star Wars toys have proven not to hold their value, so it’s not advised to buy them for investment. But that’s not what toys are for anyway. One other thing: Director Rian Johnson advised earlier this summer to stay away from everything related to Star Wars: The Last Jedi to avoid spoilers. What’s a fan to do?
Happy shopping and May the Force Friday II Be with You.