Star Wars: The Next Generation
As a young father with limited resources, my Star Wars toy habit was on hiatus when the prequels were released. Admittedly, I would peruse the toy aisles in Wal-Mart and Target when the family was shopping, and the Star Wars aisles at Toys ‘R’ Us and Kay-Bee were always my first place to browse when we went to the toy stores. But apart from some Playskool Star Wars toys for my daughter and Galactic Heroes and Jedi Force figures for my son, it wasn’t until the release of Revenge of the Sith around my son’s third birthday that my Star Wars collecting was reborn.
That being the case, I had never considered going to Star Wars events (other than the movies) when my children were very young. I certainly wasn’t going to any “Midnight Madness” releases of Star Wars toys I couldn’t buy anyway. All that changed in 2008 when, in anticipation of the release of The Clone Wars in August, Toys ‘R’ Us stores hosted a “Midnight Madness” event to release the new line of Star Wars figures and toys. Fortuitously, we were visiting family in Atlanta when the day arrived, so we headed up to the Kennesaw store at about 10:00 to get in line.
I didn’t know what to expect from something like this. Apart from keeping the kids up way past their bedtime, I wasn’t concerned about taking them to Toys ‘R’ Us for this event. After all, Star Wars fans are well known for their kindness and cordiality, so I was certain that everyone would be on their best behavior. My wife, on the other hand, was sure that our younglings (small even for their ages) would be trampled by maniacal fans storming the store in competition for a big Millennium Falcon or V-19 Torrent Fighter. Once we saw other families with their children there and talked to the folks near us in line, her concerns were lessened.
Then the unexpected occurred.
Out the front doors marched a couple stormtroopers, a Republic Commando, and a bounty hunter named Boussh. My wife and the kids watched as others stepped forward to see the life-sized action figures. With some coaching and prodding, I was eventually able to get my six year-old son to meet the members of the Georgia Garrison of the 501st. Within a few minutes, we returned to our place in line as my wife checked to ensure the youngest shazling was unscathed after his encounter with the Imperials just in time for the doors to open.
As we entered the store, all the customers who had been waiting in line calmly took their carts to the display and began picking the figures and toys they wanted to purchase. There were more than enough Millennium Falcons and AT-TEs to satisfy customers, though some of the more highly anticipated figures were disappearing quickly. I made sure to get my Yarna — certain that she would sell out immediately. Luke chose a Captain Rex and Darth Vader. And I topped off our shopping list with a V-19 Torrent Fighter. We weren’t going to be big spenders, but this selection would put us above the price point to allow us to get a free holographic General Grievous Toys ‘R’ Us exclusive.
By the time we made it back to the in-laws’ house, both kids were asleep and my wife was happy that (1) they hadn’t been trampled and (2) I hadn’t emptied the bank account.
With another “Midnight Madness” on the horizon, I thought it would be beneficial to make a few suggestions for parents who are considering a trip to Toys ‘R’ Us on September 4th.
Make sure the store you’re considering is actually hosting this event. Although official site for the 2015 “Midnight Madness” states that all locations (except for those in Paramus, NJ), my local Toys ‘R’ Us has told me that they will not be even participating in “Midnight Madness” this time around. I live in a relatively small city without a large contingent of Star Wars collectors. If yours is the same, you may have to drive a bit further to find a store that will be hosting Destination: Star Wars, the official designation of the event.
Check to see if the 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, or Mandalorian Mercs will be attending. Part of the magic of events like this is seeing your kids’ favorite characters from the movies, television, and toy aisles come to life. Through their websites, you may even be able to find out which characters will be at certain stores. Even if your local Toys ‘R’ Us is hosting Destination: Star Wars, you may want to go to another location if you want to make sure to have some interaction with Star Wars characters.
Consider costuming. You might want to join in the fun, too. Most everyone enjoys dressing-up — especially kids. Even if your kids don’t have a costume and you lack the ability to craft a screen accurate costume yourself, ask your younglings if they would like to dress-up as one of their favorite characters for the event. Let them help put together a costume. A robe, some plain pants, and a toy lightsaber can make a convincing Jedi. Cardboard and foam sheets can become Stormtrooper armor. Be inventive. Your kids will always remember the time you let them go out in public in costume when it wasn’t even Hallowe’en! And if you have the energy to put into it, think about becoming a character yourself. Those present for the event will enjoy having a character along with them for the night, especially if none of the well-known organizations aren’t in attendance.
Wear Star Wars items. In 2008, I didn’t have a single Star Wars T-shirt. It seems unbelievable to me now that I have several* in my closet and drawer. Still, I had the wherewithal to pull out an old iron-on transfer from my collection to put on a white shirt. (For those who are shouting about the audacity of actually using an iron-on from the ‘70s, never fear: I scanned it into the computer and printed it out on iron-on transfer paper for printers.) With Star Wars in public awareness, you can likely find an inexpensive shirt at Target or Wal-Mart for the occasion.
Set aside some money now. We all know that Christmas is coming in just a few months. And while I was reluctant to make big purchases at my first “Midnight Madness” because I knew that Santa would be bringing one or both of the big vehicles to my house in December, as I think back to that night, it would have been an exciting impromptu summer holiday for my younglings had we brought home the big Millennium Falcon that night. Even if you decide to limit your spending at this event, it’s best to prepare beforehand so you can budget yourself accordingly without taking out a credit card because you suddenly decide to get more than you had planned. Knowing how much you are able to spend will help you choose what is most important to you on September 4th.
If you have other ideas or advice to add to this list, feel free to add it below in the comments or contact me @shazbazzar on Twitter. Happy hunting on “Force Friday” this September!