Hasbro’s Star Wars Lightsaber Academy Will Train Younglings in the Jedi Arts

StarWars.com

It’s time for younglings of all ages to take their first steps into a larger world.

Last week, Hasbro unveiled Star Wars Lightsaber Academy, an innovative app-and-lightsaber-toy combo that will teach aspiring Jedi how to wield the most elegant of weapons. Here’s how it will work: download the official Lightsaber Academy App, choose from one of five of the best masters in the galaxy (Jedi or Sith, depending on which side of the Force you lean toward), and begin your journey to becoming a lightsaber expert. The app syncs via Bluetooth to Hasbro’s new line of lightsabers thanks to Smart-Hilt technology, which tracks the lightsabers’ movements to evaluate skill, scores, and progression. The experience includes character voices, sound effects, and each Star Wars Lightsaber Academy lightsaber includes a kyber crystal at its core. There’s even a two-player component for when two friends decide to go the Obi-Wan/Anakin route and battle it out. Star Wars Lightsaber Academy ($49.99) arrives on Triple Force Friday, October 4, and it sounds like a wonderful evolution of what lightsaber toys can be. StarWars.com caught up with Hasbro’s Michael Ballog, senior director, global brand strategy and marketing, Star Wars, for some master-like wisdom on the making of the innovative toy. Here are his greatest insights.

Star Wars Lightsaber Academy blue lightsaber

Star Wars Lightsaber Academy green lightsaber

On developing technology to create a more immersive way to play: 

“Consumer insights create the foundation for our brands and products, and we will continue to invest in the areas we know consumers will be excited about and develop technology that enhances their play experience. In this instance, all the great technology that we have built into Lightsaber Academy translates into an experience that feels magical for kids. The Smart-Hilt technology is tracking their movements and communicating via Bluetooth to the app — but a kid isn’t focusing on this technology per say. They are focusing on the fact that their lightsaber ‘knows’ when they make a move, can give them feedback, and react as a they train with Jedi or Sith masters and then battle with friends. This allows them to put themselves into the Star Wars story with their very own personalized lightsaber experience!”

On crafting Jedi and Sith combat techniques: 

“For the lightsaber moves, they need to be true to Star Wars while also being fun, attainable, and with the right level of challenge for a kid as they progress through training and battling. We work closely with the team at Lucasfilm and Disney to ensure that each Star Wars item created meets the high expectations of the passionate community and franchise standards.”

On the upcoming release of Star Wars Lightsaber Academy: 

“We’re beyond excited about this new offering and have had a blast creating (and playing with) it! We think fans will be just as thrilled, and we’re looking forward to following along on their Lightsaber Academy journeys once it hits shelves in fall 2019.”

Hasbro will also release additional series of Star Wars Lightsaber Academy lightsabers, including Extendable ($7.99) and Electronic ($19.99) editions that include a scannable code to access training and character content in the Lightsaber Academy app. Check them out below!

Star Wars Lightsaber Academy green lightsaber

Star Wars Lightsaber Academy red lightsaber

Star Wars Lightsaber Academy blue lightsaber

Star Wars Lightsaber Academy red lightsaber Star Wars Lightsaber Academy clear lightsaber

See below for images of all Hasbro’s Toy Fair reveals, including The Black Series, Retro Collection, and much more!

Star Wars Hyperreal 8″ Darth Vader

Hasbro Hyperreal Darth Vader

Hasbro Hyperreal Darth Vader

Hasbro Hyperreal Darth Vader

Hasbro Hyperreal Darth Vader

Hasbro Hyperreal Darth Vader

Hasbro Hyperreal Darth Vader

Star Wars Retro Collection

Hasbro Retro Chewbacca

Hasbro retro Chewbacca

Hasbro Retro Darth Vader

Hasbro Retro Darth Vader

Hasbro Retro Han Solo

Hasbro Retro Han Solo

Hasbro Retro Luke Skywalker

Hasbro Retro Luke Skywalker

Hasbro Retro Princess Leia

Hasbro Retro Princess Leia

Hasbro Retro Stormtrooper

Hasbro Retro Stormtrooper

Hasbro Retro Star Wars Game

Hasbro Retro Star Wars Game

Hasbro Retro Star Wars Game

Hasbro Retro Grand Moff Tarkin

Star Wars The Black Series Star Wars Celebration Exclusives

Hasbro The Black Series Darth Maul in packaging

Hasbro The Black Series Darth Maul

Hasbro The Black Series Darth Maul

Hasbro The Black Series Padawan Obi-Wan in Pack

Hasbro The Black Series Padawan Obi-Wan

Hasbro The Black Series Padawan Obi-Wan

Hasbro The Black Series Padawan Obi-Wan

Star Wars The Black Series

Hasbro The Black Series Battle Droid

Hasbro The Black Series Dryden Vos

Hasbro The Black Series Mimban Han Solo

Hasbro The Black Series Imperial Jumptrooper

Hasbro The Black Series Luke Skywalker

Hasbro The Black Series Mace Windu

Hasbro The Black Series Padme Amidala

Hasbro The Black Series Vice Admiral Holda

Star Wars The Vintage Collection

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Clone Trooper

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Lando Calrissian

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Praetorian Guard

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Han Solo Stormtrooper

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Lando Calrissian Skiff Guard in packaging

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Lando Calrissian Skiff Guard

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Stormtrooper

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Jabba's Palace

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Lando Calrissian Skiff Guard Jabba's Palace

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Jabba's Skiff

Hasbro The Vintage Collection Tatooine skiff set

Star Wars Micro Force

Hasbro Star Wars Micro Force Series 2 packaging

Hasbro Star Wars Micro Force Series 2 packaging

Hasbro Star Wars Micro Force Series 2

Hasbro Star Wars Micro Force Series 2

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Hasbro’s Star Wars Lightsaber Academy Will Train Younglings in the Jedi Arts

Rey, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and More Join Hasbro’s Galaxy of Adventures — Exclusive Reveal

StarWars.com

A lonely scavenger in search of belonging. A vulnerable and vengeful child in a mask.

The next wave in Hasbro’s Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures action figure line will introduce the next generation to even more of the saga’s heroes and villains, including Rey and Kylo Ren. Joining the stars of the sequel trilogy will be figures of: Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi Master who trained the future Darth Vader; Darth Maul, the Sith apprentice who murdered Qui-Gon Jinn; General Grievous, the brilliant Separatist cyborg strategist from the time of the Clone Wars; and the fan-favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett.

Get your first look at the new wave below ahead of Toy Fair 2019 next week, then watch for them on toy shelves this spring!

A Rey action figure, part of Hasbro's next wave of Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures figures. A Kylo Ren action figure, part of Hasbro's next wave of Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures figures. An Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure, part of Hasbro's next wave of Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures figures. A Darth Maul action figure, part of Hasbro's next wave of Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures figures. A General Grievous action figure, part of Hasbro's next wave of Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures figures. A Boba Fett action figure, part of Hasbro's next wave of Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures figures.Each pack contains one 3.75-inch scale Star Wars figure, a mini comic, and a code that can be activated with a smart device to unlock more stories online.

StarWars.com. All Star Wars, all the time.

Rey, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and More Join Hasbro’s Galaxy of Adventures — Exclusive Reveal

8 of Our Favorite Star Wars Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments Through the Years

StarWars.com

Most Star Wars collectibles can be found on the shelves and desks of Star Wars fans all-year long, but some collectibles spend most of the year under wraps — only emerging as a holiday treat for a few weeks out of the year. Since 1996, Hallmark has made Star Wars Keepsake Ornaments based on beloved characters, vehicles, and creatures. Here’s a look at just a few of our favorite Star Wars ornaments Hallmark has made over the years.

1. You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? The first Hallmark ornament brought the fastest hunk of junk of the galaxy to your Christmas tree. The Millennium Falcon was one of the most identifiable designs from the original trilogy, which made it the perfect choice for one of Hallmark’s initial creations. Since this ornament’s debut, the story of the Falcon, as well as her pilots and crew, have only continued to grow and expand.

2. A couple of clones. Attack of the Clones debuted in theaters in 2002, and in 2003 Hallmark released a duo of Clone Troopers.

3. A Dark Lord of the Sith. Darth Vader made his Hallmark ornament debut in 1997 where he is shown ominously holding a lightsaber, but a Vader ornament in 2005 actually brought a scene from a Star Wars film to life. No Star Wars fan could forget the first time they saw Darth Vader hold out his hand to Luke Skywalker trying to lure his son to team up in The Empire Strikes Back. This ornament not only combines an iconic character with a classic film location visually, it also plays dialogue from the film in between Vader’s breaths.

4. SkyGuy and Snips. By 2009 Star Wars fans had been introduced to a variety of new characters in the TV series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Artists Kristina Kline-Gaughran and Robert Hurlbut brought Anakin Skywalker and his new Padawan Ahsoka Tano to life for this ornament set. Other Hallmark ornaments released this year included A Deadly Duel – which recreated the lightsaber battle between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Obi-Wan Kenobi at the end of The Phantom Menace.

5. A smooth scoundrel. Some Christmas trees need something a little extra to stand out. For holiday shoppers looking for a little sparkle and a lot of style, this 2010 Lando Calrissian ornament worked like a charm. The lights on your tree reflecting on the gold lining of Lando’s cape will surely make him the envy of his fellow ornaments.

6. A cantina patron. Alien species and creatures have always been a big a part of the Star Wars universe and Hallmark has created many ornaments to celebrate them. Ewoks, Chewbacca, Bossk, and the Max Rebo Band have all gotten the ornament treatment over the years. In 2012, Momaw Nadon, the Ithorian who appeared in the Mos Eisley Cantina in A New Hope, made his ornament debut, complete with a blue beverage.

7. “On my command…” Captain Phasma is impossible to ignore in any scene where she appears, on film or in episodes of Star Wars Resistance. Phasma’s ornament was released in 2015, the same year The Force Awakens debuted, and her chromium armor is also quite the attention grabber.

8. R2-D2, it is you! It is you! R2-D2 is surrounded by porgs in one of this year’s new Hallmark ornaments. It’s a whimsical and lighthearted combination of a classic droid who has appeared in Star Wars stories for decades and the adorable creatures that debuted last year in The Last Jedi.

What Star Wars ornament would you like to hang on your Christmas tree? Let us know in the comments below.

Amy Richau is a writer, lifelong Star Wars geek, and diehard Denver Broncos fan. You can find her on Twitter @amyrichau and more of her writing on FANgirl Blog.

8 of Our Favorite Star Wars Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments Through the Years

Introducing the Magic of Star Wars Toys to a New Generation

StarWars.com

Toys have always been a big part of experiencing a galaxy far, far away. They allow children to tell their own stories, to expand the Star Wars universe as they see fit, to connect with their favorite characters in an imaginative way. So it makes sense that for Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures, Lucasfilm’s new series of vibrant animated shorts celebrating iconic moments from the saga, Hasbro has created a collection of toys purely for those just discovering Star Wars.

“Our Galaxy of Adventures line is a great entry point for kids to get into Star Wars,” Sarah Carroll, sr. brand marketing manager of Star Wars at Hasbro, tells StarWars.com. “The product focuses on the key, iconic moments in the Star Wars storyline in a fun, kid-friendly way.”

Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Luke Skywalker figure.

Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Darth Vader figure.

Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Chewbacca figure.

Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures R2-D2 figure.

Wave one, available now at Walmart, includes Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and R2-D2; Princess Leia, Yoda, Imperial Stormtrooper, and Han Solo will follow in wave two, landing in spring 2019. It’s an altogether perfect lineup for someone who might first see a movie or the Galaxy of Adventures animated shorts, and then want to continue the story during playtime. “As we head into 2019, what better time to introduce kids to this incredible franchise and these classic characters than now?” Carroll says. “And let’s be honest, what kid isn’t going to fall in love with these droids, creatures, and rebels? Star Wars is truly a brand with something for everyone, and we’re excited for the new Galaxy of Adventures animated shorts and toys, which provide that entry point for new, young fans.”

Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Princess Leia figure.

Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Yoda figure. Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Imperial Stormtrooper figure.

Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Han Solo figure.

The line even has some surprises. The figures are not all based on the characters’ first-appearance looks, as one might think. Luke, for example, is depicted in his black Jedi garb from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi; Yoda comes carrying his lightsaber, as seen in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones; and Leia appears in her Hoth fatigues from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. “We wanted to make sure we featured characters as they appear in those pivotal scenes in the films,” Carroll says. “Seeing characters in these costumes reminds us of those key moments within the story, and we wanted to make sure that was reflected in our figures. We love the classic characters and we’re excited to be bringing them back in this way.”

The 3.75-inch figures come in bright, cylindrical packaging featuring comic-book-style art, calling out the character role for each — from “The Villain” for Darth Vader to “The Astromech” for R2-D2 — drilling story elements down in a kid-friendly fashion. In addition, all figures are packaged with a mini-comic retelling a famous sequence, and include a QR code that can be scanned for even more content. “We felt that it was important to share the stories of Star Wars as part of the action figure experience,” Carroll says. “Comics are a great way to bring those key scenes from Star Wars to kids in an easy, digestible way.”

Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures figures.

As an opportunity to introduce a new generation of fans to Star Wars — and the magic of Star Wars toys — the Galaxy of Adventures line is an important one to Hasbro. “Galaxy of Adventures is a great way for parents to share their favorite Star Wars moments with their kids in a way that’s going to really resonate with them,” Carroll says. “The entertainment so far has been incredible. We’re excited to see the Galaxy of Adventures story unfold and have the opportunity to continue the storytelling through product. More to come!”

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Introducing the Magic of Star Wars Toys to a New Generation

The Holiday Droids You’re Looking For

StarWars.com

Every year since 2015, Disney Parks have released exclusive holiday-themed droid action figures, each with festive color schemes and accessories. For those who love both the spirit of the season and a galaxy far, far away (like me), they’re delightful. A white-and-gold astromech — with an arm stretching from its dome, dangling mistletoe? Only Wuher, the Mos Eisley cantina bartender, wouldn’t be charmed.

Lucasfilm holiday card featuring R2-D2 and C-3PO.

“The idea stems back to the Droid Factory Experience within Disney Parks, where guests can build their own droid,” Cody Hampton, senior merchandiser, strategy and product development of Disney Parks, tells StarWars.com. “The second inspiration is the fantastic Star Wars holiday artwork created by Ralph McQuarrie during the time of the original trilogy. The image of C-3PO and R2-D2 featuring reindeer antlers is so iconic and memorable. So with these two ideas, we wanted to create limited release droids that are unique in their own way with a holiday twist.”

The first themed droid made for Disney Parks was R2-D60, celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland Resort in 2015; it was such a success that the Parks released a holiday-themed astromech — complete with a white, red, and green color deco, and a removable Santa hat — dubbed R2-H15. With that, a new line and tradition (and naming convention, as H is short for “holiday,” followed by the figure’s year of release) was born. “We received such positive feedback from our first holiday droid R2-H15, we even extended the theme to Halloween droids and other themed celebrations,” Hampton adds.

Disney Parks R2-H15 droid.

R2-H15

Disney Parks R2-H16 droid.

R2-H16

Disney Parks R3-H17 droid.

R3-H17

Disney Parks R2-H18 droid.

R4-H18

Thus far, four holiday-themed droids have been released following R2-H15: R2-H16 hit shelves in 2016, notable for a primarily red body and winter cap accessory; the white-and-gold R3-H17 arrived in 2017, toting some mistletoe; and 2018’s R4-H18, available now, is something of a departure. R4 sports a clear body and comes with a drink tray, carrying glasses colored to look like a string of lights. “Every year, the merchandise team looks at different holiday elements and really starts to brainstorm what themes will resonate with our guests,” Hampton says.

To show just how much thought goes into these figures, there’s even an art and story element — turning what could be just clever toys into something more. Each droid comes in unique packaging featuring a digital illustration of the figure against a Star Wars locale, while a short bio on the cardback tells where the droid is primarily located and what it does, which is often tied to its appearance. R4-H18 doesn’t look like shimmering crystal and serve beverages for no reason; it’s because the droid comes from Canto Bight, the casino city in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “Although they are fun and a nod to the holiday, we really wanted to create unique personalities and backstories for each droid,” Hampton says. “We take the same approach for all of our limited release single packaged droids.” Despite this grounding in story and design, one truly fun aspect of these figures is customization. Parts are removable and can be easily mixed and matched across droids — an intentional feature, as the line stems from the Droid Factory Experience at Disneyland Resort, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort, where you can build your own droid figure.

Disney Parks R2-H15 droid in box.

Disney Parks R2-H16 droid in box.

Disney Parks R3-H17 droid in box.

Disney Parks R2-H18 droid in box.

Like the best gifts, Disney Parks’ holiday droid line was a true surprise we didn’t know we wanted. Now it’s a tradition, thankfully with no end in sight.

“The holiday season is filled with so many different aspects to be inspired by,” Hampton says. “So we are hoping to keep this limited release series going for several years.”

Holiday-themed droids are available at Star Traders at Disneyland Park, Tatooine Traders at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Star Wars Galactic Outpost at Disney Springs, and other locations across Disney Parks.

Photos by Amanda Jean Camarillo and Kyle Kao.

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

The Holiday Droids You’re Looking For

Capturing the Strength of Ahsoka Tano in Gentle Giant’s Mini Bust

StarWars.com

The proud visage of Ahsoka Tano — Anakin Skywalker’s former Padawan and Jedi-turned-rebel — greeted fans at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this summer when Gentle Giant debuted a new hyper-realistic mini bust of the Togruta hero.

Standing tall and poised for battle, her twin white lightsabers ignited at her back and a look of sheer determination in her eyes, StarWars.com is pleased to report that the limited-edition, hand-cast, hand-painted, and hand-numbered collectible is now available for pre-order!

Even turned away from the crowd before being revealed this summer, the stunning likeness captured the attention of none-other-than the character’s creator, Dave Filoni, says Ashly Powell, the collectible manufacturer’s director of product development, a moment that coincidentally came just hours ahead of Filoni’s announcement that Star Wars: The Clone Wars had been saved.

The Gentle Giant Ahsoka Tano mini bust.
The Gentle Giant Ahsoka Tano mini bust.
The Gentle Giant Ahsoka Tano mini bust.

This week, we caught up with Powell and Gabriel Garcia, manager of product development for the Gentle Giant design team, to talk about collaborating with the Lucasfilm Product Development team to perfectly capture the character’s likeness and turning Filoni’s animated creation into the stunningly realistic sculpted bust that stands ready to strike. Artists channeled the character’s strength and intensity into the inspiring 1:6 scale mini bust designed, modeled and prototyped in immaculate detail using 3D technology and limited to only 750 pieces.

StarWars.com: The bust is really quite gorgeous! How did you translate the Ahsoka we know from animation into this life-like sculpture?

Gabriel Garcia: The whole process starts with an idea. We wanted to do something new and fresh outside the regular saga films. We knew Ahsoka was a fan favorite and we fell even more in love with her after the final season of Star Wars Rebels.  We came up with the concept of doing a mini bust of Ahsoka as if she were a real person, so she would fit in with the rest of our long-running mini bust line. Once we locked the idea, we started working on our 2D concept with our pre-production artists. We looked at a variety of poses for her, but we knew we loved the double lightsabers, and that helped us choose the pose.

After the concept was completed and approved by our licensing partners at Lucasfilm, we moved into the sculpting phase. This is where our sculptors had to take all of the great animation photo reference photos of the character and start the real work of translating all of that into a photo-realistic likeness of a person that didn’t really exist. We are fortunate to work with a very talented team of digital artists at Gentle Giant Ltd and they really rose to the occasion. Once the sculpt was approved, we sent the digital model to our top-of-the-line 3D printer to make the prototype and our talented paint department finalized the look of what Ahsoka would look like as a real being with skin tone and costume details.

StarWars.com: What was the most challenging aspect of the project? In your mind, what was the key detail or aspect to capture that really makes this piece look and feel like Ahsoka Tano? 

Gabriel Garcia: One tricky part of this project was the conversion from an animated portrait into a “real person.” Usually for us this process goes the other way around, where we take a real person and make them into a stylized, animated portrait like we did with our animated maquette line of statues. It took watching many episodes, looking at a lot of reference and working many hours to get a look that satisfied us.

As far as capturing a key detail for the bust, that can be summed up in one word: attitude.  We’ve all been following Ahsoka’s journey for a decade and we have watched her grow from a young Padawan into a leader in the Rebellion. There is a determination in her eyes and a strength inherent in her body language that we had to nail if we wanted to be able to call this Ahoska.  It took us a few passes to get it right because there is no road map to sculpting strength or courage, but I think we nailed it in the end.

StarWars.com: I heard Dave Filoni actually stopped by the booth at SDCC to hold the prototype and he was quite enthralled. What was it like getting the stamp of approval from Ahsoka’s creator?

Ashly Powell: Usually before the convention starts, we will unpack our prototypes and turn them facing away from spectators, so that our “big reveals” aren’t spoiled by folks walking around the show floor and snapping photos on their phone and then posting on social media before the show opens.  So, here I am standing inside our booth unpacking some prototypes that were going into one of our Star Wars display windows and out of the corner of my eye, I see someone on the other side of our display window, and he is really staring at the back of our Ahsoka mini bust.

When I realized it was Dave Filoni — He wasn’t wearing his signature hat! I motioned to him and then slowly turned her around so that he could see the entire piece from the front. His eyes grew bright and I carefully grabbed our Ahsoka Mini Bust, and carried her out to do a formal “meet and greet.” I was really proud and excited to share with him.  Honestly, a bit nervous too. I mean, this was a realistic interpretation of the beloved animated Ahsoka. I knew that we thought she came out beautifully, but would Dave Filoni approve?

I handed the bust over to Dave. He marveled at her and admired every detail we captured and he said that is was the best realistic interpretation of Ahsoka he had ever seen. My heart raced, and a smile grew from ear to ear on my face. We had gotten the Filoni stamp of approval!

Dave thanked me again and again for sharing her with him and as he walked away, it reminded me that these little moments make my job so extraordinary and humbling all at once.

You can pre-order your own Gentle Giant Ahsoka Tano mini bust now!

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver what you love most about Star Wars!

Capturing the Strength of Ahsoka Tano in Gentle Giant’s Mini Bust

Droid Story: An Exclusive New Wave of Elite Series Figures Arrives at Disney Store

StarWars.com

Droids are a key fixture of the Star Wars universe; every fan has their favorites. And with the latest wave of the Disney Store’s exclusive Elite Series, collectors can get their hands on four unique die-cast figures that showcase the delightful world of droids. Featuring multiple points of articulation, metal construction, and fine detail, the new Elite Series additions include R2-D2 (complete with drink-serving apparatus), the astromech R5-D4 (“Bad motivator!”), the gleaming protocol droid TC-14, and the GNK power droid, a.k.a. the Gonk droid. StarWars.com spoke with Jonathan Storey, vice president of Disney Store, to get a better sense of what the Elite Series has to offer collectors and fans this holiday season.

R2-D2 Elite Series figure.

R2-D2 Elite Series figure.

R2-D2 Elite Series figure.

StarWars.com: Was there a specific inspiration for the decision to make this an all-droid wave?

Jonathan Storey: We launched the collection back for the release of The Force Awakens; that was the first time we introduced the Star Wars die-cast Elite Series through Disney Stores and shopDisney. At the time, it was all focused on Force Awakens characters, and then we expanded it to include original-trilogy characters. And we’ve learned lots in the first few years of this range. I think what we learned was that the Elite collection is really for the collectors — the serious collectors. They’re not toys; they’re collectibles. When we realized that, we started looking at the choice of characters very differently. Looking at what sets us aside from anything else out there. Because, as you know, the Black Series already caters quite heavily for both fan collectors and for children to play with, as toys. Whereas the die-cast Elite at the Disney Store, as we’ve established, are not as easy to play with. They’re more of a collectible. Therefore, we started molding the type of characters that we were thinking about: What would set us apart from anything else that’s out there? What would the fans and the real serious collectors appreciate? Everybody loves droids. And it just felt like it would work so well in the die cast. As no one had done this before, we felt that was an opportunity. Because we always want to stand out; we don’t want to simply do what’s already been done before. We want to create something special and unique to the Disney Store and shopDisney. So droids seemed like an idea that had wide appeal. They translate really well into that metal, and it seemed like a good way to go.

TC-14 Elite Series figure.

TC-14 Elite Series figure.

StarWars.com: Most droids have very intricate designs. What is it about the manufacturing process for the Elite Series that lends itself well to droids?

Jonathan Storey: Because these are made out of die-cast metal, and droids are made out of metal, they translated very well. It’s much harder to create a human character out of die-cast metal and make it feel authentic. It’s not impossible — we’ve done a number of human characters in the Elite Series — but it was so much easier molding these, because, essentially, that’s what droids are. They’re metal creatures. So it does allow you to get every detail true to the on-screen droid, whereas it’s much harder to do so with a human character or alien creature from the Star Wars galaxy. To get the look and feel of the different textures on metal is that much more challenging, but it was a nice fit with droids.

Elite Series Gonk figure in box.

Elite Series Gonk figure.

StarWars.com: Do you anticipate there being a hard-to-get fan favorite out of the four?

Jonathan Storey: Interestingly, the one that’s had the greatest response so far is the Gonk droid. When we landed on doing that one, I got excited, because it’s not the most attractive of characters in the Star Wars world. It doesn’t have a lot of detailing compared to R5-D4 or R2-D2 with the drinks dispenser on him. But I guess it’s just a character that’s not been done very often, so to bring that to life in a die-cast figure on a six-inch scale — I think that’s clearly attracted the fans’ attention, and there’s been a lot of excitement. And that’s come through in our sales, as well. That’s been the most popular. Although, to be honest, there’s not a lot of difference between the four of them; clearly a lot of fans are buying all four. But that one has stood out, surprisingly.

StarWars.com: These are also special in the sense that they’re exclusive to the Disney Store, Disney Parks, and shopDisney. What opportunities does that present for the line?

Jonathan Storey: We’re gonna watch their performance very closely. We’ll listen to the fans’ feedback, as we always do. The Elite Series has developed into a “special event” range; it’s not an evergreen range. You won’t always find them on the shelves in your local Disney Store. But you will find them for short periods of time during special events, and on occasions where we just want to celebrate — it might be a Star Wars anniversary.

As you know, earlier this year we released the Return of the Jedi Darth Vader with a removable mask to celebrate 35 years of Return of the Jedi. That came and sold out very quickly, and that was a one-off. We did it purely to celebrate the anniversary. So I think the die-cast Elite Series figures celebrate the true Star Wars fans as well as special events within the Star Wars galaxy. I’m not in a position to announce any future plans at this moment in time, but the droids, I do think, are a natural fit for the series.

Elite Series R5-D4 in box.

Elite Series R5-D4.

StarWars.com: How does this wave fit into the scope of what you’ve done with the Elite Series in the past?

Jonathan Storey: Obviously, the Disney Store and shopDisney have to have a very broad appeal. We have guests of all ages shopping with us. But as the Star Wars merchandise at our stores has evolved over the years, we’ve gotten much better at considering who within the Star Wars fandom a product appeals to. We want to have products for all ages, and we want to have products for those high-end collectors. We want to have products for the evergreen fans, versus new fans who have just come along with a new movie and may not know all of the previous characters. So we’ve gotten much more considerate as to who we’re making merchandise for, and we’re trying to bring balance to our Star Wars range, to make sure there’s always something for everyone at any given time.

Then, of course, with the Elite figures, they are very much aimed at the true Star Wars collector, versus just the average fan. They’re posable, and they have moving parts, so they can be played with, but they’re fantastic display pieces, as well.

The Elite Series of die-cast collectible figures can be found exclusively at the Disney Store, in Disney Parks, and online at shopDisney.

Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Syfy Wire, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.

Droid Story: An Exclusive New Wave of Elite Series Figures Arrives at Disney Store

5 Behind-the-Scenes Facts About Designing Bandai’s Star Wars Model Masterpieces

StarWars.com

Standing at just 1/144th the size of the lumbering AT-ATs that menaced the rebel forces on Hoth’s Echo Base, Bandai’s model kit makes a perfectly petite detailed replica down to removable side panels and movable joints that can send the walker crashing to the ground in defeat. The kit, complete with other intricate details like tiny control panels and screen-accurate cosmetic greeblies, is just one of many Star Wars models produced by Bandai Spirits Hobby. The company’s catalog of miniature craft spans the saga and its various factions — including Imperial and rebel, First Order and Resistance, tiny X-wing and massive Millennium Falcon.

Upon first opening the box, there are so many tiny pieces that the build can look a little intimidating, but the process of snap-together pieces (saving on the time and hazards of gluing and setting parts) is intuitive and easy, even for beginners who have never touched a model kit before. And the finished models have weight and plenty of character as they can be moved in dynamic poses.

StarWars.com recently spoke with designer Yohei Nagasawa and manager Hideki Fukuchi to learn more about how the precisely-crafted ships and vehicles are created.

1. To make the kits feel realistic, designers approached each one as if they existed in this galaxy. “We treated the original studio models used in the filming of Star Wars as if they were real-world designs,” says Fukuchi. Using the scale models used for filming as a concept, the kits replicate the models seen on-screen “in a form that can be assembled by anyone.”

2. But not every detail can be fully realized. “I wish every detail could be reproduced on the same scale, but this is not always possible,” notes Fukuchi. “The vehicles and spacecraft of Star Wars range from huge ones like the Death Star (measured in kilometers) to smaller-sized craft like X-wing starfighters (measured in meters). Even with our highly-detailed design process, there are certain aspects and features that cannot be reproduced in these model scales.”

3. Even among the team, there’s some debate about the best version of the Millennium Falcon. Fukuchi’s personal favorite among the kits on the market is the Perfect Grade 1/72 Millennium Falcon. In collaboration with Lucasfilm, the final kit allows fans to “get a sense of the real shooting model used in the films,” he says. For Nagasawa, the ship that made the Kessel Run, complete with Lando Calrissian’s impeccable upgrades, is the clear winner. Nagasawa led the team designing the 1/144 Millennium Falcon as seen on screen in Solo: A Star Wars Story. “I especially liked reproducing the lounge space of this version of the Millennium Falcon,” he adds.

4. But they agree that A New Hope captured their attention and turned them into fans. For Nagasawa, it was that opening image of his first favorite ship — the blockade runner. “The way this ship introduces the film as it tried to escape from the Star Destroyer while carrying Princess Leia was brilliant and drew me instantly into the world of Star Wars,” he says. For Fukuchi, it was Luke learning to trust the Force from inside the cockpit of his X-wing. “When Luke deactivated the X-wing sight and hit the proton torpedo by just believing in the Force, it was a very exciting moment for me.”


5. Fan feedback means a lot to Bandai. Nagasawa says the team stopped by California this summer and got to speak directly with fans on the exhibit hall floor. “It was a special experience to visit San Diego Comic-Con and hear the feedback and many positive responses to these kits from so many Star Wars fans,” he says.

Bandai model ships and character kits are available here.

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver what you love most about Star Wars!

5 Behind-the-Scenes Facts About Designing Bandai’s Star Wars Model Masterpieces

Pop! Goes Star Wars: The Clone Wars: A Q&A with Funko’s Reis O’Brien

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There’s no better time to be a fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. With the animated series reaching its 10th anniversary, new episodes on the way, and a StarWars.com re-watch in progress, Funko couldn’t have picked a more perfect time to release a new line of Pop! collectible figures based on the show.

The new Pop! figures include General Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, Master Yoda, and Padawan Ahsoka Tano in costumes and appearances based on the animated series. There’s also a second Ahsoka Tano figure sporting her original appearance in The Clone Wars exclusively sold at Hot Topic for the diehard Snips collectors out there. (You can never have too much Ahsoka in your life.)

If you’ve ever wondered how a Star Wars Pop! goes from concept to store shelves, Funko Design Manager Reis O’Brien recently gave StarWars.com a peek behind the collectible curtain.

Anakin Skywalker Star Wars: The Clone Wars Funko Pop!

StarWars.com: Are you a longtime fan of The Clone Wars, or did you have the chance to get acquainted with the series for this collection?

Reis O’Brien: I’m embarrassed to admit that even though I am a lifelong Star Wars fan, I never watched Clone Wars until very recently. It was something that people always told me I should watch, and I always intended to get around to it, so when I heard that this project was coming up, I started watching it. But I still haven’t seen the whole series. Luckily, our concept designer on this project, Mike Martin, knew enough to fill in the gaps. He was a massive help on this project.

StarWars.com: Do you have a favorite moment or episode from the series?

Reis O’Brien: I think I would have to go with the “Ghosts of Mortis” episode. It was simply dripping with Jedi lore and Anakin being shown his future, and his reaction to what he will one day become was a seriously heavy moment.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars: The Clone Wars Funko Pop!

StarWars.com: How are the specific costumes and appearances chosen for a Pop! collection like The Clone Wars?

Reis O’Brien: We picked our own characters and tried to find the most iconic looks for those characters. Once we do that, we run the list by Lucasfilm. Sometimes they may make suggestions for a different costume or maybe a character we hadn’t thought of, so it can be a truly collaborative process.

In this case, we knew exactly who we wanted to do first and the Lucasfilm team agreed 100 percent. There’s a lot of facets to keep in mind when choosing who to produce in toy form; who are the stars of the show, who are fan favorites, what scenes should we think about representing. Lucasfilm can be a big help in those moments as well.

StarWars.com: What is the typical amount of time it takes to get a new Pop! on the shelves, from design to production?

Reis O’Brien: That can vary greatly. Ideally, we like to work about six to nine months out. But because Funko is known for their speed, we are usually working around the six-month mark. We’ve done Pop!s faster than that in the past, because sometimes you got to strike fast when an opportunity arises, but we try to keep those moments to a minimum.

Ahsoka Tano Star Wars: The Clone Wars Funko Pop!

StarWars.com: Are the small details like the pattern on Ahsoka’s belt particularly challenging?

Reis O’Brien: They can be! When you’re designing a stylized, small collectible, there’s always this fine line you have to walk when it comes to details. On one hand, we want to make the figures as detailed as possible to properly represent the characters, but on the other hand, the diminutive nature of the Pop! format can shrink details down to a point that they aren’t practical, because they can be lost to the naked eye.

Also, we have to keep in mind that on a manufacturing level, there’s only so much our factory can accomplish at that size while trying to keep them at a $9.99 price point. So we try to simplify things if possible. And on some occasions, tinier details may need to be omitted. But we put a lot of thought into decisions like that.

Yoda Star Wars: The Clone Wars Funko Pop!

StarWars.com: Do you have a favorite little detail from the new Clone Wars Pop! figures?

Reis O’Brien: I don’t know about a little detail on any one particular Pop!, but the poses on these are absolutely sublime. And all credit for that goes to our concept designer, Mike Martin, and our sculptor, Amanda Brock. There’s a lot of life and character in the poses they gave the figures.

Kelly Knox is a freelance writer in Seattle, WA. She shares her love of Star Wars and all things geeky with her daughter by creating kid-friendly DIY projects. You can find her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.

Pop! Goes Star Wars: The Clone Wars: A Q&A with Funko’s Reis O’Brien

Star Wars Costumes of Halloweens Past

StarWars.com

Since 1977, Star Wars and Halloween have been conjuring up a colorful connection like no other. Almost instantly, the film’s distinct wardrobe and imaginative character design flew off the screen, landing into the collective consciousness of trick-or-treaters and Halloween costumers. Appropriately enough, some of the earliest Star Wars licensees hawked Halloween-related goods. (Some are on display at Lucasfilm right now.)

This merchandise niche has since transformed into a creature of wampa-like proportions, with far too many product highlights to mention. To celebrate this frighteningly fun history, StarWars.com scares up a few of the ghosts of Halloweens past.

Ben Cooper Inc. Costumes

When the first Star Wars film arrived, Ben Cooper Inc. was the 800-pound pumpkin in the Halloween costume business. They specialized in simplistic and affordable kiddie outfits, each featuring vacuum-formed masks made of thin plastic, an elastic string on the back to keep it in place. The accompanying slip-on suit — made of either thin cloth or vinyl-like material — typically skipped any hint of realism with a bold, dynamic illustration of the character on the front.

Ben Cooper Star Wars Halloween masks.

Above and below: Ben Cooper Princess Leia costumes from Star Wars fan Justin Haynie’s personal collection.

Ben Cooper Princess Leia costumes.

“Instead of costuming and trying to represent the character, you were almost a walking billboard on Halloween, showing how big of a fan you were,” says Star Wars memorabilia collector Justin Haynie of Lawrenceville, Georgia.

In the late 1930s, Ben Cooper made its mark with a Mickey Mouse costume, and continued its decades-long success creating outfits based on popular kid-centric characters. By 1977, the company had enough foresight to snag the Star Wars license before the movie’s release.

That Halloween, not even five months after Star Wars hit, young fans were clamoring for Ben Cooper Star Wars gear, causing a shortage at some stores throughout the country. You could choose from Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and C-3PO.

Cheralyn Lambeth, ready to help R2-D2 deliver the Death Star plans.

Cheralyn Lambeth of Charlotte, North Carolina, was lucky enough to grab a Threepio costume that first Halloween, and wore it as part of a troop of candy-seeking friends, each donning their own Star Wars duds. More than 40 years later, Lambeth creates elaborate props for film, TV, and live events. Yet, she holds serious fangirl affection for that kitschy C-3PO costume, and still owns it today.

In tandem with the release of the original trilogy, Ben Cooper continued rolling out more Star Wars costumes, from Princess Leia to Boba Fett. Collectors often salivate over the four featuring Revenge of the Jedi (the original title of Return of the Jedi) branding on the costumes themselves: Wicket, Admiral Ackbar, Gamorrean Guard, and Klaatu.

Brann Dailor's vintage Star Wars Halloween masks.

Brann Dailor’s vintage Star Wars Halloween masks.

As a child, Brann Dailor, drummer for hard rock band Mastodon, fell under the spell of Star Wars Ben Cooper costumes. His mom had a knack for costume creation, so Dailor says he would often bypass the suit portion and pair the mask with homemade and found apparel and accessories. When rocking the Yoda mask, Dailor had a rubber snake, a walking stick, and a DIY robe. Bundling up bode well, he says, on cold Halloween nights in upstate New York.

“One Halloween I wore the Ben Cooper stormtrooper mask and white long underwear,” Dailor says. “We packed it with stuffing and used a black magic marker to draw the outlines of the armor.”

Today, the Grammy-winning musician keeps his original Ben Cooper masks in his Star Wars collection, alongside the popular Don Post stormtroooper and Darth Vader helmets from the late 1970s.

Don Post Studios

This company, whose namesake developed the first over-the-head latex mask, knew a screaming good opportunity when they saw one and became an early Star Wars licensee. The denizens of Lucasfilm’s galaxy fit right in alongside the ghouls, goblins, classic movie monsters, and other characters Post and his crew were immortalizing in latex.

The initial 1977 release featured Darth Vader and stormtrooper helmets, and C-3PO and Chewbacca masks. The latter, with its open-mouthed face, was discontinued after a 500-piece run. Unhappy with the likeness, Don Post Studios resculpted Chewie’s mug and gave the Wookiee a closed mouth for the 1978 version.

Long before online shopping, countless fans bought their masks via mail order ads found in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland and other genre magazines. This included a then 13-year-old Bob Bean of Atlanta, Georgia, who deemed himself too old for Ben Cooper. After stocking up allowance money, Bean received his Vader helmet in time for Halloween.

“So I started making the rest of the costume myself,” recalls Bean, who now works as a professional prop maker in the entertainment industry. “I used vacuum cleaner parts to make a lightsaber, and my grandmother gave me an old cape.” You can see the most impressive results to the right.

An array of other Don Post masks followed, including a Yoda to coincide with the release of The Empire Strikes Back. The mask even scored a cameo in the trick-or-treat scene in 1982’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Star Wars fan Blake Morgan in his Nute Gunray mask.

Send in the droids: Star Wars fan Blake Morgan in his Nute Gunray mask.

Up until 2000, Don Post Studios continued producing Star Wars masks, including characters from The Phantom Menace. These masks still attract teens, including 18-year-old Blake Morgan of Acworth, Georgia, whose collection not only stirs up his own Halloween spirit, but stokes the fires of his Star Wars fandom.

Morgan marvels at the attention to detail, from the tiny whiskers on Watto’s chin to Nute Gunray’s cloth headdress. “When you put on the Gunray mask and look through the lenses,” he says, “it gives you distorted vision as if you were him.”

The Tradition Continues

After more than four decades of Star Wars Halloween, today’s generation of trick-or-treaters carries the lightsaber. Like Vader and the Emperor, Star Wars and Halloween go together as the perfect pair. The cinematic series claims a Death Star-size niche within the season, forging its own kind of tradition within.

“People want to live in the Star Wars universe,” Haynie says, “and the costuming aspect of Halloween really plays into it.”

Jon Waterhouse is an award-winning journalist, radio show host, and performer whose byline has appeared in a variety of print and online publications including EsquireBlackBook, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and on MTV.com. He helms the geek travel blog NerdsOnHoliday.com.

Star Wars Costumes of Halloweens Past