Thursday, September 03 2015 20:16

Force Friday Flashback: Never-before-seen Pictures from 1999's Midnight Madness for THE PHANTOM MENACE

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As STAR WARS fans eagerly await the arrival of #ForceFriday at 12:01am on September 4th, 2015 (just hours from this posting), I'm spinning back the clock to 1999. Before I go further, just think of this: when STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE was released in 1999, it had been 16 years from the release of STAR WARS: EPISODE VI - RETURN OF THE JEDI. When STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Episode VII) arrives in December, it will be 16 years from THE PHANTOM MENACE. Time flies faster than the Millennium Falcon. 1999 seems like a lifetime ago for me (the year I got married), but back then I was in a very different place. While this year finds me appearing in a spot for TARGET's #ShareTheForce festivities, back then I was working for another "big box." And it just so happened that I was in charge of coordinating "Midnight Madness" - the 1999 equivalent to #ForceFriday.

Unlike the way stores are doing things now, we didn't have a special planogram for how things were set up in the front of the store (just the toy department), and being in the unique situation of being a manager in what was then one of Kmart's top-performing (and best-looking) Supercenters, we had a ton of product with the freedom to set it up however I wanted. This was also around the time I started my now-infamous STAR WARS room (see pictures here) that existed from 1999-2002.

And now I give you some never-before-seen photos from STAR WARS Midnight Madness, 1999 - most of which were the calm before the chaos...


We had character cut-outs hanging from the ceiling throughout the store. The grocery area also had an inflatable Pod Racer...


All those blue ones are the Micro Machines - a line being brought back for THE FORCE AWAKENS...


Look at Jar-Jar Binks taunting customers from the top of that Frito-Lay Display...


Mace Windu guarding the R2-D2 Cooler (I have one from '97, but not this one)...


You can barely see the Pod Racer in this one...


Freshly-packed shelves and pegs...


We had the customers go single-file behind the railing to avoid shoving. They were simply allowed to line up in the order of arrival. Plenty of toys for everyone (maybe 150 in all right at midnight)...


Electronics register stocked with soundtracks, extra figures and knock-off "Space Trax" CDs...


Another peek at electronics and the N64 Game as well...


I had a thing when I was in that position (managing retail) that my stores and departments had to be kept meticulously-stocked, straightened and maintained. For awhile, I even traveled to set-up new stores, and to "clean up messes" in other locations. Now, whenever I go into ANY store, I'm always overly critical about how they look.

It's almost #ForceFriday - go get some STAR WARS!

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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