As modern Star Wars fans, we're pretty spoiled in that since 2015 we've been getting new films every year. We've seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) and this year we've got Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). And, as J.J. Abrams preps to shoot the Untitled Episode IX (2019), there's a new series of films from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, a new Trilogy from Rian Johnson and a live-action television series from Jon Favreau all starting to take shape on the horizon. With each new film comes a new range of toys and collectibles, and in recent years we've seen that skew largely toward grownups - the "big kids" who were once little kids when the Original Trilogy (1977-1983) was released, or even stranger to me - the kids who grew up on the Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005). Along the way, I think that sometimes what gets lost is the fact that while many Star Wars toys are being purchased by collectors, there's always new generations who are just experiencing the Saga for the very first time. With that in mind, Hasbro is peppering the release of their new toys from Solo: A Star Wars Story with some new offerings from their Galactic Heroes line geared toward the youngest fans - ages 3-7. And like all the new product launches, there's not only characters from the latest film, but also those from the the past... or "a long time ago... in a galaxy far, far away." My friends at Entertainment Earth sent over one of those new toys - the Star Wars Galactic Heroes 2-in-1 Millennium Falcon, and we're going hands-on in The Toy Testing Facility at Rock Father™ HQ!
Preview - Star Wars Pinball: The Last Jedi's Ahch-To Island Table, plus my Twitch Stream 66M Multiball!Written by James Zahn
On April 17, Zen Studios' Pinball FX3 takes another trip to a galaxy far, far away with the release of Star Wars Pinball: The Last Jedi Pack. This new DLC brings to all-new tables to the platform, and the first is Ahch-To Island - the secluded hideaway where Luke Skywalker has been living for some years before Rey caught up with him. This week, a new trailer for that table has been released, but also I had a chance to go hands-on thanks to the folks at Zen Studios providing me with an early copy of the game for Xbox One (it's also available for PlayStation 4, Windows 10 and Steam, as well as for Zen Pinball on iOS, Mac and Android.) I fired up my Twitch Stream last night for a first run, and the most fun I had was when R2-D2 helped to activate the multi-ball, leading to a 66,214,354 high score on only my second round. See the new trailer and highlights from my Twitch Stream below!
The details are light right now, but Mattel and Mills Entertainment have teamed-up to bring American Girl to life as an all-new traveling musical. AMERICAN GIRL LIVE! will feature all-original songs and "unforgettable experiences" based on some of American Girl's most loved characters. The show promises "fun-filled adventure, where exciting tales of bravery and friendship come to life, LIVE and in-person" as families join their "favorite American Girl characters, and some brand-new friends, as they follow their hearts and share their dreams, in a journey across time." Check out a short video teaser below, and look for more details coming soon, including tour dates and cities. I can reveal that tickets will go on-sale on May 18, 2018 for most markets...
With the full trailer for Lucasfilm's Solo: A Star Wars Story now online, it's only fitting that the toys are close behind. I had a chance to check out quite a few of Hasbro's new offerings at the North American International Toy Fair back in February, and on Friday the 13th of April, 2018 - they will be available for purchase! As of now, my friends at Entertainment Earth (an affiliate of the site) have launched pre-orders on a few items from Solo, with the promise that more will become available later this week (stay tuned as I'll be reviewing one of them). Check out the Entertainment Earth Solo: A Star Wars Story toy page, and see below for a sneak-preview of what's on the way.
Toys "R" Us CEO David Brandon Responds to Critics; Some Store Employees Get Bonuses; More Allege "Sabotage"Written by James Zahn
Imagine this... you're the embattled CEO of an iconic American company that is nearing the end of its 70-year history just under three years after you took the top job. You were placed into that position after a much-discussed and controversial run as the Athletic Director of a Big Ten University, during which time you were labeled "villainous", jacked ticket prices for students and families and allegedly retaliated against criticism from fans on a regular basis by attacking them via email - something that led Keith Olbermann to once deem you the "Worst Person in the World." Despite public rallies calling for you to be fired, your resignation and a subsequent book that detailed your epic failure at the college, you left with a $3M severance and were able to find work in 2015 thanks to the generosity of someone you worked for once before... Bain Capital. You see, they were running this toy store that they really wanted to be rid of, so you'd go on to tell the Wall St. Journal just that, and by 2018 you'd be giving your private equity buddies exactly what they wished for all while the public was starting to ask how someone with your experience and reputation could wind up running a toy store.
Last month, MGA Entertainment's Isaac Larian made headlines when he and "various investor associates" launched a GoFundMe campaign asking the public to help save Toys "R" Us. The lofty $1B goal was primed with $200M in the hopper, and while it's only pulled in $56K from the public thus far - that's still an impressive number. The reality is that Larian never really intended to save the company via crowdfunding, a fact that he noted on Twitter last week and backed-up in an interview with the L.A. Times. The real goal is to involve the public in helping to save Toys "R" Us and the American jobs that it supports by getting the cause in front of those with deep enough pockets to pull it off. It's no secret that I believe that the company could live on, and now the movement to #SaveToysRUs has a video. Shot at the Woodland Hills, California Toys "R" Us location, the clip features customers, store associates and even Isaac himself as they show the importance of America's last big toy store. Take a look...
Last year, Sesame Street broke new ground with the addition of Julia, a new Muppet with Autism. An old friend of Elmo's, Julia made her debut during World Autism Month/National Autism Awareness Month bringing with her a message - that we can "see amazing in all children." Now, as Julia celebrates one year on Sesame Street, the folks at Hasbro are bringing her into the toy aisle as a new neighbor in their Playskool mini plush line. Available now from Hasbro Toy Shop (an affiliate) and major retailers nationwide, Julia is a cuddly friend for children ages 12 months and up! See her below...
One of my favorite games from the past year has been Zen Studios' Pinball FX3. I have it for both Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, but it's cross-platform and available for PS4, PC, and even mobile. While it captures the pinball experience perfectly, one big draw is that they have access to some pretty stellar licenses, which means tables based upon some major players in the pop culture landscape. They've done The Walking Dead, Marvel, Universal Studios (ET, JAWS, Back to the Future) along with Jurassic World and a host of Star Wars-based sets. Now the latter is expanding with the announcement of Star Wars Pinball: The Last Jedi - coming to Pinball FX3 on April 17. Check out a trailer below, and if you're on Twitch, be sure to follow The Rock Father™! I've recently started streaming there and one of the games I showcase often is Pinball FX3.
I love hearing stories about how others are doing good, and when it comes to the world of play, there's little better than hearing about the creative ways that toymakers are giving back. I wrote a little bit about that in one of my recent columns over at The Toy Insider, and today I've got another story to share - this one from a true American icon: Radio Flyer. Their iconic little red wagon has brought joy to millions of children over the last 100 years, and as they point out, those "wagons have been used to carry stuffed animals, toys, books, friends and more for countless hours of playtime" But they've also been used by children and adults alike to lift the spirits of others – and Radio Flyer is celebrating these acts of kindness in honor of National Little Red Wagon Day. With their new "Wagons for Good" sweepstakes, you could even receive a donation of 100 wagons to be given to the organization of your choice!
Toys "R" Us Fallout Update: As Stores Close, Toys For Tots, other Charities Lose; Crayola, Funko and Others Cry Foul...Written by James Zahn
As the liquidation of Toys "R" Us officially got underway last week, the saga has continued behind-the-scenes as shoppers began visiting stores in hopes of scoring a deal. For the locations that have just begun the wind-down, many felt disappointment when met with markdowns as low as 5% (game systems, LEGO) with most categories priced at just a 10% savings. While there were some higher discounts like 20% off on Easter items and bike accessories, other areas had no markdown at all - consumables like food and diapers. On the flipside, stores that began closing operations in February are nearly wiped-out, and I visited a few this past weekend. It was a sad scene at the Babies "R" Us in Vernon Hills, Illinois - set to close for good on March 31. My wife and I ordered baby furniture from that location back when our first daughter was born. Now, it's a mostly-empty building where almost everything is for sale, surprisingly stocked with a lot of non-baby toys that I suspect were dumped on the first wave of closing stores in a warehouse purge. We picked up a couple of Flip Zee Girls (Jay at Play) that our little ones had been asking for. My big score was a stockpile of LR44 batteries - the button-style that many toys consume very quickly. Deals aside, I'd rather pay full price and have 33K jobs still intact. Elsewhere the fallout is starting to be felt.
Intended to be a Toys "R" Us Exclusive, Avengers: Infinity War 2-Pack Heads for Entertainment Earth...Written by James Zahn
In the wake of the Toys "R" Us implosion, both toymakers and collectors have been worried about the fate of toys that were intended to be Toys "R" Us Exclusive. With many items still in warehouses, on trucks and even worse - on boats - companies are scrambling to find new homes for millions of dollars worth of product. For fans of Hasbro's Marvel Legends line, the folks at Entertainment Earth have stepped in to take over distribution of the former Toys "R" Us Exclusive Avengers: Infinity War Scarlet Witch and Vision 2-pack. Unfortunately, some of these did get shipped to TRU which means they're in liquidation limbo. While some have been lucky to have found them on store shelves in recent days, EE (and affiliate of this site) has them up for pre-order right now.
Some of the coolest LEGO sets in recent years have spawned from the fan-generated LEGO Ideas program, and now the newest set is about to hit the streets. LEGO Ideas 21314 is the TRON: Legacy set from Disney, featuring 2 Light Cycles, each with minifigure seats and translucent-colored light-style elements, plus a divisible TRON grid with attachment points for the vehicles. There's three included LEGO minifigures - Sam Flynn, Quorra and Rinzler - all ready to battle on their cycles or with their Identity Discs. The set will be available beginning March 31 exclusively at LEGO Store and LEGO Shop (and affiliate), with a limit of one per customer. Check out all the specs below!