Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Overdue Force Friday Experience Write-Up

Yes, I promised this a week ago. If you're a true Star Wars fan, you'll read it anyway.

Yep, it was quite a weekend for ol' Monty, but we'll just focus on the Star Wars part. Friday, September 4th, in case you aren't cool enough to know, was a bit of a holiday for Star Wars fanatics across the globe (I guess; I really don't know if the date is the same everywhere) called "Force Friday". Yes, we have more than one Star Wars holiday. Force Friday isn't necessarily annual though. It usually takes place before a new and always much anticipated Star Wars live-action feature film release. This time, it was for what will probably be the most anticipated Star Wars film ever, "Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens". Force Friday, you see, is the day the new merchandise for the as yet unreleased film hits the streets. And if there's one thing we Star Wars geeks LOVE, it's merchandise!

We all rush out early to try to be the first ones in line in the hopes of snagging some special, elusive item that is in such high demand that, for some reason, they decided to only stock a couple of. Take what I collect for example, the 6 inch Star Wars Black Series action figures... Or don't. I don't want to get ahead of myself. Suffice to say, that's what I was looking for: The Black Series 6 inch action figures of some never before seen characters from the Star Wars Universe. Or at least, only before seen in the new trailers.

And, when I say we set out early, I mean we set out early! The night before, in fact. Because, just like with Black Friday, stores have decided to ruin the experience by having early, midnight releases at certain stores. For example, all Toys R Us Stores and select Target Stores. Perhaps this is to compete with Wal-Mart, who is open 24 hours in most places. Still, there's not much need to compete. The hot items are gonna get bought out everywhere. The rest will warm shelves EVERYWHERE. So, competition between stores shouldn't really be an issue. Nevertheless, stores have decided to get people in as soon as possible on Thursday night, and sometimes even offer free incentives to sweeten the deal. That's what brought me to Toys R Us on Thursday night at around 10:30pm, standing firmly in line behind all these goons...

I was around number 12 or so. This was soon the view behind me...

I shouldn't call them goons though. They're, to a certain degree, my brethren. One of the rare females was even kind enough to bring fruit snacks for everybody...

They were that weird kind though. The non-translucent ones that are really soft and not chewy at all. They weird me out. The blue ones especially. I'm used to gummy snacks having the consistency of gummy bears. But maybe those are never real fruit. These had cool shapes though. But, I digress...

As the witching, er, Sithing(?) hour approached, the management actually brought a bit of diversion out for us, and I gotta give them kudos for that! I would assume these guys are members of the 501st. Not the giraffe. That's Geoffrey. He's a giraffe.

Those stormtroopers actually make stormtroopers intimidating, I gotta say. They were tall and clearly bodybuilders. Not so much the Biker Scout, but still an awesome costume. They were there to add atmosphere and to pose for pictures with people standing in line. A very nice treat for us for sure.

And then there was this girl...

God, she was insanely cute. Sooo unfair that one Star Wars geek in probably 20,000 somehow manages to land a flawless looking girlfriend who is also a huge fan and thrills at doing her hair in cinnabuns, wearing Star Wars T-shirts, and most likely slipping on a gold bikini and collar at home. Man, I got nothing but a pillow at night. This girl was an adorable goddess!

But, enough coveting thy neighbor's wife. Time to covet my neighbors toys! Midnight soon approached, and the gates were opened! In we stampeded, trampling anyone too weak to keep up! That's how we keep the herd healthy, ya know. 

And, ya better believe, if you weren't one of the first few guys in line, you ain't gettin' jack squat of anything good! One dude ran off with most of the 6 inch figures. Shoot, I talked to him in line. Seemed real nice. Greedy bastard! Another guy grabbed the only Interactive Yoda, and select other items disappeared quickly too. I didn't even see that much sought after BB-8, the new droid in high tech form from a company called Sphero. Either it was in the electronics section or it disappeared at lightning speed. Either is possible, since Toys R Us sure doesn't stock much of the most popular items. And that's my big gripe about Toys R Us on this epic night. What the hell? Why did they not use that huge display wall that is the first thing you see when you enter the store? This is a new Star Wars movie, guys! What the hell? Instead, everything was crammed into the usual Star Wars aisle, and we had to cram into it too, which was barely doable. Were it not for the free poster of the film's villain, Kylo Ren, choosing Toys R Us as my first stop would have been extremely regrettable. It still kinda was, since both Target and Wal-Mart seemed to be much better stocked. Probably could have casually walked off with all the Black Series toys if I'd hit one of those instead. Again though, I'm getting ahead of myself. So, that was Toys R Us. Got a few freebies I'll show to you in a bit, but no actual toys. They did have some nice R/C vehicles I have my eye on though.

I could have called it a night then. I was supposed to work the next day. However, I didn't. It wouldn't be like me to give up on the hunt so quickly, even for much needed sleep. I saw a 24hr Wallgreens, and knowing that for the past few waves of Black Series 6 inch figures, this is the only place I've actually seen some, I went in to check it out. No dice, but they did have the Monster cereals already! I didn't think to take a pic, but yeah, those are out (haven't seen them at Target yet; don't know if they're doing special boxes again this year; got a set of three already from HEB though). I had no gas, so I had to hit the next station I encountered. Would have done that earlier, but my bank account was in the red till midnight. In that gas-up time though, I decided whether or not I wanted to continue that evening, and where I should go to next. I decided to head further north on 183 and try out a Target and Wal-Mart in that area. I'll get to that in a minute though. First,...

Let's talk about the real, live (practically), though far smaller than the film version, BB-8, the rolling droid, from Sphero...

So, BB-8 is the new, hyper-lovable droid from Star Wars episode 7 that they say could steel R2-D2's thunder. He's sorta like Scrappy-Doo without the annoying dialogue. Maybe more like that mouse in diapers that used to hangout with Jerry in some cartoons. I wanna say... Nibbles? Anyways, he's already got a cult following. Amazingly, he's not done with CGI (well, I bet he is sometimes done with CGI), and it's fascinating because of his ball design that rolls across surfaces while his had stays on the top. The folks at Sphero have taken this design and rolled with it. They have a small (I'm gonna say baseball size, but that could be way off) version of the droid that is remotely controlled by your smart phone. He has lights and is advertised to have sound effects and be kinda, well, smart. I don't know if this just means he doesn't bump into walls or if there's more to it than that.

Here's what I do know though, and why I ultimately decided (not that I could afford it on Force Friday) that I don't need this little BB-8 toy, despite it supposedly being the coolest toy ever made and the hottest item for the coming holiday season without question (I'll take one if anyone wants to give me one, just saying I don't NEED it; I'd still enjoy it, I'm sure). For one thing, why not make him full size? That would be amazing, right? But, I'll talk about that in a minute. I have two issues with this little guy. One, he is controlled by a phone app, which is some kind of big selling point for him. I don't get this. I'd rather have a remote. Does he really not come with a remote? Because, yeah, I have a smart phone, but there are so many apps my iPhone 4 can't download. I'm assuming this is one of them. I don't think it can do things like remotely control stuff. And, frankly, I don't care. I only use it to talk to my mom or text friends. That's all I really use my cell phone for. I got along fine without one till just a few years ago. Girls don't like me, so I don't need a phone. Simple as that. Okay, I do use the internet a lot, but I would be fine doing that at home. Mainly, I use it for comparison shopping or quickly reading reviews before buying something, so it's convenient, but... hey, stop getting me off track. The OTHER thing about the Shero BB-8, and this was an immediate turn off, is that I hear it does not really make sound effects. That's a sham. You instead hear the sounds coming out of your phone, not the toy. That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of.

And, back to the scale issue. This guy is in scale with NOTHING. Not with me, not with my 6 inch figures, not with my 3 3/4 figures. Nothing. That's pointless in my book. Why not make a full sized BB-8? That would be amazing! Or, shoot, just make some small remote ones to go with my figures. I have a 3 3/4 R2-D2 that is remote controlled. It's amazing!

There are two other moving BB-8 options, however, and one actually does use a remote control. They, of course, aren't as good as Sphero in some ways, but at least they make their own sounds! One comes from the Disney Store, another from Target. Target, I think, is the one I may have some interest in getting. Target is the one with the remote, but when you aren't using the remote, he still has some movement and sound happening, which is pretty cool. He also moves A LOT like the Sphero version, but he's quite a bit larger, and might even be in scale (close at least) to my Interactive R2-D2, which I really would find more appealing. The downside is that he has no lighting effects and he looks the most plastic of the three BBs. I don't think he's truly interactive, either, in terms of sound and movement reaction. Not sure if the Sphero is either, really, but I believe the Disney Store one is. The Disney Store one seems similar in size to the Target version and looks a little less plastic, if not much, but he has no remote. He is like my R2, just billed as an interactive toy who roams about on his own. He has a light too. The one problem I have with the Disney Store version, besides that they'll probably never restock him (can probably get him from their website though), is that he does not truly roll the way the other two BB-8s do. That is a huge fail, but that's also why he is way cheaper than the other two. Or so I here. I can't confirm this yet. An interactive, non-remote one might be a better match for my R2, and I like that he has lights... so in some ways it's tempting, but the true rolling action of Target's version is way more impressive looking, even if that one's head falls off a lot, I hear.

Anyway, back to our story. So, I drive north on 183 and get to the Target. I drive by it, anyway. That Target was the only one in Austin doing the midnight opening, and the parking lot was totally loaded with cars. I decided to not even go in. I went to the nearby Wal-Mart instead.

Wal-Mart seemed dead. Then again, it was probably close to 1am by this point. They had their Force Friday setup in front of the Electronics area, and they still had some interesting stuff I was surprised to see. Plus, free cupcakes!

Now that's how you do Force Friday! Sadly, no punch.

It didn't register with me right away that those were rings on top of the cupcakes. Otherwise, I might have come back with someone other than 3PO. Still, pretty cool. I gave it to someone who was quite happy with it.

They had this big, cardboard aisle in the middle of the walking area, and it was still nicely stocked, on the Lego side at least. As expected, anything action figure related was pretty much gone everywhere I went. But, as late as I showed up here, I did see one guy making off with the last of the 6 inch figs. I kept seeing that! If I'd just come to this Wal-Mart instead of Toys R Us, or just gotten here a few minutes sooner.

They also had some of the remote control Falcons left! The new kind! And at a much better price than TRU! I really wish I'd had the spare cash. This is one of the things I was interested in getting. When you see that these are made of styrofoam though, it is sooo hard to shell out nearly $100 for them. Someday I might for this Falcon and the new X-Wing though. They are pretty epic.

So, Wal-Mart had a cool setup, even a manager or some type of employee in Jedi gear. Yeah, shoulda gone here first. They also had several of those interactive Yodas left. That one guy was so happy to grab the only one at Toys R Us, ha. They were probably cheaper here. I thought I'd taken a pic of them, but I guess not. The cardboard aisle was parallel with this table setup, and it was stocked on both sides, with more items on the floor next to it (like the Yodas).

Okay, so I left this Wal-Mart, got a burger at the Whataburger right outside of it, had to choke that down because they got my order wrong. I only like cheese on my Whataburger, and sometimes bacon, okay? Freakin' mustard, ketchup and pickles?!!! Are you trying to poison me?!!! I hadn't eaten food in so long though (amazingly, still fat, but I hardly get to eat during the second half of the month; my rent is too high, goes up yearly, and I only make 10 bucks an hour), that I ate it anyway. They took forever to get it to me, so I didn't want to give it back. There's my mini review of THAT Whataburger. I also was already on my way to another Toys R Us and Wal-Mart, the ones over on Parmer and I-35. I knew that'd be a bust, but I went to check 'em out anyway.

Yep, it was a bust. Ran into some perturbed Star Wars fans in the parking lot. They said the store had already closed. It had only stayed open very briefly for the midnight opening. Personally, I thought it was just going to stay open all night. The Wal-Mart in that area was a pointless check too, and I ended up heading home empty handed, aside from the Toys R Us freebees and a few from Wal-Mart.

But, it wasn't over yet.

That wasn't even truly Friday, after all. I mean, technically, yeah, but it wasn't even daybreak yet! I ended up going to bed very late. I think I was on YouTube researching BB-8s and other stuff. It got to where I was hardly going to get any sleep at all. Soooo, yeah, called in sick the next morning.  But, wait, that meant I could hit up some untouched Target stores! The guys I talked to at Toys R Us actually recommended this, but they also told me Target opens at 10, which I see now was probably a trick. I think they opened at 8 or something. I was so sleepy that I probably took their word for it just so I didn't have to get up. I went to one of my nearby, untouched Targets shortly after 10, and looking in the toy aisle, I wasn't surprised, but I WAS disappointed. I wandered around a little. Then, I saw it!

Hidden away in a back corner, just beyond the Halloween section (which was not fully ready), 
was a whole Star Wars area! It was glorious!!!

If I'd just come here Friday morning at the time it opened, I'd have been set. They had some truly awesome stuff, but I didn't go through it all. I immediately searched for the Black Series 6 inch figures, and I found some! 2 Kylo Rens, in fact! That's pretty much all they had, but still, if I was going to get just one figure... I mean, sure, the one in highest demand is probably the stormtrooper, but this guy I would have though would be just as popular. Maybe not, but he was top of my list! I snagged him right away and figured I should probably check out the other Target I frequent, which is very nearby on the same road (right along 183, near Mopac). At this second Target, I found a similar if not as impressive or well hidden Star Wars section. Surprisingly, they had both Kylo Ren (2) and one figure of Finn. I snatched up the Finn and headed home. They had an Episode 7 Chewie too, but I had limited funds. I could have gone around to other Targets, but the odds were against finding anyone else. I probably wanted Rey second most. After all, she came with BB-8, but I had a late start and I was tired as hell. I even thought about checking out what the Disney Store had to offer, and decided against it, which I kinda regret. They had a lot of exclusive merchandise, so I hear.


When I got home, I ordered Rey off I couldn't resist, ha. She arrived a couple days ago. I might touch up the paint on her hairline and maybe a few other areas, because she's not the prettiest figure ever, despite the actress being very pretty, but otherwise, it's very cool, especially with BB-8! 

And that was my Force Friday 2015 experience. Below is the haul I came home with, not counting the Rey and BB-8 I was waiting on, though they do count since I ordered them that morning, ha. In the back is the sweet Kylo Ren poster that was given away at Toys R Us. As much as I love TRU, they made the poster far less cool with their logo, but whatever. I have no room to hang it up, ha. My two figure finds are in the center, and they've since been opened up. I don't keep my toys in the packaging, except on rare occasions. There's my 3PO ring beside them, which I've given to someone already. Also in the image is a collector's disc game in the package. This was a Wal-Mart freebie. Hard to see, ever by the 3PO ring, is a Toys R Us freebie Lego piece. Have a better look at it in my video post about Force Friday. It's a flat piece with an image of a Lego stormtrooper on it. The smaller poster that looks like a chart on building weird lightsabers is just that. It's for some new toy line of lightsaber building, and on the back are other toy images. It's basically a poster style ad. Got it at Toys R Us too. There's a booklet there as well that I received at Wal Mart. It's also just a glorified toy ad. The only freebie I really liked was the Kylo Ren poster, but the ring is currently being loved too. I don't know if they made spending 3 hours on the hunt Thursday night worthwhile though, much of that spent in a line. The two figures definitely made calling in sick worthwhile though, and the whole haul made it a fun event for this Star Wars fan. It does make for a pretty nice photo. 

To wrap up, I'll say, if you come across any Force Awakens Stormtroopers from this line, you should snag 'em. Those are the hottest ones in the 6 inch Black Series line right now. I'm on the lookout for that as well as getting that Chewie, but I still have several older Black Series figures I need to pick up as well. I've landed many, but I've missed many too. I am super excited for this film's release, by the way. Can't wait to see it! I've been collecting the new breed of Star Wars comic books and reading them when I can, I MIGHT get one of those BB-8s at some point (probably the Target one, tough to say), and the plan is for a Star Wars Christmas tree this year in honor of the new movie. I just need to at least double my number of Star Wars ornaments before then and get some type of tree topper that suits the theme. We're pretty big on Star Wars over here, so, yeah, this is gonna be a heck of a holiday season! Ha.

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