Wall of Poodoo: The Phantom Menace at 15

By Adam Pawlus — Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Another Star Wars movie director was announced last week, which is good timing because it's the 15th anniversary of The Phantom Menace. Poo-poo it if you must, but the years leading up to that movie were fantastic - things didn't start to go south until that original Star Wars Celebration in May of 1999. We were given so many behind-the-scenes looks of crowd aliens, background vehicles and so forth that we probably got one of the best behind-the-scenes looks at a movie ever. Much like 1996's merchandising campaign Shadows of the Empire, it was quite the entertainment experience - the movie itself was almost inconsequential. It was about documentaries, books, and getting you to buy toys for a movie that it turned out you didn't even like. Well, some of you. I basically liked it but it definitely made me wonder when all the fans of the franchise were in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it was not popular to be up-front and open about your fandom of Star Wars or seemingly damn near anything.

Love it or hate it, it worked - it kicked off more movies, more comics, more games, and more toys. The business of Star Wars owes a lot to that film, in all its successes and failures, thanks largely to the fact that it brought in lapsed fanboys and fangirls while helping to burn the "collectible" business model that hurt comics and trading cards to the ground so it no longer worked for toys. Anyone who bought a cart filled with toys at midnight in May of 1999 learned a valuable lesson - nobody wants the new stuff and never, ever over order on wave one of anything.

Heck, if the prequels weren't the hit that they were, we wouldn't be sitting here thinking that Disney is going to ram six new movies and a TV series down our throats in the next few years. I bet there will be more TV shows too - look at Marvel's many animated and live-action properties just a few years after Disney took over. It changes the landscape of fandom a lot - when I was growing up, I lived in a world with 2 TV shows, 2 Ewok movies, and three theatrical pictures plus a smattering of comics and novels - and that was pretty much it. The entire franchise's fiction could fit in a small box, or a couple of boxes if you including the role-playing games and technical journals.

Now we're entering a world where the jaded fan can run wild, where the discussion of newness and creativity ebbs away as a franchise is either milked for whatever life it has left or enters a phase where fans may be inspired to pay Disney to kill it rather than tarnish the legacy. We now live in a world where the goodwill generated from our extensive fandom during the dark times will be monetized and whatever spare change we have left can be exchanged for magazines or cards or toys. It's possible that the notion of our collections ever being finished is the most ridiculous thing ever - toy lines of any real clout don't die, they just get rebooted and come back. There's a slow stream of Star Trek each year. Some dude brought back the Mordles, and did a fine job. I actually knew what it was like to live in a world where you could go a few years between Batman toys, now that seems unthinkable - and Star Wars is in the same boat. I hope you like it going on forever, because that's where we're at now. Rethink your completism and reconsider the value of paying for a second or third storage space for all of this stuff now, because the fleeting pleasures of a new purchase are going to add up between now and the time you can no longer take yourself to the bathroom.

I rarely get more hate mail than when I tell people to buy what they like and skip stuff - but seriously, unless you're in the business, I can't imagine where you're going to store all of these things. I'm guesstimating 50 figures per year from here on out as a minimum, and with multiple movies, classic, and TV shows, that's probably a low guess. And if you're in to statues, busts, 1:6 scale figures, or prop replicas, take advantage of this lull we're in to clean house and relieve yourself of the stuff you'll never look at again. Our best days are likely still ahead of us, so get ready - we're not even at the halfway point yet.

Having said that, I'm still in.

--Adam Pawlus
May 25, 2014

Apologies to Wall of Voodoo for everything.  I love you guys.