I'm back from talking to some wonderful people, fellow fans, and Disney people to talk about how The Disney Store will be deploying Star Wars. Some details are being held for tomorrow, but I do have some dirt to share with all you fine people right now, after the jump. (Long post, lots of information, no pics yet. Hey man, it's late, what do you expect?)
First - click here to see the images from a USB stick we got. Then come back here and read all these boring words. There are about a dozen people here, including representatives from Star Wars and Disney fan sites, plus the great and powerful Steve Sansweet.
The Disney Store Star Wars line launched in March, quietly, without a lot of fuss on the fan sites. Kid apparel, plush toys, and a few other odds and ends based on the original Star Wars appeared in stores along with a smattering of Hasbro product like a Darth Vader mask, The Black Series (check here for Mara Jade and Darth Plagueis, kids), and some of the redesigned, smaller Starfighter vehicles. While toddler sized shirts won't do most of us a world of good, the designs are actually quite nice
Plush toys include a Bantha - always welcome - along with a Jawa and a swell $10 R2-D2 with an articulated dome. Numerous journals with electronics were out to be bought, right now, but this is just the beginning. The big launch on May 4 will include numerous products and promotions, and the Disney Store is gearing up. We heard a little about their extensive training program involving handing out sealed foil packs to employees with trading cards inside, showing them who these characters are in the chance they needed a refresher course. Employees that excel could win special "chase" cards, and odds are you'll have to know an employee or seek out eBay for those.
Freebies and kid entertainment are on deck, with a heavy board replica of the Medal of Yavin being one of the things kids can win by interacting with various things in the store as part of the Star Wars: Ways of the Force program. An inflatable lightsaber for kids will also be given away, which is a nice way to fill the gap in the marketplace for paid versions of such a thing. (When was the last inflatable licensed lightsaber, anyway? 1979?)
Jonathan Storey, Vice President of the Disney Store, was kind enough to answer a number of questions and shared comments about the retailer's supply chain. He explained that they anticipate frequent restocks of things like Hasbro assortments, and has high hopes on fans being able to find figures at the specialized retailer. He's a nice enough fellow, say hi if you have the opportunity. Mr. Storey was also kind enough to share that there are currently no plans for an expansion of more locations of the retail establishment, and that some items would be available online exclusively like this Darth Vader vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi Limited Edition Framed Pin Set.
Getting an insider's view as to the store's development and how they designed a customer to walk a path along the store, coming to a gazebo featuring video of various Disney characters was fascinating. It also shows that I may not be the best at discerning such things because I've been trained by years of toy runs to hit up anything that looks like Star Wars or an action figure first but odds are kids haven't gone through such rigorous, commando-style training.
When I brought up the traditional gender binary (because, let's face it, a lot of us see Disney as a pink aisle brand) I got to hear from Mr. Storey that they are indeed pushing for more characters and products for the sequels to appeal to the pink aisle and the blue aisle. This sounds great, because the more stuff that sells, the more older collectors we'll have, which usually means companies will be able to do more fantastic and increasingly bonkers collectibles.
Another new-to-me surprise was that the store has a sort of an opening and closing ceremony each day - a child can win the chance to "open the store" with a ceremonial key, letting people in after the store beings to rise and shine with video and music playing in the store before people come in to scope out whatever's in stock. It's not the kind of thing I'll ever be showered and out of the house on time to see, but it's certainly a nifty idea. A closing ceremony was discussed as well, involving the sun going down and the unique design on the walls going dark before the place shuts down for the day.
The big takeaway from this so far is this. One - go in and look around today to see where it's starting. Two - it's expected to expand significantly within the next year. Three - go back on May 4 and be one of the first 100 shoppers to get a free, exclusive Star Wars pin. Pins are a big element of Disney collecting, and they're being brought to The Disney Store in... (wait for it...) Force. I should have images of this for you tomorrow or the next day, connectivity, patience, and sleep deprivation permitting.