Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Impact (or Lack Thereof) of Episode I

Everything about Star Wars Episode I was huge but nothing was bigger than the expectations people had for it. I'm not just talking about the fans either. A lot of manufacturers and retailers were betting big on the movie as well. This was somewhat understandable. There had been no greater licensing success than Star Wars, but that success happened over a span of twenty two years. It seemed to me like they were trying to match all of that in 1999 alone. The stores did go overboard. My local Target replaced their action figure aisle with an "all Star Wars Episode I" aisle. Even if the movie had been as well received as people thought it would be, it still wouldn't have sold as much merchandise as was expected.

I bought quite a number of the toys myself but it was all a drop in the bucket compared to what was available. Looking through some online archives I'm amazed at the sheer amount of stuff that was made. Check out this giant Fambaa creature. Apparently this was an FAO Schwartz exclusive. Until recently I had no idea it even existed.

Since sales didn't meet expectations the promotions for the future prequels were scaled way back by comparison. Don't get me wrong there were still a ton of toys. There just weren't as many "out there" concepts like there were for Episode I. So there were no more baggies of swamp creatures, Queen Amidala fashion dolls, or statuettes that you paint yourself. There especially wasn't going to be any more edible Gungan tongues and multiple incarnations of Podracers. Lucasfilm and their partners were playing it more cautious than before.

We didn't even get a proper Attack of the Clones action figure line. Instead there was a catch all Star Wars Saga line that was only mostly focused on AOTC characters. Plus both it and the Revenge of the Sith toyline would feature lower prices and less high tech action features than Episode I. (Goodbye CommTech chips.) And while ROTS did usher in the return of fast food and candy tie-ins, it was still no match for the onslaught of The Phantom Menace. I don't think anything will ever come close to that again.

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