February 12, 2007 1:13 PM PST

Desperately seeking 'Star Wars' at the Toy Fair

NEW YORK--Considering that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the original Star Wars, you'd think Darth Vader, Chewbacca and the rest of George Lucas' creations would feature prominently at the 2007 American International Toy Fair here.

But while the massive trade show, which takes up two floors at the cavernous Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, features heaps of movie, TV and comic book tie-ins from everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to Dora the Explorer, there's surprisingly not a whole lot of Star Wars. True, the last of the six films was released nearly two years ago, but anniversary fanfare is often enough to ramp up merchandising. It was all the more unusual because George Lucas himself had been inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame over the weekend.

Could it be that Star Wars memorabilia, a 30-year-old phenomenon, is geared toward grown-ups now?

Not only that, in September 2006 the original trilogy was re-released on DVD for a limited time, with two discs that contained both a remastered and original version of each of the three movies.

Star Wars isn't entirely absent from the Toy Fair, but most of the Lucas-inspired paraphernalia is geared toward adult model collectors rather than kids eager to re-enact a pod race or the final battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. A prime example is Attakus, a Montreal-based company that manufactures high-quality (and high-price) sculpture models that often feature movie, comic book or anime characters.

Star Wars models, including a 3-foot-long replica of Han Solo's Millennium Falcon spaceship, are on full display. But here's the catch: they really aren't toys. The delicate, expensive displays and 18-inch-tall figurines are geared toward grown-ups who happen to be massive Star Wars fans, rather than the younger set who'd actually want to play with them.

Aside from the Attakus models, the two most noticeable lines of Star Wars toys came from companies that have been stocking Lucasfilm tie-ins for years--Hasbro and Lego. Both manufacturers are keeping their collections of yet-to-be-released toys under heavy security, allowing media and analysts to take a look by appointment only.

Lego is continuing the Star Wars licensing deal it initially launched in 1999 amid the merchandising frenzy for the first of the series' prequels, and has now launched nine new building sets inspired by the characters and events of all six movies. Supplementing the display at the Toy Fair is a life-size Lego model of creator George Lucas' head, which had been presented to him at his Toy Industry Hall of Fame induction.

But in truth, Lego has focused more of its media hype on the SpongeBob Squarepants Lego line, a runaway hit in 2006 that has been expanded for this year, and the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Legos for the fifth installment of the blockbuster movie series based on the ubiquitous fantasy novels.

And in Hasbro's selection, the 30th anniversary Star Wars memorabilia took a noticeable back burner to the hot new toy tie-ins for the Transformers movie that comes out this summer. In fact, some of the Star Wars toys are actually mashups between the two sci-fi phenomena: Hasbro was hyping its Darth Vader Transformer, which can morph from the popular helmet-clad villain into his Death Star headquarters.

There are a number of 30th anniversary Star Wars specials, from a new spring-loaded light saber to a revamped lineup of 60 miniature figurines that come with commemorative coins. But like the Attakus figures, the Hasbro toys have the air of collection rather than recreation. Could it be that Star Wars memorabilia, a 30-year-old phenomenon, is geared toward grown-ups now?

Not necessarily. It could be easily explained by the fact that the Toy Fair, which lasts through Wednesday, did not showcase any video or PC games, DVDs or tie-in novels, and role-playing gear like costumes was kept to a minimum. So ultimately, despite the noticeably low profile of the Lucasfilm crowd, it's hard to make a final call on whether Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker have run their course as a kiddie phenomenon.

Perhaps the Star Wars universe just can't be defined by toys alone.

See more CNET content tagged:
Star Wars, Hasbro Inc., LEGO Co., toy, display


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geek alert
No, it is not the 30th ann. of A New Hope. It's the anniversary of STAR WARS. That bastard child A New Hope came much later in the revisionist history.
Not that I care either way. The original was groundbreaking for the time, but the saga as a whole and the recent trilogy was underwhelming in my opinion - high on effects, but pitifully vacant on plot and dialog. My 7 year old girl likes them though...
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
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It's the Prequels
If the prequels hadn't sucked so bad, the toys would still be flying off the shelves.
Posted by count0--2008 (38 comments )
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Toys in general appear to be fading due to the rise of electronics and video games. - Alan Safani
Posted by Alan Safani (2 comments )
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upcoming Star Wars toys
i've heard that most of the Star Wars toy makers are waiting till Star Wars: Celebration 4 the 30th anniversary Star Wars convention in LA on May 24 - 28 to release their new toys, a lot of them are still in the prototype stages pending approval from Lucasfilms. Hasbro already announced 60 new figures for this year in addition to expanding the current lines and new Holiday 2006 releases.
other licensee's Sideshow and Master Replicas are also announcing expanded lines and new high-end and midrange priced collectibles
Posted by onealtr (1 comment )
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