Every few years, Star Wars has its own toy holiday. It’s a day for fans to buy merchandise for a movie they haven’t seen yet ” and a day collectors prepare for like it was a final exam. I’m talking, of course, about Force Friday, when Disney releases the first wave of merchandise for its next Star Wars movie.
This year is different though. Not only is The Rise of Skywalker opening in theatres, but The Mandalorian will soon arrive on Disney+, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is coming to video game systems. The three new properties turned this year into Triple Force Friday, which was also fitting as this is the third Force Friday of the Disney Star Wars era.
And those two years of experience came in handy this year, as Triple Force Friday was a rousing personal success.
You can read my previous Force Friday recaps 2017 went much smoother. But this year? This year was a cakewalk, mostly because of what I learned from those two experiences. Here’s what went down.
First things first. Earlier this year, I moved to a new neighbourhood, which meant I was dealing with all-new toy buying locations. Targets are the easiest, uh., targets ” and because the chain wasn’t doing midnight openings this year, I decided on that.
My plan was to head to the closest one around 6:00am before the 8:00am store opening. I’d never been to any of the area Targets before, so my wife and I took a little scouting trip on Thursday evening. We settled on a location in Van Nuys, CA that happened to have two entrances, with a three-level parking structure. Not ideal for toy buying purposes because the question of where to line up is an issue. But, after parking on the top level and realising that’s also where the toys were, we figured that would be the best bet. Inside, we also saw that set up had begun.
As you can see, there was already a Rise of Skywalker set-up with specific pegs and even a few Funko Pops on display. I would have grabbed them, but normally the Target computers won’t sell toys that aren’t technically supposed to be available yet. Instead, I continued to walk around and found that the more traditional action figure aisle also had some ready-to-be-filled Star Wars pegs. I knew these two sections would be my main stops in the morning.
That was settled. I had a plan of action for the morning. But, as a true West Coast Force Friday veteran, I knew much of the action happened long before stores opened. It started at 9:00pm local time when many of the online stores put their merchandise up. So I logged on and began a little pregaming.
Amazon put most of its Force Friday items up right on time and I was able to snag a 6-inch Black Series Mandalorian and 3.75-inch Zorii Bliss. Oh, I guess I should say, the Mandalorian and Zorii Bliss were my main targets this year. In my opinion, those were coolest looking figures from two new properties. I’m not as much into the Fallen Order stuff, not until I play the game at least.
A few minutes later, Hasbro updated its website and I picked up the Black Series Rey and Kylo Ren from The Rise of Skywalker. I wasn’t planning on doing that, but I was feeling confident and they’re the main characters. How could I not?
Meanwhile, I had been continually refreshing Target to no avail. You see, this year, in addition to the traditional Hasbro Black Series figures, there are two alternate packages. There are the white “First Editions” and the “Carbonized” ones. First Editions are available everywhere, while the “Carbonized” ” limited to only four characters ” were each exclusive to a specific store. And Target, luckily for me, had the best of the bunch, the Mandalorian.
That was my #1 want in on Friday morning ” the reason I went to scout and why I was still refreshing Target after buying on Amazon and Hasbro.
Thinking about those Carbonized figures though, I decided to go back to Amazon and pick up its exclusive one, a Sith Trooper, just because it was still available. Maybe I could get all four? Then, a kind soul on Twitter told me the Wal-Mart Jet Trooper was available, so I picked that up online as well. Two down, two to go.
Meanwhile, I was still refreshing Target over and over. And also Twitter, hoping someone knew something I didn’t. That’s when a gentleman @ messaged me to say the Carbonized Mandalorian was available. However, when I tried to add it to my cart, it wasn’t working
“Items not added to your cart. Something went wrong, please try again.” And so I did, again and again, until finally the page changed and the figure was available! I quickly went to check out but suddenly realised if I had $60 in my cart, I got $15 back, so I added two more items. Unfortunately, by that time, the figure had sold out.
Which, you know, sucked. But it wasn’t the end of the world. I still had the morning. So I shut down and started to watch TV. And yet, I had this feeling like maybe I should keep an eye on the site. I did and around 10:15pm, the figure came back in stock, not just online, but for in-store pick-up. That was too good to be true. I ordered one for my store and sat there in shock. Surely, it wasn’t going to be that easy. (“Easy” as in, refreshing multiple webpages for an hour and a half.)
However, with all those purchases under my belt, I went to bed with a different mindset. No longer did I feel I needed to be at Target at 6:00am as originally planned. Now I’d get up at 7:00am and casually roll over there just to check out the action. And off to dreamland I went.
When I pulled into the Van Nuys Target 30 minutes before opening, no one was lined up on the first floor, which made sense because the toys weren’t on that floor. I then drove up to the top floor and, sure enough, seven people were already waiting. My people. Star Wars toy people. I got in line.
The people in line talked about what they were there for: Carbonized Mandalorian, of course. A Target exclusive mystery box. Standard Black Series and Vintage Collection toys. By the time Target opened its doors, there were about 13 people in line ready to make a dash to Star Wars toy glory.
Surprisingly, the entrance was civil. Everyone stayed in line as we walked back toward the toy section. Then, it happened. The first group of people in line stopped at a mid-store display that had a few figures on it. The people behind them stopped too. They started to pick the display apart, but I knew better. I was there last night. I knew there was a bigger display on the other side of the store.
And so I walked there and was the first person to arrive and see multiple Carbonized Mandalorians on the shelf, along with several other limited items. I grabbed a Carbonized Mandalorian Black Series as well as a First Edition. I could have had other figures too, but these were the ones I wanted and I still wasn’t sure about the one I ordered online. That still seemed too good to be true and worst case, now I had a back-up.
As this happened, I didn’t notice the six or so people that followed behind me, many of whom grunted in disappointment when they saw the Carbonized figures disappear in front of their eyes. They continued to look when I, again, made a move. From the previous night, I knew there was a third section of toys. And there, at that third section, were not just more Black Series, but Vintage Collection and two more Carbonized Mandalorians. I grabbed them both.
No, I’m not that guy. Instead, I grabbed them both and walked back to that group of people behind me. I found the two people who were right behind me and handed them to them. “Oh my god bro, thank you so much,” one said. I smiled. Good deed for the day done.
One thing that was missing though… the Funko Pops. Where were the Funko Pops? That was my thing and, frankly, I wanted the D-O and Zorii Bliss. I walked back to that first stand and, sitting there on top? Funko Pops. Not decimated but plentiful. No D-O but I grabbed the Zorii and began to check out.
Just then, I got an email. My Carbonized Mandalorian was ready for pick up. And, as a reward for being so freaking prepared, I went and grabbed that downstairs too. One to stock, one to rock.
Talking to other friends, it seemed like the Triple Force Friday went about as well as can be expected. Some stores sold out of stuff quickly. Others didn’t stock anything and had lines of people waiting for no merchandise at all. And in the UK (according to our very own James Whitbrook) it was an utter shitshow online, with some retailers all but ignoring the event. Everyone has their own experience and I’m fortunate mine went as well as it did. But certainly, that isn’t everyone’s story.
Without a doubt though, 2019 was not as busy as 2017, which was not as busy as 2015. Star Wars mega hype isn’t what it is then and, frankly, it may never be at that level again. But for collectors who take it seriously, enjoy the hunt, and don’t want the world to burn when things don’t work out, it felt like another successful event. The last one for a long time, too, since the next Star Wars movie won’t be out until 2022.
When I got home from Target, I sat down to write this very article and decided, “Hell, I got the three of the Carbonites, let me check on the fourth.” And sure enough, there on the GameStop website was the fourth and final one, the Second Sister from Fallen Order. So I ordered it, completing a collection of the hardest to find, most sought-after exclusives from the day. Not a bad postscript.