There are only two days left for our daily Research Droids Reviews column. I put together some words for you expressing my thankfulness and my appreciation for your consistency and your dedication as readers. And I go down some lanes of memory to recapture some important moments on how this column came to be and grew. I encourage you to click through and read my thoughts. Thank you!
I “grew up” Star Wars. My dad took my brother and me to see Return Of The Jedi in a rinky-dink theater in Freehold, NJ. We thought it was the experience of a lifetime. While I consistently got Star Wars figures for birthday and Christmas presents from 1979 onward, I remember that Christmas 1983 changed everything for me as far as becoming an avid Star Wars collector. Imagine being nine years old and waking up Christmas morning to find the Jabba The Hutt playset and the Ewok Village playset. Then I received figures to populate them including Luke Skywalker (Jedi Knight Outfit), Princess Leia Organa (Boushh Disguise), Gamorrean Guard, Emperor’s Royal Guard, Biker Scout, Chief Chirpa, Logray (Ewok Medicine Man), Rebel Commando, Ree-Yees, Squid Head, and Klaatu. And then imagine getting equally excited for action figures with less coolness like General Madine. I had the worst case of strep throat of my entire life that Christmas, but my new Return Of The Jedi collection helped me forget the extreme pain felt when swallowing, and the delirium felt from high fever. Yes, Star Wars held that healing magic power in its ‘hands’ for me.
1984 was another banner year. I don’t remember too many specifics, but I do recall going to Jamesway in Freehold, NJ, and begging my Mom to buy me the brand new 8D8 figure. She relented, but when we got back to the car, she told me to give it to her because it was going in my Easter basket. See, kids in the 80s didn’t get stuff because they existed. There were reasons we’d receive gifts. It was a much simpler time. As 1985 rolled around, my neighborhood friends moved onto other things. But the Star Wars fire burned strongly in me. When I caught wind of 14 new figures coming to the Kenner Star Wars collection, I couldn’t wait to buy them. On my 11th birthday, my Mom took me to Toys R Us in East Brunswick, NJ. I immediately ran to the Star Wars aisle. To my shock and uncontrollable excitement, I found thirteen new The Power Of The Force figures. I don’t recall if Anakin Skywalker was there, but if it was, I skipped it because I just acquired it through a mail-away promotion. My Mom asked me if I was sure I wanted to waste my birthday money on these figures. She said I was getting too old for action figures. (Ha! Little did she know!) I scooped them all up and took them to the register. When I got home, I opened them all up and memorized the bios on the coins, and then placed them in a box until I dug them up a decade later.
There were times between 1986 and 1994 that I mourned the death of the Star Wars toy line. I made futile trips to toy stores looking for any remaining merchandise. But I couldn’t find a single thing. I missed all of the Kay-Bee Toys Kenner clearances. I don’t remember them at all. But even if I did see them, I am confident my Mom wouldn’t let me repurchase anything I already owned. (Again, things were VERY different back then). I do remember getting a little lift in my step when I found a Bib Fortuna Bend’ems at Toys R Us once. But that feeling passed rather quickly. Star Wars almost left my mind ultimately by the time I graduated high school in 1992 and my first couple of years at Rutgers University. But I do remember sitting in a Theater Appreciation elective class with 600 other students when I found out that Kenner would be relaunching the toy line that summer of 1995. I was stoked. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize at that moment that the figures would be bulky and muscular. And in all honesty, I didn’t care that much when I saw them on store pegs. Star Wars collecting was back, and I couldn’t wait to find out what was in store for the future of the line.
I lived through searching high and low for “Monkey” Princess Leia Organa. I remember the urban legends with C-3PO. I remember that every new wave of figures was “rare” and “discontinued” and that I had to buy everything when I saw it in fear of never seeing it again. (I guess not much has changed today.) I remember Red cards. Green cards. Freeze Frame Action Slides. CommTech Chips. FlashBacks. Force Files. Display Stands. Mini Holographic Figures. Ultimate Galactic Hunt. Coins. (Again!) Build A Droid. The Clone Wars. And we all experienced the regeneration of the vintage Kenner line through The Original Trilogy Collection, The Saga Collection, and of course, The Vintage Collection. I lived through Hasbro’s worst. But I also lived through Hasbro’s best. And it was 2009 after I picked up the impossible to find at the time The Empire Strikes Back wave from The Legacy Collection. One figure grabbed my full attention, the Ugnaught. (Trivia: It’s the first RDR.) Love or hate Research Droids Reviews, you can thank the Ugnaught figure for creating the column. That sole figure created a passion for me to enter the world of writing reviews, something that was never easy for me, and something I’ve groomed and polished over the years. I am a math and science guy, English and history are two of my weakest skills.
Still, I slowly but confidently started the Research Droids Reviews column, and with almost instant results, began a following that has culminated over 25 million visits today across 4,018 daily reviews over 11 years. Did you catch that number? I can barely believe it. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for its regular visits today. It developed a following that included Sideshow Collectibles’ sculptors, Hasbro employees, Star Wars film actors, Star Wars voice actors, and a slew of other public figures. We have the comments to prove all that too. People seem to enjoy our database, and I can’t ask for anything more. Thank you for reading. Thank you for watching the quality uptick, and thank you for the many commenters here that are like evergreens. Your faithfulness doesn’t go unnoticed. (Also, thank you to all the new readers we consistently receive too.) In between those daily reviews, Jedi Temple Archives broke some of the most exciting Star Wars collecting news in the history of the hobby. We broke the news that revealed most of the goodies from 2010 (including the big AT-AT to mail-away offers). We sat under hot lamps with Hasbro’s lawyers. We were threatened with things from having our laptops subpoenaed to revealing our sources “or else.” (They were very trying times.) We created Special Reports that included Hasbro and other fan sites, biding the collecting galaxy together. I digress. I wouldn’t have changed anything. I wouldn’t take back anything.
After 11 seasons of Research Droids Reviews, I have decided to close this chapter. Back when I first started this column, my goal was to beat the number of figures featured in Adam Pawlus’ “Figure Of The Day” column. I did that a long time ago. (For the record, I adore Adam Pawlus to this day. He and Adam May were my sources of inspiration to get involved with a Star Wars fansite to write about Star Wars toys. My respect for both of them is incalculable and boundless.) For 11 years at straight, including weekends and holidays, I provided a daily Star Wars review, a feat that no one else has come close to achieving. Yes, I am proud of that. At the same time, and to no fault of our readers, it’s impossible to show and describe how much personal time gets expended for one review. It felt for years my life revolved around Jedi Temple Archives and the column. I am officially burned out. If you recall, I was going to close this column last May 24th, but the column was and is still huge, and I wanted to include the final episodic Star Wars film in the database before calling it quits. So, this is where we are.
I write all this to say thank you. The number of daily visits we get every day in the column astounds me. Our comment count varies dramatically, but the visits remain stable and consistent. So, again, thank you. I’ve appreciated all of the additional trivia I learned, the corrections, pictures of your collections and customs, and the attention you brought to my many typos.
I intentionally held back two, what I call “special,” pieces from The Power Of The Force “2” [FlashBack/CommTech] to officially close the column. They are the Cantina At Mos Eisley (With Sandtrooper & Patrol Droid) and Jabba’s Palace (With Han Solo In Carbonite) 3-D Display Diorama playsets. I remember as if it were yesterday getting a coupon for the Mos Eisley Cantina (Pop-Up Action Diorama) with my Spirit Of Obi-Wan mail-away figure and flipping out with delight. I was SO excited. When I received it, I knew that things were changing for the better in Kenner/Hasbro’s Star Wars action figure line. I knew that more diverse characters like background aliens would soon be entering the line. The playset’s attention to detail showed me that they had the potential to create some of the best things to go with the 3.75″ action figure line. They are two of my favorite products from the POTF2 range, and they both hold up well today, especially with the super-articulated action figures.
Things are quite different today, sadly, but all I can say is that I am SO THANKFUL for growing up Star Wars and living through the original Kenner toy line. I am also incredibly thankful for living through the long metamorphosis of the modern 3.75″ action figure line as well. We’ll never see the volume today that we did through 1995 and 2013. But at least I can say that my peers and I did live through something extraordinary. And it was spectacular. I can’t say that Star Wars collecting is remotely the same today. You know I am not a fan of the Sequel Trilogy, but in my opinion, things were better when Star Wars was a popular sub-culture, not a mainstream IP owned by Disney. If you don’t agree, then we’ll agree to disagree.
Anyway, PLEASE COME BACK tomorrow and the next day to check out the final two reviews. I spent a lot of time taking dioramic shots with action figures. I think you’ll enjoy them!
Au revoir, Research Droids Reviews. And thank you, Jedi Temple Archives readers!
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