11:15 pm EDT, September 4, 2015

‘Star Wars’ Force Friday: I experienced the midnight madness

Plus, we review the best Force Awakens merchandise that's now available

Force Friday is here, and with it, the unveiling of a brand new generation of Star Wars merchandise. I was lucky enough to experience the excitement firsthand. Find out what it was like and what deserves your hard-earned Galactic Credits!

Last night, at approximately 9:30 p.m. Pacific, I found myself standing in line in front of the Apple Store on Stockton Street in San Francisco. I know what you’re thinking: A line in front of an Apple Store, how original, right? But this line wasn’t for the brand new iPhone or iPad; in fact, the line wasn’t for Apple at all, but for its neighbor, the Disney Store.

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If you would have told me on October 29, 2012 that, in a little under three-years’ time, I’d be queued up outside a Disney Store for two and a half hours, I would have been very confused, but after October 30, it would have all made sense. Disney acquired Lucasfilm for a very large sum of money, and three years later, thousands of people around the world found themselves waiting in line to help pay them back.

The turnout, while not surprising, was immensely satisfying. Fans of all ages, though unsurprisingly again, mostly 20-somethings and up, gathered outside the Disney Store, in some instances, over five hours early. Chanting the Imperial March and theorizing eagerly about the coming film, when the clock struck midnight, fans began streaming into the store, determined to snag their most anticipated loot. After, many left with bags packed to the brim, in some cases, having spent more than $500 dollars.

This is fandom.

Check out photos from the Disney Store’s Force Friday event below, followed by our seven coolest Force Friday releases!

7. Journey to ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ novels

Star-Wars-Novels

Yeah, yeah, we’ll get to the toys, but we can’t just overlook the announcement of 20 brand new Star Wars novels, leading up to the December 18 release of The Force Awakens. Novels such as Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath serve to bridge the gap between Episode VI and Episode VII for any fan who ever wondered just what happened after the Battle of Endor, besides the dancing Ewoks, of course. Oh, do we know about the dancing Ewoks.

6. Bladebuilders Jedi Master Lightsaber

Bladebuilder

Unlike many of my fellow Star Wars fans, I was unperturbed by Kylo Ren’s crossguard lightsaber in the first Force Awakens teaser. If an individual is tasked with creating his or her own lightsaber, chances are, they’re all going to look pretty different, re: Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber or Mace Windu’s purple lightsaber.

This new toy from Hasbro allows kids to do just that; design their own lightsaber in any way they see fit. The Bladebuilders Jedi Master Lightsaber encourages creativity, as any good Star Wars toy should, though I do hope not all the designs make it into the films. Some of them can get pretty crazy.

Bladebuilder2

5. NERF First Order Stormtrooper Deluxe Blaster

NERF

By now, everyone’s heard of NERF, a company known for making safe, kid-friendly shooters by using styrofoam projectiles. I have to admit, toy blasters that actually shoot things are pretty cool. As far as I know, when I was a kid, the only Stormtrooper blasters they made were ones that made the “pew” sound effect when you pulled the trigger. Come to think of it, that one was more realistic, as, just like a real Stormtrooper, you could never actually hit anything. One thing’s for sure, this toy brings a whole new meaning to the word nerf-herder.

4. Remote-controlled Millennium Falcon & X-Wing Starfighter

RC

Why is it that companies like Air Hogs waited until I was an adult to release toys this cool? These remote controlled drones are lightweight replicas of two of the most iconic ships in the galaxy far, far away. Built from durable, high-density foam, the Millennium Falcon uses quad rotors concealed within its body to take flight and boasts authentic lights and sounds, while the X-Wing uses ducted propellers and includes a very familiar droid. That’s right, R2-D2 himself. Become a smuggler or a member of the Rebel Alliance by picking up one of these drones today.

3. Elite series die cast action figures

Action

It wouldn’t be a new Star Wars movie if there weren’t some new action figures. The tradition of Star Wars action figures can be traced back to 1978 where the figures were so unprecedentedly popular, toy company Kenner had to sell certificates during the Holiday season, allowing fans to redeem the toys by mail.

With the release of the new Force Awakens toys, two new series of action figures have hit store shelves. The Black Series are more reminiscent of the original figures, while the Elite Series is the bigger, more detailed alternative.

I am partial to the latter for their weight, detailing and high level of articulation, though the human faces can look a bit silly. Characters with helmets look outstandingly like their movie counterparts, such as Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren.

Captain Phasma - Star Wars Elite Series Die Cast Action Figure

Captain Phasma elite series die cast action figure

Finn - Star Wars Elite Series Die Cast Action Figure

Finn elite series die cast action figure

2. ‘The Force Awakens’ LEGO sets

Lego-Sets

Ah, LEGO sets. Normally the crown jewel of any batch of new Star Wars toys, LEGO always knocks it out of the park with their contributions. LEGO has defined the new generation of Star Wars toys, starting with their first few sets in 1999 coinciding with the release of The Phantom Menace.

LEGO has also delivered with these three new sets. First on the list is Poe Dameron’s X-Wing fighter. Coming in at 717 pieces, this set is the smallest of the three and includes four mini figures, among them Poe himself and BB-8.

Poe's X-Wing Fighter Lego Set

Poe’s X-Wing Fighter LEGO set

Next comes in the shape of a First Order Transporter. Clocking in at 792 pieces, this set comes with seven mini figures, including Captain Phasma.

First Order Transporter Lego Set

First Order Transporter LEGO set

Coming in at 1005 pieces is Kylo Ren’s Command Shuttle. The ultimate LEGO set for any fan of the First Order, this set comes with six mini figures, including Kylo Ren and his crossguard lightsaber.

Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle Lego Set

Kylo Ren’s Command Shuttle LEGO set

And last but certainly not least, clocking in at a whopping 1329 pieces, coming with a total of 7 mini figures including BB-8, Finn, Rey, Chewbacca, and Han Solo, is the Millennium Falcon.

Millennium Falcon Lego Set

Millennium Falcon LEGO set

1. BB-8 Sphero

BB8_Charger_Connect_1_DriveScreen_Legal_FINAL_copy

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Sphero’s BB-8 is the number one coolest Force Friday release. This little droid has taken the world by storm ever since his first live appearance at this year’s Star Wars Celebration. First dividing fans, BB-8 rolled his way into our hearts when we realized he was a practical effect, and since finding out the technology it took to build him came from consumer robotics company Sphero, fans have been clamoring for a BB-8 of their very own.

Well, today that dream became a reality, and I can attest to how well the charming little droid actually works, having purchased one at the Disney Store last night. I was number 47 out of 65 people to walk away with a BB-8 Sphero, and I haven’t looked back since.

BB-8 Sphero

BB-8 Sphero

These are my seven coolest Force Friday releases. What are you most excited to get your hands on? Let us know in the comments below!

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