Here’s a somewhat embarrassing photo from 1999, just a few weeks before the eagerly-anticipated Star Wars: The Phantom Menace premiered in theaters. I was a TV news photographer and we were doing a live remote from a local Target store which just received the first shipment of Phantom Menace toys. I was overjoyed to be among the first nerds to be handling the figures. Looking back now, it’s kinda weird to me that this photo was even taken, considering that it wasn’t immediately going up on Facebook or Instagram. Posterity, I suppose.
Now mind you, I wasn’t allowed to purchase any of these figures. There was a hard street date release on these toys, and this Target wasn’t going to be open until 9am. Luckily, I had a backup plan. I hauled-ass back to work, parked my live truck, and then raced to the nearby Toys R’ Us, which happened to be holding a midnight release party.
Actually, it wasn’t so much a release party, as it was an opportunity for a mob of unruly toy collectors to trample each other in order to get a JarJar Binks action figure. I rolled up on the scene, where a line stretched around the store and met-up with my buddies from The WB, who got me in the store, just ahead of the line. The clock struck midnight, the doors flung open, and then it was complete mayhem for the next hour as all the Star Wars displays were stripped bare. I managed to snatch up a full set of action figures and went home deliriously happy.
The next morning in the clear light of day – I recall glancing over the figures thinking, “I reallydon’t think I’m that into this Star Wars movie” and returned all but Darth Maul to the store. The Force was definitely strong with me that day.