Star Wars Blade Builders: Spin Action Lightsaber

Lightsabers have vastly improved from the Force Beams of my youth.

Star Wars The Force Beam advert

These were translucent plastic tubes fixed on the end of a red plastic torch with a piece of coloured plastic over the bulb. They only came in Green and Red (despite there being no green sabers until Return of the Jedi), and weren’t even licensed – yet they were so brazen that they not only mentioned Star Wars in their advertising – this ad was on the back of UK Star Wars comics.

Modern lightsaber toys are a much improved product. They have authentic hilts, retractable blades, and flashing lights with saber crackling sounds.

The simple pleasures of these toys are not enough for Hasbro (these toys are also properly licensed now), who have introduced the Blade Builders range, where saber toys can be joined together in increasingly complex and unwieldily forms.

This is the Star Wars BladeBuilders Spin-Action Lightsaber set.

Star Wars BladeBuilders Spin-Action Lightsaber

It features a full sized lightsaber toy, a ‘dagger’, two ‘elbow’ joints, and a spinning hilt.

The aim is to basically enable the owner to create their own bizarre Lightsaber configurations. Our daughter is lucky enough to have a few saber toys with the required ‘Blade Builder’ joints, so she put them together. The results were rather difficult for her to manage.

Still, she had fun putting it together and trying to use it. But to be honest, nothing really compares to the joy of staging lightsaber fights of crashing blades with the basic interactive sabers – and trying to do that with one of these contraptions is difficult at best.

As a set, it’s good to have for the extra saber toy, and the light up dagger is nice to. The spinning hilt connector (as seen on Star Wars Rebels) is tricky for a kid to use without the potential for smashed ornaments (well, in a house as compact as ours) but perhaps in a bigger space it would be ok.

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Disclosure: Hasbro sent us this product for the purposes of this review

Our Star Wars Day Hallmark haul

Star Wars Day – May the 4th (be with you) – has become an annual celebration of all things Star Wars. It has also become a day for many of the licensees to promote their own Star Wars products – and we were fortunate enough to receive from Hallmark UK & Ireland a substantial haul of what seems to amount to pretty much every Star Wars product they make!

As a greetings card company, many of these were cards – but like many manufacturers in the gift business they also had some plush toys as well – both little and large. Very large…

Here’s a rundown of the highlights of our haul.

Star Wars Itty Bitty (standard size)

Hallmark Itty Bittys are cute little plush toys, and their Star Wars ones have lots of different characters – from cute Ewoks to fierce bounty hunters. All the main characters are there too. Especially cute was the Han and Leia double pack, on a Millennium Falcon cockpit card backing.

Darth Vader Itty Bitty (Jumbo)

Hallmark told me they were going to include a jumbo Itty Bitty of Darth Vader. We have a few other large Itty Bittys (of Batman and Superman) that are just shy of a foot high, so I figured this would be the same. It isn’t.

This Darth Vader so-called ‘Itty Bitty’ is huge – 2 1/2 feet tall! It has an elasticated ‘belt’ with spaces to hold 6 normal sized Itty Bittys – which looks quite sinister, as if Vader is collecting people as trophies.

Jumbo Vader is now (much to my wife’s displeasure) an established addition to our daughter’s room. She says Vader is standing guard, protecting her against monsters.

Star Wars Greetings cards

We got  dozens of different Star Wars greetings cards, which will keep us in good stead for many birthdays of friends and families to come. My favourite is this Yoda one, which has a push out Yoda for the recipient to assemble.

Star Wars Gift Bags 

There were also a variety of gift bags, which again will come in handy come gift giving times ahead. However, my favourite was this one featuring classic imagery from the Star Wars Marvel comics of my youth – so I may hang onto this one.

Miscellaneous

This was a curious one – a Darth Vader bottle shroud. It’s a cardboard cutout to turn your bottle of booze into the Sith lord.

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Disclosure: As this article details, we were sent these items free of charge by Hallmark UK & Ireland.

 

The original Star Wars trilogy novelisations

Was Star Wars a book before it was a movie? Yes it was.

Well, kind of. Star Wars, a book by George Lucas, was published in America in 1976. The movie was released in 1977.

But as I’m sure you know, the movie was not based on this book – it was a novelisation of the movie. In fact, it was not even written by Lucas, but ghost written by Alan Dean Foster. He was also the author (credited this time) of the very first Star Wars sequel, Splinter of the Minds Eye.

When I was a child, these novelisations were one of the key ways I engaged with Star Wars movies after seeing them at the cinema. As I look back, it seems amazing that I managed to remain interested in the movies. I’m pretty sure my daughter has seen the original Star Wars trilogy more times at age 5 than I did in my entire childhood. There was no way to watch at home on TV (although there were some 8 minute super-8 film versions for those few who had a projector). We saw the movies at the cinema. That was it.

But that wasn’t enough. So we found other ways to revisit the galaxy far, far away. I played with the toys. I read the comics. And I poured over the novelisations of the movies, which have all been re-published.

Reading them is to remember a time when my fandom was born. The exciting thing about the first book – which I read years after the movie came out – were expanded elements of the story that were ultimately cut like Luke and Biggs friendship and Solo meeting Jabba. Elements of these were reinstated in the special editions.

The Empire Strikes Back novelisation was written by Donald F. Glut, a fellow former film school student like George Lucas. He was a writer who’s credit I saw a few more times in my childhood, on some Spider-Man cartoons and various comics. As these Star Wars books were based on screenplays, and not finished movies, even differences in classic dialogue stands out. For instance, no “I love you,”, “I know.” exchange here, as that was ad-libbed by Ford on set.

Return of the Jedi (by James Kahn) was a book I clearly recall  reading before I saw the movie. So, the big revelation of Luke and Leia’s relationship was one I experienced not in the movies, but with my nose in a book at home. This book was also the first time I read how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader – here there is mention of a duel between Obi Wan and Anakin, which ended with Luke’s father falling into lava. My 11-year-old self was pleased that this was later reflected in Revenge of the Sith twenty years later.

These books are now available in a paperback omnibus, and in addition the adaptation of Star Wars has also been re-released in a hardback 40th anniversary edition, featuring the best and most iconic Star Wars poster of all by the Brothers Hillderbrant.

Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope: Official 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition has an RRP of £16.99. Star Wars: Original Trilogy has an RRP of £12.99.

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I was sent copies of these books for the purposes of this review.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Electronic Music Mix Star-Lord toy

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy returned to the big screen in Vol. 2, and so did a slew of new merchandise – including this Guardians of the Galaxy Electronic Music Mix Star-Lord toy. Continue reading Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Electronic Music Mix Star-Lord toy

LEGO Friends – Emma’s Photo Studio, Mia’s Beach Scooter, Stephanie’s Friendship Cakes

My daughter was sent a trio of LEGO Friends products to try out – Mia’s Beach Scooter, Emma’s Photo Studio, and Stephanie’s Friendship Cakes.

I’ve not been the biggest fan of LEGO Friends in the past, but have been impressed with how the brand has broadened the type of sets they offer.

Previously, it was mainly passive themes of spas and the like, but now there are more active themes, with more complex building required. Pink & pastels remain dominant colours though.

These three sets kind of fit the more active label, but it is a little bit of a stretch overall.

LEGO Friends Emma’s Photo Studio (41305)LEGO Friends 41305 Emma's Photo Studio Building Toy  

Emma has her own photo studio, and appears to like taking pictures of cats. But her studio is well equipped with an SLR camera, lights, props, and some kind of printer. She also seems to have an accessory table for the cat, with a bow, flowers, and even a tiara!

As a theme this is kind of a mixed bag – there are many stereotypically girly elements, however the set is about someone being a photographer, and taking their craft seriously – even it is is mostly about cats!

LEGO Friends Mia’s Beach Scooter (41306)

LEGO Friends 41306 Mia's Beach Scooter Building Toy

This was my favourite set. Mia seems to be a lifeguard, or perhaps she just likes hanging out by the lifeguard station. Either way, she also has a scooter with a sidecar for her dog (a pug?), and a surfboard. There is another surfboard on the lookout chair, which also has binoculars and flippers.

This is a nice active theme, with some quirky details – like the dog having sunglasses!

LEGO Friends Stephanie’s Friendship Cakes (41308) 

LEGO Friends 41308 Stephanie's Friendship Cakes Building Toy

This is probably the most traditionally ‘LEGO Friends’ set of them all, but it is also an active theme of Stephanie baking in a pretty well equipped kitchen.

Again, the cake/baking theme is stereotypically girly, but it is an inventively put together kitchen, with mixer, stove, fridge, and other culinary elements.

Verdict?

These are on the cusp for me, as they are either on – or even the wrong side – of playing up to gender stereotypes. However, there’s a nice range of themes and it could clearly be a lot worse.

Our daughter really liked them – and was at pains to tell me that these are for boys as well as girls. She’s obviously been paying attention to me.

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All three sets have an RRP of £8.99. We were sent them free of charge for the purposes of this review.