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Video of Star Wars toys at Toys R Us on May 21, 1980
On May 21, 1980, the world was excited for the release of the next installment in the original Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back. The original film proved that the impact of the film was not just going to be in the theaters, but also in the toy stores. That is why reporter Peter Bannon was sent to a Toys R Us to interview the manager, some very excited customers, and of course a scene-stealing R2D2 toy.
The footage captures an exciting time in the release of the film and will bring back great memories to anyone who looks back fondly on the chain and its Star Wars displays. Based on the accents and the presence of Bannon, I do believe this was shot in the New York area. So very close to where I grew up which made it very extra special to me.
The footage starts with an interview with the Toys R Us store manager in front of an endcap filled with peg after peg of Star Wars figures. You just want to reach out and grab them by the armful. The gist of this interview and all that will follow is that the Star Wars toy phenomenon is not a fad. Instead, this is a real trend.
This manager is way ahead of the curve in his prediction that they can continue selling these toys as long as they keep putting out Star Wars films over the next 20 to 25 years. In addition to discussing the genius of Lucas, he also gives a lot of credit to Kenner for putting out a well-thought-out toy line, citing low returns and quick but steady sales as proof of the quality of the line.
It is great to get some firsthand accounting from a toy store on what was happening at the time. It might seem logical that when they re-released the original Star Wars in theaters before Empire’s release, that toy sales would go up then would flatten, but I like hearing it confirmed by someone who lived the experience. This manager has a cool demeanor, but you can sense his excitement over their potential sales.
After that interview, we cut to some B-Roll of shelf stocking. To tell you the truth, I could have just watched 25 minutes of this and been happy. You have stacks of the Cantina, The Droid Factory, The Death Star, Tie-Fighters and so much more.
They also had footage of one of my favorite things at a toy store, display models. The boxes would get my attention, but when they would put toys out that you could see and paw at? That would get me drooling.
The next interview is with a nice family who is very excited about Star Wars. The kids enjoy playing with the toys and I like the Mother’s practical approach to buying Star Wars toys.
She doesn’t buy the big ones with all the pieces but buys “the little ones” (figures) and the kids can use the couch and the coffee table as sets for them to play on. Also, look at all those large figures behind the kids.
They shoot some footage of the tall figures. Each one looks amazing. When they get to Boba Fett we see some space toy synergy as its next to the Buck Rogers Draconian Marauder.
The next interview is with another parent. She also mentions how durable the figures are and then gets a little confused about all the names, throwing 2XL in the mix. You know this footage is good when someone is standing in front of a giant display of Star Wars figures and is holding a Jaws Game.
Her son who gets interviewed next has only seen half of Star Wars on tape at a friend’s house and yet still loves the toys. Yes, they were just that amazing. I think almost all of us can relate to this shot of the kid staring at the endcap.
The next interview is either with a super cool dad who is at the store on release day to buy his son a toy OR he is secretly there to buy himself some toys and got caught on camera. Whichever the case, he has my respect and admiration as a parent and enthusiastic fan of Star Wars.
The final interview is with a kid who is claiming to be too old to be into Star Wars. I ain’t buying it.
He does have a great back and forth with Bannon as the hard-working reporter tries to steer the interview to get a good line out of the kid. For some reason, the kid wasn’t catching on.
Too old for Star Wars toys?
What follows is some filler shots. Mostly close-ups of the taller figures, but also some shots of the display models being swung through the air on fishing line. Then you see Bannon’s arm as he takes Star Wars toys and fills a cart.
I love the shots of the toys flying through the air. It appears that whoever is putting this segment together is really enjoying themselves.
The segment concludes with Bannon discussing how good sales of the figures were for the original film and how good they are expected to be for The Empire Strikes Back. He then gets completely upstaged by a toy Artoo repeatedly. It is a fitting end to a great segment.
Watch the 1980 Star Wars Toys R Us Footage
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I am not sure what Peter Bannon is up to nowadays. I did find a mention of his in an interview with Joan London about the film Anchor Man 2 and this kind of odd video that I believe was put together by Bannon himself.