If you notice Imperial Stormtroopers, Jedi knights and bounty hunters congregating around toy shops, don’t worry. It’s not a rip in space-time linking us to a galaxy far, far away … it’s just Force Friday.
The first tie-in products from Star Wars: the Force Awakens, the latest instalment of the sci-fi saga, went on sale in stores around the world from just before midnight BST on Thursday.
Fans of the film series could watch from the comfort of their homes as the whole global event was being live-streamed from Sydney to San Francisco in an 18-hour toy-unboxing marathon.
The rollout is part of a huge merchandising effort by Disney, which now owns the Star Wars franchise, and its toymaker partners, ahead of the December release of The Force Awakens.
The seventh Star Wars film brings back original 1977 cast members Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.
New lightsabers, Lego models, action figures and spaceships are going on sale, but the biggest demand is expected to be for the tennis ball-sized BB-8 rolling robot, the new film’s R2-D2 equivalent, which can move independently or be controlled via Bluetooth from an iPhone or Android smartphone.
The app has an augmented reality function that shows BB-8 projecting holograms on to your living room floor. You can even make a recording with the smartphone camera. It was already trending on Twitter on Thursday, hours before toy shops opened in Europe or the US.
In further evidence of how far toy technology has come since the first plastic, static and now highly collectible Star Wars toys came out in the late 1970s, the Millennium Falcon and X-Wing toys both now actually fly – having been re-imagined as remote-controlled, toughened polystyrene drones.
The live stream, which taps into the popularity of online toy unboxing videos, began in Sydney at 7.45am local time on Thursday (10.45pm on Wednesday BST).
Hosted on the official Star Wars YouTube channel, it gradually switched location westwards as the sun rose across the globe before a grand finale in San Francisco.
As the minutes ticked down to the start of the sale of the toys, fans eager to be the first to get their hands on them thronged early-opening stores in Australia and Japan.
Matthew Jones, who was at a Target store in Sydney, told Reuters: “We’re the first ones actually in the world to get our hands on it, so what can be better than that?
“They’re new Star Wars toys, they’re the first ones on the world – you just can’t beat it.”
This article was written by Damien Gayle, for theguardian.com on Friday 4th September 2015 00.22 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010