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Upon first entering the Hasbro Cantina-themed Star Wars booth at the 2001 International Toy Fair, your initial reaction may be to ask "is this it?" However, what Hasbro has to offer in detail and diversity more than make up for the limited number of figures being released. In this, an off movie year, Hasbro's focus for the 2001 line is directed towards proven winners and characters aimed at pleasing collectors of all ages.
Action figures are the name of the game, both twelve-inch and three and three-quarter, with a healthy balance of core characters along side some great aliens and troops. Traditional standards such as Luke X-wing Pilot, Sandtrooper, and Lando Calrissian will get a fresh, updated look, while fan favorites Ketwol, Tessek, and Bespin Guard will at last see their first carded release in a modern Star Wars line. Phantom Menace favorites Aurra Sing, Saesee Tiin, Sabe, and Tatooine Jar Jar bring the action of Episode I to the line with lead characters Darth Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Qui-Gon Jinn making appearances as we've never seen them before.
Not shown at Toy Fair, but on track for late 2001, collectors can look forward to a Shmi Skywalker, Darth Vader Battle Damaged, and Han Solo Death Star Escape. On close inspection, these figures appear very hard to beat - reaching for a level of excellence unlike anything Hasbro has done before.
Because the focus this year is on the collector, Hasbro has gone to great lengths to bring more realism to the Power of the Jedi line. This is best seen in the new Chewbacca Mechanic figure, just now showing up at retail. For the first time, a Chewbacca figure is being offered in scale, standing over four inches tall and towering above his companions. Likewise, the new Leia Bespin Escape has been scaled down to better represent the characters actual size in relation to other action figures. This, combined with the painstaking detail going into the sculpts, makes 2001 a fantastic year for kids and collectors alike.
This year Hasbro was also showing off the next Action Collection assortment. Based on characters from A New Hope, Han Trash Compactor, Death Star Droid, and Death Star Commander are due to hit retail later this year. Twelve-inch fans can also expect this year to bring them a terrific Death Star Commander that will come with both removable helmet and cape.
Following up the Episode I Palm Talkers from TOMY, Hasbro will releases an assortment of the deformed talking figures domestically for the first time. No bigger than the palm of your hand (hence the name), these little guys offer a popular Japanese styling to some of the sagas greatest characters.
2001 also marks the return of the Expanded Universe. This time out Hasbro turns some of the key characters from Episode I over to the EU-side. Darth Maul Sith Apprentice, a figure based on the Art of Star Wars concept designs, looks most impressive up close. The comic book inspired Cold Training Obi-Wan features some great details such as cleats, quilted headgear, and survival pack. Jedi Training Qui-Gon, also based on pre-production art, offers the same impressive level of detail, wrapped in a very cool looking outfit. Due out later this year, a Deluxe Darth Maul will give fans the mighty Sith Lord just as he appeared in the Dark Horse Comic. In addition, what was originally to be five figures has now been narrowed down to four. Jedi Training Obi-Wan, similar to the Training Qui-Gon, has been dropped from the line indefinitely.
Jedi Council Member Saesee Tiin and Queen Amidala Theed Invasion will be leading the charge later this month. Last year's shinning stars Jar Jar Binks Tatooine (tongue and all) and Sabe will at long last be made available at retail. Coming for the first time since the early 80's, is Tessek, better known as "Squidhead". Tessek brings a classic Return of the Jedi character to life with suction-cup fingers and nicely detailed head sculpt. Sporting a blaster and working holster, this is one collector favorite long overdue and well worth the wait.
For the first time anywhere, Ketwol from the Special Edition version of A New Hope brings not only a great sculpt, but a terrific little surprise under the trunk (according to Star Wars lore, Ketwol uses mechanical extensions to compensate for his, ah, shortcomings).
Utilizing one of the best R2-D2 sculpts produced, Hasbro has put together the first Imperial Astromech. Donning a jet-black Imperial deco, this little droid comes with a nifty holographic Death Star II and stand. Rounding out Collection 2 at Toy Fair, Lando Calrissian, looking very dapper in a two-sided cloth cape and much improved sculpt, and a Bespin Guard featuring a two piece uniform, working holster with blaster, baton, and restraining cuffs.
Looking toward the future, and Episode II, Hasbro proudly displays the end results of Gentle Giants Real Scan Technology. Using sophisticated computer imaging, Hasbro will forever change the face (so to speak) of Star Wars toys, as high-levels of accuracy and attention to detail become easier to achieve. While the sculptures on display here at Toy Fair are only just a sample of what's to come, it's clear 2002 will only get better - and after seeing what we have in store for 2001, that will be quite an achievement!