Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while, but I just got back from a well need vacation with Mrs. Nostalgia from the one place we’ve always vacationed at since we began dating: Walt Disney World. We had a great time, and while there, I saw some cool pictures of “merged character” toys that I thought I would share with you. What are “merged character” toys you ask? Well, it’s what I like to call toys that Disney makes when they take their classic characters and mix them into a different franchise.
Walt Disney World has long since been doing this I guess when they began doing Star Wars Weekends, at least, that is the first time I first saw it. I have, for instance, from 2005, a Mickey Mouse plush as Darth Vader that has on one foot the year 2005 and on the other Star Wars Weekends. The very first Star Wars Weekend was in the Spring of 2000, and back then it was more exclusive merchandise, but slowly but surely, as they did more of these, they began to get creative with their merchandise, and begin the merging of the two.
That isn’t to say Star Wars, or other George Lucas properties, weren’t around Walt Disney World before they started doing their Star Wars Weekends. In fact, they were there long before they even started Star Wars Weekends. Star Tours first opened in Walt Disney World’s Disney -MGM Studios in 1989 on December 15th. It had a nice little store called Endor Vendors that sold exclusive Star Tours merchandise, had a replica Ewok Village outside the ride as well as a replica At-At. (While changes were made to some of the outside of the building and the store changed names, thankfully the At-At and Ewok Village remain to this day. I’m an original trilogy kind of guy, and would hate to see that stuff go like Bantha toots).
Indiana Jones also resides in Disney- MGM Studios (the park is now called Disney Hollywood Studios) with it’s Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular that first opened on August 25th, 1989, and recreates the stunts from my personal favorite Indy film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. A store just outside the stunt show sold exclusive Indy merchandise and still does to this day.
(While the Endor Vendors and Indy stores sold exclusive merchandise themed to the attractions, they also sold merchandise that you could find back in the day in the magazine Lucasfilm Ltd. That magazine had a great selection of merchandise, some of which you could have found in Disney, or ordered from the magazine itself. The magazine went on to become The Star Wars Insider, lost the merchandise ordering, and has since lost all the special qualities that made Lucasfilm Ltd. the great magazine that it once was.)
George Lucas also left his presence in Epcot when he Executive Produced the Michael Jackson 3-D show Captain EO,directed by long time friend of Lucas Francis Ford Coppola. This was shown in Journey into Imagination and opened on September 12th, 1986. Lucas was also involved with a great show in Tomorrowland in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom called the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter that opened on June 20th, 1995. (This attraction was sadly closed and refurbished to be less intense and become Stitch’s Great Escape, starring experiment 626 from the Disney film Lilo and Stitch.)
But as the years went by, Disney didn’t just continue to release the same old merchandise year after year, they began to branch out, for example selling the droids from the Star Tours rides, or making a wave of new Indiana Jones figures, toys that could only be found in the park. Soon though, the character merging began, and before you knew it, toys of Mickey as Luke Skywalker, Minnie as Princess Leia, Donald as Han Solo, and Goofy as both Chewbacca and Darth Vader were made. (I always thought Goofy made a better Chewie personally than a Vader. In my opinion, Vader should have went to long time Mickey villain Pete, sometimes known as Peg Leg Pete, who first gave Mickey trouble in Mickey’s first ever animated short Steamboat Willie. But Pete has been cast as Boba Fett.)
Soon action figures, pins, posters, even pop corn buckets shaped like R2-D2 were being made. You could get your picture taken with a Jedi Mickey or Princess Leia Minnie, and Vader Goofy would walk down Hollywood Blvd all at Star Wars Weekends. All part of the “character merging” that I mentioned above. So, on this vacation, I thought I would take some pictures of some of the toys I found really cool and share them with you, my faithful readers. I hope you enjoy the shots, and remember, this is just a small sampling of what Walt Disney World has to offer. There was tons more I didn’t even take pictures of, since I focused just on the Star Wars Original Trilogy, and a few other surprises along the way.