Star Wars Episode II: Preview Wave (2001)

Star Wars Episode III’ve been going out of my way to not go out of my way to learn too much about Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones. I have seen the trailers, but I’ve been staying right away from the spoiler-heavy fan sites. This time, I want to find out in the theater.

Once again, however, I have succumbed to the urge to buy Hasbro’s “sneak preview” figures. Whereas last time we got Mace Windu in the mail with an appropriate number of proofs of purchase and receipts, this time we get four new characters slyly released on the current “Power Of The Jedi” packaging (though those actual words are conspicuous by their absence) in retail stores everywhere.

By the way, if you’re trying not to be spoiled about anything, best to hit the back button now. I honestly don’t know any more than what the trailers have told us about the part these characters play in the film; indeed, I suspect that at least two of these figures represent characters that will turn out to be Aurra Sing-like three-seconds-of-film wonders; blink and you’ll miss ’em. But if you just don’t want to know what they look like, read no further.

These are the last Star Wars action figures to be featured on the green backgrounded blister cards that have been seen since 1996. In May, more new Episode II characters, as well as a few classic trilogy and Episode I characters, will appear on a new blister card design with a starry blue background and a generic Star Wars logo design hearkening back to the packaging of Kenner’s original figures from the first movie. Hasbro is referring to the new packaging design as the “Saga” series, and the huge blister bubble is also a sign of things to come.

Another new innovation being introduced with this preview wave is the bizarre new – and thankfully, removable – “laser blast” feature; basically, little transparent plastic starbursts can be attached to the characters’ weapons to simulate the “muzzle flash” when those guns are fired. Some collectors who display their figures may find that this looks incredibly silly, but fortunately, Hasbro has learned the lesson of the embarrassing, permanently-attached day-glo orange “phaser beams” of the Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation figures – these “laser bursts” (and, in the case of R3-T7, some kind of lightning not unlike that which violently shorted out R2-D2 in Return Of The Jedi) can be removed.

Now, you may remember the Mace Windu preview figure from Episode I differed from the version eventually sold in stores; the preview figure had no hood on his cloak (well, technically, it was sculpted onto the back of the cloak in a “folded-down” position), but the retail figure had a cloak that covered his head. These preview figures also feature some distinct differences to make them unique from the same characters that will later be released in the new, blue-backgrounded “Star Wars Saga” packaging. The Saga version of Zam Wesell will not have a veil covering her face, and the Clone Troopers released in the Saga packaging will have red “command” stripes on their armor. We’re not quite sure what will differentiate the preview and Saga versions of Jango Fett, and it appears as though R3-T7 is available only as a preview figure; it’s already the hardest one to find.

Habsro Star Wars Jango Fett (preview) Hasbro Star Wars Jango Fett (preview)
Jango Fett (sneak preview variation).

Hasbro Star Wars Clone Trooper (preview) Hasbro Star Wars Clone Trooper (preview)
Clone Trooper (sneak preview variation).

Hasbro Star Wars Zam Wesell (preview) Hasbro Star Wars Zam Wesell (prototype)
Zam Wesell (sneak preview variation).

Hasbro Star Wars R3-T7 Hasbro Star Wars R3-T7
R3-T7 (sneak preview variation).

Hasbro Star Wars Episode II sneak preview cardback