If you’ve been keeping up with things, you’ll likely remember that I just got back from a week long vacation. I went to the beach with my son and mom for a week…we stayed in one of those nice high-rise condos…oceanfront balcony, 3 outdoor and 1 indoor pool plus a jacuzzi, and it’s August so the water has had a couple of months to get warm. Now of course the point of going to the beach is to enjoy the sand and the waves…the breeze…the seafood…maybe a little bit of sightseeing, but being the fucking hunter that I am, you can’t drop me 3 hours away from home and not expect me to be at least mildly interested in the retail scene. I mean I know, it’s the beach, and not exactly a hotbed of retail activity, but I did have a pretty positive experience overall.
The closest real shopping centers to the condo were about 30 minutes away, and the only things of note were a Walmart and Kmart. The Walmart was pretty standard, but didn’t have anything eye-catching. The Kmart, well, it was just as sad as you’d expect – a fucking time machine back to 1994. We did make one cool find there: a Hot Wheels Starships Inquisitor’s TIE, which is pretty rare. Hasbro’s Titanium Series of the V1 TIE was everywhere but not that Hot Wheels version! But yeah that was it. Doesn’t look like this Kmart will be hanging around very much longer.
That was Sunday or Monday. I promised the kid we’d visit again near the end of the week since so much new stuff has been dropping, and when went back Friday, it was like night and day. The semi-annual “shelf-flip” had taken place! I’m not sure if this happens in other departments, but in the Toys section of retailers like Walmart and Target, every six months or so, they’ll “flip” their entire toy department. What was the “last” boy aisle becomes the first, and not only that, the stuff facing either other swaps. Walmarts, at least some of them, take it step further by actually flip-flopping the girls’ and boys’ sections. It’s a crazy time to visit a store, but not only does moving everything around give it a fresher, newer feel, it also allows them to more easily remove older production runs and make way for new ones.
Despite the rather dismal run we’d had earlier in the week, the shelves were chock full of new stuff. One particular thing that caught my eye was the familiar “Character Cars” label from Hot Wheels – what I spotted it on was even stranger…
BIG ASS STAR WARS CARS!!!
Check it out – these might be one of the first toys branded with the, “From the New Star Wars film” label…look just above the upper right corner of the bubble.
What are these? Well I may just be as confused as you. Dunno how or why these came about, but nonetheless, we’ve got 4 “new” vehicles, dubbed by Hot Wheels as “All Terrain Character Cars.” So far these seem to be the only 4 so far in existence: Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, BB-8, and First Order Stormtrooper. Since I first saw these I’ve been in a few other Walmarts, and what’s interesting is that, in the Walmarts that have carried them, they have these 4 and only these 4 (i.e. no duplicates) so it could conceivably be tough to get a hold of these…if indeed anyone is interested. (Taking a second to look over on eBay, there are a lot of these listed and the price range is pretty wild! This is because they’re new…if you really want these, just wait a little bit and the craziness will die down. There are dozens of listings up and these guys aren’t all going to be able to offload them for what they’re asking.)
These new vehicles are…interesting? I’m still not 100% sure what I’m looking at here. A cash grab from Hot Wheels / Mattel? Maybe, but Jesus, can’t I get a fucking Lando Calrissian car or maybe a 5-pack (or 3) from the damn prequel trilogy!?! I fucking hate Jar Jar as much as the next guy, but DAYUM we’ve got Biggs and Dirty R2 and Carbonite freakin’ Han Solo…and we can’t get a Bodhi or Mace or Qui Gon or someone friggin’ important!!?? Alright alright ok, this is a rant I’ve been on before so I’ma cool it, but I think it’s a reasonable point to make: why must we now “worry about” collecting these big ass All Terrain Character Cars when the core line has so many pivotal characters left to acknowledge? I get that there’s some strategy and monetary maneuvering to consider when planning releases, but c’mon, Rogue One is basically over and done with, and one of our main characters – Bodhi – is conspicuously excluded. And remember Finn? His poor ass was relegated to an almost unknown trackset that still remains relatively obscure and unknown to the larger and more casual Character Car fanbase.
Yeah I’m gettin’ a little bitchy – sorry. I’m just not sure I fathom what niche these All Terrain guys fill. The packages advertise “working suspension” replete with a little hole in the blister that allows you to push down on the vehicle and feel the give. They kinda remind me of the Monster Jam series which has almost seemed to flirt with the idea of “Character Trucks” from time to time. I guess what’s weird about them is that there’s nowhere for them to really fit in the existing schema of Star Wars Character Cars…not dissimilar from the Web-Launcher Spider-Man and Groot Hauler (even though ol’ Groot does kinda serve some sortta weird in-universe purpose…sortta). I guess Hot Wheels wants to appeal to larger crowd, and that’s cool, I just feel like there’s so (read: sooooooo) much more they could do with their regular ol’ 1:50 scale Character Cars. With so much ground to cover, from the X-Men to even more Spidey villains to even more Batman villains to the Fantastic 4 to the Captain Marvel family and just on and on and on and fucking on…
But ok. If we get down to brass tacks, these aren’t bad looking cars. I appreciate the diversity, and I guess it does as good of a job as it can of representing the series with 4 characters. Vader is especially impressive with his 6 wheels, and his larger size makes him rightfully imposing. The detail is sufficient, albeit a little on the cartoonish side. In fact, they remind me a lot of the Disney Racers line of Star Wars vehicles. You know, those special “character-ish” cars that Disney sells exclusively at their theme parks, whereby the car is a reflection of a certain character. They’ve actually covered some commendable ground that Hot Wheels hasn’t, but being that they’re only available at the parks, they’re a little pricey on the aftermarket. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just Google something like
disney racers star wars and you’ll see.
Anyway, here’s a little flavor text from the back of the All Terrain Character Cars. So far it’s all the same for all 4 cars, and each card lists the other 3, meaning that these 4 are probably all we’ve got for the time being.
Your favorite Star Wars Character Cars are taking it from the streets to any terrain in the galaxy. With an active suspension and larger tires, these reimagined vehicles are designed for off-road domination.
Navigating the sandy dunes of Tatooine while on a high-speed chase is no issue for these awesome racers. Encountering the enemy on the snowy fields of Hoth becomes an afterthought as you plow your way through a nasty blizzard.
Get ready for endless fun that knows no bounds!
Before finishing up I decided to quickly relieve them of their packaging and give ’em a quick roll. Not a lot to say here; of course the cars, er trucks, er whatever are of expected Hot Wheels quality. After handling them for a few minutes they definitely remind me of the Monster Jam series and Blaze and the Monster Machines to an extent. Overall they’re sturdy and well-made..and I guess if you like trucks that’s a plus?
Well that’s about it for now. What do you think of these new All Terrain Character Cars? Does it feel like it came outta left field? Does it seem “fair” that these are hitting shelves when we can’t get heavyweights like Padme and Lando? As far as I’m concerned, the jury’s still out.