Special Report: Black Friday’s Midnight M-AT-AT-dness!

The fun of going on a toy run at midnight is nothing new for Star Wars fans, who have been enjoying Midnight Madness since the first toys from The Phantom Menace hit branches of the defunct Toys “R” Us chain on May 3rd, 1999.

So successful was this retailing event that it was repeated for subsequent Star Wars releases in 2002 (Attack of the Clones), 2005 (Revenge of the Sith) and 2008 (The Clone Wars), and continued on into the Sequel Trilogy/A Star Wars Story era (when it was rebranded Force Friday) – all the way up to 2019 for the October release of The Skywalker Saga merchandise in 2019.

Even though LEGO was an early adopter of the May The 4th Be With You celebrations, it was late to the party when it came to midnight openings to mark the release of special Star Wars sets.

The first to be held was for the launch of 75192 Millennium Falcon, and while LEGO stores around the world took part on September 14th, 2017, the Leicester Square store in London held a more-than-special event, with set designer Michael Lee Stockwell and Star Wars team lead Jens Kronvold Frederiksen in attendance. Oddly, the big launch event for the release of 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer, which also took place at the London store (as well as a number of LEGO branded stores) on September 16th, 2019, occurred at midday instead of midnight.

Having attended both of the previous Ultimate Collector Series set launches, Graham Hancock (Blocks Magazine editor and long-time LEGO Star Wars fan) completed the hat-trick by making it to – despite his best reservations – last Friday’s midnight launch of 75313 AT-AT on Black Friday 2021 (November 26th) eve.

Wrapped up snuggly in a donkey jacket and with a scarf around his neck, Graham faced a cold and wet London night to bring us his thoughts on the night’s happenings.

His story began the day before, on November 25th, when Graham visited the Leicester Square store to pick up his paper wristband of entry. Unlike previous launches where fans stood in line hoping to get in before the threshold was reached, the launch of 75313 AT-AT was conducted under COVID-19 restrictions.

In order to attend, fans had to collect a special wristband in advance to gain entry to the event, which ran from 00:01 to 02:00. This allowed for the purchase of one 75313 AT-AT, the receipt of one copy of the gift, and negated the need for any queuing.

This didn’t stop the handful of ardent collectors who wanted the privilege of being first through the doors, observed Graham, who noticed fans lining up the day before the wristbands were handed out. With only 200 wristbands being given out and the allure of the mystery gift that only those who made it to the event would receive, the competition was fierce and a small number of fans stayed out a further 36 hours to ensure their place in history.

An hour or so, on November 25th, before the midnight opening, fans began to line up outside the Leicester Square store to claim their place. Graham arrived around 00:40 and the queue was almost entirely inside the store, leaving him to wait outside with a handful of late-night/early-morning shoppers for a short time before he was ushered inside.

On entering the Graham was greeted by a member of the 501st Legion dressed in a First Order Snowtrooper costume, who was available for photos, and then guided upstairs to pay for his purchase of the Ultimate Collector Series AT-AT and collected his free 40483 Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber and goodie bag.

All photos courtesy of Graham Hancock/Blocks Magazine

Chief among the freebies Included in the bag of freebies was a certificate of authenticity signed by set designer Henrik Andersen commemorating the midnight purchase of the set. Graham noted that even though there were 200 wristbands given out for the event, his certificate – which was one of the last ones given out that night – was numbered 80, meaning that barely half of the sets allocated to the midnight event were sold.

Also included in the goodie bag was a bagged make & take Tantive IV mini model, a set of postcards from The Empire Strikes Back, a 20th anniversary Obi-Wan Kenobi minifigure in polybag, 40451 Tatooine Homestead as well as the seasonal (non-Star Wars) gift with purchase sets that were currently available.

Heading downstairs Graham stopped to say hello to a semi-socially distanced Anthony Daniels, who personalized his autographed still (made official by a Midnight Opening watermark) and a photo. Then he collected his UCS AT-AT and it was all over.

Stepping out into the cold and wet London night, arms full of swag, Graham called an Uber to transport him back to the warmth of his flat. While he waited he considered his experience.

“There was a nice buzz around the event, collectors were chatting to one another. For the most part, it felt like the people there were those who really did want the model rather than just looking to profit.”

Look out for the next issue of Blocks Magazine, due out at the start of January, which will have the full review of this latest addition to the Ultimate Collector Series in it.

Entertainment Earth

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