Billy Langsworthy heads to a galaxy far, far away to see how innovation in the licensed toy sector is alive and well.

EDITOR’S COMMENT: Feel the force

I felt a great disturbance in the Force last Friday.

But rather than it sounding as if millions of voices had suddenly cried out in terror, it instead sounded like the giddy squeals of Star Wars fans across the globe losing themselves to Force Friday.

Yes, we finally know the toy line-up for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it goes to prove once again that licensed toys are capable of boasting incredible innovation.

There was some great twists on classic toy brands, like the Chewie Nerf Bowcaster, some brill tech-based toys like the Millennium Falcon quad-copter and of course, the big one (and pricey to boot): Sphero’s BB-8.

Not only does the firm’s BB-8 look and sound great, it also boasts loads of tech under the hood/ball. It can recognise and react to your voice and allows users to record and view virtual holographic videos.

Sphero also claims that BB-8 boasts a unique attitude with actions that evolve as consumers interact with it more over time.

Proof, if needed, that the licensed toy market boasts as much innovation as any other sector, so long as the brand in question lends itself to it.

I was just a twinkle in the milkman’s eye back in 1977, so my first taste of Star Wars craziness was with the prequel trilogy.

I was eight when The Phantom Menace hit cinemas and my first experience of the brand was playing the video game on PlayStation. I still remember slicing Jar-Jar Binks in half (a moment captured at the 5:13 mark in this clip), and this was before I knew how widely despised the character was.

But, despite the iffy nature of the prequel trilogy (I do like Revenge of the Sith), they did give us some cracking toys, some sporting the same level of innovation as Sphero’s BB-8.

I mean check out this remarkably complex electronic Jar-Jar Binks Pez dispenser. It’s enough to make even the most passionate Binks-hater feel a pang of warmth for the comedic Gungan.

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