In 1977, the biggest producer of “action figure” dolls was Mego. However, sales had been going down and the entire doll industry was dealing with the double-whammy of souring inflation and rising prices on plastic production (due to oil prices skyrocketing). Therefore, when Mego was offered the license to a new movie called Star Wars, the higher ups decided to pass. Ultimately, Kenner got the license and produced the figures with smaller pieces of plastic (presumably to reduce plastic costs). Kenner planned on getting the toys out some time in early 1978, but the company was shocked when Star Wars was such a huge hit that the Christmas 1977 season saw toy stores desperate for some sort of Star Wars toy to sell. So Kenner came up with a fairly clever plan. It pre-sold four figures together and parents would then wrap a piece of cardboard saying that the kids would have those four figures (including Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia) early in 1978. The rest of the line came out in 1978 and became one of the biggest toy licenses ever.
Since then, Star Wars-related toy merchandise has been huge. However, since the toy merchandise was under the control of George Lucas, he always tried to make sure that the toys would not spoil the upcoming films. That mostly held true for the original trilogy (Lucas didn’t pay as much attention to other tie-in merchandise), but with production of toys now hyped up months and months ahead of time, more spoilers have come out in the films released since. Here, then, are 15 times that Star Wars toys (and other Star Wars licensed merchandise) spoiled Star Wars movies.
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for The Last Jedi and other Star Wars films.
15. A REY OF HOPE FOR THE JEDI
Probably the biggest spoiler revealed by a Star Wars toy was the leaked release of the Rey action figure a week or so before the release of The Force Awakens. Up until that point, Rey’s role in the story was very much up for grabs. In fact, some fans speculated that Finn was going to play a larger role in the story than Rey. However, the release of her figure changed everyone’s mind.
Her figure came with a lightsaber, but not just any lightsaber. No, this was specifically the blue lightsaber used by Luke Skywalker in the first two Star Wars films, making it clear that Rey, if she was not going to become a Jedi, she was at least the character in the film most likely to become a Jedi.
14. SHOULDN’T BB-9E HAVE A GOATEE?
In the famous Star Trek episode that introduced the Mirror Universe, we met the evil versions of a number of Star Trek characters — the evil version of Mister Spock wore a goatee. This introduced the idea of the “evil goatee” to denote that someone was an evil doppelganger of the original character (Michael Knight’s evil twin on Knight Rider also had an evil goatee).
BB-9E does not have a goatee, but it is still effectively the evil twin of BB-8. The figure was leaked well in advance of The Last Jedi as part of a number of automated toys similar to the ones for BB-8 that were all the rage in 2015. In The Last Jedi, it is BB-9E who ruins Finn and Rose’s plan to destroy the tracking capabilities of the First Order.
13. HANDMAIDEN’S TALE
The interesting thing about the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, is that, besides Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (and Palpatine, to a lesser extent), the rest of the cast was filled with brand-new characters that we had never met before. Thus, just like with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the toys that were released before the movie became a big case of “figure out the clues before the film comes out.”
One significant plot detail that the toys ended up spoiling was the fact that Natalie Portman’s character, who we meet as Padme, one of the handmaidens to Queen Amidala, is, in fact, Queen Amidala herself in disguise. This is because they released a Padme action figure and a Queen Amidala action figure and both figures were clearly Natalie Portman (including her photo).
12. IN THIS FILM IS YODA
Of all of the spoilers on this list, this one might be the most misleading in terms of actually being a spoiler. You see, when the action figures for The Last Jedi were finally released, Yoda was among them. Since Yoda ended up being in the film, then that would certainly seem to suggest that it was a significant spoiler, right?
Well, the problem is that there was also an action figure for Obi-Wan Kenobi, specifically the older version of the character (as played by the late Alec Guinness) and Obi-Wan was not in the movie. This, then, seems more like when Guardians of the Galaxy‘s toy line included related figures who were never going to be in the movie, like Iron Man and Darkhawk.
11. WE ALL KNEW IT, BUT IT IS STILL TECHNICALLY A SPOILER!
Is it still a spoiler if we all knew that it would happen? For instance, it was a “surprise” that Luke Skywalker showed up at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but would it have made any sense in the world for him not to make an appearance in the movie? However, since Lucasfilm kept his appearance under close wraps (not even telling Hasbro, who made the toys), it was still a spoiler.
Similarly, it was evident throughout the prequels that Palpatine and Darth Sidious were one and the same, but the movies oddly still treated it as if it were a big reveal when they confirmed it in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. However, the toy line had Palpatine come with a Darth Sidious interchangeable head, spoiling that “spoiler” before the movie came out.
10. THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS HAN SOLO
It is hard to imagine, when the amount of Star Wars merchandise is so plentiful that if you piled it on top of each other you could probably dwarf the Death Star, but there was a time when there was such a strong desire for Star Wars merchandise that the few outlets that had licensed material sold so darn much of it. Kenner’s action figures were red hot and so, too, was the Topps trading cards that licensed the Star Wars films.
When Topps released its Empire Strikes Back cards, it sold millions of the cards ahead of the release of the movie. Oddly enough, of course, they also spoiled major plot points of the film, like the fate of Han Solo, encased in Carbonite.
9. POE’S RETURN SPOILED
When it comes to figuring out spoilers based on toy releases, a lot of it comes down to the detective work of the internet. However, since the proliferation of crowd-driven websites like Reddit, something that would mystify people in the 1980s can be solved in minutes by throwing enough users at the “problem.” Thus, when Lego first released its toy sets for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, amateur sleuths poured over the releases.
In the X-Wing fighter Lego set, fans figured out that BB-8 and Poe must reunite on a later planet, since we knew from the trailer that BB-8 was going to be on Jakku and the Lego toy set shows a fight on a planet other than Jakku, with BB-8 along for the ride with Poe, thus proving that Poe didn’t die on Jakku.
8. WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Similarly, amateur sleuths pieced together a fascinating piece of information about Finn before Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out, based just on sample dialogue from the talking dolls that were made of Finn and Captain Phasma. Phasma’s lines of dialogue included the line, “Fire, FN2187.” Now, after fans first gave an approving nod to the reference to 2187 (the cell Leia was kept in on the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope), the question was then, “Who is FN2187?”
Well, Finn’s talking doll included the line, “FN2187.” Therefore, when you combine both he and Phasma saying that and his name being “Finn,” clever sleuths figured out that Finn must be the FN2187 that Phasma was referring to, which turned out to be the case!
7. THERE’S A HOLE IN MY HEART
This is a tricky one, since it is a case where the figure spoiled a plot point that did not actually happen in the film and thus, when the figure was actually released, the spoiler was no longer present. However, once a spoiler is out there, you can’t put that genie back into the bottle, so it still works. Shaak Ti was one of the Jedi Masters prominently featured in the Star Wars prequels.
When early designs of her Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith figure were released, they included a big hole in her chest. As it turned out, that was a spoiler as to how she was going to die in the film. Then they changed their minds and her death scene was cut. And so, when her figure was officially released, there no longer was a hole in her chest (she was later killed in a video game).
6. FINN, MASTER OF DISGUISE
When Star Wars: The Last Jedi figures were released, they included a major plot point from the film. Namely, Finn and Rose would embark on a mission together that would involve them going undercover as members of The First Order. This is because they were released with figures that showed them in their First Order disguises (they even were labeled as disguises, so we don’t think that Rose was evil).
The Rose figure even came with a BB-9E figure (as well as a BB-8 figure), revealing that BB-9E was going to be actively involved in their adventure (as it turned out, BB-9E was the one who caught them when they infiltrated the First Order’s flagship destroyer and spoiled their whole mission).
5. LET’S NOT LOSE OUR HEADS
One of the major villains in the Star Wars prequels was Count Dooku. Introduced in the second prequel film, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Dooku was turned by Darth Sidious into becoming his new Sith apprentice following the death of Dooku’s former Jedi apprentice, Qui-Gon Jinn (Sidious’ previous Sith apprentice, Darth Maul, died in battle with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan Kenobi).
Becoming Darth Tyrannus, Dooku worked with Darth Sidious to turn Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side of the Force in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith by pretending to kidnap Sidious’ alter-ego, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Dooku ended up falling in battle with Anakin Skywalker. His action figure for that line, though, spoiled his exit from the film, as it had a special “headless” and “handless” function, spoiling that Skywalker would, in fact, cut off his hands and behead Dooku in the film.
4. GREED TRUMPS ALL
Another area where it took some major deductive reasoning to figure out a plot twist in Star Wars: The Last Jedi came in the release of the card game Top Trumps, where players compete against each other by guessing what kind of stats that their opponents have on their cards. In any event, when the card set was previewed, it revealed a few sample cards.
One was Kylo Ren. It said, “After a stinging defeat by the scavenger Rey, Kylo Ren refocuses his efforts on destroying the Resistance. Though his dark side powers have increased, Kylo still has much to prove to his shadowy mentor, Supreme Leader Snoke.” It also, though, had his “Greed” level at an astronomically high level. Since Kylo did not seem particularly greedy in The Force Awakens, this led to the (correct) theory that Kylo would try to usurp his master, Snoke. The internet is clever!
3. IT’S A SPOILER!
Can you even imagine what it must have been like waiting for new figures to come out in the days when there weren’t millions of other toys for little kids to be distracted by? Sorry, Rom: Spaceknight, your comic book was cool but your toy line was lame! Lucasfilm knew all too well how to stoke the flames of kids’ interest in the new Star Wars films, so the marketing wizards would do send-away early releases.
Boba Fett was the early release for The Empire Strikes Back, but he had already debuted in the Star Wars Holiday Special. A year before The Return of the Jedi debuted, though, fans got an early glimpse at Admiral Ackbar (it was so early that it was advertised as part of Revenge of the Jedi, before the film changed its name). Let’s take a moment of silence for [SPOILER] Ackbar’s passing in The Last Jedi.
2. GLASS HALF FULL…OF SPOILERS!
We’re now moving a bit away from toys, per se, and more into the land of general Star Wars-related merchandise (which, we suppose, are sort of like toys for adults) when we look at the special Star Wars: The Last Jedi drinking glasses that were part of Alamo Drafthouse’s merchandising for the film.
The Luke Skywalker glass holds a major spoiler for The Last Jedi, that Luke would end up on Crait at the end of the film complete with a blue lightsaber (of course, this was all a Force projection and Luke never actually left his hideout on Ahch-To, but still). Amusingly, since the figure showed Luke along with the First Order (who he faces off against on Crait) it tricked people into thinking that this was saying Luke was going to turn evil.
1. THIRTY SEVEN YEARS LATER, TOPPS WAS AT IT AGAIN
In the 37 years since the release of The Empire Strikes Back, so many things have changed about the way that we process movies. In 1980, one of the only ways that you could see your favorite films was through trading cards or novelizations or magazines. Nowadays, forget the proliferation of online resources for fans of Star Wars, you also have the movies on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital!
However, nostalgia is a powerful thing, so Topps still released a Star Wars: The Last Jedi trading card series and ended up revealing a good deal of the plot of the film, albeit while intentionally throwing some of the events out of order in the set to not completely spoil the film’s plot (like having Crait early in the checklist).
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