21 Great Sci-Fi Christmas Ornaments From Hallmark

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Image: Hallmark

Is it really Christmas if you don’t have a little sci-fi on your tree? Hallmark would say no.

Every year the company releases hundreds of new Keepsake Ornaments, many of which are based on popular culture. Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, DC, you name it. Each time the collections seem like they get better and better (or weirder and weirder). So since those Christmas trees are probably going up right about now, we thought we’d show you just a few of our favorite sci-fi picks from the company’s selection of ornaments for 2020.

We’ll start with this excellent Holiday Spider-Man (above) that costs $18.

The Mandalorian’s Grandest Episode Yet Uncovers Old Friends, and Older Pains

Din Djarin meets an old friend, not forgotten.

Din Djarin meets an old friend, not forgotten.
Image: Lucasfilm

The Mandalorian has always promised the picture of a much wider place it could encompass in the Star Wars universe, ever since its first episode flipped the script and put our titular hero in front of a little green mystery from the stars. Its latest chapter re-aligns the show’s place in that world even as it grows it ever larger, but does so while cementing the most intimate bond that ties it together.

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Image: Lucasfilm

It’s hard not to treat “Chapter 13”—burdensomely titled “The Jedi” and directed by Clone Wars and Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni—as something of a turning point for The Mandalorian. The end of one part of its mystery and the start of a new expansion which builds upon that mystery. Yet, there is a loose casualness to the way it sweeps its prior slate clean, only to begin writing a new, grander story for Din Djarin and our dear Baby Yoda to take.

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That’s a casualness that also extends to its treatment of the titular Jedi, perhaps the show’s worst-kept secret in a long time: Ahsoka Tano (played by the equally-ill-kept secret, Rosario Dawson, who has been the center of an ongoing legal case regarding the alleged discrimination of a trans employee). For all the reverence we as Star Wars fans place on the character, The Mandalorian is not particularly of the same eye. Ahsoka is not some grand secret kept hidden away for a lavish arrival onto the scene, or kept at arm’s reach as That Thing We Know. From the moment the episode begins, no grand airs are made: Ahsoka is here, lightsabers swinging on the planet Corvus—the wandering ronin to our western gunslinger in Din. Ultimately, as so often is the case with The Mandalorian, she is someone willing to help Din if he helps her in turn.

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Image: Lucasfilm

What Ahsoka needs in exchange for lending a hand (and a floating rock or two) is access to the Magistrate of Calodan, Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto)—a woman whose lingering scars from the Clone Wars not only saw her align with the Empire during its reign and help build its navy, but continue to keep a cold grip on the people under her thumb even as that Empire lies in ashes. Ahsoka wants Elsbeth, not just to liberate the people under her control but for information, the continuation of her own quest from Star Wars Rebels to locate both Grand Admiral Thrawn and Ezra Bridger, who vanished into the unknown regions in the animated series’ climax.

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Although Ezra himself goes unnamed here, it is a connection to this brash, once angry, once emotional young Jedi Knight that seems to plague Ahsoka for much of the episode, something of a running theme in her long life at this point. In spite of ultimately making good on her offer to help Din, she cannot teach the Child the ways of the Force. After making a connection with him, Ahsoka lays out something that is as clear in her as it is in the Child—in the process, revealing his name, Grogu. A young Padawan raised on Coruscant, Grogu was hidden away during the Clone War, only to be rescued and kept secret once more when it fell during Order 66. Through the Force, Ahsoka senses Grogu’s pain and despair, but also anger: an anger she has seen lay even the greatest Jedi of her time low.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

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So, like she herself seemingly has with the world around her, Ahsoka begs Din to cut Grogu off—let his connection to the Force dwindle, keep him secret as he once was. Because the thought of training that power only to see it give in to the dark, uncontrolled impulses Grogu has displayed before could only lead to the heartbreak she once saw with Anakin. Ahsoka lost her master and is in the process of attempting to recover a lost young friend strong in the Force, one who needs as much guidance as Grogu does. These connections have driven her over the years, yes, but they’ve also caused her unimaginable pain. Pain she does not want to burden further in taking on Grogu and training his abilities: the fear of a failure that saw her unable to save Anakin or Ezra (yet).

But Ahsoka’s distance with Grogu, even as she is able to connect with him and share his story with Din, is tempered by something made more explicit in “The Jedi” than it ever has previously been in this series: the simple fact that Din loves this child. It’s not outright said, The Mandalorian isn’t really that kind of show, but this chapter’s most gleeful, earnest moments aren’t in Ahsoka swinging a lightsaber about or the mentions of Star Wars’ past, canon or otherwise.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

They’re the intimacy in his interactions with Grogu in this episode, made all the stronger after Ahsoka’s mental connection to the Child provides context for him. The lovingness with which he knows how to get Grogu to reach out with his power for Ahsoka, his joy and pride when Grogu does so for him and not her, the quiet moment of melancholy when, in the episode’s climax, Din believes he’s waking the child up on the Razor Crest one last time before parting ways. Hell, even the way he practically coos when calling the Child “kid,” or by his name.

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We know that Din cares for Grogu at this point, but it’s typically been presented with a gruff distance, the underprepared sudden father figure attempting to deal with a wacky kid high on space macarons and midi-chlorians. The bond between them has never been depicted as openly and as intimately as it has here, and it’s vital that it is presented openly, as The Mandalorian evolves from the mystery of who this child is, and instead onto where he will go next. It’s a rare emotional denouement in a show that is otherwise mostly preoccupied with tone and context: we now know who Grogu was, but it is also made clear who he is now, the adopted son of a man whose bond is just as potent with him as a Jedi’s connection to the Force is.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

As to where he’ll go next? Ahsoka is, at least, willing to pass the metaphysical buck, so to speak. After Din aids her in liberating Calodan from Magistrate Elsbeth and her Forces, Ahsoka insists once more that she cannot train Grogu, but offers hope that there may yet be more Jedi that could: but they will have to be Jedi open to that idea, not ones who have this little child thrust into their paths as she was. Ahsoka gives Din a location, Tython, home to an ancient Jedi temple, and a seeing stone that will allow Grogu to decide his own path: reach out and allow others of his kind to sense him, or stay hidden as the Jedi’s twilight continues.

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A new quest for our heroes, albeit a spin on the old one, but many questions still remain, of course. Who kept Grogu a secret for all those years of tutelage? Who saved him from the rise of the Empire? Who, if not Ahsoka Tano, could be the Jedi that reaches out to him now on Tython? But in some ways, even for a show that is all-too-fascinated by lingering questions and the promises of wider teases to Star Wars canons old and new, they don’t necessarily matter in this immediate moment. For all the importance laid upon the appearance of Ahsoka here, “The Jedi” keenly reminded us that the most vital thing The Mandalorian has is the relationship between Din Djarin and his child.

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Image: Lucasfilm

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Assorted Musings:

  • Shout out to Michael Biehn! Also, RIP Michael Biehn, I guess.
  • Are you ready for the inevitable, incredibly stupid fandom war that’s going to break out between people who will continue to casually call Grogu “Baby Yoda,” those who are insistent that now his name is known we must call him Grogu at all times, and then the third faction attempting to still use “the Child” as a middle ground? It’s Star Wars. People will complain about this.
  • Ahsoka is still looking for Thrawn at this point, which means she’s been doing so for around four years—The Mandalorian takes place around 9ABY, while Star Wars Rebels’ epilogue has previously been established in the book Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy as taking place around a year after the Battle of Endor, so in 5ABY. What’s interesting here is the way she refers to Thrawn as Elsbeth’s “Master,” which almost carries the implication that Thrawn is not as missing as he was when Ezra shipped them both off with the purrgils into the unknown. Is Thrawn once again a presence in the Imperial Remnant, as he was in the old Expanded Universe? Is he Gideon’s master? And if Thrawn has returned, and Ezra hasn’t, what became of our young rebel friend?
  • Tython has been previously mentioned in the Disney era of Star Wars canon as home to one of the earliest known Jedi temples, but it has a much longer history in the prior Expanded Universe as the ancestral seat of the Jedi Order, home to its spiritual predecessors in the Je’daii, first covered in the Dark Horse Comics series Dawn of the Jedi. Players of Bioware’s MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic will also be familiar with it—Tython and its Jedi temple are where all Knight and Consular characters begin their journeys as padawans.
  • Speaking of the Old Republic games: HK Assassin Droids! Elsbeth’s two HK-87s aren’t from a model that’s appeared in Star Wars before, but their series has an infamous legacy. We first met them in the form of HK-47, the sardonic mercenary killer who joins the player’s party in the beloved Knights of the Old Republic CRPG, making appearances in its sequel The Sith Lords as well as the aforementioned The Old Republic MMO. While the series itself has had fleeting mentions in Star Wars’ current canon, this is the first time we’ve actually seen one in action. Frankly, the 87s don’t seem quite up to the task like HK-47 was!

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Toy Watchdog Says Hasbro’s Star Wars Darksaber Is Too Dangerous…Because It’s a Plastic Sword

Watch it, Kanan, you’ll have someone’s eyes out with that.

Watch it, Kanan, you’ll have someone’s eyes out with that.
Image: Lucasfilm

Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.

Please, this holiday season: be careful when your children enter ritual combat for the right to become Mand’alor.

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Watchdog World Against Toys Causing Harm releases an annual list of big-ticket holiday toys that to warn parents about so their little ones don’t spend the festivities choking on small parts or, in an alternate timeline, firing Boba Fett’s rocket backpack into each other’s eyeballs. 2020’s list of the 10 “worst” toys of the year however, via IGN, sees a Star Wars item take crowing place: the coveted Darksaber of Mandalore.

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Well, the toy version, at least, released by Hasbro this fall in the run up to the return of The Mandalorian. The Darksaber Electronic Lightsaber costs $30, and features a light-up blade and sound effects of it crackling and clashing when you swing it around. But WATCH fears that young kids wanting to be a mini Moff Gideon or Pre Vizsla (or Sabine Wren, or Bo-Katan Kryze, and so on) on Christmas Day because…they might use it like a large, plastic sword and bonk someone over the head with it.

It’s not the only item on WATCH’s 2020 list to receive a similar warning: elsewhere from Hasbro, the Marvel Avengers Power FX Vibranium Claws are likewise dinged for being plastic weaponry an overzealous, Black Panther loving kid might use to rake a loved one. But it’s weird to see them sitting alongside choking hazards or projectile toys when, let’s be honest: who’s gonna buy a kid a toy lightsaber and then be surprised they want to swing it around like a plastic laser sword?

Kids have been doing that since there’s been toy lightsabers. And so far, no one’s lost a hand or anything! Unless they’re a Skywalker. But that’s their fault, mostly.

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The Art of The Mandalorian Says ‘Peekaboo’ in This Exclusive Preview

We see you, little baby!

We see you, little baby!
Image: Richard Lim, Abrams Books/Lucasfilm

The Mandalorian has always put its concept work front and center—from behind the scenes looks in shows like Disney Gallery, to literally every episode of the series itself, since its end credits highlight the concept work that helped bring what you just watched to life. Now, as we journey through the second season, a new art book is looking back on season one, and we’ve got a look inside.

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io9 is excited to give you a sneak peek at The Art of The Mandalorian (Season 1), by author Phil Szostak—he of many, many, many incredible Star Wars artbooks—and published by Abrams. Taking a look into the process of creating a new live-action Star Wars story for the small screen, the book is filled with concept art not just like the ones we saw in every credits sequence, but explorations and experimentations that helped scope out designs for fundamental parts of the show.

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Everything is in here, from the forging of Mando’s ship, the Razor Crest, to his own pre-Beskar look, and, yes, an exploration of how the designs of Baby Yoda would come to be one of the cutest little things in the galaxy far, far away.

Illustration for article titled iThe Art of The Mandalorian /iSays ‘Peekaboo’ in This Exclusive Preview

Image: Doug Chiang, Abrams Books/Lucasfilm

Check out our exclusive preview below—with art by Ryan Church, Brian Matyas, Jama Jurabaev, and Christian Alzmann—including scenes from the first season, Razor Crests that might have been, and a much more patchwork look for the shadows of the Empire in some very beaten up Imperial Remnant Stormtroopers. Oh, and of course, a few pieces of art dedicated to your son and ours, Baby Yoda.

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The Art of The Mandalorian (Season 1) hits shelves on December 1.


The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian (Season One), by Phil Szostak, published by Abrams Books © & ™ 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd.

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The Pop Culture We’re Thankful for Getting Us Through 2020

From left: Pottery Barn Star Wars swaddle, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Digimon Adventure, and What We Do in the Shadows.

From left: Pottery Barn Star Wars swaddle, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Digimon Adventure, and What We Do in the Shadows.
Image: Pottery Barn, Square Enix, Toei Animation, FX

No matter who you are or where you are, 2020 has been a rough year. It’s been a year where things have gotten so bad, sometimes you just had to find joy in the most unexpected of places. Family, friends, a new book or video game. It’s different for everyone.

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So with Thanksgiving around the corner in the United States, the io9 team has come together to discuss some of the unexpected, weird, and even personal things we’re thankful for in 2020. Hopefully, you can do the same in the comments below.

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A scene from season two of What We Do in the Shadows.

A scene from season two of What We Do in the Shadows.
Image: FX

Things Just Actually Being Released

In a year when so many things we were looking forward to (movies and comics conventions, but also vacations, parties and gatherings, and other life-in-general type stuff) got postponed or outright canceled, I’m thankful for the stuff that DID happen: TV shows like What We Do in the Shadows, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Unsolved Mysteries, Lovecraft Country, Archer, and The Mandalorian, and movies that recognized that jumping to streaming can actually be a good thing, like Bill & Ted Face the Music.

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No doubt the pop culture that did make it to the streams this year didn’t come without some scrambling behind the scenes—whether in production, post-production, trying to market the thing in the era of “Zoom junkets,” or all of the above. But in a year where there wasn’t always much for fans to look forward to, these nuggets of escapism helped make a big difference. – Cheryl Eddy

Cloud likes big swords. That’s kind of his thing.

Cloud likes big swords. That’s kind of his thing.
Image: Square Enix

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The Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII is one of the most fundamentally transformative pieces of media of my young life. I was six when the game came out, watching it play out over my brother’s shoulder well before I got to play it, wrapping myself up in the experience of Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, and the rest of the gang’s quest to save the planet. I was that kid you always hear about, the one whose mind and heart was shattered when Sephiroth plunged his distressingly long sword through Aerith’s chest and ended her life, the one who, in that moment, understood the kinds of stories games could tell.

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So in a year as earth-shattering as this one, I greatly valued the chance to be with those characters, to be in the spaces of Midgar again, in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Released pretty early in the stages of the coronavirus pandemic’s lockdown sprees about eight million years ago, Remake did more than sweep me up in the histories of these characters I’ve known and loved for most of my life: It recontextualized them, boldly dared to lay the groundwork for a fundamentally different re-examination of VII’s wider story in which these characters took hold of their fates as their own, beyond your memory of what was told before. It provided the comfort I craved in the nostalgia of my past, but at the same time revitalized what I loved about those memories of watching Final Fantasy VII as a child and made something new with them.

Remake was exactly the thing I needed most at a dark time during this miserable year. It was great seeing its cast again, my eyes slick with tears at each evocation of their past. But it also pointed to a path where their futures were theirs, and not my recollections—taking a thing I thought I knew and transforming into something new and exciting. Thank god for its boundless, terrifying freedom in a year of anything but. – James Whitbrook

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Another Vanessa Hudgens clone appears.

Another Vanessa Hudgens clone appears.
Image: Netflix

The Netflix Holiday Movie Universe (NHMU)

It’s been a long, tough year for movie fans. So many of the films I was stoked to see in 2020—like Wonder Woman 1984, Candyman, and especially Dune—kept getting pushed back because of the pandemic. There’s small comfort in the movies you love that still managed to come out during this hellscape of a year. One of them is The Princess Switch: Switched Again, which came out on Netflix earlier this month. I am a dedicated fan of the Netflix Holiday Movie Universe, starting with A Christmas Prince and The Holiday Calendar all the way through the bizarre time-traveling adventure about a knight who falls in love with a human clone. It’s uncertain times like these that we can be thankful for consistency wherever we can find it. The Netflix Holiday Movie Universe—full of magic, weird science, and countries that run on a Christmas economy—will always be there when I need it. – Beth Elderkin

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The Artwork of Scott C

I’ve admired and collected the artwork of Scott C for years. No matter what movie or show he’s painting or drawing, the characters always have a huge smile on their faces. They just make you happy, which is something we could all use in our lives, and our art, at anytime. In 2020 in particular though, his art impacted me in a whole new way.

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This year marked Scott C’s first Great Showdowns gallery show in six years. It was something I’d been anticipating for, well, six years, so I took time off work to camp out for it. This happened the first weekend in March. After two evenings of sleeping in a car outside the gallery, the night was a smashing success. I got the art I wanted, my friends got the art they wanted, it just was fantastic. Five days later the world changed. I, and everyone else, were told we needed to stay mostly inside our homes for months. But, thanks to Scott C’s artwork, not only did I have some new, happy paintings to enjoy, it turned out that on the last weekend of normalcy, I had unknowingly snuck in an unforgettable experience. One I took for granted at the time, but haven’t since—the chance to hang out with a bunch of friends. – Germain Lussier

Digimon = Digital Monsters.

Digimon = Digital Monsters.
Image: Toei Animation

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Digimon Adventure in 2020

Between the Digimon Adventure reboot and Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, the franchise’s original story about a group of kids being transported to the digital world to save the “real world” from destruction is simultaneously coming to an end and being reborn as something fresh and fitting for 2020. It’s incredible that Toei’s managed to pull both of these projects off in a way that feels reflective of Digimon’s themes of rebirth and evolution being key elements of the sort of growth it takes to be a heroic person, and even more impressive still that both the reboot and Kizuna are some of the most visually stunning, dynamic stories in the franchise’s history. At a time when many of us were understandably looking back at things in order to feel comforted by nostalgia, Digimon instead encouraged us to keep our focus on the future while understanding that keeping the past in mind is also an invaluable asset. – Charles Pulliam-Moore

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It’s a good time to be a nerdy parent.

It’s a good time to be a nerdy parent.
Image: Pottery Barn

Nerdy Baby Stuff

It’s not easy shopping during a pandemic—sometimes it downright sucks. I haven’t bought a good bra in so long. But there’s one consumer joy I’ve discovered, something I’m truly thankful for: nerdy baby stuff. I’m currently pregnant and due in March 2021, which means I’ve spent the past few weeks prepping my baby registry so I can guilt family members I never see into buying me shit. Some of it is the boring, necessary noise, like a bassinet or diaper pail. But I’ve also managed to sneak in some truly adorable geeky stuff. The Child baby toys, Star Trek hoodies with little Spock ears on them, wall art of dinosaurs in space helmets hanging out with Wall-E. It’s a good time to be a nerdy parent!

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I’m not going to sugarcoat it: This has been a hard year. My husband and I went through a lot to become pregnant, only to finally have it happen during a once-in-a-lifetime global crisis. Preparing for a child during a pandemic is a challenge, to say the least, but the love, excitement, and anticipation we feel toward this little person-to-be makes everything worth it. It’s why I’m not guilting myself over putting a $40 Star Wars swaddler set on my gift registry, even if I end up having to buy it myself. We’ve been through so much—just as I’m sure you have—but we also have so many good, beautiful things to be thankful for in 2020. Make sure you find ways to thank yourself too, for everything amazing you’ve done. – Beth Elderkin

Gotta catch ‘em all!

Gotta catch ‘em all!
Image: Topps

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Star Wars Card Trader

So much of 2020 has been spent on our phones—what better way to spend that time with an app that not only has its own unique, built-in community but valuable collectibles to boot? Though I originally got into Star Wars Card Trader by Topps in 2015, I fell off for most of 2019. In 2020 though, I was lured back and it saved me. It gave me something to engage with, collect, and have fun with on an hourly basis. Something to fill in the spare time that was not just fun but exciting and engaging. I’ve met a bunch of new friends on social media who were also into it; we all help each other out and feel great when someone gets a much-desired card. Plus it’s Star Wars and art, all things I love. Are digital trading cards about the nerdiest thing in the entire world? Absolutely. But that nerdy thing has helped me forget about the horrors of the world for a few hours a week. – Germain Lussier

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io9 is always watching.

io9 is always watching.

The io9 Staff

I’m forever thankful for my wonderful io9 team and I will never get tired of telling everyone about them. They are truly some of the best in the business and they impress me every day with their thoughtful critiques and interviews, unique ideas, and ridiculous shitposting. The pandemic had me worried for all of us this year and while it was never easy, I’m so glad I had them on my side. – Jill Pantozzi

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Disney Security’s Unofficial Challenge Coins Are a Different Sort of Collector’s Item

Two unofficial challenge coins presented on eBay featuring Mickey Mouse as a police officer and the thin blue line flag.

Two unofficial challenge coins presented on eBay featuring Mickey Mouse as a police officer and the thin blue line flag.
Screenshot: challengecoincreations/eBay

As the owner of a substantial portion of the world’s most popular pieces of intellectual property, the Walt Disney Company is more than used to seeing its characters and branding pop up in unofficial, unlicensed places. In some instances, like when the family of a recently deceased child attempted to feature Spider-Man’s likeness on his gravestone, the company has stepped in to bar people from using its IP in ways it doesn’t see fit. Others? Not so much.

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In cases like those involving companies that produce police-related merchandise featuring the Punisher logo, Marvel and its parent company Disney have remained relatively quiet on the matter, despite the charged political connotations those items carry. Though Disney’s undeniably powerful, the megacorporation would still be hard-pressed to fully crack down on people creating and selling these things. But a recent story from the military website Task & Purpose—which delved into the popularity of challenge coins among Disney parks’ security staff—raises questions about what the company’s policy should be about its employees potentially carrying them while working within its theme parks. One unofficial coin featured on the website features a mashup of Mickey Mouse and Punisher iconography with “Disneyland Security” emblazoned on the front.

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Challenge coins are small, commemorative medallions often distributed within a wide range of organizations as symbols of membership and camaraderie fostered through “challenges” in which people are required to show their coins on demand to prove that they’re carrying them. There are varying rules on what happens if you’re found without your coin depending on the group you’re playing with. Most commonly, challenge coins have been associated with the military and its culture, which is at least part of why Disney currently has a sanctioned selection of them that a number of its park security personnel reportedly carry.

Speaking with Task & Purpose, a Walt Disney World representative explained that its official challenge coins are part of its efforts to embrace the traditions held dear by its “security departments and other areas where military veterans have come to work after their service.” It’s important to understand that challenge coins aren’t exactly readily available to the general public, as they’re meant to be special items that represent the bond between a select group of people—in this case, those working security for Disney.

There is nothing inherently wrong with challenge coins, and it makes a degree of sense that Disney would produce the coins for them to collect and trade, as collecting is a huge part of its brand already. What’s somewhat concerning, though, are the number of unofficial challenge coins using characters like Mickey Mouse and the Punisher to not only associate the people holding them with Disney and Marvel at a glance, but also with a certain stance on policing. Though its defenders have argued that the thin blue line iconography is meant to represent the idea that police are the line of defense maintaining society’s order, it has also come to represent an insular culture within police departments across the country that fosters a system rife with corruption, brutality, and human rights violations that law enforcement officials seldom have to answer for.

Similarly, the Punisher logo is emblematic of Frank Castle’s black-and-white sense of justice that he believes as being uniquely sound and above reproach. In the vacuums of Marvel’s media, the Punisher logo and Frank Castle embody a deep, deadly darkness that you’re meant to understand as dangerous to society. However, in the real world, where military and police officers slap the logo on themselves as if to liken them to the violent character, the message reads as an endorsement of his methods and a desire to emulate them. This is why the New York Police Department faced a wave of criticism in 2018 over Punisher challenge coins that it distributed among members of its Gang Unit.

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It should be noted that none of the challenge coins pictured in this piece are part of Disney’s official set, and all custom coins that staffers have made for use are subject to an internal review process should they include any of the company’s intellectual property. We’ve reached out to Disney asking for comment about this piece and clarification on what their official coins look like, but did not hear back by time of publishing.

A blue lives matter challenge coin featuring an anthropomorphic police cruiser meant to resemble a character from the Pixar film Cars.

A blue lives matter challenge coin featuring an anthropomorphic police cruiser meant to resemble a character from the Pixar film Cars.
Screenshot: his66bug/eBay

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A casual search through eBay turns up more than a few challenge coins depicting Mickey Mouse as a cop, a fictional Department of Homeland security officer focused on magic, and a police car from Cars professing that “Blue Lives Matter.” Regardless of what message a person might mean to send by saying “blue lives matter,” wearing a thin blue line, or wearing the Punisher logo, each action has a very distinct significance, particularly at this moment where more and more people are finally reckoning with the United States’ historic issues with police brutality.

Coins like these are seemingly anything but difficult to come by, which suggests that there’s either a glut of them sitting in sellers’ warehouses or that people are out there buying them, presumably to carry, as that’s the whole point of challenge coins. It’s also quite possible that there are regular people not employed by Disney who simply felt that these specific challenge coins were the perfect reflection of their personal tastes. Considering which market custom challenge coins celebrating the cops and the House of Mouse is aimed at, however, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that people are carrying them within Disney’s parks.

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While some of Disney’s theme parks around the world are open, for the time being, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic means that patrons aren’t flocking to them as usual. So the company has time to put more energy into thinking about the future of its real-world attractions. It’s nice to think that, maybe, someone within the company understands that when things ramp back up, policies keeping this specific kind of collectible out of the parks—especially in the hands of those working there—should be put in place.

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Solo’s Vinyl Release Comes With Incredible New Star Wars Artwork

A crop of the new Solo vinyl release from Mondo with art by César Moreno.

A crop of the new Solo vinyl release from Mondo with art by César Moreno.
Image: César Moreno/Mondo

Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.

It’s a given that Star Wars movies have great music. So when there’s a vinyl release of one of the soundtracks, the package better have artwork to match. Thankfully, Mondo has done just that for Solo: A Star Wars Story. The company recruited César Moreno to do brand new illustrations for an exclusive release, and it’s simply extraordinary.

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io9 is excited to exclusively debut this release which is anchored by the above cover image, a hilarious glimpse of Han, Lando, Q’ira, and the crew screaming as they traverse the Kessel Run. Below, you’ll also see the gatefold, which is more majestic in that classic Star Wars way.

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These works will be part of the premier vinyl release of composer John Powell’s epic score, which is pressed on 2x 180 Gram “Hyperspace” color vinyl. The limited-edition disc is available for pre-order Wednesday, December 2 at MondoShop.com. And, of course, John Williams’ new themes for the film are on there too.

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The gatefold of the vinyl release.
Image: César Moreno/Mondo

“The music of Star Wars is so essential and monumental that it seems an impossible task for any new composer to take the reins,” Mo Shafeek, Mondo creative director of music, said in a press release provided to io9. “But John Powell’s original score, complimented by John Williams’ new Han Solo theme, is such non-stop bombastic nostalgic fun that it proves to be essential listening for fans of the series.”

But that’s not all. To really punch up that funny cover image, it comes in an amazing Millennium Falcon slipcover. Check it out.

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The vinyl cover in the slipcase.
Image: César Moreno/Mondo

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The vinyl slipping out of the slipcase.
Image: César Moreno/Mondo

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Here’s an image of the full package, followed by the tracklist. Again, it’s available for pre-order December 2.

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Image: César Moreno/Mondo

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Disc One

Side One

1. The Adventures of Han

Music Composed and Conducted by John Williams

2. Meet Han

3. Corellia Chase

4. Spaceport

5. Flying with Chewie

 

Side Two

1. Train Heist

2. Marauders Arrive

3. Chicken in the Pot

4. Is This Seat Taken?

5. L3 & Millennium Falcon

6. Lando’s Closet

 

Disc Two

Side One

1. Mine Mission

2. Break Out

3. The Good Guy

4. Reminiscence Therapy

 

Side Two

1. Into the Maw

2. Savareen Stand-Off

3. Good Thing You Were Listening

4. Testing Allegiance

5. Dice & Roll

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Disney’s Experiments With Disney+ Could Change How We Watch Movies

Illustration for article titled Disneys Experiments With Disney+ Could Change How We Watch Movies

Image: Disney+

As covid-19 continues to push theaters to the brink of bankruptcy, Disney has been cagey about the future of its planned theatrical releases. But a new report suggests more big-budget films could be heading to its service Disney+, as have recent releases like Mulan and Artemis Fowl. And even if theaters are able to make it out of the other side of the pandemic, a new standard for movie releases could forever change how we see movies in a post-covid-19 future.

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Deadline reported last week that Disney may be eyeing VOD releases for a number of its upcoming titles, including Cruella, Pinocchio, and Peter Pan and Wendy—all of which were slated to release in theaters. The outlet said that it wasn’t clear whether the films would release directly on Disney+ or be offered at a premium through its Premier Access platform, as the company did with the live-action remake of Mulan. It also added that no final decision had been made, meaning theatrical releases for one or any could proceed as originally planned.

But such a move would make sense for Disney at a time when a return to theaters is still a distant prospect for moviegoers in many parts of the U.S., either as a result of theater closures or a hesitancy to return to cinemas more broadly. Moreover, Disney executives made clear during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report that Disney’s primary focus now and for the foreseeable future is its direct-to-consumer business.

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Key to building on the success of Disney+ and its growing subscriber base is new and exclusive content. It’s not hard to imagine Disney might tap its slate of yet-to-be-released feature films to help bring in new subscribers given how things are looking in the U.S. right now—which is to say, not great. While Disney was tight-lipped about the success of its Mulan release through Premier Access, data from Sensor Tower estimated that app installs of Disney+ between Google Play and the App Store rose by 68% during a three-day period when Mulan hit the service over the same three-day period the week prior, while in-app spending also rose 193% that week.

Disney, of course, isn’t the only studio bypassing theatrical releases and going the direct-to-consumer route for big-budget titles. Universal Pictures saw tremendous success with its release of Trolls World Tour as a PVOD title, with the movie pulling in nearly $100 million in rentals during its first three weeks—more, even, than the original Trolls pulled in during a five-month theatrical run, per the Wall Street Journal. And next month, Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman 1984 will release both in theaters as well as on its streaming service HBO Max on Christmas Day. Even Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins, who’s been outspoken about the effects that ongoing theater closures could have on the industry, said last week in a statement about the dual VOD and theatrical release, “At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, theaters were in a much better position to make demands about the terms of their release windows and exclusivity for those titles. The success of Trolls World Tour as a PVOD title initiated a short-lived war between AMC and Universal Pictures, with the theater chain promising to ban screenings of films by “any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes.”

When the two parties came to a truce months later, it was clear that concessions had been made to keep their relationship amicable. Universal granted AMC theatrical rights for at least three weekends before it could offer the movies on its own services—a markedly shorter window than had been standard in pre-pandemic times. Even then, it was clear that theaters needed studios more than studios needed theaters, particularly since most of them have shifted toward being as vertically integrated as they can reasonably get away with. Now, the biggest cinema chains in the nation are narrowly avoiding bankruptcy.

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Disney’s little Premier Access experiment may not be the avenue through which it releases all or even most of the titles that could wind up heading straight to Disney+. But it does prove that Disney is carefully considering its options, and that should scare the shit out of theaters that are already in trouble.

Star Wars’ New VR Game Wanted to Build on Galaxy’s Edge, Not Just Recreate It

You’ll get real friendly with Seezelslak (voiced by Bobby Moynihan) in Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge.

You’ll get real friendly with Seezelslak (voiced by Bobby Moynihan) in Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge.
Image: ILMxLAB

Since Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge only exists in two places on our planet, one might expect a VR experience based on it would just copy them, and give fans who can’t get to Disneyland or Walt Disney World a chance to visit Batuu right from the comfort of home. Star Wars: Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge by ILMxLab sort of does that but, at least for now, it never sets foot in the actual park.

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“The goal for us was really to expand the world and to not recreate it,” game producer Alyssa Finley told io9. “You can go there and you can see [Black Spire Outpost] for yourself. But we wanted to make that world bigger and let you go out and see what the wilds are like. See what the spires are like. And even see what an ancient Jedi Temple on Batuu was like. It was much more about making a bigger world.”

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In Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge, the player assumes the role of a droid repair technician who crashes on Batuu and unknowingly finds themselves in the middle of a secret mission for the Resistance. Batuu is a big planet, though, so most of that story takes outside the walls of Black Spire Outpost, which is the “land” part of the Disney theme parks’ themed lands. In fact, the story acts as something of an origin story for what’s going on at the parks.

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This view is as close as you’ll get to the actual Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Image: ILMxLAB

“The Galaxy’s Edge story itself is awesome,” game director Jose Perez III told io9. “And we just wanted to have enough room so that we could play too and experiment without affecting it. It just made a lot of sense to be slightly before it.”

So along the way, you’ll hear dialogue about that famous ship that recently landed outside, aka the Millennium Falcon. Or about how the Droid Depot owner is thinking about having customers build their own droids or that Oga’s Cantina just got a new DJ. None of which has anything to do with the story, of course, but it adds rewarding color to the realities of the theme park.

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Another thing that doesn’t exactly have much to do with the park but exists in the game is a legendary tale set during The High Republic. It’s accessed via the main hub of the game, Seezelslak’s Cantina, and sees players whisked back in time and into the shoes of Jedi apprentice Ady Sun’Zee who, along with her master, find an ancient Sith artifact. While the tale feels detached from the rest of the Galaxy’s Edge story, Perez explained it allowed the team to put in some additional mechanics and set up themes for future stories.

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This concept art for the High Republic story features a familiar face.
Image: ILMxLAB

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“Although it’s a completely different era and it’s all Ady and her cool lightsabers and the Force and stuff, there are actually themes we’re using that are tying all of this together,” he said. “And you’re going to find that over the course of part one and part two, hopefully at the end when you stand back and you look and see that all these threads actually do kind of relate in some of the bigger themes.”

Yes, you read that right. There will be at least a part two to Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, which should be out next year. At launch, the game already has slots for additional High Republic tales, as well as more than a few clues in Seezelslak’s dialogue about what those might be. But that’s just the beginning.

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“We’re going to continue the droid repair technician story through part two and the tales are each going to be their own fun little experience that you have on your own,” Perez said. “You can expect us to explore other Star Wars areas and keep playing with different mechanics. So you’ll see some really different things come out of those two slots.”

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Mubo’s Workshop is in the back of the Droid Depot at Galaxy’s Ege.
Image: ILMxLAB

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No matter which time period you’re playing in, everything in Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge feels and sounds like Star Wars. One sound you won’t hear, however, is John Williams’ music—much like inside Galaxy’s Edge itself, Perez and his team really want the VR experience to carve its own unique niche in the franchise. The music was created by the likes of Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead) and Joseph Trapanese (Tron Uprising, The Greatest Showman), but not Williams.

“Right now it’s about us finding our own stories,” Perez said. “We’re experimenting, we’re playing, and we’re feeling things out. And I think you’ll find eventually that more of the kind of overall Star Wars-y vibe themes will seep in as we continue these stories.”

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Tales From Galaxy’s Edge is out now for Oculus Quest.

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Mandalorian Winter Gear Lets You Dress the Child or Your Child as the Child

Illustration for article titled iMandalorian/i Winter Gear Lets You Dress the Child or Your Child as the Child

Photo: Andrew Liszewski / io9

Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.

Like decking the halls, braving the stores on Black Friday, and enduring the rants of visiting relatives, Columbia’s annual Star Wars collaboration has become a holiday tradition. This year, it’s bringing some fun winter wear inspired by The Mandalorian. When the snow falls you can dress your child as the Child.

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Starting back in 2016, Columbia released a collection of winter jackets inspired by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That was followed by an Empire Strikes Back collection in 2017, featuring the haute couture offerings of the ice planet Hoth, and another ESB collaboration in 2018 that instead took inspiration from behind the camera as Columbia recreated the now coveted filming parkas worn by the crew in 1979 during production in Norway.

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However, the one thing missing from most of these past collaborations has been offerings for younger Star Wars fans. But now that the most popular character in the Star Wars universe is a tiny green Force-wielding alien of unknown origins, Columbia’s 2020 collaboration features hoodies, vests, and coats inspired by The Mandalorian that will keep anyone warm, even in the spider-infested ice caves of Maldo Kreis.

The new Columbia The Mandalorian collection will officially be available starting at 12:01am EST on December 4 on the Columbia website, as well as certain Columbia stores across the country. But as in years past, they will only be available in limited quantities.

Columbia The Mandalorian The Child Jacket

What will probably be the most sought after piece in the new collection is Columbia’s the Child jacket, ranging in price from $75 to $80, depending on the size your kid needs. Like most of Columbia’s winter wear the inside is dotted with the company’s Omni-Heat reflective lining designed to trap and redirect the wearer’s body heat back onto them. The inside of the coat also features a hidden pocket with an adorable illustration of the Child, but the star of the show here is the green fleece hood with a pair of pointy Yoda ears sticking out of other side. There are pockets allowing the ears to be hidden away for kids not wanting to face the social backlash of dressing up like Baby Yoda every day at school, but where’s the fun in that?

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Columbia The Mandalorian The Child Bunting

Columbia is also including winter wear for infants in this year’s Star Wars collaboration. The $50 the Child Bunting is a smaller and softer version of the jacket other Child jacket, but made entirely from fleece lined with sherpa fabric on the inside. Its matching hood includes a pair of pointy Yoda ears and the arms and legs all feature reversible cuffs allowing hands and feet to poke through or remain warm and protected inside. Dressing an infant up as Baby Yoda isn’t a good reason for having a baby, but it’s not not a good reason either. At least your child won’t be constantly hunted by Imps and bounty hunters.

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Columbia The Mandalorian Interchange Hybrid Jacket and Helmet Gaiter

Columbia hasn’t left out the grown up fans of The Mandalorian with this new collection. The $300 Interchange Hybrid Jacket is actually a double layer vest and coat combination that can be worn together or separately, depending on the elements. Inspired by Mando’s Beskar armor neither the vest nor the jacket will protect the wearer from blaster fire, but they do offer added warmth using Columbia’s Omni-Heat 3D lining which pairs reflective cells with small fibers to trap body heat and warm air.

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The jacket combo can also be paired with Columbia’s $40 The Mandalorian Helmet Gaiter which tries to recreate the imposing appearance of Mando’s headgear, but don’t expect to walk into a cantina and have the locals trembling at your appearance. It will, however, strike fear into the heart of cold wet weather with water-resistant fabrics and a fleece lining. Wearing the gaiter 24/7, however, without washing it every so often, is not advised—no matter what creed you’ve taken.


Illustration for article titled iMandalorian/i Winter Gear Lets You Dress the Child or Your Child as the Child

Photo: Columbia

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Columbia The Mandalorian Heavyweight Hoodie

Of all the pieces in Columbia’s new The Mandalorian collection, this $120 heavyweight hoodie is easily the most low-key way to wear your fandom. Loosely inspired by Mando’s Beskar armor, the all-gray hoodie features a message written in Mando’a on the chest, and a Mudhorn insignia on the right sleeve that you don’t have to earn. If the Mandalorian was ever allowed a day off, you can picture him lounging in the Razor Crest in one of these.

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