Videos on YouTube to unveil new Star Wars toys on Sept 3

Stormtrooper figurines from the Star Wars movie franchise stand on display during the D23 Expo 2015 in Anaheim, California, U.S., on Friday, Aug 14, 2015.
Stormtrooper figurines from the Star Wars movie franchise stand on display during the D23 Expo 2015 in Anaheim, California, U.S., on Friday, Aug 14, 2015.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) - For Star Wars fans, Christmas is coming early this year: on Sept 4, when the toys tied to Walt Disney Co's first film in the space-adventure series go on sale.

Three months before Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theatres, the company is staking its claim on gift lists, with everything from Captain Phasma action figures to Nerf crossbows and blasters.

Disney on Wednesday unveiled plans for events leading up to next week's Force Friday.

They include a global unwrapping of Star Wars merchandise on YouTube by the company's Internet video division, Maker Studios, and coverage on ABC's Good Morning America.

If all goes according to plan, fans, many in costumes, will be lining up well before any new Chewbacca masks, lightsabers or red-armed C-3PO action figures go on sale.

The products, built around one of the highest-grossing film franchises in history, could help the toy industry score its best growth in more than a decade, according to NPD Group Inc.

The researcher predicts the industry's United States retail sales will increase 6.2 per cent to US$19.2 billion (S$26.9 billion) this year.

"There's nothing more fun for Star Wars fans than being in a crowd of other Star Wars fans," said Steve Sansweet, the former head of fan relations at Lucasfilm, which created the series. Sansweet, who runs the non-profit Rancho Obi-Wan museum, will be showing off Star Wars memorabilia at the Toys 'R' Us outlet in New York's Times Square.

Disney releases the new film in theatres on Dec 18. It has been promoting the picture almost since it acquired Lucasfilm for US$4 billion in December 2012.

Starting in Australia on the morning of Sept 3 and unfolding over 18 hours in 15 cities and 12 countries, talent from Disney's Maker Studios will unwrap merchandise hourly, with coverage on YouTube.

Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong are the three Asian cities where the toys will be unveiled.

At the company's ABC broadcast network, Good Morning America will carry the product unveilings on TV and online. It is all a prelude to a midnight kickoff for stores.

"It's a cool marriage of technology, social media and product," said Josh Silverman, who heads licensing at Disney consumer products.

Wal-Mart Stores and Target Corp will be hosting midnight events. Toy 'R' Us will more than double the space it gives to Star Wars and keep a dedicated section all year.