The Mandalorian: Season 2

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Sci-Fi;
Not rated.
Stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Temuera Morrison, Ming-Na Wen, Katee Sackhoff, Mercedes Varnado, Rosario Dawson, Timothy Olyphant, Bill Burr, Carl Weathers, Horatio Sanz, Giancarlo Esposito.

The eight episodes of the second season of “The Mandalorian” offer the kind of “Star Wars” moments the franchise’s fans have been clamoring to see for decades.

Series creator Jon Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni are drawing from nearly all aspects of “Star Wars” lore for inspiration — not just the original trilogy, but also the prequels and animated spinoffs as well.

Instead of trying to reinvent the universe the way the sequel trilogy seemed to be trying to do, “The Mandalorian” unmistakably wants to play in George Lucas’ sandbox. The episodes have all the fun and joy of what it’s like to play with “Star Wars” toys as a kid, and imagine all the adventures possible in that galaxy far, far away.

It’s not fan service. It’s fantastic.

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Picking up from last season, bounty hunter Din Djarin, the Mandalorian of the title, embarks on his quest to return to the Jedi the child everyone refers to as “Baby Yoda” (whose name is finally revealed to be Grogu). But doing so will require a great deal of compromise and sacrifice. Along the way he encounters Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), a Mandalorian from the “Clone Wars” and “Rebels” animated shows who desires to reclaim her home planet from the chaos of the Empire’s wrath. She leads Mando to another animated character brought into live-action, the former Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), who needs his help to free a village from a warlord in one of the season’s standout episodes.

Another great episode sees the return of Bill Burr, who has to help Mando on a mission to locate the menacing Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). Their infiltration of an Imperial base leads to some of the tensest moments on the show, culminating in the “Star Wars” version of the great basement shootout from Inglourious Basterds.

And if that weren’t enough, we get the return of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), last seen being swallowed by the Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi. Not only did he survive, but he’s finally living up to the potential for badassery only hinted at in his limited screen time in the movies but which has nonetheless made him a fan favorite since his introduction.

The season also has a few more surprises in store, leading to one of the most emotional and satisfying finales a fan could hope for.

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There have been some grumblings about the wide variance in running times of the episodes — ranging from barely more than a half-hour to more than 50 minutes. But this just demonstrates the creative advantages of posting content to an ad-free streaming service as opposed to needing to fill a set run time to account for a time slot and advertising. The show’s creators are telling the stories they want to tell, and they are using the time they need to tell them. No more, no less. And the results speak for themselves.

 

Disney+ Teases ‘Boba Fett’ Spinoff in ‘Mandalorian’ Finale

While Disney announced several new “Star Wars” Disney+ shows at its Dec. 10 investor day, it left one for a surprise reveal during the streaming service’s flagship series. The Dec. 18 season two finale of “The Mandalorian” contained a teaser for a new Disney+ show called “The Book of Boba Fett” to debut in December 2021.

Boba Fett is a legendary bounty hunter in “Star Wars” lore first introduced in an animated segment of the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special before playing a minor role as an antagonist to Han Solo in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s Return of the Jedi, with the character seemingly dying in the latter during a battle against the crime lord Jabba the Hutt.

A younger Boba Fett appeared in 2002’s Attack of the Clones, where audiences learned that he was an unaltered clone of Jango Fett, another bounty hunter who served as the template for an army of clones. After Jango’s death in that film, young Boba took up bounty hunting himself, as seen in the “Clone Wars” animated series.

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Season two of “The Mandalorian,” set about five years after Return of the Jedi, revealed that Boba survived the events of the film, and was now in league with the assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). The pair agreed to help the title character protect Grogu, the child nicknamed “Baby Yoda” by franchise fans.

Fett is played by Temuera Morrison, who previously portrayed Jango and the clone troopers in the “Star Wars” prequels, and who also voiced Boba for the special-edition DVD of Empire.

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Some industry watchers had been reporting that Morrison was currently filming what they assumed was either a Boba Fett show or the third season of “Mandalorian,” and found it curious that the investor event didn’t mention anything related to the character, while other spinoffs such as “Ahsoka Tano” were touted.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

In the preview for the new show, which plays as a post-credits scene for the “Mandalorian” finale, Boba Fett returns to Jabba’s Palace on Tatooine with Shand. Jabba’s court in the criminal underworld is now presided over by his former majordomo, Bib Fortuna, who expresses surprise at seeing Fett is alive. Fett shoots Fortuna, then takes a seat on the palace throne with Shand at his side.

Update 12/21/20: “The Book of Boba Fett,” set within the timeline of “The Mandalorian,” will star Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen, and will be executive produced by Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and Robert Rodriguez.

‘Disney Gallery’ Look at ‘Mandalorian’ Season 2 Bowing on Disney+ Dec. 25

The Disney+ series “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” will take a look behind the scenes of the second season of the popular “Star Wars” series in an hourlong special debuting on the streaming service Dec. 25.

The second season of “The Mandalorian,” which concludes Dec. 18, has featured the return of several fan favorite “Star Wars” characters, from bounty hunter Boba Fett to former Jedi Ahsoka Tano.

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The new installment of “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” showcases filmmakers and cast providing unprecedented access to the storytelling decisions and innovations that went into the second season of the Emmy Award-winning series.

Featuring immersive on-set footage that places viewers right in the middle of the filmmaking process, and rare insights from the cast and crew, this special documentary explores the production of all 8 episodes in season two — from early concept art through the groundbreaking technology introduced in the series.

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“Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” explored the making of the first season in eight episodes earlier in 2020.

Disney+ Set to Roll Out Slew of ‘Star Wars’ Spinoff Series; Patty Jenkins to Direct Next ‘Star Wars’ Theatrical Movie

On the heels of the global success of “The Mandalorian,” Disney’s subscription streaming video platform is set to roll out several exclusive series based on the “Star Wars” franchise over the coming years.

“Mandalorian” spinoffs include “Star Wars: Ahsoka Tano,”  featuring Rosario Dawson, and “Star Wars: Rangers of New Republic,” Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, said on Disney’s Investor Day Dec. 10.

Patty Jenkins

Disney+ will also be home to other “Star Wars” content, including “Star Wars: Andor,” featuring Diego Luna reprising his Rogue One: A Star Wars Story character, and the previously announced animated series “Star Wars: The Bad Batch,” a spinoff of “The Clone Wars.”

Kennedy also announced that Hayden Christensen would return as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader opposite Ewan McGregor in the Disney+ series, “Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

Finally, Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins has been tapped to direct the next “Star Wars” theatrical release, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, set for a 2023 release.

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy

 

 

‘Mandalorian’ Keeps No. 1 Spot on Parrot’s Most-Demanded TV Shows Chart

The Disney+ live-action “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian” topped Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings for a fourth-straight week the week ended Nov. 14, and also held onto the top spot on Parrot’s list of all TV shows for a second week. with 96.9 times the demand of an average TV series after a 1.5% increase in demand expressions, the proprietary metric Parrot uses to gauge a show’s popularity.

The show’s success continues to buoy other “Star Wars” content, with the Disney+ animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” climbing two spots to No. 5 after a 9% increase in demand gave it 34.6 times average demand. The recent third episode of the second season of “The Mandalorian” was essentially an extension of story arcs from both “Clone Wars” and another animated series, “Star Wars: Rebels.”

Holding at No. 2 on the digital originals chart, and taking No. 8 among overall TV shows, was Netflix’s perennially popular “Stranger Things,” which saw demand expressions fall 9.7% to give the show 51.3 times average demand.

Warping into the third spot on the digital originals chart was CBS All Access’ “Star Trek: Discovery,” which rose two spots after a 5.6% bump in demand expressions to give it 35.7 times average demand.

HBO Max’s “Titans” remained at No. 4 on the digital originals chart with 35.2 times average demand, with expressions up 2.4%.

Netflix’s “The Crown” moved into the top 10 in anticipation of the new season premiering Nov. 15. Demand was up 14.7% from the previous week, when it was No. 11. It had 29.3 times average demand.

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A “digital original” is Parrot’s term for a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+.

The No. 2 overall TV series was “SpongeBob SquarePants,” with 88.4 times average demand.

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Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures demand for TV content in a given market through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites. Results are expressed as a comparison with the average demand for a TV show of any kind in the market.

Disney, Lucasfilm to Bow ‘Mando Mondays’ Consumer Products Showcase for ‘The Mandalorian’

Disney and Lucasfilm Sept. 21 announced the pending launch of “Mando Mondays,” a global consumer products, games and publishing program launching Oct. 26 that will introduce merchandise inspired by the “The Mandalorian” series on the Disney+ subscription streaming video platform.

The “Star Wars” spinoff series — which took home seven awards during the 2020 Emmy Awards — will return for its second season Oct. 30, streaming only on Disney+. The Mandalorian and the Child (dubbed Baby Yoda by fans) continue their journey, facing enemies and rallying allies as they make their way through the dangerous galaxy in the tumultuous era after the collapse of the Galactic Empire.

Following release of new episodes every Friday on Disney+, subs can visit MandoMondays.com each Monday to see what new toys, collectibles, apparel, books, comics and related digital content will be unveiled. Mando Mondays will run for nine weeks, culminating on Dec. 21.

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“When ‘The Mandalorian’ debuted last year on Disney+, the show became an instant phenomenon, with fans of all ages expressing excitement for products related to its iconic characters — particularly the Child,” Kareem Daniel, president of Disney Consumer Products, Games and Publishing, said in a statement. “This fall, as the world continues to watch the narrative unfold, we will further bring this unique Star Wars story to life through a must-have selection of toys, books, comics, digital content and more.”

Select pre-orders for the first wave of Mando Mondays products will kick off Sept. 21 at 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET across top retailers globally, including shopDisney.com. Products available for pre-order Sept. 21 include the Hasbro Black Series Credit Collection, new Funko Pop! bobbleheads, the “Lego Star Wars” The Child construction set and much more, all viewable now at MandoMondays.com.

Disney+ Presenting ‘The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special’

Disney+ is embracing the holiday traditions of a galaxy far, far away. Tuesday, Nov. 17, the streaming service will debut The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, a new animated adventure featuring a return to Chewbacca’s homeworld of Kashyyyk for a Wookiee-sized celebration of the galaxy’s most cheerful and magical holiday, Life Day.

The show harkens back to the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, a cheaply made variety show framed by the attempts of Chewbacca to return to his family to celebrate Life Day. It was released a year after the original “Star Wars” movie dominated theaters and is probably best known today for introducing the character of Boba Fett before his appearance in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back.

The new special will debut 42 years to the day after the lone official airing of the original Star Wars Holiday Special on CBS.

The holiday celebrated in the special, Life Day, the “Star Wars” galaxy’s equivalent of Christmas and Hanukkah, has been embraced by fans and is marked each year on Nov. 17 with ceremonies involving bringing glowing orbs to the “Tree of Life.”

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The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special

Taking place following the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special reunites Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids for a joyous Life Day feast. Rey leaves her friends to prepare for Life Day as she sets off on a new adventure with BB-8 to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious Jedi Temple, she is hurled into a cross-timeline adventure through beloved moments in Star Wars cinematic history, coming into contact with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan and other iconic heroes and villains from all nine Skywalker saga films.

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The latest collaboration between Lucasfilm and Lego, which have produced several “Star Wars” Lego animations before, marks the first “Lego Star Wars” program to debut exclusively on Disney+.

Merchandise tie-ins with the new Holiday Special include a “Lego Star Wars” advent calendar available Sept. 1, designed in tandem with the new show and featuring holiday-themed characters from it. Also available will be a tie-in sticker book from DK.

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special

James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction

DVD REVIEW: 

Street Date 7/28/20;
RLJ;
Documentary;
$34.97 DVD or Blu-ray;
Not Rated.
Featuring James Cameron, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott.

This six-episode documentary series hosted by filmmaker James Cameron should prove a fascinating viewing experience for any fan of the title genre, primarily due to the high-caliber talent on display sharing their insights on the topic.

The series is structured with each episode taking on a different topic within the genre: “Alien Life,” “Space Exploration,” “Monsters,” “Dark Futures,” “Intelligent Machines” and “Time Travel.” They run a shade over 40 minutes each on disc, long enough to fill an hour-long time slot when commercials are added in (the series originally aired on AMC in 2018).

Much of the series follows a typical documentary format tracing the history of the episode’s topic, with analysis from various talking heads in the form of critics, authors, actors and filmmakers. Particular emphasis is placed on the various social, political and philosophical underpinnings of various sci-fi stories throughout history. One primary thesis that arises is the notion that science-fiction isn’t about predicting the future, it’s about choosing our future — an observation that demonstrates why there’s still considerable value to older sci-fi tales that might otherwise seem outdated.

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But the heart of the program involves Cameron sitting for a series of one-on-one interviews with other high-profile directors as they discuss each others work (with no shortage of praise for one another, as could be expected). The stories the directors tell range from the oft-repeated tales that every fan knows, to interesting insights into what guided certain filmmaking decisions, such as how Steven Spielberg adapted much of his childhood into Close Encounters and E.T.

The discussion with George Lucas raises some eyebrows during the A.I. episode, when Cameron says so many movies depict the machines as bad guys, leading to Lucas stating that’s why he decided to depict robots as the good guys in “Star Wars” — the pair apparently sidestepping the fact that Lucas made three “Star Wars” films in which the good guys fought entire armies of evil robots.

Still, the conversations are fun to watch and the various TV and movie clips offer enough nostalgia that any viewer should find something to like.

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The bonus section includes extended interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver. These run about three to four minutes each.

The Future of ‘Star Wars’ Storytelling Is Clear

The week of “May the 4th Be With You” has been a banner one for Dave Filoni, the longtime animation veteran who is now one of the leading creatives of “Star Wars” content over at Lucasfilm.

Monday, May 4, marked the triumphant finale of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” the CG-animated series executive produced by Filoni that was given a chance by Disney+ to finish storylines that were abandoned after Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and canceled the series.

Filoni later went on to earn praise from “Star Wars” fans for producing the likes of “Star Wars Rebels” and “The Mandalorian,” the latter alongside noted fanboy filmmaker Jon Favreau.

Having worked with George Lucas since before “Clone Wars” debuted in 2008, Filoni is something of a creative bridge between the Lucas and Disney eras of “Star Wars.”

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In the first episode of the new Disney+ behind-the-scenes series “Disney Gallery: Star Wars — The Mandalorian,” which premiered May 4, Filoni talked about learning about live-action filmmaking from Lucas and applying those ideas to animation. All he expected from his initial meeting about doing a “Clone Wars” show was a story he could tell in line at Revenge of the Sith about being in a room as George Lucas ruminated to him about the zen philosophies of the Jedi. Filoni ended up getting the job, implying it had something to do with Lucas enjoying his work on “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Yet when it came time to craft the sequels to Lucas’ films, the new regime turned to J.J. Abrams, not Favreau or Filoni. The new films have mostly divided fan loyalties over the creative direction of a franchise that seems to be in serious need of a producer along the lines of Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige who can oversee the coherence of the shared universe, an element that was noticeably absent from the recent sequel trilogy.

In the second episode of “Disney Gallery” that premiered today (May 8), Filoni delivers a soliloquy that should cement his status as the person who should fill that role. In it, he analyzes a key plot point from 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace from an angle many fans may not have approached it from before.

The “Disney Gallery” series features Favreu, Filoni and other filmmakers involved with the show and “Star Wars” engaged in a series of roundtable discussions about their approach to the material. At one point, the discussion turned to the nature of storytelling in the “Star Wars” universe.

“The prequels I thought were almost an impossible task,” Filoni says. “How do you tell the story that we’ve all grown up with, imagining who Anakin Skywalker was? You saw so many things in The Phantom Menace that you had just imagined, like the Jedi Council, and none of it really was what I had expected, but I know now that’s just like how creative George is, he just sees it differently.”

Filoni focuses on the climactic battle between Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, with Darth Maul, an agent of chaos working for the Sith Lord who would eventually become Emperor Palpatine.

“I love the lightsaber fight with Darth Maul, not because it’s a lightsaber fight, but because George is so good at crafting why that fight’s important,” Filoni says. “In Phantom Menace, you’re watching these two Jedi in their prime fight this evil villain. Maul couldn’t be more obviously the villain, he’s designed to look evil.”

Filoni compares the emotional stakes of the battle with that of the fight between the older Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in the 1977 original movie before continuing.

“What’s at stake is really how Anakin’s going to turn out,” Filoni says. “Because Qui-Gon is different from the rest of the Jedi. You get that in the movie, and Qui-Gon is fighting because he knows he’s the father that Anakin needs, because Qui-Gon hasn’t given up on the fact that the Jedi are supposed to actually care and love, and that’s not a bad thing. The rest of the Jedi are so detached, and have become so political that they’ve really lost their way, and Yoda starts to see that in the second film. But Qui-Gon is ahead of them all. That’s why he’s not part of the Council.”

Filoni then references “Duel of the Fates,” composer John Williams’ signature track written for Episode I.

“So he’s fighting for Anakin, and that’s why it’s the ‘Duel of the Fates,’ it’s the fate of this child. And depending on how this fight goes, Anakin is going to, his life is going to be dramatically different. So, Qui-Gon loses, of course. … He knew what it meant to take this kid away from his mother, when he had an attachment, and he’s left with Obi-Wan.

“Obi-Wan trains Anakin at first out of a promise he makes to Qui-Gon, not because he cares about him.”

Filoni points out that when Obi-Wan first hears about Anakin, he considers him a distraction in the same vein as Jar-Jar Binks, and thinks trying to save the boy from slavery is a waste of time. In that sense, Obi-Wan shares the detachment from empathy that Qui-Gon worries has engulfed the Jedi Order.

“So he’s a brother to Anakin, eventually, but he’s not a father figure,” Filoni says. “That’s a failing for Anakin. He doesn’t have the family that he needs. He loses his mother in the next film. He fails on this promise that he made, ‘mother I will come back and save you.’ So he’s left completely vulnerable. And ‘Star Wars’ ultimately is about family.

“It’s everything the entire three films of the prequels hangs on, is that one particular fight.”

At that point, Maul’s role in the story has been fulfilled as disposable tool of the Emperor, who then turns his attentions to Anakin, eventually manipulating Anakin’s sense of loss to turn him into the evil Darth Vader by filling the fatherly void in Anakin’s life.

Filoni then turns to 1983’s Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and the scene where Luke is tempted to join the dark side by killing the Emperor out of anger.

“The only thing that’s going to save Luke is not his connection to the Force, it’s not the powers he’s learned. It’s not all these things that are an advantage to him,” Filoni says. “That’s gotten him to the table. But what saves Luke is his ability to look at all that, and look at his father and say no, I’m going to throw away this weapon, I’m not going to do that, I’m going to let that go and be selfless. And he says ‘I’m a Jedi like my father before me,’ but what he’s really saying and why we connect, why I connect so powerfully to it is he’s saying ‘I love my father, and there’s nothing you can do that’s going to change that.’ And the Emperor can’t understand that connection. Why wouldn’t you take from the power of the galaxy? Why won’t you take this?

“And Anakin, in that moment, has to decide to be the father that he’s never had. He has to give up all the power in the galaxy and save his son. And that’s the selfless act that he does in return for his son. And that’s what saves him in turn. So the son saves the father, the father saves the son and it works out perfectly, and I draw that line all the way from The Phantom Menace to Jedi. That’s the story of ‘Star Wars.’”

The example, Filoni says, is emblematic of the core values that all “Star Wars” stories should strive for.

“It’s all part of the fated arc. It’s all part of why it works and why we care,” Filoni says. “It’s not about X-Wings. It’s not about all these things we decorate ‘Star Wars’ in. It’s important, it’s part of the genius of it, but we soulfully react to it. We don’t just want an action movie, we want to feel uplifted. And ‘Star Wars’ is an adventure that makes you feel good, you know?

“That’s what I always go back to with ‘Star Wars’ is this selfless act, this family dynamic, which is so important to George, so important to the foundation of ‘Star Wars.’”

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The ultimate lesson, Filoni says, is one he learned directly from Lucas.

“Remember to make these stories hopeful,” Filoni says, channeling his mentor’s words. “Remember to give that to kids because they really need it.”

After that kind of insightful analysis, is there any doubt that Filoni isn’t the true heir to the creative legacy of “Star Wars”?

Merchandising: Best Buy Continues 4K Catalog Push

With a modest slate of new releases hitting shelves May 5, retailers focused mostly on promoting catalog titles and more notable recent hits.

Best Buy in particular continued to offer deals on a variety of films on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

The chain had a two for $30 deal on select movies from Paramount, including Ghost in the Shell, Interstellar, Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, Braveheart, A Quiet Place, Mission: Impossible — Fallout, Overlord, Bumblebee and the 2009 Star Trek.

It also had a three for $35 offer on select Universal 4K movies, including Warcraft, Lucy, King Kong 2005, Get Out, Apollo 13, American Made, Straight Outta Compton, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious.

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Many promotions were also built around the annual “Star Wars” day known as “May the 4th Be With You.” Best Buy made “Star Wars” movies one of its weekly “Top Deals.” Target dedicated a full page of its weekly ad to “Star Wars” products, including the movies on Blu-ray for $19.99 each. And Disney offered the “Star Wars” movies through digital retailers for as low as $4.99 on May 4 only.

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