Looking Back at the Delightful, Unhinged Jar Jar Binks Merchandise of 1999

Looking Back at the Delightful, Unhinged Jar Jar Binks Merchandise of 1999

Star Wars and merchandise have been hand in hand since the very beginning. But there was still something unlike anything the galaxy had ever seen when, 25 years ago this coming weekend, The Phantom Menace launched: a brand new Star Wars saga, completely backed by an overwhelming, frequently insane merchandising push that made the original trilogy’s mania look quaint. But above the sea of lightsabers, pod racers, and droids, one icon stood above them all: Jar Jar Binks.

The Phantom Menace’s Gungan hero has developed a complicated legacy in the two and a half decades since the movie’s release, but there was no doubt at the time or on the toy shelves and beyond that Jar Jar was a star. The Chewbacca of the new film, he was the iconic alien design, an evolution of George Lucas’ technical ambitions made digital flesh—and, of course, highly marketable to kids in the process. You name it, they put Jar Jar on it, in it, or made out of it—as you’ll see in our nostalgic look back at the wonderfully weird array of merch that Jar Jar mania swept the galaxy with 25 years ago.

Jar Jar Binks Koosh Ball

Image: eBay

What if Jar Jar Binks didn’t have a torso, and instead a sphere of approximately-Binks-colored fronds instead? What then, Mr. Lucas? What then.

Jar Jar Binks Shaped Puzzle

Image: eBay

Not to be confused with the actual 3D puzzles shaped like Jar Jar—they existed too, of course. No, this is a flat, 2D puzzle with Jar Jar as its frame: a frame for an absolutely bonkers plethora of promotional images, most of which are not of Jar Jar. I love that the vague edges of his eyes still fade in around the top of the puzzle though, that’s not at all horrifying.

Thinkway Dancing Jar Jar Binks

Image: eBay

He sings! He dances! Well, he kind of vibrates wildly. This delightfully odd lights-and-sounds Jar Jar is insane enough when he’s in full motion, but really, it’s bested by the state of rigor mortis he is in when not dancing for your pleasure. He has no dance, and he must scream.

Jar Jar Pez Hander

Image: Property Room

This is an incredible amount of work simply to get a tiny little puck of candy, which involves Gragra the Swokes Swokes—everyone loves and remembers Gragra the Swokes Swokes, the world’s favorite Star Wars character—trying to bat away Jar Jar’s efforts to tongue a Pez for himself. But he’s tonguing the Pez for you! It’s all for you. Please, take your tongued Pez, in appreciation of the journey it had to take to get to you.

Jar Jar Collector Watch

Image: eBay

Sure, you could’ve gone for one of the many other Star Wars watches on hand in 1999, some of which even had Jar Jar art. But real ones know the third dimension is where it’s at, in the form of this absolutely behemoth wristwatch, which, helpfully, after you have cracked Jar Jar’s waiting face open to reveal the time, informs you on the roof of his mouth that this is indeed a piece of Jar Jar merchandise. Just in case you were not aware.

Jar Jar Binks 3-D Adventure Game

Image: Pinterest

Speaking of the third dimension, Jar Jar was at the cutting edge of it all in 1999. 3D watches, 3D puzzles, and, of course, a 3D adventure game, built around Jar Jar trying to survive going about his business one day only to be bumped into by some random Jedi and have a bunch of battle droids invade his home planet. The little fold-out board is cute enough, but please, appreciate the box decor here: just image after image of Jar Jar around the edge.

Micro Machines Jar Jar Binks Transforming Action Set

Image: eBay

Star Wars’ Micro Machines line went all out for Phantom Menace, but nothing compares to this absolutely majestic, stoic replica of Jar Jar looking more serious than he ever has in his life… which then invites you to fold his face out to transform the display into a little replica of the Gungan capital, Otoh Gunga, for you to play with. A fascinating commentary on Jar Jar’s interiority and his thoughts about being sent into exile by his own people? Perhaps. Probably not though.

The Fast Food Tie-Ins

Image: eBay

Jar Jar wasn’t just on your toy shelves. He was in every KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut across the nation in an endless litany of tie-in toys. Fear the Jar Jar water squirter! Marvel at the elegance of a floating, wind-up Jar Jar that can swim! Join me, in looking as tired and compressed as the squishy, squeezy Jar Jar!

Sticky Tongue Jar Jar

Image: eBay

Likewise, this remarkable tie-in promo with chip maker Walkers/Lays gave you a small plastic Jar Jar head, complete with a long, sticky, flappable tongue. You were meant to use it to flick at some small targets and have the tongue “stick” to them, but really, this nightmarishly long appendage was only good for being a magnet for dust and other detritus, making what was already a very questionable looking toy look even more questionable, real fast.

Jar Jar Binks Monster Mouth Candy Tongue

Image: WordPress

Look. I knew it would be here. You knew it would be here. The most questionable act of Star Wars merchandising since the C-3PO tape dispenser, the candy tongue Jar Jar is forever burned into our minds. It’s just an absolutely remarkable series of decisions, wrapped into a singular product. Why did the dispenser have to be Jar Jar shaped? Why must the candy tongue be so… tongue-like? Why must we gaze longingly into the eyes of a Gungan to approach this candied tongue at the most lickable angle? A powerful legacy for a lollipop to have.

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