Pros: a fun way to teach kids how to save
Cons: a terrible way to teach kids how to spend money
There is something uncannily apt about a bank in the form of a Star Wars character...it symbolizes exactly what Star Wars is threatening to become, if "Episode One" is any indication: a plastic plot intended to harvest money, armed with the double-edged sword of appealing special effects and hungry profit motives.
Yes, this bank will appeal to little kids and if you want to teach your little Gon Jinn the ethic of saving money, then this will get the job done. Indeed, the threatening glare of Darth Maul's eyes will prevent the wee one from thinking about prematurely opening the bank to buy some candy, when college lies in their future instead. The representation of Darth Maul on this figurine is as good as any of the other Star Wars figures and the bank -- while not quite big enough to handle all the tips your child might get on his or her paper route during the holiday season -- is still functional and sizable enough to hold, perhaps, a year's worth of movie tickets in coinage.
The question is: should your child spend it on the next film, or save their coins for something less market-driven?
Nonetheless, there's something doubly ironic about this item: as a bank, it not only effectively seduces children into wanting to save, but the whole point behind the item itself is its collectibility. When "Episode 1" was released, a swarm of Star Wars franchise toy owners attacked Ebay and started hawking their wares for some pretty amazing figures (by figures, I mean $$$, not plastic simulacra of Mark Hamill wielding a flimsy pink light saber). Will this bank, too, have a high resale value? Perhaps...if you don't actually use it and leave it in its original packaging.
But with all that Star Wars: Phantom Menace plastic paraphernalia raining down on the ecosphere last year -- from Taco Bell plastic cups to battery-powered lollipop spinners and Star Wars soap-on-a-rope -- you gotta wonder whether ANY of it will be worth the penny's worth of plastic the latex emblem is printed on. The enterprise was oversold, glutted the market, and merchandisers got a bit too creative with their product choices, generating things like this bank. Why not an environmentally-friendly, biodegradable bank or a chocolate cookie form of the Death Star? I worry about all this plastic junk and whether it will turn Earth into something resembling the deserts of Tattooine soon enough.
Okay, so that last remark was a little over the top. But so is this product. I'm sure someone out there has their finger on the "Not Recommend" trigger as I type this, but I'm being honest: your kid WILL like this product if he or she is a fan of Darth Maul, and I'm sure they'll even learn to save a buck or two. But perhaps we need to teach our children to pay attention to our world before they set their sights on imaginary planets that don't recycle. Or at least let's not encourage our children to fall for merchandising hype like, perhaps, we did. There are better ways to make and save money.
If you must get your kid a Star Wars item, buy them Terry Brooks' novelization or a coloring book instead.
-- unheimlich, 12/00