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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Star Wars" producers on Wednesday announced a marathon, worldwide roll-out of toys next week for its upcoming "The Force Awakens" movie in a promotional push that seeks to capture the excitement that once greeted new "Harry Potter" book releases.
The toys will be introduced online over an 18-hour period in 15 cities and 12 nations beginning in Sydney, Australia early on Sept. 3, movie studio Walt Disney said.
Selections of the new toys, as well as comics, books and clothing, will then go on sale in stores around the world, with many opening at midnight. Book stores in many nations held midnight parties for fans eager to get their hands on the new books during the "Harry Potter" publishing phenomenon of the early 2000's.
The toy roll-out is part of a huge merchandising effort by Disney ahead of the December release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" - the first in a new "Star Wars" trilogy - which brings back some of the beloved cast from the original 1977 movie, including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.
"The Force Awakens," picks up 30 years after "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" and is the most hotly-anticipated movie release of the year.
Disney earlier this month announced partnerships with seven global brands, including cereal maker General Mills, automaker Fiat Chrysler, and make-up line Covergirl.
Japan's biggest airline, ANA, has also announced that three of its planes will be decorated with "Star Wars" characters and that they will offer all six of the current "Star Wars" movies as part of their in-flight entertainment.
For the toy release next week, Disney plans to capitalize on the trend for so-called "unboxing" events online, in which new products are unpacked and videos uploaded to the Internet.
Eighteen of the world's top 100 most-viewed YouTube channels worldwide are dedicated to toys and toy unboxing, according to research figures cited by Disney.
The "Star Wars" YouTube channel will host the livestream of the unboxing event in which each of the 15 locations around the world will reveal a new product, ending with San Francisco on the morning of Sept.3. Fans will be encouraged to Tweet their comments with the Twitter hashtag #ForceFriday.
Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere and Jill Serjeant; editing by Larry King and Nick Zieminski