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(Reuters) - A hamster-sized BB-8 droid and an updated Millennium Falcon spacecraft emerged as some of the most talked-about new "Star Wars" toys on Thursday as stores opened at midnight around the world for first sales of merchandise for the upcoming movie "The Force Awakens."
Fans, some dressed as Imperial Stormtroopers or Sand People, thronged stores in Australia and Japan after an 18-hour marathon global Walt Disney "unboxing" event online in which 13 of the new products were unwrapped.
"We're the first ones actually in the world to get our hands on it, so, what can be better than that? They're new 'Star Wars' toys, they're the first ones on the world, you just can't beat it," said Matthew Jones in Sydney, Australia as the products went on sale at midnight at a Target store.
The roll-out is part of a huge merchandising effort by Disney, and toy makers including Hasbro and Lego, ahead of the December release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" - the first in a new "Star Wars" trilogy - which brings back original 1977 cast members Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.
Dubbed "Force Friday," thousands of toy stores worldwide encouraged fans to dress up as their favorite "Star Wars" characters as the new lightsabers, Lego models, action figures and spaceships went on sale.
An orange and white cylindrical BB-8 droid that can move, talk and can be controlled through a smartphone app was trending on Twitter on Thursday, hours before stores opened in Europe or the United States.
Vanity Fair magazine judged the toy, made by U.S. company Sphero, so adorable that it recruited a handful of puppies to play with the droid and featured the video on its website.
A remote-controlled Millennium Falcon spacecraft, piloted in the "Star Wars" universe by Han Solo and Chewbacca, also proved an early favorite on social media.
U.S. furniture retailer Pottery Barn announced separately that it was making a kid's bed styled after the spacecraft.
In New York's Times Square, Toys "R" Us chief global merchandising officer Richard Barry said he expects kids and collectors alike to buy the new toys.
"You're going to see products imagined in a different way, using new technology and innovation, and allowing kids to live out the 'Star Wars' saga in a way that has never been possible before," Barry told Reuters.
Reporting By Jill Serjeant, Alicia Powell and Reuters Television; Editing by Marguerita Choy