How The Mandalorian’s Amban Phase-Pulse Blaster Went from Holiday Special Joke to Nerf Toy
Din Djarin’s Amban phase-pulse blaster is no joke, but it did start out as one in the Star Wars Holiday Special before becoming the go-to Nerf Mandalorian rifle.
This Star Wars: The Mandalorian article contains spoilers.
The Mandalorian’s Star Wars lore elements are firmly cemented in pop culture now, so the mind-blowing impact of one of its earliest teases, the title character’s devastating, disintegration-dealing Amban phase-pulse blaster, might already be forgotten. However, the signature forked firearm of Din Djarin is now set to reach a new tier of popularity: a Nerf toy.
The Amban rifle’s Nerf treatment was recently revealed by Hasbro, which has put together an impressive foam-flinging toy that measures 50.25 inches (1.27 meters) in length. The blaster, which makes series-accurate sound effects when firing Nerf bolts, stops short of resembling a replica—for obvious safety reasons—with a toy-distinguishing grey barrel that contrasts with bright-red parts on the scope, barrel, and trigger. Priced at a hefty $119.99, the rifle won’t be available until October 2021, but it will arrive in time for Christmas (Life Day) next year, making it this generation’s Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200 Shot Range Model air rifle for discerning Star Wars fans young and old who have been enjoying The Mandalorian on Disney+.
Interestingly, the Amban rifle has experienced an unlikely, 40-years-in-the-making rise to television fame…and Nerf. The eye-catching weapon, which was immediately recognizable in one of The Mandalorian‘s first preview images, clearly resembles the one brandished by none other than Boba Fett in the animated segment of 1978’s notorious Star Wars Holiday Special, titled “The Story of the Faithful Wookie.”
Bearing voice performances by the movie cast, the short segment introduced Fett (voiced here by Don Francks) to the Star Wars universe, and predates his canonical debut—not counting Kenner’s 1979 mail-away action figure or the onscreen cameo inserted into the 1997 Special Edition of 1977’s A New Hope—as the stoic, Carbonite-Han-hauling bounty hunter in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. However, while the segment shows Fett in a now-familiar form (albeit distinguished by pastel animation aesthetics), he happened to brandish a menacing forked rifle that he wouldn’t bring to his subsequent live-action movie appearances, relegating it to legend.
However, in “Faithful Wookie,” the weapon we now know as the Amban phase-pulse blaster served a different purpose than Din Djarin’s version, and was instead used by Fett as a glorified cattle prod for the docile, but stubborn giant dragon that he was using as a steed to traverse the planet Panna Prime. Here, the rifle is depicted as firing a clear energy stream that—at least when used on the sizable creature—has a stunning shock effect. While the campiness of the blast seemed to be a joke that belied the menacing look of the rifle, it was used to foreshadow the Imperial-aiding intentions of mysterious bounty hunter Fett—who presented himself as a friend to a crashed and stranded Luke, R2-D2, and C-3PO—when he used the rifle to cruelly punish the creature he was riding.
Nevertheless, we would not see the see the Amban again (at least, canonically) until The Mandalorian’s 2019 inaugural season, as brandished by Din Djarin. Yet, this version of the Amban was a clear contrast from the goofy ray gun we saw in the Holiday Special, and Djarin devastatingly demonstrated the weapon’s true capabilities in the heat of battles against Jawas, Guild Bounty Hunters, Klatooinian Raiders, and remnant Imperial Stormtroopers, proving that it’s no joke at all, since a single shot is shown to instantly disintegrate a normal-sized humanoid. Even the goofy “cattle prod” function seen with Fett’s version was redeemed in season 2 during a battle with a Krayt dragon. While the rifle’s blast wasn’t even able to mark the creature’s tough exterior, Djarin ultimately used the stun function to electrocute the creature from the inside, resulting in a messy, viscera-splattering end to the giant beast.
With results like that, it’s no surprise that the Amban achieved redemption in the Star Wars universe as the signature weapon of the typically-sidearm-slinging Djarin. Moreover, it now provides key context to a movie line famously uttered by Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back when addressing the lineup of bounty hunters regarding the Millennium Falcon and its occupants. Upon completing his briefing, Vader specifically turns to Fett—likely knowing about his past use of the Amban—and emphatically states, “I want them alive, no disintegrations.” It’s a caveat we would learn later in the film was motivated by a desire to see his son Luke survive capture.
However, the Amban’s ascension to the annals of Nerfdom arrives at what seems to be a bittersweet moment, since (SPOILER incoming) a recent episode of The Mandalorian saw Djarin’s battered-but-beloved ship, the Razor Crest, reduced to rubble, along with its contents, which, at that moment, appears to have included his Amban blaster. Consequently, it will be interesting to see if a similar weapon were to appear again, especially since (coincidentally) Djarin subsequently hopped a ride with none other than a resurfaced Boba Fett (the Amban OG) in his Slave I ship. Might Fett still have his old Amban in the cargo hold? Might that one somehow end up with Djarin?