A regularly updated blog about my vintage Kenner Star Wars toy collection. Some stuff that I've recently acquired; some stuff that I've had since I was a kid. Some rare, some common, but all sharing the warmth, charm and character of the "first generation" of Star Wars toys - the ones we played with as kids in the late '70s and early '80s.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tauntaun (Kenner Canada) and Tauntaun with Open Belly Rescue Feature

The second "riding animal" to be released in the vintage line (after the Patrol Dewback) was the Tauntaun, released in "Empire Strikes Back" packaging. The example in my collection happens to be a Kenner Canada item. Let's have a closer look!

"Contents: One marsupial mammal." Oddly specific, isn't it? I quite like this line, probably the Marketing Department's idea of a clever little joke. "One creature" or "one riding animal" just doesn't have the same ring, does it? Interestingly, this directly contradicts (!) the ESB script which reads:


A small figure gallops across the windswept ice slope.  The bundled 
rider is mounted on a large gray snow lizard, a Tauntaun.

Being a Kenner Canada item, French and English coexist in easy harmony on the box. Unfortunately some English infiltrated the French side as the "Action figures sold separately" appears in both languages on both box ends.

Back of the box demonstrates play features. Those reins... I have three Tauntauns in my collection and I think every set of brown rubbery plastic reins is broken and repaired, right at the top of the "loop". One of them is from my childhood collection and I remember that the reins broke soon after I got it. Superglue effects a repair but any flexibility in the repaired area is gone.

Typical Kenner escalation in this photo... two Rebel Soldiers, OK... but what kid is gonna have THREE TAUNTAUNS??

This is quite a nice picture of the Rebel Soldier grooming and saddling his smelly disgusting Tauntaun.

That's the box, now on to everyone's favourite part... playing with the toys setting up tableaux of the box photos. Must've been early in the ESB toy cycle as here we have Princess Leia Organa (as opposed to Hoth Outfit) and a non-Sensorscope R2. However as I've noted before, availability of certain figures often didn't seem to "figure" into the Kenner box art choices. Stormtrooper flying a TIE Interceptor anyone??

A fine profile shot of the Tauntaun with Han Hoth aboard.

Rebel Soldier lovingly grooming his mount. Perhaps trying to leverage the "horse-mad preteen girl" market? In any event, I like this softer side of the Rebel Soldier.

Setting off in search of Luke. Not quite the scene from the movie with Han storming off with his "I'll see you in Hell!!" line, but this is definitely more kid-friendly.

Now, the main thing people remember about Han's rescue of Luke on Hoth is stuffing him into the carcass of Han's dead Tauntaun. It was gross in the movie, and it's equally disturbing as a toy. However, by '82 the Tauntaun toy may have been getting a bit stale, and adding another play feature was a great way to invigorate sales.

No longer a "marsupial mammal", now just a mammal. Perhaps "marsupial" was removed so as not to create the impression that the open belly feature was some sort of joey pouch? Because reference to a natural birth process would be disgusting and inappropriate, not at all like a reference to cutting open a dead animal and stuffing your friend inside the carcass...

Ugh... nice close-up. We get the idea.

Recycled top picture from the Tauntaun box, with a re-imagining of the Hoth Rescue, this time with Rebel Commander and two Rebel Soldiers as witnesses to the horror. What is seen cannot be unseen!

Further recycling from the Tauntaun box.

It's surprisingly difficult to stuff Luke all the way into the Tauntaun abdominal cavity. I actually had to open the back hatch and stuff Luke's legs through there.

Close-up picture of the horrifying scene.

Maybe this is actually a reenactment of the rescue back at Echo Base, for the benefit of the Rebels who didn't get to see it the first time?? "Then I totally had this awesome idea, I took Luke's lightsword thingy and cut open the smelly old Tauntaun, and stuffed Luke inside it! He was totally unconscious so he didn't even realize until he woke up covered in Tauntaun guts, bile and feces! Try making time with the Princess now, farmboy! You're disgusting!" Makes drawing a dick on someone's head at a party look absolutely pedestrian in terms of pranks.

Well, enough with the Tauntaun stuffery... An interesting tidbit is that the COO information on both Tauntaun versions is exactly the same, on the bottoms of the feet. Luckily for Kenner, they didn't print the COO on the belly of the beast like they did with the Dewback - if they'd done so they'd have needed to move it for the open-belly version. Just luck? Or did the designers anticipate a later "open belly" version when designing the first toy?

Another difference between the toys is that the saddle on the open-belly version (top) has a much thicker strap than the standard version (bottom). Presumably this is the result of real-world feedback on the flimsiness of the plastic strap. Kenner really does care!

Anyway, there you have the comprehensive survey of the Tauntaun in both versions. For me, I'll take the original recipe. The open belly just freaks me out.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Autographed ALIEN Vintage Trading Cards

As regular readers of the blog (are there any??) may know, I'm also a big fan of ALIEN, Ridley Scott's genre-making sci-fi/horror hybrid that made an action hero out of Sigourney Weaver and introduced H.R. Giger's creepy "biomechanical" imaginings to the popular culture.

The other day while cruising around eBay looking at Giger stuff, I came across an auction that caught my attention - a set of vintage ALIEN trading cards autographed by the movie's stars and creative minds. As the buy-it-now price was reasonable I pulled the trigger and eventually the parcel arrived. Here's what was inside, in no particular order...  
"The Steamy Peril"... really?!? Anyway, this card was signed by Yaphet Kotto, a well-known African-American actor who played "Parker", one of the below-decks guys who ran the Nostromo and the refinery ship. Signature is in black Sharpie.

His partner, Brett, was played by Harry Dean Stanton. He met a notably sticky end in the movie as well. Signed in blue Sharpie.

The wonderful character actor John Hurt played Kane, the crew member victimized by the alien facehugger. I can't make out the dedication above his signature though; both in black Sharpie.

The lovely and talented Sigourney Weaver needs to no introduction to genre fans. She signed this card in black Sharpie.

Tom Skerritt played Captain Dallas (my favourite character of course) and signed this card in blue Sharpie. Apparently a love scene between Dallas and Ripley was cut from the film. 

This is really what I was after - a card signed by the artist himself, H.R. Giger, in his distinctive silver marker. The contrast isn't great with the card but it's a nice signature.

Ian Holm (Ash) signed this card in blue marker. He sure creeped me out in his portrayal of the homicidal "synthetic" Company science officer.

This card was signed by director Ridley Scott in blue Sharpie. I'm a big fan of Scott's, especially his work in ALIEN and Blade Runner, two of my all-time favorite movies.

Veronica Cartwright played Lambert in the film and signed this card in black marker. The scene on the card occurs just after Ash tries to murder Ripley with a rolled-up porn magazine (really) and Parker takes him out, revealing Ash to be an android! Yikes!!

This wrapper was included with the set and I've framed it along with the cards.

Unfortunately the seller was unable to provide much provenance with the set. However, he's an active autograph seller on eBay with lots of positive feedback, and the cursory investigation I was able to do with some autograph comparisons satisfied me that the pieces are likely genuine. The seller noted that he'd picked the set up at a convention a few years back. I expect that the original collector assembled the pieces one at a time, likely by sending the cards to the actors to be signed or collecting the signatures in person at a convention.

In any case, they will look nice hanging on the wall in my office. Hope you enjoyed seeing them too!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Space Freak of the Week - SWCA 'Chive Cast/Vintage Pod

So did anyone else have to Google "Raphael Saadiq"?

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be selected as a "Space Freak of the Week" and be interviewed for Episode 81 of Skye and Steve's excellent Star Wars Collectors' Archive vintage podcast. This blog had been mentioned a couple times before on the podcast, and I've been listening to Skye and Steve for a few years now, but I'd never appeared on the show.

I ended up talking with the guys for about 15 minutes for the show. Suffice to say that they are as entertaining and fun to talk to as they are to listen to on the show. Of course I forgot to mention a bunch of things that I wanted to talk about, but I had an awesome time with the guys and hope we can do it again sometime.

If you want to listen to the interview (or indeed the entire Episode 81 podcast) you can watch it on YouTube  or download it on iTunes if you swing that way. The part with me in it is at 1:22 but you should listen to the whole thing of course! The featured figure in the episode is the Emperor's Royal Guard, which is a cool figure, and always kind of reminded me of "Maximilian" the menacing robot from The Black Hole...

The Black Hole, 1979

Return of the Jedi, 1983

So thanks again to Skye and Steve for having me on the show. This podcast is essential listening for everybody who's interested in the vintage hobby and I'm super-happy to have been a (small) part of it. Wampa Wampa! (or "adios" if you prefer) :-)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A-Wing Fighter Vehicle

One of the toughest of the vintage ships to find in decent shape is the A-Wing Fighter. This is likely because of its "tail-ender" production near the termination of the vintage period - 1985. In fact, officially speaking, the ship was never part of the Star Wars product lineup proper, as it only appeared in a Droids-branded box. The ship had been featured in the cartoon and Kenner apparently saw fit to release it that way, rather than in RotJ or even Power of the Force packaging, like it did with the Tatooine Skiff. 

So, owing to the relative rarity and expense of boxed A-Wings, my collection includes a loose example without the box. In fact, there's a (relatively short and mostly uninteresting) story behind this one. I'd resolved to find a nice loose A-Wing on ebay a few years ago but none were available for a price I thought rational... so I picked one up with broken landing gear for a relative song.

Cleverly, though, I'd scanned the auction site for the spare parts I reckoned I'd need to repair the ship once it got here. And for once in my collecting life, things went exactly to plan. Broken ship and repair parts arrived and a repair was effected - now I had a functional and cosmetically attractive A-Wing for a fraction (a large fraction is still a fraction right?) of the price of a mint example. 

Nice clear plastic inserts for the engine nacelles.

I know I bang on a bit about the engineering of the vintage vehicles, but this is another example of a clever solution. We recall that the X-Wing Fighter canopy just swings up and down by hand - Kenner went for something a bit more elegant with the A-Wing. The lozenge-shaped thing just aft of the canopy is the switch to open it. Just push it forward...

... and the canopy pops open. So cool.

At the sharp end of the ship. It looks just great with the A-Wing pilot nestled in the cockpit, no? Another interesting element of the ship is the paint deco - most other vehicles in the vintage line had to make do with stickers, but the A-Wing got paint.

Copyright information here. Note the date of 1985 - right at the tail end of vintage production.

Underside of the ship showing the landing gear. Switch to raise/lower the gear is visible just inboard of the right-hand leg. As noted, one leg of the gear was broken on this toy when it arrived in my collection and I understand that this is not uncommon. Be sure to check your purchase before forking over the cash!

So with this post on the A-Wing, I've completed blogging about all of the major starfighter toys from the vintage line - X-Wing, Y-Wing, B-Wing, TIE Fighter, Darth Vader's TIE Fighter, and TIE Interceptor. Like some of the others, the A-Wing's inherent coolness parlayed into updated versions, released in the post-vintage era. But as always, those versions, while arguably more realistic with their weathered deco, can't hold a repulsorlift module to the original!

Friday, December 30, 2016

B-Wing Fighter Vehicle

Let's face it - the Rebel Alliance were not the most creative types when it came to naming their starfighters. A-Wing, X-Wing, Y-Wing etc... so it's a bit of a mystery how they came up with "B-Wing" as the name for this ship. While the rest of the fleet's names obviously derive from their overall shape, there's no way this ship looks even remotely like a letter "B".

However, according to Wookieepedia, anyway, the ship was designed by Joe Johnston and Bill George, along with the A-Wing, for Return of the Jedi. Supposedly the fighter designs were internally designated "A" and "B" and since George worked so much on "Fighter B" it became known as the "Bill-Wing" - later canonized as the "B-Wing".

Well good job, Bill, because the toy version of your fighter is one of the coolest Star Wars ships, ever. The rotating cockpit, while undoubtedly disorienting to the pilot, is an amazing play feature on this well-designed toy. And unusually for Kenner box art, this one actually shows the correct pilot figure!

Twisting the engine nacelle extends the wings into flight position.

Pretty pricy for the early '80s as well - even on sale this thing was nearly 22 bucks!

Detailed instruction booklet required to get the most out of this complex toy.

"Laser Battle Sound" even still works on mine :-)

The box art tableau was fun to set up, with a good variety of figures and as noted above, the proper pilot for a change. 

Lando is just hanging around trying to avoid work, as usual.

Ackbar and Madine brief the B-Wing Pilot...

...while Pruneface (I guess his appearance here proves he's a good guy? I always thought he was just one of Jabba's goons) and Nien Nunb discuss. Although NN looks like he's threatening Pruneface with grievous bodily harm.

Nicely detailed cockpit stickers.

Lastly, some beauty shots of this great-looking toy and its pilot:

Nice detail on the laser cannons

Impressive size of the ship must have gone some way to justifying the price point

Landing gear

Slider switch at left controls wing configuration