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, October 28, 2014

Death Star playset (Palitoy)

Every collector has a "grail" item - something that they long to have, that just has some special appeal. Usually the grail is rare, and most often it's expensive. For production Star Wars collectors, it can be something foreign, or unusual. For me, this item is all of those things - it's the infamous chipboard Death Star playset.

As you can see from the packaging, this is the Palitoy (UK) version of the playset - it was also released in other markets including New Zealand, Australia, France and Canada. Although we here in Canada were the only market to get both the Kenner (plastic) Death Star playset and this chipboard version, the Canadian card Death Star is even more difficult to find than Palitoy's and I've "settled" on adding this UK version to my collection. But I'm not disappointed - far from it. This is the coolest playset I own, and by some margin at that.

The box is in admittedly lousy condition but I'm happy just to have one with the toy. Even though it's a Palitoy item the box design carries all of the classic Kenner hallmarks - colourful photography, sharp design and that iconic racetrack on the front.

Here it is, assembled. It's actually reasonably challenging to put together, and I wouldn't recommend trying it for the first time without referring to the instructions. The components are a thick card I have heard referred to as "chipboard", combined with some plastic components - the five two-piece base connectors, the trash chute, the top gunner's cockpit and canopy, and the two cannons pinched from the X-Wing Fighter toy. The set also included some small clear plastic figure stands, but these are long gone from my set, which is fortunately otherwise complete.

The detail packed into this playset is amazing. Every inch of the walls is covered with Star-Warsy goodness. Here Darth and Ben battle in front of the trash compactor escape hatch.

"Get in there, you big furry oaf! I don't care what you smell!"
Trash chute drops figures straight into the compactor - complete with moving walls. The hatch at right opens to allow heroes to "escape".

The mirror at the base reflects the walls, giving the illusion of a bottomless shaft. Ben searches for the controls to the tractor beam.

Back to replicating the box shots. One of the rooms represents the Princess's cell. Either that or Vader's bedroom...

The heroes engage in discussion while Ben battles Vader.

The heroes about to be crushed in the trash compactor...

"How you doin'?"
...or is that Luke just taking the opportunity to mack on Leia?

Han takes to the garbage chute as the heroes come under fire from Stormtroopers. What's that Jawa doing on the Death Star?!?!?

Imperial Gunner finds his rightful place, although he wouldn't be released until the PotF line, six years later...

"I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you."
Imperial Gunner looks menacing stalking the corridors.

Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin discuss their nefarious plans.

You gotta wonder about Imperial administration when they have a whole room full of Death Squad Commanders and no actual Death Squads in sight.

The detailing on this toy is just incredible.

Underside of base is decorated with familiar space battle photo as well as photos of the first 12 figures. Canadian version differs in that it has a plain "marbled" looking base underside.

I think I would have blown my brains out with joy if I'd had this set as a kid. The play value and detailing are just off the charts. The only drawback, of course, is that the cardboard construction is far from robust, which probably contributes significantly to the rarity of these pieces... I expect that most were trashed by kids and subsequently thrown away.

Suffice to say, I'm very happy to have it in my collection :-)  Next up, I'll post the Kenner version!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Imperial Troop Transporter

One of the ways to keep a hobby like this under control is to try and focus. Some people focus on a character (Han Solo?) or setting (Hoth? Bespin?) or even a group of characters (Bounty Hunters?)

Me, I've tried to focus by excluding things that I see no need to collect. In particular, these are toys that, although part of the vintage line proper, represent things that never appeared onscreen in the original trilogy. So things like mini-rigs, Ewok Villages, and Assault Catapults don't really have a place in my Star Wars corner.

By all rights, then, the Imperial Troop Transporter should have no place in my collection. It never appeared onscreen - it's 100% purely a creation of the marketers and toy designers at Kenner. Speaking of marketing, what's up with the ESB branding on this toy??
So why get one? Well, it came with a collection of other stuff |I picked up - otherwise I probably wouldn't have sought one out. But now that I have it, I guess it's pretty cool. Take the "sound feature", for example. The box panel sets out the six sounds the toy makes (or in my example's case, "made"). Of course this was all well before microchip technology, so the sounds had to be produced by something more akin to a miniature phonograph player inside the toy. Groovy!

One thing that always wound me up as a kid was the number of Stormtrooper figures the box-front models seemed to have at their disposal. I only ever had ONE Stormtrooper as a kid, I thought my parents would have thought I was out of my mind if I'd asked for a figure I already had! (Of course now I have about 20 of 'em!)

The toy also came with some accessories - the vaguely S&M-like "prisoner immobilization units." In the shot above, the Stormtroopers appear to be congratulating themselves over capturing Princess Leia. Threepio is probably trying to (unsuccessfully) negotiate her release...

Sounds are activated by buttons on the top of the hull. I love the little pictograms representing the different sounds.

Death Squad Commander gets to drive this sweet whip.

Here's a better shot of all of the sound pictograms. Laser dish rotates on a gear with the mounted blasters.

Artoo puzzles out the situation. On-off switch right behind him inside the compartment.

Front view of the vehicle.

One of the great things with this toy are the inserts. The instruction sheet is only just the beginning (click for larger view)

I can TOTALLY imagine Darth Vader saying that.

This story is great, I especially like the derision in which the Dewback troopers are held by the others. Can totally see that, too.

I also never knew that Stormtroopers had problems sitting down...! Armor designed by the lowest bidder, no doubt.

Light up that 'crawler boys!!!

Your caption here
Who am I kidding? I'm a sucker for anything Kenner in that classic black box. I just hope nobody ever gives me a mini-rig or my self-imposed restraint might just be out the window...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Display Limelight

I wanted to post a few photos of my "Star Wars Corner" where I display my stuff. I know many collectors are interested in how others display their collections (I am) and it's fun to see what ideas people have for display. In the photo above, my loose figures are displayed in a glass case from JYSK that's similar to the IKEA "Detolf" case. From top shelf to bottom, I have the last wave of POTF figures (and boxed Landspeeder); the last nine SW figures along with the ESB wave; the ROTJ wave; and on the bottom, the boxed Cloud Car with my two MOCs (Toy Fair Leia and Leia
Endor) and some variants (matte grey IG-88, Taiwan Fett, one-stripe Death Squad Commander, smiling Lando, large head Han, cloth cape Jawa) and bootlegs (Mark Poon Rocket Fett and new Stormtrooper set). On the top is the box for my Palitoy Death Star, a recent acquisition that I'm very excited about!

Between the wall and the basement stairs, I've constructed a wall of three IKEA "Besta" shelf units. The doors at the bottom of the units conceal more storage - cases of loose figures, some loose vehicles (including two AT-ATs), etc. At lower left you can see the top of my Gentle Giant Vader, a present from my wife that re-sparked my vintage collecting hobby. Both the glass case and the Bestas are lit with LED strip lighting, which I really like. It's easy on the collectibles as well.
Opposite that on the far wall, there's another IKEA case with ships and models displayed on top. At centre there's a French copy of Stephane Faucourt's great new book, "La French Touch", which I helped him with. On the shelves at left are my other Star Wars reference books.
Upstairs in my office, behind the desk at which I'm typing this, I keep my ALIEN stuff. The curio cabinet I've had forever and I keep the modern stuff from Super7 in there. Below that there's the awesome original Kenner ALIEN figure, a copy of Giger's book, and two "eggs" from Super7 that a colleague picked up for me at SDCC 2014 (thanks Victor!)

The new vintage MOCs just fit in crosswise. I also have the "clear Alien" but he stays in the shipping case as there isn't room in the cabinet. On the lower shelf there's the "Early Bird Kit" and the two "salesman samples" from SDCC 2013, as well as two egg figures from this year's Comicon. I've written a lengthy blog post on the new vintage ALIEN stuff from Super7 - you can find it here.

I just love the Big Chap; if you want to read more about him click here. Giger's art books are frightening works of genius...

Well, there's the quick tour of my collection. The Star Wars stuff is in the basement with minimal natural light incursion so I'm not overly worried about degradation. The ALIEN stuff, however, is upstairs in my office with a large south-facing window. I've addressed this issue by having UV film professionally applied to the window. It looks great (that is to say, you don't notice it at all) and does the job - blocks almost all UV as well as reducing heat considerably. I recommend that everybody look into a solution like this if you have to store stuff where natural light abounds.

I hope it's inspirational!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Twin-Pod Cloud Car

Here's another rather obscure vehicle from The Empire Strikes Back that was given its own toy version in the Kenner line. The Twin-Pod Cloud Car appears in one scene, escorting the Falcon in for a landing at Cloud City about halfway through the film. Blink... and you missed it!

One box side demonstrates how to place an action figure in the cockpit, and how the landing gear raises and lowers.

The other side displays the same photo as used on the box front. Not sure why the scene appears to take place in two feet of snow...

And here's my re-creation of that scene. Everybody seems to love waving at each other. Luke raises an arm in greeting as he arrives/departs in the Cloud Car; the other Bespin Guard has raised his hand; Threepio is waving for some reason, and Lando is waving his arm around like a maniac. The play scenario can't be overly chummy, though, as three of the participants (including Leia!) are armed...

You might notice that I've increased the "diversity" factor in this re-creation as well by substituting a black Bespin Guard for one of the three white/Asian guards in the original photo. Might also be because I only own two white/Asian Guard figures...

Meanwhile, Lobot tries to explain to the Cloud Car Pilot why there are Guards climbing all over his ship. "Don't worry, it's just a photoshoot. Yes, I've told them not to touch anything."

Cloud Car Pilot takes it up with a Guard nevertheless. "We got union rules here, man. You can't fly a Cloud Car unless you're a qualified Pilot!"

Detail of decals on instrument panel and engine.

Here's the other instrument panel.

Copyright information appears on bottom panel.

The Cloud Car wasn't a toy I originally owned as a kid, and truth be told, it wasn't one that was high on my want list, either. It appeared only very briefly in the movie, and in a pretty undramatic role to boot. But it's an attractive toy for parents to buy and undoubtedly came in at a similarly attractive price point. However, for a bit more money, I'm sure kids would've wanted a Rebel Armoured Snowspeeder instead ;-)