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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Large Size Boba Fett and IG-88

With its introduction of iconic Star Wars figures of 1978, Kenner is basically credited with inventing the 3-3/4" action figure as we know it today (perhaps a disputable proposition given the earlier origins of the 4-inch Fisher-Price Adventure People line). In any event, while Star Wars will forever be inextricably linked to the small figures, Kenner also produced what it called "Large Size Action Figures" or as most would call them, "DOLLS".

Dolls they may be, but they were pretty cool dolls. Arguably the coolest of the cool were Boba Fett and IG-88, the infamous bounty hunters who first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. (Well, I suppose Boba Fett actually first appeared in the Star Wars Holiday Special, but that's a tale for another day).

Boba came in Star Wars or ESB branded packaging. The loose example shown here took me some time and expense to assemble, as it originally came with many (easily lost) accessories.

Fett's gun (unlike IG-88's weapons) is an original design to the 12" line. Strangely, none of the original vintage toys ever seem to get Fett's gun quite accurate to the screen version...

Boba also comes with a grappling-hook/rocket thing on his backpack. This element comprises two pieces (the red plastic part and the white rubbery top bit) that are attached. There is a string tied to the distal end of the red piece that extends through the body of the backpack and is looped around hooks at the bottom of the backpack, with a plastic ring at the end of the string to prevent it slipping out the top end of the backpack.

This picture also clearly shows the small opening in the back of his helmet that contains a tiny lens. You can look through this lens and see a "Boba's eye view" of the bounty hunter's target. Pretty cool!
Fett also carries some Wookiee scalps as a trophy. Bet that made Chewbacca upset...

Here are all of his accessories. The nozzles at each bottom corner of the backpack are separate pieces made of a soft-ish rubber, very prone to breakage. The nozzles are mounted in holes on the edge of the backpack. The two halves of the backpack (front and back) are then sonic-welded together to keep the nozzles in place. This makes it nearly impossible to replace a broken nozzle. To do so, you basically have to very slightly enlarge the hole in the backpack and squeeze the new nozzle into it... ask me how I know ;-)

You can clearly also see the arrangement with the string and how it loops around the backpack hooks.

Just an awesome looking dol- errr... "Large Size Action Figure".

The last (and rarest) of the 12" Kenner line was Fett's fellow bounty hunter, IG-88. Taller than Fett, he measures in at a whopping 15" tall.

Not nearly as well-equipped with gear as Fett, IG-88 comes with a plastic bandolier holding four plastic "grenades". Unfortunately these are also very easily lost, and the ones on my example are reproductions.

IG-88's weapons are accurate to the 3-3/4" toy version's guns - a long blaster and more compact "Stormtrooper" model blaster complete his equipment.

Despite his size, IG-88 is nowhere near as fully articulated as Fett, having only five points - arms at the shoulder, legs at the hips, and neck. Oh, and I think his "hands" rotate. That's it. Even so, a very cool figure, made cooler by its rarity. Also not to be confused with the "modern" IG-88 variant which has a weathered deco and more points of articulation, but is smaller than the vintage version.

Although more 12" figure prototypes were designed by Kenner, the relative unpopularity of the large figures doomed the range, as it made much more sense for the manufacturer to concentrate on the smaller line and its profitable ships and playsets. The large figures were obviously too big to justify making ships etc. to scale, so the range was limited at the end to Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, Threepio, Artoo, Ben, Jawa, Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Boba Fett and IG-88. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dagobah Action Playset (Kenner Canada)

The Star Wars movies are chock-full of exotic and evocative alien environments, but perhaps none moreso than The Empire Strikes Back. We're taken from a freezing ice planet, to a deadly asteroid field, to the steaming jungles of  Dagobah, home of the diminutive Jedi master, Yoda.

Kenner, for its part, immortalized Dagobah in plastic with the "Dagobah Action Playset", released in 1981. The playset incorporates multiple environments into its compact footprint. Let's explore them...   

The Spirit of Obi-Wan lurks in Yoda's Jedi training area. The two grey crates are loose items (often lost) that came with the playset - they mount on filaments extending from the base. Pushing the lumpy brown thing beside Ben "levitates" the crates with a lever action, evoking the training scenes with Yoda and Luke in the movie. The playset also came with a grey cylindrical plug that fits inside an Artoo figure's barrel-like body so he can "levitate" too.

Around the front we have Yoda's cave home. There isn't really any detail or play elements in there.

 The front of the playset also incorporates a foam "swamp" that Artoo can be submerged in. The foam tends to deteriorate over time so that to find a playset with foam in good shape (as this one is) can be rare.

Around the other side of the playset is the cave that Yoda tells Luke is "strong with the Dark Side." The box art shows Luke battling with Vader so that's what I've set up here too. The semi-circular lever that can be seen to the right of Vader is (I think) a gadget to allow Artoo to levitate. It's connected to a "branch" that sticks out the other side of the playset and can be moved "remotely" by working the branch up and down. looking at my playset in comparison to the box photos, it appears that mine was put together backwards - the forked branch bit should be on the same side as the Dark Side cave.

Luke and Vader are standing on pegs that can be moved by sliding the levers. This seems to be a recurring theme in playsets. Did kids really enjoy pushing levers and watching figures turn through a 45 degree angle? I don't recall this being a strong element of fun when I was a kid, but that's a long time ago...

Reverse of box shows its Kenner Canada origins with text en francais. French packaging is sometimes referred to in collector circles with the shorthand "GDE" which stands for "La Guerre des Etoiles", naturellement. Nice line drawing but it's essentially the same image as the box front photo. Did French kids feel ripped off that their language didn't get a pretty full colour image on the box??

Bilingual box end with English and French text, but French-only logo.

Well, that's the Dagobah playset! Stay tuned for another exciting installment coming soon - in the meantime feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts - did you have this set as a kid?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Welcome to the Blog

The first twelve, owned since 1978 ;-)

Thanks for visiting my blog, "Vintage Kenner Star Wars Toys"!

For those men (and selected women) of a certain age, Star Wars toys evoke fond memories of childhood. The toys themselves are simple, but not simplistic. The figurines and playsets are essentially inert pieces of plastic, devoid of sophisticated electronics or technological features. But the hours upon hours of imaginative play invested in them by us as children made, in many cases, an indelible mark on our psyches.

These toys - manufactured and sold between 1977 and 1985 - were never made or marketed as "collectibles", like many Star Wars toys are today. They were merely toys, meant to be played with by children. But the design, manufacture and marketing of these toys was anything but childlike in its execution. Even today, the packaging and marketing materials associated with Kenner's Star Wars line are striking. The design of the packaging is so evocative that even modern toys are packaged in boxes and on blister cards intended as an homage to the vintage line. The quality invested in the manufacture of the vintage line is obvious, too - that so many of these toys survived over 30 years of play, much less that some retain their original boxes, is nothing short of remarkable. Not to mention the passion (and money!) often expended by modern collectors on these vintage toys...

What I hope to present with each blog post is an in-depth study of a particular figure, vehicle or playset, in many cases along with photos of its original box and packaging. The items in my own collection are generally in "played-with" condition (as opposed to mint-in-mint-package stuff) but I hope that this only adds to their charm.

So this is why I have made this blog, and this is why you're here. We both feel some affinity for vintage Kenner Star Wars toys and derive pleasure from them. Whether this is a Proustian association with childhood, or an aesthetic appreciation of their design as industrial objects and the visual presentation of their packaging - or a bit of both - doesn't matter that much. I hope you enjoy the blog, and please feel free to leave comments!



This should keep us going for awhile!