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, December 30, 2014

Death Star Space Station (Kenner Canada)

Kenner's largest playset allowed kids to have mini-action figure adventures set aboard the dreaded Death Star Space Station. Of course, kids here in Canada were among the luckiest in the world, as they had the chance (parental finances and goodwill permitting) to get not just one, but two Death Star playsets - this one or the very cool cardboard version I recently blogged about.

The box art depicts various play scenarios - Stormtrooper manning ("cloning"?) the laser cannon, Ben deactivating the tractor beam, Luke and Leia's rope swing to safety.

Of course, being a Kenner Canadian release, we have bilingual box art too - Threepio and Artoo about to embark on the elevator, Han and Chewie pop out of a hatch, and the heroes caught up in the trash compactor.

Here's a nice shot of the "Alien Trash Monster" which the cognoscenti know as "Dianoga"... completely imagined from whole cloth by Kenner designers, as of course the original monster never entirely appeared on film.

"Station Spaciale de l'Etoile de la Mort"... just rolls right off the tongue doesn't it!

Here it is, set up to replicate the box front art.

Stormtrooper on the big gun...

Ben about to deactivate the tractor beam...

Luke and Leia rope swing... waitaminute, what happened to Luke's saber? Tragic story, that...

Luke's saber is original to the figure that I've had since I was a child. Some years ago the tip broke off, but I secured it back on with superglue and it held... until now...

It was very difficult to balance the figures on the bridge for photos and the thought crossed my mind, "I hope Luke's saber doesn't break again." Well, guess what happened? (A replacement original has been ordered)

Threepio and Artoo pose by the elevator. It raises and lowers "manually" and the blue tab turns to lock it in place.

Imperial Gunner time-warps back to 1978 from 1985 ;-)  Looks good there though, no?

Typical Death Star scene. Vader and Tarkin discuss whether to blow up Dantooine or Alderaan while Death Squad Commander does "Empire Stuff."

Two cardboard pieces slot in to form the outside "walls" of the playset. Nice graphics.

Death Star Droid looks right at home here as well.

Here's the elevator tab, shown locked in place.

The elevator has a clear insert that rotates to simulate opening doors.


Trash compactor is an interesting element of the playset. The foam "garbage" that's included is prone to deterioration over time so if you're in the market for one of these playsets, make sure it's in good condition.

"The moon with the rebel base will be in range in 30 minutes."

One more thing - I wanted to show a picture of the parts of this toy that can cause so much heartache. Many a playset has been ruined by incorrect assembly of these parts... they're the floor supports, and there are nine of them. The four thin white ones attach to the second floor (with the consoles) and support the third floor. The three grey ones attach to the third floor (light bridge) and support the top floor. The remaining two thick white struts attach to the gun floor and support the roof piece.

Care must be taken when assembling these pieces to make sure the slots in the struts align properly with the receptacle. Forcing the pieces can break them and may even ruin the toy if the strut gets stuck in the wrong receptacle part. So be more careful with these than I was with my Luke Farmboy in the photoshoot :-(

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...