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.

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Darth Vader's TIE Fighter

When you're Darth Vader, you don't just fly around in any old TIE Fighter. Even though it only appeared in the first movie, Vader's special TIE Advanced spacecraft with its distinctive bent wings became as emblematic of the Sith Lord as his crazy emphysemiac breath mask. And so for Kenner, just as they released Luke's X-Wing Fighter, Vader's TIE wasn't far behind in the product queue.

The box on my example is a little the worse for wear, but it came from the childhood collection of my wife's American cousin, Austin, so has some sentimental value.

Typical 1970s kids on the box with bowl haircuts and tight-fitting turtlenecks. We all had them...

Perhaps the copywriter responsible for the box text put "LASER" in all-caps and quotes because he or she was mindful that "Laser" is actually an acronym: "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation." However, he or she also wrote "SOLAR PANELS" in all caps so my theory may not hold.

In fact, the theory that the Kenner copywriter was some sort of science enthusiast is probably bunk, since "Space Sound" has to be an oxymoron...

Since the DV TIE was released along with the first twelve figures, it makes sense that only the Sith Lord and Stormtroopers appear on the box. Although, having said that, the Kenner package designers could be notoriously parsimonious with the variety of figures they featured.

This fantastic and widely used image also appears on the box art. Unusual, since most packaging features only images of the toy itself.

Speaking of which... here it is. Of course, as we all know, the DV TIE differs from the standard TIE Fighter only in colour of plastic moulding and its special wing design.

I love to set up the tableau from the box photo and it's usually possible to do without using any figure stands or other props - just letting the figures stand on their own. However, in this case, the Troopie* at far right was posed in mid-stride and my figures just don't stand that way without help! 

You'd think that a Force-choking maniac waving a lightsaber would get these guys' attention, but no. Two of the Stormtroopers are seemingly engaged in a deep conversation while the third is strolling around nonchalantly. Such is life on the Death Star I suppose. 

Typical copyright info, appearing with subtle differences across the Kenner range of TIE variants.

The view from the cockpit. Imagine drawing a bead on Red Five and letting him survive to blow up your ultimate space station death weapon? That had to have kept Vader up at night.

*"Troopie" is a nickname coined by Skye Paine of the Star Wars Collectors' Archive podcast with the intention of having it "go viral". Please don't EVER use it to refer to Stormtroopers. I did once, but I think I got away with it...

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Y-Wing Vehicle

Of all the different accessory products produced for the Kenner mini-action figure line, vehicles would have to be the type with the greatest play utility. Yes, playsets are great, but they are by their very nature limiting. Would using the Dagobah Action Playset in a play scenario set on Hoth make sense? Could you use the Imperial Attack Base with a bunch of Jabba's palace guards and pretend it's on Tatooine?

Vehicles, on the other hand, are pretty much setting-agnostic. An X-Wing fighter can be equally at home on Hoth, on Dagobah, on Tatooine, or attacking the Death Star. For this reason I have to believe that vehicles were considered by Kenner to be their go-to accessory for maximizing sales and profits. Which brings us to the focus of this post - the Y-Wing Fighter.

Viewers first encountered the Y-Wing in the climactic space battle near the end of Star Wars, where a rag-tag band of rebels attacked the Empire's invincible Death Star. We all know how that one turned out, but Y-Wing fighters made up a significant part of the rebel fleet too. In fact, the only space combat vehicles deployed by the Rebellion in the first movie were X-Wings and Y-Wings!  

We all know that the X-Wing fighter toy saw release in the first wave of Star Wars vehicles, and was even re-released for The Empire Strikes Back in "battle-damaged" form. The Y-Wing, on the other hand, had to wait until 1983 and Return of the Jedi to even get a toy. But as we will see, there is a LOT more going on with the Y-Wing toy than there ever was with the X-Wing... 

The Y-Wing is shown here in a Kenner RotJ box, the debut packaging for the toy in North America. The box sides illustrate some of the action features of the toy, including disassembly of the engine nacelles and the all-important bomb-dropping feature (!)

We'll discuss some more about the toy features in a minute, but let's get to the wacky box-art tableau first...

First off, we have Admiral Ackbar at the controls of the Y-Wing. Pardon? Isn't he supposed to be busy detecting traps and coordinating the Rebel fleet assault?? It's weird that while all of the other Rebel starfighter toys had appropriate pilots released in the mini-action figure line (Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot, B-Wing Pilot, A-Wing Pilot), the Y-Wing never had a pilot released for it. Too bad, as the Y-Wing Pilot in the films looked pretty cool:

It's a bit mystifying to me why there was no Y-Wing Pilot released. The Y-Wing appeared in all three films (Death Star assault, Echo Base evacuation, Death Star II space battle). The B- and A-Wings only appeared in RotJ, and the A-Wing was only ever released in Droids packaging, yet there's an A-Wing Pilot figure??? Makes no sense. 

In any case, Nien Nunb and General Madine are just standing around shooting the breeze. Perhaps discussing why the admiral of the Rebel fleet is hanging around pretending to be Top Gun. Lando's lurking in the background as only Lando can.

A good view here of some of the decals in the cockpit. Also visible are the often-lost nose cannons and the rotating turret cannon on top of the cockpit.

Another very cool feature of the Y-Wing over the X-Wing is that the former actually incorporates a droid socket to fit an astromech droid. Either R2-D2 (in any of his variants) or R5-D4 fit in there fine.

Here's the often-lost "bomb" that fits in a claw under the Y-Wing. It came in two pieces...

...and looks like this when assembled.

Rear view of the engine nacelles.

Operating controls. Bomb release button behind Artoo, landing gear locking switch in the middle, button activating laser sounds and cannon rotation at back. 

Here's the underside of the ship, showing the yellow bomb claw. The bomb just clips in there and pressing the button on top moves the claws apart, letting the bomb fall away.

Copyright information under the nose of the ship.

"Ummm... not to be disrespectful sir, but shouldn't you be on the bridge?"