Written and compiled by (now) renowned collector, Steven Sansweet, this 1980 publication touches only briefly on Kenner's game changing Star Wars toys...
Star Wars scores off the screen
There'll be a hot time in the old Cantina tonight with the Creature Cantina Action Play set. The toy comes complete with a colorful backdrop and an "action platform" with various buttons and teuers that open doors and knock over bad guys such as Greedo and Snaggletooth. An earlier, all-cardboard version of the Cantina came with four creatures and uias apparently sold only at Sears.
It took an unheralded motion picture by a little known director to make the Buck Rogers toy craze of the 1930s look puny by comparison. The popularity of Star Wars was so unexpected that major toymakers didn’t bid on the licensing rights until after R2-D2, C-3P0 and the gang were already doing their thing on the silver screen. Therefore there were few Star Wars toys to meet a huge demand for the Christmas of 1977. Kenner Products, a subsidiary of General Mills, instead sold cardboard portfolios with mail-in certificates for miniature action figures.
When the stores finally did get Star Wars products, they could scarcely keep them in stock. It's estimated that more than $200 million of Star Wars toys were sold in 1978 and 1979. With The Empire Strikes Back, the number of Star Wars toys mushroomed. Collectors who want to acquire all the toys and related items (sheets, plastic tableware, ceramic banks, drinking mugs, greeting cards and much, much more) are looking at an outlay of well over $1,000.
Besides the miniature and foot-tall poseable figures, the Star Wars line includes replicas in various scales of many of the major spacecraft and vehicles, some of which include a battery-operated sound and light device. There are several board games and electronic strategy games, numerous costumes and playsuits from Ben Cooper and a line of higher-priced but very high quality masks from Don Post Studios.
The Kenner playsets include a cutaway section of the Death Star. Han Solo's Millenium Falcon, the infamous Cantina and a factory to make robots. Speaking of which, the various R2-D2 toys are interesting to compare. Similar at first glance, they are all quite different, especially the Japanese versions which aren't permitted to be sold in the U.S. because of Kenner's exclusive license. •
Land of the Jawas Action Playset comes with a Sand Crawler backdrop with a manual elevator. The base simulates the desert sands of Luke Skywalker: home planet. Tatooine. There ’s an escape landing pod just like the one R2-D2 and C-3PO used to escape the evil forces of the Empire.
Darth Vader's Tie Fighter comes in "evil gray color" according to Kenner Products. The solar panels on the sides pop off at the push of a button to simulate battle damage. A hand-operated lever raises the cockpit seat. A battery-operated red "laser" cannon lights up and emits a whining sound when a button on the rear deck is pushed.
The Star Wars Droid Factory comes with 33 interchangeable parts to build five different robots at once, including R2-D2. A moveable crane carries parts from the supply to the assembly areas, with the Jawas in close supervi-
The Death Star Space Station has such features as a manual elevator that goes to all four levels, a swiveling Laser Cannon that jumps from its housing when hit. a "light bridge" with escape rope, a control area with an escape hatch and the infamous trash compactor with a moving wall, foam "garbage" and a monster.
These are just a few of the R2-D2 toys made in both the U.S. and Japan. They include a stuffed canvas version, a Japanese radio with a Coca Cola label, the U.S. radio-controlled robot and the Japanese sonic controlled version that "spits" small plastic saucers, a smaller Japanese battery-operated model and a windup R2-D2. Under a licensing agreement, the Japanese toys can't be sold in the U.S.
The first series of Star Wars diecast metal (and plastic) vehicles includes Luke Skywalker's Land Speeder that rides on springy axles, an Imperial Tie Fighter with detachable solar panels, Luke's X-Wing Fighter and Darth Vader's Tie Fighter in that "evil gray" finish.
ABOUT THE COVERS
FRONT COVER: (Clockwise from top right) 1) Official Tom Corbett Space Gun from the early 1950s by Louis Marx & Co. looks more like something an FBI agent would carry, but does have some "spacey” markings on its tin litho center section. After being wound with a built-in key. the toy burps like a machine gun and throws sparks from the front end. 2) The first 21 miniature figures from Star Wars by Kenner Products includes the major heroes, villains and hangers-on from the Cantina. 3) Walt Disney's RM-1 Moon Ship plastic model kit first sold by Strombecker around 1955, was designed by rocket expert Wemher Von Braun for Disney's Man in Space television show. In the rear is a ring of expendable fuel tanks designed to let the craft make a round-the-moon flight without landing. 4) A series of flying saucers, mostly made in Japan within the last 10 years, spin around, bump-and-go and even lift off the ground. For UFOs, they all seem to have very human-looking pilots. 5) Everybody’s favorite robot, Robby, made his debut in Forbidden Planet in 1956. At least a dozen Robby look-alike toys came out over the next decade. This is the battery-operated “Mechanized Robot" from Showa in Japan, complete with a dome that lights up to show pistons pounding away. REAR COVER: (Clockwise from top right) 1) The Captain Video Space Game by Milton Bradley Co. lets junior rocket jockeys play along with the good captain’s television adventures in the early 1950s. A spin of the Videoscope could take players to planets like Zeno and Corvi. 2) All tin lithographed Space Patrol vehicle from Japan in the late 1950s, has both wheels and tank treds to get it over rough terrain on unfriendly planets. The driver rotates while firing his red laser gun as a screen in the rear lights up to show a cosmic map. 3) On patrol, one of Darth Vader’s Imperial Stormtroopers searches for R2-D2 and C-3PO while astride a Dewback. The repulsive lizard can be found in the deserts of Tatooine, as well as in boxes from Kenner Products. 4) Krome Dome, a plastic and metal robot from Japan, chases Metal Man. Old chrome-top can be vicious. His mouth snaps open and closed while his accordion-like body rises up and then contracts about an inch. 5) Hand-carved acetate pattern for Aurora Products' plastic model kit of Star Trek's ever-rational Mr. Spock battling a threeheaded creature. The kit was released in the U.S. in 1973 by AMT Corp.
The author gratefully acknowledges the help of Ron Miller, for providing photos of most of the model kits used in the book; Bob Bums, for the use of many toys from his collection as well as for his wealth of knowledge about them; Mike Minor, for his help and advice beyond the call of duty and friendship, and for his genius in creating the sets on which many of the photos were taken; Steve Essig, for the long hours and fantastic photos that resulted; Mike Matney, for technical assistance and forbearance; and last but certainly not least, Bob Canning, for his invaluable assistance and support in every phase of this project.
Most Star Wars photos were supplied by Kenner Products. Star Wars is a trademark of Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. Characters are © 1977, 1978 by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
[Source: Starlog Photo Guidebook to Science Fiction Toys and Models, 1980, P1-3,14-15,35-36. Copyright © 1980 O'Quinn Studios, Inc. All rights reserved. Starlog is a registered trademark of O'Quinn Studios, Inc.]