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, June 24, 2014

Radio-Controlled Jawa Sandcrawler (ESB Kenner Canada Version)

The Radio-Controlled Jawa Sandcrawler was the toy that the Land of the Jawas playset should have been. There - I said it. Every kid who got the LoJ playset secretly wished it was this. Setting aside for a moment the cool radio-controlled action, this vehicle is just plain cool - super-detailed and looking like a scaled-down scratch-built prop model straight from the movie.

But it was expensive... according to rebelscum.com, it retailed for $29.99. That's the same as the Millennium Falcon for Pete's sake! And the Falcon has a lot more perceived play value than the Sandcrawler, which appears in only a small part of one movie.

Needless to say, I didn't have this toy when I was a kid. And try finding one today for reasonable money! It's tough. This loose version was acquired on eBay last year. It's in decent shape and complete but for one small part, but let's take a closer look...

The cockpit section is revealed by raising a hinged panel. Note decals.

Interior showing the elevator piece in raised position. It's an open cylinder that slides out the bottom of the vehicle.

Another interior shot (sorry about the dust, the Jawas are filthy aren't they?)  The interior detail is remarkable considering that the top doesn't open on the main body of the toy - you have to reach in through the main side door.

Here's the interior with elevator lowered.

And here it is lowered, from the outside.

Underside lip of the elevator locks in upright position on the small tab at centre.

The ladder detaches from the door panel (below) and is therefore easily lost. One thing I noticed when staging the shot with the figures is that the ladder in my production toy attaches on the opposite side of the door, when compared with the door on the toy used for box art shots:

Note ladder on front/leading edge of door panel...

But attached on rear/trailing edge of panel on production toy. Also note the ridiculously cheap bent plastic "hinges" on the door panel. So many 'crawlers have broken-off doors, just as a result of normal play. The plastic hinges can only take so many bends before they break right off... a shame as this damage is irreparable. Uncharacteristic of Kenner toys too, as they're usually well designed for sturdiness.

Bottom of toy showing copyright info.

Back of 'crawler has amazing film-accurate detail.

What was I alluding to on Rebelscum when I referred to "a rare Canada-only item"...? Bingo! Remote control with French decal. This is a bit strange, isn't it. Apparently the ESB-branded version of the Sandcrawler was only marketed by Kenner Canada - there was no US version of the ESB Sandcrawler.

If you click on the picture above you can just see that the decal has been applied over top of another one... which I would bet money is a Star Wars-branded sticker. Not that I'm going to peel it off to confirm, though.

Top view of remote showing button. You can barely see the sticker overlap here, as well.
Bottom of remote controller showing the clear decal and manufacture date of January, 1980.

Close up shot of the end of the antenna on the remote. Don't poke your eye out, kid!

The only part that's missing from my Sandcrawler is the often-lost battery cover on the remote, but fortunately it displays well even without that. I feel pretty fortunate as a Canadian collector to have obtained an example of the Canada-only ESB variant remote - especially since eBay vendor was in Texas and appeared to have no idea that this Sandcrawler was unusual in any way. Collecting is funny like that sometimes!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Impressive... Most Impressive!

Much as I love the vintage Kenner line in all its imperfect glory, it always bothered me a bit that some very important characters were left out. I'm not alone in this, as the Internet is awash with nerdrage on the subject.

Some, however, have resolved to do something about it... I've delved into the world of customs myself a couple times, making custom vintage Grand Moff Tarkin and Cantina Star Pilot (Bo Shek) figures. But this guy has taken it to a whole 'nother level...

Check out these custom figures by Iron Cow Productions. Simply mind-blowing and for the most part, simple recipes. I know I'll be cribbing some of these ideas to make some more customs of my own! Thanks for the inspiration, Matt!

Monday, March 10, 2014

"Droids" A-Wing Fighter Landing Gear Repair/Restoration

A common problem - A-Wing Fighter with busted landing gear. I'd always wanted to add an A-Wing to my collection but quailed at the high prices asked for boxed and even loose examples. Synchronicity intervened one day as I was cruising eBay and found one with broken landing gear in one auction... and a loose replacement part in another. The ship was $50 and the part, $8...

Once everything arrived, the first order of business was to disassemble the ship by removing six screws.

Once it all came apart it was clear that all was not well. One of the landing struts was broken. Out came the cyanoacrylate glue for a repair...

Not good enough, unfortunately. The superglue just wouldn't hold by itself. Time for the big guns...

... JB Weld. This stuff will stick most anything together (except the fairing stays on a 1995 Ducati 900SS/SP, but that's another story).

The JB made "Kwik" work of the repair.

Here's how the ship goes back together...

...carefully laying the engines over the upper ship half.

Landing gear in "down" position.

Screw it all back together...

Voila - one very presentable A-Wing Fighter at a significant discount over buying a mint example. A-Wing Pilot is pretty pleased with his new ride ;-)

How Does This Even Happen? Plastic Reaction in 12" Stormtrooper

One of the survivors from my childhood collection is my large-size Stormtrooper. I have some great memories of playing with him out at my mother's family's farm, especially building a parachute for him out of a handkerchief and throwing him as high up in the air as I could...

So imagine my shock and dismay when I noticed this crazy problem with his hand. I'd never broken the figure, so this wasn't the remnants of an ancient repair... it apparently just happened spontaneously over the 30+ years I've had the toy. I got some sage advice from "Sharp", a senior member on Rebelscum.com, who wrote:

"That's almost certainly a plastic reaction going on there. I'm 99% sure. While I don't know the specific chemistry involved, some of the Kenner softer plastic (hands, bandoliers, etc.) reacted over much time with the harder plastics of the types often seen on the 12" figures. I've seen this on a hundred Stormtroopers and my share of Jawas and Chewies with their bandoliers fused or melted to the body in places where they've been touching for years. This isn't hard to imagine as a great many of the loose examples out there have been sitting absolutely immobile in boxes in attics and such. I've seen MISB 12" Stormtroopers with this type of reaction as well as many whose hands simply fall off the arms. As far as I know, this is no way to keep this from occurring. Needless to say, the folks at Kenner developing these toys were not thinking about the condition of these toys in 30+ years time.

Just another idiosyncrasy that makes these toys so charming!"

Bizarre, eh? Welcome to the world of plastic chemistry ;-)  Anyway, I wanted to post this story as a resource to others who might be searching the Internet for an explanation for this very mysterious issue.

Keywords: plastic reaction, plastic melding, plastic melting, 12" Jawa, 12" Chewbacca 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Vintage-Style ALIEN 3-3/4" Figures from Super7 Arrive!

Yesterday I was having my lunch when the courier truck pulled up. Out popped a mailman and handed me a package that had been a long time in coming...

Back in the Spring of 2013, it was announced that Super7 would be starting production of new 3-3/4" ALIEN action figures "based on" the old unproduced Kenner prototypes. The Internets were abuzz... reactions from ecstasy to nerd-rage with nary a moderate view to be found. Some were excited about finally seeing vintage-style toys produced for this iconic property; others were outraged that commencement of production would somehow devalue the precious remaining pre-production and prototype figures from the late-'70s. Me, I don't see how producing new toys can have a devaluing effect on pre-prods and protos for a line that was never made. If anything, I thought that commencement of new production would increase interest in the unproduced vintage line and maybe even spike values. But what do I know...

Anyway, Super7 marketed the Hell out of the property and did it in very clever ways. At the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, they sold "early-bird kits" that mimicked Kenner's originals for Star Wars. This was essentially pre-paying for the set of five figures - Dallas, Ripley, Kane in spacesuit, Ash and the Alien - for delivery later in the year.

The Early Bird Package envelope
Reverse of envelope
Contents of the Early Bird package
 Super7 also offered a very cool "salesman sample" kit with unpainted "prototypes" of Kane and the Alien. These were available at the Super7 booth at SDCC, in limited quantities. As you might have expected, these sold out quickly (to both fans and scalpers), but were available afterwards on the "secondary market"...
"Salesman Sample" promotional box
Reverse of box
Note included in the box - pretty funny stuff :-)
Kane "sample" - unpainted
Helmet is removable

The Big Chap
Clear dome is removable - inner jaws are movable
Subsequent to all of this, Super7 partnered with Funko on the project, and this development enabled the company to scale up their production numbers significantly, and even reduce the price of the set. As the Internets again exploded with nerd-rage - remember, the new price is less than people paid for their pre-orders - Super7 offered pre-orderers the chance to cancel for a refund if they wanted. For those who didn't cancel, Super7 offered a "secret bonus figure" and the chance to get the figures on blue "vintage style" cards (regular cardbacks would be produced in black). Needless to say I maintained my pre-order status...

Fast forward to yesterday, and the production figures finally arrive:

Ash. Unfortunately Ian Holm, the actor who so brilliantly portrayed the character, apparently refused to grant Super7 permission to use his likeness on the packaging. Lame.

All six figures have identical cardbacks.

Ripley. Very "vintage style" in that she looks pretty mannish. Of course anyone who's seen the last 10 minutes of the film knows that Sigourney Weaver is anything but "mannish"...

Paint app on the face makes her look a bit cross-eyed.

Captain Dallas! My favourite (obviously).
Kane in space suit. Paint app on this figure is very good. The unpainted "proto" really doesn't do the sculpt justice.
 The Alien. An excellent sculpt, very cool figure indeed.

The bonus "Clear Alien", derived from an original production concept for the film. Apparently technical limitations prevented the SFX department from realizing it.

A nice little note included in the shipping box (shown in the first photo of the post). Nice to know we pre-orderers are appreciated...

Well, there you have it. Wave One of the new ALIEN figures. Personally, I really have little to no interest in any action figures but vintage Star Wars, but ALIEN is one of my favourite movies ever and the vintage styling of these toys just sucked me right in... and I suspect I'm not alone. I hope this post will be helpful to those other collectors who are interested in the line, as a photo reference of the production figures as well as a brief history of how they were marketed.