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.

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...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Display Limelight

I wanted to post a few photos of my "Star Wars Corner" where I display my stuff. I know many collectors are interested in how others display their collections (I am) and it's fun to see what ideas people have for display. In the photo above, my loose figures are displayed in a glass case from JYSK that's similar to the IKEA "Detolf" case. From top shelf to bottom, I have the last wave of POTF figures (and boxed Landspeeder); the last nine SW figures along with the ESB wave; the ROTJ wave; and on the bottom, the boxed Cloud Car with my two MOCs (Toy Fair Leia and Leia
Endor) and some variants (matte grey IG-88, Taiwan Fett, one-stripe Death Squad Commander, smiling Lando, large head Han, cloth cape Jawa) and bootlegs (Mark Poon Rocket Fett and new Stormtrooper set). On the top is the box for my Palitoy Death Star, a recent acquisition that I'm very excited about!

Between the wall and the basement stairs, I've constructed a wall of three IKEA "Besta" shelf units. The doors at the bottom of the units conceal more storage - cases of loose figures, some loose vehicles (including two AT-ATs), etc. At lower left you can see the top of my Gentle Giant Vader, a present from my wife that re-sparked my vintage collecting hobby. Both the glass case and the Bestas are lit with LED strip lighting, which I really like. It's easy on the collectibles as well.
Opposite that on the far wall, there's another IKEA case with ships and models displayed on top. At centre there's a French copy of Stephane Faucourt's great new book, "La French Touch", which I helped him with. On the shelves at left are my other Star Wars reference books.
Upstairs in my office, behind the desk at which I'm typing this, I keep my ALIEN stuff. The curio cabinet I've had forever and I keep the modern stuff from Super7 in there. Below that there's the awesome original Kenner ALIEN figure, a copy of Giger's book, and two "eggs" from Super7 that a colleague picked up for me at SDCC 2014 (thanks Victor!)

The new vintage MOCs just fit in crosswise. I also have the "clear Alien" but he stays in the shipping case as there isn't room in the cabinet. On the lower shelf there's the "Early Bird Kit" and the two "salesman samples" from SDCC 2013, as well as two egg figures from this year's Comicon. I've written a lengthy blog post on the new vintage ALIEN stuff from Super7 - you can find it here.

I just love the Big Chap; if you want to read more about him click here. Giger's art books are frightening works of genius...

Well, there's the quick tour of my collection. The Star Wars stuff is in the basement with minimal natural light incursion so I'm not overly worried about degradation. The ALIEN stuff, however, is upstairs in my office with a large south-facing window. I've addressed this issue by having UV film professionally applied to the window. It looks great (that is to say, you don't notice it at all) and does the job - blocks almost all UV as well as reducing heat considerably. I recommend that everybody look into a solution like this if you have to store stuff where natural light abounds.

I hope it's inspirational!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Twin-Pod Cloud Car

Here's another rather obscure vehicle from The Empire Strikes Back that was given its own toy version in the Kenner line. The Twin-Pod Cloud Car appears in one scene, escorting the Falcon in for a landing at Cloud City about halfway through the film. Blink... and you missed it!

One box side demonstrates how to place an action figure in the cockpit, and how the landing gear raises and lowers.

The other side displays the same photo as used on the box front. Not sure why the scene appears to take place in two feet of snow...

And here's my re-creation of that scene. Everybody seems to love waving at each other. Luke raises an arm in greeting as he arrives/departs in the Cloud Car; the other Bespin Guard has raised his hand; Threepio is waving for some reason, and Lando is waving his arm around like a maniac. The play scenario can't be overly chummy, though, as three of the participants (including Leia!) are armed...

You might notice that I've increased the "diversity" factor in this re-creation as well by substituting a black Bespin Guard for one of the three white/Asian guards in the original photo. Might also be because I only own two white/Asian Guard figures...

Meanwhile, Lobot tries to explain to the Cloud Car Pilot why there are Guards climbing all over his ship. "Don't worry, it's just a photoshoot. Yes, I've told them not to touch anything."

Cloud Car Pilot takes it up with a Guard nevertheless. "We got union rules here, man. You can't fly a Cloud Car unless you're a qualified Pilot!"

Detail of decals on instrument panel and engine.

Here's the other instrument panel.

Copyright information appears on bottom panel.

The Cloud Car wasn't a toy I originally owned as a kid, and truth be told, it wasn't one that was high on my want list, either. It appeared only very briefly in the movie, and in a pretty undramatic role to boot. But it's an attractive toy for parents to buy and undoubtedly came in at a similarly attractive price point. However, for a bit more money, I'm sure kids would've wanted a Rebel Armoured Snowspeeder instead ;-) 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Vintage" Custom Long Snoot


One of the things that's awesome/infuriating about the vintage hobby is the randomness of the original Kenner lines in terms of character selection. For example, in the original 12-back selection, did we really need a "Death Squad Commander" instead of getting Grand Moff Tarkin?

That's the infuriating part. The awesome part is that with the insane expansion of subsequent Star Wars waves, vintage enthusiasts now have the tools to roll their own vintage figures! One of the hobby's greatest proponents in this regard is Matt of Iron Cow Productions, whose business I've featured on the blog before. Matt makes some amazing customs and isn't afraid to share the recipes, which is admirable. I took him up on one yesterday to make my own custom vintage Garindan ("Long Snoot"), the snitch who ratted out Han and Chewie to the Imperials in Mos Eisley.

Here's what you need - a modern Garindan and a vintage Death Squad Commander (I guess he is good for something after all - j/k). Pop them in boiling water for a few minutes, then take them out (carefully) and pull their heads off. The bodies are quite soft so it's easy.

Now you've got a Garindan head with a hole in the bottom and a DSC body with a hole in the top. I had some hard plastic tubing around from a modelling project that fit perfectly. I cut a short length and secured it in Garindan's head with superglue.

It's a simple friction fit into the DSC body. Bonus - the head turns just like a real factory figure, but fits nice and tight so it won't come off.

I painted the DSC body with grey craft paint (this is necessary to cover up the chest insignia on the DSC's uniform) and put on a coat of gloss varnish to match the factory finish. The donor DSC had some nice vintage patina already that looks great, and it's not unusual for vintage bodies and arms not to match exactly due to aging. The last touch was to cut down a Darth Vader cape (repro from eBay seller) and voila - one "vintage" Long Snoot.

Here's another one I made earlier...

Have fun kids!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Millennium Falcon Spaceship (Kenner Canada)

"You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought!"

Oh man... where to start with this one. Released in 1979, the Falcon was the biggest ship by far in the Star Wars wave. For me as a kid, this was the ne plus ultra of Star Wars toys. The Falcon! It's huge - it has a smuggler's compartment - the ramp goes up and down - laser cannon - WOW!!!

Unfortunately for 8-year-old me, all this coolness came with a serious price tag. In the States this thing cost something like 25 to 30 bucks when a mini-action figure cost $1.97. Here in Canada... $44.99!!! That was far too expensive for me to even ask for as a Christmas or birthday gift back then. Nowadays I see kids like my nieces and nephews getting multi-hundred-dollar gifts like electronics and video games so maybe the world has moved on, but back in the day I wouldn't even have dreamed of asking for this as a present.

Hold that thought - in fact I DID once dream about this toy. I can remember that dream quite clearly. I dreamt that I was playing with the Falcon and left it beside my bed. When I woke up I actually looked for the toy there beside my bed; the dream was that vivid. Of course I was crushed when I realized I'd only been dreaming.

Fortunately, though, 8-year-olds grow up and get jobs, and buy themselves the expensive toys they were too shy to ask for as kids. That's how this Falcon came to be in my collection. Can't remember where I got it exactly but I love that it's in a Canadian bilingual box. I'd owned a loose Falcon as well but sold it on as itwasn't in great condition.

Now on to playtime...

As usual, I've set up some figures to replicate the box art. As I've said before, the Kenner packaging is just so outstanding in terms of its art direction. I can imagine the designers coming up with the ideas for photography illustrating the play features they built into the toys.

The droids use the smuggler's compartment to hide from Stormtroopers.
Han and Chewie in the cockpit.

Luke practises with his lightsaber while Chewbacca and R2-D2 "enjoy" a relaxing game of Space Chess (tm). Sadly the training ball and arm are reproductions, unobtrusively marked as such.

Luke in the gunner's station - rotate the cannon to hear laser sounds! (assuming lasers make a sound like hockey cards in bicycle spokes, that is)

Of course the main box art set-up is great too. You have to wonder why the Stormtroopers are just standing around outside the ship though.
I thought I'd include a couple of detail shots of parts that are commonly broken on this toy. This is the ramp. Note the tab in the centre that fits onto the body of the Falcon. This is often found broken off the ramp, and without this tab it's almost impossible to get the ramp to stay locked upright.

The struts are also easily broken. Their fragility is compounded by their tight fit into the ramp piece. Often, the struts break off and it's so tough to extract them from the ramp that the whole assembly has to be trashed.
Some beauty shots of the ship. I love this toy so much :-)

Interior of battery compartment.

Detail shot of button.

Here's where the magic happens.

Had to include a shot of the proprietors.
Solo selfie!!