Star Wars Toys

Star Wars Toys

Along with pioneering incredible special effects and bringing an alien universe to life, the Star Wars movies also offered the biggest, most mesmerizing toy catalog ever. From the largest Imperial cruiser to Princess Leia’s hair buns, everything was replicated in detail to satisfy children and adults alike who longed to be part of this far, far away galaxy.

The first movie’s phenomenal success in 1977 came as a bit of a surprise to all concerned so the merchandising campaign was slow off the ground. The toy company Kenner likewise didn’t expect such box office returns but once they realized the gold mine they had on their hands, production went into light speed.

By that year’s holiday season, Star Wars toys didn’t even exist yet were being sold. Kenner offered Early Bird Certificate Packages that promised the owner delivery of the first four action figures—Luke, Leia, Chewbacca and R2-D2—some time in the near future. The figures eventually arrive and brought many friends with them. In 1978, Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO, Darth Vader, Jawas and Stormtroopers joined the throng and the following year, the bizarre creatures from the Mos Eisley Cantina first made an appearance.

That was all well and good but those ladies, gentlemen and others needed their transportation. The movie was full of spaceships and the like so your Luke action figure had a reasonable expectation of possessing a Tatooine Land Speeder and thankfully, you could indulge him. The Speeder traveled along on pop-down wheels while a remote control version became available later.

The star of the line was the Millennium Falcon featuring removable panels, retractable landing gear and a little replica of the holographic chess game table. You could fly and land that puppy a million times and not get tired of it even if it didn’t have the remote control capabilities of the Land Speeder or the bulky Jawa Sandcrawler. Other familiar spacecraft included TIE and X-Wing Fighters, as well as the lesser-known brethren like, Y- and B-Wings.

The toy line only grew when The Empire Strikes Back debuted in 1980. There were more action figures and more props to acquire. No collection was complete without Yoda, the diminutive Jedi master. Smooth operator Lando Calrissian sported a cape, for goodness sake, he was guaranteed a spot in the line-up. The sinister Bobba Fett enjoyed great popularity (we always love the bad boys) as did his ship, Slave I.

The Hoth sequence in the movie generated particular interest in a number of toys, from action figures in their cold weather gear to large Tauntaun beasts to the big, bad and very expensive Imperial AT-AT. And just in case you had managed to buy every toy and tie-in item released thus far, the third movie knocked you back to square one. Return of the Jedi introduced fuzzy Ewoks, Jabba the Hutt, a host of Rebel Alliance characters, Imperial Walkers and Speeder Bikes.

Lest the average home’s environs couldn’t accurately evoke alien landscapes, Kenner rose to the occasion with different playsets for the action figures, recreating famous scenes from the three movies. The Cantina, the Ewok Village, Jabba the Hutt’s lair and Hoth’s icy caves seduced fans with their authenticity. The best item by far was the infamous Death Star from the first movie that came with a trash compactor room and placeholders for the action figures.

All the toys and figures were treasured and kept (in their original packaging by some visionary souls) by kids who would be forever influenced by the movie trilogy. The popularity of Star Wars never waned, even if production on most of the toys ceased, and the re-release of the trilogy in the 90s brought new toys and action figures – all marketed by Hasbro this time around.

Of course, three more movies were eventually added to the franchise with promise of more to come. A new crop of hopeful young Jedis soon had their own futuristic toys to choose from, but it is these originals that are best remembered for flying off store shelves and into our hearts. The Force (of the massive marketing machine) was with us all.

Did you have a few Star Wars items in the ol’ toy box back in the 70s and 80s? We would love to hear all of your memories of playing with these classic Star Wars toys in our comments section below.

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