Tag Archives: Jawa

Throwback Thursday: “Star Wars” Playsets

The Internet is utterly resplendent with Star Wars toys websites.  Good Lord.  If you are not part of that subculture, you’d be surprised at the research and exactitude displayed by these collectors in cataloging their wish lists.  These people track the obscure variations of 70’s and 80’s action figures with the same precision as a linguist researching ancient Etruscan dialects.  If you don’t believe me, just google “double-telescoping lightsaber.”

I have no comparable expertise.  But I can tell you what I loved as a boy.  These two playsets were my favorites, and both might strike someone as odd choices.

The first was the Jawas’ “Droid Factory.”  I call it an odd choice because I have never heard another child speak of it.  (And the kids absolutely did talk about their Star Wars toys if they were especially prized products.  If you received The “Millennium Falcon” or the “Slave-I” for Christmas, you proclaimed that news gleefully at the bus stop immediately after  vacation.)  I certainly never had heard of it or placed it on my list for Santa.

But the “Droid Factory” was fun as hell.  It combined the magic of the Star Wars universe with some of the creativity of Tinker Toys.  Look at the pieces below.  You could make R2-D2 (or his evil twin) or other droids, including a four-legged bot that could carry a Jawa.  You could kinda make something that looked like the Mars Rover.  That black thingamajiggy could give you a satellite or a radar droid.  And they all had their own specific placement in the factory, to nourish the obsessive compulsive disorder in all of us.

Some other kids somewhere must have liked it, however.  After the arrival of “Return of the Jedi” in 1983, the very same toy was released again — only this time it was colored gray, and was marketed as “The Jabba the Hutt Dungeon.”

My second favorite set was the far more recognizable “Jabba the Hutt Action Playset.”  That WAS a well known toy and I absolutely BEGGED for it when I was in the fourth grade.

It might seem like an odd choice, though, because … it was a pretty static toy.  Neither Jabba the Hutt or Salacious Crumb (yes, that actually was the smaller character’s name) actually moved around much in the movie, having been controlled only by contemporary animatronics or puppetry.  Their toys didn’t move much either — only Jabba’s arms could be manipulated, and those only a inch or so up and down.  There wasn’t much that you could do with them.

Jabba’s shallow plastic throne could be opened up to double as … the rancor pit, if memory serves.  And that didn’t make much sense, because that awful trapdoor in the movie was located in front of him.  He didn’t wiggle away his massive heft, invite the wayward to try his throne out, and then spring a booby trap on them, right?  Whatever.

But any 80’s kid who owned Jabba could tell you that the real fun was consigning all of your other action figures to be marshaled forth before Jabba, in his “court.”  There, they could be questioned, sentenced, whatever.  (The good guys always got away.)  It was so much fun that all sorts of waylaid action figures found themselves before Jabba — even those from other universes.  My “Raiders of the Lost Ark” action figures occasionally wound up in Jabba’s court, for example.  (For reasons I can’t remember, Indiana Jones and the “Arab Swordsman” formed a temporary alliance from time to time.)

These were fun toys.  If I ever have the wealth and time enough to pursue toy collecting, I’m going to find these again.

 

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Throwback Thursday: Kenner’s first “Star Wars” toys in 1978

[Blog posts that are posted just past midnight on Thursday shall still be considered “Throwback Thursday” posts.  Thanks, THE MANAGEMENT.]

This is me hopping on the “Star Wars” bandwagon.  “Star Wars: the Forces Awakens” is almost exactly a month away today, but, more to the point, Christmas is in another five weeks.  I will always associate all of my action figures and vehicles with Christmas, as that is when I got most of them.  Seeing that little original Luke Skywalker (with his retractable lightsaber) will forever make me think of Christmas when I was six.

I had nearly all of these first Star Wars figures, because my parents were especially damned cool about being generous to a fault every December 25th.  (The only exceptions were the Death Star Commander and the Stormtrooper, and it never bothered me once.)  The Jawa was the movie adversary that most fascinated me, and the Tusken Raider was the one that actually managed to scared me a little.  I got doubles of those action figures in later years, but that was cool — both the Jawas and Tusken Raiders acted in groups.  (The latter travel single file to hide their numbers, you see.)

My parents’ largesse was especially impressive in light of what I learned from Wikipedia tonight.  These toys apparently were sometimes difficult for Santa to find, as Kenner drastically underestimated the demand for them.  (The company was wise enough to purchase the license after the strangely faux-sounding “Mego Corporation” turned it down.  I can only imagine that somebody, somewhere regretted that decision.)  What’s funny is that when Star Wars was a new cultural event, local retailers weren’t always 100 percent clear on the mythology upon which these toys were based.  I stumbled across an image of 1978 newspaper ad the other day in which Darth Vader somewhat confusingly addresses the readers as “EARTHLINGS.”  (Sorry — it isn’t the ad pictured below.)

The Star Wars vehicles I received in 1978 varied in quality.  Take a look at the “escape pod” below, poorly representing the vehicle in which C-3PO and R2-D2 absconded with Leia’s distress message early in the 1977 movie.  It’s … no more impressive than a simple tupperware cup.  In fact, it would fail as a tupperware cup because it had a hole in it.

The Landspeeder was a quality toy.  One nifty feature was that its well hidden wheels and suspension allowed it to capably mimic the hovercraft action of the film’s vehicle.  That was neat.  I can definitely remember shooting that thing across the floor.

But crowning ALL of my Star Wars toys on Christmas, 1978, was Darth Vader’s Imperial Tie Fighter.

Look at that thing.  Even as an adult, I think that thing looks fun as hell to play with.  And, for a six-year-old boy, it was PURE. UNADULTERATED.  JOY.

That black Tie Fighter was incredibly fun on a number of levels.  It was detailed.  It just LOOKED like an evil spacecraft.  Darth Vader (or any action figure, really) could fit inside the cockpit.  (If memory serves, some of my play scenarios involved having Darth getting his ride stolen by that plucky Chewbacca.)  If it was hit by Rebel scum in their X-Wing Fighters, a lever somewhere on the toy made its wings pop off dramatically.  But best of all was another button that made it fire.  The sound it made was frikkin’ FANTASTIC, and that red light in front lit UP.  The fun was amped up even further when the lights went out — I can still remember that sound and that red light reflected off the coffee table and the wrapping paper scattered around my family’s living room.

Click to enlarge:

 

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