Tuesday 10 December 2019

A Star Wars Toy Story

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released in UK cinemas on 19th December and is the culmination of an epic 9-part saga that began over forty years ago with the original Star Wars in 1977.

George Lucas' space opera revolutionised theatrical technology and merchandising. My earliest merchandise memory is being gifted an R2-D2 action figure before seeing Star Wars at the Odeon Exeter. That little droid fired my nascent imagination post a life-changing childhood trauma and ignited a lifelong love of gadgets (I most recently added Hasbro's app-enabled D-O during Black Friday).

Palitoy, the defunct Coleville-based toy company, licensed Star Wars action figures and accessories from Kenner (bought by Hasbro) and released unique playsets including the fabled Death Star. The Death Star playset topped many children's Christmas wishlists, including mine, in the late seventies. Alas, I never got to recreate the rescue of Princess Leia or Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi's final duel. Instead, I was gifted Star Bird Command Base, which served as the Imperial HQ where the Death Star plans were stored decades before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

I became inspired to become a graphic designer due to Palitoy's colourful box art and would write to the company with original ideas for extending Star Wars and Action Force toy lines. These were always politely returned, but with a letter of encouragement and an action figure!

To celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Toy Empire: The British Force Behind Star Wars will be shown on BBC Four on 16th December.

What are your fondest memories of collecting Star Wars toys? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. So looking forward to this. Happy memories of Jawa Sandcrawlers made of printed card, troop transporters & land speeders and going into my local toy store every week to see which figures they’d had delivered! Had a reproduction of the Escape From The Death Star game gifted for my birthday last month & loving playing it all over again.

    1. Remember seeing that in toy stores, but never played! The reissue includes an exclusive Grand Moff Tarkin action figure.

  2. I remember sending off for Dengar and Admiral Ackbar ahead of the release of Episodes 5 and 6 respectively. The lack of context made them feel so exotic!!! Who were they? What were their roles? And, while Dengar arrived in a plain white box, Ackbar came attached to his card. The photos on the back!! Who was Nien Nunb? What species were Wicket, Chief Chirpa and Logray? The anticipation almost finished this then 11-year-old off...

    1. Great action figure anecdote. I remember sending off for the Emperor and Admiral Ackbar. Wrongly assumed the latter was a member of the Empire!

      Prior to the release of Return of the Jedi, my local toy shop (sadly defunct) gave me permission to look at the action figures and accessories ahead of release. It was like Christmas for Star Wars fans.


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