Sunday 4 June 2023

Jedi: A Star Wars Toy Story

In this special edition of A Star Wars Toy Story, Nick Smith, our US-based collecting connoisseur, remembers when Star Wars: Return of the Jedi ruled toy aisles a long time ago...

Guest post by Nick Smith

It was 1983 and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was in movie theatres. Almost as exciting as the film were the new toys that came along with it.

I had no qualms about buying Ewoks - Wicket, Logray, Chief Chirpa - before fan wisdom decided that they were uncool. I marvelled at their little plastic outfits and primitive weapons; I could act out their man-eating rituals and pit them against my Biker Scout, who sadly lost his delicate head in a forest accident.

Most of my toys were from Jabba the Hutt’s Palace but my favourite was Luke Skywalker in his ‘Vaderish’ black costume. Sadly, I couldn’t afford a Speeder Bike, a Rebel Transport or the Ewok Village playset, although I did buy a Rancor for my son years later [shame we didn't meet until university in 1993 as I had almost all the things - Ed].

Even in the ‘80s, the number of action figures was becoming unmanageable and I, ahem, ‘borrowed’ one or two from friends to try to keep up. (Don’t worry, I gave them back). But Kenner 'only' released 17 new figures for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, a variety that pales into insignificance compared to what’s on offer today.

Hasbro is still pushing toys to commemorate Lucasfilm’s 50th Anniversary, marked in 2021. These include Black Series figures of a Tusken Raider, an Imperial Hovertank Driver, a Rogue One Shoretrooper, a Death Trooper, Darth Revan and Grand Admiral Thrawn, all 6” tall.

The good news about Hasbro’s deluge of dolls? Tie-ins have been released or are planned for all of the Disney+ live-action shows: The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor and The Book of Boba Fett.

There’s a ‘Star Wars Publishing’ line, which includes Mara Jade, plus tie-ins with The Bad Batch, The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, the 2023 video game Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and ‘Gaming Greats.’ Who doesn’t want to own a toy of Lando in his colourful Battlefront II outfit?

In an issue of the Star Wars comic book Infinities, Darth Vader turns Jedi (and white as a pint of milk). The Black Series has resurrected this toy from 2007. A retro collection brings back figures from the ‘70s and ‘80s. So, something to appease every fan, if not every wallet. You can buy ‘Boba Fett’s starship,’ nee Slave One, for a Hutt’s bounty of $200.

Gone are the days when a child could pick up a Star Wars toy for a buck or two. Hasbro has tried to cater to younger, cash-strapped fans with its basic retro figures, running about $12-15 each. The more detailed $25 Black Series is aimed at collectors and Richie Rich kids [that was me back in the day - Ed]. If parents really want to splurge, they can buy Fives from Clone Wars (a Walmart exclusive), the half-a-Han bust from Gentle Giant or a sweet-smelling Ewok from Scentsy.

What will they think of next? Expect Ahsoka tie-ins like an animatronic ‘chatter back’ Chopper, highlighted at this year’s Star Wars Celebration Europe, and a Black Series Cad Bane.

Since demand for toys seems to be increasing with every new streaming show on Disney+ the possibilities, as White Darth Vader would say, are infinite.

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

Nick Smith's new audiobook, Undead on Arrival, is available from Amazon (affiliate link).

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