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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Darth Vader's TIE Fighter

When you're Darth Vader, you don't just fly around in any old TIE Fighter. Even though it only appeared in the first movie, Vader's special TIE Advanced spacecraft with its distinctive bent wings became as emblematic of the Sith Lord as his crazy emphysemiac breath mask. And so for Kenner, just as they released Luke's X-Wing Fighter, Vader's TIE wasn't far behind in the product queue.

The box on my example is a little the worse for wear, but it came from the childhood collection of my wife's American cousin, Austin, so has some sentimental value.

Typical 1970s kids on the box with bowl haircuts and tight-fitting turtlenecks. We all had them...

Perhaps the copywriter responsible for the box text put "LASER" in all-caps and quotes because he or she was mindful that "Laser" is actually an acronym: "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation." However, he or she also wrote "SOLAR PANELS" in all caps so my theory may not hold.

In fact, the theory that the Kenner copywriter was some sort of science enthusiast is probably bunk, since "Space Sound" has to be an oxymoron...

Since the DV TIE was released along with the first twelve figures, it makes sense that only the Sith Lord and Stormtroopers appear on the box. Although, having said that, the Kenner package designers could be notoriously parsimonious with the variety of figures they featured.

This fantastic and widely used image also appears on the box art. Unusual, since most packaging features only images of the toy itself.

Speaking of which... here it is. Of course, as we all know, the DV TIE differs from the standard TIE Fighter only in colour of plastic moulding and its special wing design.

I love to set up the tableau from the box photo and it's usually possible to do without using any figure stands or other props - just letting the figures stand on their own. However, in this case, the Troopie* at far right was posed in mid-stride and my figures just don't stand that way without help! 

You'd think that a Force-choking maniac waving a lightsaber would get these guys' attention, but no. Two of the Stormtroopers are seemingly engaged in a deep conversation while the third is strolling around nonchalantly. Such is life on the Death Star I suppose. 

Typical copyright info, appearing with subtle differences across the Kenner range of TIE variants.

The view from the cockpit. Imagine drawing a bead on Red Five and letting him survive to blow up your ultimate space station death weapon? That had to have kept Vader up at night.

*"Troopie" is a nickname coined by Skye Paine of the Star Wars Collectors' Archive podcast with the intention of having it "go viral". Please don't EVER use it to refer to Stormtroopers. I did once, but I think I got away with it...

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Y-Wing Vehicle

Of all the different accessory products produced for the Kenner mini-action figure line, vehicles would have to be the type with the greatest play utility. Yes, playsets are great, but they are by their very nature limiting. Would using the Dagobah Action Playset in a play scenario set on Hoth make sense? Could you use the Imperial Attack Base with a bunch of Jabba's palace guards and pretend it's on Tatooine?

Vehicles, on the other hand, are pretty much setting-agnostic. An X-Wing fighter can be equally at home on Hoth, on Dagobah, on Tatooine, or attacking the Death Star. For this reason I have to believe that vehicles were considered by Kenner to be their go-to accessory for maximizing sales and profits. Which brings us to the focus of this post - the Y-Wing Fighter.

Viewers first encountered the Y-Wing in the climactic space battle near the end of Star Wars, where a rag-tag band of rebels attacked the Empire's invincible Death Star. We all know how that one turned out, but Y-Wing fighters made up a significant part of the rebel fleet too. In fact, the only space combat vehicles deployed by the Rebellion in the first movie were X-Wings and Y-Wings!  

We all know that the X-Wing fighter toy saw release in the first wave of Star Wars vehicles, and was even re-released for The Empire Strikes Back in "battle-damaged" form. The Y-Wing, on the other hand, had to wait until 1983 and Return of the Jedi to even get a toy. But as we will see, there is a LOT more going on with the Y-Wing toy than there ever was with the X-Wing... 

The Y-Wing is shown here in a Kenner RotJ box, the debut packaging for the toy in North America. The box sides illustrate some of the action features of the toy, including disassembly of the engine nacelles and the all-important bomb-dropping feature (!)

We'll discuss some more about the toy features in a minute, but let's get to the wacky box-art tableau first...

First off, we have Admiral Ackbar at the controls of the Y-Wing. Pardon? Isn't he supposed to be busy detecting traps and coordinating the Rebel fleet assault?? It's weird that while all of the other Rebel starfighter toys had appropriate pilots released in the mini-action figure line (Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot, B-Wing Pilot, A-Wing Pilot), the Y-Wing never had a pilot released for it. Too bad, as the Y-Wing Pilot in the films looked pretty cool:

It's a bit mystifying to me why there was no Y-Wing Pilot released. The Y-Wing appeared in all three films (Death Star assault, Echo Base evacuation, Death Star II space battle). The B- and A-Wings only appeared in RotJ, and the A-Wing was only ever released in Droids packaging, yet there's an A-Wing Pilot figure??? Makes no sense. 

In any case, Nien Nunb and General Madine are just standing around shooting the breeze. Perhaps discussing why the admiral of the Rebel fleet is hanging around pretending to be Top Gun. Lando's lurking in the background as only Lando can.


A good view here of some of the decals in the cockpit. Also visible are the often-lost nose cannons and the rotating turret cannon on top of the cockpit.

Another very cool feature of the Y-Wing over the X-Wing is that the former actually incorporates a droid socket to fit an astromech droid. Either R2-D2 (in any of his variants) or R5-D4 fit in there fine.

Here's the often-lost "bomb" that fits in a claw under the Y-Wing. It came in two pieces...

...and looks like this when assembled.

Rear view of the engine nacelles.

Operating controls. Bomb release button behind Artoo, landing gear locking switch in the middle, button activating laser sounds and cannon rotation at back. 

Here's the underside of the ship, showing the yellow bomb claw. The bomb just clips in there and pressing the button on top moves the claws apart, letting the bomb fall away.

Copyright information under the nose of the ship.

"Ummm... not to be disrespectful sir, but shouldn't you be on the bridge?"


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

TIE Interceptor Vehicle

YES

NO

HELL NO
The original TIE Fighter has spawned many variants throughout the Star Wars universe. Some are unique, like Darth Vader's TIE Fighter. Some are unusual, like the TIE Bomber. Some are just ridiculous, like the triple-winged TIE Defender abomination and the preposterous TIE Crawler. But hands down, the flat-out coolest of the TIE Fighter variants is the TIE Interceptor.


My own example of the toy is boxed in Kenner RotJ packaging, the only way these toys were packaged in North America. Let's have a look!

The side of the box demonstrates the "wing pop-off" feature common to all TIE vehicles in the Kenner mini-action figure line - the TIE fighter (and its Battle-Damaged variant) and Darth Vader's TIE Fighter also share this feature. 

This kid seems super-enthusiastic about popping those wings off!

The box bottom repeats the image from box front, along with the legal text.

Box end is just a close-up of the main image and illustrates the electronic features - the flashing laser light and "battle alert sounds".


My recreation of the box front image. Lucky Stormtrooper is saluted by Vader as he's about to take off in this awesome vehicle. His buddies and some Emperor's Royal Guards look on with envy. 








"Hey!" TIE Fighter Pilot is a bit miffed that the Stormtrooper is in his seat. It's a bit confusing to me as to why Kenner didn't use a TIE Fighter Pilot figure in the box art. After all, you'd think Kenner would take every opportunity to promote a variety of figures in the collection. The TIE Fighter Pilot was released in the ESB wave so he certainly would have been available for use in the box art for a toy that was only released with RotJ. Another mystery that may never be solved, but my money is on a rush job where the Kenner folks forgot that they had a TIE Fighter Pilot figure available for use.

Copyright and patent information appears on the battery cover on the underside of the toy. Interestingly, the copyright date is noted as 1978, when the toy was actually released only in 1984. Presumably this is due to the part itself fitting all variants of the TIE Fighter toy.



However... looking back at the original TIE Fighter we see slightly different information - copyright is to GMFG Inc. rather than Lucasfilm Ltd. as on the Interceptor. One other fun fact to note is that the central pod is identical on all Kenner TIE variants with the exception of colour (original TIE white, Darth Vader TIE "evil grey", Battle-Damaged TIE blue-grey, Interceptor dark grey) and the slotted top hatch that appears on the Battle-Damaged and Interceptor variants. 

There's also a very unobtrusive "(c) LFL 1983" on the inside of one wing


It still lights up!


Battery compartment. Watch out for dead and leaking batteries here, and corrosion in toys you might pick up second hand.


Cockpit view.


I rearranged the tableau with our friend Mr. TIE Fighter Pilot in his rightful place.



Here's some more beauty shots of this very cool looking starfighter.
















Again, I have to say that this ship is by far my favourite Kenner TIE variant and is one of my favourite Kenner vehicles, period. The angular, aggressively cut-out wings and wing cannons are menacing in the extreme. The toy has had some longevity in the toy aisle, too - Amazon shows a Power of the Jedi version as well as a special 30th anniversary "elite TIE Interceptor". All pretty neat but the original is still the greatest, whether flown by a TIE Fighter Pilot or by a mere Stormtrooper!