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, May 23, 2017

Tauntaun (Kenner Canada) and Tauntaun with Open Belly Rescue Feature


The second "riding animal" to be released in the vintage line (after the Patrol Dewback) was the Tauntaun, released in "Empire Strikes Back" packaging. The example in my collection happens to be a Kenner Canada item. Let's have a closer look!


"Contents: One marsupial mammal." Oddly specific, isn't it? I quite like this line, probably the Marketing Department's idea of a clever little joke. "One creature" or "one riding animal" just doesn't have the same ring, does it? Interestingly, this directly contradicts (!) the ESB script which reads:

EXT. PLAIN OF HOTH - DAY

A small figure gallops across the windswept ice slope.  The bundled 
rider is mounted on a large gray snow lizard, a Tauntaun.



Being a Kenner Canada item, French and English coexist in easy harmony on the box. Unfortunately some English infiltrated the French side as the "Action figures sold separately" appears in both languages on both box ends.


Back of the box demonstrates play features. Those reins... I have three Tauntauns in my collection and I think every set of brown rubbery plastic reins is broken and repaired, right at the top of the "loop". One of them is from my childhood collection and I remember that the reins broke soon after I got it. Superglue effects a repair but any flexibility in the repaired area is gone.


Typical Kenner escalation in this photo... two Rebel Soldiers, OK... but what kid is gonna have THREE TAUNTAUNS??


This is quite a nice picture of the Rebel Soldier grooming and saddling his smelly disgusting Tauntaun.

That's the box, now on to everyone's favourite part... playing with the toys setting up tableaux of the box photos. Must've been early in the ESB toy cycle as here we have Princess Leia Organa (as opposed to Hoth Outfit) and a non-Sensorscope R2. However as I've noted before, availability of certain figures often didn't seem to "figure" into the Kenner box art choices. Stormtrooper flying a TIE Interceptor anyone??

A fine profile shot of the Tauntaun with Han Hoth aboard.

Rebel Soldier lovingly grooming his mount. Perhaps trying to leverage the "horse-mad preteen girl" market? In any event, I like this softer side of the Rebel Soldier.

Setting off in search of Luke. Not quite the scene from the movie with Han storming off with his "I'll see you in Hell!!" line, but this is definitely more kid-friendly.


Now, the main thing people remember about Han's rescue of Luke on Hoth is stuffing him into the carcass of Han's dead Tauntaun. It was gross in the movie, and it's equally disturbing as a toy. However, by '82 the Tauntaun toy may have been getting a bit stale, and adding another play feature was a great way to invigorate sales.


No longer a "marsupial mammal", now just a mammal. Perhaps "marsupial" was removed so as not to create the impression that the open belly feature was some sort of joey pouch? Because reference to a natural birth process would be disgusting and inappropriate, not at all like a reference to cutting open a dead animal and stuffing your friend inside the carcass...


Ugh... nice close-up. We get the idea.


Recycled top picture from the Tauntaun box, with a re-imagining of the Hoth Rescue, this time with Rebel Commander and two Rebel Soldiers as witnesses to the horror. What is seen cannot be unseen!



Further recycling from the Tauntaun box.

It's surprisingly difficult to stuff Luke all the way into the Tauntaun abdominal cavity. I actually had to open the back hatch and stuff Luke's legs through there.

Close-up picture of the horrifying scene.

Maybe this is actually a reenactment of the rescue back at Echo Base, for the benefit of the Rebels who didn't get to see it the first time?? "Then I totally had this awesome idea, I took Luke's lightsword thingy and cut open the smelly old Tauntaun, and stuffed Luke inside it! He was totally unconscious so he didn't even realize until he woke up covered in Tauntaun guts, bile and feces! Try making time with the Princess now, farmboy! You're disgusting!" Makes drawing a dick on someone's head at a party look absolutely pedestrian in terms of pranks.

Well, enough with the Tauntaun stuffery... An interesting tidbit is that the COO information on both Tauntaun versions is exactly the same, on the bottoms of the feet. Luckily for Kenner, they didn't print the COO on the belly of the beast like they did with the Dewback - if they'd done so they'd have needed to move it for the open-belly version. Just luck? Or did the designers anticipate a later "open belly" version when designing the first toy?

Another difference between the toys is that the saddle on the open-belly version (top) has a much thicker strap than the standard version (bottom). Presumably this is the result of real-world feedback on the flimsiness of the plastic strap. Kenner really does care!

Anyway, there you have the comprehensive survey of the Tauntaun in both versions. For me, I'll take the original recipe. The open belly just freaks me out.