Sunday, May 4, 2014

Star Wars Return of the Jedi Kenner catalog

Happy Star Wars Day everybody! This week, the cast for the next Star Wars was announced, and I have to admit, I'm a little excited. Sure the original cast is getting old, but they had a chemistry that was absent from the stars of the new trilogy. So, in celebration of Star Wars Day and a new generation of Star Wars films, I decided I would spotlight this catalog showcasing the beginning of Kenner's Return of the Jedi collections.



The original trilogy's toy line is still one of my favorites. By the time Return of the Jedi hit theaters, there were over 60 figures released under the Star Wars brand, and the number was still growing. 




Kenner covered most of the major characters, as well as their major variations. You want Luke in his X-Wing pilot uniform? They've got you covered. What about Han in his stylish winter parka? Yep, he's in there too. Ooh..and just look at Bespin Leia, in her elegant gown. She's ready for a fine dinner or a night's walk on the beautiful cloud planet. This still wasn't all the figures that would be released by Kenner under the Star Wars banner. By the time the line came to an end, there would would be an assortment of over 100 humans, aliens and droids..

Sadly, my childhood collection of Star Wars figures only consisted of 5 hand-me down figures: Darth Vader, Endor Leia, IG-88, R2-D2, and a Gamorrean Guard. There was a Rancor too, but I'm not sure if he is really considered an action figure. They were all pretty beat up, and I didn't have a clue who either of them were. That didn't stop them from seeing some serious play time, though.


I'm not ashamed to admit that Jabba freaked me out a little bit as a kid. I don't know if it was his laugh, those sinister eyes, or the fact that he was just a giant slug. Whenever he appeared on screen, it was pillow clutching time. The funny thing is, I ended up with this toy not even a year later. I was at a flea market with my mom and her friend, when I stumbled across the toy section. There was a mix of toys that hadn't been on store shelves in years, all on the card and at flea market prices. I ended up with a Super Powers Martian Manhunter and the Jabba Action Playset. I honestly don't know why I chose Jabba. I wasn't exactly fascinated by the character, and just months earlier I was just a little scared by him. He was an odd fit with my G.I. Joes, but he worked well as an all-encompassing evil character. Forget Cobra Commander and Serpentor, this guy was so evil, he wasn't even human anymore. Out of all the larger Star Wars toys I had, I think this is the one that I miss the most. I'd love to have Jabba sitting on my desk, for those moments when I need an intergalactic gangster slug's opinion on something.


If you had all the figures, you obviously needed something to store them. What's better than your very own official collector's cases? I actually owned the C-3PO case, as well as the Chewbacca Bandolier Strap. I don't think I ever kept figures in C-3PO, and remember just displaying the case on its own. It's a shame, it really would have worked well for my G.I. Joes. The Chewbacca Bandolier Strap actually saw some use, but not as intended. I would always use it to hold my toy guns or grenades whenever my friends and I would play "War". I was too paranoid about losing figures to try and carry them in something open like that bandolier.


Even before the 90's, you could find toys based on vehicles that never saw any screen time.I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that these were the first toys based on the Expanded Universe. Some of the vehicles were used in the comics, novels, and Droids cartoon, but never made it into the original films.  Prices of the larger vehicles had crept up over the years, so Kenner released these smaller and cheaper toys for those kids with less allowance money to spend.They also released some larger accessories, such as the Battle Action Radar and Tri-Pod Cannon. Sadly, I think the ones pictured here were all from Empire Strikes Back, but I don't see why you couldn't adapt them to the forest moon of Endor.


One of my favorite scenes from Return of the Jedi, from the entire trilogy, is the speeder bike scene. After seeing that part of the movie, I needed my own speeder bike. I'm pretty sure I even put it on my Christmas list at some point. It's unfortunate, really, since they didn't exist in real life, and the toy version hadn't been sold in stores for years. All I got was a stupid ATV...bleh.






Speaking of vehicles, if you liked what you saw on the big screen, then Kenner had you covered. Sadly, the only one out of this bunch that I ever owned was the AT-AT. Mine was picked up a yard sale a little over twenty years ago for a few dollars. It was missing a lot of parts, but man, it was an awesome machine. Of course, if you prefer something smaller, then you could always go for the Scout Walker. They were used with great effect against the Rebel forces on Endor, though they ultimately proved to be no match for the ingenuity of the Ewoks. The Millennium Falcon remains one of my favorite ship designs, and the toy was just amazing. I still remember the only time I actually got to see one in person. My parents and I were visiting some family, and one of my relatives pulled a well used Millennium Falcon out of their storage shed. This was way before I was into Star Wars, but I instantly knew that this was an awesome toy. Sadly, they took it back and sealed it away. It's probably still in there somewhere, playing host to a family of mice.

The X-Wing and Tie Fighter were still available, though I think the battle damage option was new for both of them. Basically, you got two sets of stickers; one normal set, and one set that made it look like your ship had been roughed up in battle. Unfortunately, they were stickers, so once you put them on, they weren't coming off in one piece. According to this catalog, the Y-Wing was new, though I swear it was released in the first series. Regardless, the Y-Wings always seemed a bit fragile to me and they never looked as sleek or fast as the X-Wings.


Next to the Death Star Playset, the Ewok Village was one of the largest Star Wars playsets released by Kenner. Say what you will about the intergalactic teddy bear people, they had a pretty awesome home. The playset was full of play features, such as a net trap, vine elevator, and what appears to be a swinging boulder (?). You can also reenact the scene where Han Solo nearly becomes dinner with the campfire spit. Speaking of the Ewoks..


Apparently there were Ewok stuffed figures as well, but Kenner purposely left their picture out so they didn't spoil the surprise. I guess they forgot about the Ewok figures on the first page, as well as the ones hanging around the village. Oops..


There were more Star Wars toys than just action figures and vehicles. There were coloring books, Play-Doh sets, and of course, blasters and lightsabers. I think my favorite part of the Jabba Play-Doh set is the Han in Carbonite mold. I bet that would make a great cookie cutter.

This is completely random, but I didn't remember it until now. I actually had a knockoff version of Han's blaster many, many moons ago. The barrel was a different color, but it had the exact same profile as the official version. Blasters may be clumsy and random, but that doesn't mean they don't have style.






Years before Galoob even considered making a tiny X-Wing, Kenner was producing their own micro playsets. They were based off some of the more prominent scenes from Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back. Each set could be played with individually, or joined together to form one large world. All of them were rather detailed, and full of action features. There were several ships made in the micro scale as well. Like the playsets, they included their own scale sized figures. The X-Wing and Tie Fighter would "break apart" if they crashed into an object or flat surface, while the Millennium Falcon was big enough to be considered a playset on its own. Sadly,the Micro sets never caught on and this was the last year they were made. This means we never got any sets based on Return of the Jedi, which is a shame really. There were a lot of ships and scenes that would have been perfect for the micro scale.


Well, this page brings our journey through Kenner's Return of the Jedi catalog to an end. It also provides us with the means to join the greatest fan club in existence. Just send in your application (along with $6.00), wait 4-8 weeks, and you would receive your very own Star Wars Official Fan Club Membership Kit. It included all the standard fan club items, such as character photos, stickers, iron-on patches, and a club magazine called Bantha Tracks. It offered members the opportunity to purchase exclusive  collector's items, as well as  take part in club contests. Something else about the club that caught my eye, was the chance to become an official Star Wars Pen Pal. Imagine that, a bunch of strangers communicating back and forth about the thing they love..I wish we had something like that now.

May the Fourth be with you!


9 comments:

  1. That was your best post by far! Thanks so much!

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  2. I just love looking through old toy catalogs it is fun to see all the things that came way back when. Also am not huge into Star Wars am excited by the fact that the new movie is going to have most of the original cast.

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    1. I wasn't much of a fan either in my early years. I guess I'm a late bloomer when it comes to Star Wars love.

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  3. Great post!That Speederbike was the first contact I had with anything toy related upon moving into our new home in Upstate NY in the arly 80's, after living in Puerto Rico for the better part of my childhood. I was about 6 years old then, exploring the perimeter of our new home when I discovered a speederbike, half buried behind some red berry shrubs! Score ;)

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    1. Ha! That is an awesome score. I wish I could find vintage Star Wars toys hiding in my shrubs. All I found was a broken pogo stick.

      Actually, two broken pogo sticks.

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  4. Ah memories! I had so much of that stuff (and yes, much to my Mrs' chagrin, I still have so much of that stuff!) What I have now though has been re-acquired in adulthood, so not all of it is in as good of condition as I kept my toys, even back then. I sold off all my original SW stuff as a kid when I was getting into Transformers.

    I don't really consider myself a Star Wars collector nowadays, but I can't pass up a good condition/cheap OG SW toy, and I can't help but feel all tingly inside when I see stuff like that catalogue and the wonderful toys therein.

    Thanks for posting it!

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    1. Thanks for reading it Eric. I actually only have a couple more items to pick up to complete my childhood collection. One of the benefits of having a small collection at the time.
      Funnily enough, the stuff I have now is in better shape than what I used to own.

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  5. Used to own this catalog. Thanks for the souvenir!!!

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