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Wednesday, January 25, 2012


George Lucas is often mentioned as the master or even the inventor of merchandise. He did not invented it, because promotional or licensed toys from movies existed since many years ago. George Lucas took this form of promotion to a higher level, and ever since, the most popular blockbusters go with their own toy line.

In 1977 the film “Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope” was filmed and premiered. In the contract offered by the 20th Century Fox, George Lucas renounced to a part of his salary in exchange for the license rights of products related to Star Wars. Hollywood’s studios accepted without objections. To date, toys represented only a very small amount of the incomes produced by one movie, so it would have been the right decision if it hasn’t been for the huge phenomenon that Star Wars resulted to be. George Lucas was so convinced of his work, that he risked changing the contract, and made a great profit of it.

Charles Lippincott was crucial in this whole story. He was in 1977 the marketing manager of Lucasfilm Ltd. and received from Lucas the order to search for companies interested in adquiring licenses for related products to the film they were preparing. Mr. Lippincott went to the American International Toy Fair in New York with just a few drawings and outlines made by Ralph McQuarrie. The most important toy companies of the time refused the idea of producing any toys (they must have regretted this decision for many years), but Kenner accepted. Kenner was not a very big company at the time, what surely made the decision easier for them… it was worth taking the risk of making toys based on a very promising movie that millions of children would watch.

The movie was premiered the 25th May 1977, becoming an instant success. Kenner had to build the line starting from scratch. For a toymaker like Kenner, it seemed almost impossible to have the first figures ready for the Christmas campaign. What they did was to sell a coupon for the first 4 figures that would be available a few months later. This pack of pre-ordered figures is known as the “Early Bird”, but it will be treated sometime in a future entry. I don’t own the figures, and I don’t think I’ll ever own them, but the “normal” figures, for example, this Chewbacca here.

Chewbacca and the Imperial Stormtrooper were part of the first series (which comprised 12 figures) and was launched in 1978. Both characters are well known from the movies, so I won’t write anything about them.

Something in common between this two figures, is that they do not have any point of articulation in the neck, but only arms and legs (4 PoAs). Chewbacca was originally sold with a rifle like the one in the pictures, while the Stormtrooper came with a blaster gun. Due to the “armybuilders”, the Stortrooper is a figure that is a bit more expensive than the other figures in the same wave. As you can see in the pictures I own two of them.

Both weapons are repro, since the original weapons made by Kenner are now scarce and they are sold for a very high amount of money.

Another interesting fact of Kenner’s Star Wars figures is that many variants of each figure exist. This is probably because the figures were re-released several times during the lifespan of the collection, and some releases may differ in the colours applied, or in the accessories included, and so on. The Early Bird Chewbacca for example, included the rifle in a greenish tone of plastic, and there’s also a version in which the poach is painted in a shinier brown. I do not own any of these variants, but the “green-limbed Chewbacca” that is also presented here.

As you can see, the green limbs Chewbacca have arms and legs in another colour than the original one. Although it is recognised as a variant, many people think (I do too), that this is only a decolouration of the limbs, which are made in another plastic compound than the original figure or the rest of the body.

  • Toy Line: Star Wars
  • Year: 1977
  • Company: Kenner (U.S.A.)
  • Size of the figures: 11 cms or 3,75’’

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