Throwback Thursday: Kenner’s first “Star Wars” toys in 1978

[Blog posts that are posted just past midnight on Thursday shall still be considered “Throwback Thursday” posts.  Thanks, THE MANAGEMENT.]

This is me hopping on the “Star Wars” bandwagon.  “Star Wars: the Forces Awakens” is almost exactly a month away today, but, more to the point, Christmas is in another five weeks.  I will always associate all of my action figures and vehicles with Christmas, as that is when I got most of them.  Seeing that little original Luke Skywalker (with his retractable lightsaber) will forever make me think of Christmas when I was six.

I had nearly all of these first Star Wars figures, because my parents were especially damned cool about being generous to a fault every December 25th.  (The only exceptions were the Death Star Commander and the Stormtrooper, and it never bothered me once.)  The Jawa was the movie adversary that most fascinated me, and the Tusken Raider was the one that actually managed to scared me a little.  I got doubles of those action figures in later years, but that was cool — both the Jawas and Tusken Raiders acted in groups.  (The latter travel single file to hide their numbers, you see.)

My parents’ largesse was especially impressive in light of what I learned from Wikipedia tonight.  These toys apparently were sometimes difficult for Santa to find, as Kenner drastically underestimated the demand for them.  (The company was wise enough to purchase the license after the strangely faux-sounding “Mego Corporation” turned it down.  I can only imagine that somebody, somewhere regretted that decision.)  What’s funny is that when Star Wars was a new cultural event, local retailers weren’t always 100 percent clear on the mythology upon which these toys were based.  I stumbled across an image of 1978 newspaper ad the other day in which Darth Vader somewhat confusingly addresses the readers as “EARTHLINGS.”  (Sorry — it isn’t the ad pictured below.)

The Star Wars vehicles I received in 1978 varied in quality.  Take a look at the “escape pod” below, poorly representing the vehicle in which C-3PO and R2-D2 absconded with Leia’s distress message early in the 1977 movie.  It’s … no more impressive than a simple tupperware cup.  In fact, it would fail as a tupperware cup because it had a hole in it.

The Landspeeder was a quality toy.  One nifty feature was that its well hidden wheels and suspension allowed it to capably mimic the hovercraft action of the film’s vehicle.  That was neat.  I can definitely remember shooting that thing across the floor.

But crowning ALL of my Star Wars toys on Christmas, 1978, was Darth Vader’s Imperial Tie Fighter.

Look at that thing.  Even as an adult, I think that thing looks fun as hell to play with.  And, for a six-year-old boy, it was PURE. UNADULTERATED.  JOY.

That black Tie Fighter was incredibly fun on a number of levels.  It was detailed.  It just LOOKED like an evil spacecraft.  Darth Vader (or any action figure, really) could fit inside the cockpit.  (If memory serves, some of my play scenarios involved having Darth getting his ride stolen by that plucky Chewbacca.)  If it was hit by Rebel scum in their X-Wing Fighters, a lever somewhere on the toy made its wings pop off dramatically.  But best of all was another button that made it fire.  The sound it made was frikkin’ FANTASTIC, and that red light in front lit UP.  The fun was amped up even further when the lights went out — I can still remember that sound and that red light reflected off the coffee table and the wrapping paper scattered around my family’s living room.

Click to enlarge:

 

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Collection Star Wars Darth Vader TIE Fighter 1978 Kenner FineMolds 02

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