OK, just to warn you, a 35-year-old geek is about to wax lyrical about his old Star Wars toys.
I watched The Empire Strikes Back on Blu Ray at the weekend. It was awesome. If you haven't seen Star Wars on Blu Ray yet, I suggest you do. They are stunningly crisp and detailed. The sound will blow you away as well.
But the film reminded me of the Star Wars toys I had as a boy. My collection of Star Wars toys is my Rosebud. They were my proudest possessions, but somehow my mother persuaded me to give them away to some local kids once I outgrew them. I was a willing participant at the time, but have since painted this incident as an injustice of Dickensian proportions. I often jokingly accuse my mother of "stealing" my Star Wars toys and giving them away. Oh, the injustice!
This wrong was only recently put right, when, at the age of 30, I purchased a vintage Millennium Falcon on TradeMe. It is hanging on the wall above me as I write. Do you think Charles Foster Kane hung Rosebud on the wall and would occasionally glance at it with a sentimental grin? After all, it was still in his possession when he died. When I die, will my final words be: "Millennium Falcon"? I hope not, the Essex Princess would kill me.
To get some idea of how exciting Star Wars toys were in the 1970s and 80s, watch this vintage TV ad. Also, check out the slightly squibbly sound that is synonymous with the video era:
But, injustice and excitement aside, when watching Empire I was struck by how they made sure the vintage Star Wars toys were true to the film.
The best example is that the toy version of the tauntaun, the animal they ride around on the ice planet Hoth at the opening of Empire, had an "open belly rescue feature" so you could thrust your Luke Skywalker figure inside the animal, so to speak. Just like in the movie! They were so proud of the "open belly rescue feature" that it is written on the box twice and there is a picture demonstrating its genius:
Open Belly Rescue Feature would make a good band name.
Later in the film, C3PO has been blown to pieces and Chewbacca tries to puts him back together. You know, the bit where Chewbacca gets all Hamlet:
Chewie eventually fixes C3PO and carries him round in a bag on his bag. Well, you could do exactly that with the Star Wars figures. Just like in the movie! The C3PO figure had detachable limbs and a little carry bag that would fit snugly over the Chewbacca figure's shoulders. It was like one of those smug reusable shopping bags that will one day save the world. Here it is:
These were frivolous little bits of plastic, but the care and attention that was paid to their design was clear. It was cool that you could put Mark Hamill inside a dead animal in the comfort of your home.
Critics dismiss the toys as commercial dross that cheapened cinema, but for many children they were a way to commune with the films they love. It was a welcome extension of the movie universe, not a cheapening.
Do you remember these toys? What was your favourite? Did you have an AT-AT walker? How long did it take you to lose Han's tiny, tiny blaster? Do you remember the Princess Leia bounty hunter figure with the rubber helmet? Okay, I'll stop now.
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