Guest blogger Yehuda Kleinman returns with the third in his series of posts on Palitoy products.
|Palitoy's Incarnation of the "Land of the Jawas" Playset|
One of Kenner's earliest and most popular playsets was entitled "Land of the Jawas." The toy offered American children a new and innovative approach to recreating a movie environment. Its durable plastic base featured built-in action features and was sturdy enough to support a somewhat delicate (but still cool) version of the Jawa Sandcrawler. The Sandcrawler even included a functioning elevator.
A separate plastic escape pod was also included so kids could recreate the scene from the beginning of the film in which R2-D2 and C-3PO escape from the Empire by crash-landing on the desert planet Tatooine.
The cost of producing this toy was, as always, highly dependent on the amount of plastic required to manufacture it.
Here's a photo showing all of the plastic used on the toy:
All in all, it's a pretty great toy at a fair price -- just $7.96 from Woolworths. That's about three to four times the price of an action figure, if you're interested in comparing.
The Land of the Jawas playset was a very successful product for Kenner. The company was able to parlay that success by reusing the toy's base for two playsets released in conjunction with The Empire Strikes Back: the Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Set and the Rebel Command Center. As you can see by referencing the photos below, the bases of both were injection-molded in white, rather than yellowish plastic.
|Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Set|
|Rebel Command Center|
This provided Kenner with additional financial benefits: By recycling existing toy molds, the company saved money. The new playsets were easily (and cheaply) updated through the addition of cardboard backdrops featuring scenes from the new movie.
Now it was British licensee Palitoy's turn to be clever. They had to find a way to make a successful and fun playset with features similar to the Kenner product. And they had to do it within the constraints of a more limited budget. Would they be able to do that successfully while achieving a profit?
Unlike the Palitoy versions of Kenner's Death Star and Droid Factory, the company's take on the Land of the Jawas managed to maintain an appearance very similar to its Kenner counterpart. This was due to the fact that the major visual component of both playsets remained the inexpensive-to-manufacture cardboard Sandcrawler backdrop.
The differences between the two sets can once again be attributed to the high cost of manufacturing in plastic. As Palitoy did with the Droid Factory, they rejected Kenner's base design and opted for a cheaper vacuformed version. Bolstered by a cardboard bottom, this new base was able to support the Sandcrawler backdrop. However, it did not allow for Kenner's molded plastic pegs which were intended to support figures, nor was it capable of housing the action levers familiar from the American toy.
How did Palitoy manage to make this into a fun toy while skimping on materials? Through a feature that is one of my favorite aspects of this product: a standalone plastic figure stand that successfully mimics Kenner's built-in action levers using the most minimal of resources.
Designed to accommodate two figures, this stand can be placed anywhere on the playset base and manipulated so that the figures appear to battle. It really exemplifies the cleverness and frugality that I love about this product. Palitoy succeeded in making something cool out of next to nothing!
The Palitoy version of the backdrop was equipped with an elevator. Its parts were completely different from those of its Kenner forerunner, but it functioned in much the same way.
Some additional points:
1. Where, you ask, is the escape pod? Alas, British kids didn't get one. But Palitoy did provide them with a free Jawa figure as a substitute. Easily a fair trade. [Unless you already had a Jawa figure. In which case, here was an opportunity to develop an untoward obsession with very small men wearing hoodie longjohns. -- Ed.]
2. The Kenner set included four specialized figure stands intended to be screwed into the bottom of the Sandcrawler in order to stabilize action figures when they were being used inside the playset. Palitoy did not include these parts, though, oddly, their Sandcrawler does feature the punch-outs required to house them.
3. Like the American version of the toy, the Palitoy issue was not very pricey. It was comparable in cost to its American counterpart. A mere £5.95 from Lavells. [Where you could, no doubt, buy other British stuff, like bangers and mash, and child-sized chimney-sweep equipment. -- Ed.]
Without a doubt, Palitoy's Land of the Jawas was a success that was true to the Kenner original, both in terms of cost containment and playability. Utinni!