Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Vintage Saga (of Luke’s Changing Hair Color)

Shifting shades: brown, yellow and off-white haired Luke prototypes from Kenner
Ron writes:

What color is Luke Skywalker's hair? If you answered "blonde," well, congratulations! You've evidently seen Star Wars. Did you also notice that Darth Vader wears black? But as guest blogger Ben Sheehan points out below, recognizing a hair tonality known as "blonde" is one thing, and translating into toy terms is quite another. Here's Ben with the details.



Ben writes:

Ever wondered why Luke Skywalker seemed to suffer a follicle related identity crisis at Kenner? You’re not alone.

One question has vexed Star Wars collectors for decades: namely, why did Luke Skywalker’s hair color mysteriously shift from yellow to brown (and every shade in-between), during the vintage Star Wars era?

On 12 backs in 1978, Luke’s noggin was yellow. On ESB 41 cardbacks, it was dark brown. Soon it was orange ­– then light brown; then dark brown, and yellow again. Lukes with different colored hair appeared on the same ROTJ blister card back at retail in 1983 – confusing children, and then baffling adult collectors some 40 years later.

Luke Skywalker Original, Bespin, Jedi and Stormtrooper have all suffered from the same, near rainbow-haired phenomenon. Even prototypes of Luke seem to have been dressed at entirely different salons, with multiple hair colors existing for the 4 versions (X-Wing, Poncho and Hoth all wore head gear) during the pre-production stage.

Ask most Kenner employees why Luke’s hair color kept changing (and about most any other figure variation), and they’ll say that they have no idea, or hadn’t even noticed.

Some will even ask, "why would you care?"

One figure, a galaxy of hair tones (image courtesy of starwarsfigurevariations.com)

"People ask me that question all the time," says Jim Swearingen, the designer who had the most influence on the first series of Star Wars figures at Kenner in 1977, "but I don’t know the answer."

Swearingen’s response led me to wonder more and more, how an even-keeled appearance for the key figure in Kenner’s Star Wars line could seemingly be so unimportant that it wasn’t ever noticed?

An answer that made sense slowly revealed itself during research for a fairly comprehensive book I’m writing on vintage Star Wars toys (the project is long overdue – my battle with four years of Kenner interviews and accumulated research materials, along with the quest for pictures, is proving akin to lopping heads off a hydra).

I’m lucky enough to have been embedded in the bones of Kenner’s Star Wars team for 3 or 4 years now, and have 14 years of interactions with former employees to draw on prior to the experience. This includes living in Kenner people’s houses, discussing action figures with them over work projects, doing everything from mowing their lawns to fixing their roofs while talking silicone molds, drafting and sales strategies. I’ve been socializing, planning events, sharing drunken anecdotes and generally enquiring about all aspects of the Star Wars line in more settings than this post allows. As a consequence, I’ve likely asked upwards of 50 people about Luke’s hair color.

As it turns out, different designers at Kenner actually had different ideas of what Luke’s hair color should look like – which led to the different shades of brown, orange and yellow on Luke’s noggin as each new Luke character was created.

But there is even more to it than this simple explanation – the culprit is also paint itself.

Blonde hair is an accumulation of different colors – not a single color that Kenner could achieve using the cell-vinyl paint they applied to the paintmasters, that were sent to the orient as instruction during the 1970s and ‘80s (particularly on a toy lines such as Star Wars, where the number of paint applications was limited to keep the retail price point down).

Painting was such an expense during Kenner’s Star Wars production, that stickers were used on vehicles as a cost cutting measure almost exclusively, right up until later vehicles such as the A and Y-Wing fighters, which incorporated a mixture of paint and stickers to provide detail and decoration.

There were not enough resources to apply multiple colors to Luke’s head, in order to achieve a close to perfect blonde.

The vagaries of manufacturing at factories in the Orient circa 1977-84 further compounded the issue. Kenner would send different versions of Luke’s hair over as designers dictated new shades for different iterations of Luke – and then these versions would sometimes each be altered, and further lost in translation during production.

Sometimes Orient vendors such as Smile and Kadar were less spot on than they should have been, which produced obvious variation in Luke’s hair. No-one really knew where any of them were getting their pigments or paints, so this was ignored, presumably in an effort to ensure that Luke made it to retailers on time.

So what does this ultimately mean to collectors? Very little, but then again, also maybe a lot. While it would be neater to attribute Luke’s chameleon follicles (and so many other details from the Star Wars line) to some deeply technical master plan inside Kenner, chalk it down instead to the small toy company from Ohio growing exponentially, while constantly redefining its manufacturing processes to accommodate and then grow its new 3 ¾" action figure scale (under significant deadline related, time pressure no less).

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

'Chive Cast 90 - Solo Vintage Winners & Losers

Skye and Steve analyze and review Solo: A Star Wars Story by breaking down which vintage Star Wars collectibles will benefit from the movie and which ones will suffer from it. From Snoopies to Troopies, Chewie to Han and from 3PO to Gonk, we cover it all in our now traditional Top 10 Winners and Losers list. How can a new movie impact the collectibility and desirability of 40 year-old toys? Listen to find out our take on the 90th 'Chive cast Vintage Pod: A Podcast Story, Anthology. 


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Steve's Star Wars at the Movies Review for Solo

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
01:32 – Opening Thoughts on Solo
04:43 – Skye’s Rant Against Slate, NPR, Cinemasins, Red Letter Media Style Film Criticism
11:53 – #10 LOSER (B-Wing Pilot)
12:54 – #10 WINNER (Bossk)
16:27 – #9 WINNER (Death Star Droid)
18:50 – #9 LOSER (Rancor)
20:08 – #8 WINNER (Falcon)
21:59 – Steve’s Soundtrack Rant Against Re-used Music Cues
25:57 – #8 LOSER (Non-SW Han Solo Figures)
30:40 – #7 LOSER and WINNER (X-Wings and TIE Bombers)
32:18 – #6 WINNERS (Imperial Commander and AT-AT Commander)
37:12 – Steve’s Rant Against Lawrence Kasdan’s Screenwriting
41:19 – #6 and #5 LOSERS (Snoopies and Troopies)
43:39 – #5 WINNER (Han’s Blaster)
47:52 – What about the Bandolier?
49:40 – #4 WINNER (???  A Droid ???)
54:03 – #3 WINNER and LOSER (??? Head Trouble ???)
59:38 – #2 LOSER  (??? Skye is probably wrong about this ???)
01:01:22 – #2 and # 1 WINNER (??? Lando and Chewie, but which order ???)
01:04:09 – #1.5 WINNER (Bantam Books)
01:20:18 – #1 LOSERS (Neal Scanlan MUST Be Stopped)
01:21:43 – Eat at Denny’s… Pray for Death

Monday, June 4, 2018

Star Wars Community Digest Issue #11

Yehuda and Steve write:

 Welcome to the latest issue of Star Wars Community Digest, your place to get summaries about what's going on in the Star Wars collecting community across all of the forums and Facebook groups. We will present the news and current events each week, so that you don't miss anything. Please be aware that many of these are closed Facebook groups though, which means you will need to join them in order to read the conversations. But don't worry, it's free and almost instantaneous.

Participating Groups and Forums:
Star Wars Displays and Advertising
Star Wars Records and Tapes
Star Wars 12 Backs and Early Vintage Collectors Group (A New Hope 1977-79)
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Vintage Collecting Group 1980-1982
Star Wars: Return of The Jedi Vintage Collecting Group 1983 - 1985
Star Wars: POTF (Last 17) Vintage Collecting Group 1985
Star Wars: The "Dark Times" Collecting Group (1985-95, Droids & Ewoks, etc)
Jabba's Court - Vintage Star Wars Collectors Group 1977 - 1988
The Imperial Commissary - 1977-1985 Vintage Star Wars Toys, Buy Sell Trade
Power Of The Force Coins
Star Wars bootleg and knockoff collectors
Star Wars Micro Machines and Action Fleet Collecting Group
vintage star wars action figures
The RebelScum vintage forum
Jawa's Outpost (UK and EIRE Star Wars trading group)
Echo Base Vintage Star Wars Trade/Sell/Buy
The Prototype Exchange
The Star Wars Traveler: filming locations and road trips for Star Wars fans
La Guerre des Etoiles Collectors (vintage Star Wars items with French language on them)

If you are an administrator or moderator and would like your community to be a part of this feature, please let us know. We are always happy to include additional groups/forums in our summaries, but be aware that not every group can be featured every week.


In any case, lets get right down to it and get everyone caught up to date on what they may have missed last week...



Exciting Archive Updates Underway


Senior editor and creator of the Star Wars Collectors Archive Gus Lopez has announced that he will be adding new entries to the Archive as well as updating older entries based on his "Daily Grail" series on social media. Several new entries will be added weekly and will include original movie props, vintage toy prototypes and other one-of-a-kind pieces from all aspects of the Star Wars galaxy. Any collector will not be disappointed by each of these iconic pieces, so be certain not to miss them in the SWCA's "What's New" section!

Here are the first new entries:

5/27/18:
1. Sonic Controlled Landspeeder Engineering Drawing
2. Kenner Coca-Cola Poster
3. Paploo Coin Prototypes
4. Storyboard Artwork for Star Wars Commercial
5. Phil Tippett Star Wars Chess Piece Art

5/20/18:
New:
1. Luke Endor Animatics Action Figure
2. R2-D2 Dome Master
3. Emperor’s Contact Lenses
4. Hoth Matte Painting
5. Tusken Raider Glove
6. Fly Creature Model
7. Coca-Cola Poster from Japan

Updates:
1. Power of the Force Action Figure Store Display
2. Blue Harvest Placard Sign
3. Empire Strikes Back Parka
4. Droids Governor Koong Card Artwork

5/13/18:
1. Tusken Raider Mask
2. Darth Vader Meditation Chamber Wood Pattern
3. Yam Nose Mask
4. TV Dinner Box (Sundown Supper)
5. Bespin Security Guard Costume
6. Canadian Coca-Cola Bottle 6-Pack
7. Diecast X-Wing Pattern
8. Gargoyle from Jabba's Throne
9. Princess Leia Coin Prototypes
10. Y-Wing Engineering Drawing


Toothpaste and Toys



Ross Barr shares pictures of a very rare Spanish Return of the Jedi Colgate toothpaste premium.
For a very limited time, Colgate toothpaste and PBP ( the Spanish sub-licensee of Kenner toys in Spain) offered a free Star Wars action figure packaged with each tube of toothpaste. This example with an AT-AT Driver was found by a collector in Madrid is only the second example known to have survived.

The original thread in the Imperial Commissary can be found here:
ROTJ Colgate AT-AT Driver

Further reading:
Colgate ROTJ Promotions
Steve Sansweet Discusses ROTJ Colgate Promo


A Limelight Worth a Look: Repurposing a Store Display


Derek Torc McLean cleverly uses a modern Star Wars DVD store display to feature his vintage carded Lobot focus. This approach is both visually appealing for the vintage pieces as well as for the otherwise clumsy appearing empty store display.

The original thread in the Empire Strikes Back Vintage Collecting can be found here: Repurposed TFA Store Display


BROYEUR A REBUTS


Palitoy and many International Kenner sub-licensees produced a well appreciated and inexpensive pressboard Death Star Play Centre designed for the 3.75 inch figures. These sets were printed in different countries and have quirky variations. Mike Freeman notes one of these variations on the trash compactor signage of his Canadian Death Star which is discussed on this thread in La Guerre des Etoile (Star Wars) Collectors Group.

Original thread:
Bilingual Trash Compactor Signage

Further reading on the Archive:
The Palitoy Death Star: Ingenuity + Frugality = Greatness


Unproduced Luke Skywalker Wrist Communicator Prototype Found


Collector Barry Chalmers uncovers the prototype for an unproduced "Luke Skywalker wrist Communicator" toy concept. The prototype is then pieced back together based on previously found concept art for the piece.

The original thread in the Prototype Exchange Group can be found here:
Unproduced Wrist Communicator


A Limelight Worth a Look: Power Droid Proofs



Collector Phidias Barrios shares his Power droid focus including the Original photo art used to create the cardback in this thread in the 12 Back Group:
Power Droid 2D Run

Further reading on the Archive:
Power Droid Early Prototype
Power Droid Painted First Shot
Star Wars 20-Back (Boba Fett Offer) Power Droid Proof Card
Empire Strikes Back 31-Back Power Droid Proof Card
Empire Strikes Back 41-Back (Survival Kit Offer) Power Droid Proof Card
Revenge of the Jedi 48-Back Power Droid Proof Card
Power of the Force 92-Back Power Droid Proof Card


Take the AT-AT to Midtown 


Collector Chuck Dillon shares pictures of a toy AT-AT  redesigned by New York City based pop-artist Morgan Phillips (also known as the Sucklord ) with a vintage New York City Subway car motif. The graffiti facade design seems surprisingly well suited for the Imperial war vehicle.

The original thread on the Imperial Commissary can be found here:
Sucklord AT-AT

Further reading:
http://www.suckadelic.com
The Sucklord - Wikipedia
The Suckadelic Era


Dixie Cup Dagobah Box Art



Collector Eric Daniel Vandever shares a printers proof of the artwork for the Dagobah scene printed on many boxes of Dixie cups in this thread in the Star Wars Displays and Advertising Group.

Original thread:
Dagobah Dixie Cup Art Proof

Further reading on the Archive:
Uncut Dixie Cup Sheet


Is that Yupi Supposed to be Leia?


The elusive line of Star Wars figures manufactured by the Yupi company in Colombia were produced from original miniature character sculpts which were based on the Kenner line of 3.75 inch action figures. The Princess Leia figure is one of a few notable exceptions which does not have any resemblance to the Kenner figure, or to the character for that matter. This point is discussed by the Echo Base Vintage Variants Group in this thread.

Original thread:
Yupi Leia

Further reading on the Archive:
Productas Yupi Snack Food Figure Premiums from Colombia


The Star Wars Collector Issue #5: June 1994


Collector Martin Thurn shares issue #5 of The Star Wars Collector. Originally released in June of 1994, this issue includes an interview with the ever-present Steve Sansweet, including a discussion of his appearances on QVC.

The original thread in the Dark Times Group can be found here:
Star Wars Collector Issue 5 (June 1994)


Big Brass Belt Buckles


The big brass belt buckle craze of the 1970s left the Star Wars fan many choices of shiny imagery to adorn their Levi’s. Basic Tool & Supply was one of the very early licensed manufacturers of Star Wars belt buckles. They had 6 original designs forged from solid brass.The designs were very popular and were also produced in cheaper brass plated and painted versions by other belt buckle manufacturers, including The Leather Shop and Lee. Collector and author Pete Vilmur shares his Basic Tool & Supply store display for the solid brass buckles accompanied by 5 of the buckles.

The original thread in the Star Wars Displays and Advertising Group can be found here:
Belt Buckle Display

Further reading on the Archive:
Belts & Buckles in the Archive Database


We Shall Double Our Efforts!


In 1979 Kenner produced a multiple level wedge shaped Death Star Space Station to be used with their 3.75 inch line of action figures. The set includes multiple play environments designed to recreate action scenes from the film. Collector Andrew Solomon assembled 5 consecutive Death Star Space Stations resulting in an impressive semicircular display. As it turns out, 10 space stations would create a full circle. The Emperor would be pleased.

The original thread in the Imperial Commissary can be found here:
5 Death Stars Assembled

Further reading on the Archive:
Kenner Death Star Space Station


A Limelight Worth a Look: Droids and Ewoks Coins



Collector Ryan Lehmkuhl assembled a complete set of non-anodized aluminum prototype coins for the Droids and Ewoks lines including examples for all of the unproduced figures from the never released second waves. Ryan shares pictures of this impressive accomplishment in this thread in Power of the Force Coins Group.

Original thread:
Droids and Ewoks Coin Collection

Further reading on the Archive:
Unproduced Droids and Ewoks
The Comprehensive Guide to POTF, Droids, and Ewoks Coins


Japanese Vending Machine Display


Collector Rob David shares a picture of a very rare Japanese vending machine display for Keshigomu and Gaphacon toys. Included on the display are some rare variations of Keshi.

The original thread in the 12 Backs Group can be found here:
Keshigomu Toys


Bootleg Action Figure Cases


The unprecedented success of the Kenner Star Wars action figure line gave rise to many companies trying to capitalize on the phenomenon. One item that was easy for secondary companies to manufacture at low cost were storage cases for the action figures. Several companies manufactured action figure cases similar to the licensed Kenner action figure cases with cheaper quality materials at a lower price point. Despite their inferior quality, the bootleg cases feature unique and interesting cover art which give them a kitschy quality. Collector Alan Williams rediscovers one of these knockoff cases and discusses it on the Imperial Commissary.

Original thread:
Star World Figure Case

Further reading on the Archive:
Storage On the Cheap: Making a Case for Unlicensed Carrying Cases


Our Star Wars Community Digest Time Capsule Thread for this Issue:
The Mysterious Luke in Robes



As prototype toy  material was uncovered in Cincinnati -- the Hometown of Kenner Toys in the late 90’s -- unproduced conceptual prototype  toys were discovered along with production prototype pieces. These conceptual pieces often had no known provenance and their individual roles in the Star Wars toy production story remained a mystery open to conjecture.

Arguably the most infamous unknown conceptual piece found was dubbed the “Luke in Robes” figure. The Luke figure was found only in hardcopy form, made from hand poured resin and primed in a grey color. Its ultimate final appearance and color scheme remained a mystery. Opinions varied as to the figures role in the toy line. Many collectors thought that the figure may have been a proposed new Power of the Force figure which was never released.

On November 5th, 2006 this long standing hobby mystery was solved on the Rebelscum forums. Sit back and enjoy the fun read as you find the answer:

Luke in Robes discovery?