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The Caffeinated Collector: Episode 21 – Ready, Set, Playset!

The Caffeinated Collector: Episode 21 – Ready, Set, Playset!

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Welcome to part two of our journey through Jeff’s favorite vintage Star Wars toys. You’ve been anxious for more, haven’t you? I knew it. Last time, we looked at my favorite action figures. This time, let’s take a gander at my favorite playsets, shall we? Yes, I think we shall.

Playsets are sometimes a tough sell for toys. They’re big, they’re expensive, and they’re (usually) stationary. Not the most enticing combination for kids OR parents. However, Kenner managed to knock a few of these right out of the park, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Kenner. As we did last time, we’ll start with the original wave of toys that were released with the Star Wars logo.

The Death Star was a terrific playset, probably one of the best in history when you account for the fact that it was one of the first of its kind. However, we aren’t talking “best” here, we’re talking “favorite.” While I acknowledge that the Death Star playset is superior when it comes to versatility, I’ve never actually owned or played with one, so my choice here is the Cantina Adventure Set!

photo courtesy of RebelScum.com

photo courtesy of RebelScum.com

There is a lot to like about this set. First of all, Blue Snaggletooth! This was one of the few Kenner sets to include figures, and it came with the infamous incorrect Snaggletooth figure. This figure was a full-size (3 ¾”) figure in a blue spacesuit with silver boots. He was later released as a shorter figure in a red jumpsuit with exposed feet. Aside from that distinction, this set packs a lot into a small space. Not only does it include a doorway with a droid detector, the bar is a semicircle that is set against a diorama with some terrific art work of the cantina band and several aliens that didn’t actually make it into the film. The orange molded plastic set is one solid piece, and it contains a feature that we will see in future playsets: movable figure stands. There are five circular sections with a foot peg on each that are attached to levers that allow you to turn the figure from side to side. There are even two up by the table in the corner that will allow you to reenact the scene where Greedo backs Han into a corner, then gets what’s coming to him. WITHOUT EVER FIRING A SINGLE SHOT HIMSELF. (If it’s on the internet, it must be true, so now it’s on the internet). I didn’t ever have this set as a kid (it was a little before my time), but I snagged one several years ago, and it still holds up today.

For the Empire line, I have been forced to make a difficult decision. The Empire Strikes Back series gave us Dagobah, which is an amazing, groundbreaking playset that makes use of the same levers I mentioned before, and also allows you to lift boxes and even R2-D2 into the air using the force! It also has a foam swamp for R2 or any other figure to sink into. It could very easily by my choice here, but it’s not. But here’s a picture anyway. Behold the epic greatness.

photo courtesy of theSWCA.com

photo courtesy of theSWCA.com

My choice for my favorite playset from The Empire Strikes Back is based on two reasons: It allows me to recreate sequences from my favorite portion of the film, and it helped this Texas boy feel like he was living in colder climes where snow was on the ground for more than a few hours in January. I’m talking, of course, about the Imperial Attack Base!

photo courtesy of RebelScum.com

photo courtesy of RebelScum.com

This set did it all! You could recreate the trench battle with the rebels, you could blow up a bunker, collapse an ice bridge, and shoot a HUGE gun! I can’t tell you how much fun I had making the ice bridge collapse while different figures were on top. I was very interested in how each of them would fall. I don’t know why, but it fascinated me that each figure would fall in a different way depending on how it was built. The white plastic on mine hasn’t faded with age, which is a sign of high-quality parts, and I love the fact that you can perch a figure on the stand of the big gun and swivel it with the figure attached. This set always made the Texas heat feel a little more bearable, and it helped me recreate sequences much more faithfully than any other playset would until 1983.

1983 brought us Return of the Jedi. Which brought us the Ewoks. Which brought us the Ewok Village. Which brought us the Ewok Village Playset!

photo courtesy of RebelScum.com

photo courtesy of RebelScum.com

This thing did it all! You could snag your figures in a net, you could pound a Stormtrooper with a swinging boulder, you could carry C-3PO around like a god, and you could even spit-roast your favorite (or least favorite) character! Tell me, what other toy would promote the eating of a human being. That’s edgy, folks, so the next time anyone tells you the Ewoks are “too cuddly” just remind them that the Ewoks were gonna eat Han Solo and not think twice about it.

This set was amazing. Kenner was working at the top of their game this time out. The set was impeccably sculpted. The tree trunks had texture, the platform was ridged like it was made from straw, and the huts had roofs that felt like leaves and mud packed together. There was even a cage with a pulley to raise figures up, so you didn’t have to pretend that they just appeared at the top of a tree! The chair for C-3PO to be carried in was very simple brown plastic, but the level of detail on that chair was amazing, it looked screen-accurate to our 1983 eyes. This set was so great that Kenner re-used the mold for the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves toy line in 1990!

Sadly, my Ewok Village playset got caught in the Great Interior Painting of the mid-eighties. My dad painted every room in the house. He put drip cloth down on the floor, but neglected to offer any of my bedroom furniture the same courtesy, so my Ewok Village ended up being flecked with white dots from top to bottom. Now, SOME kids might think that just gave it character, and would pretend that a giant bird had descended and “marked” the treehouse. I was not that kid. To me, it was just paint. I still played with it, but it would serve as a reminder that adults were not to be trusted. Just kidding, I still trusted adults. Just not my dad.

Sadly, when The Power of the Force was introduced, we got several cool vehicles, but no playsets. Next month, we will talk about my favorite vehicles, and we will have an entry from the final Star Wars line, as well as a mention from the Droids toy line. I hope to see you back next month for that discussion. In the meantime, what were some of your favorite playsets as a kid (or as an adult)? Do you still have any of them? I gots ta know!!!!

Until next time, May The Force of Others Be With Us All

Jeff can be heard weekly on Assembly of Geeks (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hostsThe Pilot EpisodeTalking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show. He is also co-host of Comics With Kenobi with fellow CWK blogger Matt Moore, and part-time co-host for Coffee With Kenobi, which you have already found if you’re reading this blog. You can contact Jeff at jeffm@coffeewithkenobi.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Melinda
    November 3, 2015 at 09:00 Reply

    Wonderful, wonderful entry, Jeff! I laughed. I nodded in agreement. I shook my head (at your dad’s neglect 😉 ). What fun! 🙂

    Sadly, Star Wars play sets never made it into our house (certainly not while I was growing up … since Star Wars still was a long way off 😉 ). And then when I had a home of my own, like you pointed out, space was — and still is — an issue. Our girls — both SW fans from an early age — longed for the Ewok village, but we just didn’t have a suitable place to store it when they weren’t playing with it. They eyed it longingly every time they saw it in our local “Star Wars Shop” (not really what it was called; that was just how we referred to it. Really, it was a collectibles shop.) Sold on consignment (by the time the girls came along, and then were old enough to understand what SW was all about, ROTJ was more than 10 years old), that Ewok village had a pretty dear price tag on it, too. It broke my heart to have to tell my daughters, “no.” But you know what? They created their own Ewok villages out of odds and ends at home, pulled out their action figures, and used their imaginations. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. 🙂

    I can’t wait for the next installment! This is fun!!! 😀

    1. Jeff McGee
      November 4, 2015 at 21:18 Reply

      As always, your kind words are appreciated, Melinda. I would love to see some pictures of the village your daughters created, I would be willing to bet it was every bit as awesome as the one Kenner concocted!

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