Back in the ’70s, when kids still played outside with their frisbees and space hoppers, rolling in the dirt and generally causing all kinds of havoc, there were a nation of moms and dads despairing at the daily grind of coaxing little Janet or John into the bath. So whichever marketing executive came up with the grand idea of launching a range of Star Wars related bubble baths and shampoos — starting a chain reaction that launched a plethora of brands and hygiene related products – would no doubt have the undying gratitude of the parents of the first Star Wars generation, because after Princess Leia and her GFFA pals entered the bathroom you couldn’t keep kids away.
We’re going to take a dive into the bubblicious waters of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi shampoo, soaps, and bubble baths, scrubbing away the grime of time and taking a look at some of the fantastic releases that hit the UK and US during the original trilogy era.
STAR WARS (1977)
Back before we were happily avalanched with a cavalcade of galactic goodies, Star Wars toy and collectible releases were sparse, and as such early licenses were handed out to “easy wins.” By that I mean items that could be turned around quickly and cleanly carrying the Star Wars name, and nothing was cleaner than bubble bath, soap, or shampoo.
Here in the UK Cliro had the license for such products and wasted no time releasing a wave of items designed to bring the battle to the bathroom.
Cliro released the now hard to find Imperial Cruiser set, which contained a Threepio and Chewbacca bubble bath and shampoo, and as shown on the advertisement above they produced both Darth Vader and Artoo Detoo bath bubbles. Artoo is notable for a couple of reasons. Most obviously his design, which looks almost like a prototype but likely says as much about 1970s molding standards than anything else. Also the spelling of his name: Artoo Detoo. These days the most used presentation of the name is R2-D2, but back in the day Artoo was just as common.
The Vader Bath Bubbles includes some wonderful ’70s-style artwork, showing that even then he was the marquee name when it came to marketing, and also an Artoo Detoo soap model that proved no matter how much you clean him, he’ll never get his memory wiped.
This is an absolute treat, a soapdish by Sigma Ceramics produced in 1977 featuring the unique pairing (for ’77 at least) of Ben Kenobi and See-Threepio rocketing across the dusty plains of Tatooine. What kid wouldn’t wash behind their ears for a soapdish this cool?
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
On to the second chapter in the trilogy and as ever The Empire Strikes Back had far fewer tie-in products to help promote the release of film, but that’s not to say that the releases that we did get weren’t great quality. For example, this luxurious set released by Consumer Products Ltd. The set contained a Darth Vader foam bath (unleashing the froth of the Sith) and a See-Threepio shampoo, all contained within a box featuring artwork based on the film.
It’s the collectible that caused Carrie Fisher so much consternation back in the day, which is why this Princess Leia bubble bath is a collecting classic. Released by Omni Cosmetic Products in 1981, the bottle was almost nine inches high by three inches wide and was just one of a series of characters (others released in 1981 included Luke in his X-wing gear, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and R2-D2) who would get the goop-filled, screw-head treatment.
Between the release of the second and third films there was an increase in product as the success of The Empire Strikes Back confirmed the strength of the Star Wars brand, not only on the big screen but in the aisles of shops worldwide. More product began to roll out, including even more bath-time brilliance.
It’s worth remembering that as well as the fantastic box art, images, and sculpts for these releases, in many cases they were presented on their own bespoke display stands. Here we see a Star Wars Bath Collection stand, as seen in branches of J.C. Penney in the United States during 1980-81. Containing soap, bubble bath, and shampoo, it’s a highly sought after collectible in and of itself, shaped like our trusty astromech Artoo as it is.
RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
The final chapter arrived but the scour of the Force wasn’t about to be scrubbed out just yet. As with all other licensed products, Return of the Jedi maximized its place in the market and presented the widest amount of products to fans and customers yet, matched only by the mass releases of The Phantom Menace.
Omni continued their releases by adding two more shampoos in 1983 (Wicket and Yoda) while the galactic savior Luke Skywalker found time to design a Belt Kit — released by Omni and containing the triple threat of bubble bath, soap, and shampoo.
And let’s not forget our furry friends the Ewoks. Our erstwhile Endorian friends were well taken care of, with releases in all three formats. Above is an example of the soap collection featuring Wicket, but he wasn’t alone. Chewie, Vader, Lando, Luke, Artoo, Yoda, Leia, Gamorrean Guard, and Threepio round out the Omni collection of ’81-’83. They would look great in your collection, sud you ever decide to buy them.
So there you have it: a brief dip into a tiny portion of the many soap, shampoo, and bubble bath releases sold around the world during the original trilogy era. As the sequel trilogy arrives, we’re sure to be seeing many more similar releases, but they’ll probably not put us in a lather like these classic releases.
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Mark is a long-time contributor to Star Wars Insider, is the co-owner of Jedi News, contributes to the UK’s biggest free newspaper The Metro, and is the co-host of RebelForce Radio’s RADIO 1138 podcast.