Making the Galaxy Smaller: Inside Kenner’s Star Wars Micro Collection, Part 2

The Micro Collection was a smaller diecast series of toys released in the Summer of 1982 by Kenner. Despite their huge success with the 3” ¾ line, Kenner still wanted to expand their horizons with Star Wars. The Micro Collection line consisted of several playsets that came multiple diecast figures about 1” ¼ tall. Although the line was heavily promoted and Kenner truly believed in its potential, the line proved to be a failure and didn’t sell as well as expected.

In the first part of this blog series, I discussed the worlds of the Death Star and Hoth. Now we’ll have a look at the Bespin world, ships/vehicles, and some of the many Micro Collection prototypes that would have been released if the line had been more successful.

Bespin World

Bespin: The Micro Collection achieved something the 3” ¾ didn’t. It produced several great playsets from Cloud City. The 3” ¾ line only released a rather compact (but beautiful) carton backdrop as a playset. The Micro Collection Bespin boxes are beautifully decorated with some of Cloud City’s buildings against a yellow background.

Bespin Control Room: This is one of the smaller playsets of the Micro Collection. It’s the first of two playsets to commemorate the duel between Darth Vader and Luke on the Cloud City processing vane. This set has a bridge and a control room. In this room you’ll be able to push Luke through the window, just like in The Empire Strikes Back. A hidden button will simulate Vader using the Force against his fledgling son. Don’t forget that the paint on the Micro Collection figures can easily get damaged, so always make sure that Luke lands on a soft surface. Below the window is a small ledge Luke can use to recover from his fall. The set comes with two figures of Luke (one with his blaster, one with his lightsaber) and two figures of Darth Vader (one with his lightsaber and one using the Force). A small set, but who doesn’t love the duel on Cloud City?

Bespin Gantry: The second playset from the duel between father and son is even smaller than the Control Room. It features an opening door and the platform where Vader reveals Luke’s destiny. The door and the surrounding ledge can be attached to other parts of the Bespin worlds, so you don’t necessarily have to use them in this set. The platform can rotate and it has the atmosphere sensors that Luke hangs onto when he hears Vader’s legendary words. Once again this set features two figures of Luke and two of Darth Vader. Two of them are dueling, the others are from the revelation scene. The Vader figure beckons Luke to join him. The figure of Luke is missing his hand and it can really lean against the atmosphere sensors.

Bespin Freeze Chamber: This certainly is the largest playset from Bespin and perhaps the coolest playset of the entire Micro Collection. Production wise, the Freeze Chamber was known as one of the most difficult sets during the production of The Empire Strikes Back. This set is a wonderful miniature rendition of the Class 3 Carbonite Freezing Chamber used to preserve Tibanna Gas at Cloud City. The playset features two levels with several bridges and platforms. The freezing facility stands in the center of the playset. It’s surrounded by a large platform, several detachable stairs and a bridge. The stairs can lead to the platforms or downstairs. There is an elevator that can bring figures to the platform. The lower level is basically the basement for the freezing chamber, but it also has a special escape hatch for figures to escape being frozen in carbonite. The Carbon Freezing Chamber itself actually “works.” You can lower Han Solo into the pit and when you pull him out, he’s frozen in carbonite! This set has a few different slots where you can attach the other Bespin sets. The Bespin Freeze Chamber comes with an amazing set of eight figures: Darth Vader, Boba Fett, two Stormtroopers, a captured Han Solo (without his vest), Lando Calrissian, Lobot, and a frozen Han Solo in carbonite.

Bespin World: This set simply contains all three Bespin sets and therefore comes with 16 figures.

Vehicles and Ships
X-Wing Starfighter: The X-Wing was released in a smaller, red box. It contains one X-Wing pilot, though the box doesn’t explicitly say it’s Luke Skywalker. Still, the back of the box describes the main action feature as a crash on Dagobah. The back also shows the ‘Build Your Armies’-offer (see part 1). The X-Wing has opening S-Foils, an opening cockpit and a retractable forward landing gear. When you push a button at the back of the toy, you can simulate a crash or a direct hit from an enemy fighter. You don’t have to worry about losing parts since all pieces remain connected by a cord. When it became clear that the Micro Collection wasn’t selling as planned, Kenner packed some with an additional special offer backdrop (Dagobah). This version is a lot more difficult to find.

X-Wing Micro Collection

Imperial TIE Fighter: This is the smallest of the Micro Collection ships. It fits into a small box that also shows the Build Your Armies, except a later release in 1983 that shows the other ships in the line. The blue TIE fighter comes with one cool TIE Pilot that fits into the opening cockpit. The TIE works pretty much like the X-wing. You can simulate the fighter getting hit by pushing a button, but all parts remained attached to each other. A variation also came with a rare special offer backdrop (asteroid chase).

Snowspeeder and TIE Fighter © toysyouhad.com

Snowspeeder: This was actually a JC Penney exclusive. The T-47 was offered in a somewhat larger box that features the two figures: a snowspeeder pilot and a snowspeeder harpoon gunner. Both figures seem to be standing, but they fit into the speeder. The speeder features a retractable landing gear, an opening cockpit and a rotating harpoon. Just like with the X-wing and the TIE fighter, the snowspeeder can crash or become damaged by pushing a button. The snowspeeder is well made, but it is too large compared to the figures of the Micro Collection line. Since this set was only available near Christmas 1982 at JC Penney, it’s one of the rarest Micro Collection toys.

Millennium Falcon Micro Collection

Millennium Falcon: The Falcon was a Sears exclusive and is the rarest of the Micro Collection toys. It’s a fairly large ship that is packed in a larger box that shows the features on its back. Pretty interesting are the six figures that are included: Chewbacca (repairing the Falcon), Han (Bespin outfit), Luke (without his hand), Lando (who can support Luke), R2-D2 and C-3PO. This is the only set of the Micro Collection that comes with figures of the droids. The Falcon looks a lot like her larger Kenner counterpart. She has retractable landing gears, a ramp that can be closed and you can detach the back of the ship to create a play environment. The cockpit can hold a couple of figures and the environment is large enough to accommodate several figures. Just like the 3” ¾ scale Falcon, you can position a figure into the gunner station. The coolest feature, however, may be the elevator and top hatch, used in The Empire Strikes Back by Lando Calrissian to grab Luke after his fall from the Cloud City weather vane. The ship has her typical Rectenna (which can move) and also two (!) movable AG-2G Quad Laser Cannons. The Micro Collection Falcon is a beautiful rendition of Solo’s ship and worth checking out. It’s one of the few Falcon toy replicas that has two Quad Laser Cannons.

What wasn’t meant to be …

Hoth Bacta Chamber © theswca.com

The first part of this blog already mentioned that Kenner had big plans for the Micro Collection, but due to the disappointing sales, it wasn’t meant to be. A lot of playsets were planned, but were never released. Two of them came close: Hoth Bacta Chamber and the Bespin Torture Chamber. Hoth Bacta Chamber was a rendition of the Echo Base Medical Center with a Bacta rejuvenation tank and a manipulator arm that could grab Luke out of the tank and put him into a seat. The set came with another C-3PO, 2-1B, FX-7 and Luke in “Bacta Tank outfit.” The rim of the tank could be filled with water so it never actually would have touched the figure of Luke inside. This was a very clever way to simulate the Bacta tank scene. Bespin Torture Chamber would have been the fourth Bespin playset. It features the cell blocks, the “torture chamber” and the incinerator room. It was supposed to come with Han (Bespin), two Cloud City Wing Guards, an Ugnaught (holding one of Threepio’s legs) and Chewbacca who could carry a detachable C-3PO. This certainly would have been an awesome playset had it been released.

Bespin Torture Chamber © theswca.com

A lot more playsets were planned, but none of them were completed as a prototype with figures and a mock-up box sample. The Death Star World would have gotten an expansion through the large Death Star Throne Room from Return of the Jedi. This set is only known from archival Kenner photography. The set would at least have come with figures of a dueling Luke, an Emperor’s Royal Guard, and two different Palpatines.

There would also have been a Jabba the Hutt world that included at least three sets: Jabba’s Dungeon / Boiler Room, the Rancor Pit, and Jabba’s Throne Room. The Dungeon was built as an early prototype, but it was never completed. It shows the dungeons of the palace where R2-D2 and C-3PO are brought before EV-9D9. Figures in this set would have been the sadistic EV-9D9, a Power Droid and possibly another C-3PO and a Gamorrean Guard. The larger Throne Room set had just started to be constructed (in wood). It would have included Jabba, Bib Fortuna, Han Solo and possibly a Gamorrean Guard. The Rancor Pit is only known from conceptual artwork.

Emperor's Throne Room prototype

And there is still more. An Endor World with an Ewok Village was planned, but the only evidence about that are some wax sculpted prototypes of a Rebel Commando and an Imperial Biker Scout. Dagobah World (concept art below) would also have been produced and it would also have consisted of three playsets, including Yoda’s hut and the Dragonsnake Bog with Luke’s sunken X-wing. Several figures of Luke, R2-D2, Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Darth Vader were conceived and sculpted in wax. Another ship that would have joined the Micro Collection line was Boba Fett’s Slave I. The hand-made prototype also shows it would have been able to “fall apart” to simulate battle damage. A lot of these prototypes are in safe hands of collectors today. This will ensure that the legacy of the Micro Collection can endure and that the prototypes will be kept safe in the best circumstances.

Dagobah World concept and prototypes

It’s a pity that Kenner’s Micro Collection never really took off. The sets Kenner was planning to release simply seem amazing. Imagine a Micro Collection Ewok Village or some of Jabba’s gang members as Micro Collection figures. Alas, we’ll never get to see those officially released as toys. Lewis Galoob Toys made up for this (at least a bit) when they released their superb Star Wars Micro Machines line in the ’90s.

Sources
– Tomart’s Action Figure Digest n° 149
– From Concept to Screen to Collectable
– The Star Wars Collectors Archive (www.theswca.com)
– Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Prototypes
– www.themanwhoshotlukesktwalker.com

Photo credits:

X-Wing Micro Collection © Themanwhoshotlukeskywalker.com
Snowspeeder and TIE Fighter © toysyouhad.com
Hoth Bacta Chamber © theswca.com
Bespin Torture Chamber © theswca.com

Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) from Belgium is president and co founder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub. He has contributed to Star Wars Insider (Rogues Gallery), is an administrator for Yodapedia and has written four character back stories in ‘What’s the Story?’.

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