Think Big, Play Small: The History of Star Wars Micro Machines, Part 1

StarWars.com looks back at a classic toy line that made a large galaxy much smaller (and really fun to collect).

Star Wars Micro Machines (1994 – 2002) were one of the top-selling Star Wars toys of the 1990s. Galoob (and Hasbro) included numerous little ships, figures, playsets, and other items in their Star Wars Micro Machines line, and after a long slumber, that line has returned with Star Wars: The Force Awakens! In this series of articles, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most memorable Star Wars Micro Machines toys.

After a few quiet years, Star Wars merchandising was rapidly growing in popularity in the early ’90s. George Lucas announced that he was working on the prequels — and new books, collectibles, and comics were being released once again. Lewis Galoob Toys was one of the biggest toy companies in the US, and they had already gained fame with toys from The A-Team, Blackstar, and, of course, Micro Machines. Micro Machines were a series of toys consisting of tiny cars, airplanes, boats, and other vehicles that could interact with small playsets that had multiple action features. They were so popular in the late ’80s and ’90s that the line spawned several cool computer games. In other countries, Micro Machines were sold by companies such as Ideal (France) and GiGi (Italy).

Star Wars Micro Machines launched in 1994, one year before Kenner (Hasbro) released their new line of 3.75” action figures, and continued into 2002 four years after Hasbro bought Galoob Toys. Similar-looking toys were released after 2002, but they weren’t truly part of the Micro Machines line. One example was Kenner’s Micro Collection, a superbly-designed line of diecast figures and playsets that unfortunately got canceled after one year (in 1982). Let’s go back to when it started…

Star Wars Micro Machines checklist

Jim Fong was the design director at Galoob when they produced the Star Wars Micro Machines, and he spoke with StarWars.com.

When I first started,” Fong says, “the company wasn’t really that big. I was their first designer to come onboard and it was a blast. We didn’t have a full model shop yet, but we were in the process of finding the right talent and started to build a team of super-talented designers, engineers, and model makers. As the company grew, we hired some of the most interesting, talented, and playful people I’ve ever come across. We were all playful misfits with a fantastic sense of humor.”

Fong also recalls the moment when Galoob acquired the rights to produce Star Wars toys.

“I remember that we had a slow sales year and we lost some key people in lead positions and morale was low. I do remember we had a meeting where they announced that we had acquired the license to Star Wars and we were all very excited. The brand was laying dormant and there wasn’t a lot of activity associated with Star Wars. I think we were able to acquire the license when others weren’t interested in it and luckily, we did. I really believe that our products rekindled interests in Star Wars and got everyone excited about Star Wars again.”

Micro Machines Vehicle Tri-Packs

One of the products released early in the Micro Machines line were tri-packs with vehicles and ships from one of the original films. A black package showed a picture of a ship from the set and the back of the card showed all available toys with in-universe statistics from the vehicles/ships. Translucent, plastic standees were also included that enabled the ships to stand.

Star Wars Micro Machines

In the end there were a total of 15 tri-pack vehicle sets. After the first six sets were released, the series once again began from Collection I (instead of set No. 7) with a new design featuring an X-wing fighter. There was also a 1997 release with a gray/red packaging featuring the Millennium Falcon. When more vehicles were released, the stats of the vehicles ended up being dropped from the backside of the card. Galoob did a fine job and collected nearly every vehicle and ship from the classics in these packs, except for some obscure ones like the Dornean Gunship from A New Hope. A minor flaw of the vehicle tri-packs may be the fact that they weren’t made on the same scale. Huge ships like the Star Destroyer were the same size as small vehicles like the X-34 Landspeeder.

When the Special Editions were released in 1997, Galoob immediately included new items such as the Sentinel-class Landing Craft and a Tibanna gas refinery. Strangely enough, the Bantha-II Cargo Skiff was never available in these packs, but was included in one of the playsets. The coolest of the vehicles may have been the Sandcrawler since it had tiny wheels to propel it to the next moisture farm on Tatooine!

Micro Machines starships

Some of the Micro Machines vehicles were the first toy appearance of several Star Wars craft (Escort Frigate, Sail Barge). The strangest inclusion was the Imperial Probot since it wasn’t a vehicle or a ship.

It was exciting to see these new Micro Machines appear in stores, but after the first six sets, Galoob started to pack one new vehicle with two vehicles that had been sold before. If you wanted this new vehicle, you had to buy toys you potentially already owned. Luckily, series X through XV once again offered three new ships, although the damaged starfighters and X-wings weren’t technically new.

Star Wars Micro Machines cardback

Except for the tri-packs, Galoob also offered the same vehicles and ships in playsets, larger gift packs, luxury pewter releases, and even as exclusive high-end collectibles in their Gold Classic Series. Of course, people could also buy them individually, and they came with a figure.

Vehicle tri-packs

ANH #1: X-wing fighter, Millennium Falcon, Star Destroyer

TESB #2: TIE fighter, T-47 Snowspeeder, AT-AT Walker

RotJ #3: AT-ST Walker, Sail Barge, B-wing fighter

ANH #4: Corellian Corvette, Sandcrawler, Y-wing fighter

TESB #5: Slave I, Twin Pod Cloud Car, TIE bomber

RotJ #6: Speeder Bike (Leia), Lambda-class Shuttle, A-wing fighter

Collection I: TIE interceptor, Star Destroyer, Corellian Corvette

Collection II: X-34 Landspeeder, Millennium Falcon, Sandcrawler

Collection III: Darth Vader’s TIE fighter, X-wing fighter, Y-wing fighter

Collection IV: Imperial Probe Droid, T-47 Snowspeeder, AT-AT Walker

Collection V: Rebel Medium Transport, TIE bomber, AT-ST Walker

Collection VI: Escort Frigate, Slave I, Twin Pod Cloud Car

Collection VII: Mon Calamari Cruiser (Liberty type), Speeder Bike (Leia), Sail Barge

Collection VIII: Speeder Bike (Imperial Scout), Lambda-class Shuttle, TIE fighter

Collection IX: Executor, A-wing fighter, B-wing fighter

Collection X: Lars Family Landspeeder, Death Star II, T-16 Skyhopper

Collection XI: Mon Calamari Cruiser (Home One type), Cloud City, Escape Pod

Collection XII: A-wing fighter, TIE fighter, Y-wing fighter (all with damage)

Collection XIII: 3x X-wing fighter (Red Squadron, Blue Squadron and Green Squadron)

Collection XIV: Sentinel-class Landing Ship, S-Swoop, Death Star I

Collection XV: V-35 Courier Landspeeder (yellow), Outrider, Tibanna gas refinery

Special thanks to Jim Fong and Jad Bean!

Selected reading: jadbean.com (pictures), rebelscum.com, Star Wars Micro Machines on Facebook, Star Wars Insider.

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, Build the Millennium Falcon, and has created character names and back stories for “What’s the Story?” and Rogues Gallery.

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