Think Big, Play Small: The History of Star Wars Micro Machines, Part 3

StarWars.com looks back at the micro versions of larger-than-life worlds.

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 toys from the line.

 In the third part of this series, we’ll have a closer look at the heart of the line: playsets! Star Wars Micro Machines had two different sorts of playsets, the regular versions and the transforming playsets. (In case you missed them, check out parts one and two!)

Star Wars Micro Machines - Boxes
Initially, three playsets were announced, one from each movie (back in the ’90s, there were just three movies, remember). After the success of the first sets, more would follow. The playsets were packed in beautifully-decorated boxes that featured a small window box where you could see what figures and ship/vehicle were included. After a few years (in 1997), the package was changed into a “striped design.” The front of each box had beautiful original art and a small photo of the actual toy. The back of the box showed a large photo of the toy, the included mini-accessories, all of the playset’s features, and more Micro Machines sets that were sold at the time. Each playset also included a sheet of tiny stickers you had to attach to the set.

Micro Machines - Death Star

The Death Star

The closed playset looks like a Death Star hemisphere with four openings on the side. However, when you remove the upper part of the set, you’ll get much more space for the small figures to wonder around. A narrow ledge divides the set in two parts and depicts one of the seven tractor beam terminals. One side of the set features a movable laser turret and a plastic extendable and movable rod that simulates a tractor beam. Another neat feature is a small room that can be revealed by hitting a button that pops-up a secret panel. The Death Star is a rather basic playset with a few features, but with a decent amount of room for the mini-figures.

Includes: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, R2-D2, Darth Vader, and an X-wing starfighter.

Micro Machines - Hoth

Ice Planet Hoth

This open playset features the plains of Hoth leading to Echo Base. This cool set is also very basic, but it manages to capture the excitement of the Imperial assault rather well by including some of the planet’s icons. It features a movable planetary ion cannon, an “exploding” shield generator and a removable ceiling for the Echo Base hangar. It’s a bit surprising to see that Galoob included Luke Bespin and a regular stormtrooper instead of Luke in his Hoth outfit and a snowtrooper. Galoob designer Jim Fong explained that the choice for the figures in the first sets was decided by the importance of the characters and the duration of their appearance. Since Luke appeared for a longer amount of time in his Bespin fatigues, this figure was chosen instead of Luke’s Hoth outfit that would have made him feel more at ease.

Includes: Han Hoth on tauntaun, Leia Hoth gear, Luke Bespin fatigues, C-3PO, Stormtrooper, two separate radar laser cannons and an AT-AT walker.

Micro Machines - Endor

Endor

Simply named Endor, the set from Return of the Jedi shows part of the Forest Moon and a (small) Imperial control bunker. Just like Ice Planet Hoth, Endor is a very basic set but succeeds in collecting some of Endor’s visual icons. A movable shield generator projector is present as are a couple of beautifully sculpted trees. The set also features two Ewok booby-traps. A button on a hill allows you to get a few tree logs rolling toward an AT-ST walker and there are even two battering logs to simulate another Ewok trap. The choice of the figures in this set is even more peculiar than with Ice Planet Hoth. What Boba Fett and Yoda were doing on Endor always puzzled me until I learned from Jim Fong why Galoob made this decision.

Includes: Stormtrooper, Chewbacca, Ewok, Boba Fett, Yoda, four logs, and an AT-ST walker.

Micro Machines - Dagobah

Planet Dagobah

This set was part of the second wave of regular playsets and featured parts of Yoda’s secretive bog retreat. A substantial part of the set is taken by the Dragonsnake Bog where Luke crashed his X-wing. The X-wing can be raised by pushing a “Force” button and the cool dragonsnake (that doesn’t look like the creature) can grab R2-D2 in its mouth and, even better, it can spit him out by pushing another button. Yoda’s house has a removable roof that reveals a beautifully sculpted interior (with a bed and the fireplace) and Darth Vader’s vision can suddenly appear before Luke in the cave of evil. Compared to the first sets, Dagobah already has more features, but still maintains the authenticity of the movie scenes.

Includes: Luke Skywalker (Dagobah), Yoda, R2-D2, Obi-Wan’s spirit, Darth Vader, a non-removable dragonsnake, and an X-wing starfighter.

Micro Machines - Tatooine

Planet Tatooine

The roof and front of Jabba’s palace can be removed to reveal the throne room with Jabba’s throne, Leia Organa, and Han Solo in carbonite. A trap door can be opened to put a figure in the prison cell and both Max Rebo and Sy Snootles are present. They can even “rock” and move by moving a trigger. Outside the palace is a worrt creature that can swivel. The sticker inside Jabba’s palace shows additional members of Jabba’s organization, including Nizuc Bek, a Nikto, Bib Fortuna, and an Ishi Tib. The other side of the set features a hill with the Pit of Carkoon and its most infamous resident, the Sarlacc. The creature has an opening mouth to chew on his hapless victims. The set also includes a Bantha-II cargo skiff which wasn’t offered in any of the vehicle three-packs.

Includes: Jabba the Hutt (with Salacious Crumb), Sy Snootles, Boba Fett, Leia (dancing girl outfit), Han Solo in Carbonite, Max Rebo (at least half of him), a non-removable worrt and a Bantha-II cargo skiff.

Micro Machines - Rebel Transport

Rebel Transport

The GR-75 Medium Transport used by the Rebel Alliance on Hoth was released in 1998. With its roof attached, this is one of the best smaller toys made of the medium transport. When you take off the ship’s roof, you’ll get an entire interior for your mini-figures. There is a movable cannon, a movable radar dish, fold-down loading ramps, a hidden compartment, opening engines, and removable cargo containers. This playset surely has a lot of cool features and it even has a detailed control room. Because of the beautiful ship, the details and its many features, this is one of the best regular playsets of the line.

Includes: General Rieekan, Major Derlin, Rebel mechanic, four removable containers, and an X-wing starfighter.

Micro Machines - Cloud City

Cloud City

Also released early in 1998 was Cloud City, probably the best of all regular classic playsets. The set is a true marvel of detail and tiny action features to recreate scenes from the movie. The set looks like a miniature Cloud City that stands firmly on its unipod. The roof of the circular playset can be removed to reveal many rooms inside the city. In the heart of the city you can find the freezing chamber. This room is surrounded by many smaller sections, such as a landing place for a cloud car, the Ugnaught incinerator room, a torture room with a movable scan-grid, a cell block with a removable roof, a hallway, a moving elevator, a weather vane that can be extended to appear underneath the set, and a ramp leading to one of the city’s platforms. While this set and the Rebel Transport included fewer figures than the previous playsets, this was easily made-up by adding a lot more features to the playsets.

Includes: Lando (being strangled), Chewbacca with C-3PO, a tortured Han, and a Twin-Pod Cloud Car.

With these playsets you can already recreate some of the classic trilogy’s most exciting and memorable scenes, but wait until you discover what Galoob’s transforming playsets have to offer. We’ll deal with the first batch of the transforming sets in the next part of this series.

Selected reading: jadbean.com (pictures), StarWarsMicroMachines and rebelscum.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, to the Build the Millennium Falcon magazine, and has created character names and back stories for What’s the Story? and Rogues Gallery.

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