From 1978 to 1985, Kenner sold over 300 million Star Wars-related toys. This series of toys is known among fans as the “vintage line.” In The Vintage Vault, we take a closer look at some of these toys that have delighted fans across the globe.
Star Wars: Droids and Star Wars: Ewoks were two cartoons produced and released 30 years ago by Nelvana. In the mid-’80s, the appeal of Star Wars was fading away after Return of the Jedi had been released in theaters. The two Ewok television movies were spinoffs and fans thought that the Star Wars saga had been completed. Despite strict regulations regarding the absence of obvious violence, the ’80s was a golden age for cartoons. Both Droids and Ewoks were directed toward a younger audience, but the production was really well done and the cartoons told new and fun adventures. However, both series didn’t last very long, with Ewoks airing for two seasons and Droids for one. Lucasfilm and Kenner had hoped that these cartoons would keep Star Wars in the public’s consciousness — at least with the more avid fans — so Kenner decided to create two additional lines of toys: Droids and Ewoks. In this article we’ll dig deeper into these lines that could have been a lot more impressive if more people had bought the figures…
Star Wars: Droids
Kenner created a new package for Droids, featuring the figure’s accessory on the right side and the artwork of the character on the left. The back of the card featured other toys in the line and a very short biography of the character. Though the art of the cards was pretty cool and suitable for the characters, it was not taken from the cartoon itself. And, just like Kenner had done with their Power of the Force line, each action figure included a special “golden” collector’s coin.
Of course there were new figures of R2-D2 and C-3PO. R2-D2 came with a pop-up lightsaber, but also with a differently-painted dome and sticker. C-3PO is basically the same figure as “C-3PO Removable Limbs” with his detachable arms and legs. Thall Joben, Jord Dusat, and Kea Moll (a figure that certainly didn’t honor the pretty look of the cartoon character) rounded up the heroes from the first story arc of the show, while Sise Fromm and his son Tig Fromm made up the villains. From the second story arc came Jann Tosh, Uncle Gundy, and Kez-Iban. Two figures that had already been offered by Kenner were added to the Droids line as well. They included Boba Fett (who appears in the episode “A Race to the Finish”) and the A-wing pilot (who doesn’t appear in the cartoon at all).
The figures from Droids are different from other lines in that they’re brighter, bulkier, and come with extra accessories such as a satchel or a full cloth cape. Although there was never any violence in the cartoon, the figures carried weapons that had already been included with other Star Wars figures. Gundy had Ree-Yees’ blaster (now painted black), Jann possessed IG-88’s rifle, and Tig Fromm brandished 2-1B’s medical accessory.
Some Droids figures have become quite rare and expensive, especially R2-D2, C-3PO, and Sise Fromm. These three figures and Boba Fett command a very high price mint and unopened.
Kenner also made three ships for their Droids line. The ATL Interceptor and Side Gunner only appeared briefly in the cartoons, but these smaller vehicles were nevertheless made into pretty cool toys. The ATL Interceptor has a special pop-out laser cannon feature and the Side Gunner can transport two figures. The third ship was the elusive A-wing Starfighter, the only starfighter of the Rebel Alliance that hadn’t yet been turned into a toy. Resembling the R-22 Spearhead seen on the show, the A-wing became one of the rarest ships in the entire vintage line (mainly because it was sold in smaller numbers). All the ships were packed in boxes that featured original artwork and included one of three different “Planetary Maps.” These maps have original art on one side of a specific location (Death Star II, Tatooine, or Endor), and show a wide range of available Star Wars toys on the other side. Kenner also released two short “Droids Lightsabers” (green and red) in a rectangular, open box. Once again, the lightsaber’s cameo in the first episode helped justify their inclusion here.
Star Wars: Ewoks
Though Ewoks had more episodes than Droids, its original toy line was only comprised of six figures. Just as in the Droids line, the figures were packed on beautiful cards with special artwork showing the character from the cartoon. They came with silver collector’s coins and the back of their cards showed the figures, a short biography, and other Ewok-related toys that had been previously released. Wicket was offered in the first wave as an obvious choice, as was the shaman Logray and King Gorneesh, the leader of the Duloks. Accompanying them were three (three!) other Duloks: Lady Urgah, Dulok Scout, and Dulok Shaman. All had original accessories that were seen in the cartoon. With four Duloks in the first wave, it can hardly be a surprise that these figures weren’t selling as well as planned. After all, the show was called Ewoks, not Duloks. Why didn’t Kenner release Kneesaa or Teebo in this first wave to relive their adventures with Wicket?
Previously released Ewok toys such as the Ewok Village, Assault Catapult, Combat Glider, and especially the Ewok Battle Wagon, were never offered in an Ewoks box. A bit ironic, since the Ewok Battle Wag0n was released in the Power of the Force line, but actually appeared in an episode of Ewoks. There was also a Kenner “Ewok Preschool” line, but these toys were totally different and weren’t on scale with the 3.75″ action figures.
The Droids and Ewoks toys didn’t make it into a lot of countries since the sales of Star Wars toys had diminished and many countries never aired the cartoons. The figures were released in Canada with a singular artwork for each cartoon. Glasslite from Brazil did produce seven characters and two vehicles from Droids. They had acquired the license to produce official Star Wars toys in Brazil in 1987 and the figures were sold on different cards than the ones offered in the US and in Canada in 1988. The design featured a collage of art from the characters and the back showed the available figures and vehicles. The figures included C-3PO, Jord Dusat, Kea Moll, Kez Iban, R2-D2, Thall Joben, and Vlix. Vlix, the henchman of Sise Fromm, came close to being released in the US, but he was available only for a short amount of time in 1988 by Glasslite. Fans didn’t realize he was on the market until proof of his release was revealed in the early ’90s. Glasslite’s Vlix is probably the rarest Star Wars action figure offered at retail. The two Droids-line vehicles were sold in Brazil as Interceptador Tatico ATL (ATL Interceptor) and Nave Estelar De Combate (Side Gunner).
Both the Droids and Ewoks toy lines had a limited amount of items, but would have expanded with better sales. A second wave of action figures was planned for each line, as well as repackaged items such as the Tatooine Skiff (Droids), the C-3PO Collector’s Case (Droids), and the Ewok Battle Wagon (Ewoks). The Droids line would have gotten eight additional action figures: Vlix, Mon Julpa, Governor Koong, Kleb Zellock, Gaff, Mungo Baobab, Jessica Meade, and Admiral Screed. The White Witch also came close to being produced since a box prototype of the speeder had already been designed and built. Kenner planned to drop the Collector’s coins and replace them with “Companion Droids,” simple, yet cool accessory droids. Ewoks would have been reinforced by an additional amount of six figures: Chief Chirpa, Paploo, Weechee, Morag, Bondo (leader of the Jindas), and Chituhr (Jinda animal trainer). Prototypes of these figures existed and some of their cards had already been made.
Prototypes of both series are truly holy grails for collectors. Beware if you’re tracking one of these items because many reproductions have been made throughout the years.
Both the Droids and Ewoks lines had plenty of potential, but like the cartoons, the toys never attained the appeal of the regular Star Wars figures. The figures have become nostalgic memories for collectors and fans, especially because so many figures and items were still being planned for release. They may seem a bit odd and different compared to the other vintage Kenner Star Wars toys, but they’re part of the vintage Kenner assortment.
Special thanks to Kim D M Simmons, aka themanwhoshotlukeskywalker!
Selected Reading: theswca.com, The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Action Figures (Bellomo, 2014), Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Prototypes (2010), Imperial Gunnery Forum (Glasslite Droids thread), theManwhoshotlukeskywalker.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, Build the Millennium Falcon, and has created character names and back stories for “What’s the Story?” and Rogues Gallery.