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 the most iconic original Star Wars toys that have delighted fans across the globe.
When a visitor from Brodo Asogi visited our planet a few decades ago, he was introduced by a boy to a number of small alien characters called Greedo, Hammerhead, Walrus Man, and Snaggletooth. Some of you will probably remember this great scene from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) since it features some of Kenner’s Star Wars action figures. The four cantina aliens aren’t just infamous for having their own cameo in E.T., however; they are the figures from Kenner’s line that probably diverge the most from their movie counterparts. Let’s check out these four musketeers.
The cantina sequence still hides many secrets, even after nearly 40 years of detailed study. Some of the characters still lurk in the darkness and both sequences (UK and US) were rather poorly documented at the time.
After Kenner’s first wave of successful action figures in 1978, they released a second wave in 1979. Among those figures were four cantina aliens that didn’t quite look like the characters from the movie. Their faces were sculpted rather accurately by Kenner, but what they did to their clothes (and sometimes physiology) is worth further study. Kenner probably didn’t receive a lot of documentation about the characters and having a quick peek at the movie (DVD) wasn’t possible back then. Let’s tackle them one by one.
Greedo: Kenner’s decision to make Greedo was a no-brainer. He’s the only cantina resident named in the movie and he gets shot by Han Solo when he speaks too confidently about Jabba taking away the Falcon. While Greedo sports an orange sleeveless jacket, a belt, and a jumpsuit with pale yellowish stripes in the movie, Kenner’s figure is totally missing these. The figure sports a very spacy looking green jumpsuit with green markings on the sleeves. He’s wearing gloves and high boots in contrast to the character in the movie. Greedo’s face is sculpted decently, but his eyes are too blue and Rodians don’t have irises (Kenner may have confused the reflexion in Greedo’s eyes for irises). The prototype figure only has a few more colored parts on his jumpsuit, but it also lacks the jacket, the stripes, and the shoes. Kenner opted to give Greedo the Han Solo blaster, which is understandable since Greedo’s DT-12 resembles that blaster a little bit in size and general shape.
Fun facts: The photo used on Greedo’s action figure card is taken from the movie and the background is airbrushed in a green hue. Greedo appeared on Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi cards.
Hammerhead: Kenner’s choice for Hammerhead is certainly understandable. He was one of the new aliens inserted in the cantina LA shoot and is very recognizable, although he’s just sitting at one of the tables. In the movie, Hammerhead wears a brown shirt with short sleeves and a small cape. Why Kenner’s Hammerhead sports a light brown tunic with no sleeves and hot-pants, remains a mystery. Maybe Kenner wanted him to wear a more brightly colored vest since his skin was also brown? Kenner gave Hammerhead the Imperial blaster, which was their own choice since the character never sports a weapon in the movie.
Fun facts: The photo Kenner used for this figure clearly shows Hammerhead in his brown tunic. He appeared on Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi cards. Hammerhead had to be packaged with his head to one side to fit properly in the card’s blister.
Snaggletooth: Kenner’s choice to produce Snaggletooth is interesting. His species appears briefly several times in A New Hope, but a lot of other characters from the cantina got a better closeup.
The smallest of Kenner’s cantina aliens also caused one of the most remarkable stories in the entire vintage line. When Kenner decided to make him, they apparently didn’t get a lot of documentation and they decided to make Snaggletooth a figure of average size with a blueish jumpsuit. However, additional photographs showed a smaller Snaggletooth, and Kenner remade their figure into a smaller version of the character. The funny thing is that Kenner actually wasn’t mistaken. Snivvians, the species of Snaggletooth, are average sized and more than one does appear in the classic trilogy. The character that inspired Kenner to create a smaller Snaggletooth didn’t even appear in Star Wars. It was a smaller female Snivvian called Zutmore who appeared in The Star Wars Holiday Special, seen on the photo Kenner used for the figure’s card. The Snivvians that appeared in Star Wars are often documented in black and white photographs and while they sport a hunchback, neither is short in height.
“Blue Snaggletooth,” the nickname given to the large Snaggletooth, would only be available in the Sears exclusive Cantina Adventure Set. Kenner then released the smaller Snaggletooth as a regular release. Because of this, Blue Snaggletooth has become one of the rarer Star Wars vintage action figures. Blue Snaggletooth has a futuristic looking jumpsuit with silver boots and a large black belt with a silver emblem. The color of his canine head is pale and his bare hands are a bit more dark. Small Snaggletooth sports a reddish jumpsuit, but has no footwear. The sculpt of his suit is the same as the one given to the large specimen, but small Snaggletooth has black highlights around the arms. Kenner kept the black belt with the silver emblem for small Snaggletooth. The Snivvians in A New Hope are wearing simple clothes that don’t look like anything the figures are wearing. Zutmore from The Star Wars Holiday Special does wear a red jumpsuit and even sports the black belt with a similar emblem. However, the dark blue markings on her vest were altered to black markings on the figure and Kenner didn’t give any gloves or footwear to their figure. It’s also unclear why the Kenner figure has black hair and gray skin instead of brown hair and whitish skin.
Fun facts: Since Kenner never packed Blue Snaggletooth on a cardback, he never got a photo. The regular Snaggletooth’s photo is from The Star Wars Holiday Special. Snaggletooth appeared on Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi cards. They both received the Han Solo blaster as an accessory.
Walrus Man: It’s obvious why Kenner decided to turn Walrus Man into an action figure. Nobody just picks a fight with Luke Skywalker. When designing this figure, Kenner surely took a lot of freedom, since his suit doesn’t look like anything the Aqualish smuggler wears in the cantina. Walrus Man has a sleeveless orange vest with blue sleeves, blue pants, and black flippers as feet. In the movie, the character wears an orange vest, a light bright shirt, dark brown pants, and brown boots. The only thing their outfits have in common is the color orange. His head looks a lot more like the character from the movie. Why did Kenner goof up with Walrus Man? It’s one of the characters from the UK shoot that has been documented very poorly since there are but a few full shots of him in color. Kenner heavily modified the picture they were given for his action figure card. They masked out the other characters and the environment to get a picture of very questionable quality of Walrus Man. Funny thing is that Kenner did know what Walrus Man was wearing in the movie, since the prototype of the figure had an orange vest and brown pants. However, the flippers are still quite a puzzle — and may have been added to give the figure a more alien-looking physiology. The colorful outfit might have been chosen to make the figure more aesthetically attractive to kids and their parents.
Fun facts: Walrus Man, who was armed with the Imperial blaster, appeared on Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi cards.
Although all four of Kenner’s cantina aliens divert from their movie counterparts, they are very recognizable and have become icons of the vintage Kenner line. While fans only knew them by their nicknames in the ’70s and ’80s, West End Games and other sources gave the characters proper names. Even after so many years, the legacy of these four figures endures. Some of their outfits have even appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. For those who can’t get enough of these cantina characters, they’re available as 12” jumbo action figures from Gentle Giant.
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.