Since first starting this blog almost fifteen years ago there has been a huge amount of change in the Star Wars universe. The generation of kids who grew up watching the prequels – episodes I to III – are now adults and the action figures they played with back in the day have officially crossed that magical albeit arbitrary line of twenty-years, the minimum requirement to becoming ‘vintage’. Meanwhile, many of the Generation X-ers who derided the prequels so much, are now revisiting them. Hating Episodes I-III was the cool thing to do, right? Maybe it took a series of even more divisive sequels in the shape of J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker, and Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi – episodes VII-IX for those of you who are still counting – to provoke a prequel reappraisal. And there is nothing quite like a powerful injection of nostalgia to kick-start a Renaissance!
Certainly, with Disney now at the helm, and the transformation of Star Wars into a bona fide mega-franchise, it is clear that the corporate bosses are courting Millennials, particularly in the spin-off streaming series Obi-Wan Kenobi that saw both Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen dusting down their Jedi robes and reprising their roles as Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker respectively. In what is now a never-ending supply of new Star Wars product, there have been a couple of gems – the movie Rogue One was genuinely brilliant, and I defy anyone to not love the adventures of Grogu aka “Baby Yoda” and Din Djarin in The Mandalorian – but there has also been a great deal of bickering around the various shows, particular nowadays when fans can immediately take to social media to vent their complaints!
Anyway, this has been a lengthy preamble to introducing a recent vintage action figure find! What this Star Wars glut has produced, of course, is a slew of merchandising, but this has served to focus my personal attention on the original three movies (episodes IV-VI) and their associated toys. These are becoming harder to find at collectors’ fairs. One figure that has eluded me for several years is possibly one of the most recognisable and best-loved of all the non-human characters in the entire Star Wars universe – everybody’s favourite droid, R2-D2! His popularity is such that he appears in all nine movies and makes cameo appearances in several of the spin-off shows. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we love R2-D2!
R2-D2 – or Artoo-Detoo as he was described by Kenner on the card – was one of the legendary ‘First Twelve’ of these highly collectible 3 ¾ inch figures released for the original Star Wars movie i.e. the ones listed on the back of the packaging for the very first carded figures. Indeed, Artoo was initially released as a mail away ‘early bird’ figure. The 1977 figure release had a solid dome, whereas this example incorporates an extending Sensorscope which ties this uncarded figure to the scene in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) where Artoo famously uses his scope to escape when he accidentally falls into the mist-shrouded swamps of Dagobah.
This toy hit the shelves a little after the movie in 1981, but reuses the original body, so is therefore date-stamped 1977, copyrighted G.M.F.G.I. (General Mills Fun Group Incorporated, the parent company of toymaker Kenner), with the country of origin fully written as Made in Hong Kong, on the underside of his body. The dome is shiny and the hard plastic body and legs are still quite bright and white. The decals are slightly yellowed, but have worn very little, showing few signs of
child-abuse play! There are myriad variations out there in terms of shades of blue in the print and paintwork, and undoubtedly many a Frank-N-D2 as well, as he will come apart quite easily, and in theory could be reassembled with different legs or dome, although the bottom screw holding this particular figure together shows no sign of ever being tampered with.
Kenner did what they could in terms of articulation giving him a rotatable dome and two swivelling hips, not to mention the added fun factor of the extending Sensoscope. There’s even a curious feature: when Artoo’s head is turned his head will click! Hours of fun, eh? Actually no … that’s a feature I’ve nervously tested to check that it still works a couple of times, and then chosen not to push my luck with this one and risk breaking my brand new old toy! With his bright azure metalwork details, instead of a darker shade of Prussian blue, he is far from being movie accurate, but he is as close to his movie counterpart as many of the other figures in the line. There was even an attempt to scale him correctly, making him only 2 ¼ inches in height.
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Collect them all…you know you want to!