Unboxing Three Vintage Star Wars Kenner Playsets

Posted by Michael Pinto on Nov 27, 2011 in Hobbies and Collections, Star Wars |

Unboxing Three Vintage Kenner Star Wars Playsets

The year is 1980 and what you don’t quite understand as young fanboy is that your parents are dealing with a recession — so while you dream of giant Kenner playlets for your Land of the Jawas playset action figures instead you settle for using your imagination! Or at least that’s what your cash strapped parents told you to do, so alas the sandbox became Tatooine and when you were lucky to get a snow storm it was time to play on planet Hoth. Well through some magic we’ve come across three amazing vintage Kenner playsets from 1979 and 1980 — a magical time when the hype and merchandise machine for The Empire Strikes back was going into high gear:

The Kenner Star Wars Death Star Space Station (1979)

Vintage 1979 Star Wars Death Star Space Station playset toys MIB for figures

I’m really glad that Kenner mentioned that the Death Star was in fact a space station so your poor parents wouldn’t be confused when they were looking for something the size of a small planet. What I love about this cover is that we have it all: A Stormtrooper fires an impressive looking gun out of a window, underneath him we’ve got Luke and the Princess cheering on Darth and Obi Wan doing their lightsaber thing and then below we’ve got Han hanging out with Chewie and the trash while our two droids exit the elevator shaft. And to drive home just how cool this all is — two kids can play with the same toy and be 100% oblivious to each other.

Vintage 1979 Star Wars Death Star Space Station playset toys MIB for figures

And the back of the box features a groovy traced inked illustration of the front of the box. But what’s on the inside? Well here are a few of the surviving bits of the “space station”:

Vintage 1979 Star Wars Death Star Space Station playset toys MIB for figures

That’s right kids: Put that painted cardboard together and recreate your own Death Star! By the way I really feel sorry for the poor parents who didn’t read the fine print and didn’t realize that poor Timmy would need to have his own action figures in his existing collection. And here’s a vintage commercial showing the playset in action:

The Kenner Star Wars Land of the Jawas Action Playset (1979)

Vintage 1979 Star Wars Land of the Jawas playset toy MIB for 3 3/4" figures

Our box cover features a solo child looking at an action packed droid flea-market! And as into emphasize the scale of the scene a giant Sandcrawler sits in the background. Notice how you get the idea that there must be something really cool on the inside of the Sandcrawler — after all there seem to be nothing but Jawas and droids coming out of it.

Vintage 1979 Star Wars Land of the Jawas playset toy MIB for 3 3/4" figures

Now I’ve got to be honest: The desert in the foreground doesn’t look half bad when we get the box open — but that Sandcrawler seems a little bit shabby. So let’s take a closer look inside our Sandcrawler:

Vintage 1979 Star Wars Land of the Jawas playset toy MIB for 3 3/4" figures

Man I knew those Jawas were able to drive a hard bargain — but I had no idea that their impressive vehicle was just a mere prop! But to be fair the “parts list” is well done enough to do double duty as a poster for any young fanboy who likes to do some coloring on the side:

Vintage 1979 Star Wars Land of the Jawas playset toy MIB for 3 3/4" figures

And here’s a video tour of our playset:

The Kenner Star Wars Empire Strikes Back Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Playset (1980)

Vintage 1980 Star Wars Hoth Ice Planet playset toy & Box for 3 3/4" figures

Clearly by 1980 the marketing department at Kenner was getting smarter at their package design: If you crop the picture of the kid out your audience can imagine themselves playing with the toy while you save the expense of a model release form. What I love about this shot is that there’s no mixing of non-snowgear clad action figures wandering on to the adventure set as they would in the real world world no doubt. And of course there is no mere “playset” but an ADVENTURE SET. And clearly you can see a dogfight going on above our AT-AT Walker. But now on to the reality inside the box:

Vintage 1980 Star Wars Hoth Ice Planet playset toy & Box for 3 3/4" figures

I have to say that while this is cheap looking, it’s better in two ways: Unlike our Sandcrawler the AT-AT Walker had some dimension to it and there’s a nice background painting to set the mood if you need a Winter scene in the dead of Summer. It’s important to note that the one thing that Lucas did well was to make sure that he got the toy rights to Star Wars. And while these toys look cheap by the standards of today in fact they were high quality for their day. And I suspect the quality and sheer variety of the toys are part of what made Star Wars beloved to a generation that could feel that they owned the series through their playtime.

And lastly here’s a vintage commercial showing off the Hoth Ice Planet:

My research sources:

The Kenner Star Wars Death Star Space Station (1979)

The Kenner Star Wars Land of the Jawas Action Playset (1979)

The Kenner Star Wars Empire Strikes Back Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Playset (1980)

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