Fine Vintage: A Fistful of Leias

Tonight we’re taking a look back at toys from 1980s.
Back when the shelves at Toys R Us seemed to extend for miles and stood just as high with a bevy of bold colors and assorted characters each vying for your attention, and your allowance.  We were Jedi, and Joes, and ultimately Masters of a thousand Universes, and we waged wars in the sandboxes and on the bedroom floors all over the world.  Tonight we’re going to brush the dust off those long lost heroes in a segment I like to call:
Fine Vintage.

Princess Leia broke the mold of the traditional “damsel in distress” cliche. Even though the entire film revolves around her this was no Disney Princess.   Right from the start she’s gunning down Stormtroopers and talking trash to the most feared men in the galaxy; not to mention her not-so-subtle remarks aimed at her would-be rescuers.  As such it should be no surprise that Leia was not only one of the first 12 Star Wars action figures Kenner produced, but actually one of the first four figures as part of their Early Bird package along with Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, and Chewbacca.

Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars), 1978

Leia 77

The original Princess Leia of course came adorned with her signature hair buns and clad in her white dress complete with a vinyl cape and blaster (not shown).  One can’t help but notice a little disco flair with this one particularly in the “pants” that I would assume were there to make her a little more appealing to boys who might not want a doll in a dress.

Princess Leia Organa, Hoth Outfit (The Empire Strikes Back), 1980

Leia Hoth
Sure the Rebels won in the first movie, but they’re just a small band of freedom fighters and the Empire is a war machine.  In The Empire Strikes Back we find our heroes all bundled up on the remote frigid icebox of a planet called Hoth. Rather than decked out in a massive ballgown or made-up in kabuki face paint Leia is wearing the working-class ensemble of a Rebel commander.  She’s not the only one dressed like this, and that speaks to her character.  Gone are the days of romancing the Senate.  Now only the cause matters.

This version of Leia is one of my favorites from the Kenner collection, but I’ve always preferred the ESB looks of the main cast in general.  The body/outfit sculpt is a vast improvement over her ’77 predecessor in terms of accuracy.  Although I will say that one definitely got the better looking head sculpt of the whole bunch.

Princess Leia Organa, Bespin Gown (The Empire Strikes Back), 1980

Leia ESB Bespin3

The “Bespin Gown” is a short-lived wardrobe change late in the second act of Empire that really only serves to show you that Han and Leia are getting settled in. This is of course right before everything goes to pot.  C-3PO is dismantled, Lando betrays everyone, Chewie is subjected to an annoying car alarm, and Han is frozen in Carbonite.  Somewhere in there Leia finds time to change out of this dress and back into her earlier outfit.  We don’t ask questions.  We just let Kersh do his thing.

One would assume this Leia only got made to appeal to little girls.  The figure herself leaves a little to be desired, but the pattern printed on her vinyl “cape” helps set her apart from other figures at the time.

Princess Leia Organa, Boush Disguise (Return of the Jedi), 1983

Leia ROTJ Boushh (2)

The jail break sequence is without a doubt the better part of Jedi, and it really starts to get interesting once this runt of a Bounty Hunter is revealed to be none other than Princess Leia incognito.  Although its fairly uncertain as to which point Jabba and his crew discovered the ruse it served its purpose long enough for her to finally free Han Solo from Carbonite.

With the Return of the Jedi line in 1983 Kenner introduced two new features to the Star Wars line, one of which was removable helmets.  Accessories are always fun.  But accessories that can go on a figure? Those are the ones you remember!  Although probably because you regret losing them.  Regardless Leia came with her helmet, or rather Boush’s helmet whoever that is, as well as a staff/rifle.

Princess Leia Organa, Endor Poncho (Return of the Jedi), 1984

Leia endor Poncho

A peg warmer in her day this one is likely my real favorite Leia simply because of the accessories.   In addition to the removable helmets Kenner also introduced soft-goods capes as opposed to the vinyl coats that had been prominent since the line began.   If you wanted to get technical both Yoda and the Ugnaught had soft-good accessories, but with Jedi it was across the board.   The poncho here is very nice as is the removable belt.  Combined they fit the look perfectly.  Then there’s the always impressive removable helmet.  Unfortunately sans poncho she lacks in much of any paint detail, but the overall sculpt underneath is actually quite nice.

Sadly this wraps up the Kenner Leias.  However, I do have one more trick left in the toybox that I think you’ll enjoy just as much…. Her father had Indy figured a long time ago and yet she always knew someday he’d come walking back through her door.

Marion Ravenwood (Raiders of The Lost Ark), 1982

Marion ROTLA

No, she’s not Leia or is she? In some bizarre parallel universe perhaps?  Regardless I felt Marion would round out the theme nicely with her Fine Vintage charm, and also because this figure really gets no play.  Perhaps due in part to her unfortunate rarity, or rather the crazy prices most seem to ask.  Its a shame because she’s actually quite the jewel of a highly underrated toy line in general.  Honestly it’d be faster to simply list the bad figures in Kenner’s The Adventures of Indiana Jones line than mention all the good ones, but Marion seems to sink each and every one in terms of detail, accessories, and of course her soft-goods doily skirt.

12 Comments

Filed under Xander Martin

12 responses to “Fine Vintage: A Fistful of Leias

  1. Deane Aikins

    I’ve never seen those pics before, or that Marion. Nice!

  2. There’s no beating the classic charm and simplicity of these figures. As I get older, I only love the 5 points of articulation and basic styles more.

  3. It’s a shame those Raiders figures are so scarce and sparse. I just got a rough Indy for a couple bucks, and when I looked it up to see what I could get off ebay, I was very bummed at the prices.

    • Xander Martin

      @Deane, Thanks. The pictures are all inpsired from those vintage catalogue spreads and toy commercials of yesteryear. Back when missile-firing wapons and push-button sounds weren’t so commonplace. Plus I just flat-out love me some Kenner!

  4. Xander Martin

    @Rocko, I do love me some fine vintage five pointers! Very much looking forward to the Alien ReAction figures.

    As for the short-lived Raiders series the thumbs on Indy are particularly fragile. For some reason Kenner saw fit to make the arms hard plastic unlike their SW and Super Powers figures. Meanwhile, the Man in the Hat will be making a similar appearance under the Fine Vintage banner so stay tuned!

  5. Kenner was a fantastic company. A huge chunk of my childhood was held by their products. even as a kid, I could detect that they were of higher quality than most, and that somehow there was more love in them.

  6. Also, Hasbro is currently pushing a 5 point revolution. You can now get Prequel figures that look like they would’ve had the movies stayed on track and come out in 1986.

  7. Xander Martin

    While I dug Hasbro’s GI Joes, Kenner was always my favorite as a kid. This became particularly evident around ’89 when DC yanked their license from Toybiz and gave it back to Kenner. Kenner’s 1989 Batman merchandise, even a year later when it hit, had it ALL over the toybiz stuff.

    As for Hasbro I have some misgivings about their five-point push. They try to come off as “vintage” in terms of style, but I find them to be far too modern to to have any sort of quirky charm about them. For me they just seem cheap. That said Darth Vader is somewhat tempting as would be a Chewbacca.

    I’ve often wondered what a c.84-c.85 Vader or Chewie would’ve been like had Kenner decided to make updated versions for the Jedi line. I suppose Stormtroopers would fit in there as well.

  8. Toy Biz’s early merchandise is incredible in it’s shoddiness. I remember as a kid and still today wondering how the hell that stuff made it through. I have an affinity for it all tied to nostalgia I guess, but also because it’s just unreal that stuff was sold as top flight products.

    It will be interesting to see how the 5 point figures go over with kids and bargain hunting parents, as that’s the target audience. most collectors just seem angry about them.

    Isn’t it amazing that for the duration of the vintage Star Wars run, it was that same vinyl caped Vader with the lightsaber hand? That sure wouldn’t fly today.

    • Xander Martin

      My cousin dropped my brother’s TB Batman (strapped to a GI Joe parachute) down their stairwell once. Maybe a eight to ten foot drop. The figure shattered into pieces!

      I can see the 5-pointers fairing well against their $20 counterparts two scales up. Two packs was a bad way to go though. They would have been better off making them all single packs; or at least Vader.

      I imagine ’85 Darth Vader having “robe legs” and a cape nice long cape similar to General Lando. Not to mention a hand-held lightsaber.

  9. Pingback: Hello. What have we here? | Atomic Wanderers

  10. Kimberly Anne

    Could you email me? I would like to use a couple of your pictures.

    Thanks, Kimberly

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