I Lost My Chewie

By Stephane Faucourt

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I was 5 years old in 1977, a bit too young (especially at that time) to see Star Wars in theaters – but like many 5-year-old boys, I was instantly hooked. When the toys hit the market I became the luckiest kid on earth when my parents bought me the complete set of 12 four-inch-tall action figures at the nearby superstore. Among these original figures, Chewbacca was my favorite – not because I had a preference for his role in the movie, but for the toy itself.

The Chewbacca action figure was quite different. He was taller than the other figures, very well detailed, had a neat weapon, and had the cool name “Chiktabba” or “Chiquetaba” (literally “Chew Tobacco” in French). At some point during 1980, my Chewie must have fallen out of the bag I kept my figures in, because I couldn’t find him anywhere. I was so disappointed that when my uncle asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told him the only thing I wanted was Chewbacca – yes, just a single small action figure for my birthday.

When that day finally came my uncle brought me a large wrapped package which I knew right away was too big for an action figure. I was quite confused when I tore the gift paper off and found a 12-inch scale Chewbacca action figure doll. It wasn’t what I had asked for, but my uncle had found this Chewbacca, a much better gift than a tiny action figure! Although I never really played with it, I’ve grown quite fond of this large Chewie, which has remained in my collection ever since.

Oh, and I did manage to get a replacement small Chewie action figure, too.

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Even though I’ve been collecting for nearly two decades and don’t consider myself a “Chewbacca focus collector,” this action figure always meant something special. Each time I had to make a choice when buying a particular figure in its original packaging, I always picked Chewbacca when possible. As a result, I’ve been able to assemble various Chewbacca action figures over the years, representing different lines sold in various countries. It’s a great character which was available in many different packaging styles, with some challenging variants too.

“I chose Chewbacca when I was asked to sponsor a pewter medallion for Celebration Europe in 2007, where I also printed up reproductions of French Chewbacca packaging samples and a rare French diorama.”
“I chose Chewbacca when I was asked to sponsor a pewter medallion for Celebration Europe in 2007, where I also printed up reproductions of French Chewbacca packaging samples and a rare French diorama.”

Stephane Faucourt grew up in France in the 1970s and was part of the first generation of Star Wars fans. In the mid-1990s, he started to collect vintage Star Wars related toys and other merchandise that was marketed in France and across Europe between 1978 and 1986. In 2006, he wrote and published his first book, From Meccano to Trilogo, about the action figure toys released in France from 1978 to 1986. This was followed by La French Touch in 2013, which showcases Star Wars press coverage, merchandising and advertising from France during the original trilogy era.

The Strange 1982 GE Star Wars Competition Down Under

By Pete Vilmur

Poster for GE/Kenner Australia contest
Poster for GE/Kenner Australia contest

While 1982 was an off-year for Star Wars movie releases, worldwide promotions were touting the airing of the original Star Wars on television as well as the upcoming Revenge of the Jedi (before its famous name change).

One 1982 promotion that’s come to be known more for its poster than the contest it was part of was a General Electric Star Wars competition in Australia. The poster is notorious for being somewhat misleading; it’s undated and appears to be promoting Star Wars “The Movie” but shows a photo from The Empire Strikes Back. To add to the confusion, the original Kenner logo with the classic Hildebrandt Bros. Luke and Leia art appears in the lower left, suggesting some kind of Kenner tie-in; that detail has long piqued the interest of Star Wars toy collectors.

Until I came across a paperwork lot in a recent auction, I was pretty much in the dark about the details of this promotion. I knew it was a contest promoting the first Australian televised release of Star Wars, but didn’t realize how, well, bizarre some of the contest specifics were.

How many what?
How many what?

Take the rules, for example. Entries required answers to a set of questions starting with Star Wars ones like: “Which planet is Princess Leia from?”

No sweat. Alderaan.

Next: “Name the droid who speaks English in the Star Wars movie.”

C-3PO. All too easy.

But then: “How many times a week does Continental Airlines fly from Sydney to the USA?”

Wait. Huh?

And: “How many refrigerators are there in the General Electric No Frost range?”

Seriously?

“What is the largest capacity refrigerator in the General Electric range?”

Google please? Sorry, 1982.

Granted, the contest form was likely planted on a showroom floor full of GE appliances, but still!

Then there are the prizes: The Grand Prize was an all-expense paid trip for four to the premiere of Return of the Jedi in the U.S., followed by second prizes of Kenner toys and playsets (hence the logo and art from Kenner, which partnered with the GE brand licensee on the promotion). That sounds about right for a Star Wars competition.

Thanks but we’d rather have the trip or the toys!
Thanks but we’d rather have the trip or the toys!

But then there are the “consolation” prizes: dishwashers, clothes washers, blenders, heaters, refrigerators, TVs, toasters, clock radios, shavers, and vacuum cleaners. That brings me to the gem in my recent paperwork purchase, a letter from GE announcing the great success of its Star Wars competition and the awarding of one VX20 Sadie Vacuum Cleaner (or perhaps the less-plucky VB66 – it’s not clear) to provide “continued enjoyment in years to come.” Indeed!

Sure, there were those 1,000 Star Wars poster prizes to commemorate the contest, but frankly I’d prefer framing the vacuum cleaner letter. How often can one proudly display a Star Wars contest prize that literally… sucked?

This GE Sadie vacuum cleaner resembles a certain astromech, don’t you think?
This GE Sadie vacuum cleaner resembles a certain astromech, don’t you think?

Pete Vilmur, a director of Rancho Obi-Wan, is Director of Public Relations for Fine Art—Sculpture at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where he reports to department director Lawrence Noble, sculptor of Lucasfilm’s iconic Yoda statue. Star Wars fans know him for his nine years working for Lucas Digital Media, where as senior editor he created content for Lucasfilm’s websites, blogs and social networks. Pete co-authored two books with Steve Sansweet – The Star Wars Poster Book and The Star Wars Vault – and a third with Ryder Windham, The Complete Vader. He has long collected Star Wars posters and ephemera. Pete lives in Petaluma with his wife Teri and their two children.

Kenner ‘Luke Endor’ Large-Size Action Figure Used in Making ‘Jedi’

By Gus Lopez

Star Wars fans begin their journey into collecting along many different paths, and action figures are frequently the “gateway collectible” of choice due to their widespread popularity.

A lot has been written on the subject of Star Wars action figures, and the fascination continues for novice through veteran. My first objective as a beginner was to complete my set of Kenner loose action figures. Over the years as I learned a lot and expanded my network, that interest grew into other areas related to action figures: boxed vehicles, carded figures, toy store displays, and eventually prototypes of the Kenner line. Along the way, I learned more about Kenner’s production process and helped unearth examples of unreleased toy concepts that never went to market. The networking that led to the discovery of previously unknown items eventually fueled my interest in collecting production memorabilia, props, and costumes from the Star Wars films. This same transition was repeated by friends who progressed from Kenner Star Wars figures to Star Wars movie props, while never losing the passion and interest for the toys that brought us all into the hobby.

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The Kenner large size action figures were amazing in quality and detail, even by today’s standards. But at the time, the competition from the Star Wars small-scale action figures cannibalized sales, and Kenner shut the line down shortly after the release of The Empire Strikes Back. So how could there be a Luke Skywalker large-scale figure in Endor poncho when the line was shut down prior to Return of the Jedi? In an unusual confluence of the action figure and movie production worlds, this Luke Skywalker large-scale Endor figure was created by the Industrial Light and Magic Model Shop for the speeder biker animatics in Return of the Jedi. Animatics are rough, early sequences of a scene designed to connect the shots and establish the timing of the special effects. Today, animatics are done digitally with computer generated models, but back in the day of Return of the Jedi, animatics were shot by hand in film or video using whatever pieces that could be assembled.

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For the speeder bike chase animatic, ILM used Star Wars action figures in different scales for various close-ups. Large size Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Boba Fett action figures (the latter standing in for Biker Scouts) carried out the action in many of the animatic shots. The Luke figure displayed here was the one used in those animatics. ILM staff took a Kenner 12-inch Luke in Tatooine outfit sold in stores and painted the tunic, pants, and boots while adding painted socks. In many of the animatic shots, the Leia action figure is actually wearing this camouflaged Luke tunic reversed to appear as Leia’s poncho. The final special effects sequence in the film is faithful to the early action figure animatic. The other pieces from the speeder bike animatic are not known to exist today, and this 12-inch Luke Endor is a unique remnant from that filming.

Star Wars action figures revolutionized the toy industry and movie-product licensing, but also played a small part in planning and creating the third Star Wars film. This piece also symbolizes something special to me: it connects the universe of toys that brought me into Star Wars collecting with the universe of items used to make the movies—the center of my collecting focus today.

See a comparison of the animatic with the final scene here:


Gus Lopez, a preeminent Star Wars collector, created The Star Wars Collectors Archive in 1994, the first Star Wars collecting site on the Internet and a virtual museum of the rarest and most unusual Star Wars collectibles. Gus is a frequent speaker at conventions and has led the collecting track for every Star Wars Celebration convention. He has co-authored four books: Gus and Duncan’s Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Prototypes, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Cast & Crew Items, and Star Wars: Year by Year.