‘Star Wars’: Kenner Designer’s First-Hand Account Of Classic Toy Line History

Star Wars

In 1977, Mark Boudreaux got in on the ground floor of what would be one of the most popular lines of movie tie-in toys of all time, the original Kenner Star Wars action figures. Working in Kenner’s “Prelim” design department, Boudreaux had a hand in designing some of the line’s signature products, including the highly-coveted Millennium Falcon.

Today, Boudreaux is the senior principal designer of Star Wars/action brands at Hasbro (which bought out Kenner back in 1991). To celebrate the film series’ 40th anniversary, Boudreaux spoke to Yahoo Movies to look back on the toy line’s incredible journey from design to release:

“I started working at Kenner in January ’77. In February, we first saw the trailer of Star Wars and all immediately became fans.

“My direct design manager [Swearingen] had the opportunity to go out to California and he got a really good idea of what Star Wars was all about. He quickly realized that this was not just a movie about characters, but it was also about their ships and going from world to world. You had classic good and evil, you had great characters and environments and ships — something you could really sink your teeth into.”

However, the original line did not come together without any bumps in the road. Demand was much highly than originally anticipated, so the team had to get a bit creative:

“Once Kenner started getting into Star Wars it was pretty much all hands on deck, 24/7. As I mentioned, we didn’t see the trailer until February ’77 so that didn’t give us much time to actually put product on the shelves. It became very apparent that even though we put all resources to bear on developing Star Wars, we really weren’t going to get plastic product out until ’78.

I recall being in brainstorms with the rest of the designers and said, “How might we go about putting Star Wars under the tree for that holiday season in ’77?” The idea was to come up with the Early Bird Special — it would essentially be a promise of four figures [Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and R2-D2] mailed directly to you and in that envelope was included a cardboard display with little plastic clips that as you purchased your initial wave of characters you’d be able to display them proudly. I think there were some membership cards, maybe some stickers and things.

And they asked me to put together some preliminary conceptual documents — some artwork, fabricate some envelopes so that we can show our management team what the thoughts were. And it was quite an interesting conversation, if I recall, going to upper management and saying, ‘Hey, you know, we want to sell an empty cardboard box for under the tree.'”

The original Early Bird Certificate Package consisted of a cardboard standup depicting all of the eventual figures, stickers and a “Space Club” membership card. To pay tribute to the original Kenner line in celebration of the 40th anniversary, Hasbro has released a new line of 6-inch “Black Series” action figures, as well as the Legacy Pack (depicted above), a 40th-anniversary version of the Early Bird Special, which also includes Darth Vader this time around.

Source: Yahoo Movies

8 ‘Star Wars’ Spin-Off Movies We Really Want To See

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Star Wars-SagaMay the 4th be with you, everyone! Even on May the 8th! With Star Wars weekend in the rear-view mirror, it’s still a great time to kick back, get out your old glow-in-the-dark lightsaber toys and Darth Vader Halloween masks, and pop in those original trilogy DVDs. Maybe even all 8 currently-released films, if you’re up for the challenge (both mental and otherwise). Speaking of which, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story just came out on Blu-ray, marking the first home release of many Star Wars spin-off movies to come.

Of these, only one future title has been confirmed – Han Solo: A Star Wars Story, to be released in May of 2018. Beyond that, we know Disney had at least two more planned, and probably more down the line. And why not? The Star Wars universe is so ripe for exploration. There are so many characters we were introduced to in the Saga movies that could easily get their own film. And it doesn’t stop there. The legacy of the Jedi and the Sith go back thousands of years, opening up virtually endless possibilities of story material.

Given this abundance of material just waiting to be tapped into, Heroic Hollywood decided to celebrate the Star Wars holiday by compiling a list of the Star Wars stand-alone movies we’d most like to see. While some of the films on this list are more likely to be developed than others, they each share one unifying factor: they’d all be freakin’ awesome!

Heroic Hollywood proudly presents the 8 ‘Star Wars’ Spin-Off Movies We Really Want To See! Click next to get started. And may the Force be with you!

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Jeff Grantz

Jeff Grantz

Jeff Grantz is an Atlanta-based writer, filmmaker and host of The Amazing Nerdiverse Podcast (on iTunes and YouTube).