Remembering the Godawful Star Wars Action Figures of Yesteryear

Remembering the Godawful Star Wars Action Figures of Yesteryear
Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

It seems hard to imagine now, but there was almost a full decade when Star Wars toys didn’t exist. After the 1986 end of the Kenner action figure line, it took until 1995 for Hasbro to bring toys back to shelves with the title “Power of the Force,” and the results were… terrible. Just terrible. So, in order to better appreciate our present, I thought it was worth taking a look back in time to recognise how much worse fans and collectors used to have it.

Infinite thanks to Jedi Temple Archives for its extremely expansive history and gallery of Star Wars action figures. If you want a further look through the halls of collecting history, go check it out.

17) Chewbacca

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

See, when Hasbro decided to make new Star Wars action figures, it did so believing one, seemingly incontrovertible fact: that the kids of the ‘90s only wanted action figures that were incredibly muscular. This was patently untrue, but kids — and older fans — bought them anyway. Chewbacca here is a good example of the decision, as well as how unsettling it would be to meet a Wookiee who was also a bodybuilder.

16) Spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

There are many, many interesting things to stay about this figure. It was the second mail-in figure, where fans had to send in UPC codes from Lay’s potato chips along with $US2 ($3) to get him. It was the first translucent Star Wars figure, either of a hologram or a Force Ghost. It was also barely an action figure in that only the arms and head moved, while its torso, waist, and legs were all made of one giant, bluish hunk of plastic. It also looks very, very little like Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan, but given all its other problems maybe we should let this one pass.

15) Jabba the Hutt’s Dancers

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

This trio of figures was released in 1998, not long after the Return of the Jedi: Special Edition theatrical release, where they retroactively graced Jabba’s palace with their musical talents. As you can see, Hasbro had already gotten much, much better at sculpting figures by this time, but it had also gotten cocky enough to think it could put Rystall, Lyn Me, and Greeata here into some kind of groovy pose to indicate their backup singing and/or dance moves. The result is three figures who all seem to have slept in bed the wrong way and gotten cricks in their backs, and are now hoping desperately Jabba hasn’t thrown his chiropractor into the Rancor pit anytime recently.

14) Stormtrooper (Crowd Control)

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

You’ll notice this Stormtrooper — a Swoletrooper, if you will — has the trademark barrel chest and tiny waist of Hasbro’s early figures. But what makes him more notable is that he was part of a small sub-line that paired figures with giant, ludicrous action accessories. For the Stormtrooper, it was this “Crowd Control” device, which doesn’t seem like it would be particularly useful for controlling crowds, not least because it has a claw from a crane game on it. Remarkably, this is one of the more reasonable accessories in the line.

13) Lando Calrissian

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

Lando Calrissian never looked so fine, as long as by “fine” you mean “regularly bench-pressing banthas.” Please note this is only entry #13 and there are many more ‘roided-up figures to go.

12) Han Solo (Hoth Gear)

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

For instance, check out this early Han Solo. But also check out the legs, which are sculpted to be in a wide stance. I assume this was done to give the figure a sort of “in action” look, but between the awkward legs and top-heavy figure it was very, very difficult to stand, and the same is true of a great many other Power of the Force figures.

11) Luke Skywalker (Jedi Knight)

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, toymaker Kenner used soft pieces of plastic on its Star Wars figures to denote capes and cloaks. It looked terrible, but it still allowed the figures to be posed. In the ‘90s, Hasbro said to hell with it and just sculpted a giant, plastic, single-piece cloak that Luke could wear as long as he was standing straight up, had both arms at his sides, and you had no desire to pose him whatsoever.

10) Han Solo (in Carbonite)

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

Yes, Han has ridiculous muscles but it still gets worse. What makes this figure such a disaster is that it comes with a version of the smuggler frozen in carbonite — a process that, comparing the figure and the person in the black, has caused Han to shrink half a foot and lose most of his muscle mass. Hasbro, you packaged these things together. Why was it ok for frozen Han to bear a vague resemblance to his on-screen counterpart, while his action figure still looks like a bodybuilder? Why didn’t you bother to try and make them look even somewhat similar?

9) Boba Fett (Wing-Blast Rocketpack)

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

This is Boba Fett’s entry into the “giant, weird accessories” subline. It makes a sort of sense in that Boba Fett is a known user of jetpacks, but also doesn’t make sense in that Boba Fett is a known user of jetpacks because he’s already wearing a jetpack. He also already has a rocket in his jetpack. And that jetpack is a lot more practical than carting around this monstrosity

8) Luke Skywalker (Dagobah Fatigues)

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

Too many muscles, too wide a stance, too long a neck. What propels this Luke Skywalker above his troubled brethren is that in order to give the character just the tiniest chance of standing up on its own, Luke had to be staring at the ceiling.

7) R4-D4

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

Again, even the earliest droids and aliens of the Power of the Force line looked pretty good compared to their human brethren. But clearly, a Hasbro executive was worried that kids wouldn’t be interested in buying a figure of the R5-D4 unit that only appeared for a moment in A New Hope, and then only to break down. The solution: give R5 big lasers on his legs and a hidden, firing missile inside his torso. Just like he didn’t have in Star Wars! The grey speckles covering the droid, meant to replicate the dirt and grim of Tatooine, just add insult to injury.

6) Rebel Fleet Trooper

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

I mean… come on. This guy looks ludicrous, and his only saving grace is that there were so many Rebel Troopers on the Blockade Runner you could pretend that surely one of them probably liked to work out at the gym every moment he wasn’t on guard duty.

5) Cantina Band Member

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

As I’ve mentioned, Hasbro did pretty well sculpting figures of Star Wars’ various aliens and droids. And if you look at pictures of Bith aliens, who show up most prominently as the cantina band in A New Hope, this is a fairly accurate sculpt of the aliens as seen in the movie. So why is this figure’s face so upsetting to look at? Part of it, surely, is that the head is moulded in plastic much pinker and rosier than the tanner, more alien-pigmented aliens of the film. Also, there’s no painting texture on the folds of the face, which gives it a plastic-y uniformity. Then, there’s the undeniable pucker on the lips — sculpted so the band member can hold one of a variety of musical instruments to his mouth, but that looks positive obscene sans those instruments. Face it: this guy looks like the galaxy’s most upsetting Fleshlight, and let us speak no more of it.

4) Han Solo (Smuggler Flight Pack)

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

Han’s entry in the weird giant action accessory sub-line was OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT THING. Forget that Han never wore anything even slightly similar in the movies, no one in any galaxy would ever wear such a ridiculous device. It’s like the laser turrets fell off the Millennium Falcon and Han thought it was a good idea to strap them and two giant barrels of something onto a backpack he couldn’t possibly wear, let alone walk around in.

3) Luke Skywalker

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

Hey, remember in A New Hope when Luke drank that protein shake and ripped apart a TIE Fighter with his bare hands? Then I assume you don’t remember this action figure. Maybe it’s not the most preposterously proportioned figure compared to others on this list, but the fact that this is ostensibly a toy based on the likeness of Mark Hamill, playing one of the most important people in pop culture, makes it significantly more insane than the other entries on this list. Well, that and his robe, clearly designed to leave very, very little to the imagination.

2) Han Solo

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

Honestly, both of these initial Han Solo and Luke Skywalker figures are for all intents and purposes equally terrible. They’re ridiculously proportioned, their heads are too small, their faces look nothing like the actors, to the point that these feel like bootleg toys instead of authentic Star Wars merchandise. But what sets Han above Luke in the annals of terribleness are two things: 1) I do think his chest is even bigger than Luke’s, which is astoundingly awful, and 2) he’s wearing a vest. A vest that is somehow skintight. A vest that clings to his abs and tiny waist in defiance of physics, gravity, and God. Even in the galaxy where faster-than-light travel and laser swords exist, I feel completely confident in saying they don’t have the technology to bring a vest that would fit someone like this into being, and nor should they.

1) Princess Leia Organa

Image: Chuck Paskovics and Paul HarrisonImage: Chuck Paskovics and Paul Harrison

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn some past Hasbro exec hated Princess Leia or Carrie Fisher. It’s about the only explanation for this figure, which is somehow about as bad as all the other toys on this list put together. Called “Monkey-Face Leia” even back in the day, it’s hard to deny that the toy couldn’t be easily modified to create a mediocre Planet of the Apes action figure. Between the simian face sculpt and even more problematic “action pose” going on under her robes, she was rather justly mocked, but fans bought her figure in drives anyways. Obviously, thanks to her bow legs, there was zero chance in hell she could stand on her own. And Hasbro didn’t even have the decency to give her massive biceps like all the boys! General Leia deserved better, as she did in so many other ways.

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