Tracker Pixel for Entry

“Plastic Galaxy” Looks at history of Star Wars toys

Cinema | October 22nd, 2014

By fans, for fans, “Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys” covers the profitable marriage of George Lucas’ phenomenal movie and Kenner Products, the Cincinnati-based company that acquired the license to produce action figures, vehicles, and other playthings based on Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader and the many inhabitants of the “Star Wars” universe. Director Brian Stillman alternates between the super collectors who have devoted the majority of their spare time and money amassing private hordes and the onetime Kenner staff members responsible for the concepts and designs that would result in the sale of an estimated quarter of a billion action figures during the line’s 1978-1985 run.

Many of the best-known legends of the classic Kenner “Star Wars” toys, including double telescoping light sabers, the redesign of Snaggletooth, and the rocket-firing Boba Fett, receive their expected analysis. Several players from the Kenner team, including design manager Ed Schifman, talk about the impact of visionary Kenner president Bernie Loomis, the man who shepherded the company’s “Star Wars” license and coined the term “toyetic” as a descriptor of the importance of a product’s imaginative play value. Although Schifman claims credit in the movie, Loomis is often associated with the idea of the “Early Bird Certificate Package,” the empty box promise that sold more than 500,000 pre-orders for “Star Wars” toys that were not ready in time for the holiday season of 1977.

Despite the level of detail provided in the movie’s numerous anecdotes, Stillman leaves out several stories that are considered de rigueur within the lore. For example, discussions of figure variations such as the vinyl cape versus cloth cape Jawa and the “pinhead” versus big head Han Solo are omitted. Additionally, no information is given regarding the process of naming figures like Walrus Man and Hammerhead. “Plastic Galaxy” does, however, touch on the extent to which Lucas was involved with and protective of his brand, tracing the early days that saw Kenner employees taking snapshots during theatrical screenings of “Star Wars,” before Lucasfilm reference material and documentation was routinely provided to designers and sculptors.

Another of the great mysteries of Kenner’s “Star Wars” history that remains largely unexplored in the movie is the process by which characters were chosen to be immortalized. “Plastic Galaxy” includes some nice commentary on the appeal of offering figures based on minor personalities, background creatures, and fringe aliens and droids, but nothing is said concerning the absence of more prominent players like Grand Moff Tarkin, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Sure to set the hearts of the most devoted enthusiasts aflutter, those three, as well as the cantina musicians, General Dodonna, and assorted X-wing pilots, do appear on an early Jim Swearingen memo of proposed figures and ships.

Modestly budgeted (the movie was funded partially through a Kickstarter campaign), “Plastic Galaxy” makes hay under fair use exceptions to copyrighted material, incorporating a number of commercials and clips featuring scenes from “Star Wars” along with John Williams’ instantly recognizable score. Nearly all of the interviews are static, talking head compositions, and the documentary’s chief visual interest resides in both the archival material from Kenner and the many vintage photographs of kids and their toys. Crude animations and chapter-break title cards with banal statements like “The End of the Line?” and “Star Wars Is Forever” aren’t particularly inspired.

Unsurprisingly, “Plastic Galaxy” is male-centric. Then, as now, toy companies segregated properties into “boy toys” and “girl toys.” Of more than two-dozen interviews, only one woman, collector Lisa Stevens, is included in the movie, and even though Kenner employed several women who worked on the “Star Wars” account, none appear on camera. The aging fanboys eager to show off their stockpiles can be annoying and amusing in equal measure. Every so often, they manage to sound insightful. The recognition, for example, that Kenner TV ads deliberately suggested scenes that were not part of the movie underscores the importance of using one’s imagination and reminds us why we play with toys in the first place.

“Plastic Galaxy” is available on demand from Vimeo.

Recently in:

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comJason Sole may have an impressive resume as a Criminal Justice professor, past president of the Minneapolis NAACP, founder of movements and initiatives, national restorative justice trainer, author,…

By Michael M. Miller  michael.miller@ndsu.eduGermans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo,…

Sons of Norway, Kringen Lodge #4-25, is a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Norwegian culture.Sentrum på 722 2nd Ave N, FargoKringen Kafe er åpen for Kaffe og Bakverk mandag-fredag 9.00 til…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comOur opinion: Let our character and characters define usIt’s no secret that North Dakota is one of our nation’s least visited states, in fact I can think of a handful of folks I’ve chatted…

By Ed Raymond  fargogadfly@gmail.com Will We Soon See a Documentary Called Requiem For a Lightweight? It’s plain to see The Divided States of America still has two political parties. One is called the Democratic Party. The other…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com“If you had talked to me five years ago or even a year ago and told me I was gonna be a chef in Fargo I probably would have looked at you pretty funny. It's wild where food is taking me in…

By Sabrina Hornung  sabrina@hpr1.comAmanda Standalone is a force, in fact one could say she’s an old soul with the Midas touch of…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.comThe many media attempts at Frank Herbert’s epic space fantasy “Dune” speak to its lasting appeal and its potent impact. David Lynch’s movie, defended by the filmmaker’s most ardent…

By Sarah Noursacha1689.sc@gmail.comOn Sunday, November 7th, the Spirit Room will hold a reception for “Contaminated Nightmares,” their current exhibition of mixed-media pieces by local artist and musician Adam Bursack. This…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Theresa L. Goodrichsubmit@hpr1.comIt was day ten of our epic southwest road trip and we’d made it to Arizona. After camping in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and New Mexico, we were exhausted, but fortunately our night in…

by Annie Prafckesubmit@hpr1.com17 June 2021On June 19th, from 12pm to 7pm, nonprofit Faith4Hope Scholarship Fund is hosting their first ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. It is free and open to the…