The history of Star Wars action figures begins with the history of the action figure. The toys are smaller than traditional dolls and they have movable parts as well as handy accessories.
History of Star Wars Action Figures
The history of Star Wars action figures is twofold. The toys are obviously inspired by the Star Wars movie series, but the concept of the action figure dates back many years prior to the release of Episode IV in 1977. Action figure toys originated with the development of a famous doll by Mattel.
Barbie, released by Mattel in 1959, revolutionized the way dolls were made. The success of the Barbie doll in combination with the show The Lieutenant inspired a man named Stan Weston to present the concept of the action figure to Hassenfeld Brothers Company. The Hassenfeld Brothers Company, now known as Hasbro, released the first G.I. Joe action figure in 1964.
After the successful development of G.I. Joe. Other companies followed suit, among them was Mego, an interesting facet of the history of Star Wars toys.
Mego, Oil, and Action Figures
Mego was a booming toy company that began during the 1950s creating dime store toys. During the 1970s, Mego was the leader in action figure production and sales. The organization turned down a contract offered in 1976 to create toys for the Star Wars franchise. This fateful decision led to the company's ultimate demise in 1983.Kenner accepted the deal Mego declined and began producing the toys for release before the Christmas of 1977, but unforeseen problems with production delayed the plans. Instead, the company offered vouchers customers could use as certificates to purchase the first four action figures released.
The first four figures were:
- Luke Skywalker
- Princess Leia Organa
By 1985, an additional 107 characters were released.
The oil crisis of the late 1970s is a surprising contributor to the history of action figures for Star Wars because it led to a sharp rise in the cost of plastic. Subsequently, the figures were created using less material, and the toys stood just less than four inches tall.
Kenner enjoyed a profitable run that spanned from 1978 to 1985. Hasbro bought the company in 1991, a few years before the next surge of Star Wars figures.
Power of the Force
The "Power of the Force" line is appropriately named considering the stunning changes in design. The line arrived in 1995, offering characters from the initial trilogy:
- Star Wars
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Return of the Jedi
The "Power of the Force" line featured muscular versions of the original action figures with greater detail and the illusion of movement in the plastic toys' garments. This line of toys continued through the re-release of the original trilogy in 1997, thirty years after the premiere of the original Star Wars movie.
Star Wars Prequels
George Lucas used an innovative approach to telling the Star Wars saga. The first trilogy released is actually the conclusion to a series of six movies. The second trilogy tells the preceding story in the films:
- The Phantom Menace
- Attack of the Clones
- Revenge of the Sith
The first of the three prequels debuted in 1999, along with new figures relating to the movie. Two more followed, and by 2005, the entire Star Wars saga was finally completed, along with a generous line of action figures.
12Back.com is a site dedicated to fans of the Star Wars saga. Among the many features offered on the site is a figures search tool that allows visitors to browse the collection of action toys.
- By line
- Star Wars
- Empire Strikes Back
- Return of the Jedi
- Power of the Force
- By logo
- Same subjects offered in the line search
- By character
- Ranging from Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi to Wicket
Visitors can also view multi-packs containing two, three, or six figures.
The making of an action figure is a fascinating process that has seen many changes over the years. Many people interested in the history of Star Wars action figures can appreciate the process involved in building the toys. In addition, the toys have grown into a major topic for collectors, making their future as intriguing as their history.