1985 was a dark time for Star Wars toy collectors. It had been two years since the final Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi, had been released, and kids had moved on from the popular Star Wars toy line to collect things like Transformers toys. Sales of Star Wars merchandise were so bad, toy maker Kenner had ceased production of the popular action figure line. Even though over a quarter of a billion figures had been sold in less than ten years, the party for Star Wars toy collecting was over.
George Lucas and the folks at Lucasfilm relied heavily on merchandising revenue, since there was no such thing as home video sales to spur income. Lucas had already produced two Star Wars spinoff movies for ABC based on the Ewoks, the teddy bear-like characters from Jedi. They were so successful, ABC negotiated a deal with Lucasfilm for two cartoon series. Lucas turned to Canadian studio Nelvana to animate the project. Nelvana had created a short cartoon for the Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978, and Lucas liked the result. Lucas created two series, one for older boys built around R2-D2 and C-3PO called Droids and one for younger audiences called Ewoks. Marvel comics signed on for a comic book series for each cartoon.
Although it had ceased making Star Wars figures, Kenner jumped at the chance to make figures based on the cartoons. The figures for both the Ewoks and Droids series were modeled after the cartoon characters, as opposed to the original Star Wars figures, which had a more realistic look. However, in a few instances, Kenner took some shortcuts.
In the Droids line, Kenner used the same 1977 molds for the original C-3PO and R2-D2 figures. In order to make them look like their cartoon counterparts, Kenner did not use the metallic gold and silver paint used for the Star Wars movie versions. They both were given cartoonish paint jobs, with C-3PO getting painted eyes. R2-D2 was given a cartoonish body decal and gray dome with bright colors.
|A carded Boba Fett from the Droids line.|
Photo courtesy BobaFettFanClub.com
For the Ewoks line, a total of six figures were produced from all new molds. Four were of the Duloks, enemies of the Ewoks featured in the cartoon, as well as Ewoks Wicket W. Warwick and Logray.
Both the Ewoks and Droids figures came packaged in blistered cardbacks with artwork from the cartoons. Each figure also came packaged with a gold Star Wars coin featuring the character. The figures were only made for one year, 1985, and did not sell well in the U.S., even though the line did well in Europe. Plans to release a second series of figures were canceled, with one exception. Glasslite, the Brazilian branch of Kenner, released one of the canceled figures, Vlix, in 1986, because the cartoons and toys were especially popular in Brazil. Because Vlix was available only in Brazil, it has become extremely collectible, especially in the United States. Collectors pay hundreds for a loose Vlix, and even more for one still in the original package.
By the end of 1986, both the Droids and Ewoks cartoons had been canceled, the toys were gone from shelves and had become a part of Star Wars collecting lore. While the toys were not immediately popular with older Star Wars collectors who collected the original toys (mostly because they were considered too juvenile), they gained a nostalgic following over the years. Even though the figures were not realistic like the original Star Wars figures, and many of the characters were unfamiliar, they still found a following. Today, collectors who buy Droids and Ewoks figures will tend to pay a premium for the popular characters; prices are more affordable for lesser-known characters.
It would be nearly twenty years before Lucas would find critical and commercial success in Star Wars cartoons, with the hit series Clone Wars, produced by Samurai Jack creator Genny Tartakovsky. Still, the Droids and Ewoks cartoons of the 1980's are a slice of nostalgia for Star Wars fans and collectors who have another niche of George Lucas' galaxy to explore and collect.
STAR WARS: DROIDS TOY COLLECTING CHECKLIST
A Wing Pilot
Vlix (released in Brazil only)
Lightsabers (available in green and red blades)
Note: These were available in the early 1990s at Disney's MGM Studios Theme Park (later Hollywood Studios). Info courtesy Dan Alexander.
C-3PO (2 different paint schemes)
STAR WARS: EWOKS TOY COLLECTORS CHECKLIST
|The Ewoks figure line, from a 1986 Kenner|
Toy Fair catalog. Photo courtesy
Urgah Lady Gorneesh
Wicket W. Warrick