From Tatooine to Coruscant, Jawas to Wookies, Star Wars has offered an entire galaxy full of excitement. Since 1977, nine films, four animated series, and now several Disney+ live-action series have brought audiences to this universe. Alongside all the media, there has always been an excellent selection of action figures and vehicles.
While Star Wars is one of the largest toy lines that have ever existed, they almost did not exist at all. From the start of his project, he had full faith in the potential of merchandising. When he negotiated his contract at the beginning of production, George Lucas even agreed to cut his pay in preference for full rights to the merchandising and sequels. Meanwhile, the studio believed that they had gotten away with a huge bargain, for no science fiction film had become a major merchandising hit up to that point.
Unfortunately, George Lucas almost waited too long to begin his search for a toy company. In the interest of keeping the details of his new film secret, he waited until there were only a few months left before the month’s debut. Thus, most major toy manufacturers, including Mattel and Mego, refused to entertain the thought of working with him. Besides the time crunch, they also believed that the film would not become popular enough to be worth their time. Luckily, Lucas caught the attention of one man who decided to give Star Wars a chance to shine.
As George Lucas was shopping around for the right toy company, Bernard “Bernie” Loomis, the President of Kenner, discovered a small blurb about Star Wars in the newspaper. He instantly became enamored by the name of the movie and sent his assistants to find out if the license was still available. Thus, Kenner’s representatives met up with George Lucas’s team to set up a historic deal. For every dollar that each Star Wars toy sold for, Lucas’s team would only receive five cents while Kenner kept the rest. This deal also would last until the end of time as long as Kenner paid $10,000 in royalty each year. Whether because of the rushed timeline or another oversight, the deal was struck, and Kenner became the home of Star Wars.
Even though Kenner had an immensely profitable deal, they would not succeed if they could not produce anything within the few months before the Movie debuted. Kenner knew that they could quickly bash together simple puzzles and similar activity toys. However, they also knew that the most profit would be found in action figures. Luckily, Bernie Loomis and the team at Kenner came up with a masterstroke plan to get something in parents’ hands in time for Christmas. While they knew that they could not produce action figures in a few months, they could sell a promise.
The Star Wars Early Bird Certificate Package contained no toys within it. Instead, it contained a cardboard backdrop, a sticker sheet, a club membership card, and the titular certificate. When the certificate was mailed to Kenner, the owners secured the rights to receive the first four Star Wars action figures: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2), and Chewbacca. Amazingly, this promise became the hottest holiday item for 1977 and set Kenner on the map.
After Star Wars became a huge success in both the theaters and the toy aisle, Kenner rose to the top of the toy industry. To keep the momentum going, they continued to produce new lines of Star Wars toys, even ones that popped up after the trilogy concluded. Some of the sublines included the Droids and Ewoks. They even produced a Micro Collection line in 1982 that featured small playsets of the various planets from the movies.
During the time that Kenner was producing Star Wars toys, they licensed the toys to several companies abroad. For instance, those who lived in the Netherlands got their toys from Clipper. Meanwhile, General Mills directly produced the toys in Germany. There was also Glasslite from Germany, Harbert from Italy, and Kader from China. Customers from Mexico obtained Star Wars toys from Lili Ledy. Meccano created the toys for the French market while PBP/POCH created the toys for Spain. There were also Palitoy in the UK, Taltoys in Australia and New Zealand, Top Toys in Argentina, and Yupi in Columbia. Finally, several companies created the toys in Japan, including Popy, Takara, and Tsukuda.
Despite the runaway success of Star Wars, Kenner could not remain on top of the toy industry throughout the 80s. As the trilogy concluded, the Star Wars toys began to wane in popularity, leading to Kenner’s last Star Wars toy line: 1985’s The Power of the Force. Moreover, Kenner became separate from their former parent company, General Mills, in 1985. They then became a part of Tonka in 1987 as the company could not produce enough profits to remain solo. As Tonka fell on hard times, Kenner found a new home at Hasbro in 1991.
As the Star Wars license passed hands, the notice to pay Lucas’s team the $10,000 in royalties was lost. Thus, by the time George Lucas announced the return of Star Wars to movie theaters, in the form of Special Editions and the Prequel trilogy, Hasbro had to negotiate a brand-new contract. Thus, the profitable five percent rate was changed to an 18 percent base rate.
One of the first Star Wars toy lines that Hasbro released, under Kenner’s logo, was the Power of the Force 2 in 1995. This soon transitioned into the brand new The Phantom Menace toys. With each new movie that came out, Hasbro was ready to release yet another toy line. They even made certain to be ready with toys for Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars animated mini-series that aired in 2003.
Furthermore, Star Wars became available for other toy companies also to join in. Thus, LEGO enthusiastically introduced the world to their version of the Jedi conflict from The Phantom Menace in 1999. This partnership became immensely popular, leading to sets based on the original trilogy as well as several LEGO Star Wars video games.
Still, Hasbro remained the true home of Star Wars since they acquired Kenner in the 90s. They created toys for the 3-D animated Clone Wars series, the sequel films, and many other Star Wars side projects. In recent years, Hasbro has entertained collectors when they released the Black Series, 6” toys that featured detailed paint jobs and a high range of articulation.
- Release year: -
- Search All Toys
How to use the Identification Tool to find your action figures and toy lines
Do you have an old-school G1 Transformers toy you are trying to identify? Don’t know the name? No problem! I’ll help you use this identification tool. For example, just type in “jet” in the figure name field and hit search. You’ll see all the Transformers G1 Toys that are jets. Maybe try “car” and select the color “blue” and a list of Transformers matching those results will appear. Maybe you don’t know what the finished vehicle will make, so try searching by “red” only. Did you forget to remove “car”? Now search just the color “red”. Perhaps you know the name, but can’t spell it try “Wheljck” instead of “Wheeljack” and all the Wheeljack characters are listed for you.
We have all the G1 Transformers list of characters in our database. You can search by Transformers name, as well as just line or subgroup. You can identify Transformers that are all red or all the figures that are orange. The Transformers toy list can even be sorted by package type. You can identify which came with a sticker sheet, or which came without instructions. Want to know all the 1984 Transformers toys and none of the others from 1985-1990? No problem, just select the release year from “1984” to “1984”. Perhaps you just want to know the list of G1 Transformers “Autobots”, or just the “Decepticons”, our ID tool can do that.
Mostly we made this so you could see if your action figures were missing some accessories or parts. So you can see that too.
If you need additional help, please Contact Us. If you’re here for Transformers identification because you’re about to sell, note we also buy toys. Thank you for stopping.