Posted by Adam on April 22, 2019 at 12:30 AM CST
Saturday's panels at Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 had a heavy vintage focus, featuring Toltoys from Australia, Palitoy from the UK as well as Prototypes and Kenner Concept Models and the Toys That Made Us!

Toltoys: An Australian Star Wars Story
Presenters: Brody Walker, Ben Sheehan, Mark Salotti

When Star Wars landed down under in 1978, Australia, with a population of 14.4M, received less than 1% of the figures received in the US, which numbered 222.6M.

Toltoys handled distribution across South East Asia and Australasia, alongside Kenner, KennerCanada and even some Palitoy product, and the first five figures which were released on Toltoys 12-backs from Taiwan were Darth Vader along with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Chewbacca and R2-D2 as featured in the Early Bird kit. This was followed by Han Solo, See-Threepio (C-3PO), Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, Stormtrooper, Death Squad Commander and Tusken Raider, meaning that Australia never received the Jawa on a 12-back! The cloth-caped Jawa and cantina aliens were shipped on 20-backs from Hong Kong along with the first 11 figures.

There were differences, anomalies and errors on the cardbacks, and images of these were shown, including changes to the measurements which showed the imperial system in print, then with a sticker showing the metric measurements and subsequently the same measurements in print, while some also had the imperial measurements completely blacked-out. Australia received A & B versions of the 20-back and on one of the Taiwan cardbacks, a typo that showed Toltotys (sic).

In addition to action figures, among the other items that came with a Toltoys logo were playsets, vehicles and games, including the cardboard version of the Death Star, Luke's Landspeeder, Han's Laser Pistol, the Stormtrooper Laser Rifle, die-cast vehicles, board games and a projector. Large-size figures were also released with Princess Leia Organa, Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker all being released on a Star Wars card with the Toltoys logo, while Chewbacca and Vader were released with Empire-branded packaging.

A difference between the Australian Survival Kit Offer from The Empire Strikes Back and the one found in the U.S. was that the labeling referred to it as a Special Offer in the former, and free in the States. Furthermore, only Yoda shipped during the Survival Kit offers, on cards with no sunburst special offer text on the front.

When it came to the Australian The Empire Strikes Back Display Arena offer, dimensions for the Australian offer were metric vs the US imperial measurement, and the Display Arena also sold at retail on a limited basis, in a plain brown mailer box, while The Empire Strikes Back 4-LOM offer appeared both printed and also as a sticker on cards and was exclusive to Australia, when it was applied to remaining stock at the end of the Empire-line. Once the The Empire Strikes Back Display Arena mail-away offer expired in Australia, it was offered as a two-pack, glued back-to-back with the figures. The expire sticker came on both the U.S. and Australia-address cards, while even the Australian offers came with "Not Available in Australia" stickers. Items released as part of the line-up for The Empire Strikes Back that were initially unavailable down under were the AT-ST, the Battle-Damaged X-wing and the Rebel Transport.

Walton's, which was a chain of stores in Australia, sold the Landspeeder, Dewback, Imperial Attack Base, Tauntaun and Wampa with a Special Offer sticker added to the packaging. Mail-away offers featured on the Micro Collection sets came in 2 versions with different stickers, while not all of the Micro Collection sets which available.

The vinyl-cape Jawa that came on an Empire-card featured a darker cape than that of its U.S. counterpart, and it was also common for the figure to suffer from faded limbs and dis-colouration, as well as only being found on the 41-back Empire card.

When it came to Return of the Jedi and the Nien Nunb offer, Australia received an additional 17 figures compared to the 48 that were available in the U.S. on Return of the Jedi cardbacks showing the offer. Lando Calrissian (Skiff Guard Disguise), Squid Head and Luke Skywalker (Jedi Knight Outfit) were released with a "Revenge of the Jedi" offer, and a sticker covering it to correct the title. Strangely enough, Nien Nunb was one of the additional 17 figures that featured the offer!

Another difference with the U.S. was in relation to the Power of the Force (POTF) coins, such that instead of being a mail-away offer, the coins were typically available in Ma & Pa stores, and involved a lucky dip to pick out the coin. 16 coins were available this way, with 33 in total being released in Australia, and stores received stickers and coins in Trivial Pursuit boxes!

Ultimately, Australia became a dumping ground for the remaining POTF figures, and while Nikto, AT-AT Driver and Gamorrean Guard were exclusive to Australia, they were packaged with Warok coins! The Anakin Skywalker figure offer was not available in Australia, and instead the country received 70,000 of the figures which were then sold for 99 cents.

Yak Face was the 93rd figure in a 92-figure line-up and there were 96,000 sold in Australia for 99 cents at Toy World, with Toltoys sending Yak Face due to stock shortages, while the Hong Kong warehouse had an overstock, which led a sharp-minded collector to swap hundreds of Yak Faces for Meccano carded Jawas! The Hong Kong warehouses dump also yielded numerous carded prototype figures, with the most common being a first-shot Rebel Commando and unpainted Bib Fortuna on The Empire Strikes Back Lando Calrissian cards. A pink poncho Leia was even sold at retail and has been found with a "Venture" price stickers and among the other prototypes found were bubble test early productions of Nikto on a Walrus Man card and Snaggletooth on a Yoda card.

Another thing that was unique to Australia were the Benson's show bags, offered at Royal Shows around the country that included 4 carded-figures and one baggie. After its run, much of the remaining stock was purchased by Wynnum battery store, a gas station and repair shop in Queensland.

New Zealand card sizes were smaller than Kenner 20-backs, while the 31-backs for The Empire Strikes Back were bigger and featured crudely pressed and oversize bubbles, and The Empire Strikes Back 48-backs came from Toltoys New Zealand.

New Zealand boxed pieces included the Landspeeder, cardboard Death Star, the Creature Cantina with The Empire Strikes Back packaging, Droid Factory, Land of the Jawas and Imperial Attack Base that was the only item in the line to feature a very colourful Toltoys logo on a sticker.

The presentation also included a section on Australian ice creams, with Streets cut-outs, Paul's Admiral Ackbar offer, Peter's Return of the Jedi competition, while Kelloggs and Nabisco cereals included a poster offer and a decoder game, as well as masks from The Empire Strikes Back.

Among the other Australian rarities were those from fast-food establishments, including Coca-Cola cups from The Empire Strikes Back that were available at McDonalds, while Hungry Jacks, which is the name for Burger King down under, offered Return of the Jedi glasses, and rounding out the list was a Gamorrean Guard bank, an electronic toothbrush from Toltoys, and a General Electric R2-D2 & Revenge of the Jedi promotion.

Attendees to this panel received the Rebel Fleet Trooper Star Tot.


Star Wars Prototypes and Unreleased Toys
Presenters: Gus Lopez, Will Grief, Mattias Rendahl

Starting with a quick overview, the panel was broken down into a section on Kenner that would include figures, vehicles, Micro Collection, coins and other items, a section on other Star Wars collectibles and then finally a look at collecting strategies.

Among the items covered were the Kenner Early Bird Certificate display, a Boba Fett mail-away, a toy shop ad showing wax sculpts circa 1995 and kit-bashed figures from Kenner photography, including Boba Fett, that was pictured in a display case tray. Also discussed were an electronic R2-D2 and Princess Leia Organa in Boushh disguise with a rocket-mounted backpack, as well as hand-drawn cardboard mock-ups showing Weequay and Gamorrean Guard that were used by Palitoy at the UK Toy Fair.

Next up was a Darth Vader figure design drawing that was sent to a contract sculptor, followed by blueprints of the Luke figure design and an original wax sculpt of Chewbacca. In a similar vein, photographs were shown of wax molds and metal armature and a sculptor at his work bench refining the unreleased Admiral Screed from the Droids line, as well as the silicon mold of the Wicket figure from Ewoks. The section continued with photographs showing a Luke in Jedi "robes" hard copy, which had been painted over with grey primer prior to the detailed painting, and then a proto-molded Morag figure, that was intended to be included in the Ewoks line, but was ultimately never released.

Many a collector's holy grail, first-shots of the rocket-firing Boba Fett were then shown, including an unpainted L-slot and painted J-slot, before moving onto photographs of a Luke Skywalker first-shot, a first-shot of Double-Telescoping Lightsabers still on the sprue, and a first-shot of another unreleased figure from the Droids line, Mungo Baobob.

Packaging Design was the next topic covered, with photographs of the very first original sketch for Kenner's line of Star Wars figures being shown, as well as conceptual artwork using a star background, more conceptual photographs, conceptual mock-ups and design elements, along with the 12-back artwork for Luke's lightsaber and the Landspeeder. Sticking with packaging design, photographs were shown of some of the original photo art for the cardbacks, including an error whereby Logray's picture was shown on a Chief Chirpa cardback. The packaging design steps were discussed, with photographs shown of original artwork for the Mungo Baobob figure mentioned above as well as a paste-up board, a blue line copy and 2-card cromalin alongside that of another figure, Gaff. Following that were photographs of an uncut four-card proof sheet from POTF, Revenge of the Jedi mock-ups, unproduced POTF mock-ups of Lando, Greedo, Bossk, Pruneface and Cloud Car Pilot, a 'charcoal' Anakin first-shot that was carded and finally a sample on a Return of the Jedi 8D8 card.

For Kenner vehicles, first up were photographs showing concept art and kit-bashed models of the Security Scout and a wood pattern of the Jawa Sandcrawler. Sticking with wood patterns, photographs were then shown of a die-cast X-wing, which is about 8x the actual scale, as well as a Star Destroyer from the same line which was approximately 2x the scale, along with the Return of the Jedi B-wing. Shown next were acetate sculpts and molds of Luke and C-3PO for the die-cast Landspeeder, which was then followed by box artwork for the Droids A-wing, and more artwork for the Security Scout, in the form of photo art and proofs, and also box art for an unreleased POTF X-wing. Moving onto the Micro Collection, photographs were shown of some prototypes, including acetate sculpts, 4-ups, molds, hard copies and paint masters, and these were then followed by POTF coin prototypes including the coin album, a mock-up card and a prototype album featuring the 63rd coin. The panel concluded with photographs of prototypes of unreleased large-scale figures that featured Han Solo (Hoth), Bespin Luke and Leia, Lando, that included an incredible head-sculpt, C-3PO 12" action figure hard copies and finally Rumph Mug prototypes of Chewbacca and Obi-Wan as well as unproduced Yoda and R2-D2 mugs.

Gargan was the Star Tot given out at the end of this panel.


The Effect and Influence of the Palitoy Company on Star Wars Toys
Presenters: Dave Tree

Palitoy was responsible for the manufacturing and distributing of Star Wars toys in the UK. Dave spoke briefly on the history of the company, beginning with Alfred Pallett who made toys under the name of Caselloid, before they were purchased by General Mills in 1968 and subsequently amalgamated, along with other companies to form the Palitoy Co. In 1983, Palitoy owned 15% of the toy market in the UK, including Star Wars, Action Man and Action Force. In the late 70s, the UK toy retail landscape was very different to the U.S., having just one TV channel to support commercials, while comics were produced weekly instead of monthly and the majority of toy retailers in the country were independent, single stores. Ahead of the release of Star Wars, commitment from retailers was slow, such that Palitoy recognised that cost engineering was needed to reduce the wholesale price for the purpose of encouraging retailers. Among those changes were the stripping-out of electronics that provided light and sound in the X-wing, substituting plastic injection molding for vac-forming bases in the creature cantina and droid factory and reducing the part count in the Landspeeder. Furthermore, the range of items made available was reduced based on the price point, while at the same time, new products were created to fulfill the range gaps, such as the cardboard Death Star which featured in Palitoy's first toy commercial that was then played.

Comics became the default advertising platform, with mutiple titles being released each week featuring adverts created by artist Brian Bolland, including the promotion for Boba Fett as the first mailaway figure that Palitoy offered. Dave commented on the fact that it was actually a repainted large-scale Boba Fett made to look like the 3.75" figure that appeared in the television commercial, something that the broadcasting standards authority would undoubtedly object to in this day and age! A similar promotion for Dengar appeared in both comics and also in package, and in an effort to leverage the direct to consumer channel, Palitoy created the Bounty Hunter Capture Log.

At the same time that there was more product, more product support and more marketing, due to restructuring, there was also a lot of redundancies. Sales of other Palitoy products were in decline, most notably Action Man, resulting in Palitoy launching Action Force, which shared the same shelf space, marketing and Star Wars parts, including figures packed with Star Wars' weapons! By the time of Return of the Jedi, sales of Star Wars toys had hit 50m, and then following further restructuring at General Mills, the decision was made for Star Wars toys to share common packaging across European territories. This resulted in more vanilla promotional material that was more in line with Kenner marketing, although there was a Darth Vader tour, which was a UK-led marketing program. There was also the Return of the Jedi Command Satellite, which was an expensive interactive touring display that played television commercials and had toy displays inside. As a result of no further Star Wars toys, Palitoy collapsed in 1986 and was sold to Tonka, and in 2017, Leicestershire County Council installed a heritage plaque in Coalville, in recognition of the company's contribution to the area.

The Star Tot handed out to attendees of this panel was the Sandtrooper.


Kenner: From Concept Model to Collectible
Presenters: Chris Georgoulias, Jim Swearingen

Many attendees of the Collecting Track panels will be familiar with Kenner legend Jim Swearingen, who worked at the company from 1972 - 1992 and was pictured making a Star Wars presentation to Jerry Springer in 1978, who was Cincinnati mayor at the time.

Beginning with concept models, Chris and Jim showed photographs and discussed the preliminary/early concepting phase, how the models were created to show a basic idea, being made from scratch-built parts, kit-bashed from model kits and other toy parts or a combination of both, typically for toy catalogs.

Photographs were shown of the 9 figures that were originally proposed, both as hand-drawn concepts and then as concept models, with the Tusken Raider, Jawa and Death Squad Commander later being added to make-up the first 12 figures. The kit-based figures were created using Fisher-Price's Adventure People, and photographs were put up to show how Dick from the Mountain Climbers' set was used for Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, Rescue Team Susan for Princess Leia Organa, Chewbacca was originally the Bionic Big Foot from the Six Million Dollar Man's Dual Launch Drag Set, while bondo was used to sculpt the Stormtrooper's helmet, R2-D2 was completely kit-bashed and C-3PO was still a cardboard drawing. The photographs also highlighted different approaches for the lightsabers, including a monofilament line that used an internal spool and a plastic rod hidden in the arm. Starting with the original 9, the number jumped to 11 with the addition of the Tusken Raider and Jawa, after which the Death Squad Commander was later added.

Taking a closer view of the Death Squad Commander, photographs showed how it initially looked more like a Shadow Stormtrooper, before being switched-out with a cardboard drawing more in line with the figures final look, while a black Stormtrooper was used in a TIE Fighter concept TV commercial. An early in-house display showed the familiar Death Squad Commander graphic, albeit the Shadow Stormtrooper was still used as the concept model, before an artistic represenation of the final assortment was shown followed by the final product.

The next set of photographs showed 8 figures that were either kit-bashed or actual hard copies, including Luke (X-wing pilot) who was based on a Fisher-Price figure, the Death Star Droid that had a praying mantis head from AMT's Gigantics Colossal Mantis Diorama on C-3PO's body, while Power Droid and R5-D4 were kit-bashed by the model shop. The photos also showed that Walrus Man originally had an orange top and brown pants. Next up was Boba Fett, whom Kenner employees first met at Skywalker Ranch, and photographs were shown of their kit-bashed version which comprised C-3PO's torso, the legs from a Death Squad Commander, arms from a Stormtrooper, while the rocket pack used the arm from Mattel's Shogun Warrior. Over time, the progression of the figure resulted in the removal of the cape, colours and other features, including changing from a button to a J-slot for the rocket-firing feature. Another kit-bashed set was that of Chewbacca's family from 1978's Star Wars Holiday Special, photographs of which were also shown in the previous day's panel that looked at the much-maligned TV spin-off. Again using Fisher-Price Adventure People, Lumpy was created from the Johnny figure from the Wild Animal Safari set.

Following on from that were photographs of an in-house display of the Early Bird Kit and a mock-up of the Action Display stand, as well as the Cantina Adventure Set with cardboard characters, none of which were blue Snaggletooth. A slew of photographs then showed an early version of the Creature Cantina, Land of the Jawas cardboard cut-out featuring the early Power Droid and R5-D4 figures shown previously, an early Droid Factory using model kits to show the idea, the Death Star Space Station and an early version of the Patrol Dewback with sculpted legs. There were yet more photographs, among them an early version of the X-wing model that included buttons from Radio Shack, a very plain TIE fighter without accents on the panels, Luke's Landspeeder and Sonic Landspeeder, where the original artwork was closer to the actual design, Darth Vader's TIE fighter, which was a painted white TIE fighter with new wings added, and also the radio-controller Jawa Sandcrawler. Another Kenner/Hasbro legend got a mention, when a photograph of Mark Boudreaux's Millennium Falcon was shown, as was an early version of the Imperial Troop Transport with its very angular design and an X-wing engine on top and black-painted R2-D2 with cut-down legs to fit in the front.

Die-cast vehicles were next, with photographs of a TIE Fighter and X-wing, Y-Wing, Star Destroyer and Millennium Falcon, before moving onto large-size figures, with Luke and Leia using existing dolls. Bionic Big Foot once again served as the basis for Chewbacca, while the Parker Stevenson Hardy Boys' doll became not only Han Solo and Obi-Wan, but also rather shockingly, the same doll was repainted to represent the ultimately unproduced Lando.

Design sketches of Boba Fett by Joe Johnston were shown next, followed by the large size figure of the popular bounty hunter, and then an unproduced R2-D2 with projector, which was eventually turned into a radio-controlled version. Plush toys, inflatable lightsabers and the 3-position laser rifle and Han's laster pistol came next, before taking a look at a rendering of a Play Doh action set, an Electronic Laser Battle Game, an X-wing Aces Game that was repurposed from an earlier World-War version and a Movie Viewer. It was fitting that the final slide of the presentation was of the unproduced Star Tots line, with four actual figures based on the Tree Tot line being developed, from a planned total of 10 figures that omitted the Tusken Raider and Death Squad Commander from the regular 3 3/4" line, along with an X-wing and Luke's Landspeeder.

Attendees of this panel received the Darth Vader (Unmasked) Star Tot.


The Toys That Made Us: Star Wars Part 2
Presenters: Brian Volk-Weiss, Rich Mayerik, Billy Galaxy

As many action figure collector are aware, before POTF2, there were Bend-Ems and then interest in Star Wars was re-ignited following the release of the Laser-Disc and the VHS re-release of the original trilogy.

When the marketing began for the new POTF2 figures, there was an adverse reaction to the bulked-up design that was inspired by the GI Joe and Spawn figures of the time, along with the "Monkey Leia" and the multitude of inexplicable variants such as short-sabers in long trays and holofoils. Nevertheless, the line did mean more film characters, such as Admiral Piett and General Veers as well as more accurate costumes, and the presentation included a Fruit Loops commercial for the Han Solo in Stormtrooper Disguise mail-away offer.

A changing toy landscape led to the dawn of the "Collector Age", with multiple publications such as ToyFare, Tomart's Encyclopedia & Price Guide to Action Figure Collectibles and Lee's Action Figure News & Toy Review having a heavy focus towards Star Wars toys. Furthermore, many collectors developed Star Wars figure fever, getting into the habit of regularly hitting every Toys "R" Us, Wal-Mart and Target within their vicinity, as well as no longer opening their toys, all of which was accompanied by the rise of eBay and online toy dealers.

Along with photographs of many of the figures from the line, both carded and loose as well as some of the variations and mail-aways, images were also shown of the marketing for the Power F/X X-wing from the POTF2 line as well as the Expanded Universe and Shadows of the Empire.

The Star Tot handed-out to attendees of this panel was Luke Skywalker (Tatooine Poncho).


Check out the audio for these panels at the Collecting Track's - Celebration Chicago 2019 YouTube channel, with video to follow.
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