Posted by Curto on June 17, 2007 at 07:23 PM CST
Collector Panel: Recycled Toys
Friday, May 25, 10:00am
Ron Salvatore
Todd Chamberlain
Isaac Lew

What is a recycled product?
An item that is released as part of one line and then made over for release as part of another. For example, a 1979 Butch and Sundance horse was recycled as a 1982 Indiana Jones horse.

Why recycle?
Ability to re-use design and tooling for a quick turn-around time (which can take up to a year) and saves cost (the cost of steel tooling alone is enormous). Movie licensing is especially risky, since movies themselves are in the public eye for only a short period, and it is hard to predict success. As a result, most of the recycled toys are tied to movies.

Why are Recycled items interesting?
Spotting these items can be like finding easter eggs. Like delving into Kenner's dirty secrets. Some of the rarest and oddest items were recyled. They provide insight into the economics of the toy industry and the process behind creating a toy.

Star Wars years
Kenner relied most heavily on recycled Star Wars product during the late 1970's A tremendous push at that time to ger Star Wars product to market. Consequently a lot of older products found themselves rebranded as Star Wars toys.

Dip Dots, Play-Doh, and Give-a-Show items were a natural for Kenner to turn into Star Wars versions, hitting the market rather quickly.

Six Million Dollar Man toothbrush had clear plastic allowing one to see the "bionic" interior. This was turned into a Lightsaber toothbrush, which was carried on into the ROTJ and EWOKS lines. The electric toothbrushes had many years of success, beginning with the Snoopy in the 1970's.

Another Six Million Dollar Man toy was the CB Headset Radio Receiver was turned into the Luke Skywalker AM Headset Radio.

Custom vans were very popular in the 1970s, and funky graphics were replaced with images of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. However, Kenner did not invent this concept...people really did have Star Wars vans!

Aerial Ace target game used radio technology to mimic an arcade experience. The bi-planes were replaced with X-Wings and X-Wing Aces was born! Companies can turned large, expensive, low-selling toys without much worry.

Dusty was a sporty Kenner doll in the late '70s whose body was meant to be a teenage girl. This was perfect for a Princess Leia doll, only the arms needed to be changed. Luke's 12" grappling hook was originally from Steve Scout.

International Velvet had a doll of Tatum O'Neal, whose boots were used for 12" Han Solo. Had the 12" line continued, there would have been even more recycled parts.

Kenner Canada's utility belt/walkie-talkie was adapted from a similar Batman toy.

The Empire Strikes Back years
By the time The Empire Strikes Back came out, Kenner was fully prepared, beginning development in the late '70s and ready with a full product line by May of 1980. Little was recycled into the Star Wars range, however a couple items were adapted into other toy line.

The Creature Catina was turned into The Real West Cafe playset with darker plastic, a new backdrop, western themed decals, and swinging doors.

The 12-figure mail-away display stand was given a new backdrop, black plastic, more rotating platforms and released in the Glamour Gals line.

Return of the Jedi and afterwards
By May of 1983 the Star Wars line was the 800-pound gorilla for Kenner, with nothing being recycled into the line. Instead, Kenner used many Star Wars concepts as inspiration for other toy lines.

12" Han Solo was turned into a 12" Indiana Jones doll, where all of the accessories and clothing were easy to produce.

The Tree Tots Treehouse was one of Kenner's most popular was a treehouse combined with a 1970s apartment. This was the inspiration for the Ewoks Family Hut. Not a true recycled item, but close enough.
The chunky Tree Tots figures were the inspiration for the unreleased Star Tots line...which eventually was used as the preshool Ewoks line.

The 3-Position Laser Rifle was adapted to a Batman Sonic Neutralizer, and was repainted several times since...although the stock was dropped.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was quickly produced by Kenner since the film was popular. Most of the line was recycled. Many of the ROTJ and Ewoks playsets were adapted to Robin Hood. The figures themselves were adapted from Super Powers figures (and a few Star Wars figures as well), with soft goods covering up the inaccurate sculpts.

Coming full circle, when Star Wars was relaunched in 1995, many of the vehicles still used the old Kenner molds, some with slight changes. A practice that still continues to this day.