Early in ’83, Kenner updated the backer cards for all their STAR WARS figures with the RETURN OF THE JEDI logo and an offer to receive a free Nien Nunb figure from the upcoming film, still months away.
Around this time, a slip was placed in STAR WARS vehicle and playset toys, hyping the upcoming JEDI line.
Seventeen new figures at once? This would be the most ambitious wave yet.
Weeks before RETURN OF THE JEDI’s theater release, the new figures began appearing in stores.
With the release of JEDI’s first wave, the backer card was updated. However, when the wave first hit, a few weeks before the film’s release, the two Ewok figures were blotted out because they were to be a surprise in the movie.
Also, at first, the Leia in Boushh Disguise figure was labeled just as “Boushh” to preserve that surprise moment in the film when the mysterious bounty hunter turns out to be (spoiler alert) Leia.
I assume Kenner held off on distributing Boushh Disguise Leia and the Ewok figures until after the film came out – otherwise the censoring on the backer cards would have been for nothing.
Here’s the backer card after JEDI was out in theaters – the same as before, but with the Ewoks unblocked.
A few months later, the ads at the bottom were replaced with an offer to receive a free figure of The Emperor. It wasn’t until here that the Leia figure was labeled as being Leia in Disguise.
And here’s the 17 new figures, showcased in the 1983 STAR WARS catalog.
The year ended with STAR WARS toys still being very much in the game, easily coexisting with the other hot toys of the time. But it wouldn’t last much longer.
Early in ’84, the second JEDI wave hit with twelve new figures at once.
The backer card was updated accordingly.
Around this time, the Rebo Band was released as a 3-pack in a box, and never for sale individually. Pictured below, from left to right, we have Droopy McCool, Max Rebo, and Sy Snootles.
Here’s the new figures highlighted in the 1984 STAR WARS catalog.
Toward the end of ’84, a small two-figure wave came in.
The backer card was again updated, adding Paploo and Lumat to the roster, and also gave an offer to receive a free Anakin, before it would be available in stores the following year.
Sadly, in 1984 STAR WARS toy sales plummeted. Not only was G.I.JOE exploding with new heights of popularity, but this was the year that Hasbro introduced the TRANSFORMERS. Both lines were supported by hot selling Marvel comic books and cartoons on television that aired right after school, and kids were going gaga over these toys.
Meanwhile, STAR WARS was starting to feel dated with no new theatrical releases coming anytime soon, if ever. The made-for-television movie, CARAVAN OF COURAGE: AN EWOK ADVENTURE, came out in ’84 but didn’t generate much excitement.
STAR WARS was on the ropes, but Kenner wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.
In ’85 Kenner fired back at Hasbro with three STAR WARS action figure lines. THE POWER OF THE FORCE, DROIDS, and EWOKS.
THE POWER OF THE FORCE was (for the most part) the next wave of RETURN OF THE JEDI figures. This time around, collector coins were included. There were 14 new figures released (in the USA), and here they are.
(I don’t have a coin or backer card for Anakin.)
In addition to these 14, many of the figures from previous years came out with the updated packaging and coins as well. Here’s the updated backer card. Note that R2-D2 with sensor scope is no longer represented, having been replaced by the new R2-D2 with pop-up lightsaber.
The plan had been to eventually release all 92 figures seen on the backer card with the new packaging and coins, but sales tanked so bad that the line was discontinued before this happened.
There was one more THE POWER OF THE FORCE figure that came out internationally, but was never available in the USA, and not pictured on the above backer card. The ultra-rare Yak Face. I don’t have it, but here’s a picture from Mark Bellomo’s vintage STAR WARS guide.
However, Yak Face was pictured on the USA-distributed 1985 STAR WARS catalog.
I suppose Kenner had been planning on releasing Yak Face in the US as a one-figure wave (like Yoda in 1980) but then didn’t bother when sales bombed so bad with this new line. Otherwise, why would they put him in the catalog?
The DROIDS and EWOKS figures were based on animated television shows of the same names. They also included coins, though gold instead of silver.
Besides the above Kea Moll figure, I don’t have anything else in my collection from either line (except for the DROIDS A-Wing Pilot and Boba Fett because they are the exact figures from the main STAR WARS line that were just rereleased with the DROIDS packaging).
Here’s the DROIDS figures, as seen in Mark Bellomo’s guide.
And here’s the figures from EWOKS.
Here’s an online image of the EWOKS packaging:
Due to poor sales, the figures from THE POWER OF THE FORCE, DROIDS, and EWOKS would be short lived, getting discontinued by the end of the year.
As 1986 began, the original STAR WARS action figures were over. Despite the abrupt end, the figures and playsets released during the era of RETURN OF THE JEDI are still a lot of fun today.
Kenner’s 1977-1985 take on STAR WARS remains one of the most influential and beloved toy lines of all time.
Thank you for reading.
Next time we’ll take a look at the relaunch of STAR WARS figures in 1995, after a decade of famine.