Fitz’s Toy Chest: #2 – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Last time on Fitz’s Toy Chest, I shared the story of my very first 3 3/4″ figure. It was not surprisingly from Kenner’s line of Star Wars figures. That figure would prove to be the very tippiest tip of the iceberg.

So, without further ado let’s see what’s in Fitz’s Toy Chest this time…

Obi-Wan Kenobi
Company: Kenner
Acquisition Year: 1978
Acquired via: Purchase, Gacen Drugs
Years In Possession: 40

222-2088-001.jpgIt should come as no surprise to anyone that I’m keeping with the early Kenner Star Wars theme, but there’s another reason why I chose to showcase Obi-Wan this week.

Last time I teased one of my earliest Star Wars memories, something my mom said as we were rifling through the figures for the first of what would be many MANY times over the years.

At that time I’m not sure that I had even seen the film yet, and if I had it was once at the most. It would be years and years until my mom would see the first Star Wars, not until the arrival of VHS in fact. So between the two of us we knew next to nothing about the world of Star Wars, and I can see and hear as clear as if it were yesterday, my mom taking a figure off the peg and lowering it down to me (yes, I was that small at the time) to look at. She said “Oh look at this one! This is Luke Skywalker’s father!”

The figure she had chosen was, you guessed it, Obi-Wan. So close mom. So. SO close.

It was a reasonable assumption, and I’m sure she only made the connection because the old white haired dude had been hanging next to a figure boldly labelled LUKE SKYWALKER, but turns out she wasn’t nearly as far off as I thought at the time.C3PO Card Back

The other thing about some of the old Kenner figures, especially in that first line, was their smell. There were no “soft goods” in those days and instead of cool cloth capes, Obi-Wan, Leia, Vader, the Sandpeople all came with crude vinyl approximations of capes.

When you first cracked open one of those figures you were hit with the smell of those vinyl capes. It was almost like a new car smell. In a way I guess it was the kid version of that. There have been many times over the years where I catch a whiff of a similar plasticky odor (like a fresh shower curtain for example) and I almost get goosebumps. That smell is forever imprinted in my olfactory system.

Sadly, those capes weren’t very durable and after a few years of heavy play they always developed splits around the arm holes that eventually grew until the cape was in tatters and unusable. As you can see my Obi-Wan’s was lost to the ages.

DSC_0222Old Ben was my first experience with the “telescoping” lightsaber feature that Vader and Luke also shared. I remember I used to think it was cool to take the blades out and swap the colors between the three characters. That’s probably why my Obi-Wan has my original Vader’s red lightsaber instead of the proper blue one. Who knows what became of the original. I would always lose the blades and then sometime later they’d turn up again. There were times I remember replacing a missing blade with a round toothpick. Very ghetto, but they worked just fine.

1978/79 would eventually see a second wave of Star Wars figures released. That second wave consisted mostly of brightly dressed cantina creatures and droids. It would be the start of Kenner’s long legacy of putting “blink and you miss them” characters front and center, encouraging kids like me to make them the main protoganists in their own adventures.

Before long I would have the entire line of figures from the first film, and then the wait for Empire would begin…

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Thanks for indulging me for a second time, come back for another installment in 2 weeks! Next time I’ll be switching lanes and sharing something from another line of toys that dominated my childhood and oddly enough led me to a lifelong love of…comics!

 

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Fitz’s Toy Chest: #1 – C-3PO

Before we get started on this new semi-regulary blog feature, I want to take a minute to thank everyone that helped name this blog by voting in the poll we ran a few weeks ago.

Obviously Fitz’s Toy Chest won out over the other (much catchier title Figure Fan with Fitz, man). That name really grew on me and honestly I came THIS close to overturning the vote result to go with that one.

Ultimately we let the vote stand and went with the title that I came up with. Fitz’s Toy Chest may sound generic and cliche, but there is actually a specific reason I wanted to use it.

When I was a kid, long before we had major superstores like Toys R Us (#RIP) the big toy store in our area was called…wait for it…Toy Chest.

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This store was amazeballs and it was my paradise from about age 5 up until about age 12. I can remember the front corner of the building had giant letter blocks going up it, and a kinda like Home Depot has grills and lawn mowers out front this place had swingsets and playhouses lined up along the front along with the obligatory 70s/80s shitty steel swimming pool/animal troughs.

(Side note: This was the exact place that in 1983-ish I would see the Endor Garrison and Speeder Bike swingset. It existed. Look it up.)

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Sometime in the early 80s, the almost equally awesome Children’s Palace opened a location just down the street. This competition from a larger chain store with multiple locations would eventually drive Toy Chest out of business.

And Jesus wept.

The rest of my childhood toy buying days were spent begrudgingly going to Children’s Palace or the taint of toy stores, Kay-Bee. And while Children’s Palace was a mostly acceptable replacement for Toy Chest and I still have many fond memories of going there, nothing can touch the joy that was shopping at Toy Chest.

A good portion of my toy collection came from that store, as well as some big fish that got away (I’m looking at you Superion).

So the name of this feature is a direct homage to that hallowed hall…

And…

Now that I’ve wasted time explaining all that, let’s open Fitz’s Toy Chest and see what’s inside…

C-3PO
Company: Kenner
Acquisition Year: 1978
Acquired via: Purchase, Gacen Drugs
Years In Possession: 40

In 1977 a movie was released that changed movies forever and made such a profound impression on my 3-4 year old brain that I’m still in love with it and everything that has been spawned from it 4 decades later.

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The same monumental change that Star Wars brought to movies, it also brought to movie MERCHANDISING. And out of all the thousands and thousands of different kinds of Star Wars merchandise created and sold over the years, NOTHING could ever compare to the original line of action figures put out by Kenner. These toys were heavy and in a lot of ways crude representations of the beloved characters seen on screen but somehow felt as real to me as any flesh and blood actor.

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They were clunky but full of heart and joy. Kenner produced 100 or so different figures in a surprisingly short 8 year span from 1978 to 1985, never seeming to lose their uncanny ability to create the perfect assortment of characters and vehicles from all 3 films (compare this to the modern Hasbro line that started out as a Kenner reboot in ’95 and is still pumping out uninspired poorly sculpted toys 20 years and 8 movies later).

Of course much of my reverence for these toys comes from the fact that they were so much a part of me for all those formative years. I may very well have felt the same about the new line if I had been born in the early 90s. But I doubt it. There is just something about these figures, from the packaging to the solid heft of them in your hand that make them seem more like pieces of art than just a toy.

In 1978, not long after I had seen the movie for the first time, I got my first action figure. It was one of the original 12 released famously months and months after the initial hurricane of Star Wars mania. And as the title of this post has already spoiled, it was C-3PO.

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I can still remember being in the aisle of one of our two neighborhood drug stores (oddly the other one never got into the toy game) with my mom, watching her rifle through the figures on the peg. I’m not sure I knew what they were or had any interest in them, I’d never really seen toys like that before. “Action Figures”, especially in the 3.75″ scale were unheard of before Star Wars. But my mom was convinced I would love them. She would say “Oh look at this one! Oh how about THIS one!” and lower them down to my level so I could see each one. There’s even one particular statement she made that is forever burned into my brain to this day, but I’ll save that for the next volume of this blog…

Eventually, for no reason in particular, I chose C-3PO. He wasn’t my favorite character in the movie but for some reason I was drawn like a magnet to his gleaming gold finish.

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I still remember taking him home, my own miniature treasure, the first of what would become an army of tiny plastic friends which would see me through childhood, well into adolescence and remain as much a part of me as my own organic appendages into middle age.

That afternoon I laid on the couch, and with no other figures to interact with 3PO, I created a cave out of a pillow and imagined him hanging out in there by himself waiting for his master to show up.

Which he would eventually.

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Thanks for reading guys, I’ll be back to share another piece of my collection and more boring stories that no one but me cares about!