Star Wars merchandising is infamous for making a toy out of almost everything in the movies and beyond. That fervor is something we’ll be seeing again next month, when new toys for The Force Awakens come out. But not every Star Wars toy planned has actually been released! Here are nine that never saw the light of day.
I’m just going to start off with perhaps the most famous unreleased Star Wars action figure ever—in fact, probably the most famous Star Wars figure ever, full stop. Shortly after making his animated debut in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Kenner planned to tease their upcoming line of figures based on The Empire Strikes back with a new mail-away offer: fans could purchase four figures and send proof to the company to get a Boba Fett action figure that could launch a plastic rocket out of his jetpack.
But shortly after the promotion began, a rash of health-and-safety issues with projectiles in toys swept across the U.S., as kids accidentally shot plastic toys into their mouths and eyes, as kids are wont to do. Fearing a scandal over the Boba Fett Figure could damage the Star Wars brand, Kenner hastily reworked their “Rocket Firing” Fett and glued the plastic projectile in place. Early figures sent out were packaged with an apology that the firing feature wasn’t included, and while the company long maintained a single firing Fett never made it into the wild, several have since appeared for auction and in collections as highly valuable items.
Speaking of the Holiday Special, Kenner planned on running a short line of figures based on the new additions to the Star Wars cast from the show to capitalize on the Star Wars boom. When the special turned out to be an unmitigated disaster despised by Lucas, its cast, and audiences alike, the plan was quickly nixed. All that remains of the planned line are prototypes for a set of figures based on Chewbacca’s family that appeared in the special, featuring Chewie, his wife Malla, his terribly named father Itchy, and Chewbacca’s even more terribly named son Lumpy.
Years before the ‘90s brought about the Star Wars Micro Machines line (a line set to return for The Force Awakens), Kenner had its own series of miniature playlists in the Micro Collection. The series was created as a way to produce large-scale playsets for a smaller cost—rising plastic prices over the ‘70s and ‘80s saw toy companies scaling down from the then-traditional 8-inch and 12-inch scales, part of which saw the rise of the 3.75-inch figure spearheaded by Kenner with Star Wars.
Although several playsets were released in the Micro Collection, the line was cut short due to underwhelming sales (and a fear that said sales would eat into the money being made by the 3.75” figures). Unmade sets included an Hoth Bacta Tank, an extension to the released Death Star to add the Throne Room from Return of the Jedi, and Yoda’s hut on Dagobah, which all made it to concept and prototype stages before being cancelled.
Star Wars is infamous for making action figures out of even the most minor characters—even background characters seen for mere seconds in the films. One of which is Yarna d’al’ Gargan, a.k.a. Jabba’s six-breasted-dancer in Return of the Jedi.
The “six-breasted” bit is likely why Kenner ended up canceling a planned Gargan figure in their Jedi range: higher ups thought that such a buxom alien was a bit much for the young audience, and she was ultimately scrapped. Happily, Yarna got her day decades later with an entry in Hasbro’s “Legacy Collection” (seen above-right), singlehandedly proving that Star Wars figures are less for kids and more for collectors these days.
Like the Micro Collection, these small-scale single manned vehicles were designed to combat higher plastic costs, as well as produce vehicles that children could buy instead of the pricey sets based on Star Wars’ familiar, larger-sized ships—like X-Wings, TIE Fighters and so on. Kenner designed the vehicles in the mini-rig line themselves, as they had no basis in the movies, and dubbed them as vehicles that were “seen just off-screen”, making them some of the first “expanded universe” Star Wars items years before the official EU began.
They were highly popular during the later stages of the Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back lines due to their low price, but eventually fizzled out without a solid connection to the films,leaving a bevy of unmade mini-rigs in limbo, including the above prototype for a small starfighter that slotted in-between the front “mandibles” of the Millennium Falcon.
When Kenner first got the Star Wars license in the late ‘70s, they had a hugely successful line of playschool toys called the Tree Tots: small, cutesy unarticulated vinyl figures designed for very young children depicting animals and human characters. With the planned action figure line squarely aimed at pre-teen boys, Kenner wanted something for younger kids to play with too, and so they developed a line of similar Star Wars vinyls, dubbed Star Tots.
For reasons unknown, the figures themselves never made it to market—and neither did a planned series of vehicles including an X-Wing and Luke’s landspeeder. However the designs themselves would reappear during 2012’s Star Wars Celebration VI, where they were revamped as Pin Badges and sold as exclusives at the convention.
When Star Wars first released, no one expected it to become a global phenomenon. By the time of the prequels however, people knew that Star Wars was a hit: and that meant there was a crazy amount of merchandise planned for the launch of The Phantom Menace.
A few years ago on his blog Toy Otter, former toy designer Jason Geyer revealed a huge amount of planned, but never made, pieces of merchandise that he helped pitch during the monumental push for Phantom Menace toys, including some specially designed for the film’s huge partnership with Pepsi. There’s a lot to love, from weird things like a Dagobah pencil sharpener or an inflatable version of the Emperor’s throne, but some of the weirdest are this trio of hand puppets, based on Jar Jar, Jabba and the Space Slug from ESB. Each would’ve had sound chips to play clips of dialogue when you inserted your hand. The Space Slug even had a little Millennium Falcon to fly out of its mouth!
By the mid-1980s, Star Wars was seemingly in its twilight, and so was the merchandise. With no new films after Jedi to sustain the monstrous sales of action figures, Kenner began winding down production. But a brief respite came when Lucasfilm put out two short-lived animated cartoons series: Droids, following the adventures of C-3PO and R2-D2 before A New Hope, and Ewoks, following the Ewok village and their tribulations after the Battle of Endor.
Kenner hastily drew up plans for figures based on each series, but both shows were cancelled before a second wave for each line could be released. Prototypes for each wave were made however, and have slowly made their way into collectors’ hands over the years.
The Droids and Ewoks figures were ultimately the last hurrah for Kenner’s Star Wars line, which came to a final end in 1985. But if Kenner had had their way, we could’ve had a whole new Star Wars saga in toy form: an expanded universe beyond Return of the Jedi, five years before the hit novel Heir to the Empire was released.
In 1986, Kenner pitched a whole new line of Star Wars figures to Lucasfilm, all tied together by a brand new story that would’ve followed the end of ROTJ. Dubbed The Epic Continues, the story would have seen Luke Skywalker and Han Solo fighting off the Imperial Remnant as well as the sinister Atha Prime: The geneticist who started the Clone Wars, and his army of Clone Warriors (top center). Luke and Han would’ve gotten new looks—including a Luke in “Jedi Knight Armor”—while classic vehicles were given new paint jobs and tweaked looks. New aliens would’ve been created too, including the hilariously named “Mongo Beefheads” (top left), an alien tribe from Tatooine who joined forces with the Rebel Alliance.
The project never made it far beyond Kenner’s original pitch; Lucasfilm hastily nixed the idea, as they were already considering plans of their own to continue the franchise beyond the film trilogy. All that remains of The Epic Continues is a scan of the original pitch document from Kenner, available to read online here, and several prototype figures including a Mongo Beefhead, an Imperial Attack Droid, and even an “AT-IC”, an AT-AT walker with a giant gun taking up half of its body.