Most people I know seem glad that they lived through their childhood at the time that they did. Star Wars has been a part of many peoples childhoods, and even today it is still a huge part of many kids lives throughout the world. I’ve spoken to people who were kids back in the seventies and eighties, who remember the magic of going to see Star Wars in ’77, The Empire Strikes Back in ’80, and Return of the Jedi in ’83. With the release of each film came a barrage of awesome merchandise, Star Wars breakfast cereal, bed sheets, tooth brushes, stationary, bubble bath, comics, and arguably the most important- action figures!
The original Star Wars figures have become iconic in their own right, and I’ve heard from some people how they were introduced to the Star Wars franchise through the popularity of the toys, perhaps being too young to go to and see the first two movies when they came out, but playing with the toys in the playground making them want to go and see Return of the Jedi in 1983.
Anyway, Star Wars was big stuff at the movies and in the toy aisles, and come the ’90s when there was talk of the Star Wars Trilogy being re-released as a special edition, obviously there was hype for new toys. Despite being a child of the ’90s, I didn’t really own a great deal of modern Star Wars toys, most of my finds being the older toys found at carboot sales and flea markets, so I can’t speak nostalgically about the ’90s toyline, though I can appreciate some of the figures. And then there are some that were released that really begs the question, what were the designers thinking? So here are five ’90s Star Wars figures which are a bit weird, or poorly thought out!
1) Tusken Raider that can’t hold his weapon
Tusken Raiders are one of my favourite aliens in the Star Wars saga. Savage, nomadic desert dwellers that wield sharp axe-like weapons called gaffi sticks, they attack Luke Skywalker in the original movie and knock him unconscious.
The original toyline had a pretty decent Tusken Raider figure, complete with a vinyl plastic cape. It was a perfectly good representation of the on-screen Tusken Raider (or just Sand People as they were then known) but with the more modern sculpting techniques of the ’90s, a more impressive Tusken Raider was inevitably going to be released. Sure enough, a Tusken Raider was part of the lineup, coming equipped with a gaffi stick. The real downside was that designers didn’t think about how the gaffi stick was meant to go in the hand of the Tusken, with one hand not being intended to hold anything and the other being moulded closed so he couldn’t properly hold it.
It didn’t take long before Kenner released a version of the figure with an ‘open’ hand which allowed him to actually grasp his accessory, but there must have been a few kids out there that were disappointed at the Tusken not being able to properly do battle, because his accessory wouldn’t fit in his hand.
It’s not the biggest mistake in the world, but whenever I think of a Tusken Raider, I think of the still image of the one that attacks Luke, with his gaffi stick raised above his head so it’s a pretty silly error to release a figure that can’t even come close to re-enacting the scene from the movie.
2) Ripped Luke Skywalker
I kind of understand this idea behind one but it still doesn’t make it okay.
So back in the ’90s, toy aisles were full of a variety of action figures. Superheroes were a pretty big thing back then with hugely popular X-men and Spider-man cartoons, so the question was raised, were kids going to really want this?
When they could be playing with something all savage, ripped and muscular like this?
So the idea was simple really, make Luke Skywalker and his pals have physical proportions of superheroes so kids wouldn’t be more inclined to pick up an X-men figure over a Star Wars figure. Whether kids actually bought their toys based on how muscular the character was, I don’t know, but I certainly didn’t. Regardless, the end result was this musclebound mess of Luke Skywalker who looks more like he is being played by Dolph Lundgren instead of Mark Hamill.
It’s not terrible but it’s far from great, and the fact he could barely fit inside his X-wing ship due to his posture and physique must have been a bummer to some kids. Of all the overly ripped ’90s Star Wars figures, this isn’t the worst, that one is still to come!
3) Monkey Face Princess Leia
Princess Leia was a lot of guys first crush. She was feisty, pretty and tough, not necessarily attributes you would have usually associated with Princesses prior to Star Wars. But in 1995, Kenner decided to release a very ugly version of Leia that couldn’t look less like Carrie Fisher.
Ugh, just look at those dead eyes. Even back in the day, this figure was regarded as ugly as hell and it would be another three years until they released a figure that looked a little more reminiscent of Leia.
Leia is also pretty muscular though not as obviously so as Luke. I don’t think these photos really do any justice in showing how horrible this version of Princess Leia is. Thankfully Habsro/Kenner sorted their shit and improved on the sculpts of their figures over the next couple of years after this figure was released, and thankfully so as this is undoubtedly one of the worst looking Star Wars figures released.
4) The weaponized R5D4
Okay, this one is not so much a bad figure, but it does take a whole ton of artistic license with the onscreen character.
R5D4 appears for about about thirty seconds in Star Wars. When Luke and Uncle Owen are buying some droids from the Jawas, Owen initially agrees to buy R5D4 but it breaks, so he buys R2D2 instead.
R5 looks very similar to R2D2 but with a different head. At first glance, the toy version of R5D4 looks quite like the onscreen R5D4.
If you look carefully you will see R5 has some sticky out grey bits on his legs. Unfolded they turn into a pair of cannons!
It’s a damn weird feature but I really dig it. I know R2D2 has his little electric shooter thing that he zaps Salacious Crumb with, so why not stick a pair of cannons on R5D4? Or why not just turn him into a missile launcher? Well they did that.
Pushing down on a small button makes his whole body pop open, with a yellow missile inside that can be fired. It’s so weird but I love it, and I really like the black and yellow detailing of the gadgetry inside the droid.
Of all the questionable ideas in this short list of Star Wars figures, I think this one actually works the best though it is undeniably crazy. Anyway, on to the final figure!
5) Lando ‘Roid’rissian
Remember Lando in The Empire Strikes Back? Where he gets threatened for talking back to Vader?
Perhaps it would have gone differently if Lando had a bit more of an intimidating presence? If he actually looked like he could stand toe to toe with Vader? Well luckily, Hasbro/Kenner allowed kids to find out when they released this incarnation of Lando.
Just look at him! He looks like he could rip Vader in two! The Luke figure looked bad enough, but this just looks frankly insane. I don’t remember seeing Lando on the shelves as a kid, but I would have just laughed my ass off at this. Why?! Were kids really drawn to figures like this?! I don’t remember ever wanting a toy based on how muscular it looked.
Every time that I come across this figure I cannot help but laugh. It’s such an absurd looking figure. I’d love to know what Billy Dee Williams said when he was first shown this toy…
Thankfully, within a couple of years, Kenner/Hasbro stopped going down the bulging biceps route and went for more screen accurate figures, which was probably a blessing.
These figures get a lot of ridicule now, and probably rightly so, but I still appreciate them for what they are, silly products of the ’90s. Though I didn’t really own many as a kid, I definitely am glad I own them now.
One final thing, perhaps it was foretold that Star Wars characters would become huge hulking masses, going by Luke’s abs in the 1977 movie poster!