Now You See 'Em, Now You Don't.....
Kenner's Unproduced 1983 Star Wars Micro Line
By Rob Amantea
By Rob Amantea
In 1983, Kenner planned to expand their existing Star Wars "Micro Collection" with the addition of six all-new playsets. The first three would be designed to incorporate with the pre-existing "worlds." These were the Hoth Bacta Chamber, Bespin Torture Chamber, and the Death Star Throne Room. Beyond those, plans were made to offer three additional sets--the "Jabba's Court," "Dagobah," and "Endor" playsets. As fate would have it, the line was canceled and none of these playsets made it to the mass-production stage. Only a handful of production samples exist today, and reside in the private collections of a similar number of the most prominent Star Wars collectors in the world.
Star Wars fans will remember that the Hoth Bacta Chamber was the place where the injured Luke Skywalker recovered from his run-in with the Wampa. Kenner's Micro playset came with four die-cast metal figures: 2-1B, C-3PO, FX-7, and Luke Skywalker. It featured a working pump (designed to fill the chamber with water), a recovery chair with swing arm, a scanner, and a modular control console.
The Bespin Torture Chamber was a combination of three different scenes from the movie, The Empire Strikes Back. It featured a prison cell, interrogation room, and a "droid furnace." The playset came with six die-cast metal figures: Han Solo, Ugnaught, C-3PO, Chewbacca with backpack, and 2 Bespin Guards (one white, one black). The prison cell was designed with a spring-action door and a breakaway wall. The interrogation room had a shock rack that slid back and forth, which would alternatively position Han Solo in and out of the pain-emitting electrodes. The playset also featured a "conveyor belt," in the furnace room, which edged C-3PO menacingly toward the fire.
The Death Star Throne Room would have been the first micro playset featuring scenes from Return of the Jedi. As far as this writer is able to tell, the playset came with five die-cast metal figures--Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, an Emperor's Royal Guard, and 2 Emperors (one sitting, one standing). Unconfirmed rumors have it that an Imperial Dignitary figure was to be included with this set. Personally, this writer has seen no concrete evidence that would serve to support or negate such rumors. This playset featured a rotating throne, breakaway catwalk, elevator, and radar dish.
The last three sets to discuss only existed in their very early prototype stages at the time the line was canceled. As a result, there isn't much information avilable about them. Most of what exists for the star-crossed Jabba's Court, Dagobah, and Endor playsets are figures called "4-ups." These are plastic figures cast from a mold of the original wax sculpture. The term "4-up" refers to the size of these figures, roughly four times the size of the finished, hand-painted metal casting. The larger sculpt allowed the sculptor to work more detail into the figures. The larger plastic castings produced from these sculpts were then reduced, in a process known as "pantographing," to their finished size of about 1-inch in height.
For Jabba's Court the only 4-ups I've found are of Jabba the Hutt, Bib Fortuna, Gamorrean Guard, C-3PO, and a Power Droid. The Power Droid was supposed to have been part of a "Droid Dungeon" module for Jabba's Court. No one I've spoken to in the past six years has any additional information about, or any photos of, what the actual playset itself would have looked like. One can only imagine what a terrific addition this would have been to Kenner's Star Wars Micro "World" Series.
I have seen seven figures from the Dagobah Playset. Three of them were Kenner 4-ups--the other four were Dungeons & Dragons-like metal prototype figures. In fact, they were produced by RPG manufacturer Ral Partha. The three Kenner 4-ups were of Luke Skywalker in X-wing uniform, Yoda on Luke's back, and Luke Skywalker standing on his hands. The four Ral Partha prototypes were of Ben Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader with lightsabers drawn, and Yoda. This playset would have featured dual play environments--Yoda's Dagobah hovel, and the grotto where Luke encountered the apparition of Darth Vader.
As stated above, Kenner was also planning to do an Endor playset. Again, this would have featured dual play environments--this time an Ewok Village scene, and an Endor Bunker. The only figures I've been able to turn up with respect to this playset were two Ewoks, a Rebel Commando, and a Biker Scout.
To date, I've found no additional figures, photos, or information about any of the above playsets. What you see here is the sum total of about six years of research and hunting. Thanks go to the following people for their invaluable assistance in putting this retrospective together:
The photograph of the Bacta Chamber was provided by Lenny Lee, photographed from his private collection; the Gamorrean Guard 4-up photo was provided by Gus Lopez, photographed from his private collection; the Death Star Throne Room Playset photo was provided by Stephen Sansweet, photographed from his private collection (as seen in his book, Star Wars: From Concept, To Screen, To Collectible; Chronicle Books, 1992); and photographs of the painted figure copies were provided by Ron Salvatore, from his private collection.