Kenner Canada Star Wars Coloring Books: The Star Wars-series coloring books released by Kenner Canada are some of my favorite non-toy Kenner collectibles. I love the black, silver and blue of the covers, and the silver "racetrack" motif along the sides strikes me as particularly attractive. In the States, Kenner issued coloring books for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as for the later Lucasfilm cartoon series, but not for Star Wars. This is kind of odd when one considers that, due to the company's inability to get action figures to market during the initial success of the film in 1977, they spun out all manner of paper-based merchandise, which, in contrast to plastic toys, could be produced fairly quickly. Consquently, paint sets, puzzles and board games were among the earliest Kenner Star Wars items in stores. Why, in the States, they didn't also release some coloring books is a mystery to me.

Part of the reason might have been that the books that were turned out were fairly low in quality. Kenner Canada seems to have held themselves to slightly lower standards of quality than did their southern counterparts, as their release of the infamous Star Wars utility belt sets attests. The U.S. incarnation of Kenner might have reviewed the finished coloring book product and deemed them too amateurish to release. And, in truth, the drawings in these things are kind of lacking in sophistication, which is understandable given Kenner's lack of experience producing this type of product.

Here's a third example

As is the case with many Kenner Canada products, the Star Wars logo appears in both its English and French translations.

What really makes these books interesting, however, is their use of odd imagery on their interior pages. Renditions of early vehicle film models appear, as do some that appear to have been copied directly from Marvel's comic book series. For those interested in Kenner's toy line, though, the neatest of these images are those which appear to have been drawn using Kenner action figures as models. The book you see above, the cover of which shows Chewie and Luke in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, includes line-art images of Hammerhead, Walrusman and even the infamous blue Snaggletooth, replete with his distinctive belt buckle and disco boots (dontcha just want to take a big blue marker to him and color him in?).

But cooler still are the images that appear to have been drawn from kit-bashed prototypes. Here you see images of R5-D4, Death Star Droid and Power Droid, all of which look exactly like the prototypes shown in Kenner file photographs and, most notably, in a German catalog. We even have an image on the Archive of the very Death Star Droid prototype that must have served as the model for the above drawing.

I've been told by former Kenner designers that, initially, Lucasfilm provided them with very little in the way of reference photography on which they could base their designs. What I think happened in this case was that Kenner wanted to advertise the release of their new figures by showing them in their coloring book; but, due to the lack of reference material, the guys who drew the images for the interior had to use as their models the figures and prototypes they had on hand, which, in some cases, were inaccurate themselves.

Anyway, it's an interesting case of Kenner product cross-pollination, which helps to illustrate some of the wild and woolly atmosphere that was prevalent at Kenner during this time period.

Description: Ron Salvatore
Photo: Ron Salvatore
From the collection of Ron Salvatore