Rocket Firing Boba Fett Kit-Bashed - Original Concept

Due to a fantastic find of original photographic reference material, we are now privy to some never before seen images of the infamous Rocket Firing Boba Fett action figure prototype. This is the original concept model created by Kenner Prelim Designer Jim Swearingen based on the first original Joe Johnston painted costume. Jim and his boss Dave Okada traveled to Skywalker Ranch so that they could get a first-hand glimpse of this new villain which would soon become a highly publicized action figure and conducted a photoshoot with none other than George Lucas as their host.

What is of great interest about this prototype is how it was made since it's actually a composite of parts culled from 3 existing Star Wars action figures; C3PO (torso), Death Squad Commander (legs) and a Stormtrooper which contributed the arms plus the head since there was a nice amount of material to work with. On a more subconscious level, it's interesting that a Stormtrooper head was used because Lucasfilm created Boba Fett out of an earlier Super Stormtrooper concept. At any rate, actual figure parts weren't modified directly, but were molded and cast to use as base building elements. We can see in the form of white material showing through worn paint on the back of the hips as well as at the tips of the boots. The backpack and missile were made by the Kenner Model Shop and built around a Mattel Shogun Warriors - Raider rocket launching arm mechanism. The rocket was also based on the costume design and would have been made on a lathe from plastic rod material. The model shop also created the different armor plates which were adhered to the torso as well as the tiny movable metal range finder added to the helmet. The various elements were then combined into a new toy.

The practice of modifying existing parts and materials and combining them into a new piece (referred to as "kit-bashing") was a common practice at Kenner and used throughout the Star Wars toy line to create a myriad of concept models. Aside from aiding the designers in hashing out the particulars of a figure's appearance, this technique also served as a way of filling vacancies in photographic material (such as advertisements) during the time in which the actual production figure as we would come to know it was still in the early design stages. Having gotten a late start, Kenner was working fast at the time in order to catch up and keep up with the Star Wars craze. Getting the Boba Fett promotion on line as a boost for the tail-end of the Star Wars toy line would have been vital and to accomplish this feat some type of figural representations were needed.

Overall this figure is quite detailed, especially in comparison to the rather simplistic design of the other Kenner Star Wars figures of the time. The backpack was separately added, not integrated into the torso (although that may have been more of a convenience of kit-bashing). Plus the backpack has many painted colors and various shapes and included individual movable jet pods. The most striking feature is the rocket and its menacing point which may have looked like the Lucasfilm costume, but would surely have been a safety hazard for a toy. The paint detailing is quite complex for the time and included a black circled "X" the back each hand as well as the painted "eyes" on the head like the early LFL helmet design included The boots even have stripes on the front, just like the costume. And although it was a great approximation of the actual costume, it was probably recognized early on that this figure would have to be reduced in complexity in order to be a robust toy as well as to meet cost targets.

The above images are the first photos taken of the completed figure when it featured a vinyl cape and we can see it's the same figure due to the wear patterns on the boots. The cape was a prominent component of the costume during the Lucasfilm photoshoot, but it didn't last long in the figure concept phase. Perhaps it was deemed unnecessary, or expensive, or maybe hanging a vinyl cape from a single attachment point wasn't going to be robust enough so Kenner got rid of it in fairly short order.

The image above is from some early internal Kenner literature which outlined the last series of Star Wars era action figures as well as many other toys for the upcoming 1979 selling year. This specification sheet mentioned some of the features of the 9 new figures which were becoming available. This particular photo captures a transition state for this concept model and was taken after it was largely repainted. The black painted details on the helmet, range finder, boots, gloves, and backpack are now gone and all that is left are black dots on the left wrist gauntlet. All of the armor on the knees, shoulders and forearms is now orange, except for the right wrist gauntlet and the gray jumpsuit looks to be completely repainted as well.

The key identifying feature showing that it's the same figure is the gap in the chest plate armor above the insignia. This gap is consistent across the various known photos of the piece. Since the chest armor plates were hand-glued individually some mis-alignment is understandable.

The light colors are most likely a result of the original lighting when it was photographed, but it otherwise matches. The orange colors of the pads transitioned directly into the final phase of the model and of note is the overpainting of the knee pads which can be seen in the final version.

These side-by-side photos help show the development of this piece through the final concept stage.

The above two images show some places where Kenner used this concept model in the materials that eventually went out to the public. The left image is a closeup the "Collect All 32" store display and the right image is from the insert for the second version of the Star Wars action figure carrying case . The carrying case insert photo was later changed to show the production version of the Boba Fett figure.

Once this concept figure was turned over from Prelim Design team to the Production Design team it was simplified to create the final concept design and at that point the figure would look less like the film costume and more like an affordable action figure of the time. This would be especially important since it was to be a free giveaway during its initial release..

Description by: Chris Georgoulias
From the collection of: Cloud City Collectibles
Country:United States
Film:A New Hope
Category:Prototypes / Action Figure Related


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