Kenner Change Notice for Vinyl Cape Jawa
People who love piecing together Star Wars toy history love internal Kenner paperwork. Sometimes a single piece of paperwork can shed light on a mystery that collectors have been trying to solve for years.

Well, where paperwork is concerned, it's hard to get more iconic than the piece you see here. And I do think "iconic" is the right word -- because this item not only provides new insight into one of most famous of all action figure variations, it redefines our very sense of it.

Let me explain: For years it was believed that the Jawa figure, first released in 1978, was intended to come packaged with a vinyl cape, and that the cloth variation was the second, modified iteration of the toy.

It turns out that's not exactly right. As revealed by this "change notice," the figure, as sculpted, was intended to have no cape at all. The vinyl accessory was added very late in development, after the earliest injection-molded examples had been created, in order to make the toy more salable. That's the significance of the "marketing addition" note you see in the "REASON FOR CHG." area. In other words, the marketing folks thought the figure needed spicing up. Probably, without a cape, it looked pretty meager and uninteresting sitting inside of that little plastic blister bubble.

This makes for a pretty interesting developmental timeline. It's known that the earliest mock-up Jawa was made from a common brown sock; it was clearly thrown together with the idea of a cape in mind. But when it came time to sculpt the figure, Kenner had contractor Bill Lemon carve the distinctive Jawa robes right into the figure's form; his sculpt even includes those familiar bandolier straps crisscrossing the character's chest, a detail that is not visible on the standard cloth-caped version of the toy.

Sure enough, the earliest known two-dimensional representation of what became the final Jawa figure -- and likely one of the graphical inputs from which Lemon worked -- indicates that no cape was intended for the Jawa. This is in contrast to the similar blueprints concerning Ben Kenobi, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, and the Sand Person, all of which specify that the figures were to come with "capes." (You need to look closely at those old photos to see these notations, but I promise you they're there. All mention capes except the Jawa.)

Amusingly, when I wrote the Archive description for the Jawa blueprint, some 15 years ago now, I noted, "It's just too bad that the blueprint makes no reference to the vinyl cape it was to come with."

Well, now I know why!

Also notable is the fact that the 12-back blister card makes no mention of a cape coming with the Jawa, even though it does in the case of Ben Kenobi, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia. In the case of the Sand Person it simply mentions that the figure was to come with a "sand fighting costume," whatever that means. It's possible there was some indecision regarding the Sand Person's outfit too. But if so it must have been resolved earlier than it was in the case of the Jawa, because the blueprint for the Sand Person does mention the cape.

Above you see the blueprint image alongside the painting from the Early Bird envelope and three shots of the figure -- one without cape, one with vinyl cape, and one with cloth cape. Note that the Early Bird image is very similar in most respects to the blueprint; not only does it show the bandoliers, it shows the squarish lines delineating the figure's crotch area, a detail not visible when the cloth cape is present.

Of course, at some point soon after the change to a vinyl cape was made, another change resulted in the switch to the familiar cloth cape. Maybe a change notice for that modification will turn up someday.

The story of how collector Ross Cuddie unearthed this piece of paperwork and a few others of near equal significance is an Archive entry in and of itself. Here's Ross' version of the tale:

Back in the mid 2000's I was spending roughly 2-3 hours a night searching through ebay for truly miscellaneous items.  This was before, or before I knew about, ebay saved searches. :( I had recently started to look for old Toy Fair dealer catalogs, and Prequel trailer reels and it was one of those searches that brought me to the result with the following header:  

StarWars Vintage Catalog;trailers;blueprints; & more  

Pretty innocuous and I was expecting to see one of a variety of insert catalogs and the ever abundant blueprint set. The auction picture showed a large lot of miscellaneous "crap" including a KFC unused chicken bucket, multiple Prequel fast food premiums, several vintage Burger King ESB glasses, modern cards, small promotional posters etc.. The picture did show a small film reel, but what caught my eye was that this auction contained the 1978 Toy Fair catalog which is the first big Star Wars catalog of its type, and the base for any Toy Fair catalog collection. I don't recall seeing the blueprint set I was expecting but the picture was not the greatest showing more or less everything in one large pile.  

It was a 7 day auction starting at $100 and I believe I just placed a bid of $100 right away or at least a couple of days later.  I watched as it stayed the same right through to the auction end.  Shipping was $35, yikes!   

A couple of weeks later a large box, really just able to get my arms around it, arrived.  It rattled with the sound of broken glass and miscellaneous "crap". Upon opening the box, pretty much everything that was pictured in the auction was just thrown in haphazardly.  The Burger King glasses were inside the KFC bucket and a couple of them had shattered and glass splinters were everywhere.  Luckily the one glass I later found out I needed to complete my set had not been broken or severely scratched, score!!  

Once everything was removed, cleaned and sorted I had a nice pile of, well "crap".  The trailer was there, and the catalog was there not ripped or shredded so for $135 I thought that was a fair price.  I noticed an old manila folder stuck in the catalog.  It had that nice musty smell and feel that only old paper can have, like a great silver age comic book.  Inside were numerous sheet of paper of what looked to be blueprints.  These blueprints included descriptions of the original "sabre", vinyl Jawa cape, packing assortments for boxes and other sundry details.  Also included were some early project sheets which mentioned what seemed like everything Kenner was producing or thinking about producing at the time, including a "mini Tarkin" figure.  All of the documentation was dated in late fall 1977.  Neat!

I don't think it really dawned on me the significance of what I had found.  I knew it was very early Kenner documentation, but I had never heard or seen anything like it before.  I was not into preproduction collecting at this time, but certainly I was aware of such items having regularly scoured (the first web site I ever visited) and the SWCA, and heard presentations at C1-2-3.  I was still just a lurker on various forums including RebelScum.  I pretty much sat on the paperwork for the next year.

C4 in May 2007, I showed this paperwork to John Kellerman in the exhibitor hall and he recommended I show it to the "collector guys who ran the collector panels".  He did not really say much more other than it looked legit and significant.  Of course I was aware of most of the more established collectors and aficionados.  I approached Todd Chamberlain about bringing my documentation to the collecting road show segment to which he readily agreed. 

The sheets I had found a year earlier were presented and generated a lot of interest. I found out that someone had been shopping them around a few years earlier for an ungodly sum in the neighborhood of $25000, which was promptly ignored by the community.  Shortly afterwards the seller and sheets disappeared into oblivion until I brought them to C4.  Todd and ChrisG had even mentioned how they saw the auction I won and wondered why they had not placed a bid, if at least for the '78 catalog.  :)

This was a pivotal point in my collecting phase, being also my collecting coming out sort of speak.  It was following C4 that I became feverishly interested in the history of Kenner Star Wars and preproduction and what would become what is now my main interest. 

These pieces will always hold great value in my collection as they are not only significant in and of thier own right, but represent 1000's of hours of mundane ebay searching, and one large moment of extreme luck. I have looked upon other collections with envy, and happiness in that so much has found great homes where they are respected and shared with the community at large.  I shudder to think what could have happened to this documentation and hope to curate them for the community with as much respect.

I'm happy to say I was one of the collectors to whom Ross showed the paperwork at Celebration, and I think it's fair to say we all flipped when he pulled it out of the Priority Mail envelope he had it stored in. We knew it was legit when we recognized the familiar names of former employees scrawled in the sign-off areas. Here's a snap I took of Ross right after we looked through the material.

Much respect to Ross for making this incredible find and for sharing it.

Description by: Ron Salvatore
Photo: Ross Cuddie
From the collection of: Ross Cuddie
Country:United States
Film:A New Hope
Category:Prototypes / Product Concepts


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