|Conceptual Imperial R2-D2 Action Figure|
|In 1978 Kenner was hard at work cranking out designs on their red-hot Star Wars toy line for the upcoming year. Alongside
the 9 new action figures, to go with their original 12, they were also working on several playsets and vehicles to expand
the offerings and this piece is a tantalizing glimpse at what could have been a 10th new figure for 1979.
The Imperial Troop Transport (ITT) was a deviation from the norm (if we can call it that this early in the game) in that it was a vehicle unseen in the film. Apparently as part of a new business venture, Kenner needed to design a toy that incorporated a particular sound mechanism and came up with with the ITT which featured 6 different movie sounds on a small plastic record. It's likely that Kenner could not find another small-scale ship to do this with so they invented one from scratch. Something like a Rebel Blockade Runner would have been amazing with sound effects, but that would have been a much larger and more expensive toy.
The ITT came with a small black and white comic book to explain its place in the Star Wars universe and how it was the vehicle that carried Stormtroopers around Tatooine to look for the 2 missing droids. The troops in the ITT would later engage the Jawa Sandcrawler and the film would pick up at the aftermath of the altercation when the slaughtered Jawas were found by our heroes.
The conceptual ITT model had many of the basic elements that carried onto the final version, but it was notably different in its very angular form and opening front hatch, designed specifically to hold an exclusive Imperial R2-D2 figure. Even at the concept stage, it was to include a prisoner immobilization unit, the plastic headpiece that fit over an action figure, an accessory that did make it to the production version. And while the exclusive figure was ultimately dropped, the notion of the droid hatch did make it to production, albeit as a rear droid prisoner compartment as noted on the original spec sheet as well as on the production box front.
The vehicle model was made of styrene by Kenner's Preliminary Design Department and scrutnizing eyes will spot the use of a jet engine from the X-Wing toy which would serve as the battery compartment. The figure itself was a production R2-D2 that was hand-painted by the designer who also cut the feet down so that it would fit into the front hatch. One would assume that the production toy would have corrected the size problem if things had gone that far.
It is unknown exactly why the exclusive figure was dropped from the toy. Perhaps foremost is that there was no Imperial R2-D2 in the movie and Lucasfilm didn't approve of a non-film figure to go with this already non-film vehicle. Although, given the complexity of the toy itself, it may have been deemed too expensive for the price point to include a figure when the toy already boasted an elaborate sound mechanism. Whatever the case, it's quite interesting that a figure such as this was created as part of the original proposal and it's incredible that the designer decided to save it as well as the Prelim photographs so that future generations could catch a glimpse of this relatively unknown bit of Kenner history.
To date, the model of the ITT itself has yet to surface and may unfortunately be lost to time.
|Description by:||Chris Georgoulias|
|From the collection of:||Anonymous|
|Film:||A New Hope|
|Category:||Prototypes / Action Figure Related|