Rocket Firing Boba Fett, Mailer Box Sample Figure (Sealed)
Elsewhere on the SWCA is featured a sample Rocket Firing Boba Fett complete with its intended mailer box. This item is something even more special.

Most collectors know of a guy who claims that Kenner sent them a mail-away Rocket Firing Boba Fett in 1979, per the company’s ubiquitous advertising campaign promising the figure in exchange for four proof of purchase seals. Sure the figure was cancelled abruptly (deep into its months long appearances on card backs, point of sale displays and other advertising materials). But somehow these stories persist.

Maybe it was the strength of Kenner’s marketing, but for a long time no amount of reasoning could stop the bulging of veins and eyeballs as said individual swore black and blue that they had received the figure in the mail. Thanks to some great research over the years – most of which traces back to editors from this website – we know that nobody did.

Unless of course your dad was a safety engineer at Kenner in 1978. Sort of.

Pictured above is a fully sealed example of what’s for all intents and purposes the exact Rocket Firing Boba Fett figure that would have landed in our mailboxes in 1979, had the world’s most famous action figure promotion been green lit, not cancelled due to both after troubles with similar products at Mattel, and a raft of failed testing inside Kenner.

Which arguably makes a fully sealed example like this one the singular Grail of vintage Star Wars collecting – along the lines of what the Honus Wagner or Mickey Mantle rookie is to the card collecting world; or what Action Comics number one or Detective Comics 27 is to Comics.

As you can see Fett’s first release packaging was to include two missiles, which meant that Kids all over America would have been free to fire both into each other’s eyes, ears (or any other sensitive region they decided to target), with what is undeniably the least powerful spring mechanism of any toy from the era (If you’ve never seen one up close, Fett’s missile consistently fires at about about 1/20th the velocity of Godzilla’s fist from the Shogun Warriors line despite being less than 1/25th the weight).

The lack of power seems ironic given how deeply the lore of its spring loaded mechanism is embedded in the American psyche. Did troubles at Mattel dictate that this be the case? Maybe Kenner skimped on the spring? No-one really seems to remember.

Like the released version of the Fett mailer, it also included a blaster to make sure that the obligatory ‘pew, pew’ firing sounds would expand Fett’s play pattern (making him the only figure from the entire line to ship with three weapons).

Most notably this final version of the Rocket Fett features production-like quality that is almost indiscernible from the non-firing figure that was mailed in its place.

The mailer figure’s jet pack reveals that this is actually the fourth iteration of the Rocket Fett, and features the updated and longer J-slot tab, as well as production quality paint applications and superior molding.

In fact the slot and tab are the most reliable indicators of where a Rocket Fett sits in the production cycle.

There were four such updates made to Kenner’s Rocket Fett before the project was cancelled, and as you might expect, this produced four different Rocket Firing prototypes of the figure.

These are all pictured below from left to right: 1) the undated blue L-Slot with noticeably rough molding, 2) the dated grey L-Slot version with updated mechanism, squarer L-slot angle and a more polished finish:

Then came 3) the short tab J-Slot, and then 4) the final and more refined version featured in the mailer that has the longer tab (and much squarer J-Slot) version from the mailer. Note too that the volume of the red portion of the firing mechanism decreases in what’s likely an effort to reduce the prospect of misfires as the figure is refined.

Because it’s fully sealed in a baggie, came with a mailer and includes both advertised missiles and a blaster we can ascertain that the mailer Fett wasn’t used for any type of safety testing, and was a final look at the toy prior to its planned mail out (even the fabled MOC Rocket Fett that appeared at Toy Fair in 1978 is effectively an open figure that has a broken J-tab, suggesting that it may have been used during safety testing as so many were).

So does this figure’s unlikely appearance sometime in 2017 make it more plausible that kids received one in the mail during the vintage era?

The answer remains a big fat no.

The source of the item was the same Kenner Quality Control engineer who saved the open Kenner baggie example pictured here on the archive. He owned it because he was working on the figure when it was nixed, following an order from Bernie Loomis to follow the advice of Kenner’s QC engineers who had informed the company’s Legal Counsel Jim Kipling that the toy had failed safety testing.

Early last decade Kipling stated as much on tape, that QC cancelled the figure, and no-one but them would have ever convinced Bernie Loomis not to move forward and release a Rocket Fett.

The savvy engineer rescued both from the dreaded plastic grinder and trash. In a move that might have been the inspiration for the prequel trilogies Order 66, Kenner had decreed that they all Rocket Fetts were to be destroyed (though at least one employee recently made the unlikely claim that they were somehow given out to kids at Christmas… despite being banned because they were dangerous for kids).

If anything the appearance of this figure further cements the legitimacy and story surrounding the open bagged example (pictured here) by virtue of the accompanying backstory. Ok you ask, so why was only one opened then?

It turns out that the employee’s son found Three when they were still sealed, and mistaking them for his forthcoming Christmas present some time in the late 1980s, chose to OPEN ONE (much to his father’s chagrin) out of anticipation. At least the kid can claim to be the only person in the world to crack open a sealed Rocket Fett from Kenner (albeit mistakenly, ten years after the fact, and not via the mail-away).

Fast forward to now and it becomes apparent that two people in the world got the chance to experience the feeling that millions of kids all over the US were denied in 1979: owning Kenner’s Rocket Fett in its advertised form (it’s highly unlikely that they’d follow suit and tear the baggies open though).

Either way this 2017 find places a full stop on exactly how far production of the Rocket Fett travelled down Kenner’s pipeline (a long way). It had leapt hurdles in Preliminary Design, Marketing, Production Design, Sculpting, Tooling, Manufacturing, and was ready to go in every sense of the word. Before QC stuck a fork in the idea at least. Yes, Fett was only a whisker away from being dropped in the mail. But he was of cancelled in a very concrete sense of that word, unless of course your dad was a Kenner safety engineer.

Description by: Ben Sheehan
Photo: Ben Sheehan, Thomas Derby
From the collection of: Anonymous
Country:United States
Film:A New Hope
Category:Prototypes / Action Figure Related


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