Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys
Posted by martinteller on July 11, 2015
I have three toys in my office. A Slinky, which is fun to fiddle with when you’re thinking. A Rubik’s Cube, which I’ve never known how to solve and I’m not even sure why I have one. And a Han Solo action figure, a reminder of a youthful passion. From the age of 7 until 11 or 12, my universe was Star Wars toys. I remember poring over the glossy pages of the Star Wars section of the Sears catalog, and making my Xmas list. I wanted all of them. I never got all of them, but I had a lot of them. My appetite was so greedy that I even took to shoplifting them (I did a lot of stealing as a youngster, I’m not proud of it). Eventually Star Wars toys gave way to videogames and other interests, and I gave my collection away to a neighbor.
I sometimes wonder what that collection would be worth today. Probably not much, none of the pieces were in their original packaging. This documentary won’t tell me. Although it features interviews with many collectors, it isn’t about collecting. And thank heavens. I was dreading a “look at how nutty these geeks are!” style of film. This is a more populist approach, focusing instead on the immense popularity of Star Wars toys at the time, and what they meant to children during that late 70’s/early 80’s culture of mass Star Wars obsession (there’s virtually no sign of the prequels or their toys, which is surely for the best). Occasionally an interviewee will mention the rarity of an item, but it’s rarely about the act of collecting.
The real joy of this movie to me is the nostalgia rush. I kept thinking “I had that one!”. The one that resonated with me most was the Droid Factory. I’d completely forgotten about it, but what an awesome toy. And it wasn’t just the toys that brought back memories. It was also the packaging, and the commercials, and the discussions about how these toys gave you a whole universe to play with on your living room floor. Or how you would automatically take them with you when going over to a friend’s house… no one had to ask, of course you were bringing your Star Wars action figures.
It’s not a very broad look at the world of Star Wars toys, and even though there are some enlightening tidbits from designers at Kenner Toys, one senses the film could probe deeper. Also the documentary follows a familiar and uninspired template, and the insert gags are more dumb than charming. But for anyone who loved these playthings — which honestly meant more to me than the movies ever did — it’s a goldmine of nostalgic delights. Rating: Good (77)