Star Wars represented more than a breakthrough in special effects or even in motion picture marketing when it first captured America’s heart back in the late 1970s. The franchise also represented a quantum leap forward for the toy industry, largely thanks to a hugely successful line of Star Wars merchandise from Kenner, a now-defunct company based in Cincinnati. The popular toys not only lined George Lucas’ pockets considerably but also set an example that other toy manufacturers scrambled to copy for years. Eventually, as Star Wars fans grew into adult collectors and had access to more discretionary income, the vintage toys became valuable assets that were bought and sold regularly online. In the pre-YouTube 1990s, a VHS compilation of Star Wars toy ads become a particularly hot commodity, a boon to any grown fans trying to relive their childhood days in front of the TV after school.
Now, the official Star Wars website is acknowledging the importance of those old toys with a thoughtfully curated retrospective of vintage Kenner commercials. For any child of the 1970s or 1980s who grew up with dreams of owning a tauntaun or rancor monster, seeing these commercials again will bring back poignant memories. In many ways, the cult of Star Wars starts here. These were the commercials that mesmerized a generation of devotees and kept them addicted to the franchise for decades to come. True Star Wars experts might have mixed feelings when watching some of the ads, like this one, in which an announcer tells kids they can get a free Boba Fett just for sending in four proofs of purchase. Sure, the figure sounds cool, but Kenner had to nix the figure’s rocket-firing feature because of some dumb choking hazard. And cutting up those vintage figure cards like that? It ruins the value! Those were irreplaceable originals, man.