A Long Time Ago, in a Toy Store Far, Far Away…

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Plastic Galaxy

During my first Gen Con a few weeks back, I had such a great time… and a large part of that was being able to hang with fellow geek dads Dave Banks, John Booth, and Jonathan Liu (among others). John introduced me to a friend of his, Brian Stillman, who was also a member of our ragtag group, and over a number of nights we played many games and had dozens of interesting conversations… and one of those was about Brian’s special documentary project titled Plastic Galaxy that was playing at Gen Con. I wasn’t able to attend a showing, but Brian put a DVD copy in my hand before I left Indy.

Thank you, Brian!

When I finished the main documentary and the bonus material, I was grinning ear to ear. You see, I remember my mom driving me to my hometown’s store (this was years before Walmart or even Kmart reached our borders) and taking me to the small toy area where I saw what looked like an infinite wall of official Star Wars figures from Kenner… hanging on the wall in those wonderful black packages with the silver racetracks going around the edges. An original image from the movie caught your attention just before your eyes glazed over at the bubble-protected figure to the left. I selected C-3PO, my brother R2-D2. And over the next few years, I think both our collections reached maybe 20-25 characters each. Figures were sometimes rewards for good grades or test scores, birthdays, and sometimes… just because my parents saw my love of both the movie and the creative storytelling those figures pulled from my imagination.

Many of you probably have similar stories. Many of you also probably still have some of your figures, bruised and battered, and maybe even some of the various vehicles. My brother had a TIE fighter, but we’ve long since given up trying to find it. I still have my C-3PO, although his gold luster is mostly gone and he’s a flat white-ish yellow-y color. It doesn’t matter… like fellow geek dad John Booth says in the documentary (he’s one of many interviewed), I will never part with those childhood friends and the memories they spark.

The documentary is quite entertaining, and as the home page states:

Plastic Galaxy is a documentary that explores the groundbreaking and breathtaking world of Star Wars toys. Through interviews with former Kenner employees, experts, authors, and collectors, it looks at the toys’ history, their influence, and the fond and fervent feelings they elicit today.

I loved listening to these former Kenner employees talk about their day-to-day activities, the meetings they would attend, the toys they would pitch that might or might not get the green light. I listened as interviewees shared their memories of the figures and vehicles and how they allowed us to put ourselves in the movie and tell tales of adventures never seen on the big screen. Looking at some of the amazing collections and the rare items they have behind glass gave me a better understanding of just how huge the Star Wars toy market was, is, and likely will be again.

The video is fun, humorous, and filled with historical bits and imagery, and behind-the-scenes photos, sketches, prototypes, commercials, and much more. I imagine most Star Wars toy fans will find a number of new facts in the almost 120 minutes of material (70 for documentary, 40 for extras/bonus material) as well as a strong incentive to go digging through boxes in the attic or basement in search of long-lost toys.

You won’t have any trouble finding this documentary if you’re interested–a download can be obtained on iTunes or the DVD purchased from Amazon. I’m really wishing I’d tried to attend a showing because it would have been fun to participate in Brian’s discussions with attendees. I’m not as big a Star Wars toy collector as I was as a kid, but I can appreciate the love and devotion to what I consider to be the first hobby I developed as a kid. If you owned and loved these wonderful little Kenner toys, you owe it to yourself to get the backstory on how they came to be… five stars for keeping a smile on my face for almost two hours straight.

You can find more information on the documentary on its webpage here.

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