The world of science fiction, cinema, and even the toy industry all changed when Star Wars was released in May of 1977. For a time, the brainchild of George Lucas dominated the toy stores and allowance money of kids of my generation due to the awesome offerings by Kenner. While its seems that the iconic and nearly holy Kenner toyline was nothing but a raging success, there were some failure among the various Star Wars toylines, and one being the subject of this installment of Military Sci-Fi Toys, the Star Wars MICRO Collection from 1982.
What was the Kenner Star Wars MICRO Collection and Why did Kenner Make this?
The Different Between the "Micro Collection" and "Star Wars Micro Machines"
During an interview with Starwars.com, the chief designer for the micro machines line was Jim Fong and recalled that when Galoob got the license for Star Wars, it was during a time when Star Wars was old news and no one was really that interested in the license, which allowed Galoob to acquire it for their micro machines line. Much like the sacred Lego Star Wars line, it seems to be a match made in heaven. Fong recalls that when Galoob got the license that it was during a slow sales year at the company and the company itself was downsizing. However, the tri-pack of classic Star Wars vehicles was a massive success and turned the company around after the 1994 launch of the Star Wars Micro Machines line. During the first year of run of the line, Galoob would launch a line of micro-figures (sold in “packs” of around 9 micro-figures) and a series of environmental playsets based on locations in the Holy Trilogy. Unlike the 1982 Kenner MICRO Collection, these would be success and playsets would be designed and released for years. However, unlike the previous MICRO Collection, these micro-figures would not fit into the vehicles. Some of the Mirco Machines playsets would directly correspond to the MICRO Collection and this gives us a window into what the MICRO Collection could have done with the ROTJ film locations.
The Historical Context of the MICRO Collection
Why FWS Will Never Discuss the Kenner Line in Full
Where Does the MICRO Collection fit into the Entire Kenner Line?
The Overview of the Kenner MICRO Collection
What Happened to the MICRO Collection?
The entire 1982 MICRO Collections amounts to 70 die-cast metal miniature figures, nine playsets (combined into 3 World sets) and four vehicles. Besides the mail away “Build Your Armies” offer from Kenner of Hoth themed Snowtroopers and Hoth rebel soldiers, the die-cast metal miniatures figures were packed in with the vehicles or playsets and not sold separately. Each of the miniatures were painted but were prone to chipping and rubbing when played with. The Bespin, Hoth, and Death Star playsets were combined into three massive World sets with all of the figures.
Three out of the four vehicles, the X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and the Snowspeeder all were fitted with this “battle damage” feature that allowed for the vehicle to break apart, but the pieces were connect via wires and the vehicle could be restored at the press of a button. Every playset and vehicle had some very cool features that were not present on the larger scale playsets and these features show off the love and attention paid to the MICRO Collection by Kenner. Some elements of the playset could explode, spring-loaded doors, and a the carbonite-freeze chamber could swap the Han Solo miniature with an miniature carbonite frozen Han Solo. Very cool.
There is the entire line:
- Millennium Falcon (Sears Exclusive) w/ 6 figures
- X-Wing w/ 1 figure
- TIE Fighter w/ 1 figure
- Rebel Snowspeeder (JC Penny Exclusive) w/ 2 figures
- Bespin Control Room w/ 4 figures
- Bespin Gantry w/ 4 figures
- Bespin Freeze Chamber w/ 8 figures
- Death Star Escape w/ 4 figures
- Death Star Compactor w/ 8 figures
- Hoth Generator Attack w/ 4 figures
- Hoth Turret Defense w/ 6 figures
- Hoth Wampa Cave w/ 4 figures and the Probe Droid
- Hoth Ion Cannon w/ 8 figures
What Happened to the MICRO Collection?
Then there was playability, some kids got the idea of the MICRO Collection with its toy soldier favor, but most did not and rejected it out-of-hand, especially at the price point of about $8-$15 per set ($22.62-$42.44 in today’s money) about $32-$37 set ($93.53-$104.67 in today’s money) for the Death Star World and the Hoth World combined playsets. For some perspective, the Millennium Falcon vehicle cost $26 ($73.56 in 2021 money) new in 1982. While the MICRO Collection was awesome in its details and the cool battle-damage feature, you could not change the figures from the static pose and that limited play to kids used to adjustable figures. Within a short amount of time, the MICRO Collection was not moving at the original price point and discounts were made…and then again…and again. Then the line was cancelled and the remining stock went on deep discount with some pieces at 70% off of their original price tag. This is when some buyers got into the line and scooped up the entire collection on the cheap. By some accounts, boxed examples of the MICRO Collection could be found on the store shelves until 1987!
The Lost MICRO Collection Prototypes
The Lost MICRO Collection Prototypes
Despite the hard work by the people at Kenner, the MICRO Collection died on the vine, and just as new product was coming to the Hoth and Bespin playset lines. The Hoth Bacta Chamber and the Bespin Torture Chamber were both far enough in development that there are boxed prototypes of both. Besides these, there are several cancelled prototypes that were cut down in different stages of development. The Bacta Chamber would have been added to the Hoth World and the Bespin Torture Chamber would have rounded out the Cloud City World. These were the closest in the cancelled prototypes. For the addition to the Death Star World, Kenner would have added a playset from Return of the Jedi: The Throne Room. This set was far in development and would have made a nice addition to the Death Star sets. Coming with two versions of the Emperor, Vader, Luke, two Royal Guard, and a rumored royal Dignitary. This was next closest in development, with several plastic mockups of the set in several levels of detail.
Three new World would have been added for the Return of the Jedi and Empire Strikes Back: the Forest Moon of Endor, the Dagobah Swamp, and Jabba’s Court. The Endor World would have had the Ewok Village, the Bunker, and rumors point to the shuttle landing pad or the forest. Wax molds for Ewoks, Biker Scouts, and Rebel Commandos have been located for the Endor sets, but no mockups of the playsets, only text and some production art. Jabba’s Court was farther along with a Jabba throne (complete with a slave Leia!) mockup, a Droid Dungeons, and likely a pit set. Lastly, the Dagobah swamp would have been in the MICRO Collection scale with Yoda’s home, the “grotto” where Luke confronted Vader, and possibly, the X-Wing swallowing bog. There is only one prototypes of an new MICRO Collection vehicles and it was close to completion: Boba Fett's Slave-1. We do not have any information on ROTJ vehicles though, but it was likely the Imperial Shuttle, A-Wing, and the B-Wing would have been likely targets for production.
The Other Attempted MICRO Collections
The Legacy of the Kenner SW MICRO Collection
When the MICRO Collection came out in the summer of 1982, there was not much of an impact made, save for the lack of profit on Kenner’s balance sheets. For years, the MICRO Collection was marked down and waited for their fate while gathering dust. At the time, there were fans and collectors of the line and they moved in and bought the deeply discounted line. Another impact at the time and it is a legacy of the MICRO Collection is that some kids got the MICRO Collection toys by mistake instead of the full-sized toys. This was mentioned repeatedly on boards and comments when the MICRO Collection was discussed. However, some became fans of the line via these mistakes.
The MICRO Collection Today
Next Time on FWS...
In nearly all modern military organizations, MILSIM paintball and AirSoft teams, online shooters, and even toys; military camouflaged patterns are used for weapons, uniforms, and vehicles. Patterns of tans, greens, browns, and yellows are used to allow soldiers and vehicles to blend into the background. While camouflage has been used humans were hunting and gathering, the practice of blending was rare once civilization and professional military organizations were established. However, during the Great War, it finally was made very painfully clear that the old garish uniforms of the past were dangerous in the era of modern warfare. In the next installment of the Barrack, we shall be exploring and explaining military camo in a few months time.