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Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10 from votes
Release: 14 January 2014 (USA) /

Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys

Genre: Documentary, History, Sci-Fi
Director: Brian Stillman,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: When Star Wars landed in the theaters, it introduced audiences to a galaxy filled with heroes and villains, robots and space ships, and a dizzying variety of alien life. But when the lights came up, they all disappeared... Unless you had all the toys. In which case, the adventure never had to end. In backyards, playgrounds, basements, and bedrooms, Star Wars toys helped kids re-enact scenes from their favorite movies, and create entirely new dangers for Luke Skywalker and his friends to face. They were lusted after on holidays and birthdays, swapped with great cunning out on the school yard, and carefully collected like fine treasures. Like no toys before them, the action figures, space ships, play sets, and props were a phenomenon that swept the nation with as much force as the film that inspired them. Along the way they transformed both the toy and movie industries, earned those behind them vast amounts of wealth, and ultimately created a hobby that, 30 years later, still holds sway... Written by Anonymous

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Critic Reviews


Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys finds a middle ground in thriving on nostalgia and providing knowledge, which is a tricky thing to do. It could easily cop out at the cute, nostalgia factor that its subject brings a great many people, but instead, it analyzes a monstrous industry and tells of its humble beginnings and its immense rise to being a pop culture phenomenon in the toy/gaming industry. Star Wars merchandize may be the most ubiquitous licensed commodity to ever exist, and even though I was never a Star Wars fan as a child, even growing up in the late 1990's and early 2000's, I keenly remember seeing toy aisles lined with toys from the film. One collector describes the longevity of the toys very well, saying that even if there was no film of the franchise being made in the foreseeable future, stores still stocked with the toys; that privilege of relevance can't be rewarded to many other commodities.

Plastic Galaxy tells of the rise in Star Wars action figures by giving us two key perspectives on the phenomenon, which come from the collectors of the toys and those who designed them and worked under Kenner, the toy company known for manufacturing them. Since their inception into the market, Kenner has sold three fourths of a billion Star Wars figures, an astronomical number that only fits with the other-worldly qualities of Star Wars itself. Before these toys were introduced, licensed commodities were an industry rarity, with the only real hot products being action figures of Planet of the Apes and The Six Million Dollar Man characters.

Kenner, responsible for making such activity toys as the Easy Bake Oven and Play-Doh, saw potential in the action figures when other companies like Hasbro saw otherwise. In an act of creating one of the first "pre-order" systems for merchandize, Kenner conjured up very basic looking Star Wars figurines and plastered them on a cardboard box to be promoted in stores. People could then purchase the box and the store would put figures on reserve for them to pick up when they became available. Kenner was getting antsy because they had little on the table in way of design and it was time to start thinking about the Christmas season, despite the year not being at the halfway point. They hustled to create simple action figures that still went on to to communicate the look and feel of the Star Wars characters in as much time as they were allotted. It goes without saying that the toys were a big success; Kenner had successfully found an audience.

Heads of the company wanted the action figures to be interactive and pose some kind of "play value" and child involvement to those who purchased them. One designer says if a figure didn't have a retractable lightsaber, an interactive feature, or something innovative, then it was simply "a baseball card" in the way of what you see is what you get. One particular collector also notes how immersive the figures themselves were, saying if you had enough, and were armed with an active imagination, then you could travel to other worlds. He states that your parents would come in your room and ask what you were doing, and before you could even attempt to explain what was going on, they'd walk out and leave you alone for the next two hours; they knew you were in another universe. Another collector remarks how he's passing two separate sets of his toys down to his two sons, and is working on a third set for his daughter.

Some of these souls even have extremely rare prototypes of unreleased figures and early design images of the toys themselves. Seeing these combined with the variety of Star Wars figures from their early days to what they became glorifies an attractive primitive quality about these figures. Most of them are relatively basic in shape, structure, and look, but the attention to detail director Brian Stillman gives to the figures themselves and the eccentric souls who collect them shows nothing but respect and admiration. The primitive qualities of these figurines is a catch for two reason; for one, they allow for imagination to prevail, and two, they promote the original "collect them all" idea of crossing off a laundry-list of figures on the back of one of the figure's cardboard covers to assure your collection be plentiful.

Stillman missteps on a couple of occasions, however. At only sixty-seven minutes, the film could've easily been expanded to include more personal details about the designers and art team who worked on the toys themselves. The end of the documentary discusses how many of the designers were sleep-deprived, on the edge, and even slept in their offices; one man even states how he missed out on a great deal of the first two years of his child's life because he was constantly at work. This idea is dismissed as abruptly as it is brought up, and it's such a huge part of how and why these figures were created that it practically begs development. Furthermore, Stillman's editing gets kind of clunky too, embellishing certain collectors' emotions and reactions during the first half of the documentary with playful cutting and editorial decorating tactics that do nothing but load the film with unnecessary aesthetics.

And yet, Plastic Galaxy is a nice, if basic, history on the impact Star Wars toys had on the industry and its fanbase. The film ends on an optimistic note, despite noting that following the release of Return of the Jedi and seeing a generation age to become tweens and teenagers saw the market, at the time, take a sharp decline in sales. Nonetheless, a new generation was born that shares the same kind of love and obvious affection for George Lucas's commodity and that gives heartened collectors hope that the toys, like the impacts they had on they themselves, aren't going anywhere.

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