By the time 1980 came around I had just made it past the 12 year old post and I was ready for more Star Wars
By late 1979, I had received my previously mentioned Boba Fett figure, which still didn’t fire rockets and thankfully I hadn’t seen the Star Wars Holiday Special by this point.
We did get to see The Muppet Show featuring a plethora of characters from Star Wars. This iconic show from the 70s first premiered on UK TVs on leap day, 29th February 1980. This was a clear three months before Empire was released in cinemas.
At that time The Muppet Show, due to the very British TV mogul, Lew Grade, (but actually born in Russia) was being filmed in England at Elstree Studios. This very studio just happened to be the main location for the filming of The Empire Strikes Back. American TV networks didn’t want anything to do with Jim Henson’s Muppets.
Mark Hamill made an appearance as Luke Skywalker and his “cousin” Mark Hamill. Luke was dressed in a clean version of his, at that time, unknown costume from Dagobah and Cloud City and carrying his blaster.
We also didn’t really know about Yoda and the fact that the voice of Yoda, Frank Oz was playing against Mark Hamill as Fozzy, Miss Piggy, Animal, and Sam Eagle in the same show.
It was cheesy and funny at the same time and by far much more fun that the dancing disco which was the Star Wars Holiday Special. Yes, I have seen it, and it isn’t good.
In 1980 I we went to see Empire at the Odeon cinema in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, fairly soon after the film was released on the 20th May 1980.
I had my parents in tow and we all thoroughly enjoyed the film and were stunned at the revelations and the cliff hanger at the end. A staple of George Lucas’s idea of basing Star Wars on Saturday morning serials.
I remember walking back up the queue in stunned silence with the “Darth Vader is Luke’s father” stuck in my head along side the fact that Luke now has robotic hand. Oh, a carbonized Han Solo was taken away to Jabba the Hutt by the now definitely cool, bounty hunter Boba Fett.
Before I go on I have to discuss the name “Boba Fett” in Empire Strikes Back. His name was never heard out loud during Empire. It was only in Jedi when we heard Han say “Boba”. From 1980 until 1983 and beyond I’ve always pronounced “Boh-ba” as “Bobb-ah”. Even to this day I’m trying to change to he proper pronunciation. I think many of my generation also have the same problem.
Even Youtube can’t decide to this day.
I could have said any one of those three bits of information out loud and I could easily spoil it for everyone in the queue waiting for the next showing. I was holding such power in my mind. I was 12… it was a lot to carry. In those days we couldn’t just pop home start up the computer and start chatting with other viewers. That was probably about 15 years away, at least. We had to wait to get back to school and discuss it with our mates.
Yoda was unexpected and new. When I initially saw him he was just a weird rubber puppet that we would have to get used to, but by the time Luke departed Dagobah he was a fond part of Star Wars canon and rife for merchandising. The point where I started to really connect to the Yoda character was when Yoda was arguing over a small torch. We were all convinced in the theatre that there had to be some other Jedi Master living on Dagobah and not that silly creature. The film was filled with surprises.
It was much grittier than a New Hope, there were more locations to add to the expanding galaxy with Hoth, the Asteroid, Dagobah and the amazing Cloud City. We were introduced to new characters like Boba, Lando, Lobot, Ugnaughts, Sheckil (that was the human character Jeremy Bulloch played on screen as well as Boba) and they blew C3PO up. I thought maybe Anthony Daniels might not have wanted to play C3PO, so they blew him up. They blew up R2 at the end of A New Hope, so it was probably C3POs time and it would have been rather slow chases around Cloud City if everyone had to wait for that slow droid.
It was now my most favourite Star Wars film of all time and the most frustrating. I honestly thought nothing could top the original, but it did. Even with that weird rubber dude that occasionally looked cross-eyed.
The only problem now was that we’d have to wait for the conclusion… in three years. What was I going to do in three years? I’d be 15, it seemed a very long time.
In these days of more recent Star Wars you had to wait a couple of years between Star Wars films with the odd Marvel movie to fill the void.
Thankfully we did have a Bond film, For Your Eyes Only, Clash of the Titans, E.T., Tron, Star Trek II and the Dark Crystal. Obviously missing some of the other films which I’d be too young for including one of my all time favourites, The Thing, with Blade Runner, and First Blood.
So as well as watching the age related films, I’d better occupy myself with buying more stuff, or at least letting parents and grandparents treat me to a figure or two for the next couple of years.
In 1980 Palitoy/Kenner released a further 11 figures, this excluded the previous Boba Fett and Yoda which was revealed later in the year.
The cardback for 1980 showed the original 20 figures and added an extra 10. There was also a 31 back figure package with Yoda.
Also on the bottom was the Droid Factory and the troop transport which although was never a vehicle seen in any of the films, eventually made it into both Star Wars Rebels and The Mandalorian.
By the end of 1981 with The Empire Strikes Back being a popular choice for Christmas the total number of figures raised to the 41 back.
There were numerous mail aways during the Empire Strikes Back run of action figures and I took full advantage of them.
The first was to get a free Dengar figure with 3 purchases and 30p postage and packaging.
The second was for the “Survival Kit” which included a bunch of accessories for the figures including back packs, asteroid face masks, a training harness so that Luke could carry Yoda around plus a bunch of blasters and a grappling hook belt.
Everybody loves free stuff especially as I was collecting as many of the figures as possible, so that I could complete my collection.
I was buying them from various places both in the north east as well as Ashton market on Tameside.
Alongside the 3 and 3/4 inch figures, this time there was much more merchandise around. Two of my favourite all time Star Wars toys were bought around 1980, this included the Yoda Hand Puppet and the 12 inch or large scale Boba Fett.
At some point during multiple cinema visits during those gap years we visited my gran in Ashton. We took her to see Empire Strikes Back and she thought that Yoda was cute. So we ended up getting her a couple of Yoda figures which she put amongst her regular mantelpiece ornaments.
I must admit that the 3 3/4 action figure of Yoda wasn’t exactly that screen accurate and the design with his fluffy coat and his chubby cheeks made him much more cuter than he was in the film.
I also remember my grandma and grandad buying me the Yoda rubber hand puppet which I still have on my collection. He is on a shelf and 40 years later, he doesn’t look a day over 900.
About the same time, I remember picking up my favourite action figure of all time. Boba Fett.
He came with a Six Million Dollar Man style peep hole, backpack with grappling hook on string, laser blaster, cape and wookiee scalps (at that time. They were later changed to padawan braids in the books and comics).
This american advert from the early 80s will give you an idea of the truly amazing figure and accessories.
Hang on…. did he say “Bobo Fett”?
My figure did not fair too well. This will be covered in detail once we get past the time of Return of the Jedi.
Let’s just say, bits are missing, and you should never try to give Star Wars toys away to other kids a couple of doors down because if you ever manage to get them back after they are bored, they won’t be complete.
It’s heartbreaking, but I do still own the majority of my original 12 inch figure, minus the grappling hook end, wookiee scalps and blaster.
When your toys cease to be toys, you can start calling them collectables. That way you can keep them, no questions asked.
Following on from the previous blog, lets talk music. Once the film had been released we had access to the story albums and the official soundtracks.
“The Adventures of Luke Skywalker – The Empire Strikes Back” This was the official release, again with the dialogue, sound effects and music direct from the film. This was a gate-fold album but with only one vinyl.
The inner gate-fold revealed the entire story in pictures except the whole Vader being Lukes father bit.
I think I made another horrible mistake in 1980 and acquired another cover album of the Empire Strikes Back music.
I have no idea why I own this album. Don’t worry some time in the late 80s I managed to fix it all. But for the moment please sample this interesting Disco Empire with a mix of jazz, flailing trumpets, lead guitar, backing singers, clapping, mellow lounge tunes, electronic junk, lots of hihats and an bunch of wacka-chicka.
Why?! I must have had a that’ll do attitude at the time.
This time around I was in middle school and I remember spending a lot of money on Panini stickers. You’d buy an album for 25p and you’d buy the individual packets from the local newsagents for probably around 10p a packet containing 8 randomly selected stickers.
We didn’t get trading cards, like we did with “A New Hope”, this time around we got Panini stickers instead.
School was the best place for swaps and I remember taking my pile of swaps with my list of needs.
Here’s a great Youtube video with a look at the UK version of the Panini stickers.
We could go into the amount of books, magazines and comics but I will be doing a separate blog about this little lot. Here’s a picture of the three of the novel sized editions available at the time. I do have a novel sized comic edition too.
One thing that has to be mentioned before we go on. Before Disney bought Lucasfilm and their properties, they didn’t treat some of the characters very well. This kind of thing makes me feel ill. This is not my Boba Fett. Bohba Fett…. Bobby Feet.
I loved the Star Wars weekends…. but this is just silly.
Thankfully they treat them much better these days with the character encounters and I’ve never seen Kylo Ren dance to DJ Rex in Galaxies Edge. No, just no.
Boogie Storm is just about my limit.
Anyway, that’s it for the moment. See you next time for the last Star Wars film of all time. Return of the Jedi…. well…