December 1, 2022 3:00 am
On this episode of Our American Stories, “The Nostalgia Awakens" is an exhibit featuring EVERY action figure toy made by Kenner from 1978-1985 based on the original three Star Wars movies. The Star Wars toys on display are from Jarrod Roll, enthusiast and museum curator from Wisconsin, and he's here to share the story of how Star Wars toys revolutionized movie merchandising, licensing, and even how kids play.
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And we tell stories about everything here on the show including your story. Send them to OurAmericanStories.com. The Nostalgia Awakens is an exhibit featuring every action figure toy made by Kenner Toys from 1978 to 1985 based on the original three Star Wars movies. The Star Wars toys on display are from Jared Roll, enthusiast and museum curator from Wisconsin. He and his brother Kevin owned many of the toys when they were children. As an adult Jared collected the rest of the original toys.
In part one of this two-part story we learned that Star Wars was released in May of 1977 to just 32 theaters nationwide and how George Lucas's movie revolutionized movie merchandising, licensing and even how kids play. Here's Jared Roll with the rest of the story. One thing that toys allowed us to do is that we could carry on that story. We could relive that story.
We could be in control of that story that we saw on the big screen that one time. I mean this is before the days of VHS. This is before the days of any way to replay this. I didn't have any means of replaying this movie. If you wanted to see Star Wars multiple times you had to go to the theater and being a five-year-old kid I didn't have any power over that. But the other thing to consider too is that it was only at my theater for two weeks and then it was gone. And then it came back in 78.
During that summer it was back again for two weeks. So we needed ways to stay connected to Star Wars when we weren't seeing the movies. And how did we do that? Well one of the best way was with action figures because now I can take Luke and Ben and Walrus Man and I can recreate that scene in the cantina. You know when Walrus Man tries to attack Luke and Ben steps in and cuts his arm off I can do that.
And then I could take Walrus Man and I could have him be some other guy and he could have his own adventure. And that was the great thing about about being a kid with action figures is that it allowed you to have control over this little world and be your own storyteller. And that stuff was important because again it was our way of of re-entering that world when the movies wasn't there.
You know as a kid you don't have a control over much of anything but here I did and that was a that was a special thing. When Empire Strikes Back came out just how exciting that was and the toys were there waiting for us. That was the big difference now is that when I came out of Empire Strikes Back and believe me I was you know I was just just lit up with excitement just charged coming out of there. And then thankfully we were able to go to a store within a matter of few weeks and pick out a few toys and that was a very different experience then because now the merchandising engine was churning out things lots of things for Star Wars because Kenner they learned their lesson the first time they were prepared this time and they had wonderful product for us and that Christmas and the Christmas after that we just kept on asking for Star Wars toys. You know granted three years were we're in between Star Wars and Empire and then between Empire and Jedi there were three years and we kept engaged because you know Kenner was smart. Every year they would release another wave of figures another vehicle and in the longevity of this of this uh this story of this these movies they it's such an effect on us that we kept engaged you know kids like like me and my friends me most kids were so that when Jedi came out we were just as excited but then something happened after Return of the Jedi came out you know again wonderful toys there waiting for us and we got them you know we either bought them with our money we saved or we got them at birthdays or Christmases but something was beginning to change by the time Jedi left the theaters what was happening is that kids who grew up with the original Star Wars movie and went to see Empire some of them were aging out you know they were hitting their young teens and you know getting into toys isn't such a big thing for them anymore or if you were still in that toy age you were seeing other toys in the toy aisles that were competing for your parents money or your you know meager savings that you had so right next to the Return of the Jedi toys you had He-Man and Masters of the Universe you had GI Joe you know the small GI Joe's the real American hero GI Joe's you had Transformers and GoBots and Thundercats and it just doesn't stop you have all these toys these action figure toys competing for your dollar but the biggest thing that hurt Kenner Star Wars toys after Return of the Jedi is that George Lucas said I'm not making any more movies I don't have any plans for that and he didn't say never but he didn't say he's definitely made it clear that nothing anytime soon and when that happened and the kids we knew that as kids because we wanted to know and once we realized there's no more Star Wars then something kind of detaches from you and for the reasons I said already you kind of turn your attention to other things and so Kenner tried desperately to keep us coming back to the Star Wars section again you know Kenner went from a small subsidiary of General Mills Foods to one of the largest toy manufacturers in the world because of Star Wars they're not going to give up easily on this brand and in 1985 they decided listen okay George doesn't have another movie lined up for us why don't we do something where we create a property that sounds like another Star Wars movie even though it's not so they created a toy line called the power of the force complete with its own logo and so they have the power of the force toy line the packaging looks different but the characters that they were making the action figures and the vehicles they were all from the first three movies and there are some really neat figure choices in there like Luke in star trooper uniform you can take off his helmet and see that it's Luke really neat figure that would have been to have as a kid but but again the problem it was just it was just too late they these toys did not sell and you've been listening to Jared roll talk about his experience experiencing the Star Wars trilogy and all the merchandise and imagineering that went on thereafter it allowed the kids to be their own storytellers he said as kids we didn't have much control of anything with our toys we did when we come back more of Jared rolls story a story about his American youth so many Americans who adored the Star Wars franchise and what they did with it in their imagination and beyond the story continues here on our American stories folks if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do we're asking you to become a part of the our American stories family if you agree that America is a good and great country please make a donation a monthly gift of seventeen dollars and seventy six cents is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters go to our American stories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming that's our American stories.com when the world gets in the way of your music try the new Bose quiet comfort earbuds to next gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears they use exclusive Bose technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound so you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love Bose quiet comfort earbuds to sound shape to you to learn more visit Bose.com imagine air travel that's simple hassle-free and fast that's surf air save hours on every trip avoid busy crowded terminals and fly from airports closer to your home no crowds no long lines no stress with surf air's private flights you're in control of your travel day not the other way around surf air.com the most convenient way to fly get a free quote on your next flight at surf air.com there's a better way to fly private it's official the holidays are here and Zumo is at it again with free live and on-demand entertainment fill your home with the soundtrack of the season with the new iHeartRadio holiday music channels like iHeartChristmas and North Pole Radio snuggle on your couch to laugh and cry with holiday movies like these new Zumo originals my favorite Christmas tree and a royal Christmas match Zumo is always free no logins no signups no accounts no hassle go to Zumo.tv for some holiday cheer that's xumo.tv and we continue with our American stories and with part two of this story for museum curator Jared Roll. Let's pick up where Jared left off George Lucas the creator of Star Wars decided to pull the plug on the series after the first three but the Kenner toy company decided to create a new line of Star Wars action figures and playsets here again is Jared Roll.
I recall a time so it was in 19 it was probably around 1985 could be even 86 stopping at a pharmacy and walking past to the to the magazine aisle and there was what we call a dump bin that's like a square-shaped table with low sides and inside there's just stuff they're trying to clearance out and this dump bin had Star Wars figures in it power the force figure so I remember stopping and picking one up and looking at it and here was a Han Solo and carbonite figure kind of cool idea it was neat it was like the Han Solo figure and he had a piece of carbonite you can put them in the block and see them through it I remember looking I think that's kind of neat but yeah I don't whatever and and what struck me too is I remember this looking at the price tag there were like three or four layers of price stickers on it and the top one said 69 cents because they were just you know they're probably like 295 250 dollar 95 69 cents you know just clearancing this stuff out that figure today is worth thousands because kids like me looked at them and said yeah and tossed them right back in there and we went and bought a Thundercat instead or we went and just bought a magazine about about music I don't know what we were into but we weren't buying that stuff and nobody did and because of that some of those toys the power of the force line they're the most coveted among collectors and they're so cool to see because it wasn't until I was an adult collector that I even knew they made a lot of the stuff that they made towards the end because it just didn't hit the shelves so like a lot of kids at this point you know I we move on either to other toys or stop getting toys but my toys were very valuable to me and and so even though I was in my teenage years I did store my toys in actually one big old refrigerator box in the garage of my parents house and you know grew up you know went to college and it was shortly after graduating from high school I went to a record convention in Milwaukee but one of the vendors at this record convention sold a newspaper a trade newspaper where you could buy and sell music but they also sold one for buying and selling antiques and all of a sudden I look and here is the Millennium Falcon and somebody's saying that they're selling one for $80 so like wait a minute you mean the stuff from my childhood now has value I mean it was an expensive toy but it wasn't $80 and they're saying $80 and it's not even in the box so after a while like I'm hunched over this this booth and I start kneeling and then I sit on the floor and I'm looking at this and the woman working at the booth she's like you can just take that home with you now you seem to be really attached you're like oh thanks so I took it home and I poured over inch by inch and that got me thinking I need to know are you know I need to go look at my toys from my childhood because if they have value I could be rich you know I think that was one of the ideas that went through my head that and you just want to know do I still have all these things so I go home in my parents place so I was in my first year of college at the time but I go home and I dig they got this big box in the garage and I was a little sad because they weren't as white and pristine as I had remembered them but I still had a lot of them but now I've got this new bug inside of me that wants them all like I want the things I never had as a kid how am I going to do that well this was 1992 and and there was you know before the internet for anything like that so I started I started typing up lists of toys and I started typing up lists on the typewriter of the things I wanted or handwriting notices little little flyers I hung them up in laundromats in my hometown I hung them up in the grocery stores when you first go in there's a little little community board there and there was a radio call-in show on our local polka music station called WTKM where you could call in buy sell and swap and I you know I'm saying hey I'm looking for Star Wars toys you know if you've got any give me a call and and it in some ways it works because what had happened is that at the same time this is happening moms all over the United States are getting rid of their kids toys kids from my generation we're going off to college mom's cleaning out the house and they're like they're not going to want these toys anymore and so they're calling me and saying yeah I've got my kid at a lot of this stuff you know he's he's moved away or whatever come and take a look at it so I'd go to their house and on their dining room table there would be a selection of toys like a whole mix I always remember I'd go there I just asked for Star Wars stuff but there'd be some some GI Joes some you know some adventure people just a whole mix of things and you know the mom didn't know she just called them all Star Wars toys and I said okay I'll just take this one and this one and she's like oh no no you're gonna buy everything it's all or nothing like okay so I just bought it all up I brought it home but it wasn't until George Lucas announced in 1993 I believe it was he said I have plans to make more Star Wars movies and when he said that all of a sudden people from my generation like whoa Star Wars I love Star Wars can you believe that there is actually more movies and then shortly after that announcement there was an announcement a follow-up announcement saying that he was going to re-release the original trilogy special editions and that came out in 97 so in 93 94 you're starting to hear rumblings of Star Wars coming back and that's kind of waking things up in us they're like oh this is exciting around that same time Kenner toys is bought by Hasbro toys now Hasbro they're they're big they're one of the big two toy companies they always have been you know they're known best for GI Joe I guess but Hasbro is huge and they buy Kenner and in 1995 they do something that we never thought would happen and that is they started creating Star Wars action figure toys again so in 10 first time in 10 years action figure toys are in the toy aisle by the way this is a new thing that we're we're adults who collect toys and we're uh you know we've got a lot of purchasing power and we're hungry for this stuff so up to that point people like me were now we're buying vintage Star Wars toys and the price started going up I know I saw it right away I'm like oh man but then now that we have new Star Wars product we're thinking two things one this stuff is awesome I want it and two this stuff is awesome I want it and I'm gonna buy two of them two of everything one to open and to enjoy and one to store away because it's gonna be worth something big just like my childhood toys well we know that never happened but at the time we we thought it was a good plan so we're buying up all this stuff and I remember it was in 2001 and I'm sitting in my office at my in my apartment and I get a package in the mail normally it's really exciting I open it up and like oh I know what this is this is a 12-inch figure of four LOM he was a bounty hunter from Empire Strikes Back and they made a nice 12-inch figure very detailed with the right weapons and it's just a beautiful 12-inch figure that I've ever holding in my hands and thinking I don't feel anything about this like there's no I don't know I it's like I feel nothing for this anymore for this new stuff and that really marked the end of toy collecting especially the new stuff and so I just packed everything up and put it aside and that was it for toy collecting for a while for me and then life continued to happen you know I got married I have kids and yet these toys is kind of following me around and my you know I wasn't collecting anymore but they were taking up a lot of space and then that brings me to 2015 in the winter of 2015 when my colleague said Jared didn't you used to collect toys Star Wars toys what if he brought those out and he put them on display in anticipation of this new movie that's coming out and so those a lot of those new toys I then started just dumping just selling for whatever I could get but it got it out of my house and I was able to earn some money to buy some of those pieces that eventually went on display in what I call the Nostalgia Awakens which is the exhibit that I created of all the vintage Star Wars toys which I still still love and I'm grateful to be able to share it with so many people of my generation who have those same feelings and memories of Star Wars and childhood as I do and a special thanks to Greg Hengler for a great job producing that piece and getting the and getting the story and also a special thanks to Jared Roll the story of Jared Roll and the story of Star Wars and how young people and older people across this country and around the world reacted to this American classic trilogy here on Our American Story. 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Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-01 04:07:47 / 2022-12-01 04:16:19 / 9