The original Star Wars film celebrates its 40th Anniversary!

SW anniversary poster

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Employee Profile: Jim Hook and Yoda The Jedi Master Game

IMG_0719Greetings Gooney Fans! This past month we were fortunate to meet up with a former Project Engineer (1979-1997) Jim Hook. Jim worked on several product lines throughout his career including Star Wars, M.A.S.K., Starting Lineup, Batman, etc. One of the products he was especially happy to have been a part of was Yoda The Jedi Master board game. Object of the game: “Be the first player to become a Jedi Knight, defeat the Dark Side of the Force and win! Travel to the Dagobah System where Yoda, the ancient Jedi Master, will teach you the ways of the Force. Acquire Jedi merit as you successfully accomplish the difficult tasks and trials Yoda sets for your training. Once you’ve obtained sufficient merit as a Jedi, enter the Jedi Knight circle and out-spin the Dark Side of the Force to win.” IMG_0722In Jim’s own words, he describes what it was like to work on the team assigned with designing the game from the ground up and having been a part of the developmental stages as the product moved into production: “A long time ago, really just back in 1980, in a galaxy far, far away, a group of Kenner Product employees teamed together to create board games. Which may make you scratch your head because, as many of you know, at that time, the cereal, food behemoth General Mills owned Kenner Products, Parker Brothers and Fundimensions. And Parker Brothers was the foremost creator and manufacturer of the finest board games across the galaxy. Apparently, Kenner, when negotiating licensing agreements, was able to carve out a niche to include board games as part of the products they would create, market and sell.

So, back to our story, in 1980, as Kenner was buzzing with creativity to wow Lucasfilm, Ltd. and toy store buyers with numerous Action Figures, Vehicles and Playsets based on the next installment of the Star Wars saga, The Empire Strikes Back, the opportunity that a board game based on one of the new, mysterious characters was declared by the Preliminary Design and Engineering Group. This concept along with a profitability sheet was pitched to the Marketing department and the direction was given to create a Yoda Board Game and add it to the product line. IMG_0721At this step, the concept was handed off to the Boys Toys department and a development timeline was created. Kenner had a connection to printed board stock with strong relationships in their Purchasing Department and the talent and knowledge from the designers who had come over to Kenner from Rainbow Craft. A small team was established to work together and come up with a “fun and exciting” game. My colleagues and I would sit in a corner of an available conference room with a nice square board game with a blue printed image of the pointy eared Jedi and some squares snaking around for kids to travel around the key locations presented in the new movie.

The team would have to submit a “Bill of Materials” list to the Costing Engineer so he could calculate the overall cost of the product. This was a good way to help define the parts and number of cards vital to the play of the game. The Boys Toys Engineering Manager, at that time, had experience on Board games and was able to dictate how to spec the board and the box to prevent warpage and insure a quality looking product.We had an outstanding artist that was able to capture the Product Engineers vision for game play resulting in a product that was a hit for buyers at Toy Fair. What was an Engineer’s role in this “simple” board game? Like all projects, the Engineer had to enforce schedules and cost restraints and coordinate with safety and reliability Departments to insure the game and all its parts would pass stringent testing. IMG_0723Another task I was assigned was designing a nifty plastic spinner for this game to be assembled into a cardboard box onto which was printed number of spaces to move and references to “the Force” and “the Dark Side”. Each player had a Luke Skywalker token which were different colored board stock folded up and wedged into a slotted plastic base. More fun was had, if a player was lucky enough to get to pick a Yoda or Luke card and follow the instruction on your way to defeating your opponents.

It may be easy from today’s perspective to accept how popular a Jedi master like Yoda would become and the idea of traveling to Dagobah may be appealing; but in early 1980, there was a certain leap of faith needed from these game developers to bring to the home what kids and older consumers saw on the big screen. As a sidebar, I do not recall if any of the Kenner Engineering staff was aware of George Lucas’ biggest twist that Darth Vader was the father of Luke and Leia. We were very fortunate to get to go see the Empire Strikes Back during work hours, as a company and most of us were shocked by that turn of events. And it was certainly fun to go back to the office and see the Engineering drawings in process for the various Star Wars vehicles on someone’s drawing board. This was a group effort and the success of these products were only achieved by the great group of individuals I was working with and working for!”

Until Next Time! It’s Kenner! It’s Fun!

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Li’L Loggers: Rugged Lumberjacks & Their Pet Pals!

Greetings Gooney fans! One of the beloved, yet nearly forgotten lines Kenner released in the early 80’s was a bathtub toy-line companion to the popular Sea Wees line known as Li’l Loggers. Each action figure was packaged with a companion creature and a half cylinder piece of foam that mimicked a log that would carry the characters along the water surface. Our friends over at theFwoosh.com have written an excellent article devoted to this line!

Throwback Thursday: Kenner’s Li’l Loggers

Pictured below are internal photos of the early models of Jumper Joe and Rocky Racoon. A keen eye will notice a change in expression on Rocky Racoon model to the final production toy. These prototypes were created by Kenner model shop employees.

Jumper Joe prototype

Jumper Joe prototype

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Jumper Joe prototype model1

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Jumper Joe prototype model2

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Conan O’Brien and the 35th Anniversary of G.I. JOE

Greetings Gooney Fans! Last week the nation celebrated Veterans Day and recognized those who served in the Armed Forces. To commemorate this occasion, we uncovered some interesting information relating to a national contest Kenner/Hasbro held to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the G.I. JOE action figure line! The contest was entitled “The Search For The Real-Life G.I. JOE Spirit”. In 1999, as the contest was just underway, Conan O’Brien visited Hasbro/Kenner in downtown Cincinnati. Bob Kling, Director of Boys Sculpting at the time, has fond recollections of the event. He was kind enough to provide some details about his involvement with the segment.


conan-roughBob writes: “Okay, yeah that visit by Conan O’Brien was a lot of fun. I guess I wasn’t alone in thinking his entourage would be larger; it was just a camera guy and Conan, no producer or director, not even a grip or go-fer if I remember correctly. I don’t have a firm recollection. For my segment Conan walked in cracking wise and giving directions about lighting and camera angles and  pans. Within a few minutes he had it blocked out and we began. We talked for about 15 minutes, of which they used what?  less than a minute. He was funny and engaging and I don’t recall most of what was said except this: I was showing him how we go from a rough clay sketch to a final wax by using dental alginate to make a fast and easy and non-toxic mold. I told him it was so safe that you could eat it. He said, “go ahead.” I said, “no, you could eat it.” As I recall he dropped both hands to his sides and sighed as if to say, ‘come on man, I’m the comedian here,’ and of course that part was left out.”

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real-joe-scp           Kenner/Hasbro would go on to recognize National Guard Veteran and Baltimore Police Officer Charles Bury Jr. as the contest winner. It was the heroism of Charles saving civilian lives, not shooting enemy soldiers, that qualified him as “The Real G.I. JOE”! This newspaper article gives account of Charles experience during the contest and highlights some of the events throughout his career in the service.

real-gi-joe

All reference photos and media related materials provided by Bob Kling.

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Until next time! It’s Kenner! It’s Fun!

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Ira Gobler and the Star Wars Toys That Never Were

Greetings Gooney Fans! Have you ever heard the story of Ira Gobler and Gobler Toys? Imagine for a moment that there is a prequel to the story we already know of Kenner securing the rights to the franchise just one month before the release of the film. In fact, the seemingly unknown Gobler Toys was the first to pitch their concepts to George Lucas! So, let’s take a ride in Bill and Ted’s Phone Booth and head back to the year 1976 to learn about Ira Gobler and the Star Wars toys that never were!

Now, if you are interested in learning the true story of Star Wars toys and how those events transpired, check out Brian Stillman’s Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys.

 

KennerGooney_line1Until Next time! It’s Kenner! It’s Fun!

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Cincinnati Toy Show and Kenner Mural Review

toy-show-bannerGreetings Gooney Fans! Grab your Bubbl-Matic and hop on the Daddy Saddle, because we are traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio – home of Kenner Toys! Last weekend collectors traveled far and wide to experience one of the hobby’s finest toy shows. Described by many as a “Mini Star Wars Celebration”, the CTS Promotions Cincinnati Toy Show has drawn quite a large audience in recent years. After nearly a decade of successful venues in the Columbus, Ohio area, show promoter James Ford decided to reintroduce Cincinnati into the show lineup. 2016 marks the third consecutive year CTS has organized a toy show in the Cincinnati market. steve-dwyerThis year, however, collectors visiting the area were treated to a new “must see” location that coincides with the former Kenner facility location tour dubbed “The Kenner Tour”. Cincinnati based foundation Artworks completed it’s latest Mural project and the subject is none other than Kenner Toys! The mural has quickly drawn crowds anxious to see the monumental painting located on 23 West Court Street, just a few blocks away from the Kroger Building (formally shared with Kenner Products). The massive mural was designed by artist Jonathan Queen of Artworks and was the brainchild of Kathy and Darren Murrer, former owners of the Earth Toy Mall. As collectors began making the pilgrimage to the area, Facebook feeds began showcasing collectors from all across the country (and globe) posing in front of their 3-story sized childhood toys!


rooms-sales1  14642409_1239394286132284_1459628479385499823_n  14641893_594321740750192_8696732829333783638_n            Room Sales! Room Sales! Room Sales! It has now become an annual tradition that the Saturday night before the open of the show, collectors congregate at the La Quinta Inn, Sharronville in hopes to add a few new items to their collections. This is really where the show begins as old friends catch up and new friends are made. It is always refreshing at these events to break through the cyber walls we reside behind and finally put faces to the familiar names!


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Sunday morning the showroom floor was covered with vintage Star Wars, Super Powers, Real Ghostbusters, M.A.S.K. and many other familiar Kenner collectibles. It is always surprising to see so many rare and high-grade items available at shows like this! Overall, another successful Cincinnati show is on the books! The future looks promising for the future of toy shows. Many thanks go out to CTS Promotions, La Quinta Inn and Suites Sharronville and the staff at Smokey Bones Bar and Fire Grill in West Chester, Ohio. For upcoming show announcements, visit www.ctspromotions.com for more information!

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Until next time, It’s Kenner! It’s Fun!

 

 

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Cincinnati Toy Heritage Mural Features Kenner Toys!

The Toy Heritage Mural in progress. Photo courtesy of Artworks.

The Toy Heritage Mural in progress. Photo courtesy of Artworks.

After many hundreds of hours over many long, hot, summer weeks, the Toy Heritage mural by local artist Jonathan Queen is now finished.  Located at 23 West Court Street in downtown Cincinnati, an official dedication is set for this Saturday, October 1 at 10:30am.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley will be on hand for a few remarks.  Special guests include former Kenner executives Ginger Kent and Pete Kelly, as well as ArtWorks CEO and Artistic Director Tamara Harkavy, and artist Jonathan Queen. Corky Steiner, son of Kenner co-founder Phil Steiner, will emcee the event.

From the Artworks website description of the event:

“Cincinnati’s rich toy history is being celebrated on this Towne Properties building on West Court Street. The legacy of Kenner Toys, a Cincinnati-based toy company founded in 1947, is documented in this work of art which showcases some of the most popular toys that were designed by the company. Marvel at the surreal renderings designed by local artist Jonathan Queen. Passersby will enjoy his use of adored characters and toys like Care Bear, C3PO, Easy Bake Oven, Spirograph, Strawberry Shortcake and many more.”

This mural was made possible thanks to support from The Hassenfeld Foundation, Towne Properties, and The Plant Trolley.

If you plan to attend the dedication, please RSVP at the Artworks EventBrite Site. Admission is free.

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Rebates and Munch Mates: The Kenner-Cheerios Poster Offer – The Star Wars Collectors Archive Blog

kenner-cheerios.JPGOur friend at the Star Wars Collectors Archive, Ron Salvatore, has written another great blog post today.  This installment details the General Mills Fun Group/Kenner/Star Wars connection along with a special shout out to one of our sentimental favorite Kenner concepts, the Munch Mates.

Great read, Ron!

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Super Bowl 50: Pizza, Beer, & TOYS

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Ahhh the Super Bowl. Does a greater sports day exist? The championship game, the commercials, the food. Damn, the food. Pizza, beer, wings, nachos – it’s a day where anything goes and is the biggest day of indulgence for Americans.

But I digress, back to the matter at hand. You may have noticed that there are no Panther figures pictured. If you’re wondering why (and no, the reason is not because I’m a Bronco’s fan…Go Bears!) it’s because there were not many Panther SLUs produced.

The Carolina Panthers team was formed in 1995 a mere five years before Starting Lineup ended production of their iconic toy collectibles. As is the case with most new teams, the Panthers roster lacked the super star status that was necessary to generate the toy company’s interest. In total five players were selected: Kerry Collins, Lamar Lathon, Mark Carrier, Frank Reich, and Kevin Greene. However, a total of eight figures were produced. Kerry Collins was the only athlete to have more than one SLU made in regular production (three in total), but Kevin Greene did have a Gridiron Greats in 1997. A quick eBay search will provide a list of Panthers figures for sale ranging in value from five to fifteen dollars.

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The Denver Broncos however, tell a much different story. Originally formed as an AFL team in 1960 they later merged with the NFL in 1970. Fifty-four Starting Lineups donning Broncos jerseys were produced right up until the final distribution in 2000. Some of the more notable figures include Shannon Sharpe, John Elway and Terrell Davis. Although all three of these players been inducted to the Hall of Fame (or are well on their way to being inducted) their figures hold little value, ranging from five to fifty dollars. Arguably the most valuable Broncos figure is 1990 Simon Fletcher because it was released only regionally making it more difficult to find. It carries a hefty price tag of one hundred fifty dollars.

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And for the all the Peyton Manning fans out there looking to complete their collection with a SLU of him in his Denver Broncos jersey, I hate to disappoint you, but it’s not going to happen! While there are many Peyton Manning SLUS available all feature him in either a home or away Colts Jersey. Your closest option to getting him in orange is to pick up a specialty SLU produced in the Quarterback Challenge Classic Double from 2000. This exclusive figure features him wearing his University of Tennessee jersey.

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Regardless of who you root for and whether you watch the game solo or with friends, I hope you relax, enjoy the day, and embrace the last day of the 2016 football season!

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The MASK ’87 Invitational Flag

The MASK 87 Invitational Flag

This is an invitation for The MASK ’87 Invitational, Kenner’s release party for the 1987 MASK product line.  The party took place at Kenner’s year-round showroom in Manhattan’s Toy District.  MASK stands for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand and the toy line ran from 1985-1988.

The invitation is made of sewn white nylon and the details are screen printed on.  It measures 15″ wide by 12″ tall and reads:

JOIN US IN THE WINNER’S CIRCLE FOR COCKTAILS AND HORS D’OEUVRES

RACE- THE MASK ’87 INVITATIONALDATE- OCTOBER 15, 1986
START TIME- 4:30 P.M.
CIRCUIT- FIFTH FLOOR KENNER SHOWROOM
1107 BROADWAY NY NY
TO ENTER- RSVP: XXXX XXXXXX (212)337-8632

If you are a fan of MASK, be sure to check out Albert Penello’s great The MASK Page.

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