Kenner Internal Video: Sentimental Journey

When Kenner closed their doors in Cincinnati in 2000, it was an end of an era.  Hasbro had obtained Kenner in 1991 and after 9 years, the time to close the Cincinnati office had come.  Many employees would move on to Hasbro’s Rhode Island headquarters, some would retire, and some would find themselves looking for new opportunities.

On December 2nd, 2000, Kenner held a farewell party at the Regal Cincinnati Hotel. The partygoers were treated to this 25 minute video, which summarizes Kenner’s storied history, famous products and the people who made them.  It’s a bittersweet tape to watch for Kenner fans and those who worked there, but it demonstrates how proud they all were of their history and how sad they were to see it coming to an end.

If you worked at Kenner, or if you are in this video, contact us using the icon on the right of this page, or leave a comment below. We would love to hear about your memories and experiences at Kenner.

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New toys for Christmas 1976

News story from 1976 showing the hot toys for Christmas.  Fun to see Kenner’s Stretch Armstrong, The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Bionic Woman getting some love.

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Kenner Star Wars designer Jim Swearingen’s display at Cincinnati library

Kenner Collector Cincinnati library Swearingen

If you are visiting the downtown Cincinnati library’s Just in Time for the Holidays: Kenner Toys exhibit or spending the entire day at the library for the December 12th Kenner Symposium, be sure you check out Jim Swearingen’s vintage Star Wars images display.

Check out this interview by the University of Cincinnati’s UC Magazine for more information about Jim.

Kenner Collector Cincinnati library Swearingen

The display shows images of some early Kenner Star Wars prototypes, and some historical moments associated with the company during the early Star Wars years.

Kenner Collector Cincinnati library Swearingen

Be sure to check out all of the exciting Kenner related exhibits while you are at the library!

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You never forget your first Easy-Bake Oven!

Kenner Collector Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas

How awesome is this picture?  I’m so jealous of Michele over on The Old Granite Step blog.  Not only does she have wonderful memories of being with her family for Christmas, but she also has this picture of when she received her Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas in 1965!

The picture was posted last year, but thanks to Light Bulb Baking for sharing it again!

Image property of The Old Granite Step.

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Celebrating Kenner’s Star Wars toys and the company’s strong connection to Cincinnati

Kenner Collector Kenner Toys Cincinnati Early-Bird Kit

Cincinnati.com has posted a great article detailing the iconic history of the Kenner toy company and the many ways the company impacted Cincinnati and the toy industry as a whole.  There are some great photos in the article that even some seasoned collectors may have not seen before.  Who wouldn’t love to open a newspaper today and see a Shillito’s ad for the Star Wars Early Bird Kit!?

Kenner Collector Kenner Toys Cincinnati Millennium Falcon

The article is primarily Star Wars focused, but there is enough good information in there to make it worth your time even if you collect non-Star Wars lines.  We also get a nice nod to our Kenner toys exhibit which will be on display at the main branch of the Cincinnati library until January 16th, 2016.

Kenner Collector Kenner Toys Cincinnati X-Wings

Images property of Cincinnati.com.

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Kenner Toy Symposium on December 12th at main branch of the Cincinnati public library

Kenner Collector Pre-Toy Fair Cincinnati

Our Kenner toy exhibit on display at the main branch of the Cincinnati library was just one piece of the Kenner goodness taking place there!  On Saturday, December 12th, the library will be hosting a day-long Kenner Toy Symposium that will run from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  There will be Kenner toy commercials shown, discussion panels with ex-Kenner employees, a screening of Brian Stillman’s excellent Star Wars toy documentary Plastic Galaxy, and so much more.

This will be a great chance to meet and interact with legendary Kenner employees like Corky Steiner, the son and nephew of Kenner’s founders, Star Wars toy creators Jim Swearingen, Tom Osborne, Mark Boudreaux, and many more!  If you are at all interested in learning about how your favorite Kenner toys were made, or the inner workings of the greatest toy company of all time, you cannot miss this event!

The complete schedule for the day is below:

Kenner Toy Symposium —Saturday, Dec. 12, 10 a.m. –5:30 p.m.

In celebration of the exhibits and upcoming release of The Force Awakens, the Main Library will host a special day-long symposium with former Kenner employees. All events will take place in the Main Library’s Reading Garden Lounge. No registration is required.

Kenner History, 10 a.m.–noon

Corky Steiner, the son and nephew of Kenner’s founders, will retell the history of the company through 50 years of vintage Kenner toy commercials wrapped into two 20-minute segments. The segments will be followed with a Q&A session featuring former Kenner executives.

The Phases of Kenner Toys, 1–3:15 p.m.

Take an in-depth look at the various phases of the Kenner Toy company from the 1950s to ‘90s. Session will feature actual video interviews with the leadership that guided Kenner in the post Steiner era from 1972 to its closing in 2000. A Q&A session with Kenner employees will follow.

  • 1950–1970s: A family business to General Mills management
  • 1970s–1980s: General Mills to Tonka
  • 1990s–2000: Hasbro’s acquisition of Kenner and Hasbro’s consolidation of its various entities to their Rhode Island general offices in 2000.

Plastic Galaxy Screening, 3:30–4:30 p.m.

Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys, directed by Brian Stillman, examines the history and pop-culture impact of Kenner’s of Star Wars toy line.

Panel discussion with Star Wars toy designers, 4:30–5:30 p.m.

Moderated by director Brian Stillman, this panel discussion will feature original Star Wars toy designers Jim Swearingen and Tom Osborne.

To get all of the details in one place, visit the library’s dedicated Kenner Toys website.

 

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Starting Lineup collector Joe Curcio on NFL Films Presents

nfl

I’m excited to share something that fellow Kenner Collector and friend Joe Curcio is involved in.  Back in the spring, NFL Films contacted Joe about his Kenner Starting Lineup football collection, and wanted to meet with him to do an interview.  NFL Films actually visited him first for a pre-interview, visited one of his ice cream shops, and then went back for the full TV interview.

Unproduced, production quality prototypes

The interview was about a 5 or 6 hour process, and Joe thinks it was one of the greatest things he has ever experienced with his Starting Lineup collection.  Well, the time has come and the air date is set.  Even though Joe doesn’t think it will be a super long interview since it’s only a half hour show, I can’t wait to check it out!

The name of the show is “NFL Films Presents” and the title of this episode will be “The Long and Short of It”

Thursday, November 19th, 10:30 a.m. Eastern time on Fox Sports 1
Friday, November 20th, 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on Fox Sports 1
Saturday, November 21st, 10:30 a.m. Eastern time on NFL Network.

Unproduced, hand-painted prototype

Support your fellow Kenner Collector and check it out!  Also, check out an interview we did with Joe back in 2011!

 

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Kenner Fall ’78 Star Wars supplement

Many collectors have seen various vendor catalogs, typically called ‘Toy Fair’ catalogs because they were sent out around Toy Fair to promote the new and existing lines to vendors.  These catalogs contain nice photos of the toys, descriptions, case packing information, ordering numbers, box measurements, store display suggestions and more.  Often, Kenner would supplement these annual catalogs with inserts or additional fliers when the occasion warranted it.

For collectors, the toy fair catalogs are fairly easy to obtain, particularly for the Star Wars years from 1977-86.  Supplements are quite another story.  I’m not particularly sure that we are even aware of all that may have been produced over the years.  This entry showcases a little known insert focused on Star Wars merchandising plans from Fall of 1978.

Click to view images of each page (use controls at bottom of enlarged image to navigate):

The interior pages describe the TV marketing campaign underway and Kenner’s investment of four million dollars into television ad spending, including one million alone into the ‘new Star Wars commercial featuring R2-D2 and C-3PO’ set to air during the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special (November, 1978).

Kenner naturally, and rightfully, trumpets their success with Star Wars toys at this early stage, indicating their unprecedented support in marketing and developing their license for the most popular movie of all time.  They declare their plans to feature Star Wars ads for not only the sponsored Holiday Special, but also during other family specials like Puff the Magic Dragon, Bugs Bunny, How the West Was Won and Snoopy Come Home.  As they say in the supplement, “Kenner is reaching virtually every kid in America with a gigantic TV campaign…”

The supplement goes on to note that four million Star Wars catalogs will be distributed to Burger Chef restaurants to further promote the license.  Finally, “Cheerios” joins the Force, with special poster premiums and Kenner rebates, supported by a newspaper ad campaign designed for the comic section.  In all, seven other cereals would also include various Kenner rebates and Star Wars premiums inside.

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Kenner Power Movers road crew mail-in set of three hard copy 4ups

Kenner Power Movers Road Crew 4up Prototypes

Kenner’s Power Movers toy line had a relatively short shelf life as far as toys go, lasting only a couple of years between 1982 and 1983.  The line of trucks and military vehicles were battery operated and claimed to have real hydraulic working features, just like their full size counterparts.  In 1983, Kenner introduced a mail-in offer for a set of three small plastic construction men and numerous road side accessories.

This is a set of three painted prototype 4ups for the Power Movers road crew.  4ups were a key part of Kenner’s toy creation process, and they were given that name because they were approximately four times the size of the desired end product.  Artists would create the original sculpts of the toys at this larger size,  allowing them to put a higher level of detail into the pieces.  Silicone molds would be created off the sculpts, and then resin 4ups like you see here would be cast from the silicone molds.  The higher level of detail could then be transferred from the resin 4ups over to the production tooling for the small toys.

This similar process was used in the creation of Kenner’s Star Wars Micro Collection.  For more information about 4ups and how they were used in the prototyping process, visit our friends over at the Star Wars Collectors Archive.  Prepare to spend days absorbing all of the great info there!

Painted 4ups such as these could have been used for internal presentations of the mail-in offer, catalog photography, or perhaps even displayed at Toy Fair.

Kenner Power Movers Road Crew 4up Prototypes

These 4ups are made from a dense resin material called Dynacast.  You can see the green Dynacast showing through on the bottom of the unpainted bases.  The pinkish material you see was used to fill in any imperfections caused by air holes.

Kenner Power Movers Road Crew 4up Prototypes

Here is a page from the 1983 Toy Fair catalog showing the mail-in offer and road crew set.

Kenner Power Movers Road Crew 4up Prototypes 1983 Toy Fair Catalog

Here are some images of the production mail-in set and instructions.

Kenner Power Movers Road Crew 4up Prototypes

Kenner Power Movers Road Crew 4up Prototypes

To give an idea of the scale, the largest 4up measures 6 3/4″ high and the comparable plastic figure measures 1 5/8″ high.

Kenner Power Movers Prototype Hard Copy 4up

Kenner Power Movers Road Crew 4up Prototypes

Kenner Power Movers Road Crew 4up Prototypes

Kenner Power Movers Road Crew 4up Prototypes

Kenner Power Movers Road Crew 4up Prototypes

If anyone has any additional information about these Power Movers 4ups, we would love to hear from you!

 

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Kenner Strawberry Shortcake Strawberryland Miniatures Special Offer Set

Strawberry Shortcake Strawberryland Miniatures Special Offer Set

This Strawberry Shortcake Strawberryland Miniatures set is a great example of the Special Offer toys Kenner released in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  The Special Offer items were a way for Kenner to provide department stores with exclusive/added value toys.  The Special Offer advertisements were sometimes added to the package as a sticker, or printed directly onto the packaging like in this case.

For Strawberry Shortcake, Kenner packaged three miniatures together along with a cardboard backdrop.  The Strawberryland Garden Collector Set includes Apple Dumplin with Tea Time Turtle, Strawberry Shortcake with watering can, and Lemon Meringue.

Strawberry Shortcake Strawberryland Miniatures Special Offer Set

The back of the package also shows two other sets:

The House Collector Set – Raspberry Tart with a bowl of berries, Strawberry Shortcake with Custard, and Blueberry Muffin with her basket.

The Bakery Collector Set – Huckleberry Pie with Pupcake, Strawberry Shortcake with 3 berries, and Apricot with her bunny Hopsalot.

Strawberry Shortcake Strawberryland Miniatures Special Offer Set

The set contains a cardboard backdrop that measures about 4 1/2″ tall x 9″ wide, and also a small product catalog.

Strawberry Shortcake Strawberryland Miniatures Special Offer Set

The backdrop has die-cut windows that can be opened to create extra play value.

Strawberry Shortcake Strawberryland Miniatures Special Offer Set

Back in the day, the Special Offer toys probably really jumped out at kids and parents as they were walking down the toy aisles.  Today, the familiar red, yellow, and black offers also stand out to collectors.  The Special Offer toys are highly sought after additions to any collection.

 

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