I have an older cousin who I used to think was the coolest dude ever. He always had hot girlfriends, he was always hammered, and he had an in-ground pool and a half-pipe in his backyard. What else do you need?
Star Wars toys, that's what. And one time, when I was probably 10, he was drunk enough to give me all his old vintage Star Wars toys in their 1980 Darth Vader collector case, full of Kenner action figures of obscure characters like Hammerhead and R5-D4 and Snaggletooth and Lobot, and so on. Those D-listers joined with my newer 90s Star Wars action figures, and became some of my favorite characters—because I could actually lay some claim to them, in a way that one can't really do with Leia or Han or Chewie.
Also, because no one else cared about them, 'cause they were lame side characters that were only onscreen for a second, if that.
I thought back to this as I read this recent Uproxx piece about The Mandalorian, where author Mike Ryan rightly points out just how much the show owes to—or perhaps more accurately, gleefully revels in—those obscure Kenner action figures from 1977-1985:
Favreau was 10 years old when Star Wars hit theaters in 1977 and would have been 11 by the time the first Kenner action figures came out, which puts him right in the age range where these would have had an effect on him. So it is curious that so many of his episodes have these characters: from R5-D4, to Ugnaughts, to Gamorrean Guards, to a Bossk stand-in, to an IG-88 stand-in, to, just this past week, a whole planet of Admiral Ackbars and Squid Heads. (Look, I realize planets like Mon Calamari have been seen before in other forms of canon, but seeing it in live-action is really a trip.) The biggest one of all might be the somewhat infamous Imperial Troop Transport. This thing. Released by Kenner as a vehicle that Stormtroopers rode around in during the events of the original movie (which included weird devices that went on an action figure's head that would "brainwash them"), it turns out it was never actually in the movie. But that never stopped me from looking for it, because why would a toy be released that was never in the movie? Well, it finally showed up in the first season of The Mandalorian. I truly believe Jon Favreau is here to try and make the old Kenner action figures and vehicles relevant … finally.
I still have that Darth Vader head somewhere at my parents' house. And now I'm even more excited to get drunk and give it to my own kid. (I almost gave it to my own cousin last year, in a real pay-it-forward moment, but I already knew we were expecting then, and I was juuuust sober enough to think twice about it.) If you had any of those old figures, you may enjoy the nostalgia trip, too—and the realization that you're not alone in your excitement at seeing so many randos on the Disney+ screen.
If that's not you, you can enjoy the 40+ minutes of vintage Star Wars action figure commercials above.
'The Mandalorian' Is Here To Make Your Old Kenner 'Star Wars' Action Figures Relevant, Finally [Mike Ryan / Uproxx]