Things to Know About the Kenner Star Wars Action Figures

In the world of action figures, there was once a particular action figure toy line that was popular for kids and for collectors, and this toy line is the Star Wars action figure range that was created and produced by Kenner, a former giant in the toy industry. So, what are these Star Wars toys? What made them popular? To get the answers to these questions, let us talk about the things you should know about the Kenner Star Wars action figures.

The Origins of the Star Wars Action Figures

Before the premiere of the first Star Wars movie (now known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) in 1977, the creator of the Star Wars franchise, George Lucas, and his company called Lucasfilm were already trying to find toy companies that are willing to produce action figures for the movie. Besides toys, Lucasfilm and the distributor of the movie, 20th Century Fox, also tried to find deals and partnerships where they can also produce t-shirts, lunchboxes, and other kinds of merchandise for Star Wars.

There were already meetings that Lucasfilm set up for numerous toy companies in 1976, and one of those meetings was between Lucas’s company and the Mego Corporation, which was the leading company when it comes to producing action figures in the 1970s. Unfortunately, the Mego Corporation refused Lucasfilm’s offer, as the higher-ups of the company were unimpressed with the Star Wars movie.

Thankfully, another toy company was interested in producing Star Wars action figures, and this company is Kenner. [1] This particular toy company was founded in 1946 by brothers Philip, Albert, and Joseph L. Steiner in Cincinnati, Ohio. One of the first toys that Kenner produced was the “Bubble-Matic” toy gun, which became available between the 1940s and the 1960s. Along with the said toy gun, Kenner has also produced other popular toy lines like the Easy-Bake Oven and the Spirograph.

The people that managed Kenner during the 1970s accepted the deal to produce Star Wars toys because they wanted to have an entry in the action figure market that was getting more popular during that time. What Kenner didn’t know is that they will beat the other action figures on the market in terms of sales with the release of their Star Wars toys.

The Launch of Star Wars Action Figures

vintage Darth Vader action figure

The first Star Wars movie premiered in May of 1977, and it turned out to be a commercial and critical success for Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox. Star Wars was very popular among kids, so it was a good decision to get the action figures and other kinds of merchandise ready for the release of the film and the following months after it.

But Kenner was unprepared to meet the demand for Star Wars action figures, as they didn’t really imagine that the film would be a massive success. So, by the holiday season of 1977, Kenner didn’t have stocks of Star Wars action figures that can be sold in toy stores in the United States alone.

However, out of fear of losing millions of dollars in sales, Kenner came up with the idea for an “Early Bird Certificate,” which was a box that contains a display stand that is made of cardboard and is supposed to be used for four action figures that will be sent to the buyer at a later date. So, the “Early Bird Certificate” didn’t actually include the four action figures, as it was only a relatively empty box with a piece of cardboard included.

The empty box was criticized by the media during its release, and the criticism led to low sales of the “Early Bird Certificate” during the holiday season. However, when Kenner already had stocks ready for Star Wars action figures in 1978, the company quickly recovered, and the toy line would serve as one of their best-sellers.

The Success of Kenner’s Star Wars Action Figures

Kenner’s Star Wars action figures were officially released in 1978. Much like the film, the first batch of action figures for the Star Wars franchise was a massive hit, and Kenner was able to make more than $100 million in the first year of production. Because of Star Wars, Kenner became a juggernaut in the action figure market.

If you want to get Kenner Star Wars action figures, you can check out these three products that have improved designs compared to their original versions:

When the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, premiered in 1979, Kenner was more prepared for the demand for new Star Wars action figures. However, Kenner still created a new mail-away campaign similar to the Early Bird Certificate, but the new campaign sold better than the first one because Kenner was already a trusted brand by 1979. In the new campaign, Kenner offered proof of purchase for four action figures along with a sneak peek of a new action figure for Boba Fett, one of the most popular characters in The Empire Strikes Back.

The Infamous Rocket-Firing Boba Fett

Boba Fett action figure

For the sneak peek that came with the new mail-away campaign, Kenner teased that the Boba Fett action figure came with a jetpack in its back that can fire rockets. However, the media and groups of concerned parents criticized the design of the action figure, saying that it can be potentially dangerous for children since the rocket can hit sensitive body parts like the eyes. In response to the criticism, Kenner decided to just glue the rocket onto Boba Fett’s jetpack so that it can never be fired. [2]

Although Kenner has stated that they never really released a rocket-firing Boba Fett in toy stores (since they have fixed all of their stocks of the figure), there were early production prototypes that were obtained by collectors many years after the release of the Boba Fett figure. Because of the rarity of these prototypes, they would often have a high resale value, and their value has gone up over the years as they become scarcer in the resale market. While the prototype Boba Fett action figure is already out of reach for a lot of collectors, they can still get a new version of the retro toy by buying the Star Wars The Vintage Collection Boba Fett action figure.

Power of the Force Action Figures

Power of the Force action figure

In 1984, which was one year after the release of the third Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi, Kenner already had 79 unique character designs for the Star Wars action figure toy line. After a few successful years of manufacturing and selling Star Wars action figures, Kenner decided to revamp the toy line in 1985 with a new figure range called “Power of the Force,” where 15 new character designs were released. [2]

Sadly, the Power of the Force toy line wasn’t as successful as the original range, mainly due to the Star Wars phenomenon ending just two years after the premiere of Return of the Jedi. Nevertheless, Kenner continued to produce Star Wars action figures since the toy line still served as their best-seller.

Check out three great Power of the Force action figures below:

Renewed Interest in Kenner’s Star Wars Toys

Stormtrooper Figure

Kenner was acquired by Tonka (a toy company known for making toy trucks) in 1987. But four years later, Tonka would be acquired by Hasbro, who would then allow Kenner to continue producing Star Wars action figures. With the release of the fourth Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace (which also served as the prequel to the first three films), in 1999, interest in Kenner’s Star Wars toy line was renewed. One of the new figures that they released for The Phantom Menace was an action figure of Mace Windu (played by Samuel L. Jackson), who came with a blue lightsaber before it was decided in the next film, Attack of the Clones, that his official lightsaber would be purple in color.

In 2000, Hasbro shut down the offices of Kenner so that the latter’s product lines, including the Star Wars action figures, would be merged into the former’s product lines. Hasbro would then continue to produce Star Wars action figures for the next films, but in the 2010s, the company would revive the Kenner brand so that they can cash in on the nostalgia factor of the classic Star Wars action figures. Every now and then, Hasbro would produce “Kenner versions” or retro action figure versions of characters that appear in new Star Wars movies and TV shows.

These are the things you need to know about Kenner and their Star Wars action figures. Because of how popular the original Star Wars toy line is, Hasbro is still marketing and selling toys that have similar designs and features as the original action figures released by Kenner. If you want to start your own Kenner action figure collection, now may be the best time to do so, as Hasbro has already released dozens of different Kenner-branded Star Wars toys.


[1] Dymowski, G. (2017, May 4). A History of Kenner Star Wars Action Figures. CompleteSet. Retrieved July 21, 2023, from

[2] Whitbrook, J. (2015, May 22). The Groundbreaking History of Star Wars Toys. Gizmodo. Retrieved July 21, 2023, from