Friday, February 18, 2011

Star Wars Micro Collection Wampa Cave!

Way back in 1982, when Empire Strikes Back fever was waning, in the pre-dawn moments before the coming sunrise of Return of the Jedi, Kenner did whatever they could to keep interest alive. One of the offbeat products of this period was the Star Wars Micro Collection, a series of plastic playsets, peopled by miniature, fully-painted, die-cast metal figures of our favorite Rebels and Imperials, re-enacting famous scenes from both A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.

These proved to be about as popular as lip herpes, and kids avoided them like the plague. The were small, unarticulated and relatively expensive, thus turning off parents who were reluctant to buy miniature static versions of toys they had already purchased for their kid. I, on the other hand, thought they were AMAZING!

Luckily for me, I spotted them at a discount store during a shopping trip with my Mom, clearanced to such a low price point that my meager leaf-raking moola was more than enough to pick up two full sets. One was the Death Star set with crush-o-matic garbage shoot and the other was the stark white expanse of the deadly Wampa Cave.

Almost 30 years later, that Wampa Cave set is mine again.

As a kid, I absolutely adored these sets. They were less toy to me than diorama; a three dimensional trading card, freezing in time my most favorite scenes from my all-time favorite movie. I kept both sets set up on permanent display on my bookshelf next to my bed, where they held a rare place of honor in the chaos of my bedroom; toys that were never played with, outside the occasional nudging of one of the figures with a hearty "Pew! Pew! Pew!"

The set included a stark white plastic cave, with clever puzzle piece moldings with which to connect the other Hoth sets (which I never did find). And the figures themselves, heavy in the hand and finely detailed made the onlooker feel like they were the eyes of the galaxy looking down on an adventurous and desperate tableau.

Above we see the fearsome Wampa, the meat-fisted, horned visage of a wintry carnivore!

And what's this? The Wampa has hung up his prey, the luckless former farmboy, Luke Skywalker dangle unconscious, oblivious of his fate. Wake up, Luke!

Meanwhile, an Imperial probe droid skims across the snowy surface, suddenly distracted by a hairy beast bellowing out of the freezing wind!

Just then, the Wookie's unseen cohort, Han Solo, takes his shot. And it's a hit! But the signal has been sent. The Empire has been alerted to the whereabouts of the Rebel Base.

We better get out of here, Chewie. We've got a fight ahead of us.

I know I collect a lot of toys from my youth, but this one seemed to really pluck at the strings of nostalgia with a strength unlike most of the others. The set is clearly used, with a few dings here and there, and Chewie is missing his gun (why he had a separate plastic gun that could be removed is beyond me), but all in all, it's exactly like I remember it.

So here I am, 30 years later, placing this set once again on a bookshelf, retaking its rightful place of honor, and the circle is complete.

Now, back to eBay to look for that Death Star set!