OPINION: Micro Machines: Past, Present, and Future: Part 1 of 3

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    Micro Machines: Past, Present, and Future: Part 1 of 3

    PAST: A Personal History with Micro Machines...


    By C.J. Stunkard

    [Author’s Note: The below article and subsequent pieces will focus solely on Galoob/Hasbro’s Micro Machine mainline assortment and not the parallel-running line entitled: Micro Machines: Action Fleet, which could have its own series of articles.]




    In 1994, I walked into my local comic book store and landed upon a discovery that blew my young mind. New Star Wars toys were on the shelf: extremely miniaturized playsets with small ships and micro figures of characters that I loved. I’m a man of passions, and I could not contain my excitement; I recall my 12-year old self grabbing the box to one of them and rushing to show it to a friend (I wonder if the owner thought I was trying to steal it). I don’t know why the discovery of Micro Machines has remained such a vivid memory in my mind, but it was the first step into a larger world of small-scale, wide-sprawling adventures.




    If you can believe it, there was a time in the late 80’s during which no new Star Wars toys shipped to shelves, a scenario fans have not experienced in over 20 years. These miniatures were the only new Star Wars toys I could recall seeing since animated figures and Return of Jedi peg warmers had been clearanced years prior. Finding something like this, without any hint or preview, was like hearing a newly released song from a favorite band; and like any hit track, these new toys stuck in my head and got mad rotation in my play cycle.




    The miniaturized sets in question were the first three offerings I encountered in Galoob’s exceptional Star Wars Micro Machine line. I was a Return of the Jedi kid, so the Endor and Death Star playsets were my favorites, but the Hoth battle playset included a Luke Skywalker with blue lightsaber, which meant that set was a must-have as well. In fact, with all three initial releases, one would acquire a veritable line-up of essential original trilogy characters:

    • Boba Fett
    • Chewy
    • C-3PO
    • Darth Vader
    • 2 Han’s, one on TaunTaun (TAUN TAUN!)
    • 2 Leia’s
    • 2 Luke’s
    • R2-D2
    • 2 Storm Troopers, same mold, different colored base
    • Wicket
    • Yoda


    Plus, the sets featured three definitive vehicles from episodes 4-6: an X-wing, an AT-AT, and an AT-ST, respectively. When I first discovered these playsets, I had no idea Galoob had even released other vehicles (like the classic TIE Fighter, Millennium Falcon, and Snowspeeder), but they had already sealed me as a huge fan.




    As the line progressed, an entire rogue squadron of X-Wings could attack an imperial base; Star Destroyers could pursue the Millennium Falcon across systems, and a legion of Stormtroopers could descend on a rebel hideout—all of which one could store in a quart-size zip lock bag when he was finished. Galoob went on to release army builders, transforming playsets, and various limited edition pieces cast in bronze and silver-colored plastics. God alone knows how many hours I spent playing with these toys.




    Galoob Star Wars Micro Machines held my attention through the mid-90’s until the advent of the Special Edition Re-releases. By this time, the 3 ¾” Kenner/Hasbro line had expanded its offerings and captured my collecting interested. After some strange Special-Edition-inspired releases like the Slave I or Jabba the Hutt transforming playsets hit the market, I was out of the micro loop, and when The Phantom Menace line debuted and over-saturated the market, I walked away from the line completely.




    From what I understand, Hasbro had purchased Galoob in 1998, and they took control of bringing The Phantom Menace Micro machines to market. The aforementioned playsets that originally included five figures, a great vehicle, and a host of features had been reduced to two-three figures, a single, nominal vehicle, plus lackluster playability. Whereas any of the the original releases of 1994 and many of the releases thereafter could serve as excellent, individual play pieces, these new products felt very much like incomplete bits of a much larger play pattern that required multiple additional purchases to have any real fun. Inasmuch as the playsets suffered, however, the mainline blister-carded items took an interesting turn, offering two vehicles and two figures rather than three vehicles only, as Galoob had done in both their Star Wars and Trek lines. Even this innovation could not draw me back.




    Hasbro tried to reboot Star Wars Micro Machines with branded product at Target in 2005, to accompany the Revenge of the Sith. If memory serves, the line had 3 transforming playsets exclusive to Target, as well as 4-8 different vehicle assortments, covering both Original Trilogy and Sith. But my enthusiasm waned wen I realized the line’s major flaw: the vehicles and figures were larger than the original 1990’s line and thus were not really compatible with the originals. I would have liked to recapture that adoration from childhood, but again, this line would not do it.




    In a way, Hasbro’s ongoing Titanium line is most alike the short-run vehicles that Hasbro released with Sith. The Titanium line had some similarities to Micro machines and ran for for years. Though I picked up a handful of this line’s fantastic (and now rather pricey) Battlestar Galactica ships, I always considered the line more of a novelty than a line I really pursued (for those who did, however; the products have held up very well over the years).




    In the 20 years since I first discovered Star Wars Micro Machines, I have had a very up-and-down relationship with the brand. Disappointment has been an ongoing theme, but my love has endured for the small collectibles with which I spent so many hours in my childhood. I have always thought very highly of the line as a relic of my youth; I was ready to leave them at that.

    But like other areas of the Star Wars Fandom, 2015 brought an awakening...

    By C.J. Stunkard


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    Last edited by JeffSaylor; 04-13-2016 at 11:21 AM.

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