Star Wars Sneak Preview Figures – Then and Now

Kenner and Hasbro have both had a long history of releasing special preview figures prior to the debut of each new Star Wars film and its respective action figure line. As we ready ourselves for The Force Awakens figure line which will be premiering on #ForceFriday (September 4th, 2015) we are taking a brief look back at each Sneak Preview figure offered throughout the last 38 years.

Star Wars (1977)

Although it did not proceed the actual film or include any figures initially the Early Bird Kit was not only the first item released from Kenner’s seminal line but it also gave collectors their first taste of the Star Wars action figure onslaught that was to come.

  • Early Bird Certificate Package; figures were to arrive February 1st, 1978 – June 1st, 1978
Image courtesy of starwarsvintagetoys.co.uk

Image courtesy of starwarsvintagetoys.co.uk

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The lead up to Empire was extremely anticipated and resulted in two preview figures being released. The first, Boba Fett, was offered on the back of Star Wars’ cardbacks and infamously advertised a rocket-firing feature that would later to scraped. The second, Bossk, was promoted on Star Wars cardbacks in sticker form and later on the first wave of Empire cardbacks which featured reissued characters from Star Wars.

  • Boba Fett Action Figure; offer expired May 31st, 1979 (extended to December 31st, 1980)
  • Bossk (Secret Star Wars Action Figure offer); offer expired May 31st, 1980

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offers

Image courtesy of theswca.com

Return of the Jedi (1983)

Again due to the massive success and hype of the Star Wars films and figure line, Kenner released again two preview figure mail-aways. Ackbar was advertised at the end of the Empire line and at a time when the film was still set to be called Revenge of the Sith. Another Rebel character, Nien Numb, was offered closer to the film’s May 25th debut and was only advertised on Return of the Jedi cards.

  • Admiral Ackbar (Figure from Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi); offer expired January 31st, 1983
  • Nien Numb (Figure from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi); offer expired June 15th, 1983

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The Phantom Menace (1999)

With Star Wars anticipation reaching a fever pitch in ’99, Kenner (now technically Hasbro) offered two preview items. The STAP with Battle Droid set broke the trend of mail-aways as it could be purchased directly in stores. “The character played by Samuel L. Jackson in the latest episode of the Star Wars Saga” was how Jedi Master Mace Windu was advertised on some of the mail-aways promotional materials for their additional preview figure.

  • STAP and Battle Droid (with Firing Laser Missiles)
  • Star Wars Episode 1 ‘Sneak Preview’ Figure; offer expired January 15th, 1999

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Attack of the Clone (2002)

In 2002, Hasbro choose not to offer a mail-away figure but instead released a whole wave of “Sneak Preview” figures in stores everywhere. These four figures were initially very popular but would eventually become peg warmers later in the year.

  • Clone Trooper
  • Jango Fett
  • R3-T7
  • Zam Wesell

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Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Hasbro choose to repeat their preview figure strategy from AOTC and offer a whole wave of new figures. In addition, they also released a preview vehicle which featured an R2-D2 “Droid Panel” which took the appearance of figure despite being a hollow plastic shell. Anakin’s Starfighter would be released later during the normal run of the Revenge of the Sith line but without any “Sneak Preview” stickers.

  • 1 of 4 General Grievous
  • 2 of 4 Tion Medon
  • 3 of 4 Wookiee Warrior
  • 4 of 4 R4-G9
  • Anakin’s Jedi Starfighter

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The Clone Wars (2008)

Despite not being one of the episodic films of the Saga, Hasbro still carried forward the tradition of offering a preview figure for the animated film. Rex was offered as a mail-away featured on 2008’s Saga Legends cards. It was surprising this film was treated like the previous ones as it was not initially meant to be a motion picture until later in the production and is actually a combination of the first three episodes of the series.

  • Captain Rex; offer expired December 31st, 2008

The Force Awakens (2015)

As Hasbro enters into a new era of Star Wars with the onset of the sequel trilogy they have changed some of their action figure focus. Hasbro has become a bit bipolar in the years leading up to Episode VII and has chosen to cater to their audience in two separate ways. Their The Black Series line is meant for adult collectors and their less detailed and simple 5POA (points of articulation) lines are geared more for the kid-friendly collector. As with many lines in the 2010s, 6” figures have nearly become the norm as their popularity among adults are through the roof, which understandably makes sense why Hasbro choose to put out their only preview figure for the upcoming movie in 6” form. But other than the scale, this figure varies from every other on this list as it is the only one to be featured as a convention exclusive and was not made available to the general public.

  • First Order Stormtrooper (6” San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive)

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~ Additional Notes ~

The Special Editions (1997) Despite having three separate films released over a span of a month and a half with massive media tie-ins and loads of new characters, Kenner did not offer a preview figure for the Special Editions. Instead they offered a theater exclusive available the day of Jedi’s debut.

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The Phantom Menace (1999) Beginning in 1998 Hasbro released a small line of figures which while they were not from Episode I themselves, they featured Flashback images to a corresponding character in the upcoming film. There were twelve figures released prior to the May release of the prequel film. One additional item was released by Hasbro prior to Midnight Madness ’99; the Action Fleet Gain Speeder and Theed Palace set from their recently purchased Galoob department has little to no connection their the action figure side of things but was nonetheless a Sneak Preview item.

  • Anakin Skywalker (with Lightsaber)
  • Aunt Beru (with Service Droid)
  • Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi (with Lightsaber)
  • C-3PO (with Removable Arm)
  • Darth Vader (with Lightsaber)
  • Emperor Palpatine (with Force Lightning)
  • Hoth Chewbacca (with Bowcaster Rifle)
  • Luke Skywalker (with Blaster Rifle and Electrobinoculars)
  • Princess Leia in Ceremonial Dress (with Medal of Honor)
  • R2-D2 (with Launching Lightsaber)
  • Yoda (with Cane and Boiling Pot)

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Episode I 3-D (2012) Now although the 3-D rerelease of The Phantom Menace did receive its own line of exclusive figures and vehicles, it did not have a preview figure that proceeded the line or film and quite honestly is not surprising as very little figure-wise was added to this release.

The Future (2016+) With the future full of yearly Star Wars films, it will be interesting to see if Hasbro continues the practice of sneak preview figures or abandons it completely due to the potential of Star Wars action figure lines having to revolve too quickly to accommodate new media. We’ll find out in about a year when Rogue One toys make their debut but until then,

May the Figures be with you!

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