Monday, 20 August 2018

May The Toys Be With You

As someone lucky enough to be a kid when the first Star Wars film appeared, I was a huge fan of the action figures produced by Palitoy which began to appear in the summer of 1978 (as I wrote about here, for my Star Wars At 40 thread).  Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered the excellent New Walk Museum in Leicester was holding a May The Toys Be With You Exhibition.
We went a couple of weeks ago, the first day of my two-week holiday and combined it with a long overdue trip to the Stonebaked Pizza company (which was delicious) and the opportunity to call into the Leicester Vintage & Old Toy Shop, run by my friend Joe (who sold me the bulk of my 85-strong vintage Stormtrooper army) - when he found out we were going to the exhibition, he told me the legend of the buried Star Wars toys.  Apparently, by 1986, they almost couldn’t give the figures away and Palitoy (whose factory was at Coalville, about 12 miles from Leicester city centre) buried the last of their stock (the 'Last 17' which, ironically, are now amongst the most sought after because of their rarity) in landfill (which the Leicester Mercury reported on here).  I then bought a 1997 Micro-Machines AT-ST off him, we said our goodbyes and trooped up to New Walk and the museum.
I like the New Walk a lot (they have a terrific, permanent Mummy display) and they did a grand job with the May The Toys Be With You exhibit.  While I might have liked more figures (in dioramas, perhaps), it certainly had something for everyone and there were several pieces on display I’d only ever read about before, rather than having seen myself.  Starting with the toys themselves, you get a potted history (most of which I’d already researched for my blog) and a display of all the figures (most in excellent condition, including a lot of carded examples), with their original sculpt and the variant edition.  I explained this to Alison using the Han Solo figure as an example - mine is the original 1978 'small head' version while the later variant has a much larger head but an allegedly ‘better sculpt’ (though not in my opinion).  I was seeing some of those figures for the first time (certainly some of the variants) and there was also a wonderful comparison between the Gamorrean Guard from Jedi (1983) and the re-used body for Friar Tuck, an action figure from Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves (1991).  Most of the vehicles were also represented, a slew of bootlegs (figures and cardbacks) and the astonishing bundle packs, sold in Woolworths in 1986 as Star Wars mania was fading, where you could buy 8 figures for 99p (I wish I'd been interested in collecting when I was 17)!
The Palitoy Death Star playset - constructed from cardboard, to keep the price down, it is now a very rare find in good condition
After passing two Stormtroopers guarding a frozen in Carbonite Han Solo, we moved into the second section of the exhibition, a thorough and varied display of posters, lobby cards and advertising material.  This was terrific, a lot of which I’d never seen and included some huge quad posters as well as the 1982 teaser trailer film spool from when Jedi was called Revenge Of The Jedi.
A surprisingly cheesy "coming soon" for The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
This was huge (I wish I'd got Dude to stand in front of it now, to give it scale)!

A cracking collection, this is well worth a visit for any Star Wars fan but of particular interest to those of us (of a certain age) who lived through the original trilogy (the only three films catered for in the exhibition) and I’d highly recommend it.  In fact, Dude & I are already planning to go again!

The exhibition, housed on the first floor, runs until 28th October and is completely free of charge to enter (though donations can be made).

More information on the New Walk Museum can be found here and don’t forget my Star Wars toys blogpost

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