Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys, 2014.
Directed by Brian Stillman.
A documentary that explores how and why Star Wars toys were such a phenomenon in both the toy making business, and for the countless kids who played with them.
I’ll cut the chase. If you ever owned or played with a Star Wars toy you should seek out Plastic Galaxy. It is both a charming and fascinating look at the history of Star Wars toys. The film makes the wise decision to look at the subject of Star Wars toys from two perspectives: the people who collect the toys (and spent much of their childhoods playing with them) and the people who actually made the toys.
Almost anyone who grew up with Star Wars can relate to the nostalgia of the collectors interviewed in Plastic Galaxy. The connection is easy because the men and women didn’t start out as collectors, they started out as Star Wars fans excited to re-enact their favorite parts of the movies in their own homes with their toys.
The film makes an excellent point early on that one of the reasons these toys were such a huge success is that when the first Star Wars movies came out there was a 3 year gap between films. If kids wanted additional Star Wars adventures after they left the movie theater they needed to create their own.
Of course this Star Wars void also was a bonus to the toy makers who were happy to keep a constant supply of action figures and play sets coming to fuel kid’s imaginations. I think it’s an interesting idea that kids spending so much with these toys is one of the reasons so many people felt such a strong bond with the Star Wars films.
Plastic Galaxy has a quirky retro-feel, but is also an extremely well made documentary. The film moves smoothly between interviews and offers a wealth of information that I think will interest any level of Star wars fan. While the interviews of the toy collectors are all entertaining, it’s the interviews with the toy makers that makes Plastic Galaxy truly special.
Hearing from the men who worked at Kenner from the very beginning of the Star Wars phenomenon was like reading a new chapter in a book you’re read a dozen times. Star Wars toys completely changed the relationship between filmmakers and toy companies. And it’s clear from Plastic Galaxy that Star Wars holds as special a place in these toy maker’s hearts as it does for the men and women who collected and played with these toys.
Plastic Galaxy only skims the surface of the recent wave of Star Wars toys hitting the market as its focus is clearly the toys made in the 1970’s through mid 90’s. The film also doesn’t touch on the fact that George Lucas’ deal to retain the merchandising rights to Star Wars from the very beginning was a stroke of genius (or a leap of faith) which led to a huge money bonanza for Lucas.
Plastic Galaxy hints at the “dark side” of the Star Wars toy craze – as Kenner made it easy for kids to track what figures they and had, and more importantly, what characters they DIDN’T have in all of their marketing materials. But the film is essentially a love letter to Star Wars toys – and a very enjoyable love letter at that.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Amy Richau is a freelance entertainment and sports writer. Follow her on Twitter.