Death Star Playset

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I spent some fantastic quality time with my nine year old daughter.  Together we enjoyed playing with Star Wars figures, in this case some of those from my vintage collection.

I also dug out my Death Star playset, and we set about playing scenes from the film.

Or at least I did, she was more interested in making her own stories up.  Why won’t anyone sensibly recreate the movie with me?  Ever?!  Ah well, at least she had fun.

Now, your Highness, we will discuss the location of hidden Rebel Base…

Perhaps she would respond to an alternative form of persuasion?

All of my Star Wars toy collection means a lot to me, but there are a few items I have that I’m really proud of – and stoked to own.  This Death Star Playset is one of the outstanding pieces in the collection.

It’s made from cardboard sections that slot together, creating a number of rooms in which to recreate scenes from the film.  Rescue Princess Leia and escape via the garbage chute?  No problem.  Have Han Solo chase a squad of stormtroopers into a dead end?  Easily accomplished.

It was bought second hand – along with a few other playsets – back in the early 80s, when I was about 10.  Someone advertised them for sale in the local paper, and my Dad bought them for me.  I was very happy as I’d wanted this playset (and the others) for a long time.  I think the lot cost about £20 at the time, which is a pretty good price.

The Death Star on it’s own is probably worth a lot more than that now.  Although it’s not in mint condition – the box is pretty beaten up (always was) and there are a few tears here and there, as you can see in the photos.  In the USA, they had a plastic Death Star, and this Palitoy UK cardboard version is quite sought after over there.

It was fantastic fun, bringing back a lot of great memories.  I enjoyed setting the figures up and recreating little scenes from the film. The cell block fight and the trash compactor were great, in particular.

Recreating mini versions of the film with my figures was always a major goal for me – still is!  With this playset that aim became much more attainable.  When I was a kid, I only had two stormtroopers and one Death Squad Commander, so my Death Star looked a little empty.  Over the years I’ve added a few troops to the collection (very cheaply) and now the whole set up looks much more impressive.

The main reason I’d dug the Death Star out was to place my new “retro style” Grand Moff Tarkin figure in there.  I got him for Christmas along with the Escape the Death Star board game.  Tarkin was never made for the action figure line originally, and he was a glaring absence when trying to recreate the movie.

However, I didn’t realise that my new Tarkin was sealed on a card inside the board game box.  I didn’t dare open him.  So the Death Star is still not quite finished.

Should I have just opened Tarkin anyway?!

Ewok Village Playset

I have a lot of Star Wars toys.  Not everything, but a lot of stuff.  Most of it was collected when the toys were originally released, back when I was a kid.  Luckily, I’ve kept them all, and since the late nineties I’ve sporadically added to the collection.

The Ewok Village Playset was a toy I never owned as a kid.  Released as part of the Return of the Jedi toy line, it’s a large and feature packed set that provides a perfect home for your cuddly-yet-vicious little Empire destroyers.

There’s a fire for roasting Han Solo; a net for capturing rebels; a throne for C-3PO; an elevator for lifting figures up – and a secret escape chute for them to escape down.  All of these neat play features and more; plus it makes a cool diorama for displaying your ROTJ action figures.

When I got into collecting Star Wars toys again in the late 90s, the Ewok Village was on my list of “wants”.  I tracked this example down to a toy shop in Manchester and picked it up for £60, if I remember correctly.

I don’t think that shop is still there now.  Or at least, I’ve not found it on subsequent visits.  It seems to have vanished mysteriously into thin air…

Although opened, this Ewok Village was complete in box, with all the bits packed inside in little baggies.  It’s easy to assemble – before long you can start to recreate some moments from the film.

And that’s exactly what I wanted to do here, with this series of photos: showcase some of my figures from the original line, as they appear in the film.  I decided against doing a further photo session with more modern figures due to time!

There are two scenes recreated here.  Firstly, the Rebels held captive by the Ewoks, whilst 3PO sits on his wooden throne.  Han is held above the fire, about to make a tasty celebratory meal.  The others are gathered (not tethered to wooden poles as in the film, as nothing like that exists for these toys) as they attempt to persuade their way out of the situation.

Unfortunately, a figure of Leia in her Ewok robes was never made for the original line, so she’s not present.  Maybe I will have to create this again with the later figures after all, as that the Princess in that outfit was made later on.  But hey, I’m not aiming for 100% screen accuracy here, just the best I can with what I have available.

I love ensemble scenes using action figures, so another I wanted to recreate was the end of the film.  The Empire has been destroyed, the Galaxy is free: the Rebels celebrate their victory with their short, furry allies and all looks good for the future.

The ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin are represented by their vintage figures, plus the main heroes are joined in their rejoicing with numerous members of the Rebel Alliance on Endor.

Ensemble scenes like this are my favourites in the movie, because it’s fun to spot random characters and details that were dropped into the film.  This is the sort of thing that creates the rich diversity of Star Wars, and what constantly intrigues me.  So, it’s nice to try to create something with toys that aims for as wide a scope.

So here are the two scenes: reasonably screen accurate, but not shackled to that original image.  I did the best I could, and it was great fun.

One big mistake?  Yes, I forgot to take a photo of the box the Ewok Village came in.  Never mind, you can Google that, should you need to.

May the Force be with you!

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2017 – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

18/19 November 2017

And yes, it’s a long awaited return to the fantastic Comic Con that is MCM Birmingham!  Held every March and November at the NEC, this event is huge – and one of my favourites.  All Comic Cons are fun, but MCM Birmingham has a feel and flavour all of it’s own.

Part of that reputation is down to the pure spectacle of size.  The events halls in the NEC that house this function are truly huge – like aircraft hangers.  They seem big enough to hold the S.H.I.E.L.D. Heli-carrier, never mind an Avengers quinjet.

But the main reason that MCM Birmingham is so much fun is the people – specifically, the amazing, talented cosplayers that travel from far and wide to show their genius costumes.

Whether it’s little kids in store-bought superhero outfits or full fledged cosplay supremos spending months perfecting their craft, the whole extravaganza is awesome.

When you add in the myriad replica film props, models and paraphernalia, it all adds up to a thrilling day out.

The scale of this event seems to ramp up every time I visit it.  There a vast number of stalls, as previous, selling all manner of items.  This years hot pieces appeared to be pocket watches (want) and Funko Pops.

I resisted the joy of Funkos for a long time.  Now I wish I hadn’t, as I’ve missed several that I would’ve loved.  I started collecting them earlier this year, have a few cool ones, and want so many more.  Funko Pops seemed to be everywhere at this years Comic Con.  Which makes me happy.

There were also loads of interesting guests to meet, though due to budgetary issues I didn’t get any autographs this time.  In particular, I wanted to add the signature of Pauline Peart, who appeared in The Satanic Rites of Dracula, to my Hammer Glamour book.

Never mind, hopefully we’ll cross paths again.

We arrived early at the event, having early bird tickets.  This allowed us early entry, and it was a little quieter to begin with.

It was also a bit quieter on the Cosplay front till later that morning.  I guess that makes sense; if you’re a cosplay afficianado, you’re more likely to be perfecting your stunning costume rather than getting in line early doors.

 

So it was a bit slow on the photo front at first, things soon got going though!  There were costumed characters of every possible description literally all over the place by midday.  I got some great pictures of as many as I could – you can see the results on this page.

As I always state, I’m by no means a professional photographer.  Luckily the camera seemed to be on form on this day (not sure I was) so I captured some pretty good images.

The results are to the credit of the cosplay enthusiasts however, not any photographic skills on my part.  My thanks to everyone of you that posed graciously for me, I hope these photos do some justice to your creative skills.  All of you were friendly and enthusiastic, my respect to you all.

And with that, we’ll conclude part 1 of this MCM Birmingham blog.  Part 2 soon – with more photos – plus anything else I can remember about the day!

The Return of Wales Comic Con 2015

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Wales Comic Con – Sunday 29th November 2015

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Back in April, my family and I attended the first Wales Comic Con of the year, held at Glyndwr University in Wrexham.  However just one day was not enough – November saw a second event in a similar vein.

So that meant star guests signing, merch for sale and dozens of cosplayers – all gathered together for a fun day.  Whatever you’re fan of, from the realms of film, television or comic books; be it sci-fi, fantasy, or other genre – there was something there for everyone.

At the previous event, we were lucky to have some stunning warm weather.  No such luck this time – the rain lashed down and the wind blew mercilessly.  Even for November, this weather wasn’t great.  No matter though, the atmosphere at the event was still every bit as sunny as previous.  Quite surprisingly, everyone’s spirits were high and there was still an air of excitement.

Comic Con was largely about Star Wars for my family, with my daughter Eloise dressed as Princess Leia in classic A New Hope style outfit.  She had a fantastic time having photos taken, and running after stormtroopers trying to shoot them (with a blaster from my collection!).  Meeting Chewbacca was also a highlight.

The costumes were varied and impressive – though due to the weather, lack of time and a technical fault my photos were limited.  Which was a shame as there were many more photos I’d have liked to take.

So another great event at Wrexham, and an excellent afternoon out.  We’ll definitely be back for more next time.

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Sci-Fi Weekender part 1

Sci-Fi Weekender 28th – 30th March 2014

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

I’ve been to a few all day events, such as Memorabilia at Birmingham NEC , but nothing like this.  The Sci-Fi Weekender is basically a convention over several days, held at a holiday park in North Wales.  There are guest speakers, merchandise, film showings and entertainment – all in one location.

My friend Glyn had won tickets for the event, but sadly was unable to go.  So he donated the tickets – and accommodation – to yours truly.  A total gent.  My comrades Adam, Greeny, and Kurt – plus Platinum Al – thus made the trip to check out what was going on.

This is part one of the adventure.

Our party left late on the Friday, due to work commitments.  With additional traffic problems on the A Double 5, when we arrived it was already dark.  No matter – the four of us found our chalet, dumped the luggage and went exploring.

Festivities were already well under way.  There was plenty of beer available, and many merry (though friendly) sci-fi types in various states of refreshment.  Several were dressed as characters from film, TV, books and comics; presenting a fantastic menagerie of fantasy figures.

Entertainment on the first night began for me with Professor Elemental.  The Professor is a purveyor of fine steampunk rap, apparently known as “chap-hop”.  Wearing pith helmet and rapping about tea and the British Empire, I found his act captivating and funny in equal measure.  Weaving funky beats out of old brass band music is no mean feat but the Prof raised the roof.  Catch him if you can, I promise a night you won’t forget!

Next up were Darth Elvis and the Imperials.  Yes, a Star Wars themed Elvis tribute act.  What more could anyone want?  Sheer magic.  Their songs consisted of Star Wars re-workings of Elvis hits, plus a groovy rendition of that Rebo Band classic, Lapti Nek.  Now there’s a song I never thought I’d ever hear played live.  The spectacle of numerous Star Wars characters rocking out together on stage was something to behold.  This band should be intergalactic!

That was about it for us, as we headed off to get some rest for Day 2.  Attica Rage played us out; would’ve loved to stay but we were wrecked.

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Gordons Alive!

You’ll see many pictures here of those who attended, wearing all sorts of wonderful costumes.  The hard work and imagination that went into these outfits is really exceptional. Plus, everyone was really happy to have their photo taken; there was a great fun atmosphere at the event. I’ll post more photos in the next instalment.  Please remember however – I am not a professional photographer!  The lighting was not always very good and everything was always a bit rushed….

Part 2 soon!

Visit the Sci-Fi Weekender website here.