Millennium Falcon – the Greatest Toy Ever

“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”

Was it Christmas 1980 or 1981? Whichever it was, it was the best Christmas present ever. After months and months of making a pretend Millennium Falcon out of cardboard tissue boxes, I was suddenly the owner of an actual Falcon. Han Solo’s super fast, hunk of junk smuggler’s freighter was mine, to recreate all the fun of the films.

The Millennium Falcon was the coolest space ship ever. The ship was a central part of the action in Star Wars, almost a character in itself – unreliable, temperamental, heroic. It was the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy and full of surprises – as was the toy.

We already had an X-Wing for Luke, a TIE fighter and landspeeder to play out our memories of the movie scenes (remember: no VCR in those days, kids!). But the Falcon seemed unattainable – surely Kenner/Palitoy wouldn’t be able to make a ship that big, to fit the figures inside?

And then they did. And I got one for Christmas: it was straight out the box, built up and stickers put on by my Dad, and I was ready to go. I still remember that morning now, after weeks of anticipation, hoping that I’d be lucky enough to be rewarded with this toy on the big day.

Kenner (or Palitoy, the UK manufacturer, in my case) delivered a toy that had all the magic of the film. Yes, you could put figures inside it: Han and Chewie could fit in the cockpit. There was a laser gun turret to shoot enemy fighters. A holo chess table to play (“It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.”). A remote for lightsaber practice and a hidden smuggling compartment to hide from the Empire. It made a buzzing laser gun sound and had retractable landing gear.

The ship looked fantastic on the outside, lots of random detail just like the model in the film. This Millennium Falcon was a toy, but it appeared so accurate it might have been an actual prop from Industrial Light and Magic. That’s how I felt about it, anyway.

Photos here are of my original Millennium Falcon, still with all parts and in the box, which I gratefully received that Christmas morning. After years of play, it’s still all there: a little beat up, a little dirty – just like the “real” thing. As a kid, I liked to make it look more authentic with a good layer of dust and some discolouration: not sure that was a good idea, now.

But what a toy! Literally hours and hours of play value, recreating scenes or imagining my own sequels. An absolute joy.

It was great fun digging out this old piece of junk. I had a blast taking the photos, hope you enjoy them. And remember: “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”

Part 2 soon!

Sci-Fi Weekender: Back to the Future

March is usually the time for Sci-Fi Weekender: a weekend long, stay-over-and-party Comic Con that’s full of entertainment. From special guests, interviews, signings, screenings, games and all manner of live entertainment, this event has always been a fantastic, full-on experience for all your geeky desires.

Sadly, the Covid pandemic exterminated the event this year. It should have been taking place this last weekend. It’s a real blow, as Sci-Fi Weekender offers just the kind of escapism that we need right now.

Have no fear, however: I’ve used my Indiana Jones-like archaeological skills to rediscover some long lost photos from the past.

Cosplay is always a big deal at SFW. All manner of glorious, gruesome, magnificent and marvellous costumes can be seen on display, worn by some of the coolest and most down-to-earth people you’ll be likely to meet this side of Tosche Station.

Thanks to my old pal Darf Dork (that’s Adam G, to you), I’m able to present some photos from the past that will bring back some fond memories. These pics are all Adam’s work – he’s been kind enough to thaw them out of carbonite for your enjoyment.

Hope in my Virtual Hot Tub Time Machine and let’s go back to SFW past. Hope you enjoy the photos. And keep dreaming: one day Sci-Fi Weekender will return…

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?!

MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 2

NEC Birmingham

16/17 November 2019

Right back atcha with some more fabulous photos from the recent MCM Comic Con at the NEC in Birmingahm.  Here’s Part 2, ‘cos one blog post just wasn’t enough.  So many photos, you see.

There’s not much else to report that I haven’t covered in previous editions of my MCM Comic Con blogs.  You know the drill, right?

So let’s just crack on and you can witness the awesome Cosplay photos of these amazing, talented people.

Here’s a bit of fun for you, though – can you spot my pal Darf Dork hanging around in one of these pics?  There might be a prize for someone who can…

Finally, another big THANK YOU to everyone who posed for a photo – the true stars of the day.  See you at the next Comic Con!

 

MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

16/17 November 2019

OK, look – I won’t write a blow by blow account of this years MCM Comic Con at Birmingham NEC.  I’ll just provide a little info; a flavour, if you will, of the attractions and atmosphere.

That way, we can cut to the chase and you can see the photos I took of the many and varied Cosplayers at the event.

Maybe you were there?  Maybe a photo I took of you is featured here?  If so, I’d like to thank you for your contribution.  Also, I’ll offer my apologies, if the pic isn’t that great.  Fingers crossed some of these images look alright.

The main goal of the day was to see as many of the stalls as we could, and spend a few quid here and there.  There were a great many treasures to be seen – oh, if only I had the money to buy them all…

I did buy the following:

  • A ReAction figure of Jerry Only from the Misfits (to go with my Misfits Fiend I’d purchased previously).
  • A ReAction figure of the classic Universal monster, the Mummy (bargain price).
  • Freddie Mercury Funko Pop – the yellow jacket version, the first I’d ever seen in the wild and a steal for only a tenner.
  • A Marvel comic book: Master Of Kung Fu – cos I felt I needed to add at least one comic to my collection.

Not a bad little haul, really.

Over all, though, the greatest success of the day were the amazing Cosplayers.  Thanks to all of your for posing for a photo.  Hope you all had a great day!

That’s it for Part 1 of the MCM Comic Con write-up: stay tuned for Part 2 very soon, with loads more photos to enjoy…

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!

Wales Comic Con 2018

Wales Comic Con

Saturday 1st – Sunday 2nd December 2018

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Another weekend, and another trip to a convention!  After my previous excursion to Birmingham, this one was a fair bit closer to home: just down the road in Wrexham.  Wales Comic Con takes place at Glyndwr University, and has steadily been building up a great reputation over the years.

The main attraction at Wales Comic Con has been the guests.  Held twice a year, and in a somewhat smaller area than other events, the con has consistently punched above it’s weight in terms of the sheer quality of guests that it has attracted.

It was for this reason that my family and I were attending again this year.  Mrs Platinum Al wanted to meet the actor Chris Sarandon, who as the voice of Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas (as well as playing evil Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride) was a definite must-meet for her.

Unfortunately, Chris dropped out just a day or two before, after we’d bought tickets and a photo op.  Not good news, but not the end of the world: these things happen.

The photo op money would be returned, and we decided to go to the con anyway to have a day out.  This was the right move as there was still plenty to experience, even though the weather was temperamental.

The cosplayers at WCC were fantastic, as always.  There were a large variety of characters from comics, film, tv, games and more.  The costumes were of the highest standard and the cosplayers were all friendly.  After the disaster at MCM Birmingham the week before, I had manged to remember my camera this time and got quite a few good shots.

My daughter has discovered Harry Potter not long ago, so she dressed as Hermione Granger.  She posed for some great photos, some of which are included here.  Plus she was really happy to meet Stanislav Ianevski, who played Viktor Krum – that made her day.

In the past, there hasn’t been a massive amount of merchandise available at WCC.  This has improved over the years though, and I was able to acquire a few nice action figures for Christmas.  Very happy!

So we all had a fun family day out at Wales Comic Con, and hope to return for the next event in the new year.  Hopefully Chris Sarandon will be there.  Third time lucky?

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Battle of the century!

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2018 – Part 2

Avengers

NEC Birmingham

24/25 November 2018

And now we return to Birmingham NEC for Part 2 of my MCM Comic Con report…

Despite forgetting my camera, which is a new low even for me, my trusty phone was at hand to document everything.  So luckily, I managed to take plenty of photos during the day – and there are plenty of awesome cosplayers still to see.

Which is good, because I don’t have much else to write following the previous post.

But you’re not here for my ramblings, are you?  Enjoy the pics instead.

DC gang

I’ll leave you with one final image: the Stan Lee memorial.  This was a massive mural to commemorate the life of the recently departed genius – a nice touch.

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 3

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Well here we go, as promised, one more recap from Sci Fi Weekender 2018.  In previous years, my SFW blogs have run to two parts – with some Director’s Cuts (featuring alternate and unused photos) occasionally cropping up too.

This year though, there were so many photos that the only way to get these out (without delaying these things too long) was to create a Part 3.

Please accept my apologies, all those who have waited to see their photos.  Your patience is really appreciated and I’m really sorry you’ve had to wait.

I just hope these pics are OK – remember I’m no professional photographer, it’s all done for fun.  Regardless, the awesome feedback I get from SFW attendees is always great to hear – thanks!

I’ve covered all the antics I can remember from the weekend, so without further ado, lets get on with the pics, shall we?!

Big Trouble in SFW

Awesome Walking Dead cosplay

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 2

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Right back at ya with Part 2 of my report from Sci Fi Weekender 9.  Apologies for the delay, I’ve had some issues with memory banks getting wiped.

Day 2 of the festivities began with a monumental shock for our crew.  One of our team, Ensign Davies, had succumbed to a strange, planet borne virus.  When we awoke, there was no sign of our comrade.  He soon made contact however with news that he had beamed back up to the ship to recover.

Never the less, yet again the crew were falling prey to illness.  We would need all our stamina to see this campaign through.

First Mate Adam was up and out on patrol early; he went to view the new film from Tom Paton: “Black Site”.  Tom’s work had been witnessed before at SFW, and expectation was high for this new production.  Adam was happy to confirm that the movie was, indeed, excellent and well worth viewing (along with the cast and crew Q&A).

Myself, I took a local planetary transport omnibus to the nearby settlement of Porthmadog in order to feed my vinyl craving.  Crew members Greeny and Kurt remained in the static exploration cabin; monitoring visual communications.

Upon my return, the crew and I ventured out for further reconnaissance of the SFW9 event.  This involved in depth examination of merchandise for sale and photographing some of the unusual and impressive costumes on display.

Saturday evening was all set up for a big entertainment explosion in the Main Void, with the Imaginarium in full swing.  The action began with the Area 51 dancers disrupting visual scanners with fire eating and other astounding acts.  There was also Merlin the Escapologist, who managed to escape from a giant fish bowl on his head.  Or something like that, I was quite far away and it was packed out.

Whilst chilling with my crew and imbibing some refreshment, I managed to completely miss the highlight of the whole weekend: the Cosplay final.  I as absolutely horrified to realise I’d missed this, as it’s always a genuine highlight of SFW.  Luckily I was still able to capture some images of many of the guests; to my shame this was not enough however.

Instead I enjoyed the brilliant BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who performed live a veritable feast of electronic sci-fi sounds.  Chief among these of course were themes from Dr Who, a real treat that brought back some fond memories.  I’d missed the BBC Radiophonic Workshop on previous excursions, so I was delighted to hear their evocative experimental ear-worms properly.  Fantastic stuff.

I then made my exit from the Main Void, as the next feature wasn’t to my taste.  I appear to be the only person at SFW – out of hundreds – who doesn’t dig The Dark Room.  I’d seen the start of the previous night’s show and wasn’t into it.  It was just Peter Stringfellow with a bad temper.

Maybe it’s because I’m not into computer games, or maybe – for once – I’m just not geeky enough.  Either way, I’m in the minority as far as The Dark Room goes, and that’s fine with me.

So off I went to see Blues Harvest, a multi talented rock band with a penchant for all things nerdy.  They put on a great show, including Star Wars themes (performed by a rock band, remember) that were simply superb – all set to a cool visual edit from the movies.

Funnily enough my memory banks appear to be somewhat fried at this point, but I do recall Blues Harvest playing a storming Bowie tribute (“Life on Mars?” and “Magic Dance”, I think!).  Their final number was the Huey Lewis and the News chestnut “The Power of Love” – rounding off a fabulous set that combined rockin’ goodness with nostalgic treats.

The night was played out by the living legend that is DJ Level Up Leroy, who did a fine job of spinning a pulsating mix of tunes.  The sci-fi theme was continued nicely with come choice cuts and awesome visuals!

And that, ladies and gentle beings, was that.  Sadly for another year, the spectacular Sci Fi Weekender was at a close.

Before I leave you, some thanks: to all the Cosplayers, you were fantastic!  Fun and friendly, everyone of you was a joy to behold.  Yet again your talent and creativity were mind boggling to see.  Well done all!  I’m sorry I didn’t get more photos, but my sincere appreciation to all of those I took pics of.

Finally, to all the Sci Fi Weekenders, from across all known worlds and galaxies: THANK YOU!  You make this event the success it is.  Sci Fi Weekender is all about camaraderie and celebrating the things we love as one big tribe (to borrow Professor Elemental’s words).  It was a pleasure to meet you again or for the first time; long may it continue.

Epic group shot

Look, I’ll tell you what.  This blog is a monster.  To save delaying posting it any longer, I’ve got no choice other than to do a Part 3.  So the final batch of photos (don’t worry, I’ve run out of ramblings) will be soon.  Stay tuned!

The Sci Fi Weekender website is here.