As has been mentioned before, the size and scale of the Millennium Falcon as a toy vehicle made Kenner reinvent the wheel where character-based action toys for boys were concerned. To keep the price of the Falcon down, both for the company making it and for the people buying it, the figures were scaled down to 3 3/4″, whereas the previous industry standard had been set by foot-tall G.I. Joe figures with more points of articulation, interchangeable costumes and accessories, and so on – basically the boys’ equivalent of Barbie dolls, at roughly the same size (and price point).
Hedging its bets against the possibility that the public wouldn’t buy into the smaller figures, Kenner also produced a line of Star Wars characters in this larger scale, though there were no vehicles scaled to that size. The larger scale Star Wars figures ultimately didn’t make enough of a dent in the market, and it was obvious that the smaller figures were taking off not only as Kenner’s biggest sellers, but the hottest line of boys’ toys in the late ’70s, so only a dozen or so characters were produced in the larger scale.
Two of the best figures out of this line were the droids, who benefitted from the finer detail that could be produced in the larger scale. R2-D2 in particular was a knockout, with accurate detail that was both sculpted and painted – in other words, everything his smaller counterpart wasn’t.
The only paper decals to be found on the larger Artoo were inside a compartment accessed from the back. With nothing else to fill out the toy droid’s hollow, barrel-like body, Kenner’s designers invented a compartment holding two plastic “circuit boards” of “Death Star plans” (and they’re even helpfully labeled as such). By pressing a button on the figure’s front – concealed as a piece of midsection detail – the door on his back opens, and one can grab and remove the “plans”. Granted, when Princess Leia feeds the plans to Artoo in the movie, they’re on something the size of a credit card, whereas the toy “plans” are big enough to be a TV tray for the larger figures, but…uh…Artoo decompressed the files once they were inside him. Trust me on this.
This Artoo still didn’t have the tripod leg (something which could have filled that space), but does have wheels at the bottom of his feet, so he could almost be moved around like a toy car. The closest that any of Kenner’s Artoo toys ever came to that third leg was with the Droid Factory playset scaled to the 3 3/4″ figures.
Taking this specimen out of the box for these photos, I distinctly remembered coming up with a bizarre plot when I was a wee kid, which involved stuffing the 3 3/4″ scaled Artoo into this compartment for a re-enactment of the story of the Trojan Horse, which I must have read about at some early age, perhaps in school. Of course, Artoo made quick work of a bunch of Stormtroopers after popping out of his cunning disguise, though now that I think back on it, I’ve never quite worked out why exactly the Empire would gladly roll a giant Trojan R2-D2 into one of their installations rather than blasting it to pieces on the spot.
I’ll have to get back to you on that.
Very special thanks to Andrew Wester and Dave Thomer for making this article possible.