Micro Machines came out of nowhere in the early 90's, and took the world by storm. Most of us remember the commercials. A fast talking John Moschitta, Jr. (then noted in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest talking man in the world) would excitedly spout off about the various Micro Machine toys available. Between the colorful cars, and his rapid pace, children couldn't help but get excited as the camera panned across several toys and playsets.
With the failure of the original Star Wars Micro Series from Kenner, it does nothing more than confirm what we believe. It's all about timing. When the original Star Wars Micro Series came out, it was competing against the likes of G.I. Joe and He-Man. When Micro Machines hit the scene, the toy isle was pretty dormant of any one particularly strong toy line. Many kids from the 80's were hitting their teen years, and they switched from hanging around the toy isles, to the cassette tapes isles (yes, kids, we had cassettes). So when Micro Machines hit, they edge themselves in with a new era of children.
Mini cars and trucks, some no bigger than a dime, soon cluttered up children's bedrooms across the world.
In the mid 90's, Galoob struck a deal with Lucasfilm Limited, and was granted the license to produce a line of Star Wars based Micro Machine toys.
The first wave of toys was released as numeric sets from one to thirteen. Each set contained three vehicles, which despite their size, were highly detailed.
Six sets were also released under the Trilogy film titles, and each set had corresponding vehicles inside.
With the series rapidly gaining the interest of fans, Galoob started introducing mini figures to correspond with the vehicles. The first batch contained little heads that folded out to be mini playsets.
When the mini figure concept took off, Galoob started packaging just the figures in larger packs. While there are sets available with the heroes and villains, the majority of them were troop packs which contained a variety of the same troop in various positions.
There are three different pack variations, but not all the figures can be found in all three. We have depicted here all the known variations that we have come across.
Galoob expanded the line even further with the introduction of playsets. Each playset included a few vehicles and figures, some not available anywhere else.
A unique idea was the transforming playset which Galoob produced for the line. When folded up, it was a mini bust (so to speak) of a character. When opened, it would reveal the playset inside.
The largest playset produced for the line was the Millennium Falcon which could be folded open to reveal a large play area.
Galoob ran a special contest when the Falcon was first released, offering a solid gold Millennium Falcon Micro Machine to one lucky winner.
Galoob also expanded to accessories as playsets when it produced its Lightsaber/Death Star trench run playset.
To help boost sales, several gift packs were also produced. These ranged in size, and some were even made more collectible by being bronze or pewter.
Two exclusives were available via the Star Wars fan club, though the only difference between these and the regular line was the packaging, as both had been released (many times) in prior sets.
Towards the tail end of the line, Galoob produced the X-Ray Fleet concepts. These particular vehicles were slightly larger than the other Micro Machines (thus being released in two packs as opposed to three), and showed transparent vehicles with the inner workings of the vehicles inside. They were not very popular among fans of both Star Wars and Micro Machines.
Shortly after the series died out, Galoob re-launched it again. The packages were changed, and Micro Machines flooded the market once again.
While the majority of these were repacks, some unique and new pieces did make their way out. Though it wasn't necessarily enough to spark any new interest in the line.
Galoob produced several new mini head playsets with figures, while at the same time re-packed a good amount of the older ones. The easiest way to obtain most of these is to purchase the two gift packs that were released towards the end of the line.
Only a handful of new figures were released, and the majority of those were just reposed main characters.
Repacks of the playsets, with a couple new ones were also released.
The majority of the new playsets were the mini bust heads that unfolded into playsets.
The best pieces to come from the changed package line were the Star Destroyer and Macrobinoculars playsets. They're pretty much the most unique items to this phase of the line.
Galoob released what was known as the "Double Take" playset, but beyond the one and only toy in this sub set, they did nothing more with it.
With the growth of the Expanded Universe, Galoob also produced a few sets of figures and vehicles based on the books. These sets are pretty tough to come across.
Shadows of the Empire
One of the biggest Expanded Universe titles was Shadows of the Empire. Bridging the gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, this book called to even the most casual fan of Star Wars.
Galoob (and Hasbro) capitalized on this by producing sets based on the book.
Wow, that was a whole lot of Micro Machines, and sadly, a lot of them were repacks. So what killed this line? Oversaturation of the market. Galoob milked this line for every penny they could grab from collector's pockets. So much to the point that people simply got sick of it.
What was once a booming market soon turned into consistent loss of profits, to the point where Galoob was sold to Hasbro.
So, what's the lesson here? There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. What started out as a great toy line soon became an over produced mess. People weren't going to buy a three pack of toys just to get the one new one inside. They certainly weren't going to purchase large and expensive playsets and gift sets for a handful of new mini figures and vehicles.
Fortunately Hasbro realized this when they took over the company and began producing the Episode I line of Micro Machines. Unfortunately by this time the damage had been done, and the series tanked fast. But, that (as they say) is a conversation for another time.
Join us Friday as we continue our Star Wars 35th anniversary celebration with our look at Star Wars Unleashed!
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