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Theoretically, Kenner could be manufacturing toys until the ultimate space age year 2001.

A fascinating article from The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio, July 05, 1980

Yoda will soon join the figures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, R2D2, and Chewbacca in the hearts and toy chests of children everywhere. He represents the diminutive being of unearthly wisdom and patience who trains hero Luke Skywalker In the ways of "The Force" in "The Empire Strikes Back," the second movie of the "Star Wars" series. His name is Yoda, and his action figure, a 2-inch plastic toy, is scheduled to debut In three or four weeks. The Yoda doll will Join 31 other "Star Wars" action figures manufactured by Cincinnati-based Kenner Products Co., a division of General Mills.

Some stores have already received the ten new figures and a playset of the Hoth Ice planet, the setting of the movie's opening scene. The remaining 23 new toys from "The Empire Strikes Back" are scheduled to be out by September, says Dave DeMala, director of public relations for Kenner. Kenner officials predict that the company will sell 40 million "Star Wars" toys this year, the same number they sold in 1978, the first year they were sold and in 1979. BUT UNLIKE Kenner, some Greater Cincinnati toy retailers doubt the new "Star Wars" toys will sell as well as the toys have during the past two years. Kerry Sullivan, manager of Children's Palace of America, 8465 Coleraln Ave., Groesbeck, said that although he expects the new toys to sell, he doesn't think the second movie will have the same impact as the first one and the sales will reflect this.

"People are becoming more discriminating about what 'Star Wars' things they buy," he said. Judy Hodge, a buyer for Johnny's Toy Shop, 3718 Decoursey Ave., Covington, said, "When the toys first came out, people would buy anything that had 'Star Wars' written on It, but now they are concerned about the quality and the play value of the toys they are buying. Many kids already have 'Star Wars' toys, so they'll probably add a few new ones to their collection." Toy retailers and Kenner officials marvel at the success the toys have had for the past two years. "It's a phenomenon," said both Hodge and DeMala.

Hodge explained it like this: "Kids can identify with the characters. They feel like they can become Luke Skywalker living on a farm, and all those things begin to happen to them. They can Imagine being Princess Lela. They can imagine little robots following them around and talking to them. These toys present Ideas that are very real and possible to them." DeMala's view: "Maybe it's because the movie is such fun, such an adventure, or because the toys appeal to all ages-adults and children, or possibly because the timing for the characters was Just right." Sullivan attributed part of the toy line's success to Saturday morning television advertising. Once people know what is available from the advertisements and a few children get the toys, parents, and children begin talking about them. It's an effective type of advertising called word-of-mouth, Sullivan said.

In the case of the "Star Wars" toys, people discovered they were quality toys, so they told each other about them, and the toys sold well, he said. "Star Wars"-crazed people have already begun purchasing the new 2-inch action figures, which include a new version of hero Luke Skywalker, an Imperial snowtrooper, a weird bounty hunter droid, and a greedy bounty hunter. The models of these beings from outer space sell for $2 to $3 each. "THE ADDITIONAL figures have created a new enthusiasm for the other 21 'Star Wars' action figures," Hodge said. "People think the figures will be collector's items, so they are buying them now."

Other new "Star Wars" toys will Include a collector's case shaped In a three-dimensional sculpture of Darth Vader's head; an Imperial attack base playset; Tauntaun, the snow creature that Han Solo and Luke ride on the ice planet; a snow speeder, the vehicle used by the rebel forces to defend their ice planet and a special Play-Doh set. The "Star Wars" line has become a gold mine for Kenner, with retail sales exceeding $100 million in both 1978 and 1979, making Kenner second, only to Mattel, the top-selling toy manufacturer in the country. The "Star Wars" gold mine almost went undiscovered as representatives of George Lucas, "Star Wars" creator, unsuccessfully searched the country for a toy company that would manufacture the galactic characters.

It was Bernie Loomis, former president of Kenner, who Is now group vice president of the creative products division of General Mills, who saw the potential of the alien creatures as entertainment for adults and children and purchased the licensing rights to manufacture the toys. Kenner now possesses the rights to make toys for any or all of the possible seven more movies in the "Star Wars" saga. According to DeMala, a "Star Wars" movie is expected to come out every three years for the next 21 years. Theoretically, Kenner could be manufacturing toys until the ultimate space age year 2001.


The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati, Ohio

05 Jul 1980, Sat • Page 19

BY NANCI HELLMICH People Today Reporter

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