Sunday, January 9, 2011

Double Telescoping Lightsaber Prototype (Kenner, ca. 1978)

As I mentioned in this previous post on the Star Wars Early Bird kit, the Luke Skywalker figure with the double telescoping lightsaber (a.k.a. the "DT Luke") is one of my all-time favorite action figures. When I finally picked one up for my collection, I figured my DT lust couldn't be any more satisfied.

And then a fellow SW collector offered up a double telescoping lightsaber prototype for sale, and it was like my brain did a back flip into a pool made of awesome. Of course I had to get it!



I made this stand using pieces from a wrecked 12-back card. The description of the lightsaber use is specific to the DT saber; it was used even after Kenner abandoned this version of the toy, though they did change the text on later versions of the 12-back card.

The prototype DT lightsaber differs from the final production piece in many ways. First, note the upward curve. This is because the saber was attached to its sprue (the plastic frame that models are initially part of when being molded) by only one point. As the plastic cured and hardened, it curved upwards. Later sabers were attached to the sprue at three points to prevent this bowing.

Second, you can see bits and pieces of flash -- jagged plastic edges -- at both the front and rear of the piece. This is because the lightsaber was quickly manufactured in only small batches at the Kenner headquarts, without any of the precision and quality control you'd find at a larger factory. Since it wasn't intended for the public, no one was worried about making it look pretty.



And finally, perhaps the coolest difference: The saber is translucent. There are a couple theories floating around as to why Kenner used translucent plastic for this round of the DT prototype. One of them is that it was so engineers and execs could actually see the double telescoping mechanism. Another is that Kenner might have possibly considered making the saber translucent -- hey, it's supposed to be made of light -- and were just trying out the material or something. (The former theory comes from someone who really knows a lot about these toys; the latter is my own random speculation and has no real evidence to support it.)


Light shining behind the saber shows how the inner piece fits into the body.


1. Close up of the translucent effect; 2. & 3. Bits of flash from the molding process.


1. More flash; 2. The break point where the prototype was attached to the sprue; 3. The handle is marked "MM," which designates the mold used; 4. More flash along the saber's top edge.

Prototype collecting is a big part of the Star Wars hobby, and there are many people out there with amazing collections of pre-production items. I know people who own the original design drawings for Darth Vader figures, clay sculpts, card artwork, you name it. Pick a stage in the manufacturing process and you'll find collectors out there who own pieces from it.

Unfortunately, it's also a potentially expensive part of the hobby, and I don't really expect to own much other pre-production stuff. It doesn't help that I'm attracted to the earliest Star Wars toys -- prototype material is much less common, much more desirable, and way harder to get than stuff from the later part of the toys' runs.

But that's okay. If I can have only one piece, for me, the DT prototype is really the piece to have. So I'm pretty happy!
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