Vintage Kenner Star Wars Photo Shoot

Continuing on an earlier post about recreating the Dagobah packaging photo, I’ve kept the ball rolling (I have tons of time on my hands) and continued to photograph my vintage Star Wars collection in the style of the 1980s Kenner packaging. Click below for a lot more!
I got started on this journey right at the beginning of Covid Quarantine. I fell down a rabbit hole when I restored a vintage Castle Grayskull, having fun hunting down or re-creating the missing pieces. But once I completed that, I needed something else. I happened upon a complete Ewok Village, including its box! Since it had all of its pieces, I thought I was all set but I wanted some type of quest, so I tracked down all the figures used in the packaging photo so I could do my best to recreate it in the original style. The funny thing is that the Ewok Village was released earlier in the line than most of the ewoks were available, so the photo features four Chief Chirpas, Jabba’s Palace Luke, and Bespin Han Solo. I actually have two Chirpas, so it was a bit easier to photoshop him into the photo in all the right places.
The box was in great condition for what I paid. I’ve enjoyed playing with the “solid color with a gradient” look that most of the other packages featured, this one was a unique challenge as it had a fully realized background and fake moss. I did my best and put in an original photo of nature in the background of mine. I do not enjoy this craft store moss, it smells, and it’s dirty. I thought I’d possibly be enhancing all my collections with moss accents, but nope!
Speaking of Jabba’s palace, my next quest was to get all the figures I needed to recreate the Jabba the Hutt package photo. Around this time I did some research and found that the original Kenner photographer from this era, Kim Simmons, was releasing a Kickstarter book The Man Who Shot Luke Skywalker featuring not only the original packaging photos, but many alternative photos and behind the scenes shots. I was able to get a copy of Vol 2 featuring Empire Strikes Back toys, and I backed the third volume, featuring Return of the Jedi. (Look for AgeOwns in the contributor list in the back!) Kim even graciously looked at some of my work and offered some tips and praise. This has been a crazy dream come true! I have been photographing toys for 20 years, and it was undeniably inspired by Kim’s work 40 years ago.
The packaging photos were so important to me as a kid. I knew I was being “sold” on something to desire, but I loved the little world would kick-start my imagination after I got the figures in my hands. Not to mention the photos that informed us of the sets that were to come. When I was ages 6-12 there were no more important publication than the Kenner catalogs and Sears Wish Book every year. Now that I figured out how to pay homage to that look, I wanted to see if I could apply that look effectively to a brand new composition.
I put together a scene as I thought it would appear on a box or poster hanging up at a toy store.
I wanted to see if I could recreate a scene from the movie. Not for a specific playset package, but more like one of the advertising pics that showed a possible collection of sets, you know, like the ones that inspire you to Collect Em All. I had fun grabbing odds and ends and putting them all together. There’s playmobil, Medicom, and even custom cast pieces in this set up.
I like bringing specific figures with me on vacation and couldn’t resist taking a photo of a Jawa on the beach in the sand. While I enjoy this kind of shoot, working with the challenges of available lighting, environment and being in public, it doesn’t fit that vintage style. This is natural sand, but in the studio shots above I used kinetic sand. I found yellow kinetic sand is terrific for toy photography. It looks like toy sand, not natural beach sand and that fits the studio look and the fantasy appeal. It’s also very easy to clean up. It’s not rough and annoying and it doesn’t get everywhere.
Kinetic sand also looks good with various scales of toys. I dug out my old Micro Machines Action Fleet sand skiff to recreate this Sarlacc pit scene and it molded to the dunes and pits I desired.
You can also dig trenches in it to give the impression of a crashed escape pod. I also used my Microfogger to add smoke. This playset is also from the Micro Machines Action Fleet line.
Speaking of Action fleet, when I wrapped up with Tatooine, I settled on Hoth. Stay tuned for my next post about shooting vintage Empire Strikes Back photos with artificial snow. Follow me @MillionairePb on Instagram to stay up to date.

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