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JTA Presents: Evolutions - Chewbacca [A New Hope]

Welcome to another one our JTA Presents: Evolutions features! Let’s check out how close or far we are from having an ideal Hasbro 3.75″ Chewbacca [A New Hope] action figure. Have we arrived at definitive status yet? Weigh in and let us know what conclusion you’ll come to by clicking through and adding your two cents in the comments!

Chewbacca [A New Hope]

 

Chewbacca is one of the most beloved characters in the entire Star Wars saga. To date, he’s made an appearance in every single episodic adventure save for The Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones. In 1978, he became every young boy’s and every young girl’s space dog, and we know from A New Hope that he was Han’s pet too, from a certain point of view. (You saw his stroke him like a dog on the Death Star, right?) He was one of the first four Kenner Star Wars action figures produced and continues to be a mainstay in the Hasbro basic figure line. Chewbacca has distinct looks from film to film, and Hasbro does a great job at capturing each nuance. But despite 40 years of Chewbacca [A New Hope] action figures, do we indeed have a definitive version yet?

 

Chewbacca from 1978’s Star Wars line

            

The vintage Kenner Chewbacca is one of the most distinct action figures ever produced. His crystal blue eyes and slicked back fur solidified him as one of our favorites as kids. His bowcaster didn’t imitate the prop in the film accurately, but none of us cared all that much. We were so happy to have this hulking upright-walking dog-like character in our collections because he was lovable, tall and a faithful companion to the Rebel Alliance and its friends. He will go down in history as one of the “Early Bird Figures” (and let us not forget about the legendary “green” crossbow packaged with him). And he will forever remain one of the most revered characters in the entire Star Wars saga.

 

Chewbacca from 1995’s The Power Of The Force “2” [Red] line.

            

When Kenner/Hasbro announced the relaunch of the Star Wars basic figure line, Chewbacca was one of the first characters on their list to reintroduce. Star Wars collectors were so excited by the announcement that most overlooked the fact that the 1995 The Power Of The Force “2” [Red] iteration of him looked a whole lot more like an ape than an upright dog. (Didn’t Spaceballs get this detail correct in a sardonic manner?) Regardless, collectors bought him up like there was no tomorrow. The figure’s completely screen-inaccurate sculpt was something fans of the line would shortly begin to criticize, and Kenner/Hasbro was quick to address this figure’s issues with subsequent better sculpts in the future. Of particular note, this figure was slightly repainted and reused in the 1998’s POTF2 [G/FF] Millennium Minted Coin Toys R Us exclusive lineup.

 

Chewbacca from 1995’s The Power Of The Force “2” [Red] Classic Edition 4-Pack Toys R Us exclusive set.

            

Wait, didn’t we see this sculpt? Yeah, we did. About 17 years ago. You might be wondering why this figure gets counted as a unique sculpt. That’s because Hasbro cast the figures featured in The Power Of The Force “2” [Red] Classic Edition 4-Pack set from the actual vintage Kenner figures. So, they’re unique sculpts from that perspective. Hasbro cast Chewbacca is a dull brown color, and the POTF2 version lost the shiny luster of the original 1978 figure. The Classic Edition 4-Pack sent the community into a rage, and fans threatened to sell all of their vintage Kenner stuff before Hasbro’s modern stuff devalued the originals. Yeah, that never happened. Today, it’s quite simple to tell this figure apart from the 1978 original release. The freak out about this set was completely unwarranted.

 

Chewbacca from 1997’s The Power Of The Force “2” [Green/Freeze Frame] Death Star Escape Cinema Scenes set.

            

Kenner/Hasbro created a product sub-line where they’d capture three figures, preserving a scene from the Star Wars saga. They called the line Cinema Scenes, and it was instantly embraced by the collecting community. All of the figures contained with these sets were all-new sculpts. One Toys R Us exclusive, the Death Star Escape Cinema Scenes set, introduced a revised version of 1995’s POTF2 [R] Chewbacca figure. This time Kenner/Hasbro tooled new arms and a few other parts on Chewbacca to recreate his hands in binders. The set went over well, but fans were disappointed that Chewbacca wasn’t completely revisited to look more screen-accurate. Despite this, the set was a hit, and we have a very scene-specific Chewbacca figure for their collections.

 

Chewbacca from 2000’s Power Of The Jedi line.

            

It would be quite a lengthy amount of time before Hasbro revisited another A New Hope version of Chewbacca. Initially planned for the CommTech line, 2000’s POTJ Chewbacca (Dejarik Champion) was next in line to represent the character from Episode IV. Another VERY scene-specific version of Chewbacca, the all-new sculpt was good for one scene, and one scene only. The figure, with his hands behind his head, looked ridiculous if configured in any other way. At least he came with a dejarik game table to complete the look in a very believable way. The figure has a great likeness to the onscreen character, but if you wanted to utilize the figure in any other display, it was a pointless action.

 

Chewbacca from 2002’s Power Of The Jedi Han Solo And Chewbacca (Death Star Escape) Silver Anniversary (1977-2002) set.

            

The 25th Anniversary of Star Wars took place at the tail end of the Power Of The Jedi line. Before transitioning into the Star Wars “Saga” [Phase I] line, Hasbro released three two-packs commemorating the silver anniversary of the Star Wars franchise. One set was 2002’s POTJ Han Solo And Chewbacca (Death Star Escape) which features less-articulated and action-oriented versions of our most favorite characters from A New Hope. Honestly, the Chewbacca n this set is one of the most excellent action figures of the Wookiee Hasbro ever produced. But there is no way to quantify it as a definitive figure because of its pre-posed nature. If Hasbro could somehow incorporate the art of this figure into super-articulation, Star Wars collectors would be delighted people.

 

Chewbacca from 2002’s Star Wars “Saga” [Phase I] Death Star Trash Compactor (Princess Leia & Chewbacca) (2 of 2) Scene Packs set.

            

Another excellent scene-specific version of Chewbacca was part of the 2002 Star Wars “Saga” [Phase I] Death Star Trash Compactor (Princess Leia & Chewbacca) (2 of 2) set. Pre-posed, unarticulated and statuesque, it still looks fantastic to this day. Once again, if Hasbro could find a way to work in super-articulation to beautiful sculpts like this, collectors would be happy people. From his tall stature to the expression on this face, this version of Chewbacca holds a special place in the hearts of many collectors. Some don’t like the exaggerated look that this sculpt has, but many overlook it because the detailing is so incredible.

 

Chewbacca from 2005’s The Saga Collection Early Bird Figures set.

            

A small miracle occurred in 2005. In support of the Revenge Of The Sith line and to thank longtime collectors of the line, Hasbro released a replica of the Early Bird Certificate Package. And just like the original, the promise of receiving four Star Wars action figures was part of the deal if the paperwork was filled out correctly and requirements were met. What many fans don’t realize about these Walmart exclusives was that they were designed to satiate collectors and give them hints what would be coming that December (The Saga Collection). In the Early Bird Figures set was a retooled Chewbacca. The figure was based on 2004’s The Original Trilogy Collection “Vintage” Chewbacca with an all-new head sculpt and all-new paint job. The figure looked pretty good, but soon collectors wanted a revised version with a better portrait next.

 

Chewbacca (BD31) from 2009’s Legacy Collection line.

            

Hasbro made great use of the VOTC Chewbacca sculpt, and they utilized it again in the Legacy Collection when they produced a new version of Chewbacca wearing a communications headset (as seen during his co-piloting of the Millennium Falcon). The figure was wrongly colored and came with the wrong head sculpt (his Episode VI head sculpt), but the figure served a purpose as it was scene specific. Besides, collectors recently purchased The Legacy Collection Millennium Falcon and were happy to see a version of Chewbacca that would interact beautifully with it. The figure went over well despite its screen-inaccuracy and was a placeholder for definitive status for years for many collectors. Still, the coloring of the figure is so off for others that they don’t like the figure much at all.

 

Chewbacca from 2012’s Star Wars [The Phantom Menace 3D] Rebel Heroes Battle Packs set.

            

Collectors unanimously agree that 2012 was a complete debacle for both the Star Wars brand and the collecting community. In retrospect, products from 2012 look incredibly better than the offerings of today and had collectors known that they might have scaled back their complaining a bit more than they did. The Rebel Heroes Battle Packs set took a Chewbacca figure initially based on The Empire Strikes Back and reintroduced it as the Chewbacca from A New Hope, hence the reason for its inclusion here. Overall, it isn’t a great likeness to Chewbacca, and we’re not sure why Hasbro thought this figure would make sense to include in the Battle Packs set. Most importantly, collectors were sad to see weak sets like this get released over and over again. The line was changing for worse.

 

Chewbacca from 2013’s Star Wars [Revenge Of The Sith/Darth Vader] Han Solo And Chewbacca (Death Star) (MS07) Mission Series set.

            

Longtime Star Wars collectors saw the writing on the wall and tried to face the music with the release of the Saga Legends and Mission Series lines of 2013 (and beyond). The main line was officially reduced to 5POA action figures, and one of the worst releases from that era was Chewbacca from the Han Solo And Chewbacca (Death Star) (MS07) Mission Series set. What the heck happened at Hasbro with this figure? Firstly, the figure looks like a hairy and stretched-out version of Plastic Man, the paint operations are so dreadful that the figure looks like it has rabies, and the scale is inaccurate to the onscreen character. Needless to say, this version of Chewbacca might be the worst version of him ever.

 

Chewbacca (#11) from The Black Series [Phase II] line.

            

The closest Star Wars collectors came to receiving a definitive Chewbacca based on A New Hope was The Black Series [Phase II] Chewbacca (#11) figure. Based on the digital files of the 6” figure, Hasbro took the 2004 VOTC Chewbacca body and gave the figure a new head based on his appearance from A New Hope. Collectors sincerely appreciated the gesture, but the finished figure came with the wrong coloring and sloppy paint operations. Hasbro is repainting the same figure for The Vintage Collection release in 2019, and from the official images, Hasbro released, it looks like it will be a drastic improvement. It’s quite unbelievable that it took Hasbro this long to release one of the Early bird figures in the modern The Vintage Collection, isn’t it?

 

Chewbacca [A New Hope] Group Shot

Chewbacca

 

Questions for discussion:

1. In your opinion, do we have a definitive version of this figure?

2. If we don’t have a definitive version of this figure, should Hasbro tool a new figure from the ground up again, or should they tweak a current sculpt to perfect it instead?

3. If the figure ranks as definitive for you, do you want to see it repackaged in vintage Kenner packaging (The Vintage Collection) if it isn’t already?

4. Add any other points of note or interest in the comments about any of these versions of Chewbacca [A New Hope] action figures.

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