STAR WARS (KENNER)
On this May the Fourth, it’s with a heavy heart that we bid adieu to Peter Mayhew, the man behind Chewbacca for four decades. The people behind these masks can sometimes easily be forgotten, but Peter was beloved by his fellow cast members. And, fortunately, his legacy will live on through his replacement Joonas Suotamo, who took over the role from Peter in The Last Jedi. In honor of Peter, today I’m going to look at the very first Chewbacca, which feels kinda right.
THE FIGURE ITSELF
Chewbacca was one of the first four figures offered in the original Star Wars line, initially shipping in early 1978 as part of the fulfillment for the Early Bird set, before finding his way to a standard carded release shortly thereafter. Chewbacca was one of the few characters not to get a new version during the three-film run, and as such this figure was in production until the end of the line in the ’80s. This one came from the ’78 release, a fact I know based on how I acquired him. That said, there were no notable changes to the main figure during the vintage line. The figure stands 4 inches tall (the largest of the initial figures) and has 4 points of articulation. He loses out on the neck articulation due to the nature of his furry design. Chewbacca’s sculpt was totally unique to him, and it’s certainly a product of its time. Action figure sculpting wasn’t quite yet up to the level of being able to convincingly translate a walking furball into plastic form, so this guy ends up looking…surprisingly polished? It’s like somebody really thoroughly shellacked him, or maybe like he’s Cousin It’s much taller brother. He’s definitely not as intimidating as later versions of the character would be. Of course, in its own way, perhaps that’s more appropriate to the character, who was generally pretty lovable in the film. Maybe Kenner was onto something there. The figure’s paint work is pretty simple. Mostly, he’s just molded in brown plastic, with a little paint here and there for the eyes, mouth, and bandolier. It gets the job done, but it’s certainly not extensive. Chewbacca was originally packed with his bowcaster, which my figure no longer has.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
As I’ve touched on a few times before here, my vintage Star Wars collection was kind of jump-started by my Dad giving me his old figures when I was growing up. Chewbacca was amongst those figures, and, since I’ve established here on the site that my first Chewbacca wasn’t a default one, this guy was kind of my go-to Chewbacca for a good long while. Like a lot of the vintage figures, he’s goofy and dated, but he’s also a really nifty little figure.