It should not be underestimated that part of Kenner’s success in selling millions of Star Wars toys comes down to the packaging. The cardbacks, disposable packaging really, are admired and collected by vintage Star Wars collectors far and wide, with many hunting for them just as much as original carded figures. Facebook groups and websites are dedicated to trading and documenting them.
Whenever I need some information on Kenner 2D design I refer to Mattias Rendahl’s fantastic book A New Proof. According to Mattias, Kenner were sent multiple 35mm slides as references to make their packaging. Going through several processes, including producing airbrushed photo art, the cardbacks used these slides as their initial basis. I thought it’d be fun to attempt to track down the source of the cardbacks and some were pretty tough.
Looking at the cardback of Luke it is clear that it references the binary sunset scene but I’ve watched this scene several times and this shot doesn’t appear.
Here is the full promotional shot which was used in the cardback. As you can see the image on the cardback has been flipped which is fairly common and a conscious decision by Kenner.
It would be automatic to assume that this shot is from the duel with Ben Kenobi but again it does not match any scene from the movie.
Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi
Again, I was convinced that this would be from the duel with Vader but it clearly isn’t as his hood is down. There are two other scenes where Ben has a saber and the first, which is his dwelling, can be ruled out as he has no robes on at all in that scene.
This just leaves the cantina where he wears robes and has his hood down. None of the footage in the movie shows Ben from this angle but a side projection shot of this frame could capture it quite well.
Edit – huge thanks to Stuart Evans for sending me this
This one was very difficult as Artoo appears a lot in the movie! As you can guess it is heavily airbrushed so I didn’t have a lot to go on. Could this image have also been flipped making it even more difficult to locate?
In this shot Artoo looks shiny so I went to the Yavin scene and then I noticed C-3PO’s hand still on R2’s dome in the top right which I remember from an old post on rebelscum, so this shot is clearly from the movie.
Death Squad Commander
I think Kenner got almost all of these images perfect. Darth Vader and Death Squad Commander are disappointing – I’m half convinced that the DSC is blinking in his photo, but then again these were not designed to be studied 40 years later.
Photos (c) Richard Hutchinson, theswca.com