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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.

Luke Skywalker

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.

Darth Vader

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.

The lightsaber has actually been airbrushed in as have the Death Star panels and lighting on Vader’s armour.  This is the nearest match I can find but it is not quite the correct angle.

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.

C-3PO

C-3PO was pretty easy to locate due to the background that they decided to keep.

As you can see R2-D2 was completely obliterated and the whole shot was flipped to show 3PO in all his golden and shiny glory.

R2-D2

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.

Princess Leia

Clearly from the Yavin control room but another that isn’t in the movie.  It’s fairly obvious to tell as this one is too well posed to have been a movie still.

Here is the full shot and doesn’t Carrie look regal in this shot?  She is clearly in command and taking no nonsense

Chewbacca

Initially I thought this shot would either be escaping from Tatooine or the Death Star hanger but in both scenes Chewie races aboard the Falcon to get it prepped.

That left the detention centre which was also a negative.  It is part of a larger publicity shot with Han as shown here.

Han Solo

I was convinced that this would also be part of the escape from the Death Star but in that scene Han always fires two handed.

It wasn’t long before I found this image in a huge lot of publicity shots.  I’ve seen this shot flipped so not sure which way is the original.

Stormtrooper

The two Stormtroopers here are from the scene where Luke and Leia are attempting to swing over the chasm.

This is just taken a second or so after a third Stormtrooper yells as he’s shot and tumbles head first off the ledge.

Jawa

This image of the Jawa firing (they only do this once) does not match the scene in the movie.  Here is the publicity image it comes from.

As you can see there has been heavy airbrushing performed to give a skyline.

Tusken Raider

I’m not sure if this is a publicity shot or if it was part of the action sequence which was cut from the movie after the image below.

This image is heavily airbrushed in the background and it looks as though it has been flipped from the way the gaffi stick is held in the movie.

Death Squad Commander

Another difficult one to spot but if you watch the scene where Tarkin interrogates Leia you will see him twiddling buttons on his console in the background.

It’s a shame they went with this image as there are better shots of the Commander such as when they first escort Leia to the meeting.

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