Search for the Millennium Falcon
Lost for around 30 years, rebel forces began the search for the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. The purpose of the search is to recover and restore the vintage Kenner Millennium Falcon to its former glory so it can take on new missions to defeat the Empire / New Order.
Back in the early 80s I saw a double bill of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back at the cinema, a cinema viewing that would change my childhood and the adulthood to come. It was an awakening of all things Star Wars and the encompassing Force.
It’s safe to say, without any exaggeration, that no other cinema visit would have the same impact on me. I hear this is the shared experience of many children during the late 70s / early 80s. It is hard for anyone not in their early 40s to understand that there was simply nothing like this before. Even now, watching The Force Awakens transports me back to that wonderful time of childhood. This film, to me, felt more like Episodes 4 to 6 than the mostly disappointing prequels.
For most people over the age of 40, Star Wars was a major part of childhood, along with the Kenner toys which was probably one of the most successful movie toy franchises of all time. According to various sources, the Star Wars toys have reportedly made around $14bn to date, and Kenner were apparently making around 22 million Star Wars figures per year during the Star Wars boom of the late 70s / early 80s.
Of all the many great Kenner Star Wars toys the one that everyone (including me) wanted was the Millennium Falcon, probably the most iconic Star Wars craft. The toy version was massive in terms of scale for little child hands, and the level of detail was impressive.
You could get numerous Star Wars figures inside it, Han and Chewy could both sit in the removable cockpit. Luke could do lightsabre training as someone else mans the guns, whilst a game of holochess is also possible. There was even the secret compartment to hide rebel figures from the Empire, even a strange battery operated noise... what could anyone else have asked for? #MillenniumFalconMemories
On Christmas, after months of my parents saving money (we weren’t very well off) I got the majestic Millennium Falcon Kenner toy, which at the time was the most expensive Star Wars toy in the entire Star Wars Galaxy. It was the Christmas of all Christmases, hours and hours of fun across the Christmas holidays, then years and years of fun after that re-enacting classic Falcon moments and a whole range of new ones.
Then, as I got older, I drifted away from Star Wars and towards the dark side. Toys that were much loved, worn out by constant Star Wars battles, were relegated to the dusty loft. Lots of figures, vehicles such as the land speeder even the deadly cardboard Death Star were gone, replaced by other, newer toys. The new George Lucas prequels came and went but didn't inspire the risky journey up the shaky loft ladder, balancing feet and hands across beams to find the Falcon or any other vintage Star Wars toys.
However, when The Force Awakens was released I pondered where my Star Wars figures were? Where was the Millennium Falcon? What shape was it in? After around 30 years of being lost, my mission was to find it, and if possible, restore it to its former glory; the Force back in me like an Old Ben returned to being Obi Wan Kenobi.
It took numerous attempts to recover the Millennium Falcon from the loft, full of old black and white TVs, old hoovers, comics, cobwebs and dust. But I went back time, and time again until the moment came, as I carefully walked across the unboarded loft beams, dodging cobwebs, I could see it out of the corner of my eye, out of reach in a far corner of the loft, a dusty circular silhouette within a plastic bag. I tried to reach out my hand to grab it, at this point I would have given anything to be able to summon the Force, to make it levitate to me. But I am not a Jedi, so I moved slowly, gingerly, towards the circular shape, until, with one final stretch, I had it in one hand...my Millennium Falcon from 30 years ago, my favourite Christmas present, ever, finally found.
I climbed out of the loft with excitement and removed it from the half disintegrated plastic bag to see it for the first time in many decades.
It was very, very dusty; missing most of the removable parts, but I had the cockpit and the top of it (filled with cobwebs). The cardboard interior was in surprisingly good shape, some of the stickers were faded and missing, but my mission to restore my Millennium Falcon was now a reality.
My first step was to clear out the cobwebs and dust with a selection of baby wipes, tissues and numerous tooth brushes, to get the dirt ingrained in the Falcon’s intricately detailed parts. The one thing I realised immediately (which I didn’t even notice as a child) was the level of detail and how close the outer shell of the Falcon resembled the original from the films… I had recently visited the Star Wars Identities exhibition at the O2 and had seen the original Millennium Falcon model ship, and the toy version, although different in terms of layout inside, looked and felt like the real thing. We have Mark Boudreaux (toy designer at Kenner / Hasbro from 1977 to present) to thank for this wonderful recreation of the Falcon. Apparently he has been the lead designer on every Falcon toy since the original one. We also have Jim Swearingen senior designer at Kenner to thank for his passion and vision to take Star Wars from the screen to our homes.
The size of the toy was the second thing that struck me, some toys in little hands are massive but small in adult hands, this ship was still a hulk of a toy.
The next step was to identify all the parts that were missing, as well as a number of the stickers which had faded over time.
As I mentioned, the cardboard interior was in a great shape but it was clear most parts, except for the removable cockpit, part of the gunner’s seat and ramp were missing.
So I went onto various websites which had photos of the same vintage Millennium Falcon toy and watched numerous YouTube videos to identify the missing parts to create a Millennium Falcon shopping list which included:
I wanted to keep as many original stickers as possible, but the whole of the cockpit dashboard stickers were either damaged or missing, so these were needed, along with some of the top of the falcon and a number of the dashboards inside. Luckily, I found a seller on eBay based in Australia who was selling a whole set of quality colour reproductions of the stickers which I bought. It also included a reproduction of the instruction leaflet which detailed where the stickers should go and the other missing parts.
The other missing pieces were obtained from two sources:
In total I spent around £20 to £30 on the missing parts and stickers. This process took a couple of months, but just before Christmas 2017 I had everything ready and in an afternoon I carefully attached all the relevant stickers, then piece by piece added all the missing parts. Once it was all complete even more memories of my childhood came flooding along with the power of the Force.
The Falcon was back to its former glory, so it was only right to add some of the original Kenner Star Wars figures to the Millennium Falcon for a vintage restoration party!
May the Force be with you all... always