Playsets. The word conjures images of afternoons spent on living room rugs or bedroom floors, recreating favorite scenes from favorite movies, moving characters across plastic set pieces and cardboard backdrops and reciting lines from a film verbatim. Playsets inspired by the Star Wars films have been a beloved part of the fan community since the beginning, and with the upcoming The Vintage Collection Carbon-Freezing Chamber playset having been announced recently, we thought now would be a great time to take a dive into the timeline of Star Wars Bespin playsets from Kenner and Hasbro.
Star Wars-Inspired Playsets: A World Within a World
Back in the day Star Wars playsets were entirely cardboard. They came with 3 ¾-inch-scale figures in plastic baggies– some of which you couldn’t find in the regular toy line. Though it may seem like the playsets were merely diorama-like companion pieces to character multipacks, they were actually one of the few ways for kids to appreciate the environmental artwork. For some kids, those cardboard playsets were the closest they would come to getting access to the evocative imagery they couldn’t see anywhere but on the big screen, since VCRs were not yet in every household.
Without any easy way for kids to rewatch the movies, it was important to provide playsets that were the right scale to let everyone recreate the scenes. The Micro Collection, created by legendary product designer Mark Boudreaux, fit that need perfectly. Each playset included die-cast figures in a 1 ¼-inch scale, pre-posed and the perfect size to fit into much more detailed environments. Several Bespin-inspired playsets were made, including playsets featuring the duel locations of the Bespin Control Room and Bespin Gantry, along with, of course, the Bespin Freeze Chamber playset. The Freeze Chamber playset, as the largest, was definitely the centerpiece of the Bespin World playsets of the Micro Collection. There’s just something about that scene that sticks in the minds of anyone who’s seen Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and it’s been a focus of playsets for many years.
By the early 2000s, both the prequels and remastered editions of the original trilogy had hit the theater. In the toy world, it was the era of The Power of the Jedi line of toys. Along with The Power of the Jedi figure line, several playsets were released. Those playsets were focused heavily on cool features, over screen accuracy. This Carbon-Freezing Chamber playset had a stretchy fabric “freezing chamber” that allowed kids to press the Han Solo figure (or any figure that fit their imagination), simulating that iconic carbon freezing look. Though the playset itself was more of an expression of the room rather than a screen-accurate recreation, the feature let kids play out action sequences while collectors could pose their figures in way that represented classic scenes.
We’ve learned a lot over the years, and listened to input from fans, and we wanted to make sure this was reflected as we moved into a new era of The Vintage Collection playsets. Reflecting this learning, the 2020 The Vintage Collection Bespin playset is different in tone to the Power of The Jedi playset.
What inspired us to return to Vintage playsets instead of creating more feature-based playsets? We looked back at the history and heritage of The Vintage Collection and realized that Vintage playsets could be linked to a key environment, like our most recent HasLab project, Jabba’s Sail Barge and the Skiff Guard 3-figure pack. And we knew it would be a chance to continue doing Kenner-inspired packaging, which is always fun.
Plus, we knew that many of our Vintage Collection fans were interested in collection and display, versus that “kid feature” that had been prominent in the 90s. It was important to us to make sure we could make a piece that would look great on a collector’s shelf and let fans really build out those classic scenes they love. That’s why we designed the playset with translucent subflooring using see-through grille slots in the ceiling and floor. This playset looks awesome backlit, with that screen-inspired orange glow that’s so important for the carbon freezing scene.
For this Carbon-Freezing Chamber playset, we built on everything we’ve learned from the playsets of the past to give fans an exciting, unique Vintage playset experience.