Vintage Kenner Jabba the Hutt Action Playset (Line-Art Version)
The Vintage Jabba Playset was the first item I cataloged here on the site, but there are actually two versions of it (at least when it comes to the box). The more common one is the one I wrote about initially, and uses nice, full-color photos of the toy posed with various other action figures (“sold separately” of course). The other one is a two-color line-art version that is much plainer. It’s just a white cardboard box (considerably sturdier than the full-color version) that features Jabba and the “Return of the Jedi” title in green, and the throne and the rest of the text in black. It appears to be just a drawn version of the photo that appeared on the full-color box, without the other figures. It’s interesting that they chose green for Jabba, since the actual figure really isn’t green at all, but then again the actual mustard yellow color wouldn’t have shown up very well on the box, or have been as esthetically pleasing. This one has never been opened, and I don’t intend to open it now, so refer to the other version of the playset for pictures of the actual toy.
One thing that struck me when I got the box in-hand was that the green printing shifts in position by about 2mm or so between the front and the back. This gives you the illusion that Jabba’s eyes move back and forth. Jabba looks like he’s up to something…
There is apparently some controversy about the reason behind the two different boxes. I first heard the idea that the plain boxes were used by Sears for their catalog orders. Since they didn’t need pretty photos to attract kids’ eyes on store shelves, Sears decided to save some money and go with a plainer box (and it might also be that they wanted a more sturdy box that could hold better up to being sent in the mail). This sounds plausible, and they did produce a number of Sears-exclusive figure packs that came in white boxes with line art on them. But as far as I know, no one has offered proof that this version of the box was actually used by Sears, and strangely I’ve never heard of anyone who remembers getting the line art version as a kid.
Another idea is that because they over-produced this figure, Kenner printed up some cheap boxes to try and move some of the overstock cheaply toward the end of its life as a product. It’s true that they overproduced the Jabba playset, which is one reason why it’s not more valuable today. I’ve even heard that the novelty store Archie McPhee bought up boxes and boxes full of leftover Jabba parts in the early 90s that they eventually paired with plastic fruit pieces and tried to sell as “Jabba Jam,” with rather dismal results. (Details here and here — supposedly they really did this, although it sounds like a joke. If anyone knows where I can get some of this, please let me know.)
I don’t know what the real story is, but it does seem likely that the simpler box was a cost-saving measure of some kind. I certainly prefer the photo box overall, but there is something undeniably charming about this version.