Power of the Force Collection 1
Item No.: Asst. 69570 No. 69831
Includes: Freeze Frame slide, claw arm, saw arm
Action Feature: Pop-up sensorscope, plug-in arms, retractable data arm
Availability: Summer 1998
Appearances: Star Wars
Image: Standing in front of one of my oldest friends' "save the date" postcard. He got married over the past weekend. Happy marital relations, Michael!
Bio: Inside the Imperial Death Star, R2-D2 uses one of his many mechanical assets to rescue his Rebel companions from certain death within a rapidly closing trash compactor. (Taken from the figure's cardback.)
Commentary: In 1998, Kenner decided it was time to start a trend which is now extremely common and expected: "improvements." This R2-D2 was only the second version of the figure released at the time, which is pretty stunning if you think about that between 1995 and 1998, we only got two. Nowadays, we get at least one new version every year between the basic carded assortments and the various battle packs. The action features introduced here were pretty awesome at the time, and I'd argue they're still pretty excellent. The most obvious one is the sensorscope-- press a button, and it pops up. It's a big improvement over the 1982 version, which required you to use your fingernail to pry the thing up a fraction of an inch.
The next feature of note is the datalink arm. This built-in appendage would extend as you rotate the figure's dome, allowing the droid to "hack" into Imperial targets. How cool is that? And how come it took 21 years? Ah well. It's a great addition, and one that was reintroduced with the second-ever animated R2-D2 in 2008. The figure also sports a socket in which to plug other accessories, so as long as you didn't lose them you could have R2-D2 saw his way out of a net or grab something with a small claw. Again, these were really clever and simple ideas which gave a figure with no new costume changes a second lease on life/sales. This was before Hasbro realized you could add some white, blue, green, or red to his feet and say "hey kids, it's the Endor one!"
Of course, I haven't even discussed the figure itself. This was interesting because it altered the perception of the droid in a big way by shrinking him down ever so slightly from the 1995 release, which some fans thought was the proper size. Scale has always been an issue in this line, and this figure kicked up additional questions as to just how big the figure should be. It's pretty close. The sculpt itself isn't a huge improvement over the 1995 release, but it is a little more subtle, the proportions are slightly better, and it dropped the third leg since the various internal mechanisms ate up the space needed for such an appendage. (This was before Hasbro decided you could just make it removable.) Overlal this was a great figure to get in its day, and fans were mostly excited to get a new and improved version of Artoo. Of course, nobody knew that new revisions would be an annual thing, if not more frequent, as pop-up lightsaber, Holographic Leia, and booster rocket versions of R2-D2 would all be released within a year following this figure's release.
Collector's Notes: This figure's mold was never reused to create other droids, nor was it reissued. But not to worry, there's like 25 other R2-D2s, most of which are based on the "vintage" 2004 mold. The "vintage" version is arguably the best new interpretation of the gizmos and accessories introduced on this nifty, but now outdated, release.
Day 1,108: September 11, 2009