Growing up in the ‘90s as Star Wars mania re-exploded with the rise of the Special Editions and the advent of The Phantom Menace, there were plenty of Star Wars toys to gawk at with desire as a little kid, from thiccly-chested Luke Skywalkers to more Jar Jars Binks than you could shake a gungan tongue at — and there were plenty of toys in that era that let you do just that. But as the kid who preferred pilots and smugglers to Jedi and Sith, there was only one Star Wars toy for me: Action Fleet.
Spinning off in the mid ‘90s from Galoob’s Star Wars Micro Machines line — small, plastic figurines and playsets featuring spaceships, land vehicles, and dainty little figures of Star Wars heroes and villains from across the movies and the burgeoning Expanded Universe — Action Fleet took the Micro Machines idea and upped the scale, giving you a spaceship or a ground vehicle that had articulated details like moving wings and guns, opening cockpits, or hatches to put included, dainty little figurines of pilots, droids, and troopers in for good measure.
Action Fleet covered all sorts of Star Wars vehicles, but its greatest love — and therefore mine as an impressonable kid — was the spaceships of the galaxy far, far away. Focusing on the fighters and smaller vessels rather than capital ships, you could get models of everything from X-Wings and TIE Fighters to other more “obscure” vehicles, like the Imperial Shuttle or Cloud City’s twin-podded Cloud Cars. Entries from the EU brought ships like Prince Xizor’s fighter, the Virago, from Shadows of the Empire, or the E-Wing from the post-Return of the Jedi EU novels. When the prequels were nearly upon us, the line expanded to cover The Phantom Menace, teasing at first with preview sets like the Naboo Speeder, before giving us everything from Trade Federation transports to the beautiful N1 Starfighter (now resurgent again, thanks to The Mandalorian).
Action Fleet lasted through to the release of Attack of the Clones, doing a handful of new ships and vehicles from the second prequel while re-releasing older ships — but it wouldn’t last. No new releases for Revenge of the Sith meant the line faded into memory, and although Hasbro revived the Micro Machines line briefly for The Force Awakens, it didn’t bring back Action Fleet along the way, and not even the nostalgia that fuelled the first of the sequel trilogy could help Micro Machines get traction among kids or collectors again.
Action Fleet was the kind of toy line just right to collect, well, a veritable fleet of Star Wars vehicles. They were big enough to be articulated and — importantly for either a child or an adult with the mind of one — swooshable as you imagine your own Star Wars battles, but not as big and as unwieldy (or expensive) as the vehicles made for Kenner and Hasbro’s 3.75″ Star Wars action figures. Action Fleet’s love of the weird and wonderful vehicles of the galaxy far, far away are what helped shape my own love of that side of the franchise, away from the magic powers and laser swords of Luke and Vader. The detail in each little ship, special releases like the “Alpha Series” — which bundled a model of a vehicle with a second based on early concept art from the movies — and just the sheer volume of different kinds of ships and transports that Galoob put out in those formative years acted as a living, playable bible of the thing I loved most about Star Wars, and kept me fascinated with it, being able to poke and prod, and admire, all these cool designs.
Star Wars toys seemingly can never die, but even as the galaxy far, far away continues to churn out all sorts of merchandise these days, there’s nothing really like Action Fleet any more. Sure, there’s big fancy Lego replicas — you know I’m down for that UCS Landspeeder — or those big-scaled action figure vehicles aimed at adult collectors with more space and spare cash than sense (I get to say that, it’s me, I’m the one without the sense here), and younger kids can get more toyetic, stylised vehicles in lines like Hasbro’s Mission Fleet. But just as my love of starfighters and the brave beings that pilot them are what I will always care for most in the world of Star Wars, no matter how many cool toys there are out there, part of my child-at-heart will always belong to Action Fleet.
Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.
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