November 18, 2014 – In 1979, Kenner released its Imperial Troop Transporter as a toy vehicle despite the vehicle never having appeared in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) or The Empire Strikes Back (1980) or, for that matter, in any subsequent Star Wars movie or animated series. Kenner created the vehicle from scratch and gambled that the public would eagerly buy it.
The Imperial Troop Transporter thus carries the distinction of being the first “off-screen” vehicle to be marketed by Kenner (now Hasbro). For 35 years, its existence has been implied, but never actually seen, in any movie – until now.
If you’ve not yet tuned in to Disney’s new animated series, Star Wars Rebels, now is the time to do so. The series is set 14 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith (released in 2005), but five years before A New Hope. In Episode 8 (Empire Day), an intriguing story line unfolds, which delves deeper into the young Ezra Bridger’s mysterious past. And, as a big bonus, the Imperial Troop Transporter (actually, many of them) finally makes a big appearance in Rebel‘s eighth episode.
The following screen-shots show some modifications from the 1979 toy version, including forward-facing laser turrets. The speedy Transporter engages in some heavy combat scenes, which is a nice surprise insofar as the toy version and its moniker have led us to believe it was supposed to be a lumbering and not very agile transport vehicle.
We first see the vehicles in a procession in a military parade to celebrate the reviled “Empire Day”. The episode shows off several of the stately Transporters moving in a single column, before they come to rest at a ceremonial stage.
The Rebels, of course, sabotage the festivities when they destroy a newly-revealed Advanced TIE Starfighter. The Empire’s angry pursuit of the Rebels allows the Imperial Troop Transporter to finally show off its capabilities on screen, as the following screen-shots reveal.
So was the 35-year wait worth it? Absolutely. This was not so much a wait as an unexpected surprise. In many ways, large and small, Star Wars Rebels is paying tribute to the earliest strands of the Star Wars franchise (Ralph McQuarrie concept designs; the early Star Wars toys) while building the missing bridge between Star Wars Episodes III (2005) and IV (1977).
Star Wars Rebels is about to take off to new heights.