Death Star Playsets: Comparing Palitoy, Kenner/Hasbro and Third Parties’ Versions

February 28, 2017 – Let’s face it: The age of Star Wars playsets, compatible with your 3.75-inch action figures, has largely come to an end. The last time Hasbro released a decent playset was probably the Mustafar playset in 2005, over a decade ago.

LarsHomestead-Combo
Hasbro did release Disturbance at Lars Homestead, a Toys R Us exclusive, in 2008. Lacking in exciting details or play features, the Homestead might be more accurately called a diorama than an interactive playset.

Which brings us to the year 2017: Now would seem a perfect time for Hasbro to release an updated Death Star playset. The 40th anniversary of Star Wars is just three months away (May 25th), and Rogue One just showed us how the Rebels barely managed to steal the plans to the Death Star.

As “the ultimate power in the universe” with strong fan demand, a Death Star playset would seem an obvious and profitable choice for Hasbro. But Hasbro is mum on the production of any new Star Wars playsets and, this late in the roll-out cycle, it’s highly unlikely we will see anything.

A Look Back at the First Death Star Playsets


Kenner’s Death Star Space Station was the first Star Wars playset ever to be released. The nearly 22.5-inch tall plastic tower sold for – don’t spill your coffee, folks! – only $18.00.

Kenner’s Death Star Space Station (Photo Credit: Hasbro/Lucasfilm)

Kenner’s Death Star Space Station (Photo Credit: Hasbro/Lucasfilm)

Released in the United States and Canada between 1978-1979, the vertically designed station can accommodate numerous 3.75-inch figures. As an open cross-section of the Death Star, the playset features a large elevator shaft and a lift (lockable at any floor), a trapdoor that leads to a working trash compactor below (complete with a dianoga), two computer consoles, an exploding laser cannon, a retractable bridge leading to the elevator, a plastic rope (so you can swing your action figures across the chasm), and other nifty play features.

As the largest playset ever, other countries overseas chose not to import or produce the Kenner version. Instead, cardboard Death Star playsets were released overseas with, some might argue, more varied and movie-accurate play features.

A Palitoy Death Star (Photo Credit: vintagekennerstarwars.blogspot.com)

A Palitoy Death Star (Photo Credit: vintagekennerstarwars.blogspot.com)

In 1979, Palitoy (U.K.) released a heavy-cardboard Death Star playset in the U.K., France, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The set requires assembly of the flat cardboard graphics and some plastic pieces. The plastic components include five two-piece base connectors, the top gunner’s cockpit and canopy, the trash chute, and two cannons which are “borrowed” from the separately-sold vintage X-Wing Fighter. Small clear plastic figure stands are also included.

The colorful photography, well-executed design, and movie-realistic play features have made the Palitoy Death Star playset extremely popular.

Unlike Kenner’s trapdoor placed in the floor, Palitoy designed a movie-realistic escape hole in the wall. The opening leads directly to the trash compactor below.

A good video comparison between the Kenner and Palitoy versions can be watched here:

For one collector’s photographic discussion of the Palitoy Death Star playset, read more HERE.

A detailed video, showing all the components and intricate assembly of the Palitoy set, can also be watched below:

Other Third-Party Vendors


Forty years after the launch of Star Wars, fans and collectors will perish from either boredom or old age before a new 3.75-inch figure-compatible Death Star playset is ever released. If you are waiting for Hasbro, it’s simply not going to happen.

So what’s an avid collector to do? Your options are either:

(A) Build it yourself;
(B) Ignore the gaping hole in your collection; or,
(C) Turn to other third-party vendors and customizers.

In coming weeks, we will discuss how certain third-party vendors are attempting to fill the Death Star void. Stay tuned.

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