The Real West: Kenner’s failed western toy line from 1980

LEB

I’m a big fan of westerns.  Movies, books, comics, toys.  Whatever.  If you listen to episode 68 of the Nerd Lunch podcast, you will hear me lamenting the lack of good western toy lines on shelves today.  The best western toy line is probably the Gabriel Lone Ranger toys from the 70s and 80s.  Most especially the large scale toys and accessories.  Here’s an ad for a western town for the Gabriel 3-3/4″ Lone Ranger toys.

Gabriel Lone Ranger

Gabriel also released a 12″ scale Lone Ranger series of figures.  Both were extremely popular and set the standard for well done western figures.  However, there aren’t many other toy lines that even tried to create western figures, other than generically packed cowboy figures on sale in the discount aisles of Wal-Mart.  See the True Heroes Wild West Action Figure Playset 5-Pack.  To be fair, the True Heroes stuff is actually fairly well made for generic figures.  Check out the True Heroes Wild West Sheriff’s Town Playset.  Like I said, actually not that bad.  But it’s generic.  I want a figure line that’s more specific.

The toys I actually want to talk about today I briefly mentioned in the latest episode of Nerd Lunch.  I consider it to be the closest we’ll get to an actual, well realized “Legends of the Old West” action figure line.  It was first made by Kenner in 1979 as a tie in to the movie Butch and Sundance – The Early Days.  The movie was a prequel to the classic 1969 western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, respectively.  The movie had a nice compliment of stars.  Tom Berenger played Butch, William Katt played Sundance, Peter Weller played La Fors, Christopher Lloyd played Carver and Brian Dennehy played Hanks.  The studio had high hopes for the movie and created a toy line featuring figures of the characters.  Here are pics of the carded figures of the title characters.

Butch Sundance
(via Toys You Had)

There were also figures of La Fors, Sheriff Bledsoe and Hanks.  Kenner also produced the hero’s horses, Bluff and Spurs, as well as an awesome armored stagecoach called The Mint Wagon.  Here they are in a Kenner catalog from 1980.

Horses and Mint Wagon
(Via Plaid Stallions)

Unfortunately, the movie tanked.  Which caused the toy line to tank.  So Kenner regrouped and tried re-branding the line, The Real West, and making it a more generic “legends of the Old West” action figure line.  They created the new logo and planned on redoing the toy packaging with the new banner.

The Real West display
(Via Plaid Stallions)

As part of the new toy line, Kenner planned on adding three new figures based on “heroes” of the Old West. The three figures would have been Billy the Kid, Jesse James and Geronimo.

Real West new figures
(Via Plaid Stallions)

Kenner also retooled the Star Wars Creature Cantina playset into a Real West Western Cafe playset.

Real West Western Cafe
(Via Plaid Stallions)

Unfortunately, this Western Cafe playset would be the only new toy released with the Real West branding. Some of the original Butch and Sundance figures may have been released with the new branding, that’s unclear, but none of the new figures were ever released.  It’s a shame that this line was hamstrung by a bad movie because where Kenner was going with the line looked very promising.  And the toys were really well made and thought out.  Plus that Mint Wagon vehicle is awesome.  Who knows what else they would have come up with?

As a side note, if the design of these figures looks familiar to you, the molds would be reused by Kenner to create the original Indiana Jones line of figures.

This particular line is what I would like to see done today.  Include famous historical figures like Billy the Kid, Kid Curry, John Wesley Hardin, the Dalton Gang and Wild Bill Hickok.  Include some nice horses, a western town, a cool stagecoach to rob and maybe even a train playset to also rob.  You could even include famous lawmen like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson.  It would be great.  Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll ever see it.

Other Cowboy entries from around The League:

- Jaime talks about a little remembered Disney short, A Cowboy Needs a Horse.
– Shawn talks about the aforementioned Gabriel Lone Ranger figures.
– Tim from Flashlights are Something to Eat shows an adorable picture of the toughest little cowboy.
– Fortune and Glory (Days) talks about one of my favorite Clint Eastwood westerns, Hang ‘em High.

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6 Responses to “The Real West: Kenner’s failed western toy line from 1980”

  1. Wow, excellent post! I’m off to eBay right now…

  2. I remember ads for these in comic books at the time. They looked really cool to me, though I think I went in for the Lone Ranger instead.

  3. The saloon play set it epic!

  4. I never had any western toys that I can remember, but I did inherit a Red Ryder coin and wallet from my father. I think Red Ryder was some kind of Lone Ranger type clone. They probably grew him in a vat using advanced western technology from the Lone Ranger’s toenail clippings.

  5. That was back when action figures were works of craftsmanship!

    (Geez, I sounded old there ;) lol)

    Still, the Sundance figure reminds me a little of the ROTJ-era Luke Skywalker figure.

    Cool stuff though!

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