Flashback: Newly Discovered Video Shows Kenner’s ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Collection Arrive at Toys ‘R’ Us

A kid looks at new Kenner Star Wars toys in 1980 | Source: YouTuber btm0815ma/The Toy Book

Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and it’s not just retro toys gaining steam, but retro retail as well.

A month after discovering previously unseen video from inside a Manhattan Toys “R” Us circa 1991, mysterious YouTuber btm0815ma is back with an incredible find. From the vaults comes a 25-minute reel of footage that was shot on film inside an undisclosed Toys “R” Us location on May 21, 1980. If the date sounds familiar, it’s because that is when 20th Century Fox released Lucasfilm‘s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back into theaters everywhere. The footage features an ABC 7 reporter interviewing kids and parents in the action aisles amid shelves and pegs that were piled high and stocked deep with the latest toys from the Kenner Star Wars collection.


Related: Backstory: Slinky — 75 Years of an American Classic

This reel is particularly interesting not just for its length, but for its content. The reporter interviews Toys “R” Us staff alongside parents and kids about the appeal of Star Wars, the quality of the toys, and the potential for Star Wars and its sequels to become “an evergreen property as long as they keep making movies for the next 25-30 years.”

A Toys “R” Us executive discusses the Kenner Star Wars collection in 1980 | Source: YouTuber btm0815ma/The Toy Book

If you feel the need to further scratch the itch for the “old days” of toy retail, btm0815ma has been uploading a massive collection of archival news reports and b-roll for nearly six years. The prolific uploader has nearly 5,000 videos in its library, but it’s a collection of recent videos that have really started turning heads. Their recent finds include vintage footage from Nintendo of America, CES, and the launches of Playstation 2, Microsoft’s Xbox, and the Nintendo GameCube, along with the 1997 U.S. launch of Bandai’s Tamagotchi at FAO Schwarz in New York City.

Want even more toy history? Look for our regular Flashback and Backstory features in every issue of the Toy Book.

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.