Sometime in the 80’s, when I was about seven, I got the opportunity to go to the US with my family. Back then the US was this magical place that my dad would occasionally fly off to and come back bringing lots and lots of new toys! So you can imagine just how excited I was. I was finally going to see for myself this magical place where most of my amazing toys came from…I was finally going to see what heaven would look like.
I will never forget the first time I walked into my first Toys R’Us. I have to say, it was more magical than Disneyland. For younger readers out there, you have to understand, today’s Toys R’Us stores were NOTHING like the ones back in the 80’s. When you hear an 80’s kid talk (or boast) about ENTIRE AISLES of Transformers, G.I.Joes and Star Wars toys, they weren’t kidding (ok m sure there were also entire aisles of Barbies and Ponies but I never got that far….). In today’s toystore, action figures of a specific brand would probably take up 2 or 3 PEGS of shelf space, back then you would have a WALL….imagine it, a WALL taller than you, of action figure pegs.
To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. I was blown away. Every single toy I had in mind was there that and a lot more that I didn’t know even existed. One particular toy did get my attention. He was lurking in the Star Wars aisle next to the action figure wall (God I love that description!) he wasn’t quite what you would call an action figure, but he definitely wasn’t a vehicle. He was the HOTH WAMPA!
For those of you not familiar, the Wampa was this creature (think abominable snowman) who lived on the Hoth planet (the icy planet the at the start of the movie where the Rebel base was located). Well BEFORE the epic battle on Hoth, the one with the Snow Speeders and At-Ats, our hero, Luke Skywalker went on a scouting mission and while he was out there alone, he was attacked by some mysterious beast that knocked him off his taun-taun (some kangaroo looking thinginee the rebels would ride like horses on Hoth) and dragged him off to his cave to eat. Moments later, Luke wakes up hanging upside down suspended on the roof of a cave. Using the force, he regains his lightsaber, frees himself and proceeds to kill the Wampa. The entire sequence isn’t very long and because of the all the snow you actually hardly get a good look at what the Wampa looks like. (I could be wrong but I think in later versions, Lucas actually put in new scenes showing more of the Wampa).
So anyway, now that you know what a Wampa is, I shall continue. So there he was on the shelf, big, white and ugly. And I wanted him. But when my dad saw the price tag of $11, he just scoffed….too expensive, get something else he said. Back then, a typical Joe or Star Wars action figure cost about $2 so you could imagine $11 for something that wasn’t a playset or vehicle was a big deal. So that was that, no Wampa, or so my dad thought.
As the days passed, the Wampa continued to haunt me. I could NOT get that ugly white beast out of my head. I HAD to have him. Now I’d like to think I was a pretty good and level headed kid. You know that little kid in the toy store that cries on the floor because he can’t get the toy that he wants? That definitely wasn’t me. I wasn’t one to throw any tantrums…but I could whine. I didn’t whine often, but when it came to the Wampa…BOY did I whine. “Dad….could I PLEEEEEEEAAAAAASE have a Wampa? Please please please?” “I promise I’ll take care of it…he will be my favorite” “Pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaase?” .
It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually a few days later, I wore him down and he caved and I got my Wampa, and he was MAGNIFICENT. Actually what he was was a hollow toy with basic articulation. His selling point were his arms, that were attached together by some elastic mechanism inside the body which allowed you make him “swipe” at any unfortunate action figure. He could drag said figure by their feet and hold them up high above his head, and that was it, but for me, that was just PERFECT.
Anyway, he was my favorite toy until after about a year or too of overuse, the elastic band inside finally stretched out too much and his arms became useless and would just droop to the side, his white “fur” started turning yellow and pretty soon he found his place in the “back of the shelf” and ultimately forgotten. But even though his time was relatively short, the Wampa kept a special place in my heart as being one of the only toys I specifically remember whining over.
Through the years, Hasbro have released a couple more Wampas with better details and articulation, but none of them came close to the original in my eyes, I was never moved to get any of them. But things changed when a couple years ago, Hasbro started their new 6” Star Wars Black line aimed at adult collectors (meeeeee). Anyway, long story short, in 2014, they announced that they would be releasing….THE WAMPA! And just like that, my resolve was broken. I had resisted before, but a giant highly articulated and detailed WAMPA was just too much. Unfortunately, they decided to package him with a Hoth version of Luke Skywalker, which would basically drive up the overall price. When the 2 pack eventually made its way to retail, I resisted, I didn’t want another Luke, all I wanted was the Wampa.
Then the day finally came, on a random trip to Greenhills (local place with lots of toy & hobby shops) I came upon a LOOSE Wampa on display in one store. The price tag was OK, definitely better that actual retail but still I wasn’t planning to spend a lot that day (I was looking for bootleg legos). Anyway I asked to take a look at it and when I held him in my hands, all the childhood love I had for this big white ugly beast came rushing back and it was game over. With a smile I couldn’t wipe off my face, I eagerly surrendered my money and the WAMPA WAS MINE ☺ The shop keeper probably noticed my excitement and curiously asked me “Sino ba yan?” (“Who is that anyway?”) and I just smiled like a little kid and said....”HOTH WAMPA”.
And just like that, the Wampa and I lived happily ever after ☺