As many collectors are aware, there are quite a few Trilogo figures that feature images which didn’t appear on their American counterparts.
Here is your chance to see some of the original photo art used to design the cards and learn a little bit more about how that alternate artwork came to be.
The images used on Trilogo cards are really interesting. While many still feature the familiar card images used by Kenner in the US, you soon notice that some have been flipped and/or airbrushed while others are completely different.
This is where we introduce a man called Tom Neiheisel (Former Market Research Director for Kenner). Tom is the person responsible for saving a substantial amount of pre-production 2D material relating to the toys that would otherwise have been discarded. This was because Tom’s colleagues knew he had an interest in Star Wars outside of work and he was asked if he was interested in taking home most of amazing pieces of Star Wars history that reside in collections today.
You may have guessed what was amongst them already…that’s right! Many pieces of the alternate photo art that appears on the Trilogo cards.
Here is a picture of Tom holding the Jawa photo art and below is the same image in colour and better detail. Note that the image is heavily airbrushed, especially around the Jawa’s body.
This is the very image we are used to seeing on the Trilogo card.
Photo art editing
You may be wondering why Kenner were airbrushing photo art. Well, thanks to fellow collector Mattias Rendahl we now know why some of those earlier images were altered.
Mattias noticed that in one of the early Kenner Toy Fair catalogues, some of the edited photo art is visible. The images are the same ones that eventually ended up on Trilogo cards.
As you can see from the picture above, images of the toys were placed over the photo art image along with some descriptive text. The dark airbrushing was clearly done to highlight the text and the figure for use in the catalogue.
This was a great discovery and somewhat of a missing link in understanding why certain pieces of photo art were changed. It is quite clear now that the images were not actually edited with Trilogos in mind, they were simply the only images available to use when designing the new card.
Keeping with the theme of the early edited photo art, Tom kindly shared another image with Trilogo.info for this feature, the Death Squad Commander.
The DSC card image never actually changed from SW to ROTJ but as you can see, the original photo art for this character was also edited around the same time as the others.
If there had been a Trilogo Death Squad Commander this airbrushed image above would likely have been used.
Kenner continued to alter photo art as and when changes were required. One character that was quite heavily airbrushed at some point was the Rebel Commando.
The image of the Rebel Commando that was used for the US card depicted the actors clothing exactly as it was seen in the film but the Trilogo release shows him dressed in a bright green outfit (obviously airbrushed).
The same image would have also been used for the POTF release had it been produced, as you can see on the cromalin below.
As mentioned earlier, some of the images that made their way on to Trilogo cards are actually totally different to the US cards.
The AT-ST Driver Trilogo image one of those alternate pieces of art.
Not only is it a different image of an AT-ST on Endor but it’s also had some serious airbrush work done to it. Look at all the added foliage underneath the AT-ST’s feet.
So, how many pieces of photo art existed and which have survived?
Usually, there was only one piece of photo art. However, in some cases Kenner did actually have multiples. When changes to the original art were needed, an artist would unfortunately have to edit the original but if there was a duplicate on hand then they were able to edit one and keep the other on file. The image editing was typically done by hand using an airbrush technique.
In some instances, not only has the original photo art (used on the U.S. cards) survived, but a second edited piece has also. The Rebel Commando is a good example of this and both unedited and edited pieces of photo art exist for that character.
The total number of character photo art that survived in both versions is only five though according to Tom. In the case of the Jawa, the edited version that he is holding in the picture above is the only known piece of Jawa photo art to exist.
US photo art in Europe
Many collectors have theorised as to how the images were sent over from Kenner in order for the Trilogo cards to be designed.
It was thought that Kenner may have decided to send the original photo art to Europe and then had it returned to them (the photo art was recovered by Tom in Cincinnati). Another theory was that they could even have sent the printing plates however this seems unlikely as printing plates are large and quite heavy and this would have proven costly for so many images.
The most likely answer is that the photo art was photographed and sent over as transparencies/slides as this would have been a very cost effective way of getting the images to another location.
A great article on Kenner slides and transparencies can be found here: The Star Wars Collectors Archive Blog
One thing is for sure, even though they may never have been intended to be used again on figure packaging, these fantastic alternate and edited images are just another reason why collectors love Trilogos today.
Here are a few more images of Trilogo photo art that Tom shared with Trilogo.info for this feature!
A big thanks to Tom for allowing Trilogo.info to use his pictures and information for this article.