Over 150 Kenner toys on display in exhibition at Cincinnati Museum Center

Kenner® and the Building of an Empire now open at Cincinnati Museum Center

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is helping you relive your childhood and telling the story of how a Cincinnati-based toy company became an overnight sensation. Kenner® and the Building of an Empire features over 150 toys produced by Kenner Products, including the original Star Wars™ action figures produced after the film’s release in May 1977.

Using items from its own collections and loans from local donors, CMC has created an exhibition of action figures, playsets, original packaging and marketing materials to tell the story of how Cincinnati-based Kenner Products changed the toy industry.

By 1977 Kenner had already made a name for itself in the toy world. Starting with a metal bubble gun in 1947, the Bubbl-Matic, and continuing with the Easy Bake Oven, Play-Doh and Spirograph in the 1960s, Kenner had several beloved toy lines. With the addition of toys like Stretch Armstrong and Strawberry Shortcake, nearly every child had a Kenner toy in their home.

Kenner’s popularity skyrocketed with the production of Star Wars toys in 1977. They received the original license to produce toys for the film after major toy companies like Mattel and Mego Corporation turned George Lucas down. Companies were more interested in multi-season TV contracts than a single theatrical release. Kenner took a chance and signed the license agreement to make Star Wars toys from 1977-1985. Originally planning only to make a small selection of puzzles and games, the company later discovered that the film line was “toyatic”: anything in the film could be turned into a toy.

Kenner and the Building of an Empire displays just how “toyatic” Star Wars was. The exhibition features over 100 action figures, including the original run of characters from 1977. The exhibition also includes vehicles like the Millennium Falcon, X-Wing Fighter and TIE Fighter, as well as playsets like the Dagobah Swamp Base and Hoth Ion Cannon. True Star Wars fans may even recognize the Ewok Talking Telephone.

Relive your childhood and learn how a Cincinnati toy company changed the industry in Kenner and the Building of an Empire, open through October 1 at Cincinnati Museum Center. The exhibition is included with admission.

Kenner and the Building of an Empire is curated from the collections of Cincinnati Museum Center and generous loans from Corky Steiner and John Black and Bill Wills from www.kennercollector.com

For more information visit cincymuseum.org/kenner