Walking in a retro wonderland – Kenner toys

Kenner Products was founded in 1946 by three brothers of the Steiner family in Cincinnati, Ohio, US, who named the toy company after the street upon which their original office was located. The first Kenner toys included construction sets, projectors, the Easy-Bake Oven, and Spirograph.

Spirograph. Kenner. US. 1975.

1970s

The early 1970s saw Kenner gain the license for the already popular Play-Doh. Other toy lines such as Chip Away sets, Dusty and Skye dolls, S.S.P. (Super Sonic Power), T.T.P. (Turbo Tower of Power) and Duke the Action Dog became popular Kenner hits throughout the decade.

Kenner SSP Racers. 1971. US.

Duke the Super Action Dog. 1974. US.

Bionic power!

In 1976 Kenner held the license to produce and sell toys for the hugely popular Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman TV shows.


May the toys be with you!

In 1977 Kenner was given the toy license for the Star Wars original trilogy films which they developed and sold successfully throughout the 1980s. Production continued well into the 1990s when the company became owned by Tonka and Hasbro, though still trading under the name Kenner.

Star Wars Cash Refunds catalogue. 1979. US


Star Wars ROTJ Collections. 1983. US.


Tazo Star Wars Collectors Force Pack. 1996. Kenner Star Wars toys ad.


1980s

Kenner’s Super Powers Collection based on DC comics characters proved successful in the 1980s, along with MASK toys from the animated TV series of the same name, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and action figures and play sets for the The Real Ghostbusters series and the Indiana Jones films.

Super Powers. US. 1984.

MASK. Kenner. 1985. US.

MASK. 1986. France.

The Real Ghostbusters in pack catalogue. Detail.


1990s

The 1990s saw a continuation of the production of Star Wars action figures and play sets, along with Batman, Superman and Jurassic Park toys.

Cover of the 1997 More Fun From Kenner catalogue. US.

Star Wars Kenner Euro catalogue. 1995.

Star Wars Kenner Euro catalogue. 1995.


As a company Kenner has existed and been owned by:

Independent (1946–1967)
General Mills (1967–1985)
Kenner Parker Toys, Inc. (1985–1987)
Tonka (1987–1991)
Hasbro (1991–2000)

For me, Kenner is one of the finest companies in toy history; innovative, dynamic, pioneering and customer friendly. Certainly in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s it lived up to its slogan of: “We Really Do Care”

Kenner: We Really Do Care. Image by Walkie / TIG


My favourite Kenner toy which I own is this mint Star Wars die cast mail-away X-Wing Fighter from 1978 in original packaging and with catalogue.

Below image: Homage to Kenner. Art mural in Cincinnati, Ohio, US, home of Kenner toys.

How many Kenner toys can you recognise in this artwork?

Homage to Kenner. Mural in Cincinnati. Photo used with permission by A Frank Angle.


Thanks for really caring with us 🙂

11 thoughts on “Walking in a retro wonderland – Kenner toys

  1. I used to collect toys and Kenner made some of the greatest toys such as Sea Wees (mermaids and their pets) and of course the Strawberry Shortcake line! They were before my time slightly, but that didn’t stop me from buying them on eBay! I think Kenner had some of the greatest quality for both boys and girls.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I haven’t added anything advert or catalogue-wise yet for Sea Wees, but they look really cute.
      So true about the quality of Kenner and their range, plus the customer care that came with it where you could contact the company for replacement parts and they’d post them out (usually with extras too).

      Like

    • Hi Anthony, Kenner also seemed to use the Ewok Village playset from Star Wars as the bas model for their later 1991 Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Sherwood Forest Playset. They just added some molded foliage parts to the tree tops. It still had the net trap, wind up elevator/lift and the escape chute in the hollow tree trunk.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Correct. And they also used the same Friar Tuck / Gamorrean Guard figure mold, plus the famous Family Treehouse toy was reused for their Ewok Preschool Family Hut, plus the original first 12 Star Wars figures display stand was rehashed for the Glamor Gals figure line and even a later ESB stand.
        Kenner were the best recyclers! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi TVTA, wow I feel even older now! I didn’t realise that the Six Million Dollar Man Repair Station Booster came out in ’76 – my brother got one for Christmas one year and that was in the early 80’s. We both had Steve Austin figures as I’ve mentioned before…but we also had Mother Tyeth custom knitted outfits for Austin and Oscar Goldman!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hi again, I remember you mentioning the iron girder version of Steve but my brother and I both had engine blocks for our figures. But my brother’s Austin figure had the roll back skin and unfortunately it perishes after a while and falls to pieces. The one I had just had exposed implants – though you couldn’t see them under his custom “knitted karate uniform” ;D

        Liked by 2 people

      • I still had mine complete right up until my last move when it got lost. Still have his red trainers though lol. Bet he rocked that custom karate suit, and good idea as he was always taller than Action Man and rarely got away with wearing his clothes. Do you remember those 10″ or 12″ rubber skeletons you could buy? They came in colours like red, grey, black and were surprisingly detailed for rubber. They were brilliant for dressing in Action Man clothes and pretending they were battlefield corpses. I also included my cousin’s Barbies and dressed them as a commando and astronaut, plus an 8″ Evel Knievel figure who rode machine gun in my German WWII motorbike and sidecar.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yikes! Battlefield corpses? I forgot what a wicked imagination you have…but seriously, I think I know of the skeletons you mention.
        Yeah Austin was a bit taller and looked like he had 3/4 length trousers on when wearing Action Man gear…he looked like he’d just stepped off a beach after paddling. But all is not lost….you could always get a Sonic the Hedgehog figurine and Steve’s trainers would make great spares for Sonic’s!
        Oh and that German motorbike and sidecar combo….I had that and loved it. I upgraded the machine gun for the heavy calibre weapon off the Scout armoured patrol vehicle (I had an olive green version of the Scout and the Arctic white police version with the blue emergency light – my dad baked me a police car shaped birthday cake one year and iced it up in white and blue with the stripes and all, then as a finishing touch he used the dome of the emergency light to sit on the roof of my cake!)

        Liked by 2 people

      • I had the Scout patrol vehicle too, plus the frogman boat, a single figure helicopter, the awesome lorry with passenger roof gun turret and removable canopy to make it a flat loader, and the Willys jeep with a trailer full of supplies. But I think it was the motorbike and sidecar my favourite. My friend had a german desert one with armoured sidecar and tracks – that was just so flipping cool and I always wanted it, along with the police bike.

        It was the toy company Cherilea which made most of the Action Man vehicles independent of Palitoy who made the figures for us in the UK, and Cherilea did such a fantastic job of providing these scaled accessories and fuelling our child imaginations 🙂 (as well as adult imagination when adapting a birthday cake as your dad did – great stuff!)

        Liked by 2 people

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