Star Wars: Mini Rig, MLC-3 - Mobile Laser Cannon (Kenner, 1981)

Star Wars: Mobile Laser Cannon - MLC-3 Mini Rig (Kenner, 1981)

I loved Kenner's Star Wars figures the minute I first saw them!  I picked up every different figure that I could get my hands on from the first couple of waves.  By the time The Empire Strikes Back action figures were arriving in stores in early 1980, Star Wars figures had become the main toys that I played with and I was very excited about the new toys and the new movie.  After seeing The Empire Strikes Back, I was even more excited!

The MLC-3 with rebels in Hoth gear!

I loved the scenes on the ice planet Hoth and wanted any figures that related to that part of the movie.  I also really wanted a Snow Speeder...and anything else from Hoth...but mainly a Snow Speeder!  Unfortunately, the prices on toys was going up because the cost of plastic had been rising.  I was super lucky to get the Snow Speeder for Christmas, but there were so many Hoth related vehicles and playsets that I couldn't get them all.

Here's a shot of the control panel inside the MLC-3

Kenner knew the increase in prices was going to affect sales of their vehicles and playsets, so they decided to try out a line of small vehicles that were similar to the vehicles featured in the movie, but not actually anything that George Lucas and his crew had designed.  Kenner was able to offer these vehicles at a lower price point which was somewhere between $5 and $10 retail depending on the store.  The vehicles were called Mini-Rigs.  In total, nine Mini-Rigs were released to go along with the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi toys.

Star Wars: Mini-Rig - Mobile Laser Cannon MLC-3 (Kenner, 1981)

Mark Boudreaux, a designer at Kenner, began work on the Mini-Rigs and the first wave of three vehicles came out in 1981.  The photography on the boxes suggested that all three vehicles were used on Hoth.  Honestly, I wasn't really crazy about two of them, but the third was great!  The one that I liked was the MLC-3 (aka "Mobile Laser Cannon") and because they were so inexpensive, I was able to add one to my collection.

The photo on the box suggests that the MLC-3 was used on Hoth

Although these vehicles were strictly designed by Kenner to be toys for the line and were not at all from the movie, the MLC-3 did appear in one of the Star Wars comics from Marvel.  In issue #78 (titled "Hoth Stuff!") there were multiple panels showing several diffeent MLC-3 vehicles.  Although the ones pictured in the panels below didn't have the canopy with the bubble, there's at least one MLC-3 with the canopy pictured in the background a few times.  All of the drawings of the MLC-3s in this issue are similar enough that they can be identified if you're looking for them, but the ones with the canopy look even more like the vintage toy.  In general, the Mini-Rigs didn't typically make many appearances outside of the toy line, so I thought it was particularly cool to see the MLC-3 in this issue!

Star Wars comic #78 features the MLC-3 and even mentions it by name!

Even though I was a huge fan of Hoth and the MLC-3 was apparently supposed to be a cold weather vehicle, I played with it in any imaginary environment.  It didn't matter if my figures were going on an adventure on a desert planet, a lifeless moon, a busy city, or deep into the woods, they would ride around and shoot bad guys in their MLC-3!  My MLC-3 may not have been as cool as my Snow Speeder, but it certainly saw a lot of adventure when I was a kid!

My MLC-3 was part of the action in any terrain! 

Another panel with the MLC-3 from Star Wars comic #78

Did you have the MLC-3 or any other Mini-Rigs as a kid?  Which one is your favorite?  Tell me in the comments below!

Also, If you collect toys, you should know about Toylanta, the best toy show in the Southeastern United States held annually in Georgia.  Visit Toylanta.com for more information.

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