By Julian H. Betancourt
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DEATH STAR TRASH COMPACTOR
Released on December of 2002, the Trash Compactor sets suffered from poor distribution and for most areas of the country, it wasn't until two months later that they slowly started surfacing at Wal-Mart retailers.

The toy is made of two separate sets that when placed together recreate with fantastic details the thrilling movie sequence from "A New Hope," where our heroes Han, Luke, Leia and Chewbacca are about to lose their lives as the walls of the Death Star's Trash Compactor dangerously start to close in on them while the Dianoga monster has gotten a hold of Luke's neck.

Considered at the time to be the new version of a Cinema Scene, nicely rendered and beautifully packed, the Compactor suffered from one major problem, a steep price of $16.87 for each section. Many people actually, held back from buying the sets.

For the time of its release, the diorama was expensive and people claimed a lower price, somewhere around $10.00 to $11.00 would had been more appropriate. Take under account that when compared to the Cinema Scenes from previous years, the Trash Compactor offered just two figures, half of a monster and base, while the Cinema Scenes included a complete third figure, base and backdrop for around $15.00.

With the price issue out of our way, let's put the Trash Compactor under the Sandcroscope, breaking it down into packaging/backdrop, base and characters.

PACKAGING AND BACKDROP
FIRST AND SECOND DIORAMA SECTIONS

Don't expect to find the usual rectangular shape of a Cinema Scene window box with these sets; the Compactor's box is almost 2 1/2" shorter in length than previous Scene boxes and about 1" wider, practically having a square shape. Being that small allowed for them to be easily hidden behind other product, thus a good sweep given to those toy aisles was sometimes needed in order to find Them.

Besides the usual big frontal window common on Cinema Scenes, the package also includes a small rectangular window opening running along its top, allowing the sets to be viewed from a different angle. The usual Saga swirled blue background graphics was downsized and an updated design was given, reflecting more of a star-burst look with noticeably less swirls. The left and right sides of the box show the pictures of the characters corresponding to the given section inside. Its back side offers a full shot of the sets placed together as one unit, and a smaller picture explaining how they can be attached to each other. There is also a short writing explaining the events of the scene.

The removable inner cardboard which holds the sets in place, features a full picture of the Trash Compactor's walls and can be turned into a backdrop (picture will cover one lateral side and half of the back side) by cutting along the drawn dotted lines. Once cut off, the backdrop easily slides into the slots provided with each base. When the sets are put together and the backdrops are in place, the Trash Compactor shows an open front allowing for easy viewing of the scene while the rest will be walled in.

COMPACTOR'S BASE
FIRST AND SECOND DIORAMA SECTIONS

The base(s) are constructed of 75% translucent plastic, mainly around the water effect areas. These areas can take up an enhanced look if the sets get hit directly by a light or a light source is placed underneath them.

The "junk," which is scattered all over the bases, is a combination of different "metal" objects, wheels and bars and has been nicely captured showing intricate design and detail. There is a removable square chunk of junk with attached pipe located at the front outer ends of each section. I'm still trying to figure out why these two pieces are detachable since such feature serves no purpose.

The bases can be securely hooked up by using nicely disguised connecting pieces at their front inner ends. For instance, the section with Luke and Han has a small metal bar as part of the "trash" which plugs into a a rectangular "trash" piece with orifice on the Chewie and Leia base. Both connecting pieces can be pivoted, allowing to line up the sections side by side (true-like effect) or as a long double display, without the need of getting them apart.

Each figure can be removed and placed back in the bases without any complications. There are two holes provided for each of their legs, only one for Leia and one for each half of the Dianoga.

Two of the three outer sides of each set, as previously mentioned, are purposely grooved so the cut out backdrops can be held in place. There's an outer border, surrounding the bases (except front) which has been accented by using the sequence of relieved bar and circles seen as part of the design on the Death Star walls.

HAN SOLO
FIRST DIORAMA SECTION

Han is one great figure. There is a good resemblance to the actor and the hair style mimics almost with exact precision that of the character.

Although he carries a slightly curved stance, the figure stands on its own nicely. His gun also stays within his grasp even after removing the clear plastic band which holds it in place in the package. His left hand is open and when the figure gets properly placed in the base, it truly gives the illusion of holding Luke's arm, as if he was pulling him away from being drowned by the Dianoga.

The Stormtrooper outfit is superior to the one offered with the commtech Stormie. Each piece appears to be more authentic to the original design and more in proportion with each other. Grooves and protruding gadgetry on the armor and belt are more define as well. Han's Stormtrooper outfit has been splattered with "dirt" at the torso and thighs and there is even molded garbage pieces to his legs.

The figure gets second place in articulation when compared to the rest of the characters in the set, offering a fully rotating neck, shoulders, waist and legs/hips. This is one of the best Han in Stormtrooper outfits yet, despite his pre-posed stance.

LUKE SKYWALKER
FIRST DIORAMA SECTION

Luke is a very realistic sculpt and the best of the set, in my opinion. His face has a painful _expression with his eyes almost shut and his mouth open, grasping out for air as he is being strangle by the Dianoga's tail. His hair has been darken and flatten, making it appear as if it was wet.

Luke's pose is moment-exact as he is kneeling down with his right hand placed over the Dianoga trying to ease the pressure of the monster's tail. His left arm is extended to the side and his hand is holding a blaster. Such piece remains in his hand after removing the rubber band.

His outfit is just as well rendered as Han's and even has more dirt splattering his torso and molded on garbage bits on his right leg.

Articulation is a plus. He is articulated at the neck, shoulders, waist, hips and knees. The articulated knees offer the same knee movement as seen on the Saga Bespin Luke; they can be completely rotated allowing for several poses and better stability.

One downside of this figure is the lack of articulated elbows. Such feature would had given the sculpt a perfect score. Given the fact his arms are stuck in one pose takes away from the playability factor of the figure. And although the left arm can be moved around without creating much of a weird look, his right one, once it gets below chest level gives one the feeling his having stomach cramps.

CHEWBACCA
SECOND DIORAMA SECTION

Chewie is one excellent and all new sculpt as far as likeness is concerned. His body is well proportioned, his face _expression with an open mouth exposing his tongue and teeth is well rendered. His carry-pouch for the first time ever was sculpted separately from his body, not molded on to it. This could be an indication of a future Wookiee having a removable bandolier, one could only hope. His fur also appears more realistic than any other previous Chewies.

The bad news though, deals with the articulation of the figure which is basically nonexistent. Besides the articulated arms at the shoulders, only the head has movement but it is so limited (two degrees, getting stopped by the mane hitting the bandolier) that I wouldn't even call it "articulation." There are no other moving points on this figure; his body is stuck with an over the right shoulder pose, bow legged and arms ready to push on the wall.

Despite its stiffness as a figure, Chewie looks much better around the waistline where usually the articulation there detracts from realism. But, better articulation on the arms and head would had made this figure a much more appealing sculpt.

PRINCESS LEIA
SECOND DIORAMA SECTION

Just like Chewbacca, this was a complete new sculpt of the Princess; yet the figure lacks the likeness to the actress. The new Leia offered a more feminine and delicate looking face. Her hair and hair buns show more strands than previous same hair style.

Leia's head was sculpted looking up and although her eyes follow this pose, the expression on her face, is neutral and does not reflect the effort on the action she is taking, holding up the long heavy pole and trying to stop the wall from closing in. Speaking of the pole, its lower end attaches to a groove within the junk pile behind Leia, nicely securing the Princess figure in place.

Her body was proportionally sculpted and the dress she wears offers realistic droops and wrinkles of the fabric, mainly around the chest and bottom areas. There are cuts on each side of the dress, allowing to see her boots. The dress has very little dirt splattered on it; only a faded yellowish wash showing up in some parts.

The articulation on Leia is better than her counterpart, Chewie. Although her legs are preposed and do not move, the figure offers full rotating movement at the neck, shoulders and waistline.

This version of Leia is not bad, yet there was nothing extraordinary about her other than her unique pose.

DIANOGA CREATURE
FIRST AND SECOND DIORAMA SECTIONS

I decided to leave this unique character for last since it is actually divided into two sections. One half of the monster (its tail and tentacles) is found as part of the Luke/Han half section of the Compactor while his head and rest of the body is part of the Leia/Chewie half section. In other words, if you wanted the whole Dianoga you had no other option than to buy both sections of the Trash Compactor, since neither half is enough to give a good view of the monster. Smart move there by the big H, don't you think?

The body of the figure, its seven tentacles and trunk with eyestalk were rendered in an olive green color. There are red highlights around the eyestalk as well. The long tentacle-like tail authentically shows scales and can be displayed in several poses since it was built using a bendee style. This also works great when wrapping it around Luke's neck. Should you decide to display the Dianoga out of the set, its tail will stretch as far as one foot in length.

The predator is put together by placing its front half (the one with the eyestalk and two tentacles), over its rear half, the one with the tail. The front half is grooved underneath, allowing for easy mounting over the protruding piece of the mid section of the rear half . Once in place the figure recreates one truly disgusting parasitic predator. As a note, there is no possible way of getting both halves together under the base when the figure is placed in it.

The Dianoga, as a figure, is a nicely added bonus which looks great as part of the set or just on its own. Besides, what would the Trash Compactor be like without the scary presence of this omnivorous predator?

CLASSIC SCENE INFORMATION AND LAST COMMENT

NAME OF SET: Death Star Trash Compactor 1 of 2
RELEASE DATE: Dec 2002
DIGITS: P/N 6191730000
FIGURES: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Dianoga's back section
ACCESSORIES: Backdrop of Trash Compactor wall

NAME OF SET: Death Star Trash Compactor 2 of 2
RELEASE DATE: Dec 2002
DIGITS: P/N 6175020000
FIGURES: Princess Leia, Chewbacca and Dianoga's front section
ACCESSORIES: Backdrop of Trash Compactor wall

LAST THOUGHT
The Trash compactor was a great improvement over the Cinema Scenes of the past, showing a vast amount of attention to detail and keeping in mind the word "play" on its design. Despite their high price, the sets were/are both, great diorama pieces as well as very authentic playsets.