Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Star Wars Imperial AT-AT Ornament Is A Pretty Wonderful Ornament!

The Good: Great Sculpt, Interesting sound effect, Impressive balance, Decent rarity
The Bad: Easily bent wire, Battery hog
The Basics: An impressive sculpt of a great moment from the Star Wars Trilogy makes for a wonderful ornament as the AT-AT comes to life from Hallmark!

As Christmas rapidly approached, a few years back, it suddenly occurred to me that I could write reviews of some of my collectible Christmas ornaments. I've been quite happy with how those reviews have gone. As I move my reviews over from the old site I wrote for, I was pleased to discover the very first ornament review I wrote! This is the one I wrote when I first established my new form for ornament reviews. I decided to select my first ornament, one of my favorites, the Hallmark Keepsake "Imperial AT-AT And Rebel Snowspeeder" as my first ornament review!

For those unfamiliar with such things, Hallmark Keepsake has a line of collectible ornaments from major franchises, like Star Wars and Star Trek. From the Star Wars line comes the "Imperial AT-AT And Rebel Snowspeeder" ornament. Fans of the Star Wars Trilogy will easily recall the opening sequence to The Empire Strikes Back (click here for my film review!) where the Rebels were discovered by the Empire on Hoth, a frozen wasteland. The Empire launched a ground assault using massive, four-legged vehicles called AT-ATs, which forced the Rebels into retreat. The AT-ATs were slowed down by Snowspeeders, small, fast flying vehicles that attempted to trip the machines and destroy them after they fell.


The "Imperial AT-AT And Rebel Snowspeeder" ornament faithfully recreates the Battle Of Hoth with an AT-AT on the snowy Hoth plains, a snowspeeder making its first pass with the towline around its legs. The ornament, released in 2006, is a masterful work of detail and craftsmanship. Standing four inches tall, 4 3/4" long and 2 1/2" wide, it is easy to see why this Hallmark Keepsake ornament originally commanded a price of $28.00.

The Hallmark "Imperial AT-AT And Rebel Snowspeeder" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has an AT-AT in mid-step as the snowspeeder flies around the legs. The snowspeeder is suspended in flight by the tow cable, which is made of a wire heavy enough to support it. The white base includes the tracks of the AT-AT in the snow, the battery compartment and the button to activate the sound chip for the ornament.

The AT-AT is extraordinarily detailed with such fine work as the gun flaps on the side guns jutting out and the tiny laser cannons on the front of the vehicle's "head" looking menacing and accurate. The paint job on the ornament is exquisite with realistic coloring detail on the snowspeeder enhancing the meticulous sculpt. As well, the AT-AT is garnished with traces of snow in some of the crevices on the side. Those who love AT-ATs will find this is not the simpleton casting they might have feared. In fact, this Hallmark Keepsake ornament is extraordinary in the accuracy of its detailing, making it essential to fans of the armored vehicles from The Empire Strikes Back!


In addition to the rebel snowspeeder having the tow cable, the "Imperial AT-AT And Rebel Snowspeeder" ornament has the bonus feature of a sound effect! Unlike some ornaments that light up, the stark nature of the AT-AT prevents the vehicle from being adorned with much in the way of light effects. As a result, there are no diodes that emit light and, in fact, this ornament does not plug into a light strand.

However, at the back of the base of the ornament, there is a simple button. Pressing the button activates a sound chip. The ornament plays fifteen seconds of sound effects out a small speaker at the bottom of the base. The sound effects are authentic noises made by the legs of an AT-AT, the zooming noise of the snowspeeder and the laser cannons of the AT-AT (with a little explosion). This, too, faithfully recreates the sounds and emotions of the Battle Of Hoth for those who loved The Empire Strikes Back!

The sound function is powered by three small 1.5V batteries (watch batteries), which are included. The batteries seem to hold out for about forty presses of the button, which I figure is a season or two of entertainment from this ornament.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Imperial AT-AT And Rebel Snowspeeder" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Wars Christmas Tree, the "Imperial AT-AT And Rebel Snowspeeder" ornament is an essential piece. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top center of the AT-AT, which is the highest point on the ornament. As a result, the ornament, when affixed to a tree with a hook, hangs perfectly balanced from that loop.

This ornament has very little sway, as well; with the standard fishhook-style ornament hanger, the "Imperial AT-AT And Rebel Snowspeeder" ornament has only about sixty degrees of side to side play and almost no up and down sway, as the balance on it is exceptional.


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (click here for that review!). Since then, Hallmark has branched out into other serious franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter. Hallmark Keepsake ornaments tend to be mass produced, but the "Imperial AT-AT And Rebel Snowspeeder" ornament appears to be one of the more rare ones. As a result, this ornament, which is now only available in the secondary market, seems to be one of the few that is both harder to find and has increased in value from the original issue price. This seems appropriate, as this ornament is one of the few from the Star Wars saga that would naturally have a winter theme. This makes it a perfect choice for an ornament with its snow base and seems to have contributed to its popularity!


Fans of The Empire Strikes Back and AT-ATs will find this to be one of the essential Star Wars Christmas Ornaments. With its impressive sculpt and intriguing sound effects, it easily overcomes the often inflated price tag.

For other Star Wars ornaments reviewed by me, please check out:
2010 "His Masters Bidding" Ornament
2010 Lando Calrissian Limited Edition Ornament
2010 Rebel Snowspeeder Hallmark Ornament


For other ornament reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2010, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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