Star Wars Presto Magix, from 1983!

It’s been ten years (literally) since my last tribute to Presto Magix, and I think we’re long overdue for Round 2.

Presto Magix was a series of “transfer sets” based on our favorite toons and movies. Think “Colorforms,” but more permanent. They’ve been out of production for a loooong time, but I used to get Presto Magix sets constantly as a kid – owing largely to the fact that the smallest ones cost only barely more than a dollar, and were so omnipresent that I used to find them even when tagging along on my mother’s trips to supermarkets.

Pretty much all of my Presto Magix experiences were with the Star Wars versions, or more accurately, the Return of the Jedi versions. I must’ve owned the set shown above at least twenty times. The reason I can remember so few coloring books is because I almost completely replaced those opportunities with Presto Magix. These kits were my go-to staple for cheap, easy art.

Other Return of the Jedi sets focused on the Death Star, the Ewok Village and the Sarlacc Pit. All were cool, but nothing trumped Jabba the Hutt’s throne room. Among other reasons, it was the only one that came with Max Rebo. You haven’t lived until you’ve scratched an ivory-tickling alien elephant onto a piece of colorful paper. Believe me, religions have been formed over smaller catharses.

The set folds out to a 5×24” background, with lots of empty spaces for us to fill up. Jabba and Bib Fortuna (the latter of which looking strangely gargantuan) are among the few “static” characters already present. The rest were up to us to place, however we saw fit.

Here’s how it worked:

The most integral part of any Presto Magix set was its transfer sheet, stuffed with characters, decorations and much stranger things. Using a pencil, we were to “etch” each object into the desired position. (And yeah, these worked just as well on normal paper. I distinctly recall sticking that Lando in our phone book, for no good reason at all.)



The process is easy, but tedious. If you don’t sketch over the particular object thoroughly, parts of it won’t stick to the background. I speak from experience, as I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I lifted one of these sheets to find a Star Wars alien with a missing head.

It takes a long while to get all of the transfers onto the background, but I guess that was sort of the point. As simple as these sets were, they sure ate up a lot of time. I didn’t clock myself while doing this, but it must have been at least fifteen minutes before everything was in place. Doesn’t sound like a lot now, but to a kid, fifteen minutes is as good as four weeks.

Below are the highlights of my finished scene:

Jabba the Hutt has been joined by Leia and C-3P0. Toymakers wouldn’t embrace “skimpy slave suit Leia” for another twenty years, so Jabba had to make do with her bulky Boussh disguise. Good! Our childhoods were filled with enough introductions to deviancy without a Presto Magix Leia-on-a-leash thrown into the mix.

C-3P0, for his part, is left wondering why Salacious Crumb is suddenly twice as big as he is. I can’t be bothered to speculate, because I’m too focused on figuring out if Salacious Crumb’s #1 quote is too long to fit in a single Tweet.

What was I worried about? I had almost a hundred characters to spare.

Check out Admiral Ackbar, hiding in the back. I’m not sure why they included Admiral Ackbar in a Jabba’s throne room set. It’s totally off-canon, and besides, Ackbar would never survive the dry heat. This explains his “What gives?” pose.

The transfer sheet also included many random explosions. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, because really, the whole scene is pretty serene. Nobody’s brandishing a gun. Nobody looks like they’d even want to. At a loss, I just stuck all of the bangs and pows near Hermi Odle’s head. He looked like he needed some excitement.

I put Lando in charge of protecting the disproportionate amount of “fruit and vase” transfers. Thanks, Presto Magix, for teaching us that Jabba loved clementines. Bo fruita.

Finally, the Rebo Band works its musical magic to an audience of one. And that audience of one doesn’t look so impressed. Or maybe Tessek’s just being bitchy because WTF IS ADMIRAL ACKBAR DOING IN HIS HANGOUT? Quarren and Mon Cals hated each other, after all.

In a nice touch, each Presto Magix set includes a little area for you to sign. Hey, if you were going to spend fifteen minutes scribbling over clementines and monstrous aliens, you wanted credit.

I don’t know if I did a good job in explaining why these kits were so great, but it’s the truth. Colorforms were much more popular, but there was always something so “detached” about those. Your creations were only meant to be temporary. I much preferred knowing that my art would live on forever, or at least until I lost interest two hours later.

The good news? This review proves that even the oldest Presto Magix sets are still functional. Plus, should you decide to hunt one down, they’re generally quite cheap. Go get ‘em!


40 Responses to Star Wars Presto Magix, from 1983!

  1. Gosh, I had forgotten completely about these! I remember vaguely having one with one of the girly characters of the day.

    There were similar ones where, instead of the pencil you had like a popsicle stick that you would rub onto the page.

  2. I can’t remember which I had more of, these or the collectible sticker books that they used to sell.

    The ones where the book itself was like .99 cents and then you had to by packs of stickers separately… I remember driving my parents nuts for those.

  3. I only had the Ewok village one, but it was the size of a board game. I spent years revisiting that thing. I wonder if my mom still has it…

  4. @Black Llama: Panini, represent. :)

    I remember the Ewok Village one, but I actually do have the smaller version right now, which is the exact same size as the set featured here. I was going to add it to the review, but hey, rainy day.

  5. “De wanna wanga?”

    “De wanna wai-go…”

  6. I remember playing with “Bible” Presto Magix in Sunday School… unless those were generic knock-offs.
    I don’t know, but Jonah and the Whale would have been much more awesome if I could have had Ackbar warning Jonah about the whale before it ate him. “It’s a trap!”

  7. I had these as a kid. I had completely forgotten that they existed until right now. You sir, have made my day.

    I didn’t even remember what they were until you showed the picture with the pencil.

  8. awesome! i had tons of these! i may have had this one as well.

  9. also had the ones with the stickers/magnets you could take on and off.

  10. Ohhh, I had forgotten about these “transfer kits”. I don’t recall the name Presto Magic at all, but maybe the ones I had were under another name here in Canada. I think I just called them “rub ons”. In fact, I should have a Roger Rabbit set of these still. I think they’re under the pencil tray in my desk. Must go look…

    (5 minutes of work procrastination later…)

    Found ‘em! They’re all Jessica Rabbit. Looks like I only used two of them. I don’t think they ever had a book to go with them. The copyright info says 1987, Special Products Lisse, Holland. Interesting.

  11. @matt: you should poll the readers as to what scene to create with the other set you have.

  12. Ha, this also just reminded me of Letraset font transfer sheets. I once had to buy too many sets of Letraset font transfer sheets to get enough letter E’s for a poster. My hand ached after rubbing so many letters out. Thank goodness for computer graphic design and virtual fonts now!

  13. I didn’t have the Star Wars ones but somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I know I had some generic animal/dinosaur or Spider-Man Presto Magix sets.

  14. Matt, you’re the only person who could make some old Presto Magix as mysterious, haunting, and beautiful as anything in The Master. I remember some sort of translucent plastic things that came in assorted shapes/designs (distinctively remember a parrot) that you’d color with these pencils then bake in the oven creating slick, smooth pieces of art. Maybe it was knockoff Shrinky Dinks I’m remembering? I digress. Also, must come clean, I was always more of a fair weather Star Wars fan. I guess that means into the Sarlacc Pit with me.

  15. Did Colorforms put out a similar scene? I feel like I owned this one, but I remember using stickers, rather than the transfers.

  16. These were my favorites. Whenever we went on a long car trip my mom would takes us to Rexall Drug and stock up. We had G.I. Joe and Indiana Jones and Star Wars. It was awesome! Man I miss these things. You have inspired me to go find some on Ebay.

  17. BTW, do you remember the original packages for these things? They had this little magician guy with a top hat that reminded me of the main character in the “Don’t Drown Your Food” Saturday morning infomercials that played at the same time as the School House Rock cartoons.

    That mascot promised that these things were magic. And they were . . . unless you didn’t color all the way through the character, and tried to peel the film away early. Then your G.I Joe guy was apt to lose an arm or Spidey would lose his web. One time, my E.T. lost his head, and that was certainly a scarring experience for my little self.

  18. I loved these as a kid. Thanks for the reminder!

  19. I had Robin Hood ones. I found one in an old scrapbook of my grandmother’s, dudes in green scattered over the paper willy-nilly. I remember thinking I was done and my dad telling me to use up the whole sheet.

  20. Your old Presto review has one of your best quotes ever:

    “given that my poor overworked hand had begun to swell and throb like a cock by the jacuzzi jets,”

  21. Yup. Had these. Had this. Loved it. Can’t believe they don’t actively make these.

    I remember transferring Luke Skywalker to my coffee table one time, semi-accidentally. Presto-Magix are REALLY hard to get off of coffee tables, if anyone is wondering.

    We should petition Letraset to start making the equivalent of these again. Or some other dry-rub company whose name I don’t know off the top of my head.

  22. Oh man, I remember having Gremlins ones. I don’t know why, because Gremlins terrified me when I was little, but hey. It worked out.

  23. I forgot all about those! I had pretty much every random ROTJ product. shampoo, Play-Doe, Dixie Cups, trash can….you name it.

    Keep up the good work!

  24. Holy shit in a bucket! I totally forgot aboutthose damn things! I loved those, but most of the time I ended up with the cheaper version where you colored over a blank page in a story book to make a grey lead-shrouded outline of an image appear.

  25. Loved these. I would always make the classic mistake of rubbing the first transfer onto the coudy piece of paper it comes with.
    Ig-88 was a casualty of that.

  26. BO FRUITA. I love you Matt. In a totally non-creepy way.

    These are exactly as old as I am so I don’t remember them. I want some now. Maybe I’ll hunt some down. I got a tooth yanked out today and I need comfort.

  27. I had completely forgotten about these until now.

    Thanks for the memories!

  28. Loved them! Do they have a scent? For some reason I remember them having a smell. Maybe I got it mixed up with colorforms.

  29. I vaguely recall having these during our younger years. My mother was a big fan of anything that resembled crafting or art (she still is), so we had coloring books, stenciling books, watercolor books, activity books, sticker books, Presto-Magix…you name an inexpensive craft item that was popular in the 80s and early 90s, and we probably had at least one of it. We were also “Star Wars” fans – “Return of the Jedi” was one of the first movies Mom took us to see in the theater – so yes, many of those things had us creating our own Jabba the Hutt. I don’t know if we had this specific one, but I do remember having several “Star Wars” themed coloring books…and my brother would have more during the late 90s revivals.

  30. The best thing about these, and undoubtedly the reason they were discontinued, was that you could transfer them onto ANYTHING. We ruined a whole living room worth of walls before my mother caught on and that was the end of our Presto Magix fun.

  31. I don’t think that is Admiral Ackbar actually. My years of collecting Star Wars figures has taught me that the other Mon Cals wore the suits with the tan chests while Ackbar rocked the all white one.

    Still does not explain why a Mon Cal would be hanging out at Jabba’s Throne Room. I would have to guess that he wronged Jabba at some point in the past and a bounty hunter brought him in to be fed to the Rancor. So that would make this set kind of prequel. By the time the rest of the crew arrived he was already consumed so we never saw him in the movie.

    Love the mini Threepio.

  32. oh yes…had these! The one with chewbacca and ewoks…my bro had A Team ones to. Star trek too.

  33. I used to get a new Presto Magix every time I would go visit my best friend in elementary school. His dad would stock up on them, and when I would come over, he’d always give me one. Including the ones I would get from my Mom, I easily went through a couple hundred of these in my childhood. I even had a G.I.Joe one that came on a hard back, like a board game. It took me so long to figure out the placements on that one, since the hard back made it feel like ‘art’.

  34. God I loved these things too. I totally remember being so scared that they wouldn’t come off in one piece that I’d lift them up slowly and steadily, and if anything wasn’t adhered, I would lay it back down and rub the hell out of it. lol

  35. I honestly can’t remember if I ever had these or not. I’m getting old, I tell you. I remember them, but still not sure if I ever had them. They’re awesome, though, as were Colorforms. I just looked on eBay for some Presto Magix sets and they’re all more expensive than I can/want to spend on them.

  36. Totally just noticed the penis hands on Hermie odie or whatever his name is.

  37. Man, I had this exact same set as a kid, but it was ruined for me. I had it for months, too scared to actually use it because of its permanence. I was always like that with stickers and such. I just could never bring myself to actually use them because I just KNEW that a week later I’d find a better place for it. Anyway, my sister and her friend ended up stealing it and applying all of the stuff to make vulgar jokes. It was funny, but I was still bitter.

  38. Matt how do you tap directly into my childhood my friend? I had this exact set over and over as a kid and I remember spending so much time imagining the scene before I set it up. Awesome!

  39. I still have some Turtles ones on my bedroom door…. (currently to my left!)

    Proves that these things really did stand the test of time!!

  40. You could have used the explosions for visible farts.

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