Little & Large: Charting The Rise And Rise Of The AT-AT – Part One

If you’re reading this you’ll already know how significant the appearance of the All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) was in The Empire Strikes Back, and how popular the Imperial walker has been with Star Wars collectors since it was first produced by Kenner in 1981.

Deployed by the Imperial navy to counter the Rebel’s shield generator, which prevented orbital bombardment by the gathered fleet, the AT-AT immediately began to over-run the meager outer defenses that protected Echo Base.

Apart from landing way too far away from the target and allowing the Rebels to initiate Plan Kay One Zero, these heavily armored, lumbering behemoths had a fundamental design flaw that was first noted by Davin Felth, a cadet at Carida who undertook AT-AT training under Colonel Maximillian Veers, the same officer who went on to direct the attack on the Rebels during The Empire Strikes Back..

Quick to realize that the approaching AT-ATs were top-heavy, and fortuitously armed with the necessary length of rope, Rebel pilots in their snowspeeders would take advantage of the weakness and slowed down the assault long enough for the bulk of the Rebel ground troops to make an organized retreat, and ultimately escape the Empire’s ground troops – lead by Darth Vader, himself.

The inexorable advance of these quadrupedal troop transports wasn’t mirrored by LEGO, who only took three years to recognize that the Star Wars theme deserved these to be added to the line-up, and in May 2003 released 4483 AT-AT, followed by the Miniscale version (4489 AT-AT) in June of that year.

With the upcoming release of the mega-scale 75313 AT-AT on November 26th, we’re starting at the thin end of the wedge and working upwards as we recap all the All-Terrain Armored Transports that LEGO has produced over the last 18 years.

4489 AT-AT

First of the miniature-sized AT-ATs to set foot on the snow, 4489 AT-AT was made up of 98 pieces. It was the very first and, unfortunately still the last, mass-market release of a mini build AT-AT. Released in 2003, putting it just before the transition from the old gray palette to the modern bluish-gray, as part of the second wave of the newly minted Mini-Scale subtheme, it came in a plastic clamshell case.

Released at the same time were 4488 Millennium Falcon, 4490 Republic Gunship, and 4491 MTT; with each set containing extra pieces that could be used to make a mini Y-Wing model. This practice – which happened twice in 2003 – was never to be repeated.

Its last ever appearance came in digital form when it appeared in LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy and the recapped LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga video games when it was visible in the Hoth Battle level.

By and large, despite three points of articulation on each leg, it was a good representation for the era and scale.

20018 AT-AT Walker

A seven-year gap followed because it wasn’t until 2010 that the subscription-based Brickmaster Magazine included 20018 AT-AT Walker with the November/December issue, and again with The Best of LEGO BrickMaster 2010 omnibus sold through in January 2011.

Packaged in a polybag, this 83-piece exclusive build had fewer pieces than the previous mini building set. While parts of the model – particularly the main body and cockpit – looked more accurate the gangly legs did not, with the biggest gripe being that they wouldn’t hold a pose.

3866 Battle of Hoth

Filling in a much smaller gap is the often-overlooked AT-AT that came with 3866 Battle of Hoth brick-built board game, the only inclusion in the short-lived LEGO Games theme. This 31-element game piece, which was accompanied by an AT-ST, E-web canon, snowspeeder, tauntaun and DF.9 anti-infantry canon, is still (with the exception of the Advent builds) the smallest AT-AT produced under the LEGO Star Wars theme.

Due to limitations set by the Hasbro master toys license, which included board games, in North America, this game/set was only sold in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

75057 AT-AT Microfighter & 75298 AT-AT vs Tauntaun Microfighters (2015/2021)

Being one the most divisive range of sets since LEGO and Star Wars joined forces in 1999, and though they are loved and hated in equal numbers, the Microfighter subtheme is in its seventh year and has outlived many others. To date, two different AT-ATs have been released, summing up both extremes of this super-deformed subtheme.

Hailing from the same year that Star Wars got its theatrical reboot, the 2015 release of 75075 AT-AT Microfighter was one of the most popular sets in the subtheme’s second series.

It was an easy and fun 84-piece build that appealed to its targeted 6 to 12-year-old age group, and though quite clearly labeled as an AT-AT, many thought its stubby legs made it look more like an AT-TE. It also had a pair of the love-them-or-hate-them flick missiles, which – for many – was a second black mark. On the plus side, it did come with an AT-AT Driver, making it the cheapest way to collect this minifigure.

Conversely, the Imperial walker from set 75298 AT-AT vs Tauntaun Microfighters, released as part of the Winter Wave in 2021, was quite clearly an AT-AT.

Stripped of its accompanying tauntaun, the AT-AT itself was made up of an impressive 101 pieces. While it was a reissue from the hips down, the body is a near proper AT-AT shape and the head is fairly accurate too. So much so that without the pilot – a slightly different AT-AT Driver minifigure – sitting on top in “the seat”, it can almost pass for a standard mini build and not the intended chibi style.

The same group of fans who disparaged the previous AT-AT Microfighter for its flick missile armaments was not impressed by the stud shooters that the included minifigures brandished, but at least the main build escaped defacement.

Overall its popularity stemmed from it being a cheap source of a minifigure that was otherwise only available in 75288 AT-AT, a much more expensive set.

9509, 75097 & 75213 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar (2012/2015/2018)

Every year, from the first grainy images to leak out onto the Internet, there are always a few Advent Calendar subtheme builds that cause confusion. Not so for the characteristic four-legged Imperial walker – though there has been one occasion that fans didn’t quite know what they were getting.

At one piece more than a dozen, the AT-AT hiding behind door number ten in 9509 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar from 2012 is the most basic of any AT-AT builds. The head does pivot left to right, the body is square and blocky and the legs are fixed in place. Three years later and with 10 more pieces, a new AT-AT emerged out of 75097 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, presenting its articulated head, legs and feet to the world. Differing only slightly – and having one more piece than the previous Advent AT-AT, the cargo-carrying AT-ACT, from 75213 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, had orange sides when it was constructed on the 18th day of Advent in 2018.

LEGO Star Wars Magazine (September 2016/July 2020)

In recent years, LEGO has steered away from the regular annual releases of the blister pack/polybag type mini builds but thanks to the European monthly LEGO Star Wars Magazine, with their foil bags on the cover, there has been a steady stream of new, unique mini sets – including two mini-build AT-AT models.

Both the two AT-AT sets that have been released so far are great builds and quite clearly look like what they are supposed to look like. The body and head of the 48-piece 911615 (from the September 2016 issue) work really well but the totally straight, non-articulated legs let it down. The July 2020 issue saw 912061 with its 51 pieces producing hinged legs (albeit with flimsy single stud and clip connections), a boxy body with its boxy sides, and a head that was out of proportion.

75241 Action Battle Echo Base Defense

Flick missiles, stud shooters, and spring shooters as seen in other AT-AT sets is one thing but having a LEGO Star Wars set with a pair of projectile arrow launchers and designed as a goodie vs baddie target practice set is on a whole new level.

Three such sets – under the guise of the Action Battle subtheme – were released in 2019 in support of The Greatest Battles Are Built By You campaign, this subtheme had been retired by 2020 onwards.

The largest of those sets – the 504-piece 75241 Action Battle Echo Base Defense – contained a pretty impressive AT-AT that was of a wholly new scale. From a distance, it was certainly impressive, however, on closer inspection, it was clear that this particular AT-AT was only good for target practice. The rear legs were vertical and fixed, and the front legs and chin were only hinged to allow the Walker to chin plant if hit by a spring-loaded missile fired by the Rebel player.

As a display model, it looks great on a shelf but that’s about it. The action battle game had limited appeal, much like the subtheme itself.

40333 Battle of Hoth – 20th Anniversary Edition

The latest mini-scale AT-AT formed part of the LEGO Star Wars 20th anniversary celebration and was the May 4th gift with purchase (GWP), released in conjunction with the updated 75244 Tantive IV set.

Depicting the Imperial assault on Echo Base, the 195-piece vignette includes the shield generator, a couple of snowspeeders, a tiny Imperial Probe Droid, and an AT-AT. This is probably the best overall mini AT-AT with its movable head, appropriately sloped body, and articulated legs. Utilizing the studs not on top (SNOT) technique, the base includes two studs that allow the AT-AT to be positioned any which way.

There’s no doubting that the All Terrain Armored Transport has come a long way since the first LEGO model was released, and we’re celebrating this iconic vehicle by looking back at how it has impacted LEGO collectors over the years, so make sure to subscribe to The Holo-Brick Archive by hitting the blue bell in the right corner, because you don’t want to be lAT-AT-e to the party!

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