12 Lesser Known Star Wars Characters That Got Action Figures

Krause Publications
Krause Publications

Every member of modern civilization—from the most casual spectator of the award-winning Star Wars trilogy to those diehard aficionados who’ve memorized even the most banal lines of the original Star Wars films—will recognize Chewbacca and Yoda, Greedo or a random Sand Person, and even a diminutive Jawa or the odd furry Ewok. But what about some of the lesser known Star Wars characters from the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) whose toys could be found hanging on retail pegs across the country for nearly a decade?

Although the screen time for many of the following bipedal, humanoid creatures was often quite limited, children and collectors alike have always shared an affinity for these curious aliens. Whether these singular beings busied themselves downing an intergalactic beverage at Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina in A New Hope or played the role of resident toady/sycophant in Jabba the Hutt’s throne room in The Return of the Jedi, there were a few oddballs that the Kenner toy company manufactured during the heyday of one of the most revered toy franchises in the history of the medium.

All of the following information is gleaned from my latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars: 1977-1985, on sale at finer retailers everywhere in the known galaxy.

1. Amanaman

The Toy: Released by Kenner for their highly-prized Power of the Force assortment in 1985, Amanaman’s action figure sports the appearance of a withered flatworm holding a wooden stick chock full of skulls. However, according to the Star Wars Expanded Universe (as of April 14, 2014, indicated by the non-canonical Star Wars Legends banner), this peculiar alien was in actuality a far more complex character.

The Character: As one member of the primitive Amanin species from the woodland world of Maridun, the male Amani known as Amanaman was a bounty hunter who exhibited precisely the same physical traits as the rest of his sentient race: terribly long arms, elongated lithe fingers, short stubby legs, the aforementioned body resembling that of a giant planarian (similar to a flatworm), and wrinkled yellow skin on the front of his body—with a dark green hood that ran from the tip of his head to the top of his short legs. To keep their skin moist and protect them against predation, Amanin secreted a poisonous slime all over their craggy epidermis. Further planetary adaptations included a pair of tiny red eyes that allowed them to see well in darkness (since Maridun was a dimly-lit sphere), a mouth full of sharp teeth with an elongated tongue to aid the species in consuming game, a keen sense of smell for the sake of tracking prey, and a redundant system of organs—multiple organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, and brain (which is full of multiple nerve clusters) that allowed the Amanin to survive near-fatal injuries with relative ease.

Furthermore, Amanin had two different modes of transportation: brachiation—using their long arms and thin fingers to swing from branch to branch in the forest canopy like Tarzan, and ground rolling—manipulating their flexible body into a ball that allowed them to roll at very high speeds: up to 50 kilometers per hour over level surfaces.

Like the rest of his species, Amanaman’s reputation as a “head hunter” was well-founded due to his Amanin tendency to collect the heads of victims as souvenirs. Amanaman was regularly found at Jabba’s Palace, where he sported a fear-provoking staff decorated with three of his favorite victims’ heads, while he dragged a decapitated, desiccated corpse behind him; the corpse was not included with his action figure.

2. Squid Head/Tessek

The Toy: With a long, nicely textured desert cloak, cream-colored moisture-retaining robe, a broad yet pliable silver “Vand” belt worn around his midriff, and a gray DH-17 blaster pistol, the quick-witted Quarren known as Squid Head was one of the more interesting and detailed action figures offered in Kenner’s first wave of Return of the Jedi action figures in 1983.

The Character: As a Quarren, Squid Head was one member of several fascinating species hailing from the planet Dac (dubbed “Mon Calamari,” “Calamari,” or “Mon Cala” by offworlders), where the Quarren were sentient aquatics that inhabited their planet’s ocean-covered surface. Sporting squid-like heads (hence the figure’s nickname), leathery skin that required moisture for maintenance, suction-tipped fingers, a small mouth with two fangs/teeth protruding outward with a long tongue between them, and four (or more) prehensile tentacles that could manipulate food, Quarren were odd looking creatures. With two holes on the sides of the neck most likely for breathing purposes, two sac-like organs that hung on the back of their heads (for reasons unknown), and two triangular flaps that jut out from the sides of their heads with built-in gills that assist in the hearing process, the Quarrens have an exceptionally unique physiology. Furthermore, as aquatic creatures, they could descend to depths of 300 meters without use of breathing apparatus.

The Quarren male known as Tessek was once a supporter of the Republic, but when the Galactic Empire invaded his home planet, he escaped the conflict. Always a crafty opportunist with conflicting loyalties, Tessek would find his way to the desert planet of Tatooine—a world largely ignored by the Empire—where he joined the court of interplanetary gangster Jabba Desilijic Tiure as his accountant. Although miserable on Tatooine due to the effect of the planet’s blistering heat on his delicate skin (he needed to soak in a tub for many hours a day) and the fact that his master was an abusive sociopath, Tessek hatched a complex scheme to kill the Hutt crime lord. Though he successfully avoided death when Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa destroyed Jabba’s large sail skiff and all of the entities aboard the Khetanna, the accountant would meet his doom a bit later.

Upon returning to the palace after Jabba’s death, Tessek’s brain was (forcibly) removed from his body, and placed into the mechanical frame of a B’omarr Monk—essentially becoming a member of the B’omarr Order. As a mysterious religious organization which believed cutting oneself off from all physical sensation was the only way to achieve enlightenment, the B’omarr Monks allowed their brains to be detached from their corporeal bodies, and the disembodied brains of the order’s members were placed into specially modified BT-16 perimeter droids and left to ponder the mysteries of the cosmos.

3. Hammerhead/Momaw Nadon

The Toy: Concocting an action figure that appeared nothing like his film manifestation, Hammerhead was one of the first four alien toys (apart from Chewbacca the Wookiee, the Sand People, and the Jawas) created by Kenner during the second wave of Star Wars product solicited in late 1978.

Considered highly offensive by the Ithorian race, the derogatory nickname of “Hammerhead” was sometimes applied to a lone member of the mammalian, herbivorous, sentient species of creatures hailing from Ithor. With two mouths located on the side of his neck, four throats (affording Ithorians the ability to speak “in stereo” or to let out a destructively concussive scream), glossy brown skin, and slightly slow reflexes, Kenner’s Hammerhead action figure essentially portrays the form of an average, fully grown male Ithorian.

Kenner’s designers had little more than stock photos of the four cantina patron’s masks available to them from Lucasfilm. The artists had to construct the bodies of Hammerhead, Greedo, Snaggletooth, and Walrus Man from the waist down without any reference photos whatsoever. The result: a Hammerhead figure without his staff, and with boldly incorrect colors and uniform details.

The Character: Possessing a long, curved neck and T-shaped head reminiscent of Earth's hammerhead sharks, Hammerhead was actually the name Kenner Toys gave to Momaw Nadon—an Ithorian high priest (of the floating city of Tafanda Bay) who was exiled upon revealing his planet’s agricultural secrets to the Galactic Empire in order to prevent further destruction to his homeworld. Although Nadon saved Ithor from devastation, the Ithorian Elders punished him for his sacrilege through exile. Therefore, “Hammerhead” settled on Tatooine, and was seeking respite in Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina (aka the Mos Eisley Cantina) when Luke Skywalker and Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi were searching for a ship to provide them passage to the planet of Alderaan in A New Hope.

4. Walrus Man/Ponda Baba (Sawkee)

The Toy: Although vintage toy collectors know this distinctive Kenner action figure as Walrus Man (since the alien’s face resembles a tusked walrus), in the larger Star Wars mythos the character’s proper name is Ponda Baba (aka Sawkee)—an appellation utilized for the character in every version of the toy produced by Hasbro since they bought the license in 1995, beginning with their Power of the Force II line.

The Character: As a character, this pirate/smuggler owed much of his bad humor to his species’ innate ill temper. As a member of the Aqualish race from the planet Ando—a class of amphibious, tusked bipeds who were renowned across the galaxy for their disagreeable manner and belligerence—Baba possessed characteristics of both pinnipeds (i.e., seals, sea lions) and arachnids (spiders, scorpions), a truly bizarre physical amalgamation. The fact that Baba’s walrus-like facial tusks curved downwards over his mouth like a spider only further reinforced this peculiar, frightening combination.

Baba and his partner, infamous sociopathic surgeon Dr. Evazan (who “has the death sentence on 12 systems”) were eventually pursued by bounty hunters due to their illicit ventures. Fearing for their lives, Baba and Evazan holed up on the Outer Rim world of Tatooine, eager to escape prosecution. During their exile—and while patronizing Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina—the two criminals encountered a young moisture farmer and his wizened old mentor. Although Luke Skywalker and Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi were non-confrontational, Baba and Evazan bullied the humans regardless. Kenobi tried to diffuse the situation, yet Evazan egged on the dim-witted (and possibly drunk) Baba, who assaulted the younger of the two humans. The veteran Jedi Knight engaged Baba in melee combat, slicing off Walrus Man’s right arm during the fracas.

Oddly enough, a continuity error exists within Walrus Man’s lone scene in A New Hope. Ponda Baba’s arms end with finned appendages before his combat with Ben Kenobi, yet after Obi-Wan cuts off the creature’s arm, Baba’s hand appears distinctly furry when it is observed lying on the cantina floor. Perhaps this incident inspired West End Games’ postulation that there are two different species of Aqualish “…easily recognized by the configuration of their hands… [one was] a cupped, fin-like hand, with no fingers, and only a stubbed opposable thumb. The other … by five-fingered, fur covered, claw-like hands.”

5. Ugnaught

The Toy: Although they appeared only in brief bursts throughout the narrative of The Empire Strikes Back on Bespin’s Cloud City, the Ugnaughts provided Kenner with yet another opportunity to craft a figure based upon a diminutive alien race, with a couple of interesting accessories to boot: a blue (or sometimes purple) fabric apron/smock, and a white, hard plastic toolkit.

The Character: Sporting the slightly-upturned snout of a short-statured porcine, tusked humanoid, three tribes of the creatures known as Ugnaughts were brought to Cloud City by an eccentric explorer (Lord Ecclessis Figg) to help build the manufacturing plant many generations ago—where, in return, they had free reign of the facility and were honorably represented in Cloud City’s Parliament of Guilds. Found working within the processing plants of the outpost, they assisted in the production of tibanna gas—a valuable natural element excreted by immensely-large, gas-filled creatures known as “beldons.” Most importantly, the tibanna vapors were utilized as a heating fuel by weapons manufacturers to power blasters or other offensive weapons such as explosives. The Ugnaughts would process this gas then package it for transport off-world in carbonite bricks or blocks; these diminutive workers certainly kept Lando Calrissian in the black.

Ugnaughts were sold into slavery many generations ago (and thanks to added machiantions of evil Separatist leader and Supreme Commander of the Droid Army, General Grievous) before the rise of the Galactic Empire, and were stolen en masse from their volcano-dotted, swampy homeworld of Gentes. They were targeted by slavers due to their intelligence, loyalty, high level of resistance to the elements, long lifespans (maxing out at 200 years), and ability to work for long periods of time at their “blood profession”—a trade taught to Ugnaught children (aka Ugletts) by their parents, and one they would pursue until their deaths.

6. Nien Nunb

The Toy: Originally solicited as a mail-away offer on the back of Kenner’s very first Return of the Jedi action figure package (ROTJ 48-A card back), the alien known as Nien Nunb was also offered as part of the first wave of Kenner’s Return of the Jedi action figures as well.

The Character: Fighting alongside the Rebel Alliance, Nien Nunb was featured in Return of the Jedi during the Battle of Endor, where the former smuggler functioned as Lando Calrissian’s first mate aboard the borrowed Millennium Falcon, and helped to discharge the ordnance which destroyed the superstructure of the (rebuilt) second Death Star.

It was Nunb who essentially fired the shot(s) that put an end to the reign of the Galactic Empire.

As a Sullustan (a species of “Near-Humans”), Nien Nunb—sporting his species’ trademark small ears and facial dewflaps—was raised in the subterranean caves of his homeworld on the planet Sullust, which possessed a toxic upper atmosphere yet a mineral-rich outer crust that forced the Sullustans underground, inhabiting a maze of myriad tunnels. Their below-ground existence afforded the members of this race an uncanny ability to see in the dark (to read/see up to 20 meters in pitch blackness), as well as a preternatural sense of intuition and direction (e.g., navigating a complex map after viewing it only once) which made them first-rate navigators and pilots for the Alliance.

7. Ree-Yees

The Toy: Ree-Yees is of the most peculiar of all of the aliens designed by Kenner in 1983 for the first wave of their Return of the Jedi product. Besides his odd physical attributes, Ree-Yees sported a peculiar sidearm as well—a gold-covered blaster-staff unique to the toy.

The Character: Ree-Yees (a phoneticism of “Three-Eyes”) was a male Gran—a sentient mammalian humanoid native to the pastoral planet of Kinyen. As a member of the Gran race, Ree-Yees had three eyes mounted on short stalks, a goat-like snout, a stocky build, and other characteristics possessed by earthbound bovids such as an herbivorous diet (Gran enjoyed eating Goatgrass, a local flora found on the plains of Kinyen), and a multi-chambered stomach that digested difficult-to-absorb plant matter like most ruminants. Ree-Yees personally suffered from an uncommon Granian genetic mutation which caused his hands to swell and appear deformed.

Although by-and-large Gran society was peaceful, Ree-Yees was the exception that proved the rule: He was a vicious criminal fleeing prosecution for murder on Kinyen, hiding on the desert planet Tatooine. There, he was featured in many scenes within Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, since he was responsible for taking care of the Hutt’s hideous-looking Frog-dog pet named Bubo (a species of sentient reptile with both frog and dog-like features).

In order to keep Ree-Yees “loyal,” the crafty Hutt crime lord planted a short-range explosive device within Ree-Yees’ body—when Jabba spoke a particular phrase, the Gran would explode to bits. This bomb served two purposes: to murder Ree-Yees if he were disloyal, and to thwart an assassination attempt if a potential killer came too close to Jabba’s resident Frog-dog walker. However, as a result of the abuse and risk involved in attending Jabba during his time at court, Ree-Yees conspired with Tessek to murder their master aboard his large sail skiff, the Khetanna. Unfortunately, Ree-Yees perished when Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa destroyed the Khetanna and all of the sentient beings aboard.

8. Prune Face/Orrimaarko

The Toy: From the picture featured on his toy package to the Kenner action figure itself (released in the second wave of Return of the Jedi offerings), the vintage version of Prune Face would stand out in any Star Wars aficionado’s collection. With his distinctive facial features, long hooded tan cape, green pants, and a brown-colored, 12-round (relatively primitive) projectile rifle with shoulder sling, Prune Face was peculiar indeed.

The Character: A noted leader of his planet’s struggle against Imperial forces, the xenophobic resistance fighter Orrimaarko (nicknamed “Prune Face” due to his characteristic facial qualities) was a member of the Dressellian race—a species of tall, thin, sentient humanoids with wrinkled skin and bulbous, hairless skulls. Although Dressellians originally maintained a peaceful presence in the galaxy, existing in isolation from all other races until the Empire threatened Prune Face’s homeworld, the Imperial threat forced the people of Dressel to reluctantly join the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and eventually, the New Republic.

In conjunction with their old allies, the Bothans (a species of short, furry, humanoid mammalians), Orrimaarko and his Dressellian brethren developed his species’ favored weapon: the Dressellian projectile rifle. Issued with its distinctive sling, this firearm—although considered primitive when compared to the blasters used by Rebel and Imperial soldiers—still packed a wallop. Enough to pierce eve the tough plastoid armor of an Imperial Scout Trooper (aka Biker Scout) with relative ease.

9. Yak Face/Saelt-Marae

The Toy: Yak Face is one of the most sought after of all vintage Star Wars action figures since he was never distributed in the United States. In total, the action figure was only available on two different packages, two different cards with vastly different values. The first and most common was on a Tri-Logo card. This internationally-distributed card is dubbed “Tri-Logo” because there are three Star Wars logos emblazoned on the card front: English, French, and Spanish. Unfortunately, this Tri-Logo version of Yak Face did not come with a silver-plated collector’s coin, just the figure itself. The second package—distributed on a Canadian Power of the Force card—featured only English and French language on the front: “The Power of the Force/Le Pouvoire de la Force” with “SPECIAL Collectors Coin/Piece de Collèction” included. Purchasing this Canadian Power of the Force cardback was the only way to obtain Yak Face’s rare collector’s coin, and the figure was packaged with an accessory as well. More often than not, Yak-Face could be found either with a Palace Blaster (gray or black) or a Bespin Blaster, yet many more times he was found a Skiff Guard battle staff (precisely the same accessory as the one included with Barada).

The Character: Although his character was not given his proper name until the debut of West End Games’ magnificent Star Wars Trilogy Sourcebook, Special Edition, in the Star Wars canon Yak Face is dubbed Saelt-Marae, where the character appeared as a member of Jabba’s court in Return of the Jedi.

As a Yarkora informant and con-man, Marae was a highly-secretive alien and little information is known regarding his formative existence. It is known he was married, spawned at least one child, yet left his family—as did most Yarkorans—to keep engaged in his favorite criminal enterprises, many of which he excelled. As an information broker and confidence trickster, Marae’s large ears, highly sensitive whiskers, and interpersonal intelligence all assisted him in wheedling and divining information out of his wealthy targets almost effortlessly. Although at one point in his career, Marae sold secrets to both the Rebel Alliance and to the Empire, his real profit-making-machine was peddling these tidbits to Jabba Desilijic Tiure—and, therefore, earning the Hutt crime lord’s trust. So valuable was he to Jabba that the gangster kept him on as a member of his court where he was handsomely paid. Posing as a simple-minded merchant, Saelt-Marae sussed out the disparate plots, conspiracies, and subversions conceived by the other members of Jabba’s scheming entourage, and related every nefarious detail to his Hutt master.

Following Jabba’s death aboard the Khetanna, “Yak Face” steals the gangster’s important financial records and goes underground.

Sy Snootles & the Rebo Band

The Toys: The final three entries contain the members of the galactically-renowned Sy Snootles and the Rebo Band, an action figure solicitation which was the first non-exclusive/non re-packaged action figure “set” offered by Kenner for their vintage Star Wars toy line. Comprised of three action figures, a circular organ, two microphone accessories, and a woodwind instrument, this popular set of musicians were denizens of Jabba the Hutt’s ostentatious palace.

10. Droopy McCool (aka Snit)

The Character: With a name utterly incomprehensible to most sentient beings due to its delivery in the manner of a series of sharp whistles, the Kitonak with the alias of “Snit” was born on his homeworld of Kirdo III, yet was sold off planet into servitude by a slaver company. Reaching Orvax IV, Snit was bought by impresario Evar Orbus, the talented lead singer of a popular musical group, Evar Orbus and his Galactic Jizz-Wailers (!!!)—where “Jizz” is an upbeat, optimistic, swinging form of music; “jizz-wailers” are the talented musicians who perform in this style. Paired with his longtime bandmates Max Rebo and Sy Snootles, Snit followed Orbus to the desert planet of Tatooine, where the group pursued a gig at an infamous Wookiee-managed hotpot: Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina (aka. the Mos Eisley Cantina).

Unfortunately, landing an extended engagement at such a significant place as Chalmun’s was both prestigious and dangerous: As soon as they arrived on Tatooine, Evar Orbus was murdered in a melee organized by popular local jizz band and competitors, the Bith group known as Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes—those large-eyed, white-headed musicians who we witness performing at the cantina in A New Hope. Eschewing their promised performances at Chalmun’s, they auditioned for Jabba Desilijic Tiure—Jabba the Hutt—instead, and were awarded exclusive rights to perform at his palace … albeit under a terrible contract.

Snit was a laid-back, casual musician who was quite talented on his chosen instrument—the chidinkalu flute (carved from a hollowed chidinkalu plant), yet early on the Kitonak became dissatisfied with his stage name until Sy Snootles suggested “Droopy McCool,” which he promptly adopted. Possessing an aloof, quasi-mystical behavior, he did not fit in with the rest of Jabba’s court; Droopy was an outsider who spoke to almost no one but Sy for years, until the death of Jabba and most of the nefarious gangster’s entourage at the Battle of Carkoon during The Return of the Jedi. Following this incident, the Max Rebo Band broke up and went their separate ways—with Droopy wandering off into the desert, generating a long-held rumor that he secretly joined a gaggle of other music-playing Kitonians who inhabited Tatooine’s dusty wastes in the Dune Sea.

11. Sy Snootles (aka Mrs. Snooty)

The Character: The sultry, lipsticked Pa’lowick crooner known as Sy Snootles (originally dubbed “Mrs. Snooty” during the production of Return of the Jedi) was a sapient amphibian hailing from the planet of Lowick in the Outer Rim. As a Pa’lowick, Sy Snootles possessed a body shape that was perfectly suited for Lowick’s semi-aquatic environment: lithe arms and legs, powerful lungs, round and husky central masses, stalked eyes, and a long proboscis (not a snout) that ended in a pair of lips. Since storytelling was a prime aspect of Pa’lowick culture, their people wrote songs to satisfy a powerful creative impulse; singing was both a pastime and a sacred ritual.

Sy Snootles was a former part-time bounty hunter, tragic lover and murderer of Jabba the Hutt’s traitorous brother Ziro Desilijic Tiure, and also the lead singer for the Max Rebo Band—for although the group was named after their keyboardist, Sy led them from the shadows, allowing Rebo to attract the unwanted attention garnered by a band leader who travelled in precarious criminal circles. Throughout her tenure in the famous band, she functioned as a double agent for Jabba, feeding his enemies false information provided to her by the crime lord’s majordomo, Bib Fortuna.

After the death of Jabba and most of his entourage during the Battle of Carkoon, Sy Snootles and her bandmates went their separate ways, with Sy devoting her life to minor singing gigs on remote planets within the Outer Rim Territories.

12. Max Rebo (aka Siiruulian Phantele)

The Character: With this poseable figurine, Kenner expertly captured the essence of Siiruulian Phantele, a downy-furred alien and talented musician who went by the stage name of “Max Rebo.” As an Ortolan, Rebo was one member of a species of bipedal pachydermoids (elephant-like humanoids) who possessed trunks, beady black eyes, floppy ears, thick fuzzy skin which resembled hanging blue velvet, and hands that ended in odd suction-cupped fingers (and similarly-adapted toes) which allowed Ortolans to absorb food via these digits … as well as through their mouths.

Ortolans possessed a magnificent sense of hearing that reached into the subsonic range and an advanced sense of smell due to their homeworld’s dearth of available food. As a result, many Ortolans engaged in a lifelong pursuit of both music and food, as chefs and musicians. Hence, Max became a gourmand as well as a world-class organist.

Relative to other Ortolans, Max Rebo was actually quite lithe, yet his obsession with food certainly handicapped his business dealings as a musician, where he played his famous Red Ball Jett Organ (aka. nargalon, a 22-keyed air-powered organ with circular keyboard). Finding work on the planet Tatooine, Max was forced into the position of band leader since the group’s singer and true frontman, Sy Snootles, wished to protect her anonymity (and her very life) when pursuing typical yet deadly underhanded business negotiations. Unfortunately, when engaging a contract with Jabba Desilijic Tiure, Max “sold” the Rebo Band to the infamous Hutt for the promise of an unlimited food supply, yet no monetary compensation whatsoever—a pretty awful contract.

Following Jabba’s death, the three members of the Max Rebo Band separated, with Max himself eventually becoming a wealthy restaurant owner of a number of Max’s Flangth House(s) franchises on eight different worlds—serving the mysterious yet nutritious food known as flangth.

All images courtesy of Krause Publications.

This Smart Accessory Converts Your Instant Pot Into an Air Fryer


If you can make a recipe in a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or rice cooker, you can likely adapt it for an Instant Pot. Now, this all-in-one cooker can be converted into an air fryer with one handy accessory.

This Instant Pot air fryer lid—currently available on Amazon for $80—adds six new cooking functions to your 6-quart Instant Pot. You can select the air fry setting to get food hot and crispy fast, using as little as 2 tablespoons of oil. Other options include roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, and reheat.

Many dishes you would prepare in the oven or on the stovetop can be made in your Instant Pot when you switch out the lids. Chicken wings, French fries, and onion rings are just a few of the possibilities mentioned in the product description. And if you're used to frying being a hot, arduous process, this lid works without consuming a ton of energy or heating up your kitchen.

The lid comes with a multi-level air fry basket, a broiling and dehydrating tray, and a protective pad and storage cover. Check it out on Amazon.

For more clever ways to use your Instant Pot, take a look at these recipes.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

Q&A: Kristen Bell Celebrates Diversity In Her New Kid's Book, The World Needs More Purple People

Jim Spellman/Getty Images
Jim Spellman/Getty Images

Kristen Bell is one of those household names that brings to mind a seemingly endless list of outstanding performances in both TV and film. She is Veronica Mars. She is the very memorable Sarah Marshall. She's the voice of Gossip Girl. She just recently wrapped up her NBC series The Good Place. Your nieces and nephews likely know her as Princess Anna from the Frozen films. She also has one of the most uplifting and positive presences on social media.

Now, adding to her long list of accomplishments, Kristen Bell is the published author of a new children’s book called The World Needs More Purple People. Born out of seeing how cultural conversations were skewing more toward the things that divide us, the new picture book—which Bell co-authored with Benjamin Hart—encourages kids to see what unites us all as humans.

We spoke with Kristen Bell about what it means to be a purple person, her new animated series Central Park, and becoming a foster failure. We also put her knowledge of sloths to the test.

How did The World Needs More Purple People book come to be?

Basically my genius buddy, Ben Hart, and I were looking around and sort of seeing how our children were watching us debate healthily at the dinner table, which is fine. But it occurred to us that everything they were seeing was a disagreement. And that’s because that can be fun for adults, but it’s not a good basis for kids to start out on. We realized we were not really giving our kids a ton of examples of us, as adults, talking about the things that bring us together. So The World Needs More Purple People was born.

Book cover of Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart's 'The World Needs More Purple People'
Random House via Amazon

We decided to create a roadmap of similarities to give kids a jumping off point of how to look for similarities ... [because] if you can see similarities, you’re more likely to walk through the world with an open mind. But if you walk into a conversation seeing only differences, your mind is going to think differently of that person’s opinion and you just never know when you’re going to hear an opinion that might enlighten you. So we wanted to give kids this roadmap to follow to basically say, “Here are some great features that no one can argue with. Have these features and you’ll have similarities with almost everyone on the planet.”

Part of the reason I love the book so much is because it encourages kids to ask questions, even if they're silly. What are some silly questions you’ve had to answer for your kids?

Oh my god. How much time do you have? Once she asked in rapid fire: Is Santa Claus real? Why is Earth? Who made dogs?

How do you even answer that?

It was too much; I had to walk away. Kids have a ton of questions, and as they get older and more verbal, the funny thing that happens is they get more insecure. So we wanted to encourage the question-asking, and also encourage the uniqueness of every child. Which is why Dan Wiseman, who did our illustrations, really captured this middle point between Ben and I. Ben is very sincere, and I am very quirky. And I feel like the illustrations were captured brilliantly because we also wanted a ton of diversity because that is what the book is about.

The book is about seeing different things and finding similarities. Each kid in the book looks a little bit different, but also a little bit the same. The message at the end of the book is with all these features that you can point out and recognize in other people—loving to laugh, working really hard, asking great questions ... also know that being a purple person means being uniquely you in the hopes that kids will recognize that purple people come in every color.

What was it like behind-the-scenes of writing a children’s book with two little girls at home? Were they tough critics?

Shockingly, no. They did not have much interest in the fact that I was writing a children’s book until there were pictures. Then they were like, “Oh now I get it.” But prior to that, when I’d run the ideas by them, they were not as interested. But I did read it to them. They gave me the two thumbs up. Ben has two kids as well, and all our kids are different ages. Once we got the thumbs up from the 5-year-old, the 7-year-old, the 8-year-old, and the 11-year-old, we thought, “OK, this is good to go.”

I hope that people, and kids especially, really do apply this as a concept. We would love to see this as a curriculum going into schools if they wanted to use it to ask: What happened today in your life that was purple? What could you do to make tomorrow more purple? Like as a concept of a way of living.

Weirdly, writing a children’s book was a way of getting to the adults. If it’s a children’s book, there is a high probability an adult is going to either be reading it to you or be there while you’re reading it—which means you’re getting two demographics. If we had just written a novel about this kind of concept, we’d never reach the kids. But by writing a kid's book, we also access the adults.

Your new show Central Park looks so incredible. What can you tell us about the show and your character Molly?

I am so excited for the show to come out. I’ve seen it and it is exceptional. It is so, so, so funny and so much fun. I signed on because I got a phone call from my friend Josh Gad, who said, “I’m going to try to put together a cartoon for us to work on.” And I said, “Yes. Goodbye.” And he and Loren Bochard, who created Bob’s Burgers, took basically all of our friends—Leslie Odom Jr., Stanley Tucci, Kathryn Hahn, Tituss Burgess, Daveed Diggs, and myself—and created a family who lives in the middle of Central Park.

I play a teenager named Molly who is very socially awkward but has this incredible, relentlessly creative, vivacious personality going on only inside her head … and it’s a musical! So, she's awkward on the outside but when she sings her songs she really comes to life. And she's a comic book artist, so the cartoon often switches to what she's seeing in her head.

It's so funny and Josh Gad plays this busker who lives in Central Park, who is the narrator. Stanley Tucci plays this older woman named Bitsy who is trying to build a shopping mall in the center of Central Park, and the family’s job is to basically save Central Park. But the music is so incredible. We’ve got two music writers, Kate Anderson and Elyssa Samsel, who write the majority of the music, but we also have guest writers that come in every episode. So Sara Bareilles wrote some music and Cyndi Lauper wrote some music. It is such a fun show.

My husband, who does not like cartoons or musicals, watched the first couple of episodes, and he looked at me and said, “You’ve got something really special in your hands.” And he doesn’t like anything. It made me so happy. I cannot wait until this show comes out, I am so proud of it.

What was it like to reunite with Josh Gad on another musical animated series that isn't Frozen?

Josh and I talk a lot, and we had a lot of behind-the-scenes conversations about how we can work together again, just because we adore each other. And part of it is because we get along socially, and part of it is because we trust each other comedically. He's a creator and writer more so than I am, so I usually leave it up to him and say, "What’s our next project?" We have other things in the pipeline we would love to do together, but [Central Park] was an immediate yes because I trust how he writes. Josh is at every single one of my recording sessions; he is very hands-on with the shows that he does or produces or creates. I trust him as much as I trust my husband, creatively, and that’s saying a lot.

Given your well-documented love of sloths, we do have to throw out a few true or false questions about sloths and put your knowledge to the test …

Oh my gosh. OK, now I'm nervous. Hit me.

True or false: Sloths fart more than humans.

Fart more than humans?


I’m going to say it's true.

It’s actually false. Sloths don’t fart at all. They might be the only mammal on the planet that does not fart.

You’re kidding. Another reason to love them. You know, I was trying to think medically about it. I know they only poop once a week and that if you only go poop once a week ... I thought, “Well in order to keep your GI healthy, perhaps you have to have some sort of flow from the top to the bottom during the seven-day waiting period until you release.”

True or false: Sloths are so slow that algae sometimes grows on them.

One hundred percent true. In the wild, they’re always covered in algae and it helps their fur, all those microorganisms. But in zoos, they don’t have it.

Nice. OK, last one. True or false: Sloths poop from trees.

No way. They go down to the ground, and they rub their little tushies on the ground, and then they go back up.

You are correct.

I know a fair amount about sloths but the farting thing was new. My kids will be excited to hear that.

We heard recently that you are a part of the “foster failure” club. What went wrong? Erright?

Well, what I learned from Veronica Mars is you root for and cherish and uplift the underdog always. And my first foster failure was in 2018; I found the most undesirable dog that existed on the planet. She is made of toothpicks, it is impossible for her to gain weight. She has one eye. She looks like a walking piece of garbage. Her name is Barbara. She's 11 years old. And I saw a picture of her online and I said, “Yes. I just want to bring her over. I don’t even need to know anything else about her other than this picture," which was the most hideous picture. I mean it looks like a Rorschach painting or something. It was so awful. I was like, “She’s mine. I’ll take care of her. I’ve got this.” And it turns out she is quite lovely even though she can be pretty annoying. But she is our Barbara Biscuit, and she is one of the most charismatic dogs I have ever met. She piddles wherever she damn well pleases. So that is a bummer, because she is untrainable, but we love her.

That was our first failure. Then last year, we genuinely attempted to just foster a dog named Frank. And about two weeks in, I realized Frank was in love with me—like in a human way. He thought he was my boyfriend.

Oh no …

I just felt like … I didn’t even want a new dog—well I shouldn’t say that, because I always want all the dogs—but we weren’t planning on getting a new dog. But I had to have a conversation with my family and I said, “I think it’s going to be like child separation if I separate him. We have to keep him.” And sure enough, he can’t be more than two feet from me at any time during the day.

Does he still give you “the eyes”?

Oh my gosh. Bedroom eyes all day long. I can’t sit down without him like … not even just sitting comfortably in my lap. He has to have my arm in his mouth or part of my hair in his mouth. He’s trying to get back in my womb or something.

That’s love.

Yeah, I said, “What am I going to do? The guy is in love with me. He can live here.” So there is foster failure number two.

Wow, so it’s Frank and Barbara.

Frank and Barbara. And we also have Lola, a 17-year-old corgi-chow chow mix. Who I have had since she was one-and-a-half, who was also a pound puppy. She is our queen bee.

Before you go, we do this thing on Twitter called #HappyHour, where we ask our followers some get-to-know-you questions. If you could change one rule in any board game, what would it be?

I am obviously going to Catan ... oh I know exactly what I would do. In Catan, I would allow participants to buy a city without buying a settlement first. In Catan, you have to upgrade from a settlement to a city first, which is a waste of cards. If you have the cards for a city, you should be able to buy a city.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My favorite book as a child was Are You My Mother?

Aw, I love that one. I forgot about Are You My Mother?

It’s a good one.