Han Solo in Hoth gear riding his Tauntaun wasn't significant to me until Kenner released the incredible 12" Han Tauntaun set all the way back in the late 90's. It was one of the most sought-after exclusives of its day and understandably so. Not only did it look great, it was also HUGE. I no longer have my 12" Han Tauntaun... it was a victim of one of my periodic action figure spring cleanings. I know what you're wondering: if it's so great, why did I get rid of it? Let's be honest, as cool as it was, it was just too big to reasonably display or store. But the aura surrounding the Han Tauntaun legacy lives on as Hasbro releases a new Han Tauntaun in the 4" scale. Let's see how it compares to the vintage Han Tauntaun from Kenner.
Han Solo in Hoth Gear with Tauntaun (Kenner, 1980)
I always liked the distinctiveness of the vintage Han Hoth. While all the other Hoth schmucks were drowning in drab tan parkas, Han was getting his groove on in blue... although we now know Han's movie parka was actually brown. (I'm sorry, it was. I'm just as disappointed as you are.) He was also the first Star Wars figure with a working holster. Well, "working" is a bit of a stretch, since you didn't actually put the gun in the holster, but attached it to the peg hole. But it was a good first try anyway.
The Tauntaun continued the beast-of-burden concept originated by the Dewback: Han "rides" the Tauntaun by pushing his legs through a spring-loaded trap door on the creature's back. As a kid, I never noticed the pseudo-legs sculpted on the saddle that imply the figure is straddling the creature rather than thrusting its legs into its torso. The whole trapdoor thing didn't seem weird to me anyway. I guess I just didn't think too much about it.
This Tauntaun is also the split-belly version, which is probably the most awesome play feature ever.
Han Solo in Hoth Gear with Tauntaun (Hasbro, 2011)
What a difference a few decades make in action figure engineering! Here we see a drastically improved Han, who still stubbornly clings to his movie-inaccurate blue parka. I'm cool with that, though. Han Hoth just isn't Han Hoth without a blue parka. Unfortunately, Han doesn't sport his characteristic hood, instead opting for a goggled headpiece that's clearly too big and unruly for the figure. Still, the holster works really well. And improved hip articulation means that Han doesn't have to rely on trapdoors to ride his steed.
Han's Tauntaun has similarly dramatic improvements. The sculpt looks awesome and at 7 points of articulation, this Tauntaun blows his predecessors out of the water in terms of movement. (7 doesn't sound like much, but he's got it where it counts, kid.) This Tauntaun doesn't have an "official" split belly, but you can pry open a compartment on the belly that looks just big enough to store some extra blaster rifles. So when the going gets tough, the Rebels can rip out some extra firepower from the Tauntaun's guts and blast some Imperial behind.