When Star Wars: Special Edition hit theaters a few years back, I read the statistic that the average man has seen Star Wars 7 times, and the average woman 5 times. You can imagine my shock when someone mentions that they’ve never seen Star Wars (or, as it is now called, A New Hope), The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. I doubt that they have never seen The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones, as they were pretty big movies the past few years. Now that the summer of Episode II is behind us (and with all the columns I have stockpiled, it probably just came out on video by the time I publish this), I thought I would take a moment to sit back and reflect on the phenomenon known as Star Wars and how it’s affected my life
May 25, 1977 – Star Wars hits theatres.
July 7, 1977 – The positive buzz makes me think it’s time to be born.
May 1980 – The Empire Strikes Back hits theatres.
1981 – 1982 – Some of my earliest conscious memories of television are Star Wars toy commercials.
Fall 1982 – I begin kindergarten, and my favourite time is play time. If my teacher, Mrs. Martin, is in a good mood, I go up to her and beg her to set up the record player so I can listen to the Star Wars listen and read along book on record. If she’s in a bad mood, I sit down in the corner and satisfy myself with The Empire Strikes Back pop-up book. Pull the tab and the Millenium Falcon flys out of that asteroid monster’s mouth! Slide the lever and Yoda appears! Push the button and Han Solo is frozen in carbonite! Hours of fun.
Halloween 1982 – I am Darth Vader. My brother is C-3PO.
May 1983 – Return of the Jedi hits theatres. My brother and I rush home from our Beaver Scout meeting so we can watch The Making of Return of the Jedi on TV. I remember watching how they dug the Sarlacc pit in the middle of the desert, and watching the stunt men take practice jumps into it. I always wondered how the stunt men got back out. My best guess was that there was that the Sarlacc was actually the door to a little lounge, where the stuntmen would kick back and relax until filming ended, then a ladder would be lowered in to get them out.
Summer 1983 – My breakfast cereal of choice is C-3P0s from Kellogg’s. Little crunchy digits with C-3P0 on the box. There’s always some kind of Star Wars give away. I remember the cut-out Darth Vader masks on the back and Return of the Jedi stickers. I watch more Star Wars toy commercials, and see one for a mail-away exclusive Emperor Palpatine figure.
Fall 1983 – I begin the first grade. In the first grade, there’s this magical thing called “book orders,” where you can buy books through the school. I beg my mother to buy me the storybook adaptation of Return of the Jedi. Mom says, “Only if you read it.” That storybook still sits on my shelf and I have read it a countably infinite number of times.
Halloween 1983 – I am Luke Skywalker.
After that, my passion for Star Wars began to fade throughout the eighties, as it was replaced by many of the great toy fads of that decade. G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, they all seemed cooler than Star Wars for the time. That’s not to say I stopped following Star Wars altogether. The Ewoks and Droids cartoons premiered, and I watched them pretty faithfully. Those Ewok TV movies were shown, and I thought they were pretty nifty. I guess it was around 1985 or so that my family bought their first VCR, and I was constantly pestering my parents to rent Return of the Jedi. I constantly fell asleep halfway through it, too. This goes on until around 1987 when I finally am able to stay awake for the whole thing. And then…nothing. Until….
Early 1991 or so – I read that the Star Wars trilogy is being re-released on video, for the first time in a collector’s set of the whole trilogy. Also, for the first time, in widescreen. I think to myself, “I gotta get that.”
Late 1991 or so – I go up north to visit a friend, and he has the Star Wars trilogy. For the first time in years, I watch Star Wars from beginning to end. The kindly friend loans me the trilogy, and I get it in my head to copy it. Of course, the rental VCR that I rented for this task is a crappy VCR and eats The Empire Strikes Back. Since the tape damage is minimal, I return it to the friend without telling him.
Late 1993 – In the wake of Jurassic Park, I catch an interview with George Lucas in which he reveals that special effects technology has advanced enough that he can start making new Star Wars films. My heart is all atwitter.
Late 1995 – The original Star Wars trilogy is released on video “one last time.” I shell out $60 for it at HMV, to which my mother remarks, “I didn’t know you loved those movies that much.” My friend from up north laments that that he’ll have to buy this new boxed set because something happened to his Empire Strikes Back tape. Along with the final video re-release of the Star Wars trilogy comes new Star Wars action figures, so I buy my first ever Star Wars figures: Luke Skywalker.
Early 1996 – I go to university and discover the Internet. Thanks to it, I begin gathering my first ever movie news on Episode I and (gasp) special editions! It was when I first heard of them.
Summer 1996 – An IMAX documentary called Special Effects hits theatres. One of the highlights of the film is the opening shot of Star Wars, recreated especially for IMAX by ILM. I think to myself, “Gotta see that!”
January 1997 – Star Wars: Special Edition hits theatres. I have one hell of a double-feature day. First, I head to the Space Science Center in Edmonton to see Special Effects. Not only do I see the IMAX recreation of the opening shot, but the whole mid-section is dedicated to the filming of new Stormtrooper scenes for the Special Edition. And it has a cute Star Wars ending. The camera is taking us through the ILM warehouse. We come across R2-D2, who springs to life. R2 begins wandering the halls of the ILM warehouse, until we run into C-3P0, pushing a broom. R2 says something, and 3P0 says, “I know, R2. This isn’t what I had planned for us, either.” Later that day, I drag my brother and sister-in-law with me to see Star Wars: Special Edition. My sister-in-law laments that my unborn niece must not like Star Wars, as she wouldn’t stop kicking for the whole movie.
February 1997 – I see The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition.
March 1997 – I see Return of the Jedi: Special Edition. Lay’s Potato Chips has a mail-away exclusive Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure, so I figure I’d send away for it. I buy my first bag of Lay’s Potato Chips, and make the shocking discovery that I can eat just one. I manage to eat 3 bags and get my 3 proofs of purchase regardless.
Summer 1997 – Episode I begins filming, and I am enthralled of Internet reports of a new Sith Lord who “looks like the devil” and wields “a double-bladed lightsaber.” Hasbro releases what is to become my most-searched for Star Wars figure: Princess Leia as Jabba’s Prisoner, a.k.a. “Princess Leia in the Gold Bikini.”
Fall 1997 – The Special Edition Trilogy hits video, and I buy it. When I see an Emperor Palpatine figure hanging on a store shelf, I am reminded of the TV ads I saw when I was a child, and snatch it up.
Winter 1997 – I buy my first issue of ToyFare, and discover that my Luke Skywalker figure is actually a rare, long-sabre variant. I learn that it’s worth $30.
Summer 1998 – A year of searching finally pays off as I find Princess Leia in the Gold Bikini in Toys R Us.
Fall 1998 – Chuck and I go to see Antz. While browsing in the Bay in Camrose’s Duggan Mall, I find Hasbro’s Ewoks 2-pack. I snatch it up, and show it to Chuck. Chuck goes back to buy the last remaining Ewok 2-pack “for his sister.”
Later in the Fall 1998 – Chuck, L, myself, and several others go to see A Bug’s Life. Afterwards, I complain to the manager that they didn’t show the Episode I teaser in front of it.
Still the Fall 1998 – I download the Episode I teaser. I beg one of my university professors if I can use the video projector in the university’s main lecture hall to screen it for all my friends. Surprisingly, he says yes, and we do it after a math lecture one day.
Spring 1999 – The Episode I trailer hits theatres. I tape it off of TV and wear out the tape.
May 1999 – The Episode I action figures go on sale, and I’m sad that I can’t be part of the midnight rush to buy them. My mother goes into the city the next day and, to cheer me up, buys me Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn. I stand in line 4 hours to be the first one to buy Episode I tickets in Camrose. I’m interviewed for the Camrose paper because of it. A week later, I’m back with all my friends, and we stand in line for 8 hours to be the first ones to see it.
Spring 2000 – I head down to Camrose again. Thanks to his video store connections, Chuck’s going to smuggle Episode I out of his video store so we can be the first ones to watch it on video. It doesn’t arrive at the video store on that day, though. I’m heartbroken when I’m not selected to play grown up Anakin in Episode II.
January 2001 – I buy my DVD player.
Fall 2001 – Caving to my demands, George Lucas releases Episode I on DVD. I buy it!
Summer 2002 – Episode II hits theatres. I buy my ticket a week in advance, and this time just invite Trouble along to be the first to see it. We all agree, it’s better than Episode I. I see it a second time, and it’s the last movie I see before heading to Japan. The last box of breakfast cereal I buy before I leave the country is Kellogg’s Episode II cereal.
And that’s pretty much it. Star Wars throughout my life. Not as fascinating a topic as I thought it’d be, but it’s out of my system.