When creativity and love made magic.

I loved Star Wars. Lived, breathed, soaked in Star Wars. I was an authority. I could tell you every detail there was to know about Star Wars, and this was 15 years before the internet was available to nerds everywhere. I can still tell you who had which gun on the figures. I could tell you what accessories went with which toy. I can also tell you that the Millennium Falcon was a fantastic toy that didn’t hold up well to rough play. Everything about Star Wars was magic to me. I can’t tell you how many hours I played Han or Luke in my backyard with my friends. How many times we killed Vader, or were captured by Stormtroopers. Despite having grown up in Pasadena, Texas, I had a fantastic time as a child. And for that, I must thank George Lucas. Without Star Wars, there is no telling what my childhood would have been.

As I grew up, I still held on to that love. I clamored over anything Star Wars. I might not have been able to buy it, but I appreciated it. My parents were very loving and helped me with my passion, calling me out of the tub to show me a small bit on some TV show that was talking about Star Wars for a minute. They let me wander over to the toy section at the department store and drool over all the Star Wars toys. They knew that a kid needed multiple Stormtroopers, Sand People, and Jawas to really have a great time in the Star Wars Galaxy.

Mine never saw snow. 😦

Some of my toys broke, but fortunately Kenner had a policy that they’d take back broken toys and replace them if possible. If not, they’d give credit and you could get another toy. That’s how I got my AT-AT. Enough toys had broken and weren’t replaceable that I had enough to get it! And, a couple of accessory kits as well. I was a happy boy when the AT-AT came. My parents also sent off for all those mail-away offers. I got my Boba Fett that way, and even my Blue Snaggletooth figure. I owe my parents just as much gratitude for providing me Star Wars as I do Lucas.

But eventually that magic wore off. It was a dark time – it was the mid-80s and the best one could do with Star Wars was watch Droids or Ewoks on Saturday mornings. In 1984, Star Wars (now dubbed Episode IV: A New Hope) was release to VHS and those with VCRs could watch Star Wars whenever they wanted. The rest of us would hope for the cable release.

By the time the 90s rolled around, my love for Star Wars waned, but I still held out. I watched a Trilogy showing at the Paramount Theater in Austin one weekend. What a great experience that was.

Then in 1997, Lucas released the Special Editions to the theaters, and it was neat. Sort of. My memories had been manipulated. Things were different, and that was okay in some instances, but not in others. Jabba’s Palace was completely ruined, in my opinion. There was too much going on in Mos Eisley. And at first I was disappointed that Empire didn’t get more in the makeover. But I watched them all and loved them just the same.

Shoot AT-ATs. Rinse. Repeat.

I had video games too. Empire Strikes Back on the Atari. I loved it, repetitive as it was. I even appreciated the lame Return of the Jedi game where one would shoot TIE Fighters and zoom through the shield opening to blow up the Death Star. Over. And Over. While I thought it was fun to take on an infinite onslaught of AT-ATs, blowing up countless Death Stars was a bit removed from the ‘authenticity’ of the movie.

Later I’d get into the X-Wing series. While I had to really max out my computer to play, I loved it. Joystick in hand, I took on mission after mission. TIE Fighter was released and I loved it too. Then X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter and we were given MULTIPLAYER!!! It was awesome and I played for hours at a time.

But at some point, the magic died. It wasn’t a fantastic world of wonder, but nothing more than a profit machine. Lucas knew what he had before he made Jedi. He had merchandising rights. Gary Kurtz in a recent interview noted that this is why he left after Empire. It wasn’t about the story or the creativity, but about cramming as much into a movie as possible – all in order to make toys for each one. I had an inkling of this before I read the interview, but afterwards, that thought was brought to the forefront. It’s when the decline began for me.

Just think, the cost of the troopers alone would feed a village for a year.

One of the things about being a fan of something is that you have to have some sort of tangential evidence. You can’t be a fan of a sports team if you don’t at least have a cap or a jersey, possibly ticket stubs to prove you were there. It’s the same with Star Wars. You can’t be a fan if you don’t have some of the merchandise. Posters, toys, movies, anything that will prove to others your undying love of the films. I’ve seen shrines built to encase the ‘love’ of these fans. And to be quite honest, if I had the money and the merchandise, I too would have built some sort of elaborate display case and theater room that encapsulated my love of the films as well. Fortunately, I never had that money.

I say fortunately, because Star Wars is bitter to me now. It’s not about the magic that was produced in the late 70’s and carried into the early 80’s. It’s now about how much money Lucas can pocket on his masterpiece. At some point, and I say it has to be around 1979 or 80, Lucas realized it wasn’t about the movie itself, but how to capitalize on the movie.

I can’t blame him – the whole point of capitalism is to make money from your creations. I don’t blame him for becoming a successful businessman. That isn’t my point. What I am upset about is that the businessman Lucas killed the creative genius writer/director Lucas. Sometime in 1980, he began strangling the latter to become the former. The evidence abounds. One only needs to open one’s eyes and look around. For me, it was almost like the end of “The Usual Suspects” where the detective looks around his office in shock as he realizes he’d just been taken for a sucker.

Nunb was no Fett. He wasn't even as cool as Piett.

If you watch Star Wars, you’ll see that yes, there were quite a few characters filling the scenes in parts, but overall, there was a bare minimum cast. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Kenobi, Vader, R2, 3PO, Stormtroopers, Tarkin. That’s about it. And the initial run of action figures were 12. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Kenobi, Vader, R2, 3PO, Stormtrooper, Jawa, Sand People, and Death Squad Commander. Death Squad Commander, Really? Eventually there would be 21 total figures made in 1978-9. For less than $100, you could own all the figures made for Star Wars.

Now let’s go to Empire Strikes Back. Twenty-seven figures were released, more than doubling the total amount. Return of the Jedi added another 31! Some of those figures saw less than 30 seconds of screen time. Total amount of figures by 1983? 79. At $4 each, that’s a grand total of over $300 just for the figures. That’s not including the playsets and vehicles. And not including the die cast metal mini figures…

Then we go into the Droids/Ewoks cartoons that produced figures as well. I have no idea what was made and how many there were, because by that time, I wasn’t interested and quite frankly, they looked really ugly in comparison. And there was the “Power of the Force” figures – which reissued all 79 figures along with more – all of which were from Jedi (except one).

Ten years later gave us the “Power of the Force 2” line. These were all re-sculpted figures who seemed to be body builders. And yes, I collected them. Until I realized one day that around the world, collectors were doing exactly what I was doing and buying multiples of each figure. So I pushed my basket aside and swore off figures for the mean time.

Then 1997 saw the release of the Special Editions. And more figures.

I thought the SW/Transformers crossover was bad.

In 1999, Episode one was released. And the merchandising was absolutely nuts for this. I don’t think you could buy Episode I Goodyear tires, but I’m pretty sure that something Star Wars was involved on some level. If you could buy an item, then you could buy an Episode I version as well. It was everywhere. And we all just sucked it in. I did not buy many figures from Episode I, because I was still swearing off figures. I did get a few Episode II and III figures, but for the most part, I only get what I want now – which is almost none now.

As for the video games, I’m not sure where it fell off, but I want to say “Force Commander” really hurt LucasArts. Star Wars has had games in all genres, and there is not a shortfall of games available on all platforms. None of them have captured Star Wars for me like the X-Wing series. I’ve tried a lot, and a lot of them had such potential. Dark Forces was the first foray into the FPS genre, and it was good. It was followed by Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast, and Jedi Academy. All of which were a good fun twist on the FPS by adding Sabers. I played a whole lot of Jedi Knight online and it was such a blast! I eagerly awaited the release of Republic Commando – a more military style FPS played from a Republic Commando and started off in the Battle of Geonosis.

TFU2 - guaranteed to occupy most of a Saturday Afternoon

But that started a trend of lack of follow through. The multiplayer lacked. The solo campaign was so short that I played it twice to make sure that was all. I didn’t get another SW game until “The Force Unleashed,” mostly because I wasn’t interested in the genres of games being released. I bought copies of TFU for the 360 and the Wii. The 360 version was great – but lacked multiplayer – something that I think the 360 excels at. But the duel mode in the Wii version was awesome. The motion controller coupled with saber attacks was great. But unfortunately for Star Wars games, this was the exception and not the rule.

I should also mention that during this time, many other toys and figures were released as well. The multimedia extravaganza that was “Shadows of the Empire” gave us figures and toys, along with other “Expanded Universe” figures, including video game characters.

Recently LucasArts released “The Force Unleashed 2.” Which takes 4 hours to beat – and for many gamers, that’s one sitting. No multiplayer either. Didn’t stop them from releasing virtual items online as well as more toys.

So when someone says that Lucas destroyed their childhood, I tend to agree, but not for the same reason. Most cite the prequels for ruining it – but it wasn’t the prequels directly. It was the greed that replaced the imagination and creativity that killed their childhood. I personally believe that this is why Lucas directed all three prequels. I believe it’s why we had 400 Jedi in the Geonosis Arena. It’s why you can buy Clonetroopers not only in multiple colors, but armor as well.

Just in case Blue isn't your favorite color.

Remember the scene in Episode 1 where R2 repairs the escaping Queen’s ship? You can buy each one of those droids that got blown away. Yes. You can. In fact, you can buy every single R2-esque droid ever seen in the movie, as well as those who are shown in comics and video games, or even mentioned in the novels. It makes me sick, really.

I haven’t even touched on the lawsuits that Lucas has engaged in order to protect his intellectual property. It’s one thing to sue someone who is using your property to make money (like when Gerardo Fellano sold copies of stormtrooper stunt suits), but suing someone because they made an item that resembles something from Star Wars? That’s absurd – especially when most of the props used for the movie were made of various found parts (old UK guns, flash bulbs, etc)

None of this takes away that magic I had for so many summers in my backyard. It doesn’t cheapen the toys that I still have from all those years ago. It doesn’t change the fact that I will still pop in “A New Hope” and reminisce about that morning when Star Wars debuted on Showtime (I got up at 5am or so in order to see the first viewing. I didn’t get to watch it all because I had to go to school, but I was watching Showtime as much as possible while it was on!)

Inform Lord Lucas that we need more useless merchandise.

The only thing that any of this does is not promote Star Wars as much. I don’t care to put my scratch made Vader costume on as much. I don’t mind when my kids prefer Halo over Star Wars. I don’t mind not having access to “The Clone Wars.” And I don’t put any money into Star Wars anymore.

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