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Star Wars Frugal Finds for 2011

Pete Vilmur | December 19, 2011

If you’re a Star Wars collector, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve had to pare back some of your hobby purchases in these economically challenging times. But there is still a great way to get that collecting fix on a budget – if you’re willing to explore the world of vintage collecting!

Not the world of mint-sealed-on-card vintage collecting, but the eccentric, exotic, eclectic world of ticket stubs, disco singles, foreign paperbacks and iron-on transfers from the ‘70s to ‘90s. Treasures abound in the under-$10 category of collecting, if you know where to look – and what to look for.

As an exercise in budget collecting – and a way to relive some great finds of the last year — I thought I’d go back through my collectible purchases of 2011 to find those pieces I felt were exceptionally good deals, even if they’re not what some would categorize as mainstream (which frankly makes them even more appealing!). Most of the following – with a few exceptions – were had for under $10, and required just a little bit of adventuring beyond the usual Star Wars collecting categories on eBay:

Jan 10: British Jar Jar Binks Pencil Case (£3.97)

Yeah, I know, first one out of the gate and it’s a Jar Jar collectible. This was actually the fourth piece I picked up after the new year, and just couldn’t resist those cool retro-style graphics that just scream galactic-groovy.

(See more 2011 frugal finds after the jump!)

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Rare Empire Cast Interview Surfaces

Pete Vilmur | November 29, 2011

On the heels of the recent early Mark Hamill interview we discovered a couple weeks ago, StarWars.com contributor Bob Miller sends a heads up on another rare interview – or set of interviews – from a press junket surrounding the 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back.

Recently posted from the archive of reporter Bobbie Wygant, this lost interview, which appears to have occurred at the 20th Century Fox Studios press event in early May, 1980, includes some rare conversations with Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Dave Prowse, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, and director Irvin Kershner.

Some of the highlights include Hamill discussing his newborn son, Nathan, who he jokes might be available for the role of an “eight-year-old” Luke for the prequels (well, he got the age right, but was a generation off!). Another treat is the rare dual interview with Harrison Ford and Anthony Daniels, who we’ve rarely seen interviewed together. Dave Prowse also has some detailed information regarding the Darth Vader masks used on Star Wars and Empire, and how they are different (Vader historians take note!).

Most amusingly, though, interviewer Wygant closes with the tease that if Lucas continues with all nine chapters of his Star Wars saga, “the Force may be around until 2001!”

Check out the 13-minute video here.

Early Mark Hamill Interview Surfaces

Pete Vilmur | November 16, 2011

A rare 30-minute interview with Mark Hamill, which appears to have been taped in late 1977 just before the release of Star Wars in Britain that December, has surfaced on YouTube by poster “mhsayers.”

The interview, which is described as having been conducted at Imperial College London, seems to have been broadcast on British television in October, 1978 — although Hamill at one point mentions the film hadn’t yet released in England, likely placing the original session sometime in late 1977.

It’s very rare to find such an extended one-on-one interview with one of the key cast members from this period, which had Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford whisked from one interview to another, often spending only a few minutes with any single interviewer.

Some interesting insights are revealed here that to our knowledge have never been officially publicized — definitely worth the watch if you’ve got a half-hour to spare (and can tolerate choppy editing on black-and-white videotape!)

UPDATE: According to our favorite Star Wars bibliographer/historian Bob Miller, this session was taped December 14, 1977, based on Hamill’s mention of “Blue Peter” being taped the following day (which occurred on December 15). Miller was also able to cross-reference the host’s mention of Hamill’s percentage reported in the Evening News, which was published on December 12.

Rancho Obi-Wan’s Grand Re-Opening!

Pete Vilmur | November 10, 2011

If you’re a fan who frequents any number of Star Wars collecting forums, Facebook pages or twitterfeeds, you probably picked up some heightened chatter starting last Saturday around 4:00pm PST. No, George wasn’t announcing the release of a seventh Star Wars episode, and no, a Blu-ray release of the Holiday Special (which looks bad in any resolution) isn’t imminent – rather, it was the grand re-opening of Rancho Obi-Wan, an enormous museum celebrating the merchandising legacy and fandom inspired by our favorite space saga. Its original — and far quieter — opening occurred way back in 1998, and has since served as a resource and spectacle for those lucky fans who have received a tour.

Around 200 guests file in to the new Rancho Obi-Wan (photo by Victoria Webb)

Rancho Obi-Wan – which houses the personal collection of Star Wars super-collector Steve Sansweet – was unveiling a spacious new addition to display Sansweet’s ever-expanding collection of Star Wars goodies, including full-size arcade games, bicycles, life-size droids, and fan-created artwork. What’s more, Steve announced Rancho Obi-Wan’s new nonprofit corporation status, which will “serve the public through the collection, conservation, exhibition and interpretation of Star Wars memorabilia and artifacts” (check out ranchoobiwan.org and Rancho’s official Facebook page ).
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Snagging a Piece of Special Effects History

Pete Vilmur | November 1, 2011

Ever since 1980, when the second issue of an industry magazine called Cinefex gave extensive coverage to the making of The Empire Strikes Back‘s special effects, I’ve pretty much been an fx geek. Setting up models against a blue screen — state of the art for the special effects industry in the ’70s and ’80s — the artists at Industrial Light & Magic would create the X-wing run down the Death Star trench, the snowspeeder attack against the AT-ATs, and the speederbike chase through the Endor forest, to name a few. These set-ups would include the models, the pylons propping them up, stage lights, the blue screen, and of course the camera — items that recently became available in an auction staged out of the old ILM facility in San Rafael, California.

Naturally, as an effects junkie and a resident of the Bay Area, this was destined to be a red-letter day.

Large crate from the ILM stage containing blue screen material

Because ILM has gone almost exclusively digital in the last decade or so, it shed off its modeling division a few years ago, with the new owners inheriting much of the old studio supplies that had served ILM for so long. But with the new studio recently disbanding, all the old lights, cameras, editing tables and booms — not to mention tables, desks, and even the contents of their drawers — were going to the auction block. With hundreds of lots available — several of which were literally room-fuls of stuff — there was a lot to scrutinize.

Pouring over scores of photos depicting the tools that created some of the most memorable effects shots in history, I’d marked about ten items of interest, two of which I and a colleague were ultimately able to win. I didn’t get everything I’d hoped to, but was glad to be able to take home a little piece of history in the end.

Below is a selection of some of the more interesting pieces of last week’s auction, at least interesting to those with a bent for analog-era special effects. To check out the entire list of lots (which are now closed), go here (Note: the photos below are a combination of our on-site photos and those posted by the auction house).

The “Vista Cruiser” motion control head used for Return of the Jedi
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Halloween Diorama: “The Cons of Being a Gonk”

Pete Vilmur | October 28, 2011

Artist Stephen Hayford shares a couple of his classic Star Wars Halloween action figure dioramas from his ever-expanding catalog of Star Wars-inspired photographs. This pair from a few years ago still gives us a giggle, although it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for our favorite little power droid (or the unfortunate trick-or-treater inside). Click the images for expanded views!

Vintage Star Wars Halloween Costumes

Pete Vilmur | October 27, 2011

Look through any family photo album from the 1970s or ’80s and you will undoubtedly happen upon a fading old photo of a young Star Wars fan decked out in one of the ubiquitous Star Wars costumes of the era, a Ben Cooper Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Yoda or any number of other characters.

Ben Cooper, a Star Wars costume licensee between 1977 and 1983, created over a dozen costumes based on characters from the original trilogy, each bearing funky graphics paired with an equally amusing plastic mask. These were made for kids, after all, and were essentially disposable with a price-point to match (usually under $4).

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1977 Halloween Greetings from the Star Wars Galaxy

Pete Vilmur | October 26, 2011

Though the Star Wars merchandising machine was a bit hit-and-miss during the Halloween season for 1977, one has to admit these early greeting cards from Drawing Board can still charm the kid in you — well, the kid whose grandma gave a greeting card for Halloween instead of a fistful of Blow Pops, that is.

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Halloween, Industrial Strength

Pete Vilmur | October 25, 2011


2011 — Shawn Feeney (video here)

For one night every year, the creative minds of Industrial Light & Magic are loosed upon the world to determine which among them — artist, sculptor, rigger, or animator — can conjure up the coolest, cleverest, creepiest or kookiest Halloween costume.

The annual ILM Halloween Party has long been a tradition for the Bay Area special effects house, an event originally staged at Industrial Light & Magic’s San Rafael, California address. Though the venue has changed in recent years, the party goes on, and with it, a new festive invitation for company employees.

Until recently, ILMers and employees of the various Lucasfilm divisions received a physical invitation to the Halloween party, which often exhibited cool and quirky artwork designed and illustrated by the ILM Art Dept. In 2009, the invitations went digital, and for 2011, the very first video invitation has been created, courtesy of ILM’s Shawn Feeney (you can check out Feeney’s stop-motion pumpkin-carving prowess here).

Be sure to also check out the last fifteen or so year’s worth of ILM Halloween Party invites below (some have been slightly modified to hide venue info), and if 2005 turns up, we’ll update the post!

2010 – Designer: Shawn Feeney

2009 — Designer: Marci Velando

Detail:
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1977 Chewbacca Disguise Kit “For Teens and Adults”

Pete Vilmur | October 24, 2011

With several false starts attempting to justify the existence of the 1977 Chewbacca 3-Piece Disguise Kit, we have decided to simply post these pics without comment…

…except to say that the final shot below is of an 11-year-old donning the “disguise” before we realized it was meant, as the package reads, “for teens and adults.”

Riiiiiiiight…