Author Archive



A Flood and a Box of Cards Bring Home the Real Joy of Star Wars

Steve Sansweet | April 9, 2013

Sometimes it take a near-disaster as well as happy news to remind us what has made — and keeps — Star Wars so strong and such an important part of the lives of so many of us around the world. When it all happens in the space of just seven days, it’s like a bright neon sign flashing the word COMMUNITY.

Let me tell you about my week. About an hour into a guided tour of Rancho Obi-Wan on Monday for eight adults and two children, my friend and museum general manager Anne Neumann appeared at the top of the stairs with as serious a look as I’ve ever seen on her face. “Steve, there’s a major problem in the garage. Come now!” she spit out breathlessly, then turned and left. I couldn’t imagine what was up, only remembering that the garage was filled with scores of cardboard boxes filled with thousands of books and magazines that might — or might not — be duplicates of what we had in the collection. There were also cardboard store displays and more boxes filled with old and new collectibles that were awaiting integration into the museum.

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George Lucas’ Grand Vision Ties Together the Wonders of Art and Storytelling

Steve Sansweet | March 11, 2013

Brocure cover

Years ago I had a dream. My collection of Star Wars memorabilia kept growing. And while friends could stop by sometimes and see it, wouldn’t it be great to have some way to actually share it with a lot of other fans and collectors! It took a great deal of planning and a lot of time, but the result is Rancho Obi-Wan.

George Lucas announced his latest dream to the world last week. It’s somewhat more expansive than mine, but born of the same kinds of passions: falling in love with something, having the chance to collect what you love, and then sharing it with the world. The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum will be an institution like no other: It will concentrate on populist illustrative art that tells a story, art that goes back more than a century and a half and continues into tomorrow with the latest in the digital and cinematic arts.

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Flat Stanley’s Phantasmagorical Visit To Rancho Obi-Wan: Star Wars Heaven!

Steve Sansweet | February 25, 2013

I'm Flat Stanley.

by Flat Stanley as told to Steve Sansweet (Photos by Anne Neumann)

Hi! My name is Flat Stanley. If you’re of a certain age, you may have met me in school. I was born in a 1964 book by Jeff Brown, but I still look like I go to elementary school because that’s part of the magic of books and reading. I get to travel all over the world thanks to tens of thousands of students who read my adventures and a group called The Flat Stanley Project. I’m even an App!

But this is about one of my recent trips, a 2,636-mile journey from Mrs. Moore’s first-grade class at Six Mile Elementary School in Six Mile, South Carolina, to a magical place called Rancho Obi-Wan about an hour north of San Francisco. I guess I could have taken buses, but even nonstop that would have taken 39 hours — and that’s a long time to be sealed inside an envelope. Instead I was lovingly tucked into a FedEx pack and whisked away. It was marked “Extremely Urgent,” and boy, did that ever make me feel important!

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ILM’s Model-Making Masters of the Universe

Steve Sansweet | February 11, 2013

There was a panel at a relatively small model show Saturday in the community center of my relatively small town, Petaluma, California, population 57,941. That’s not nearly as small as most semi-rural towns in wine country, but for a guy born in Philadelphia it sure is.

There were about 2,000 people who filled the center all day. The display we had at the Rancho Obi-Wan table attracted folks for the length of the show. There were babies in strollers and grizzled granddads whose lifelong hobby has been building exquisite scratch-built and model kits.

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In the Star Wars Galaxy, Innovation Leaps from Screen to Toy Aisle

Steve Sansweet | January 28, 2013

Just about everyone reading this knows how innovative Lucasfilm has been since its founding in 1971. And much of that innovation was spurred by George Lucas’ desire to do and show things onscreen — specifically in his Star Wars movies — that had never been done before. In fact, he’s long been one of the leaders in cinema’s digital revolution.

But that’s not what I had in mind here. I want to talk about the stuff, the merchandise. Has that same sense of innovation carried through to at least some of the hundreds of thousands of items that have been produced worldwide over more than three decades?

Of course, in the toy businesses innovation means something a lot different than devising ways to film spaceship battles or digital picture and sound editing systems. There are problems of size, pricing, and scale, for example. Trying to take the latest cutting-edge technology developed for military or industrial use and making it “toyetic,” could be hazardous to a company’s health. Adapting proven technology through clever adaptation and design, however, is another matter.

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Star Wars, Christmas, and Droidels!

Steve Sansweet | December 21, 2012

1_UK comic cover

If you take a moment to think about it, Star Wars and Christmas make very strange bedfellows, as this 1983 U.K. comic cover shows. There’s nothing in the movies themselves that comes close to a festive holiday except for the spontaneous galaxy-wide victory celebration at the end of Episode VI. The infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special and its depiction of Life Day is nothing more than a botched attempt to create a Christmas simulacrum.

Now I may have missed them, but I don’t recall seeing sets of Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk holiday lights. Dr. Who tree toppers are probably stored away on the Tardis. And while there may be festive nutcrackers of Planet of the Apes‘ Cornelius and Dr. Zaius, I’ve never seen them.

So why Star Wars and Christmas? It’s just one more indication that Star Wars quickly became an all-encompassing, once-in-a-generation phenomenon — that kind of singular sensation that can’t be created by publicity, advertising, or marketing muscle. And as a long-lived, multi-generational phenomenon, we’ll still have Star Wars when Honey Boo Boo is in her 40s and people will be asking “Honey who?”

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Speculation Season Starts: Let the Sequel Trilogy Rumors Begin!

Steve Sansweet | December 3, 2012

1. Could a digital Bea Arthur run another cantina

Did you hear? They’re going to do a digital model of Bea Arthur from the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special and make her a bartender in Episode VII!

Did you know? The next Star Wars trilogy was actually fully plotted out in 1966 before George Lucas even graduated from the University of Southern California!

Do you believe it? In Episode IX, Princess Leia and Han Solo finally get married after previous multiple marriages to other beings, and the combined families of 27 children and 36 grandchildren live with them in a crowded tree house on Endor!

Ahem. What do Star Wars fans like to do almost more than anything else? Speculate about things they do not know, of course. It’s a fun pastime, any number can play, and it doesn’t matter how absurd the postings are since someone out there will likely believe them. Even now I get a worried chill that somebody is going to repost one or all of my three absurdities as gospel despite their ridiculousness.

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Rancho Obi-Wan: From Dream to Reality (with Some Help from the IRS)

Steve Sansweet | November 21, 2012

ROW blog6

What a difference a year makes!

It was just last November that we finally finished building my dream — or, at least, the foundation of it. After 18 months of planning and lots of hard work from countless contractors, friends who volunteered a bazillion hours of their time, and lots of patience and luck, we incorporated Rancho Obi-Wan Inc. as a California nonprofit public benefit corporation. And then we had a Grand Reopening party for 180 people including 30 volunteers.

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Lucasfilm + Disney = More Star Wars and Great Times for Fans

Steve Sansweet | October 30, 2012

Today’s double-barreled announcement – that The Walt Disney Co. is buying Lucasfilm Ltd. and that more Star Wars movies are going to be made starting almost immediately – has me pinching myself – but this is no dream. For me, and for countless millions of fellow Star Wars fans worldwide, this thunderclap couldn’t possibly be any better. Let me explain.

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Ewoks & Wookiees & Droids, Oh My! A Halloween Tale of Star Wars’ Vinyl Past

Steve Sansweet | October 22, 2012

Assortment photo by Pete VIlmur

How strong was the Star Wars frenzy in 1977? That year a stylized version of the Star Wars movie poster blew past the top-selling poster of all time, that of Charlie’s Angels star and blond sex symbol Farrah Fawcett (look her up in Wikipedia, kids!). So is it any wonder that everyone wanted to be a character from a far-away galaxy that Halloween?

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