The Star Wars saga has shown us that Han, Luke, Leia, and company had regular brushes with danger, fighting their way out of close scrapes and situations. Here on Earth, the kids of the ’70s and ’80s faced similar terrors, albeit of a slightly less stellar nature. Moms and dads worldwide, desperate to find a way to get their kids to get into the daily routine of brushing their teeth, quickly realized that there was no better way to make it happen than to give their kids the coolest option in oral hygiene — Star Wars toothbrushes. And so it was that from the late ’70s to the mid ’80s kids were raging about their new toothbrushes, adorned with a selection of their favorite characters. Just think, you could brush and go with Threepio, fight the plaque to Hoth and back, scrub your gums with Rebel chums and safely chew thanks to Artoo. Battling tooth decay had suddenly become fun.
Archive for ‘Collecting’
Happy Rancor explores hidden gems in and around the orbit of Star Wars — from old video games to comics to underrated novels — that have maybe been forgotten, but deserve a little more consideration. In this installment, we take a look at Star Wars toys that require proofs of purchase, postage, and patience.
One element of Star Wars collecting that I’ve always found fascinating is the mail-away action figure, a designation usually reserved for characters especially important to the saga or those that are just visually interesting and mysterious. The process is pretty straightforward: clip and send in “proof of purchase” UPC bar codes from previously purchased items in exchange for a free (more or less, depending on whether or not a shipping payment is required), not-available-anywhere-else toy. It isn’t immediately evident, but mail-aways have quite a big legacy in the history of Star Wars merchandise. This piece is a light history of mail-aways, combined with some autobiography regarding my experience with these special figures.
When I was approached to write a blog for StarWars.com, I was a bit scared. Terrified actually.
I am not a writer at all. To be honest, I am grammatically challenged.
Working for Lucasfilm was a dream come true. I have been a Star Wars fan since my parents took me to see A New Hope in 1978 at the Van Buren drive-in. Little me would be peeing his pants if he knew then that he would work for Star Wars. I have done four art pieces for Lucasfilm. All of them were extremely fun and exciting to make.
I was approached to write this at one of the busiest times I’ve ever had, and I wanted to put it off…BUT…I was working on a new piece for Lucasfilm and Acme Archives, so I thought this would be a perfect chance for me to write a little bit about my process.
During the time of the first three films, there were significant barriers standing between kids and the Star Wars stuff they craved. The drive to Children’s Palace or Kiddie City or Gold Circle was, for most of us, insurmountable. The only way we could get to one of those places, with all their light and treasure, was usually at the tail-end of a larger negotiation of good behavior. Or a birthday. Or straight-up blackmail. As it has been for every generation, going to the toy store was never a frequent enough visit. And since there was no Internet or rec.star.wars.fanz.hanshotfirst.woot, the only place kids could interact with the Star Wars universe was in their front driveways, bashing their little brothers with a piece of plastic pipe stuck into an old bike grip.
There had to be a better way.
Luckily, there was. The best place where young fans of the film could interact with the toys, and thus the movie, was in the paper-thin pages of a Christmas catalog: the Sears Holiday Wish Book. And the best part? It was already being delivered to their homes for free.
Just as there are many characters in the Star Wars universe, there are many sides to Star Wars fandom. Cosplay, comics, trading cards, art — we all focus our passion somewhere. Many fans channel their love of the saga through Star Wars collecting. When you keep at the hobby for years or even decades, you get to know fellow fans along the way. Some collectors look out for each other and keep eyes open for a treasure on someone else’s list and bonding over the hunt for memorabilia can lead to lifelong friendships. You not only acquire collectibles, you acquire connections.
I spoke with a few fans about their collections and people they’ve met along the way.
In the part one of “15 Years of LEGO Star Wars“, I looked at the introduction of the mashup franchise through to the end of 2005 and the release of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge on the Sith. Part two of this retrospective looks at the period between 2006 and 2010 which includes the 10th anniversary of LEGO Star Wars and the introduction of the first sets from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. By the end of 2005 we’d seen 124 sets released which included over 125 different minifigures.
Star Wars has a rich legacy of firsts. When it first came out in 1977, A New Hope was wholly different from any science-fiction story ever told and it broke the mold. Not only that, but it recast how the business of movies could be run by revealing the power of merchandising. Nowadays every big kids’ movie has an obligatory toy line, but Star Wars was the first to see its potential. As a corollary to that, the 501st Legion was the first Star Wars fan club (or fan club of any franchise, really) to see itself plugged right into the product line of the very universe it sought to celebrate.
It’s both exciting and humbling to witness. Here is a fictional universe that one man imagined and countless millions have enjoyed. Thousands of artists, authors, and editors have contributed to populate it to George Lucas’ standards. But to imagine the fans themselves being welcomed into the canon is just inspiring.
The story of how the 501st became Star Wars canon is a story for another blog. Since 2004, Lucasfilm has owned the rights to the 501st Legion name and I couldn’t be happier. Every so often I browse a toy store or a convention floor and out of nowhere there’s 501st merchandise for the offering. Wow. So here’s a quick and incomplete list of the cool items I’ve seen come out. If you’ve seen more feel free to contact me and we’ll add it to the list.
At some point in late 2005 / early 2006 a blue clone trooper figure appeared in Japan stores featuring the title “Vader’s Legion.” This may seem a coincidence, but the bottom of the package left no room for doubt: amid the Japanese lettering, it read “501″ in the description. I can only guess they had not secured permission from us yet to use our name and found this description a good compromise.
In today’s world, when communication is conducted largely by the tapping of a keyboard and the click of a mouse and deletions are executed by the pressing of the backspace button, excitement over erasers — or rubbers, as we commonly call them here in the UK — may seem odd. But back in the day, when rubbers were among the many cool branded items you could grab at a cheap price that had the characters and vehicles of Star Wars on them, they were an essential purchase. And importantly, they were a great way of showing your love of the movie to your fellow fans at school while pretending to focus on the teacher at the front of the class. We had pencil cases, pens, pencils, rulers, sharpeners, stationary sets, and more, but back in the days when fragrant erasers were still allowed to be sold in the UK, Star Wars erasers were an essential tool in one’s school supplies pouch.