Being a kid in the ’70s here in the UK was, in a word, brilliant. We had Grange Hill, Chopper bikes, flares, and Green Flashes, 8-tracks in the car, Judge Dredd in 2000 AD and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on the radio. ELO and Wings toured the world while the Sex Pistols caused scandal wherever they went, and the Bee Gees notched up what was then the biggest selling album in music history with Saturday Night Fever. Oh, and Ipswich Town won the FA Cup, beating Arsenal 1-0 (and my beloved West Bromwich Albion in the semi-finals), and the nation was still buzzing after the Silver Jubilee celebrations of ’77. But being a kid, and a hungry one at that, one of the best things about the late ’70s was the food. Monster Munch, Secret Agents, Pacers, Space Invaders, Spangles, and of course, Lyons Maid ice cream. And being a Star Wars kid in ’77 who was hungry for anything to do with the galaxy far, far away, the Star Wars tie-in with Lyons Maid ice cream was a scoop.
Posts Tagged ‘star wars in the uk’
Back in the late ’70s in the UK the word “transfer” evoked three things. It brought to mind the musical stylings of Manhattan Transfer, the record-breaking sale of Trevor Francis from Birmingham to Nottingham Forest, and Star Wars. Why Star Wars? Because back in the day for kids raised on Grange Hill, Madness, Pot Noodles, 2000 A.D. and Secret Agents the chance to rub your favorite Star Wars characters onto anything and everything was almost irresistible.
The company that had the Star Wars licence in the UK was Ashford, Kent-based company Letraset. Formed in 1959, the company made its name manufacturing typeface for application to all manner of artwork, a requirement for companies and magazines in those pre-computer typeface days. By the ’60s they applied the dry transfer technique to a children’s game called “Action Transfers” and by the ’70s had branched out into buying licences including DC Superheroes, The Rescuers, and then Star Wars.
As the 37th Star Wars Christmas arrives, it’s a great opportunity to roll back the years to the very first, in 1977, and see what it was like here in the UK. Compared to the traditional Star Wars Christmases that have followed, it was distinctly unique.
After the release and record-breaking success of Star Wars in North America on 25th May 1977, the anticipation for Star Wars in the UK was palpable. As was the way back in the ’70s and ’80s, UK audiences had to often wait months for American films to cross the Atlantic, and so all summer and autumn we heard about this groundbreaking space fantasy that broke convention and records in equal measure, full of faces familiar to UK audiences.
The eyes of sci-fi and fantasy, anime, and comics fans across the UK turned to Birmingham, the nation’s second city, over the weekend of 23rd and 24th November as Memorabilia returned to Brum for the second time this year, bringing with it stars of screens both large and small, voice actors, sports stars, cult heroes, comic artists, and writers and cosplayers of every ilk. And, as ever, it made for a fascinating two days of fun, color and vibrancy celebrating every facet of fandom.
After the golden age of Star Wars that was the ’90s — a return to the public consciousness that rivaled its heyday of the late ’70s and early ’80s and banished the shadow of the Dark Times — Star Wars was ready to enter a new era of prominence that would both unite and divide an increasingly broad fandom. By the late ’90s, that fandom crossed multiple demographics and encompassed followers of various formats of media including roleplayers, computer gamers, action figure collectors, book readers, and comic fans. It was the era of the prequels.
The Dark Times of the mid to late ’80s had passed and as we entered the 1990s brighter times lay ahead for Star Wars fans — but at the turn of the decade, that was yet to become evident to the wider Star Wars public. While rumors continued to float around about the prequel trilogy there was little movement from Lucasfilm on the Star Wars front. Indeded, Lucasfilm had recently completed their Indiana Jones trilogy and were in a busy period, releasing Willow, Howard the Duck, and Tucker: The Man and His Dream. ILM had worked on a number of special effects smashes in the late ’80s including Star Trek IV, Ghostbusters 2, The Witches of Eastwick, and Back to the Future II and III, and LucasArts was fast building a solid reputation in the computer gaming industry via such smashes as Labyrinth, Maniac Mansion, and Secret of Monkey Island. It would appear that Lucasfilm had outgrown its reliance on the galaxy far, far away and developed an identity free of Jedi, Wookiees, and Wampas.
However, in the late ’80s artist Cam Kennedy and writer Tom Veitch pitched an idea to Lucasfilm, who in turn was offered it to Marvel Comics, the longtime publishers of Star Wars comics who had let the license lapse in 1987. Marvel turned it down, despite going so far as to releasing a print ad for the series and the project – Dark Empire – found its way into the hands of Milwaukee comics publishers Dark Horse, a relatively new face on the comics scene who had proven to be adept at handling movie licenses. The title would go on to be a smash hit for Dark Horse, coming out in late 1991 after another dipping of the toes into the Star Wars pool proved to be equally as successful.
The year was 1983. Return of the Jedi had been released to great fanfare on 25th May, breaking opening day records worldwide and bringing the original trilogy to a conclusion with a blast, resolving — for the next 32 years, at least — the fates of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and the droids. As it had been for the previous six years, Star Wars was everywhere. But little did fans know, we were just a handful of years away from an era of Star Wars history known as The Dark Times.
As we dive into the post-Disney acquisition era of Lucasfilm and Star Wars I thought it might not be a bad time to take a few steps back into the past to see what loving Star Wars was like before the advent of Facebook and Twitter, before the Internet, before DVDs, Hasbro, Dark Horse, and even before Star Wars Insider. I’m talking about the late ’70s and being a Star Wars fan here in the UK.
“If there’s a bright center to the universe you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.”
Any Star Wars fan worth his or her salt knows that Luke Skywalker was talking about his adopted home world of Tatooine, but last month, Farthest From — a retro Star Wars toy show — was right here on planet earth in the UK, in the middle of the New Forest and a small village called Fordingbridge.
For the past three years, event organizer Dave Tree (you may know him as the brains behind Celebration Europe’s massively popular 2007 Palitoy Archive exhibit, a display so incredible it reduced Dengar himself, Simon Pegg, to nostalgic tears of joy) has held events in the town. First he hosted two Fordingbridge Film and TV Festivals, the first of which saw original trilogy and Indiana Jones producer Robert Watts present the UK’s only showing that year of Raiders of the Lost Ark and then bringing Farthest From to the Town Hall in September and now December of 2012.