For a select number of years the shared experience that pulled me from autopilot and forced me to consider my age was a person’s first viewing of Star Wars. We want to think that basically everyone is the same as us, but in instances like this we are reminded just how different we are.
“You saw Star Wars in the theater?!” This was quickly followed by one of these:
1. “I wasn’t even alive then.”
2. “I saw it on VHS.”
3. “Is that the one with the gold guy in it?”
Today the discussion rarely comes up, proving that I’m even older now.
Those of you that personally know me will find it hard to believe, but I didn’t really like SW that much when I first saw it. Mom and Dad had heard all the hype and decided to check it out. They determined that it was ok for my brother and me to watch it and for a few days (or weeks – movies ran for much longer in the olden days) my mom tried to build it up. “You won’t believe what you are seeing. All these big ships. Lasers. Light-up swords. It is so cool!” It didn’t make much sense to me but I was always happy for the rare treat of a movie.
I don’t remember a tremendous amount about that 2hr 1min spent at the Westbury Twin. The beginning was loud. Man, that ship is biiiiggg. Why are the bad guys wearing both black and white armor? Obi-Wan Kenobi sure is cool. Han Solo is funny. I could be friends with Chewy. It’s kind of dumb that the bad guys can’t shoot better than that. I think maybe all of this stuff is real somehow.
What did stick out in my mind was this scene.
I wanted to have a club house just like Obi’s Jundland Waste chalet. Scorching dry winds. Sand everywhere. Curvy hard stuff to sit on. In all seriousness, it would have been so cool to have little fort in the backyard that looked like that.
Most importantly, I wanted that light-up sword! For years I have believed that no single thing contributed to the SW movies success more than the lightsaber. Everything else could have been terrible but this one well-executed bit of design would have produced at least a mediocre movie. Imagine that – a single prop cobbled together from grenades, lighting equipment, plumbing fixtures and such is capable of making a successful movie.
It never really occurred to me that things like this would be for sale so I didn’t really picture myself owning one. Remember, SW was the first movie that really made the strong connection of movie and merchandise. They were figuring it out on kids like me (and making Senior Lucas mucho dinero). Sure we loaded up on action figures and playsets. We saved our proofs of purchase and got the mail-in Boba Fett. What I really wanted was a good lightsaber toy. I’d seen that inflatable one at friend’s houses. Invariably it was sitting flaccid in the corner looking stupid. Played with once but, upon contact with a bratty sister’s head, now broken and tossed aside.
It needs to make the sounds. It needs to go in and out and light up just like a real one. It needs to look cool with real metal and switches and light up buttons. It needs to be solid so I can hit people and things with it.
Luckily for kids watching the theatrical re-releases, technology caught up with design and you can own an electroluminescent-bladed, really-truly sounds-right, prop-accurate lightsaber today. You can get cheap toys that look pretty good and have a fairly solid extendible and retractable blade. You can get all colors and hilt designs. This product line is now so super saturated that you can get the one used by that Jedi that only appears in the back corner of one shot before she is beheaded.
Years before all of this merch was available, I decided to take matters into my own hands and I designed and built my own light saber hilts.
I’ll show you pictures and give you details soon. I’m looking forward to sharing this with you.