So Long, I’m Off to See the New Star Wars

I went to the theater today to pick up these babies:

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The scene at the local cineplex was rather subdued, presumably because it was 36 degrees out, a little chilly for prancing around in your Slave Leia outfit.

As I write this, many of you are in the midst of seeing “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” for the very first time.

I won’t be posting tomorrow because a good deal of my day will be consumed with doing the same. The blog will probably feature a review of the film at some point, hopefully in the next few days.

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I didn’t want to end “The Force Awakens” countdown without saying thank you to the amazing friends and fellow fans who took an interest in this month-long celebration of all things Star Wars.

I deeply appreciated and enjoyed your comments, your thoughts, your theories, your hopes, your participation and interest, even the odd complaint that there was just too much Star Wars going on. (Too much Star Wars?!? Ha!)

Thank you to the contributors who helped me fill those posts daily, for sharing your heart and memories, for going through your scrapbooks: William Schiller, Shaun Griffith, Fawn Kemble, Shawna of EarthtoShawna.com, Brenna Humann, Jacob Patterson, Eric Schoen, Nick Vroman and David Rivas.

The Force is strong with you.

As we end the countdown, I’ll leave you with a few parting gifts. May the Force be with you always.

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If you loved the Jimmy Fallon and The Roots video, or if you’re a fan of Oscar Isaac, you might like this.

If you’re sick of trying to dodge spoilers, here’s some you can actually look at because they were made up by Stephen Colbert.

If you’re marathoning the original trilogy — plus or minus the prequels — before you head to the theater, here are some tips for turning that into an epic viewing party.

Fortify yourself before “The Force Awakens” or celebrate afterward with these yummy themed cocktails.

While you’re standing in line, plan your next vacation …

Or enjoy a good laugh.

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After the midnight screening, this should be your breakfast.

Put a little romance into your “Force Awakens” experience with this crazy couple.

If you’re wondering how the movie is going to shape up at the box office, here are some early numbers.

And this just proves that Star Wars fans in the UK are awesome.

Photos: http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk; http://www.gq.com; Disney Family. 

 

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The ‘Force Awakens’ Wait is Almost Over! Let’s Do This Thing

About a week ago, I realized that all this waiting for “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” has become almost second nature.

For a long time, I felt like we would just wait and wait and wait for this new chapter in the Star Wars saga. It’s been a pleasure unto itself, all this waiting, the anticipation. And then, I realized.

We are actually going to see it. The day we have waited for is going to happen.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Stormtroopers attend the World Premiere of ?Star Wars: The Force Awakens? at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Stormtroopers march at the world premiere of ‘The Force Awakens’ at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres Dec. 14 in Hollywood. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

For many of you, that day is tomorrow. You’ll be standing in line with your fellow fans to get your seats for evening or midnight shows. Soon you’ll know if all this waiting was worth it.

The rest of us will find out on Friday when “The Force Awakens” is officially released. (If you don’t see it in the first few days of release, well, that’s just a tragedy.)

“The Force Awakens” is about to become a reality, not just a hope. Our countdown is winding down.

I think even if I end up hating what J.J. Abrams has done with the franchise, I won’t regret this time we’ve spent obsessing together over Star Wars. There truly has been an awakening of the Force and it has been nerdy, silly, hysterical, joyful, more than a little insane, and magnificent.

My only regret is that I can’t travel back in time to grab my junior high self — the one who pretended to be an X-Wing pilot in the backseat on long car trips and pored over copies of Lucasfilm Magazine to see how it all worked — and bring her to 2015 so she can witness this moment. She’d never believe it otherwise.

But I know this would create a giant rift of some kind in the space-time continuum and maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe that junior high girl is still here, after all, loving all this crazy adoration of the thing she loved crazily so many years ago.

Early indications are that Abrams has  not failed to revitalize George Lucas’ beloved, slightly tarnished legacy. As I scrolled through Twitter last night, I saw a litany of early reviews. Judging by the headlines, all but one of them was positive. “The Force Awakens” currently has a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

I’m not going to read any of the reviews until I’ve seen “The Force Awakens” for myself, but I’m posting some links here, if you’re inclined to look at them.

Many of them claim to be spoiler-free, but proceed at your own risk:

New York Times review
L.A. Times
Variety
Hollywood Reporter
Chicago Tribune

Time will tell, as it did with the prequels, whether the critics are correct in their very early, mostly enthusiastic assessment of this new generation of Star Wars lore.

Now’s not the time to worry about that though. As you head to the theater to hang out with some of the most fascinating and fun fans you’ll ever meet, to finally see this thing we’ve all been waiting for, I hope it’s a night to remember.

This shared experience proves once again, as Yoda said:

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.

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P.S.

This is the best thing on the Internet right now.

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My 2-year-old daughter and I have watched the Jimmy Fallon video I don’t know how many times today. And we spent the rest of the day humming the John Williams theme around the house.

What a score that is! It never fails to evoke a powerful emotional response. It just stirs you.

Let’s hum it all the way to the theater and back.

Photos: moviepilot.com, http://www.starwars.com, http://www.youtube.com.

It’s High Time You Got to Know Oscar Isaac (aka Poe)

My introduction to Oscar Isaac was the 2006 movie “The Nativity Story.”

Isaac played a hunky, sensitive Joseph to Keisha Castle-Hughes’ underage Mary in director Catherine Hardwicke’s take on the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.

I certainly noticed the actor, but there was nothing at the time to indicate what a versatile, intriguing performer he would become. Or perhaps he always was, but didn’t have the chance to show it until many years later.

Now, of course, Isaac is about to become a household name, as fighter pilot Poe in “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens.”

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In trailers and promotions, the actor hasn’t enjoyed as much play as John Boyega, aka Finn, or Daisy Ridley, who portrays Rey.

We know his character is an X-Wing pilot and a soldier in the Resistance. We’ve seen him shaking hands with Finn and being tortured by Kylo Renn. He may be master of adorable droid BB-8. But Poe remains largely shrouded in mystery.

That’s appropriate because J.J. Abrams could not have selected a more mysterious actor to portray this key figure in the new Star Wars trilogy.

Isaac didn’t really land on Hollywood’s radar until 2010 and 2011, when he played a pair of showy villains: a hot-tempered, lascivious Prince John to Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood and abusive brothel manager/asylum orderly Blue Jones in Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch.”

Neither movie was very good, but Isaac delivered memorably flamboyant performances in both of them. The films weren’t really an indication, however, of the cinematic nuance Isaac is capable of.

Despite appearing in many movies of note, including “Drive” and “The Bourne Legacy,” there are only three roles you need to see if you’re wondering why Abrams cast Isaac in “The Force Awakens.”

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Llewyn Davis, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” 2013

As the title character in Joel and Ethan Coen’s electrifyingly beautiful, achingly sad folk drama, Isaac leaves a lofty and lasting impression. This is one of the Coens’ love it or hate it films and it was roundly ignored by the Academy come Oscar time. I could deal with that, but not with the fact that they totally snubbed Isaac, my pick for best actor that year.

Capitalizing on his Juilliard education and experience as a guitarist and vocalist, Isaac takes a character who is basically a complete jerk and shows us his worth while delivering soulful, convincing renditions of folk songs, circa 1960s Greenwich Village.

Thanks to the actor, we may never grow to love Llewyn Davis, but we understand him — a tortured artist who cannot function in a world that has turned its back on true art.

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Abel Morales, “A Most Violent Year,” 2014

Isaac embraces his inner Al Pacino, but not in a way that feels crass or derivative in this anti-gangster film by up-and-coming director J.C. Chandor.

As an immigrant’s son, who sets out to use his considerable optimism and determination to build a business empire in 1980s New York, without falling victim to the corruption that surrounds him, the actor radiates confidence mingled with an increasing desperation.

Jessica Chastain plays his wife, the daughter of a jailed mob boss. She’s the Lady Macbeth to Isaac’s would-be empire builder. Together, they whip this drama into a frenzy of tragedy, as Abel wills himself to resist temptation, even as he is manipulated by virtually everyone he knows.

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Nathan Bateman, “Ex Machina,” 2015

The actor’s gift for evoking menace, mystery, and even a hint of comedy, is on full display in this sleek, suspenseful, breathtakingly twisty science-fiction thriller.

Isaac appears opposite “Force Awakens” co-star Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, of “The Danish Girl,” as a sort of bizarre, tech-savvy Willy Wonka, presiding over a strange contest involving the development of an uncannily lifelike artificial intelligence.

Nathan Bateman is the genius creator of a Google-like search engine, who lures Caleb, one of his brightest programmers, not to a chocolate factory but a pristine, minimalist compound in the mountainous middle of nowhere. Part Steve Jobs, part frat boy, Nathan is, well, a total tool who drinks heavily, says “dude” a lot and displays confounding mood swings.

Isaac builds layer upon layer into what could have easily been a one-note role, injecting weird humor into his character’s darkness. And he participates in one of the funniest, most disturbing dance sequences in cinema history.

I’m pretty sure Poe’s got nothing on his moves.

Photos: http://www.latino-review.com; insidellewyndavisfilm.tumblr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.cineplex.com.

‘For the Love of The Force’: A Fanboy’s Plea to J.J. Abrams

By WILLIAM SCHILLER

My first experience with a “New Hope” began well before it had that name. I couldn’t have told you this, as I wasn’t very verbal at the time. Instead it was told to me by my mother.

I was only three, and my mother dragged her family out to a 10-o-clock late show on a week night, to quench her love of good science fiction. The movie played and the titles rolled, and as the lights of the theater brightened, she found her husband and 8-year-old child sound asleep, but her 3-year-old son wired for sound.

That mother could have been concerned that perhaps she had given her child a lifelong trauma, but instead she had started the genesis of what could be called a fanboy. This was only confirmed when my older sister left shortly after for summer camp, and my mother gave me a choice of something fun to do while she was away –- anything that little boy asked for, she would make happen, and happen it did. For two weeks straight, my mother watched Star Wars in a matinée showing at the local movie theater, every day.

Soon there were action figures — I learned to overcome many childhood fears with bribes of Star Wars toys, and soon had duplicates of some. Years passed, and I have grown with the teachings of the Jedi. I always enjoyed certain bragging rights to geeks of my age: I have seen every movie within the series, all of them within the theater, and always had copies, legal or not, of the films at home.

Funny thing about being a truly rabid fan though, you can’t always relate to others the way you want to. None of my friends had somehow ever seen the only once-shown “Star Wars Holiday Special,” but I had; and since old George bought up and destroyed all existence of it soon after, I always felt like explaining it to others was like talking to someone who was sleepwalking -– they weren’t going to remember it tomorrow, and they sure weren’t getting it now.

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As I grew to become as old and jaded as a good Gen X-er can be, I found my inner boy child when the “Menace” was announced, and soon I had all of the posters and lame fast food merchandising that flooded the market before all of the other high-end toys would be produced. I sat with a Gameboy waiting for a midnight release showing to start, and loved every minute of it. Profoundly buoyed by the fanboy base around me, soon my brother-in-law started to compete with me on how many times we could see the film. My exuberance only began to wane nearing the 20th viewing within three weeks.

My wife and I, my brother-in-law and his friends made trips to larger and better theater experiences for the remainder of the prequels, and found ourselves at various crossroads. Love and hate for the films, and ticket lines with very young Jedis that made us all wonder if it was in fact whining that drew someone to the Dark Side, as Hayden Christensen seemed to prove.

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William Schiller, right, and brother-in-law Paul Humann.

In time, we all came to agree with the Star Wars outsider of our group and her insight that could only come from not drinking the Kool-Aid. Not that we didn’t love the taste of it, but we realized the subtle undertones we experienced as fans became like those of a sommelier trying to sell wine at an Oktoberfest beer tent. A hard sell indeed.

In admitting this, even now I have taken a huge step -– after all, my mother had to see “Empire” twice in one day, when that same little boy cried his eyes out, running from the theater after Luke lost his hand, but having to return with his mother’s encouragement to find resolution. Since that day, I have grown and come full circle as a fan.

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One of the amazing things about getting old is that it lessens the blows that life has to give. I have lived a life that flowed with and without The Force. At first, I saw myself in Luke, and now I understand an old Kenobi. I have children of my own, I have lost loved ones to fates that they could never have deserved, and once again I hear the calling of a new war. I will heed this call with somewhat less exuberance, dressed in the gear of my brethren nerds.

I know we all have the same thought: We will love seeing another chapter in a series that has been such a part of our lives. But for the love of The Force, please don’t mess this up, J.J. The fans have some scars that haven’t healed enough for salt to be lightly thrown around in this part of our world.

And please not one Gungan. Not one.

It’s been too long of a fan life to have one more Gungan.

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William Schiller is a father, husband, brother, and nit-picky nerd over nonessential knowledge that only gets someone somewhere when they are in a college writing class. He still has fond memories of Bea Arthur as a bartender with a heart of gold in the Mos Eisley Cantina. 

Photos and graphics courtesy of William Schiller.
X-Wing and TIE fighters photo: http://www.starwars.com.

 

Celebrating 100 Blog Posts with 7 Days to Go Until ‘The Force Awakens’

Today, we are one week away from the official opening day of “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens.”

It also happens to be the day of my 100th blog post.

In another happy coincidence, the two-year anniversary of the launching of this blog is Dec. 17, the day “The Force Awakens” debuts in early screenings.

Nearly two years ago, I was on bed rest and bored out of my mind after pregnancy complications. I had been out of work for almost two months and hadn’t written a thing. I was considering organizing my photos to pass the time when I had a conversation with my sister.

“Don’t organize your photos,” she said. “Start your blog.”

It just so happened that I had the subject of a post in mind. I wrote it, then very awkwardly began learning the basics of WordPress. And here we are.

Two years of blogging has been fun, freeing and often frustrating. I appreciate my tiny, devoted and extremely gracious band of readers, but sometimes this feels like a thankless task.

I had lost much of my motivation for blogging when I had another conversation with my sister, this one about a crazy idea to count down to the release of “The Force Awakens,” with new, Star Wars-related content almost every day for a month.

That crazy idea has turned out to be a blast and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for writing about and editing all things nerdy and cinematic.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, and I’m glad we still have an entire week to go.

In celebration of the 100th post at lavendervroman.com, I’ve decided to re-run one of my favorite essays from the blog, an oldie but goodie that very much applies to the warm, affectionate feelings I have for you, dear readers, and the entire Star Wars community.

Here it is. Let’s keep enjoying this moment together. There’s no telling how long it will last.

I Hope My Daughter Grows Up to Be a Nerd
(originally posted April 28, 2014)

Several years ago, when my husband and I still attended the San Diego Comic-Con — back when it was more fun than exhausting — we would occasionally observe a couple pushing a stroller through the crowd, grim looks on their faces as the Red Sea of sweaty fanboys refused to part for them.

“They’re nuts,” I used to say.

It was time for me to eat my words when we decided to take our 3-month-old daughter to WonderCon Anaheim, the cozier little sister to San Diego’s towering pop culture extravaganza.

We booked a hotel attached to the Anaheim Convention Center, packed up the million items of baby ephemera required for an overnight trip with an infant, outfitted the little munchkin in a yoda hat stitched by a crafty cousin and made the pilgrimage to our favorite geek mecca. Our baby’s “Doctor Who”-worshiping aunt came along for moral support.

Soon I had become one half of THAT couple, maneuvering a stroller through hordes of spandex-clad superheroes, unidentifiable anime critters and hairy dudes declaring, via T-shirt, their allegiance to DC or Marvel. As the husband headed off in the direction of the Warner Bros. panel, the aunt and I waited for the exhibit hall to open and my tiny daughter got her first eyeful of the convention’s colorful passersby.

As Batmen in black body armor, Stormtroopers armed with blasters, gender-bending Thors and Lokis, wispy Elsas from “Frozen” and a guy painted entirely silver to look like a certain surfboard-carrying comic book character paraded in front of her, my baby’s eyes grew wide. She had entered a strange new world.

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That’s when I got to thinking. Many parents want their children to grow up to be doctors, lawyers, ballet dancers, Olympic gymnasts or the president of the United States. Those pursuits are certainly admirable but when I think about my daughter’s future, I have a different fate in mind. I hope she grows up to be a nerd.

I suppose the odds are in my favor. My little girl wakes up every morning in a house littered with the traces of her parents’ geekdom. Posters of “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” line the walls. Display cases full of Legos dominate the living room. Boxes of action figures are crammed into closets. Shelves overflow with books, many of them science fiction and fantasy. And on the mantle over the fireplace sits one of those fancy replica lightsabers, a cherished Christmas gift from dad to mom.

In this house, Sunday nights are dedicated to “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones,” the latest “Star Wars” news is hashed over and then rehashed and though we’re not a big comic book family, you’d better believe we’ll be there Friday when the latest Marvel movie hits theaters.

Most of our friends are nerds, too. Unlike the stereotype, they’re not 35-year-old men living in their mothers’ basements, playing World of Warcraft and guzzling Mountain Dew. They’re well adjusted, intelligent, productive members of society who also happen to read feminist comic books, debate the merits of “Star Wars” vs. “Star Trek,” play “The Elder Scrolls” online, re-read the Harry Potter books annually, line up at midnight for movies, countdown to the next seasons of “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who” and get excited about Hayao Miyazaki.

These are some of the coolest, smartest, most fascinating people I know and that’s why I hope my daughter doesn’t choose to rebel against her nerd heritage in favor of a boring existence. Many people slog through life doing the bare minimum — going to work, going home to spend the night sitting in front of some reality TV show.

Nerds want more. They’re not satisfied with reality and the status quo. Their imaginations are always churning, always musing, always wondering: wouldn’t it be cool if … time travel was possible, vampires existed, the zombie apocalypse happened, there was life on other planets, some rich dude with a cave and clever gadgets could save society from the evil within or if a British time lord could alter the course of history.

Nerds are passionate and playful. When they care about something they really care. They don’t do things by halves. They’re obsessed and they want to share that obsession with you. They’re not content to just watch or listen, they want to live it, collect it, wear it on a T-shirt, write about it in an Internet chat room, join a club or — as evidenced by the number of people who indulge in cosplay at WonderCon and similar events around the country — transform themselves into their favorite characters.

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Some would argue that such obsessions are childish, pointless and don’t make a difference, but the sheer momentum of nerd passion has turned comic book and fantasy movies into a billion dollar industry in Hollywood, resurrected cancelled television shows, united scores of disconnected individuals and, yes, even accomplished some good in the world.

Take, for instance, The Harry Potter Alliance, thehpalliance.org, a self-described “coalition” of Harry Potter fans who have launched campaigns for literacy, equality and human rights around the world, donating books to impoverished kids, sending disaster relief supplies to Haiti, building a library and pressuring Warner Bros. about the use of child labor in the manufacturing of Harry Potter chocolates.

I’d go so far as to say that the world would be a better place if we were all just a little bit nerdier. I hope my daughter grows up to love a television show dearly, to take an enthusiastic stance when it comes to “Star Wars” or “Star Trek,” Marvel or DC, to adore a movie so much she can’t stop talking about it, to create a costume so she can “become” her favorite cartoon character, to acquire a ravenous taste for books, especially fiction and fantasy.

I hope she embraces and is embraced by other nerds as warmly as I have been embraced by them. If she can find it in her heart to do this, I know she’ll be happy.

Photos: Nick Vroman, Lavender Vroman.

Star Wars More Than a Movie for Lifelong Collector

EDITOR’S NOTE: Few things have had more influence on the life of collector Shaun Griffith than Star Wars. Below, he discusses his enthrallment with the franchise and shares prized items from his collection. Some of these may take you back. FYI, he’s selling off some of his collection gradually on eBay. 

By SHAUN GRIFFITH

I don’t remember the first time I saw Star Wars. I’ve only heard the story from my mom. I was 2 1/2 and sat enthralled with “The Empire Strikes Back.”

I don’t remember my first Star Wars action figure. I only remember them always being there. At the age of 5, my room changed from Mickey/Disney themed to Star Wars. My mom had made over my room without me knowing. It was an awesome surprise. Posters on the wall (still have them), shelves of Star Wars paraphernalia, a comforter and pillow set (long gone now). The decor hung around for nearly a decade before items began to go into the archive.

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Shaun Griffith with Darth Vader at his sixth birthday party.

An only child, I took great care of all of my collections, Star Wars chief among them. Every action figure handled with great care … except for Boba, who found himself buried in the sandlot at some point.

A family friend was kind enough to put all three films on an EP VHS (it’s around here somewhere). Full framed, VHS played to the nth degree. Every time I was sick, home from school, which happened a lot, being a sickly kid, was filled with Star Wars. I was a devoted canon only kid. The novel spinoffs never appealed. Extended universe … blah.  If Lucas didn’t write it, I didn’t care.

Before “Phantom Menace” was released, I had a Santa Barbara News Press interview and was even quoted. Star Wars was more than a movie for me. I grew up fatherless, always wondering. At a church men’s conference, I discussed “confronting” my father one day.

Someone asked why I saw it as a negative, as a confrontation. Star Wars fans will understand the context. I laughed and acknowledged that I used that specific word because of Star Wars.
Ashamedly, I was Luke, minus a couple of droids and Ben Kenobi to launch me on my quest.

“Phantom Menace” fell flat with most fans but I was never a hater. “Phantom Menace” was the first time that I was able to join in with a large group of friends, camp out all night at the Riviera in anticipation of greatness.

After it was over, a college friend and I got in the car. He was let down. I wasn’t. I’d never known sci-fi community before that. It was greatness. People dressed up. We cheered. Time stopped for me.

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When Lucas sold to Disney I was glad. Episodes 7-9 would finally be made. He had said he’d never make them and I trusted Disney to do it right. I have no qualms about the forthcoming. It will be everything that everyone wanted “Phantom Menace” to be.

“The Force Awakens” parallels the reawakening of many a fan. It will inspire both new and old nearly 40 years after the original … . A New Hope unto itself.

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Bo Marr Monk. One of my favorite characters. Only featured in the background at Jabba’s palace. I was always fascinated. Had to mail away for this figure in the mid ’90s.

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Love these CDs, particularly Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes.

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Part of my sticker collection. RotJ stickers up top. Not so much a fan of the cartoonish
Ewok ones … reminds me of the Ewok cartoon. Love the mugshot-like figure stickers at the bottom; the fact that they pronounce the names, priceless.

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This was played many, many times. The New Hope soundtrack. Yes, I had
a VHS bootleg with all three films on one tape, however, I still played the soundtrack and
pictured it all in my head. Plus this album looks badass.

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Never played, still in the package card games. 

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When you’re traveling intergalactically, you must bring along your passport.

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Long before those recent lipsticks were produced, here you have Yoda Bubble Bath and Darth Vader soap. I had a C3PO soap too, but it disintegrated. Tossed it a few years ago.

IMG_0732Buttons! I have a button collection, however, these were never mingled with them.

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IMG_0735ESB & RotJ … note the improvements in coloring skills.

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RotJ comics, 1-4.

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This defined Star Wars action figures. Everyone had one of two cases, this one and/or the C3PO one. This case got a ton of use.

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Not vintage. Had to mail away. But I still get a kick out of it. George Lucas as a Stormtrooper, who could resist?

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Cork board. Lightly used. Still looks good.

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I subscribed to Star Wars Insider in the ’90s. I had several copies, however, this cover is particularly funny.

Shaun Griffith is a California native and a Hayward farmer (non-moisture) who went south to become a Santa Barbara Gaucho with a degree in film. He is married to an LBC princess with a sci-fi allergy. He works as an eCommerce Ops manager for a company with conference rooms named Ewok and Chewbacca and presently resides in the Bay of the Half Moon.

Photos courtesy of Shaun Griffith.
“The Phantom Menace” photo: YouTube.com.

Inside Disneyland’s Star Wars: Season of the Force, Part 2

Photos by FAWN KEMBLE
Text by LAVENDER VROMAN

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part post exploring Star Wars: Season of the Force at the Disneyland theme park. Read the first post here

SPOILER ALERT: If you’re planning to visit Disneyland and want to be surprised when you experience Season of the Force, you may want to skip this post for now. 

I was skeptical about the idea of Star Wars: Season of the Force, just as I am skeptical about every new element Disney introduces to its Southern California theme park.

What can I say? I’m a traditionalist. I’m nostalgic. I’m slow to accept change.

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As almost always happens, however, I was impressed with this new addition to Disneyland, an appetizer designed to tide us over until the future Star Wars land materializes.

Season of the Force essentially transforms the generically sci-fi themed Tomorrowland into a temporary Star Wars land, complete with ambiance, attractions, “character experiences,” food and enough merchandise to make your head explode.

This event boasts Disney’s signature attention to detail. It’s fun to explore and discover new things.

The Ambiance

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Immediately upon entering Tomorrowland you’ll notice the Star Wars makeover. John Williams’ signature score plays throughout the area and you’ll find interesting touches everywhere.

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Visiting Tomorrowland at night is a must if you want to really appreciate the ambiance. The area is divided into the Dark Side and the Light Side with creative lighting effects and banners featuring characters from the franchise’s many incarnations.

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The Rebel Alliance insignia is projected onto the side of Star Tours. Apparently, the attraction already features a new destination from “The Force Awakens.”

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The Galactic Empire’s logo is projected across one of Tomorrowland’s murals.

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Beams evocative of lightsabers shoot into the night sky.

Hyperspace Mountain

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Disney has transformed its classic Space Mountain roller coaster into Hyperspace Mountain. The wait for the ride was two and a half to three hours long, but FastPasses were available at the beginning of the day.

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The queue for Hyperspace Mountain features added Star Wars graphics. Admiral Ackbar addresses those waiting, informing them they are about to participate in a battle as part of the Rebel Alliance’s Blue Squadron. I won’t spoil what happens inside the ride. Suffice it to say, it features great use of John William’s famous opening trumpet burst.

Path of the Jedi

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I opted not to check out Path of the Jedi, a new show in the Tomorrowland Theater that features “favorite scenes” in a “celebration of the entire Star Wars saga,” according to Disney.

The Food

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Season of the Force’s hottest food item is the BB-8 Sipper, the cutest sippy cup you’ll ever slurp soda from. It retails for $13.99 and is available at the PizzaPort restaurant. Some enterprising people are already selling it on eBay for upwards of $20.

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See, you can’t resist him.

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The Galactic Grill features an all-Star Wars menu, which includes the Han Burger, The Pastry Menace, Darth By Chocolate, the Cheese-3PO Burger and Wicket’s Wicked Veggie Sandwich. The grill continues to host the former Jedi Training Academy, now dubbed Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple. If your kid wants to participate, you now must “preregister” him or her at a kiosk at the Star Wars Launch Bay.

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The Merch

It wouldn’t be Disneyland without a gift shop around every corner and copious amounts of merchandise tempting you to open your rapidly thinning wallet, now would it? The sheer scope of the Star Wars items available in Tomorrowland and throughout the park, as well as Downtown Disney, is almost impossible to comprehend.

So much Star Wars stuff! So much!

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One of the best new items can be found in a little shop across from the Star Wars Launch Bay. There you can pick out a unique faux leather bracelet and have it personalized with your name or text of your choice in Aurebesh, the Star Wars basic language.

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The Star Trader used to feature general Disney merchandise, along with items from Star Wars and Star Tours. It is now exclusively dedicated to a dizzying array of Star Wars stuff.

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One exciting development is that Disneyland now carries awesome clothing and accessories from Her Universe …

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… including the coveted lightsaber skirt …

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… and the most hideous shoes ever invented.

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Make sure to spend as much as you can. The Evil Galactic Empire is watching you!

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Outside the Park

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If you can’t find what you’re looking for inside Disneyland, you’ll certainly find it in the Downtown Disney shopping area.

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The World of Disney store has a whole section dedicated to Star Wars and it features a surprising amount of items dedicated to Rey.

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The Sanuk shop features these knee socks, which will go beautifully with your Her Universe lightsaber skirt.

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Build-A-Bear Workshop features customizable Star Wars teddies.

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WonderGround Gallery has a Star Wars collection.

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Of course, the Lego store is in on the Star Wars action, as well. (Check out that tiny Han Solo in Carbonite.)

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Just in case you forgot something, this Christmas kiosk is fully stocked with everything Star Wars, too.

Happy shopping.

 

 

Inside Disneyland’s Star Wars: Season of the Force, Part 1

Photos by FAWN KEMBLE
Text by LAVENDER VROMAN

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post explores the new Star Wars Launch Bay at the Disneyland theme park. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at more of the Season of the Force at Disneyland. 

SPOILER ALERT: If you’re planning to visit Disneyland and want to be surprised when you experience Star Wars: Season of the Force, you may want to skip this post for now. 

When did Darth Vader become so cuddly?

The towering, black-cloaked, mask-wearing, James Earl Jones-voiced, half-man, half-machine was once an object of terror. When I first saw “Episode IV — A New Hope,” I was genuinely awestruck and horrified by Star Wars’ ultimate villain.

There he was striding down the corridors of the Death Star, Force choking underlings who looked at him the wrong way, torturing Princess Leia with pointy, needly things, ordering the annihilation of entire planets, wielding that eerie red lightsaber, chopping off Luke’s hand! He was a fearsome sight to behold. And the now infamous sound of his breathing left us quaking in our boots.

And then something changed. Darth Vader became a comical figure — a clown, a joke, an object of laughter not fear.

goodnight_darth_vader_coverNow, he’s the star of children’s books, like “Darth Vader and Son” and “Goodnight Darth Vader.” He’s the subject of memes and comic strips. He’s a bobblehead. He’s a plush doll. He’s a Lego minifigure.

He eats ice cream. He rides roller coasters. He’s the harried parent of toddlers. He rolls his eyes at his Death Star minions like the grumpy CEO of an average corporation.

As a villain, Darth Vader has been rendered utterly benign, which is why I was surprised at my reaction when I met the Dark Lord himself last weekend at one of Disneyland’s Star Wars: Season of the Force events.

My sister and I went to check out the Imperial Meet ‘N’ Greet, which is open from 4 to 8 p.m. daily for Disney Visa card holders.

Greeted by a long line, we took a tip from a Disneyland cast member and returned later. And there was NO ONE THERE. Literally NO ONE. Just us, Lord Vader and a bored-looking photographer.

This particular Vader was tall and surprisingly intimidating. He breathed his nefarious breaths, wagged his finger at us and scolded us for holding to the philosophies of the Rebel Alliance.

I’m not proud of my response. I cowered before the Dark Lord of the Sith. I laughed nervously. I froze. Then I squeaked, “Thank you, Lord Vader,” and made a beeline for it.

Was this the resurfacing of some latent childhood fear? Or am I just a total dork?

Perhaps I’ll never know.

Anyway, here we are, cowering before Darth Vader.

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The Imperial Meet ‘N’ Greet takes place inside Disneyland’s new Star Wars Launch Bay, the center of the action at the theme park’s Season of the Force.

(If you are a Disney Visa card holder, the meet ‘n’ greet is worth checking out. You get a voucher for one free 5 by 7 photo)

Season of the Force is a lineup of attractions, “character experiences,” themed food and merchandise galore meant to tide us over until Disney finishes construction of its much ballyhooed new Star Wars Land.

The Star Wars Launch Bay is on the first floor of the former Innoventions (which was once America Sings, and, before that, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress). The second floor is still home to Disney’s Marvel superheroes.

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When you walk through the doors — designed to look like the Star Wars blast doors, naturally — you are greeted by a special opening carpet crawl. To the right, a short film features the filmmakers behind “The Force Awakens,” discussing the impact of George Lucas’ original trilogy.

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The Star Wars Launch Bay features several themed galleries, displaying props, costumes, ships, models and other items from all the films in the franchise, like this Stormtrooper with flame thrower from “The Force Awakens.”

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A highlight of the Launch Bay is a large replica of the Mos Eisley Cantina, complete with bar for photo opps. Assorted aliens not included.

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Mom, bellying up to the Mos Eisley Cantina bar.

Han shot first

Lavender Vroman and Fawn Kemble settle the matter of whether Han shot first.

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In the Star Wars Game Center, you can try out the latest tech from the franchise galaxy, including Disney Infinity 3.0.

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The Launch Bay also includes “character experiences.” Chewbacca was holding court in the area above. There was quite a line of fans waiting to meet the furry Wookie.

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Above, another line forms to visit with Darth Vader.

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Of course, you can’t exit the Launch Bay without passing through a gift shop, this one filled with high-end merchandise, like this $3,000 model of Yoda.

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Han Solo’s duds can be yours for a mere $725.

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The shop features a station where you can design your own Star Wars-themed cellphone case.

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There’s an entire wall covered with autographed photos for sale.

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There’s also a lot of cool art on display, all available to purchase.

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Wouldn’t this make a great conversation piece for your living room?

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One final photo opp after you emerge from Star Wars heaven, back into the real the world.

She Still Believes in the Force

By EarthToShawna

Do you believe in the Force?

I was 2 years old when “Star Wars” was released in 1977. I was 5 when I saw “The Empire Strikes Back.” I remember the intense revelation that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, Yoda levitating Luke’s X-Wing, and that I wanted a pet tauntaun.

Seeing “Return of the Jedi” in the theater was a bit more memorable, as I was 8. The first thing I remember about “Return of the Jedi” was that everyone was calling it “Revenge of the Jedi,” but then they changed the title.

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“I used to live here, you know.” “You’re going to die here, you know.”

“Return of the Jedi” was nothing short of thrilling. The rescue of Han Solo from Jabba’s palace was like nothing else I had seen before. And I know everyone likes to hate on the Ewoks, but 8-year-old me was excited when my mom bought Wicket and Logray figures along with the Jabba the Hutt action figure, complete with dungeon and Salacious Crumb. Such cool toys. I think we got them at Sears.

My mom bought a bunch of the figures that year, which was unusual. My mom loved the movie, and even though she let us play with the toys, they were hers.

I wanted to be Princess Leia. My thin blond hair didn’t lend itself to Leia’s fabulous intergalactic hairstyles, but that didn’t stop me from insisting that my mom put my hair in Princess Leia buns anyway.

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Celebrating my seventh birthday in a Leia-inspired ‘do.

I know I’m not the only one who can say the Star Wars movies were the first sci-fi films I saw, and the first I loved. They kicked off a lifetime love of fantasy, science fiction, and adventure.

The early ’80s had so many movies I loved — “The Neverending Story,” “E.T.,” “The Dark Crystal,” “Splash.” I wanted to be a mermaid, to make friends with a botanist from outer space, to ride a luck dragon.

Like so many of us who grew up on the original trilogy, I groaned when Jar Jar Binks appeared on screen. But Jar Jar, like those nasty little teddy bears, was there for the kids. And while the franchise may not be FOR kids, the films spark the imaginations of kids, and bring out the kid in all of us.

My son is a Star Wars fan, but I don’t think the movies are as epic for him as they were for those of us who watched them in the theater, because they came at a time before the world was saturated with 24/7 entertainment in the form of computers, cable TV, DVDs, etc. We didn’t go see “The Empire Strikes Back” and then get back to our Minecraft game. We absorbed Star Wars, we thought about it, we dressed up like the characters and acted out scenes from the movie. Star Wars got under our skin and into our consciousness.

I didn’t love the prequels as much as I loved the original trilogy. They aren’t as good; that’s part of it. But also, the original stories are the ones I saw when I was little, when I believed in the Force, and in magic.

People who don’t care about Star Wars or sci fi probably think we are all crazy, those of us who are as giddy as little kids, waiting for the new movie to come out. But there is just something so … visceral? universal? What is it about these movies that speaks to us? Is it the triumph of good over evil? The combination of adventure, suspense, romance, and a dash of humor? Is it the story? The special effects?

I think one of the things I love most about Star Wars is that the universe George Lucas created seems so REAL. It’s so believable, and it’s so COOL.

I’m no longer the little girl who believed in fairies and unicorns and 900-year-old Jedi masters, but I still watch the old movies because those familiar characters are like old friends, and for a few hours, I believe in magic again.

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My grandparents saved this picture I made of Princess Leia, when I was 6.

Read more of Shawna’s sci-fi musings at earthtoshawna.com.

Photos courtesy of EarthtoShawna. 

Here’s All the Swag You’ll Need to Survive Star Wars Midnight Screening Madness

If you’ve ever pulled one of the delirious movie theater all-nighters preceding the opening of a wildly anticipated film, then you know that one does not simply walk into a midnight screening.

One has to be prepared. With snacks, with copious amounts of caffeine, with books and laptops and board games, with tents and blankets and umbrellas. If you’re really serious, you’ll need a costume. At the very least, you must wear the right T-shirt. For the love of Obi-Wan, please leave the guitar at home.

The way “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” is shaping up, it just may be the craziest midnight movie experience ever. Whether you’re planning to spend a week, a few days, or a couple hours waiting in line to nab the perfect seat and bask in carnival-like camaraderie with fellow fans, you’ll need to have your s*** together.

That’s why we’ve assembled this guide to the swag you’ll need to survive “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Midnight Screening.”

Be careful out there and, as always, may the Force be with you.

 

Star Wars Funtainer Thermal Bottle 12 oz.

Stay hydrated or caffeinated with the Thermos Star Wars R2D2 12oz FUNtainer Straw Bottle. $14.99.

Pass the time gleaning backstory from Chuck Wendig’s “Star Wars: Aftermath,” set between “Return of the Jedi” and “Episode VII.” $16.96.

 

Carry all the stuff you’ll need to survive until midnight in one of Loungefly’s stylish backpacks. Prices start at $45.

BB-8 Infinity Scarf - Exclusive

Baby — or should we say, BB-8 — it’s cold outside. Bundle up and profess your love for everyone’s favorite new droid with the BB-8 Infinity Scarf. $24.99.

Star Wars Tauntaun Sleeping Bag

If you’re one of the hardcore fans who plans to camp out at the theater for days on end, this Star Wars Tauntaun Sleeping Bag is a must to get you through the long, chilly nights. $149.99.

 

Star Wars Rebels Rubber Bracelets, 4 Count, Party Supplies

Wear your Star Wars pride like a badge of honor with these Star Wars Rebels Rubber Bracelets. $3.57.

Star Wars Holiday Sweaters - Exclusive

It’s a happy coincidence that “The Force Awakens” will arrive just in time for Christmas. Star Wars Holiday Sweaters blend these auspicious events into one warm and snuggly garment of awesomeness. $49.99.

Cheez-It Star Wars Baked Snack Crackers, 12.4 oz

We now live in a world where there is Star Wars everything, including gloriously weird items to nosh on while waiting to gain entrance to “The Force Awakens.” Just troll the aisles of your favorite grocery store. You’ll find ’em. Prices vary.

Images of Star Wars Cuddle & Watch Star Wars T-Shirt

What kind of fan would you be if you didn’t show up to see “The Force Awakens” wearing the appropriate T-shirt? Again, you can find these almost everywhere. Prices vary.

Chewie Costume Hoodie

This majestically furry hoodie needs no explanation. You know you want it. $69.99.

Let your body be your Star Wars canvas with these temporary tattoos. Bonus points if you hand them out in line. $6.95.

Die-hard fans will be standing in line and showing off their best Star Wars costumes, but many theaters are banning the carrying of faux weapons for security reasons. They’re not likely to confiscate the Mini Lightsaber Tech Lab, and you can entertain yourself by building it while you wait. $22.99.

Lightsaber Skirt

Fangirls, you don’t have to wear your boyfriend’s ugly Star Wars T-shirt to the midnight screening of “The Force Awakens.” Thanks to Her Universe, you can express your sci-fi self with style in jackets, leggings, T-shirts, costume dresses and other apparel, like this Lightsaber Skirt. Prices vary.

Princess Leia Beanie

Warm ears, warm heart. Keep your head toasty with the Princess Leia Beanie and other headgear. $14.99.

Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens Risk Game by Hasbro

You can only watch “The Force Awakens” trailer so many times on your phone. When that gets old — okay, so it never gets old — entertain yourself and your posse with the Risk: Star Wars Edition Game. $29.