Tag Archives: A New Hope

‘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.

 

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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 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.

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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.