Back in May of 1977 I was just finishing high school and not yet eighteen. Punk music was all the rage, a gallon of gas cost 65 cents, and virtually no one had heard of Apple Computer because it hadn’t even been incorporated yet.
[Featured image: 501st Midwest Garrison]
On that hot, muggy Memorial Day weekend, I talked my sister into seeing the new flick opening at our local movie house around the corner. Some quirky little space opera that I’d heard a few interesting rumors about was playing there. For about two dollars each (plus popcorn) we settled into our non-reclining, non-cupholder-enhanced wooden movie seats and waited for the lights to dim.
When “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” appeared in blue on the black screen and a rousing brass fanfare heralded the title, followed by a text crawl in the style of some old-fashioned Flash Gordon serial, my sister and I realized we were in for something completely different from the previous month’s showing of Annie Hall. How right we were.
Seven Oscars, two sequels, and three prequels (as well as countless toys, books, apparel, video games, lunchboxes, linens, stickers and even PEZ dispensers, et al) later, the little movie that launched the Star Wars franchise remains an astounding pop culture icon. Part science fiction, part western, part romance, part adventure, part drama, Star Wars was, simply put, the ground-breaking film of its day.
And with the franchise having accumulated an estimated amazing $33 billion in total worldwide revenue to date, this planet’s love for everything Star Wars shows no sign of abating anytime soon.
Even I have contributed to the Star Wars collecting mania in my own small way. My very first purchase was way back in late 1977: a copy of the Ken Films licensed 8mm 8-min Star Wars film clip reel to be played on our home movie projector.
You must remember that this was several years before VHS machines were common household items and 28 years before YouTube was invented! Being able to watch film clips of a current movie at home was a unique and very special experience for the average moviegoer. And even 35 years later, albeit faded and a bit snowy, that little film still plays — and elicits much the same wide-eyed wonder from its owner.
I know I have a boxful of original Star Wars Kenner action figures residing in a shoebox in the back of a closet somewhere. Not realizing the value of the packaging at the time, they are all unfortunately un-carded, but still priceless as far as I’m concerned.
So I was surprised when I realized that in all my treks to various sci-fi conventions over the years I’d never yet been to a con that celebrates the very birth of my passion for that galaxy far, far away.
However, that changes later this week when I step foot into the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida for my first ever Star Wars con.
Star Wars Celebration VI bills itself as “the biggest party this side of the galaxy,” and promises to “deliver a landmark experience where memories are made, families brought together, old friends reunited, and new friendships formed — all in the setting of the ever-evolving Star Wars universe.”
The convention offers an array of exhibits, an interactive show floor, screenings, exclusive merchandise, celebrity guests, panels, autograph sessions, and fan-inspired activities such as costume contest and even a speed dating session (!), plus the opportunity to simply mix and mingle with 40,000 other like-minded Star Wars fans.
Special guests at this year’s event include actors Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), to name just a few, as well as a slew of sound designers and editors, visual effects supervisors, makeup artists, ILM model makers, FX artists, voice actors, authors and directors all instrumental in bringing pieces of the franchise to life. This is quite a lineup and certainly this longtime fan’s dream come true.
I’ll be snapping countless photos and reporting from Star Wars Celebration VI starting Friday, August 24. Check back here for more adventures in nostalgia and for updates on breaking Star Wars franchise news as it becomes available.
You can also follow my convention tweets on Twitter: @SeshatTravels