In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 35 years, you know that Star Wars exploded on the scene in 1977, forever changing entertainment. For a quick yet comprehensive primer in all things Star Wars, Lucasfilm’s resident authority and historian Pablo Hidalgo takes fans on a fast-as-lightspeed trip through the lore, influence, and mythology of the world’s best-known space opera. Strap in and take your “first step into a larger world.”
1970s – the early years
- George Lucas directed the first Star Wars film at the age of 32.
- He said he wanted to create a modern fairy tale for a generation growing up without fairy tales.
- The art of Ralph McQuarrie helped establish the look and feel of Star Wars.
- Joe Johnston took Ralph’s designs and “rugged-ized” them and made them real.
- The attendees at the 1976 San Diego Comic-Con were treated to one of the first showings of Star Wars… on a pull-up screen in a small conference room.
- Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin created the original Marvel Comics adaptation of Star Wars. Stan Lee said that Star Wars saved Marvel from bankruptcy.
- On May 25, 1977, Star Wars opened on 32 screens across the U.S., but soon caught the attention of moviegoers the world over.
- The novel adaptation came out months before the movie and sold approximately five million copies.
- The official toy tie-in, Kenner Products, didn’t have any toys ready for the release or for that Christmas. Kenner actually sold an empty box at stores with cardboard characters/stamps, containing a mail-in certificate for the first four action figures once they became available later that year.
- The merchandising campaign for Star Wars redefined merchandise for movies.
- In 1975, Jaws became the first big summer movie, but it was considered a fluke since most big films were released in the fall. Then along came Star Wars and completely changed the way blockbusters were released.
- Star Wars defined Memorial Day weekend as the summer blockbuster debut.
- To make Star Wars, George Lucas had to invest in new technology, thus creating Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and Skywalker Sound.
- Two made-for-TV Ewok movies aired on ABC.
- C3-PO and R2-D2 had a Saturday morning cartoon series.
- There was even an Ewoks on Ice touring production.
- In 1984, the short film The Adventures of André and Wally B was produced by John Lasseter at the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group, which would eventually become Pixar.
- In 1987, Lucasfilm teamed with The Walt Disney Company to create Star Tours, the first real collaboration between the two entertainment companies. It was considered the last hurrah of the original Star Wars era. Except for a few obscure projects, things got quiet.
- In 1993, the elaborate $25 million George Lucas Super Live Adventure stage musical combined elements of Star Wars, the Indiana Jones films, Willow, and American Graffiti into a huge, Japan-based production.
- The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles on ABC allowed Lucas to experiment with digital affects.
- In 1993, ILM created the Computer Generated Imagery for Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, beginning a new age in film effects.
- In 1991, Dark Horse comics started publishing new Star Wars comic books.
- Bantam began publishing Star Wars novels that expanded the Star Wars universe into whole new stories.
- 1991 saw the introduction of the first Nintendo Star Wars video game—it began a whole new legacy in video game storytelling.
- 1997 saw the 20th anniversary Star Wars theatrical re-release. Entertainment Weekly called it one of the biggest gambles in films, however it turned out to be a huge success, although it ignited some intense fan debates. (“Han shot first.”) It returned Star Wars to the mainstream.
- In 1996, the first Star Wars website launched.
Modern Age of Star Wars
- Modern Age of Star Wars started in the ’90s with the emergence of Star Wars fandom.
- The San Diego Comic-con convention helped push Star Wars culture.
- In 1999, Lucasfilm started hosting Star Wars Celebrations for the fans. There have been nine so far, with 20,000 people at the most recent event in Germany.
- Fifty-First Legion is a fan-driven costume group, mostly Storm Troopers, that began in 1997 and now numbers thousands worldwide.
- Fandom is now huge: From Lego Star Wars to Angry Bird Star Wars to YouTube videos that parents create showing their kids’ first experience watching Star Wars.
- In the fall of 1998, the Episode 1: Phantom Menace trailer redefined the trailer experience. It previewed before Water Boy and Meet Joe Black, with many fans buying tickets to those shows just to see the trailer. It was the biggest Internet event up to that time.
- In 2002, Episode 2 was the first fully digital movie.
- In 2003, Episode 3 pushed the envelope on digital exhibition.
- Lucasfilm animation was created after Episode 3 to create The Clone Wars animated series, which produced more than 100 episodes.
- Some examples of modern uses of the Star Wars characters: Family Guy specials; Mr. Potato Head’s Darth Tater; Seth Green’s Robot Chicken spoofs; Phineas and Ferb Star Wars crossover.
- Star Tours—The Adventures Continue opens at Disney parks worldwide.
- Kathleen Kennedy named as the new leader of Lucasfilm.
- Disney purchases Lucasfilm and plans a new trilogy, new TV, new games.
- The Star Wars Rebels animated series to be aired on Disney XD.
- In 2015, the highly anticipated Star Wars Episode 7 will hit theaters, helmed by one of today’s hottest directors, J. J. Abrams. He credits Star Wars as one of the reasons he got into filmmaking.