Star Wars Changed My Life – II – Seeing The Film and Scrapbooking

Yes, I was old enough to see it first time around.

I remember, that we went to see it that first time at the Odeon cinema in Ashton Under Lyne. The titles, the droids, the bad guys, the good and the Force.

This cinema where I went to see it, has quite a bit of history to it. Opened in 1920 it was known as the Majestic. Following that it became known as the Gaumont in 1946. Following this it became a frequent cinema venue for my mother and grandfather. In 1962 it changed it’s name again to The Odeon when it merged with the Rank Organisation. Sold independently in 1981 it changed it’s name yet again to Metro. Following the opening of a multi screen cinema in the town, it became an arcade called “SlotWorld Amusements” in 2003 and ceased to be a cinema.

References from Ashton Under and Cinema Treasures.

At one point it was known as “Moti Mahal” when is was used in the film “East is East” (1999). In another strange and interesting fact, one other filming location for the film included the street on which my dad was born.

Speaking of my dad, he was the first in our family to see Star Wars at around Christmas time in 1977. In the UK Star Wars was released on the 27th December 1977, month after the US release back in May. We were in the process of moving up to the north east and my dad at the time was working between the north west and the north east. His hotel was somewhere near Jesmond, so the cinema he visited to see Star Wars was the Jesmond Picture House. Ultimately like a lot of smaller cinemas this closed in 1993 and was demolished in 2009.

I was jealous, and being 9, I wanted to know more information and he told me about the big spaceship flying overhead and the droids. I just couldn’t wait.

At some point over Christmas or early january we made our way to The Odeon in Ashton. The queue was long if I recall as it was everywhere and my mum took me in to see the spectacle.

I was stunned. There was nothing like it at all in the cinema at that time. I loved robots and scifi (checkout my Micronauts blog) but this was another area entirely. I was hooked.

Popular films in that era stayed in the cinema for long runs. There were no video releases and once a film had left the cinema the only time you could watch it was several years later on TV. If the BBC had it you’d look forward to the full uninterrupted film. If ITV got it you’d expect the action to get sliced up by adverts and possibly even miss sections of the film. Also the 4:3 ratio of the Colour PAL tvs at the time meant you’d probably miss something at the sides of the shot as the Star Wars films were produced in 2.39:1 or we would see strange panning shots because of the habit to pan and scan.

At the time the very best way to watch a movie was in the cinema. Thankfully due to HD/4K TVs nowadays we always get the full picture, although with the Star Wars Special Editions unless you own the older movies you won’t have the original where Han shot Greedo first.

After seeing the film I do remember describing it to my Grandma and my impression after the first viewing was that it was actually about two droids. I guess I missed the whole Luke thing. I was stunned when they killed off likeable characters and my favourite characters at the time were definitely R2D2 and Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith. It sounded cool but we had no idea what this all meant.

Early 1978 in the UK was very hard to get anything related to Star Wars when it came to buying merchandising so I started a scrapbook. Unfortunately this scrapbook has been unfortunately lost to time, but I do recall some of the details.

Time for a short sidestep before we continue with the scrapbooking.

Alongside my Matchbox car purchases I used to buy a British magazine called Look-In. It featured cartoons based on TV shows at the time including the Six Million Dollar Man (another big favourite of mine), The Bionic Woman, Mind Your Language, Charlie’s Angels, Kung Fu and more over the years. It also included interviews with pop stars, sports stars and film stars that would relate to the 8 to probably 15 year age group it was aimed at. It lasted all the way up to March 1994.

It’s unfortunate that my first issue of Look-In featured a Gary Glitter poster in the middle. How times change.

Anyway my scrapbook started as a “Mr. Men” scrapbook. It was probably an A3 scrapbook and featured one of the Mr. Men on the front. I’d take a guess that it was that guy Tickle or Topsy Turvy. I’m sure it was one of the orange ones.

My first task was to cover the front and hide the fact that it was a child’s scrapbook and that it has cool stuff inside.

Tickle be gone.

Next up any article of poster or interview featuring anything from Star Wars I could find would end up in my book. Look-In magazine was my main source.

The first issue to feature Star Wars on the front cover was the 31st December 1977. Star Wars had just opened in the UK.

One of my first memories of Star Wars in magazine and print was an iconic image of R2D2 and C3PO on the sands of Tatooine. The angle of the sun and the starkness of the black and white image gave me a totally different impression of C3PO.

It’s hard for a generation apart from those 50 somethings to think of C3PO as anything from that weird talkative droid from the film. In this image his face looked very angular and he looked like his nose was cut out. This imaged haunted me for weeks up to seeing the film.

This image was one of the first things to get pasted into the scrapbook.

For those things from the magazines like the posters, these would end up scattered around my room.

Through the following months anything I could find from Look-In articles to newspaper clippings and Letraset transfers found their way into my scrapbook.

Always to note was that due to the printing processes of that time the front covers of the magazine were painted, you sometimes you’d find bizarre combinations of Donna Summer and Mark Hamill staring back with the insides emblazened with articles about Abba and Peter Bonetti…. honestly I don’t know who he is and just discovered he died quite recently in April 2020.

By the time March had come by we had completed moving up to the north east and my local cinema in Blyth, The Wallaw would be showing Star Wars.

Week ending 11 March 1978 Look-In had a huge push for Star Wars. The front cover painting gave Darth Vader eyes, whilst a Star Destroyer aimed for his throat and a bored looking Stormtrooper was wondering where he’d left his blaster.

With this issue they gave you 2 free Letraset Transfers with a push for the magazine to advertise the transfers.

I do remember buying a set of these transfers. They contained a mix of characters on appropriate backdrops including Tatooine and the Death Star. The Death Star featured lots of Stormtroopers, Darth and Obi-wan in their light sabre duel and the Tatooine one featured Sand People, Jawas and Luke Skywalker.

They were everywhere and they were cheap and you’d always have to buy more because you could only stick them down once.

That issue of Look-In also featured an interview with Harrison Ford. I cut all of the these out and put them in the scrapbook.

That poster of Han and Chewy that came with the issue always confused me. I didn’t like Chewbacca’s feet. They looked like shoes because his toes didn’t touch the floor. These are the thoughts of a 10 year old.

I do also remember having a few bubble gum cards, but I only stuck one of them in the scrapbook.

So the early days of Star Wars for me was scrapbooking, magazines and watching the film over and over until I knew every line of dialogue.

We always used to compare in the schoolyard the number of times we’d actually seen Star Wars. My half thought was seven times but that might have been bragging to outdo other school chums. I do remember going to see it at every opportunity as there was nothing like it at the time.

Next up. Action figures…..

The First Annual Star Wars Weekend

The internet can do alot to change the path of your life, or as according to Qui-gon, your destiny… anyway, originally the holiday to Florida was planned for September until one day and I was browsing the good old Official Star Wars website trying to find out who the latest Anakin was going to be, I think by then it was probably going to be Jim Carrey at that point with Drew Carrey playing Jar Jar Binks…. or something.

A news item popped up that stated that Disney-MGM were hosting some Star Wars weekends with lots of Star Warsy stuff going on with a few guest stars appearing. So we decided to change our plans, bring the holiday forward and hit Florida before the hurricanes and we found ourselves taking in the full Star Wars experience in Disney.

In 2000 Disney started the first annual Star Wars Weekends. They were a celebration of everything Star Wars with celebrity guests, parades, and merchadising. These occured on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout May. The first we attended was on Friday the 19th of May 2000. There was a brief version in 1997, but this was the first year it lasted for 15 years continuously.

At that time the only real connection Disney had to Star Wars was the fabulous Star Tours motion ride which became the backdrop with it’s towering AT-AT looming over the guests and the attendees.

Star Wars Episode I had been out for a year by this time and for the younger fans especially it was a great opportunity to see guests from across the range of “classic” trilogy and the first episode.

The first weekends guests in 2000, were Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker), Hugh Quarshie (Captain Panaka), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Ian McCaig (Illustrator and Conceptual Designer), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) and Kenny Baker (R2D2).

We managed to attend the weekends of the 20th May with Jake Lloyd and Dave Prowse and the 26th with Jeremy Bulloch and Carrie Fisher.

All of the guests during the weekends talked and finished their days immortalising their hand prints in cement to be displayed later near Star Tours.

We had only arrived a couple of days before and I can remember stepping out of the cool air conditioned “Air 2000” plane in to the tunnel taking us through Orlando’s airport. The dry heat hit us square on, as we dragged our baggage to the shuttle bus, taking us to our International Drive hotel. That first weekend the weather was hot, really hot. It was a month of 100 degree temperatures and the smell of burning wood when you opened your hotel room door to the ‘fresh’ Florida air.

We’d placed ourselves on International Drive where the free shuttles would take us to both the Disney and Universal parks.

Today we would attend our first of two Star Wars weekends. Wearing my Star Park t-shirt, typical tourist type combat shorts and wrap around sunglasses, with my Star Wars mad wife we made our way to the entrance of the Disney-MGM Studios, as it was called at that time. Cantina music was playing as we exited the bus and made our way towards the gates. Stormtroopers were spying the guests as they piled through the turnstiles occasionally through their comms discussing the movements of these strange creatures below.

Today was Jake Lloyd and Dave Prowse’s turn at being the resident celebrities, so we nabbed our park guides and the wife dragged me kicking and screaming towards Star Tours.

Star Tours was in fact her favourite ride as she decided this holiday she was avoiding scary coasters.

Which was my fault….

This was after she had a bad experience on Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris when I recall, I mentioned about it “not going upside down or looping, just like Space Mountain in Florida”. I was wrong on so many points.

Memories of her screaming and my laughing whilst asteroids whizzed by our heads, on our honeymoon, during the Paris Space Mountain has always been a sore point to this day.

This was also the first time that we had heard Star Tours in English as Disneyland Paris’s version was all in French.

Exiting the ride we made our way into Tatooine traders. It was time pick up the first of many items of merchandise from the experience, Star Wars weekend t-shirts, badges, baseball caps, ‘My other vehicle is an Xwing’ stickers, button badges and other things…. well, you never know…. they might sell out.

Fan Solo!

Upon exiting the traders with bags in hand, we were greeted by various autograph and photograph queues. If you wanted your picture taken with a wookiee and a guy that didn’t look anything like Han/Luke/Leia/Darth Maul/Queen Amidala you could, and their were plenty of people who wanted that opportunity.

You could, on the other hand, take in the unusual Star Wars comedy coming from two Jedi hosts telling very bad “dad” jokes. For example, ‘How does Han travel around the moon of Endor?’…… ‘Ewoks’ 🙂

At 11.00am it was time for the motorcade down mainstreet. Star Wars characters of all shapes and sizes walked to the beat of the Cantina Music again. It started with a rather dodgy looking Imperial officer at the front, wearing far too many buttons on his uniform at the time before the critical costuming eyes, this guy looked like an imperial officer. The hat was right but the belt was off and he had too many buttons. It does remind me of a cross between an imperial officer and the bell boy from Tower of Terror or a Keystone Cop.

This “officer” was followed by Jawas, Chewy, the Cantina band, Jedi, Greedo, Admiral Ackbar, Boba Fett, and various Stormtroopers and Darth Vader. Again, due to the fact that I’ve worn an authentic Stormtrooper outfit, looking back on these old 20 year old photos shows that those Stormtroopers are showing way too much thigh and would never pass muster with todays 501st Legion. I suppose it makes it easier to walk, but Stormtrooper generally can’t walk, can’t see and struggle to go up and down stairs.

Between various characters were the cars carrying the guests. First came Dave Prowse with few stormtroopers and later Jake Lloyd with Queen Amidala lookalike as his companion.

Once various photos were taken we ran up towards the ‘Doug’ stage steps for more photos. The music playing in the background was the Cantina theme mixed with the Episode 1 end celebration music.

That’s one thing I love about theme parks…. theme music. Wherever you stand you will hear music coming out of large speakers, small rocks and other hidden places. You are having a meal and you need your theme. Even the restrooms have music. I love this stuff. Music for me connects with memories and I always try to get the CD or download of theme park music were I can. Sounds like a blog in itself. Listening back to the music from rides and locations brings back the emotions, the smells, the temperatures all part of the memory of the experience. I love the classic Disney ride soundtracks.

Anyway, back to MGM Studios. The motorcade came to a halt by the Star Tours area. A stage had been erected next to the downed Snowspeeder and Desert Skiff. Dave and Jake took to their seats and prepared themselves for questions. Some of these included asking what sports Jake Lloyd liked to play with and additional nugget that Dave pointed out he was the same build and looks as Jake before he got into weight lifting.

Following the questions it came the time for Jake and Dave to have their hands placed in cement. The main host pushed Jake’s hands into cement, crushing them in the process. Dave pointed out that in the previous day’s cement impressions he missed the ‘t’ out of Darth when he was writing Darth Vader. So if you see that one anywhere you’ll know he did it on the 19th May 2000. Once they had completed signing the slabs properly today, everyone gave them a huge round of applause and they disappeared behind the scenes through a ‘cast members only’ door.

Once things had settled down it was time for all the parents to drag their sons and daughters and their $10 sabres to the Jedi Training School. …. and to think todays Galaxies Edge sabres are $200. How times have changed.

My wife then decided it was time for Star Tours again. Today, if you visited a Disney park from about 2011 you ride the Starspeeder 2000, a strangely cleaner prequel/sequel version in 3D CGI piloted by C3PO. In these earlier days of Star Tours, launched in 1987, you were supposed to be taking a quick trip to Endor piloted by REX, voiced by Paul Reubens, he of Pee Wee Herman fame. In 2000 it was all flat screen, no alternate shots, no CGI, just beautifully produced models and motion controlled camera movements.

The queue to the ride kept your senses busy with an array of trashed old droids, broken bits of tubes and other paraphernalia which fit in the used Star Wars Universe and in this version you would ride the Starspeeder 3000. C3PO would be telling R2 to fix the hyperdrive motivator and they would have general conversations about the destination adverts playing on a screen opposite.

If you don’t know the history of the ride it can be rather confusing. The original ride from the late 80s was based on the original trilogy. With the relaunch, the new ride was based on the prequel trilogy, so you were supposed to be riding an earlier version of the transport, hence the Starspeeder 2000.

On the 30th October 2012, Disney bought Star Wars, Lucasfilm and other Lucas properties and started to develop the new Star Wars sequels from The Force Awakens (2015) and beyond. The new 3D ride was designed to be updated with new quests travelling to different planets so when the sequel trilogy was being made and new characters were introduced they HAD to feature them in the ride. So it’s all rather a confusing history, but just forget about that and enjoy the ride. In the new version my favourite ending has to be ending up skimming the water and getting impaled by a Naboo starfighter.

Anyway, where were we? Yes, in the year 2000. So, the wife loved the original ride and I loved the props and old Disney goose animatronics left over from another Disney Attraction “America Sings”. Yes, Disney likes to reuse things to save money. These geese were now repurposed to look like droids by removing the feathers and outer shell and leaving them on their bare metal skeletons and hydraulics/pneumatics.

So, she didn’t go on many exciting rides and I let her go on Star Tours as much as we could. I did mention I scared her on Space Mountain and I do recall forgetting to tell my wife about the doors at the top of the Tower of Terror when they open up to the world before dropping down. She doesn’t like heights either.

I did spend much of the holiday in the single line rows whilst my dearest tucked into her newly acquired Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Jedi Apprentice books.

So just under a week later after various other Florida Theme Park visits we returned to Disney-MGM Studios for our second visit.

The same Stormtroopers that eyed us up less than a week before were still hovering above the queues. At this point on our visit, I’d just about adjusted to the heat, whilst the wife had bought a large hat which subsequently turned up on every photo of her for the rest of the holiday. I’ve worn Stormtrooper kits before and I can imagine what it’s like in 100 degree temperatures. Hopefully they had some air conditioning.

We picked up our maps and scanned the print to find out that Carrie Fisher was only there during the Saturday and Sunday, so we decided to leave. Well, not exactly, the wife wanted another go on Star Tours. We passed the Jedi’s again telling bad jokes. This ride, I decided I’d watch the wife, instead of the visual effects on the screen. I was fascinated to find out why she had to keep going on this thing. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy it, it’s just that once you’ve jarred your back crashing through the same ice asteroid previous times before, you aren’t really bothered about popping a few more discs when repeating the same experience. Her mouth was open with a smile and her teeth were showing so I guess she loved it.

We passed the motorcade with Jeremy Bulloch as we made our way out, for that day.

Sunday morning came and after another trip through the ice asteroid and down a particularly familiar trench again, we made our way to the ‘Doug’ stage vantage point for the motorcade.

I took some photos of the crowd as they passed by and the motorcade made their way past the Chinese Theatre “Great Movie Ride” at that time. Interesting it’s fun to see Jawas adjusting Chewys underwear, whilst Greedo, Stormtroopers, cantina band members, more Stormtroopers, Darth Vader and the guest cars. This time they contained Carrie Fisher with resident Ewok as a companion and unfortunately, Jeremy Bulloch was alone with his driver. I suspected that Bib Fortuna might have fallen out at the start.

Once the parade had passed, we made our way towards the stage at the Star Tours ride area. This was slightly different to the last talking area with pictures of both Boba and the Princess standing behind the guests. We threw any and all kids out of our path as everyone was fighting for a good vantage point for photos. In those days it was celluloid film. No one had a digital camera, so it was terrible to see a woman who asked her husband whether the film was finished yet, clearly showing her partner the fully exposed film in the back of the open camera. That was bad news for those photos.

So the question session started and a couple of fun questions stuck in my mind. One small boy spoke in the microphone and looking up at the towering AT-AT, he asked Jeremy and Carrie how long it took to build it. They said they finished it over a couple of weekends. One other question rose in which another boy asked Jeremy what his favourite weapon was. Having met Jeremy in person a few times, he has always prepared himself for these kinds of questions. He knows the full ins and outs of the Boba Fett character.

Now, usually guests who have played characters in films know little about their characters Jeremy came out with something you would have easily found word for word in a Star Wars technical manual. He went into detail about Fett’s ‘Blastech’ weapons. I’m sure the kid loved it and the rest of the crowd appreciated it too.

The session ended with another couple of hand prints. These prints would later go up for auction, and I would love to see the house of the Star Wars fan who bought Jeremy Bulloch’s hand prints for $250,000.

We hung around Disney-MGM for the rest of the day, going on Star Tours a few more times, not sure how many as they all kind of merged together. We departed the park and headed back to the hotel healing our blisters from the week before and prepping ourselves for the other parks and shopping to come. Though we did do some Weekend shopping in the park.

We both had a great time experiencing Star Wars on Disney soil with a heap of Star Tours and classic Star Wars guests. This was also the first of only two times I ever saw Carrie Fisher live, the second was at Celebration Europe in 2016.

The Star Wars weekends ran until 2015 when The Force Awakens opened and development started on Star Wars Galaxies Edge.

A Curious Kid

The world is a wonderful place and there is a lot out there to discover and learn.

I’ve always been a curious kid, from taking my parents OO gauge tin trains apart with a screwdriver. Subsequently, losing the pieces and getting told off. I tell them they shouldn’t have given them to me in the first place… I must have been 6. I also used to take other things apart in Science at school and got a board duster thrown at me for my curiosity.

I’m going to document memories of stuff gone by, and put any new projects up. It helps document my personal findings and allow me to remember things when my memory starts to, erm, you know.

I plan to go back and document some of my old projects as well as document my new projects and any particular subjects that come to mind at the time and I just need to get out there.

I won’t be as long and winding as the excellent Martin Molin in the building of his wonderful Marble Machine X, but if you ever get bored with my stuff, why not check out his blogs.

I’m not expecting anyone to read this, so I fully expect to be talking to myself most of the time.

I’m a Maker

Star Wars was a marvel of special effects and included models made by kit bashing. This was and still is a technique where lots of different physical model kits, like tanks and ships were stripped to their individual parts used in the creation of new and unique models. Fleshing out intricate details on the sides of space craft. I wanted to work at ILM making models and blowing stuff up. Sadly that didn’t quite happen. I was only 9 when I saw it first time.

I’ve always been a Maker. Both of my grandads used to save me all of the cardboard boxes left over from the weekly shop so I could spend my time at weekends simply building stuff.

Look at that happy face

I built everything from working index systems using straws and cardboard to Death Star playsets for my Star Wars figures with working trash compactors filled with scrap paper and cardboard, a collapsible gantry to restrict access to the tractor beam controls and large drops for the figures to fall when their limbs get cut off. I also built full size robots (well my height at the time) with working arms, control panels with drawn on circuit boards and a large head made from polystyrene packing materials and black painted matchboxes.

It was fun before the internet, when you just made it up, without looking at how other people did stuff.

I’ve always been a model maker and when I got bored of the models I’ve built, I would break them apart and make something new. Now I do regret breaking up several classic Airfix Saturn V rockets, Space Shuttles and an Orion shuttle from 2001 The Space Odyssey. I’m sure those models are now worth a lot of money. To me they were just parts for something new.

I got my initial inspiration from Star Wars. My art teacher in middle school didn’t understand my facination with breaking up models and sticking them back together again.

Maker Culture is the Future

Rolling forward a few years and I started to discover the Maker Culture.

Maker culture emphasises learning-through-doing in a social environment. Maker culture emphasizes informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment.

 “Maker Culture (chapter in Innovating Pedagogy 2013)”(PDF). The Open University. Retrieved 2014-01-09.

Basically an amalgamation of a bit of DIY mixed with Hacking, 3D Printing, electronics, robotics, metalworking, woodworking and any other skill required to get a job done. You want to build a robot? Is it pneumatic? hydraulic? or servo based? Want to build a giant metal flying machine? You are going to learn how to fly and develop metalwork skills and work out a way to propel yourself.

How about a mind reading machine that can detect your mood or a pair of glasses with flashing LEDs that help you relax? It’s all been made and the Maker culture are happy to help you build your own. Most cities have a Makerspace with the tools to help you build your wacky dreams.

Maker culture is helping to develop a better and more engaging interest in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) education. It’s even helping to help the world.

Make Magazine started in 2005 boasted by the interest in Make Culture around the world, it was an instant hit. From that they started to host Maker Faire events around the world. The first UK Maker Faire was held in Newcastle in 2009 alongside the Newcastle ScienceFest. Obviously we attended and had an absolutely amazing time.

So, next year we had to get involved.

Spurred on by that event and another Sci-fi related event in Newcastle it was time to build something. So I built a Dalek. I learnt how to use fibreglass, a few bits of electronics, woodworking, painting, metalwork, use of various tools and a whole host of other skills. Again, will leave that blog for another day.

If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

Marty Mcfly. 1955 (although George Mcfly said it first in 1985)

Since then, I’ve made props, models, costumes and other fun stuff all because of the love of building, making and developing my skills. Picking up new skills and constantly experimenting.

Unfortunately the last of the Maker Faire UK events was in 2018. We were there in full attendance and so were thousands of visitors over the weekend at the Centre for Life.

Adults and children alike were soldering, building, demonstrating, blowing bubbles, watching amazing woodcarvers, electronic whizz kids and lots of people with smiles on their faces. I have amazing memories of the Maker Faires.

My kids grew up fully immersed in them and it is truly missed.

Maker Culture still moves forward. Maker and Hacker spaces are still run throughout the country and the world, but I feel a little of my own show and tell mentality has diminished a little. I always had a date to work towards and thanks to Facebook it likes to remind me of past fun every April.

I did have plans. Plans beyond the Dalek and foam creations, plans that would have brought some old piano music scrolls, bought in a charity shop in Derby, back to musical life. At least I got to meet Colin Furze and have amazing memories, videos and photos and I still have a bunch of electronic kits and parts to play with.

Dalek Bruce and Dalek Mack at Maker Faire in 2011

So, why this blog? I dunno. I just want to talk/type. I want to document stuff, physical stuff, digital stuff related to anything going through my head.

I plan to document some of my old projects, some of my old topics and I may yet build that Disney inspired audio animatronics.