Monday, August 4, 2014

Where Memories Reside.

The indomitable movie franchise, Star Wars, redefined the notion of movie merchandising when it was released in 1977. And yet, legend tells that expectations were so low for the movie when it originally launched that potential merchandising partners either took a wait and see approach or they passed on the opportunity to participate in marketing the movie entirely 

Of course, unless you were living under a rock, Star Wars took the world by storm and toy manufacturers were caught completely off guard. They could not foresee the movie going public's hunger for their own piece of the Star Wars universe and they were scrambling, in the aftermath, to get something - anything - onto the shelves in order to cash in. 

Fast forward 37 years and Star Wars merchandise still ranks among the highest selling movie merchandise in history. Fans, young and old, hunger for their own little piece of that galaxy far, far away. Countless Christmases and Birthdays all across the world have witnessed the opening of a Star Wars toy or book or lunch box or play set or any one of a hundred different permutations of something Star Wars. 

And with these have been the spawning of a thousand different memories of that very simple occasion; memories which have become almost as treasured as the item itself. 

A recent discussion on the Star Wars pod-cast "Full of Sith" touched on that idea - the memories touched off by a piece of Star Wars memorabilia - and it got me thinking about my own, favourite piece of Star Wars merchandise. Of course, my collection is considerable, but the discussion had me going through it, trying to decide which of the many pieces I own are the most treasured. 

I've narrowed it down to three.

First and foremost is my copy of Deborah Fine's and Aeon Inc's "Star Wars Chronicles" from the late 90's. It comes in a beautiful and sturdy dust cover folio which you open to slide the book out. It probably has some of the most comprehensive and gorgeous still images and photos from the movies and the sets, melding fiction with fact to tell the story of the films and the making of them side by side. 

It features a series of exquisite gate folds, comparing characters, ships and the scale of those ships side by side. 

My family all chipped in to buy it for me on my 27th or 28th birthday, as it was quite a pricey investment,  and it is such a lush piece. Every time I open it to have a read, the pages have this kind of powdery feel to them and a smell that is not unpleasant. I always feel as though I should be wearing a pair of those cotton gloves whenever I take it out for a read. 

The second piece is my Lego AT-AT which I saved up for, when I got my first full time job. I was putting money aside for what seemed like ages before I got it. When I finally got it home, I armed myself with enough beers to keep myself going and I think I spent around 6 hours putting it together on a cold, wet Saturday afternoon. 

I've never been so satisfied putting something together as I was when I stood back and marvelled at the completed model. As with many of those higher end Lego pieces, the AT-AT offers such a tactile experience, with doors that open and close and accessories that you can take out and play with. Of course, my children and I love playing with it and when it's not sitting proudly in my office here at home, it can often be found in the thick of some sort of battle between my Star Wars Lego, their Lego Chima or Lego City. 

The last one - and perhaps the most poignant - is an original Kenner Biker Scout figurine along with the original Speeder Bike. 

Now, when I was in my teens I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of spinal cord tumour. After spending a long time in hospital where I underwent extensive surgery, I was allowed home but I had to spend some time with my grandparents because my parents worked. 

On one of these days I was feeling pretty low and my Pa had to run some errands for my Nana. While he was out, he stopped by the local toy store and managed to pick up both the Biker Scout and the Speeder Bike at the same time. He knew how much I loved Star Wars and, although he didn't, he made sure to ask the girl at the store what to get. You can imagine how it lifted my spirits when he came back from the store with them. That Biker Scout and Speeder Bike sits proudly in my display here at home, complete as it was the day he bought it for me. It has outlived him, sadly, but the memory of him coming through the door with it won't soon be forgotten.

That's the awesome thing about Star Wars. Beyond the sheer fun of the movies themselves, Star Wars has been responsible for some of the best memories of childhood and growing up. I can look at many of the pieces in my collection and they'll touch off something in my life that will make me smile.


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