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Star Wars and Me

Most people have heard of Star Wars, though it came out many years ago. In fact, it has been forty-five years since the release of A New Hope, the first entry of what became the original trilogy. I’ve been a fan for many years. It has shaped a large portion of my life. It has given me a social opportunity. This blog will tell the story about how an epic series made an impact on my life.

In 1995 I was offered a chance to watch the Star Wars trilogy. For whatever the reason, I only joined Dad and my brother, Davy, starting with the second movie in the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back. Some general thoughts from the original watching of these movies were that I felt like the scenes seemed realistic. Planet Hoth looked like an icy version of Earth. Endor from The Return of the Jedi, looked like a huge forest. Yoda was spoken of as being a wise and great Jedi master, but originally was shown as being goofy, and taking his good old time in starting Luke Skywalker’s training. Now I believe he was trying to test him to see if he would be a good padawan or not.

At the time, I thought the two movies were okay. They served their purpose. Firstly, I was in ninth grade, and needed to read a book for my advanced English class. I was having trouble choosing a book, and after watching the Star Wars movies, Dad told me about the series of Star Wars novels he had, and suggested that I read one of them. I read the first one in the series, The Truce at Bakura. An interesting detail, is that I actually started to read this book at school in the library. The school had an assembly which mostly featured loud rock music. Since I have a sensory issue, it bothered my ears. I was allowed to leave partway through the assembly to go to the library where it was quiet. I started reading the Star Wars novel for my English class. Secondly, they formed a firm foundation that would be helpful later.

For his tenth birthday, Davy received mini–Star Wars playsets for some of his birthday gifts. He offered to let me help him play with them, but had stringent orders of what I was allowed to do with the characters. He wanted the scenes set up exactly like the movie. For example, he had a Dagobah playset. The Darth Vader that came with it had to be in the tree at all times. There was no other option. Since I wanted more options, I really didn’t help play with the sets.

Nineteen Ninety-seven was the twentieth anniversary of the releasing of Star Wars, the first movie in the trilogy. To celebrate, George Lucas created three special edition movies. They were the original three, with added effects, and some additional scenes that had been cut out of the first version. They were shown at movie theaters, one month a part. Star Wars was shown in January, 1997, while The Return of the Jedi was shown in March of 1997. My family watched the special edition Star Wars movies at the Majestic Theater. I don’t know why, but this time around I really got into Star Wars. The movies remakes were awesome! Finally, I watched Star Wars. I was impressed by the added scene with Jabba the Hut, who originally only appeared in the third movie (though this was my first-time watching Star Wars, I knew Jabba debuted in The Return of the Jedi.)

I thought Lando Calrissian was in the movie. I remembered him from The Empire Strikes Back as being a friend of Han Solo. The catch? He wasn’t even in the first movie at all! The character I thought was Lando wore orange, though in the second movie he actually wore blue. I asked Davy about Lando being in the first movie, and he told me he wasn’t. Who the character was, is lost to time, though Davy suggested it could have been Biggs Darklighter. A note to keep in mind, I get human characters in movies confused easily (prosopagnosia), so this shouldn’t be a surprise.

By the time the first movie was over, I was ready for the second and third ones to hit the theaters. I wanted to see what effects they added to them. This is where my previous exposure to Star Wars comes in as being important. I remembered the basic story from back in 1995, and now I was really able to appreciate it. Of course, waiting a month between movie releases was nothing compared to what my parents did back in the day during the original releases, or what we all would do with the prequel trilogy that would be released later.

With the interest in Star Wars, I developed favorite characters. I always have liked the droids, R2D2 and C3PO. I have always thought they looked cool. I especially like R2D2 as I like his communication through beeps. There was also the Wampa Ice Monster (from Planet Hoth), and the Rancor (from Jabba’s Palace). During The Empire Strikes Back, a scene portrayed a Wampa eating a Tauntaun, showing blood over his white furry face. Mom wasn’t happy with the blood. She was never a fan of the predator prey shows that my grandfather used to watch for similar reasons. The Rancor she thought was plain ugly. These two facts, of course, made Davy and I really like these two characters. Go figure!

I developed a like for the planet Endor. This planet was a forest planet. Since I have always liked trees, this to me was the perfect place.

Later in 1997, a Star Wars version of Monopoly was released that we bought. I really enjoyed this version. In this version everyone of course wanted to buy Coruscant since it was the equivalent of Boardwalk and Park Place. In addition to the obvious, I wanted to buy all three Endor squares. Firstly, the properties were Endor, and secondly, they had the green top (autism at work)!

Additionally in 1997 I turned sixteen, and had a birthday party. Though I offered many games, Star Wars Monopoly proved to be the favorite. After me having a party, Davy decided he wanted a birthday party for his twelfth birthday in 1998. My brother’s party was Star Wars themed. He had a Star Wars table cloth and blue and silver balloons.

During the summer of 1998, the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, had a temporary Star Wars display, that I was thrilled to visit. They had life size versions of many of the characters, as well as the Millennium Falcon. Some of the featured characters included: Yoda, the Wampa Ice Monster, R2D2, C3PO and an Ewok.

In 1999, the Star Wars prequels were started. The Phantom Menace was released that year. With a new trilogy started, a lot of excitement came back yet again. This time around, Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) was a child, and was growing up. The trilogy was built around the premise of how he went from a Jedi padawan to becoming the notorious Sith in the original trilogy. Since the story was set years earlier, they had to develop new characters. Jar Jar Binks was one such character.

We first discovered Jar Jar before ever seeing the movie. Davy and I like Mountain Dew. My family used to buy it in cans. In 1999, Jar Jar Binks was on the Mountain Dew cans. Mom made a joke by asking if he was the “creator of Mountain Dew.” Tragically, Jar Jar was considered a flawed character. He was really goofy in The Phantom Menace. Though information suggests that his role in the prequels was to be originally larger, his screen time was really cut back in the later two films. His most important feature in the prequels in my opinion was giving Palpatine emergency powers which led him to becoming the emperor that would haunt the original trilogy.

Another memory I have from The Phantom Menace days involves the Chambersburg Mall. Located by where the Bonanza used to be, was a Pepsi machine which was decorated with a scene from The Phantom Menace. This machine was used long after the movie was released.

Davy got the mini–Star Wars playsets back out. Davy and I got the idea of writing a Star Wars story, and performing it with the mini- Star Wars playsets. The story loosely followed the trilogy though it had notable changes. Davy mostly wrote it, though I certainly had input.

Some major changes included Luke and R2D2 going to Cloud City, while Han Solo and C3PO went to Dagobah (the opposite of the actual movie). Davy wanted a few more playsets before we actually performed the story. I remember the set known to us as “Chewbacca’s Head” being one of them, and one I found that he got for Christmas in 1999. Ultimately, the performance never happened, but Davy wrote the story into a book, and gave it to me, which I still have to this day.

I learned how long it took for movies to be made. I learned this reality once I watched The Phantom Menace. Though with the special edition movies, they were released a month apart, new Star Wars movies actually took years to create, so I had a long time waiting in between them. The prequels did give excellent insight into the series. In Attack of the Clones, I got to see how great Yoda was with the force when he was in a light saber duel with Count Dooku. The Revenge of the Sith was difficult to watch as I knew Anakin had to become a Sith, thus becoming Vader which, I really didn’t want him to do. It had to happen this way to fit in the timeline of the other movies. On the other hand, the time between the final two prequels was exciting, as I was trying to figure out what still had to happen in The Revenge of the Sith to make it connect with the original trilogy. One final note, with the release of the prequels was a change to the numbering system of the movies. The original trilogy became Star Wars Episodes IV, V and VI. The movie Star Wars became A New Hope.

Star Wars came up again in 2015. Walt Disney bought the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas, and began releasing a prequel trilogy. By then I had a friend who also really enjoyed Star Wars. The third set of movies I found to be enjoyable though I felt Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, by far the weakest. After seeing the similarities between The Force Awakens and A New Hope, this led to many discussions between the friend and me about what could possibly happen in the later Star Wars movies. I would read up on the internet about Star Wars on message boards. People would give their thoughts, speculations and theories on what they thought would happen. My friend would listen to theories posted on YouTube. When we would meet every Sunday, we would discuss our findings. The period of time between the movie’s release, and getting to the theater to watch it was always hard as I wanted new information to ponder, but didn’t want the plot revealed to me. I stayed off the boards during this period of time. With The Rise of Skywalker, it was especially hard as it was released in December of 2019, and I only was able to see it in the beginning of January, 2020.

By the time of the sequel trilogy my autism support group was up and running. I didn’t initially have Star Wars themed nights. They came about in February,2017. After having a discussion with my mom about a possible game for my group, she suggested a game similar to Jeopardy only where every category had to do with stars. Examples included Stars in the Sky, Stars and Stripes, Famous Stars (thought to have autism), Miscellaneous Stars, and of course Star Wars. The Star Wars category proved popular in my support group. Thus, I started to have Star Wars themed nights. The first one was actually on May 4th. May 4th has become Star Wars Day because of the phrase, “May the Fourth Be with You.” The meeting featured a Star Wars themed trivia game, and a ton of food related to Star Wars. With the help of a FOCUS staff person, I created edible light sabers and edible Ewoks. We also had Star Wars fruit snacks.

The following year, I had another Star Wars meeting. I made a few improvements. I gave the trivia game an engaging story (the original story being simply the winning team ruling the galaxy compared to one team being jedi and the other siths with the winning team winning the galactic war) before we started to play it. I added a miscellaneous column for those people who were not familiar with Star Wars. The food on the other hand, wasn’t as exciting as in the prior Star Wars meeting. We made Star Wars cookies, but the other food we had was not specific to the Star Wars theme.

Towards the end of January 2020, Dave came home to visit from Taiwan. We had planned a vacation to go to Disney World. They had a new area at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios), Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which was an area dedicated to Star Wars. They had characters in costume. I saw Rey and a number of storm troopers. Kylo Ren was there with his uniquely shaped light saber. They had two Star Wars themed rides. The first ride, Star Wars Rise of the Resistance we didn’t get a chance to ride. It was not “FastPass” compatible at the time we went. It was extremely popular, and had limited space. To ride it, a person would have to arrive early in the morning just to get to stand in the line which could get you a scheduled time to get on the ride. Being in the line though, was still no guarantee for riding the ride. We did get on the other ride, Star Wars Millennium Falcon- Smugglers Run. This ride had a long line, but it was doable. The ride itself was enjoyable. A number of people went in at a time, and worked as a team to control the Millennium Falcon, and accomplish various missions. Everyone was scored on their performance at the end. I wasn’t the best at my task, but I quite enjoyed it.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge additionally contained Olga’s Cantina. It was a Star War’s style cantina complete with food and drink. I was able to drink a beer there.

So, you can see that Star Wars has had a big impact on my life over the years. It provided many years of enjoyment in movies, as well as a topic of conversation, and an activity at a birthday party. It is also an epic fun section at Disney World.

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