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My Early History With Star Wars May 4, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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May the Fourth be with you all!  As you may know, today is traditionally known as Star Wars Day!  To celebrate today, we prepared a whole bunch of original articles which we will be publishing over the course of the day. To kick things off, I thought it was time to talk about my first experience with Star Wars and the start of my love of this incredible franchise.

The year was 1994 and I was an honor student at my local elementary school.  I grew up with an interest in science and was always a fan of science-fiction movies like Jurassic Park and Back to the Future.  I was familiar with the original Star Wars Trilogy due to its incredible impact in popular culture but I wasn’t entirely familiar with all of its details.  You have to understand that this was early 1994, the last Star Wars film was released over a decade earlier and while it was groundbreaking for its time, Star Wars had faded a bit from the mainstream. Heck, we didn’t even have decent quality VHS releases of the original trilogy yet.  In short, I knew Star Wars was a thing, but until 1994, I knew nothing about it.

In Spring 1994, my family took me on the first trip to Walt Disney World that I could remember.  One of the parks we visited during that trip was the brand-new Disney/MGM Studios (now called the Disney Hollywood Studios).  At the time, it was my favorite of the Disney parks.  I loved movies and while the Tower of Terror was still a year away from completion, there were plenty of cutting-edge rides and attractions at the park that I absolutely loved.

In fact, one of my favorite rides at the park was the original version of Star Tours.  The ride was great, and the effects held up beautifully even to this day.  If you weren’t able to check it out before it was upgraded in the late 2000s, I recommend checking out Tony Goldmark’s review of the original ride.  He did a great job with his hilarious video review and it really brought me back to help me remember how I felt about it the first time I rode it.

However, while the ride was great, at the time I understood Star Tours as an exciting thrill ride, but I didn’t have a deep connection with it.  I had never seen any of the Star Wars films that the ride was based on and so a lot of concepts the ride featured went right over my head. That would all change later on that year.

Sometime in late 1994, the USA Network decided to host a special three-night event. Over the course of three nights, USA aired all three films in the original, uncut Star Wars trilogy. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow my remote found the channel just as the original Star Wars began its broadcast.  Something about the movie just called out to me to watch it, and watch it I did.  For the next two hours I remained glued to my seat as I was introduced to Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewie, C-3PO, and R2-D2.

After watching Star Wars for the first time I thought the film was a masterpiece well worthy of its impact on popular culture.  I loved the characters, the world they lived in, the effects, but most of all I loved the film’s story.  After getting my first taste of Star Wars I knew I wanted to see more and luckily I wouldn’t have to wait long.

The next night, I made sure to tune in early to catch the broadcast of The Empire Strikes Back.  How much did this movie have an impact on me?  I think I was one of the last people on the planet to be surprised at the big reveal in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker (*spoilers*) he was in fact Luke’s father.

I remember agonizing over Episode V‘s cliffhanger, and after watching the end of Empire, who could blame me?  Han Solo was in danger, Luke was still recovering from his first battle with Darth Vader, and I had no idea if there was any truth to what Vader told Luke.  How the heck could people stand waiting three years for Episode VI back in the day?  I couldn’t stand waiting 24 hours!

Nothing was going to stop me from watching Return of the Jedi on the third night. I don’t want to repeat the plot point for point but needless to say I loved the movie with all my heart and at the time I never could have imagined a more fulfilling ending to the Star Wars saga.

Conveniently, 20th Century Fox re-released the original unedited Star Wars Trilogy on VHS with THX remaster just before Christmas 1994.  I got my first look at the THX remaster of the film while my dad was buying a new TV for his bedroom that year. I saw the store had set up a computer display to play the original Star Wars, and I think I ended up watching nearly the entire film on one of the monitors as he went shopping.  I thought the THX remaster of the film looked great and I wished I had my own copy.

My parents got me the Star Wars VHS boxed set for Christmas and I can remember it was one of the best Christmases of my life.  I must have rewatched those movies hundreds of times, either alone or with my friends.  I would even watch the ten-minute interview included at the beginning of each tape where Leonard Maltin would interview George Lucas about each of the films. In the years before DVD would offer countless special features, I considered the inclusion of this interview a prototype for that.  I also paid extra special attention to an off the cuff comment Lucas made to Maltin about new movies he was working on.

The next year I went back to Disney World and rode Star Tours again, only this time it would be as a fan.  Re-riding it as a fan was like a whole-new experience.  A year later I rode it again at Disneyland because I was not going to pass up the chance to ride Star Tours and it didn’t matter which coast it was going to be on!  I was happy to find the ride experiences were pretty much identical.

In 1997 I got my first computer and with it, I finally had access to play a cavalcade of incredible Star Wars video games. By this point, Star Wars was back in a big way. The Star Wars Special Editions were getting released in theaters that year and George Lucas had announced there were going to be all-new prequel films starting in 1999…but that’s a story for another time!

Thanks for reading, everyone!  We’ve got more original content on the way to celebrate May 4th, so stay tuned!  Special thanks to Tony Goldmark, who the internet knows better as Some Jerk With a Camera for being nice enough to let me feature his review of Star Tours on this article. If you haven’t seen his work, you should check it out on YouTube.

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