May 18, 1999

The night before Episode One: The Phantom Menace opened, I was an invited guest on an hour-long television program called "Insight". That week's topic was about movie blockbusters, and I was part of a panel of three which also included  Morley Walker, Arts and Entertainment Columnist from the Winnipeg Free Press and University of Manitoba Professor of Film Studies, Dr. Gene Walz.

The host of the show, Kelly Parker, led the discussion of what makes the Star Wars movies so special, and why there was such hype over the prequel movie.

In-between discussions, video clips of fans camping out in movie lines were shown, viewers called to ask questions, and I also had the opportunity to speak about what it means to me to be a Star Wars fan. 

Some of the discussions included the mega-merchandising of the movies, ie. KFC / Taco Bell / Pizza Hut and Pepsi promotions for Episode One; if certain aspects of the series were made just for marketing purposes (cuddly Ewoks in Return of the Jedi) and how much control George Lucas has in what's released before the movie premieres  - or is it just a clever ploy to increase the hype?

During the show, the subject of Lucasfilm's intense protection of their copyright was raised. The host had asked me to bring some of my custom Star Wars figures, and I explained how I was invited to the Star Wars Celebration to speak on custom toy creation. Since I do not sell my figures, I had no concerns of breaking copyright laws. Here are three I brought along, demonstrating how they can be made from scratch (the Krayt Dragon), portray new characters not yet made (Queen Amidala) or characters from other Lucasfilm projects (Santa Yoda from Ralph McQuarrie's Lucasfilm Christmas card).


Another issue raised was the concern of CGI characters taking the "acting" or "heart" out of the movie....bypassing a good story for the sake of special effects. The panel predicted that the new medium will eventually evolve into a balance of great effects and good storytelling to make future "blockbusters" well worth going to see at the movie theatre.

When asked about the fans waiting in line to see Episode One, I stated that a lot of the excitement over Episode One comes from "second generation" fans who never saw Star Wars in the theatre in the seventies, but want to be a part of a very special occasion this time, since the first trilogy has evolved into such a cultural phenomenom.

I was honored to share my views and participate in the show. Even though I was nervous, it was great fun!