There’s no doubt the Star Wars marketing machine is in hyperdrive leading up to the premiere of The Force Awakens. Between the teasers, trailers, toys and video games, plus the countless product tie-ins (Star Wars Mac & Cheese, anyone?), it’s easy to get sucked in by the tractor beam of ballyhoo. Yet for every die-hard Star Wars fan, it begins and ends with the films themselves.
And none are more excited than those of us raised on the original trilogy who will soon be introducing our own children to their first Star Wars film in the theater. There’s nothing quite like being immersed in the saga’s intended medium — surrounded, overwhelmed, swept up in the thrills and wonder that are the hallmarks of the series. As one generation of Star Wars fans ushers in the next, let's take a break from the hype to explore some of these origin stories; to revisit the roots of our fascination with this galaxy from a long time ago and far, far away….
Brent and his younger brother, circa 1979, sporting their Star Wars T-shirts at Disney World.
In October 1977 I was eight years old, and Dad took me and my younger brother to see Star Wars. It was the first multiplex theater I’d been to, with only three or four screens. I remember standing at the concession counter reading a newspaper clipping in a plastic frame about a guy who’d been to see Star Wars 25 times. It kind of freaked me out.The film had already been out several months, and it was the middle of the afternoon, so the theater was nearly empty. My dad went down the hall to see Oh, God! after he made sure my brother and I were settled in. And though I’m sure I’d heard the theme song on the radio or on TV, nothing prepared me for it blaring on the big screen, heralding the start of a lifelong adventure.
There were so many moments in that first viewing of Star Wars that have stayed with me ever since. And they were all related to the saga’s everyman, Luke: his longing to find his purpose in life, the horror of finding his family murdered, his confused crush… and of course, witnessing his mentor struck down by Vader. Those moments are what make Star Wars so universally loved. Certainly the adventure and fantasy are incredible, but the characters and their stories are what make the films both relatable and inspiring. And yes, my sci-fi nerd gene was activated that day, too. To be nearly alone in the dark, watching — no, experiencing — the Millennium Falcon jumping into hyperdrive for the first time… I get chills even now thinking about it. I can’t recall at what point my dad came in to check on us, but after sitting to watch our movie for a few minutes, he never went back to his.
Epilogue: My father is a minister. Not long afterward, instead of referencing the movie about “God,” (as he’d originally intended), my father instead preached a sermon about the eternal battle between good and evil, the Dark and the Light, and the Force that lives within us all.
Brent/Designer Daddy, father of one
Sam in Tunisia at the location where Luke’s home on Tatooine was filmed.
1977 was the year everything changed. In May of that year my parents loaded me up in their orange ’69 VW bus along with a bunch of blankets, a big bag of popcorn and leftovers from dinner the night before. I remember pulling into the town drive-in theater and mounting the mono-channel speaker on the inside of the bus’s roll-down window - which meant the window couldn’t close all the way, and that made for a drafty night.The screen in front of us lit up, the Star Wars fanfare blared, the monstrous spaceship flew overhead and in that moment, at four years old, I found my religion.
As fate would have it, halfway through the movie the sound cut out and didn’t come back until just before the credits rolled. We didn’t care. It was so amazing we watched the entire thing, totally rapt.You can’t overestimate the effect the whole Star Wars phenomenon had on a young boy in the late '70s and early '80s. From that moment on Star Wars has been an intractable part of my life. It has become my family’s mythology, which I am proud to pass along to my own children.
Sam/dorkdaddy.com, father of three
Charlie’s oldest son in his very first Halloween costume, left, and his most recent, right. Oh yeah, and his name is Finn.
The first Star Wars film I saw, oddly enough, was Return of the Jedi in the movie theater. The setting on Endor was shot 15 minutes from my childhood home, and those little Ewoks were the friends I never had .I had always been enamored with mythology — both of my parents shared Greek and Native-American myths with me in lieu of normal bedtime stories. My father in particular was an admirer of Joseph Campbell, and I distinctly remember watching Campbell's interview with Bill Moyers. Some of the analysis of storytelling must've seeped into my mind because I've been obsessed ever since.
Interestingly, RotJ has some of the most intense moments between father and son, shows of power from both the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, depictions of victory and peril, and ultimately the resolution of a conflict that had lasted several generations. But I'll never get over the feeling of strange familiarity about the Star Wars universe. It felt like something I'd just always been part of, and forgotten about, a time when the extraordinary, the celestial, and the unremarkable lived together in one world of narrative. Well, that and I wanted a lightsaber.
Charlie/HowToBeADad, father of two
One of my earliest childhood memories is a vague recollection of wearing my pajamas in the back of my parents’ Buick station wagon, watching Star Wars at the local drive-in theater. I must’ve been around two, so I don’t remember my initial reaction as much as being there — though I do remember the Jawas. They still freak me out a little bit. This summer I took my three- and six-year-old boys to Tatooine, Naboo, Cloud City, Dagobah and other magical places throughout the galaxy, and it was a journey I hope will stay with us always.
Jay/Dude of the House, father of two
Beau makes creative lunches for his kids and on his blog, one of his favorite subjects being Star Wars.
I remember seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater when I was a kid. It was one of the first movies I had ever seen in the "big" theater. Besides the Ewoks, I distinctly remember the film breaking three or four times during the part where Luke drags Darth Vader out to try and save him. It seemed to take an eternity to fix each time it broke, but my family persevered until the end. The film problems didn't taint my love for the franchise, however. I have been a lifelong fan ever since, and I've raised my kids to be as well!
Beau/Lunchbox Dad, father of three
Ever since I was a young lad and saw the original Star Wars trilogy, I was hooked. I always pretended to be a young Luke Skywalker trying to learn the ways of the Force. Heck, even today I try to use the Force to get my car keys from the table. It hasn’t worked yet, but I still haven’t given up hope. Back in the day when I was sick and stayed home from school my mom would go to our library and rent The Empire Strikes Back on VHS for me.
To this day it is still my favorite movie of all time. I was overjoyed when I got the trilogy on VHS tapes as a present so I could watch the films again and again. Fast-forward to the present, now my daughters want to become Jedis, too. This past Halloween they dressed up as Padme Amidala and Princess Leia. We love Star Wars Rebels. We love building Lego sets from the Star Wars line. As you can see, the Force is strong in our family.
Art/Life of Dad, father of two
When I was eight, my father decided it was time that I watched Star Wars. Up until that moment, we'd bonded over all kinds of sci-fi movies and TV shows. My dad has always been a Trekkie, and we spent time bonding over the show, but he knew that I needed to have Star Wars in my life. That most amazing day, we sat down on the couch and watched A New Hope. By the end of the movie, I was hooked. I turned to him and said, "Sorry, Dad. I'm into Star Wars now."
I was entranced with the storyline, including a princess with amazing one-liners, and a boy who becomes a man (and a Jedi) right before our eyes. From then on, I became obsessed with the Star Wars universe and all it entailed. I even made a point of saying that my future husband had to be as obsessed with Star Wars as I am. So glad that worked out!
Amiyrah/Four Hats and Frugal, mother of three
A young James showing off the AT-AT Walker he received for Christmas; one of his daughters this past Halloween.
I can't remember the first time I saw Star Wars, but my parents were already buying me the Kenner action figures and play sets long before The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters in May of 1980. Seeing Empire, I remember as clear as can be — a four-year-old boy becoming completely enamored with Imperial Walkers, Hoth, Bespin and a strange, swampy location known as the "Dagobah System." It was there that we'd first meet Jedi Master Yoda, and in the years that followed, I would spend countless hours playing with my Dagobah Action Play Set and Battle-Damaged X-wing Fighter.
Like many Star Wars fans, The Empire Strikes Back has long been held in the highest regard. Aside from superior storytelling and purely fantastic moments, I think a lot of its appeal had to do with the geographic locations that our heroes would visit. Nearly four decades later, I still refer to a harsh Northern Illinois winter as Hoth, and my girls and I have been known to take the AT-AT outside for some proper snow-play when the time is right. If you freeze-frame the shots of the First Order assembling at their Starkiller base in the trailers for The Force Awakens, you can see that some manner of AT-AT walker still exists!
James/The Rock Father, father of two
My Star Wars memories revolve around the ancillary things. I remember breaking up with a girlfriend over the telephone because she said that Return of the Jedi wasn’t any good. It wasn’t that I disagreed with her; it was just something that only a 15-year-old’s jumbled up mind can make sense of.There’s the metal Star Wars lunch box that fell off of my bike’s handlebars on the way back home. Thankfully it landed flat and skidded across the street, hitting the curb just enough to stop it.
And through it all, I was wearing my Star Wars loafers from Clarks. While the exterior of the shoes were questionable, the imprint that the bottom of the soles left was legit. Wherever I walked, so long as it was muddy or sandy, people could see the stars, circles and Star Wars writing that my shoes left behind. The adult in me now can see that the font is different from every other Star Wars product, which leads me to believe that they might not have been authentic. Tell that to the nine-year-old Star Wars fan back in 1977 and he’ll tell you that it didn’t matter.
Trey/Daddy Mojo, father of two
A long time ago in a living room far, far away (I now live five hours away from my home planet of Cleveland), my father brought home a Betamax tape from a friend at work who owned something called "cable." It was a plain-looking black tape with the words "Star Wars" written diagonally on a hastily applied cassette label. It was my introduction to a galaxy of entertainment. I wore out that tape as I journeyed (repeatedly) with Han, Luke, Old Ben, C-3PO, Artoo and (my favorite) Chewbacca.
I remember as a kid it was a gentle introduction to so many important aspects of life — coming of age, love, loss, death, struggle and hope. I graduated from a Betamax to a VHS. I wore that tape out, too. The original movie came out on my birthday when I turned one. I obviously didn't see it until much later, but it is the first movie I remember, and I think it is safe to say that the Force has been with me. Always.
Creed/Tales from the Poop Deck, father of two
Sunny’s childhood drawings.
Before I even saw Star Wars, I was obsessed. I began to collect the trading cards, the comic books, any and all magazines with Star Wars on the cover — I even sent away for the action figures before they hit the market. Months after the film opened (maybe it was weeks, but it felt like forever), I finally convinced my parents that they MUST TAKE ME TO SEE STAR WARS before I burst with anticipation. They wouldn’t want that kind of mess on their hands, so they acquiesced. We stood in a Space Mountain-sized line at the Coronet Theater in San Francisco (the movie palace where it premiered). Disappointed, I was not.
Actually seeing the film on the big screen — once, twice, three times in a short period — only fueled my fondness for the Force. I was Princess Leia for Halloween after my mother painstakingly sewed a long white dress with an aluminum-foil belt. I slept under a cozy Star Wars blanket. I even had a roll of Star Wars wallpaper (that never went up). I can’t pinpoint why this particular film — this over-the-top galactic saga — touched my young soul is such a deep way. Why it has continued to own a piece of my heart even after decades have passed, I don't think I'll ever know. As I talk about the power of the Force, the evil of the Empire and cuteness of Ewoks with my own little Star Wars fan — my nine-year-old daughter — I am forever thankful for the franchise and that I've passed on this love to my own little Jedi in training.
Sunny/Wonder and Company, mother of one
It all started a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... Arizona, actually. I was in first grade, my back against the rough concrete curve of the giant pipes that someone had painted in soft pastels and passed off as playground equipment. My friend and I sat in the sliver of shade that the tubes provided, and we talked about Star Wars ...
For more of this story, check out Whit's full essay.
Whit/Family Life on Earth, father of two
So where and when did you first see Star Wars? When did you know you were hooked? How long did you hold on to your Boba Fett Underoos? Share your Star Wars story in the comments!
Brent Almond is a writer, graphic designer, comic book geek and all-around pop-culture junkie. He lives in the burbs of Washington, D.C. with his husband, preschool-aged son and their fluffy, black-and-white dog. Brent chronicles his adventures and obsessions on his blog, Designer Daddy.
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