On this day in 1977, George Lucas unleashed his greatest creation to the world… and I don’t mean “Star Wars: A New Hope.” I’m talking about…
“Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made!” So said Mel Brooks in “Spaceballs,” tweaking George Lucas for his great innovation/crime of marrying movies off to endless product licensing. (Of course, the irony was that, in spoofing “Star Wars,” Mel, too, was making money off the franchise. But that’s neither here nor there.)
To be fair, George was sitting on a goldmine and he made the most of it; it’s not his fault that other, lesser films used the same playbook and gave us things like “Jurassic Park Home Glucose Monitor” or “Prince of Tides: The 3-D River Raft Adventure.” And a lot of the Star Wars products were pretty awesome – I still have my Ewok Village playset and most of my action figures… somewhere. But while there are many moments of merchandising genius in the Star Wars universe, there are a few products that confuse, irritate and enrage even the most diehard SW fan. Read on, and believe me, I will feel the hate swelling in you.
A caveat before we start: we’re talking about old-school Star Wars here. If I add the prequels into this mix I’ll never finish writing the article, as I’ll get to the words “talking Jar Jar” and start banging my head until I can’t remember who I am.
#5: Darth Vader Comes to Burger Chef
C3PO and R2D2 drop by the local burger joint to buy a soda (just 49 cents!) and get a Star Wars poster. They’re our gateway into the wild and weird Star Wars universe, so this doesn’t throw me. But what the heck is Darth Vader doing here? Is a Dark Lord of the Sith really so strapped that his night out is a trip to Burger Chef? And how the heck would he eat a burger, anyway?
#4: C3PO Rides the Tape Dispenser
“I just remembered how much I hate space travel.” Maybe if he was riding on a tape dispenser he’d feel more comfortable.
Wait, what am I saying?
#3: Boba Fett, Sex Offender
Be forewarned, watching the video below may ruin your childhood. You will never be able to see Boba Fett the same way – your image of a badass interplanetary bounty hunter will be replaced by a dude in body armor making jazz hands while dancing with kids in their underwear. Perhaps Boba Fett roamed the galaxy in search of bounties because he couldn’t find an apartment that was 500 feet away from a school or child care center.
#2: The Official Star Wars Empty Box
Say what you want about the above items; sketchy though they are, at least they were actually products. This box was a rain check with a matte painting on it. There was no toy inside, just an “early bird” certificate you could mail in when Kenner finally caught up to the huge demand for Star Wares (that’s not a typo, it’s a lame pun).
Millions of kids got this empty box for Christmas in 1977 – and, even more inexplicably, they loved it. That’s the definition of marketing genius – you can literally sell someone nothing at all, and they thank you for it.
#1: The C3POH MY GOD trading card
This is a family-friendly site, so I can’t show you the full-frontal trading card where C3PO earns the name “Goldenrod.” (I’ll let Snopes have the web traffic for droid cheesecake.) Suffice to say that if this did get released – and Snopes hasn’t ruled it out – then it makes the infamous Billy Ripken “F___ Face” baseball card look like a typo by comparison. This droid is all man!
And with that, I’m off to a meeting with a toy company. They’re looking at making a special limited edition set of Max Banner action figures, and I get to choose the color of his potato masher.