The Phantom Menace Reflections: Dan Curto
Posted By Mike on February 8, 2012
If you're a collector then you know the name Dan Curto from Rebelscum. If you're a collector who enjoys listening to others talk collecting, then you know the name Dan Curto from the ForceCast Collector's Edition. Now you'll also know Dan from such Episode I reflections as the one below.
In 1983, I was in 8th grade, and the Star Wars "Adventures of Luke Skywalker" saga came to an end. The story was now told, and it was glorious...complete with fireworks, good triumphing over evil, spooky Jedi Spirits, and a catchy Ewok theme song. (Ah, those teddy bears that fans loved to hate! How popular are they now?)
As with the other installments in the trilogy, I was left wondering "what happened next?" The only new stories we could look forward to was the Marvel Comics series, which picked up the action after the Battle of Endor with issue #81 ("Jawas of Doom"), a tale that included the long-awaited return of Han Solo to the printed page, but also featured the notorious bounty hunter, Boba Fett. This series remains one of my favorites to this day, because it always filled in the further adventures of my heroes from that galaxy far, far away.
Word soon got out that George Lucas was going to continue with more Star Wars movies, but now he was going back a generation to tell the backstory around his epic saga. However, we'd all have to wait 15 years for him to get around to telling these stories. Fans were not happy with this announcement, as best illustrated in this classic cartoon from Bloom County.
(Click on the image for the full view)
Yet, we actually had to wait longer than 15 years, because it wasn't until 1999 that Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace was released on the big screen. But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit...
In the years that followed, Star Wars eventually "ended." The toys stopped being produced, the comic book series was canceled. It seems like the Force was no longer quite as strong as it had once been. I went through high school, college, art school, became a father...basically "grew up" and moved on with life.
The 1990s saw a rebirth with new novels, comics, and action figures, and word finally came that new movies were at long last coming back to the big screen. After a successful VHS release (available for the "final time"), the "prequels" would be proceeded with "Special Editions" of the Classic Trilogy (AKA the Original Trilogy) in theatres, allowing fans both old and young to get familiar with Star Wars. I took my kids to a marathon weekend viewing of the Classic Trilogy on the big screen, sharing my passion with them, and seeing the story through their eyes. They all wanted to know "what happens next?"
Leading up to the big screen debut, there was SO MUCH HYPE over this movie! There was much speculation on what we might see? How it would look? The sprawling cityscape scenes in the Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 video game and The Fifth Element movie had us imaging what Coruscant might look like...because if those scenes looked THAT good, can you imagine what Lucasfilm is going to hit us with?
I followed EVERYTHING leading up to the day the film came out: I got all the magazines with Star Wars characters on the cover: the Vanity Fair cover rocked, but the 4 Drew Struzan TV Guide covers was my absolute favorite (I even Photoshopped them together and printed out a poster on on a large-format printer for my cubicle at work!) I recorded every Pizza Hut/Taco Bell/KFC commercial, every TV interview and special all counting down to the debut (Jules Asner, where are you now?) I poured over message boards & chatrooms for the smallest piece of information on the movie (damn the soundtrack song list!) I downloaded the trailers, downloaded the computer countdown clock, bought the posters, I just couldn't get enough...
Dark Horse had started a new comic book series, simply titled Star Wars, which starred a new character: a Cerean Jedi Knight named Ki-Adi-Mundi. This cone-headed Jedi served as a host, introducing this new era to fans, with some familiar faces along the way.
Then of course, at midnight on May 2nd, Hasbro held a "Midnight Madness" event, launching a whole new line of action figures, vehicles, roleplay toys. I hit 3 stores that night, and I even won a trivia contest. My total purchase that night was relatively small, really...but I was able to find everything I wanted, without going overboard. Well, not TOO far overboard, anyway. ;)
I built several displays at work, and my co-workers would always stop by and tell me the latest news they had heard. Like I wasn't keeping up with all? But I'm always up for talking Star Wars, and I had saved all the quicktime files on my computer, so we would watch them during lunchbreaks.
Then there were the campers! People lined up for weeks, just to be the first to buy tickets to see this movie. My co-workers and I got our tickets for the midnight showing, and we watched in awe at these people camping out (didn't they have jobs?). And even THAT was hyped up with websites popping up, late-night talk show interviews, even an episode of Felicity featured the lineup. Crazy times.
When the day finally arrived, I was working the late shift, but I had plenty of time to get to the theater and meet my co-workers who were already in line (this theater was said to have the best sound system in town, and they were not allowing campers!) After a brief altercation at the front door, I met with them and I said "You know what? There are guys who have been camped out for 6 weeks in California waiting to see this movie. I'm going to see it before them, and I just got here 15 minutes ago!" Sometimes it's nice living in upstate New York.
Nothing short of the resurrection was going to satisfy the hype and the build-up surrounding Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, and that of course didn't happen. Still, fans went crazy as the 20th Century Fox logo came up (playing that oh-so-familiar drum beat), the first time R2-D2 appeared on the screen, the familiar-yet-new landscape of Tatooine, and even the evil stare of Darth Maul. We were confused by midichlorians, and we groaned at Jar Jar Binks, but overall we enjoyed the total experience. I was hanging with my fellow fans and sharing the event we had all been waiting 16 years for.
When I took my kids to see it that weekend, it was a completely different experience. Many of the scenes that made us adults cringe and groan...the kids laughed and enjoyed them. The whole political plotline was completely over their heads, but they loved Jar Jar's silly antics, because they were seeing it through a child's eyes. That's when I realized that the film indeed captures what it was intended to...the imagination and wonder of a galaxy far, far away. In the same way that I was fascinated by the first movie, this movie was for kids. Or better yet, for the kid inside all of us.
The excitement didn't end with the film's release, either: the media was focused on fan reaction of course, but also at just how much money the movie made. $100 million, $200 million, $300 million...there seemed to be no stopping it. If it weren't for "The Matrix" (you want to talk about bad sequels?), the summer would have been nothing but Star Wars!
My collection continued to grow, although I tried to stay focused on the action figures. and comic books. and novels. and trading cards. and games... The Episode I Racer video game allowed us to really imagine what it was like to be flying in the Boonta Eve Classic podrace, and I spent many hours being smoked by my kids who figured out all the shortcuts before I did. I developed Badoo Bok, a fan-fiction Rodian Jedi character that was based on a production photo on the Behind the Magic CD-ROM, which was a pretty big deal in my customizing days. I still get goosebumps TO THIS DAY whenever I hear "Duel of the Fates".
The years have not been especially kind to the Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, but seeing as it is now the "first" movie in a series, it's really a great introduction to those tales from a long time ago...
If you are new to the saga, then this is your first step into a larger world.
If you are already familiar with it...or better yet, you are introducing someone to the saga (maybe some younger fans in 1999 now have kids of their own?)...then you are in the most perfect place. Because you already know "what happens next?"
Thanks to Dan for taking the time to share his thoughts while continuing his fantastic work with Rebelscum and the Collector's Edition podcast.
If we could leave you with one thought...GO SEE STAR WARS: EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE 3D IN THEATERS STARTING TOMORROW...OR TONIGHT IF YOU'RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE A MIDNIGHT SHOWING!