Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Memory: The Art of Star Wars exhibit, Dec. 27, 1994-March 12, 1995, San Francisco

In honor of The Force Awakens, which I've already reviewed:

art of star wars 1995At left is my poster from The Art of Star Wars, an exhibit of props and costumes from the original trilogy, shown at the Center for the Arts in Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, California December 27, 1994 through March 12, 1995. At the time, it was the largest display of Star Wars props, costumes and masks ever exhibited to the public. The unexpected HUGE success of this exhibit, and the unexpected WILD success of the original trilogy re-releases in the 90s before the prequels came out, lead to the creation of the much better known, much slicker, and smaller Star Wars exhibit tour in 2000-2002 (which I also saw) that dumped you at the end into a gift shop packed with Star Wars-related merchandise.

The poster at left is now in my home office (which has purple walls, OF COURSE). I went to this original San Francisco exhibit on my 29th birthday in January and wrote a lovely, emotional review of the show on the America Online Star Wars group - sadly, I didn't save that review.

But here's what I remember:

A full-sized Yoda puppet stood by the entrance, in a glass case, but the light showing it didn't stay on but for a few seconds. It was the same for the Darth Vader costume. The sign said something about doing that because you only got a glimpse of them in the movies, never a long look, and they wanted a similar experience in the exhibit - indeed, viewing Vader's costume up close made it look cheaply made, definitely not intended for long closeups on screen. Then came the ships. Of course I lost my mind seeing the Millennium Falcon model up close, as well as the little toy ship Luke is playing with in "Star Wars" when he says "It just isn't fair..." - that was actually a ship model for the movie, a version of which was used as the shuttle in ROTJ. I seem to recall the escape pod from Star Wars was pretty much just a bucket. All of the props, up close, under that direct light, didn't look like anything special - and I kind of loved that, knowing that these simply made things look oh so magical in the movies. I remember one of the matte paintings on display from ROTJ, I think, had a storm trooper that had a white smiley face instead of a proper helmet - off to the side, would never have made it on screen. And I cried when I came into the hall with all the costumes - just burst into tears and had to sit down.

Here is an awesome fan-made video of the exhibit

Here's a blog by a guy who was actually at the opening when he was a kid

There's an archive of exhibit photos by a fan, and his impressions, here

Here's another fan's archive

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