That classic Han Solo line from A New Hope — I committed all of them to memory at age seven — is the perfect title for my first blog post here at StarWars.com. That’s because it’s an amazing time to be a Star Wars fan. In fact, it’s probably the very best time in the almost 40-year history of the saga. In the next two years alone, Star Wars will be returning to both the big screen and the TV screen with Star Wars Rebels and Episode VII, respectively. But it’s safe to say you all knew that!
Speaking of classic Star Wars lines, at this point most of you are probably quoting Yoda: “I am wondering, why are you here?” Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to have Star Wars, as well as Indiana Jones, play roles in both my personal and professional lives, and that’s the perspective I hope to bring to my blog posts: the musings, sometimes ravings, and anecdotes of a lifelong, diehard Star Wars fan who now gets to work with the saga as part of his job. I was part of the creative team behind Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, the reimagining of a Disney theme park classic, and it remains one of the highlights of my career. The day we traveled to Skywalker Ranch to pitch our concept to “The Maker” himself was one of the best days of my life — and the source of a great anecdote I’d like to share here at some point, provided it won’t give my superiors agita. Then I directed Behind the Force: Experience The Clone Wars for Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. In fact, that’s where I met my wife, Meghan, who was “friends” with Queen Amidala. (I guess that technically makes me King of Naboo, although I suspect it’s a largely honorary title.) And I had the nerve-shattering pleasure of watching George Lucas himself watch my live theatrical mash-up of his twin franchises, Raiders of the Lost Jedi Temple of Doom, as part of Star Wars Celebration V. He seemed to like it. Well, he didn’t take a swing at me, anyway. And now I’m in the early stages of developing a coffee table book about all of Walt Disney Imagineering’s theme park collaborations with George Lucas. There have been quite a few times when I’ve had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t still in second grade, daydreaming my way through math or something.
And, in turn, my work with Star Wars has blessed my personal life in ways I never could have imagined. I count James Arnold Taylor — Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: The Clone Wars — as one of my best friends; my wife and I get together with the Warwick Davis family for laugh-filled dinners and theme park excursions whenever they’re in town (I play a sort of bald, American version of Ricky Gervais and Warwick plays himself!); and Ahsoka Tano herself, Ashley Eckstein, will be godmother to my son when he arrives in a few short months (her husband will be the godfather — I believe he’s some sort of ballplayer or something). I can also be found working the Her Universe booth (and running the credit card machine, which I’ve found I surprisingly enjoy!) at conventions in California and Florida. And I have Star Wars to thank for all of these amazing friendships and the memories we’ve made.
Now, back to the adventures to come in the next couple of years. I’ll never forget the anticipation and excitement of seeing that first one-sheet poster for a Star Wars film in our local theater at Great Lakes Mall in Mentor, Ohio, or the first tantalizing footage glimpsed in the teaser trailer, followed a few months later by the longer, more detailed “A” trailer. I was half out of my mind by the time each film’s actual release date finally came along – and this was back in the dark days before the worldwide interwebs, where movie posters can be brought up with the click of mouse and trailers can be watched, freeze-framed and dissected again and again and again. I can still remember seeing an image of Han frozen in carbonite on a Topps card in my fourth-grade classroom sometime before Empire came out and just going, “WHAAAAAAT??”
Then, 16 years after the release of Return of the Jedi, when I was in seventh grade, that nostalgic sequence of events became a ritual for my now-adult (a decidedly relative term) friends and me: that fateful day when the reveal of a teaser poster would serve to confirm the existence of a new Star Wars film; then the moment when the teaser trailer gave us our first glimpse of footage; and finally the arrival of the “A” trailer, which, in a perfect world, would reveal whatever plot points hadn’t been spoiled by months of rumors, leaks and speculation. Even the revelation of each new episode’s title turned into something of a national holiday for Star Wars fans. And it was all part of the fun, all part of a tradition that took a two-hour film and transformed it into a shared cultural experience that lasted for months and even years. That’s just a small part of what makes Star Wars more than a mere movie. And now it’s about to start all over again.
Like all of you, I have my own dreams of what I hope to see, hear and feel as “the saga continues,” to quote the Empire poster. There have been times when we have collectively wondered if our favorite franchise would ever make it to Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, but now here we are, with Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and LAWRENCE FREAKING KASDAN about to deliver on a promise George Lucas made to us decades ago. It absolutely blows my mind that an epic story that began when I was seven will still be going strong when I’m closing in on 50, as the sequel trilogy is about to conclude, and I’m bringing my own son to the movies for the first time, most likely to see the latest Star Wars film. Jake, little man, you have no idea what you’re in for and I can’t wait to introduce it to you and share it with you.
As for my own Star Wars hopes and dreams, I, for one, will be perfectly happy as long as I get to see Han Solo point the patented “Harrison Ford Finger of Doom” at least once in the new movies.
But, more than anything else, I can’t wait to take this ride again with all of you.
May the Force Be with You!
Jason Surrell is an author, screenwriter, and senior show writer at Walt Disney Imagineering. Follow him on Twitter at @2Manhattans.