August 6, 2008

Star Wars: Where Marketing Meets Fanboys

A few weeks ago I visited the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. I also saw the amusingly dated (1996) Special Effects movie in the Omnitheater.

First, the exhibit. If I read the schedule correctly, it's actually been touring around the country for a couple years. I think this might have been the last stop, however, so sorry if you missed it in your neighborhood. Tickets for this bad boy went on sale in the spring and sold briskly, well before the exhibit opened in mid-June. You can't just show up when you want to. There are assigned time slots every 15 minutes from 8:30 AM - 11:30 PM. In other words, they're using the Dark Knight approach of convincing people to pay serious money to do something pretty trivial at unreasonable times of the day. Why not throw a 3:30 AM time slot in there? You know somebody would show up.

Actually, that might have been the best way to avoid the swarming crowds.

From the website: "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination is an exciting exhibition featuring more than 80 costumes, models and props from all six Star Wars films that invites visitors to defy gravity, manipulate robots, engineer droids, and journey into that galaxy far, far away that has captivated audiences for more than 30 years."

...and that has made George Lucas beaucoup bucks for more than 30 years. Seriously, how has this guy not approached Bill Gates by this point? EVERYthing having to do with Star Wars is his. I had to pay $10 for every use of "Star Wars" in this post.

But I love Star Wars, so it's worth it. I'm probably about a 7/10 on the fanboy scale, which is to say that I have done the following:
*attended a midnight screening of a Star Wars movie
*attended a morning screening of a Star Wars movie
*owned Star Wars action figures
*had my picture taken with a storm trooper outside Graumann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood
*completed a back-to-back-to-back marathon of Episodes IV-VI at least once
*visited the Redwood National Forest partly because of Return of the Jedi
*despised every Star Wars movie made after 1983
*perfected Chewbacca's gargle at some point, if only temporarily
*paid money to see Star Wars artifacts in a science museum

If you think that puts me higher than a 7 on the fanboy scale, keep in mind that I have not:
*named a child after a Star Wars character
*dressed as a Star Wars character in public
*dressed as a Star Wars character in private
*mastered the alien languages, including whatever Jabba the Hut speaks
*stalked George Lucas
*developed a Star Wars video game
*attended Star Wars Celebration

And so, on with the show. These are some selections from the pictures I snapped (click on each to enlarge):

It's only magic...if you can't see the wheels.

Which little kid slept soundly that night?

Hands-on the virtual reality construction sites. Hands-off the priceless models encased in glass.

I asked him to pose for a picture, but, um...I didn't ask him to pose for a picture...

I guess I never noticed Master Yoda had a lazy eye.

All in all, Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination satisfied this fan. I admit I just couldn't handle the crowds long enough to play with all the science experiments, so I likely missed out on the whole reason this was displayed in a science museum. Plus, the line for the little hovercraft (seen above) was too long and the little boy in front of me kicked me in the shins so he could "go again, mommy!"

But seriously, this exhibit is worth seeing for fans of The Franchise. What I appreciated most about it was that the focus was mostly on the first three movies. Really, you can't overestimate how important that is. Some wise soul putting this together must have realized that including, for example, a shrine to Jar-Jar Binks (his name be cursed) would have resulted in hysterical vandalism. At least we should hope it would have resulted in that.

A final warning: as you leave the exhibit you have to pass through a veritable minefield of Star Wars memorabilia for sale, not to mention the familiar "stand in front of the green screen and pay $12.99 for a picture of you and Darth Vader that you could have Photoshopped at home for free." I made it through unscathed, but only because I pretended I had a bloody nose and had to rush out to the nearest bathroom.

If you're a local, it might be safe to check it out now that the crowds have possibly died down. It leaves town on August 24th, right before the GOP convention kicks off across the street. All the memorabilia will be packed up and kept in the trucks for a few years. Then they'll roll it out again and we'll all line up once more.

If you don't see the exhibit, you might get a kick out of Special Effects. Watch the trailer here. Highlights include a behind the scenes look at the production of the Star Wars Special Edition versions, along with profiles on the latest special effects technology featured in the hit movies of that time: Independence Day and Jumanji. Lowlights include a way too long behind-the-scenes look at Kazaam. I know, you forgot how amazed you were by the special effects in that movie, didn't you?

Get your tickets now for Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination!

UPDATE: Funny timing. Just this morning the Science Museum announced they are extending the exhibit three full days, presumably to milk every last dollar out of crazy fans. Attendance has so far been 175,000, with an overall final goal of 250,000. There are also additional photo galleries here and here.


  1. Can't say I'm a Star Wars fangirl. I have the original trilogy and I still enjoy it, but that's as far as it goes. I made a Star Wars blanket two years ago for my brother-in-law (who was 12 at the time), but since it wasn't for me to keep, I don't consider that geeky.

    I think the only thing I've been an actual fangirl of (admittedly) is the HP series. I really like Star Wars and LOTR, but HP is slightly an obsession.

  2. Making a Star Wars blanket would certainly up one's fanboy/girlness, but as you say, you're safe since it wasn't for you. That's actually a pretty cool gift, though.

    Interesting how most people have just one fantasy series they latch on to. I have only a marginal interest in anything HP (I think I've seen 3 of the movies), and thinking about it I really only saw the LOTR movies once or twice.

  3. I'm guessing I'm a 6/10, or maybe even a 5. I specifically like the point about "despising every film after 1983." :) I'm also guessing there's an online quiz somewhere that will tell me what my actualy Star Wars fanboy rating is...

    I haven't been to the exhibit, but I saw pics from another interwebs friend (who's probably a 9/10 on the scale) who went in Brazil. Cool stuff - I'd have liked to see it, but would have been pissed at the volume of prequel pieces, feeling like I was at a concert with aging rockers that only want to play crap off their new album.

    In other news, I walked right by Lucas in Vegas last year. Wasn't more than 4 feet from him. He was in his uniform (denim head to toe) and was shorter than I thought he'd be (I'd put him at 5'8".). Good times - if I hadn't been off-put, I might have told him something brilliant, like "You suck!" ;)

  4. Well, I do have a framed frontpage newspaper clipping of myself purchasing the very first ticket to The Phantom Menace in Spartanburg, SC, along with the very first ticket sold in the city (which is not ripped and is in pristine condition, also framed).

    Where does that put me on the fanboy scale?

  5. "I didn't just kill the men, but the women, and the children..."

    --My whiny, melodramatic confessional after encountering the Star Wars fanboys.

    Sincerely, though, that looks kind of cool, Daniel! :)

  6. I've seen both STAR WARS trilogies - and I do own the original SW and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. (The latter is my favourite of all of them.)

    But I am NOT and never have been a fangirl. More of an appreciator. If that's a correct term.

    I've lined up for things that I considered essential (BECK tickets) but otherwise, NAW. I'm not definitively sure if I would attend something like this.

    But this was a fascinating, exceptionally well written read (as always), Danny.

  7. I'm pretty sure there is a quiz somewhere, Fletch, but looking for one and taking it would probably bump us up a level, so...

    See there wasn't actually THAT much prequel stuff. There was a pod racer experiment and some models of the clone robots, but that's about it. Not much in the way of Little Anakin or that other character I already mentioned. So Lucas was in Vegas? Maybe that's why we don't hear too much about his wealth.

    I'd say that puts you pretty high, Evan! But I dig that enthusiasm. Who would have known Phantom would have left us all scratching our heads and look around?

    You're probably surrounded by fanboys out there in Marin County, Alexander! I wonder if you can take a tour of ILM or Lucasfilm or anything - that could be cool.

    Thanks, Miranda. It may not have been too exciting for the appreciators, and I think that is a correct term. In all of this I should have mentioned that it was clearly directed toward children and families as much as casual fans, so that has to be taken into consideration as well.

  8. Wow nice, I feel so bad for the little kid surrounded by the 2 Siths :x

    Isnt this the exhibit where they have the inside view of Darth Vader's helmet?

  9. Thanks for the visit, Star Wars Costumes. You're right, there are many models of Vader's helmet (and everyone else's for that matter) on display, plus a whole section on prosthetic breathing devices, etc. Pretty sweet.


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