A long time ago in a galaxy far far away ...
Well, it was a long time ago, 38 years to be exact, when “Star Wars” opened. It’s now known as “Star Wars: A New Hope,” but when the movie first hit screens there were no certainties that there would be enough interest to do another film.
As for that galaxy far far away, it was actually Hollywood where a young director, George Lucas, got the OK to make a space adventure with all the trappings of a classic western.
That film launched a franchise that will continue later this year with the Dec. 18 release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” To help you get through the 228 days until the opening, The Fresno Bee is starting a daily “Star Wars Countdown.” Each day, at www.fresnobee.com/star-wars, there will be interviews, trivia, videos, photos and an assortment of other “Star Wars” topics until the big opening day.
The countdown starts May 4 — an important day to “Star Wars” fans. May the fourth be with you.
Plans are to include your stories in the countdown. Leave a comment talking about your first memory of “Star Wars,” send photos of you dressed as a character or offer your opinion about past or future “Star Wars” films. Share your opinion of the countdown through social media using #starwarscountdown and #thefresnobee.
This countdown was prompted by all the fan excitement for the upcoming film, which is being directed by J.J. Abrams. Interest — that spans three generations — is as high as the Great pit of Carkoon on Tatooine is deep.
“The newest ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ trailer was viewed over 88 million times in less than a week. That’s an incredible statistic, and proof the Star Wars franchise is more popular now than it’s ever been before,” says Erik Davis, contributing editor for Fandango.
“Disney’s choice to create a ‘Star Wars’ movie that looks and feels very much like part of the original trilogy is attracting fans young and old — and the return of iconic characters like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo will no doubt help ‘The Force Awakens’ become one of the year’s biggest success stories.
“Yes, the Force is most definitely strong with this one.”
There was no anticipation for the release of “A New Hope” — the likes of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Chewbacca hadn’t been introduced to the world. Even the films that began in 1999 were met with mixed emotions. After the initial three films, there was a 16-year gap before “Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace” introduced the next (or first, depending on how you look at it) trilogy.
The future of the film franchise looked as dead as Greedo. In an interview for the release of “Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” Lucas told The Bee “This has been a funny path I have found myself on. I never expected to be making theatrical films. I just took a path of opportunity thinking it would end at any moment and I would get to go where I was going. It started out as a sidetrack and ended up being my life.
“I love ‘Star Wars,’ but in some ways, I am a little relieved it is over.”
New hope for “Star Wars” came when the Disney Studio purchased Lucasfilm and got the right to make more films. The publicity force is strong with this company and the hype started the moment the decision to make a seventh film was announced.
Lucas directed the first six movies. Disney turned to Abrams for “The Force Awakens.” He already has shown an ability to re-boot a storied franchise with the re-launch of the “Star Trek” series.
Abrams admitted to a massive crowd of fans at the recent Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim that he had concerns about taking on the “Star Wars’ challenge. But the benefits outweighed the potential bad.
There will be more on Abrams through the countdown. We will also included celebrity interviews — including Fresno’s Sharon Leal — where they recount their memories of first seeing “Star Wars.”