Through The Force, Things You Will See
Once upon a time, back in my eight-year-old mind’s eye, I envisioned this new denizen of the Star Wars universe:
Or something close to it: That’s actually my current attempt to convey the general image which formed in my head when, as a kid, I tried to make out the photographic detail in the background of a magazine article teasing us with All New Star Wars Stuff from The Empire Strikes Back. Here’s the memory from Collect All 21!
Pre-internet, back when we lived in caves and watched our sitcoms on papyrus flip-animation books, there wasn’t much in the way of movie speculation available to your average elementary-school kid. The closest thing I can think of was an issue of National Geographic’s World magazine which had a whole story on some of the special effects in the yet-to-be-released Empire. It came with this great poster of the Millennium Falcon being chased by a Star Destroyer – the familiar publicity shot with the green laser bolts ricocheting near her hull – and just a few photos in the article, but enough to get us really excited about what we were in for. Asteroids! Big metal animal-looking things! Luke and Vader going at it with lightsabers! (I kid you not – in one photo, there’s a background light or something that looks, if you’ve got a little imagination and some hyperactivity, like a ghostly figure. My friends and I wondered if old dead Obi-Wan was making a spiritual comeback of sorts. He did, of course, but not in the way we’d been thinking.)
So where did I get the idea that some Jetsons-collar-wearing lizard-guy was going to be in Empire? From a photograph that looked like a part of this one at the Ralph McQuarrie exhibit at Star Wars Celebration V:
Continuing the passage from Collect All 21:
There was also a picture of the Falcon sitting on that Cloud City landing platform just after her arrival. I think it may have actually been in the background of a photo showing one of the matte-painting artists at work or something, because the picture was small enough that I couldn’t actually tell it was the Falcon. Only later did I realize that what I’d thought was some kind of alien was actually Han and Chewie’s starship. Even when I’m watching Empire for the umpteenth time, it’s still easy to dredge up just enough of that 8-year-old me to see that landing platform as a creature with a Millennium Falcon-shaped head.
I was absolutely thrilled to see this picture on display, not only because it struck those deep childhood chords of memory, but because at long last I could point to this picture and say, “See? See?! It’s like the head … and the eyes … and this spacesuit thing, and -”
Maybe you don’t see it. Maybe I’d gnawed on one too many non-toxic indoor playsets in kindergarten.
But heck, I’d still buy an action figure of this guy.