Christmas Greetings & Happy Holidays 2017

December 25, 2017 – However you celebrate the Holidays and the turn of the calendar, “Happy Holidays & Christmas Greetings” to all.

The Yoda Santa pictured above was designed by the late Ralph McQuarrie (1929-2012), a concept artist who George Lucas turned to in the very early years of Star Wars to help sell and realize his grand vision.

Lucasfilm distributed the following holiday card in 1981, with McQuarrie’s Yoda Santa drawing on it, to the cast and crew of The Empire Strikes Back:

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Carrie Fisher’s Dog, Gary, to Appear in “The Last Jedi”

December 7, 2017 – Carrie Fisher’s beloved service dog, Gary Fisher, has a cameo appearance in The Last Jedi.

The tongue-drooping French bulldog, who provided emotional support and was often seen faithfully accompanying his late master, is a wrinkly space alien in the movie. The dog appears to be at a casino bar in Canto Bight, a coastal city on the desert planet Cantonica.

You can spot him behind and to the left of Rose Tico and Finn.

Clair Henry of fan site Fantha Tracks spotted the canine alien in a still shot, and she asked director Rian Johnson on Twitter:

Johnson quickly replied, within the hour:

FanthaTracks.com was the first to report the news of Gary’s sighting.

No word yet on whether Gary Fisher will have a speaking/barking part in The Last Jedi. But fans will be happy to see that the ever-loyal dog has followed Carrie Fisher onto the big screen.

Fisher, who had bipolar disorder, had said years ago that her pooch was her therapy dog. She told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Florida) in 2013 that “Gary is like my heart. Gary is very devoted to me and that calms me down. He’s anxious when he’s away from me.”

The dog was by Fisher’s side when she went into cardiac arrest aboard a flight from London to Los Angeles on Dec. 23, 2016. Gary stayed by the 60-year-old actress’s side at the hospital until her death four days later on Dec. 27, 2016. Since then, he has been adopted and cared for by the late actress’s assistant, Corby McCoin.

Following an ABC News/Good Morning America interview with Carrie Fisher in Dec. 2015 to promote The Force Awakens, one of the reporters presciently quipped: “They should’ve put Gary in there, too….” (cue at 00:05:55):

Crystalline Ice Fox Is Called a Vulptex

Source: Lucasfilm


December 6, 2017 – Trailers for The Last Jedi have shown us brief glimpses of what appear to be ice foxes or some sort of canine-like creature covered in crystals. So what are they?

The magazine Entertainment Weekly was the first to report that the crystal foxes live on Crait, where they burrow within the crevasses of the former hideout for the Rebel Alliance, now a base for the Resistance.

A single creature is called a vulptex. Plural is vulptices. The name derives from the Latin word for fox, which is “vulpes”.

A vulptex (crystal fox) runs toward the Resistance base shelter on Crait (Image Credit: Lucasfilm)

Neal Scanlan, head of Lucasfilm’s creature shop, says, “The theory is they’ve fed off this planet for so long that their fur has become crystalline. They’ve taken on the very surface of the planet they live on.”

Lucasfilm designers were inspired, in part, by crystal glass chandeliers. To see how crystal fur would move, they used a live dog and dressed him in a suit covered with clear drinking straws jutting out. The dog’s movements animated the straws, which have now been translated into the crystalline fur we see on screen.

To see the real-world evolution of the crystal fox, watch the video below:

In the newest international Chinese trailer for The Last Jedi, the vulptex can be seen again around the 00:07 mark:

REVIEW: Funko’s Ewok 3-Pack (Teebo, Chief Chirpa & Logray)

December 5, 2017 – Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re ba-a-a-ack!

Teebo, Chief Chirpa & Logray bobble-heads

Three Ewoks – Teebo, Chief Chirpa and Logray – have now been turned into cute and surprisingly well-executed bobbleheads.

Chief Chirpa


The Walmart exclusive Funko Pop! Vinyl Bobbleheads Ewok 3-pack was released in September, 2017 (MSRP $24.98 USD). For those with patience or foresight, you could have purchased a 3-pack for only $3.00-to-$5.98 (prices fluctuated) during Black Friday weekend.

The current sale price is now $9.98 (order online HERE), still an incredible bargain for these carnivorous creatures with their black puppylike eyes.

The release is one of Funko’s nods to the 40th anniversary of Star Wars; the black-and-white sticker on the box reminds you of that in case you missed the point.

Walmart exclusive 3-pack (L to R): Teebo, Chief Chirpa and Logray

Back of the box

While we don’t normally collect bobbleheads, the three Ewoks staring at you from inside the box have an undeniable cuteness factor that is hard to ignore. Your reward for taking them home – or for gifting the trio to someone else – are three well-painted, highly detailed and surprisingly heavy pieces of art, which could look equally at home in your home office or at work.

Teebo


Teebo is the tallest of the group at 5 inches (12.7 cm) high. There is an incredible amount of detail in the sculpting and paintwork that tells you a team of artists took pride in bringing the Ewok to life.

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The large skull cap (Is that a Gamorrean Guard’s head?!) sits prominently on Teebo’s head. His shiny black eyes and the baby teeth in his open mouth look innocent enough. But the row of sharp teeth that dangle from his necklace, decorative fangs which hang to the right of his headdress, and a pointy spear warn you that he should not be underestimated.

Teebo can be dismounted from the black base, which is only half an inch (1.25 cm) high and 2.75 inches (7 cm) wide. He has no problem standing unassisted. However, once you start to wobble his top-heavy head, the base with its two pegs may become necessary to stop Teebo from toppling over.

Logray


Not to be outdone, Logray boasts an equally intimidating skull headdress, which just might be our favorite. The skull of a large-beaked bird, complete with over a dozen black feathers protruding from the back, crowns Logray’s head. Additional ornamentation includes a smaller skull (what creature, we do not know) and a single fang dangling from a braid.

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Rotate Logray and you will discover some hidden details, including the suggestion of a small bird’s head on his pouch. (He must really enjoy eating poultry.) His staff is decorated with a protrusion of feathers, bones and, we presume, more bird parts.

Logray stands 4.75 inches tall (12 cm). Because his headdress is top-heavy, he cannot stand unassisted. You will need to display him on the black base, whether or not his head is bobbing. Logray is also the widest of the three Ewoks at just over 3.25 inches wide (8.25 cm), thanks to the way his arms and staff angle outward.

Chief Chirpa


Standing only 4 inches tall (10 cm), Chief Chirpa is the runt of the group. Like his brothers, the Chief’s shiny black eyes and exposed teeth suggest he is approachable. His headdress is adorned with leaves and perhaps a flower or two, and he holds a non-threatening staff.

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Similar to Teebo, Chief Chirpa can stand unassisted without the two-pegged base. However, if you decide to jiggle his head, attach the Chief securely to the base to prevent him from toppling over.

From this angle, the coiled springs are visible allowing the Ewoks’ heads to bob.

The original MSRP of $24.98 seems like a reasonable price. But with a current sale price of $9.98, the trio are now a steal.

To avoid shipping charges, you can either order online and designate a store pick up site or fill your online cart with $35+ of merchandise. More details HERE.

Visual comparison of Ewok bobbleheads to their vintage figure counterparts (L to R): Teebo, Chief Chirpa and Logray

What Others Are Saying


How Asian Is Star Wars?

December 1, 2017 – George Lucas readily admits that he borrowed a story-telling idea from Akira Kurosawa’s samurai classic, The Hidden Fortress (1958, Japan). In a 2001 interview, Lucas said, “The one thing that really struck me about The Hidden Fortress was the fact that the story was told from the [perspective of] the two lowest characters. I decided that would be a nice way to tell the Star Wars story, which was to take the two lowest characters, as Kurosawa did, and tell the story from their point of view, which in the Star Wars case is the two droids.”

In The Hidden Fortress, two comedic nobodies – one tall, the other short (sound familiar?) – find themselves in the midst of a civil war. In this swashbuckling movie set in 16th century Japan, the two bumbling peasants squabble as they traipse through a desert, split apart, are later captured and finally reunite. The duo then help a bearded general escort Princess Uki to a secret territory.

Lucas has said that any other similarities between Star Wars and The Hidden Fortress are “more of a coincidence than anything else.” But elements of Kurosawa’s film from 1958 keep popping up in Star Wars‘ universe, including a corpulent slave owner (Jabba the Hutt?), the use of mossy forests (Endor?), and horizontal wipes used to transition between scenes.

Princess Yuki even pretends to be a deaf mute in order to hide her identity, similar to Queen Amidala disguising herself as her own handmaid in The Phantom Menace (1999).

And who could forget the ending of The Hidden Fortress, where a facially scarred enemy-general has a change of heart, switches allegiance, and saves the heroes? (Think: Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi.)

Whether true coincidences or the ideas of Kurosawa planted long ago deep within Lucas’s subconscious palate, the parallels are hard to ignore.

An Asian Spirituality


But it’s not just the giant shadow of Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) that we detect throughout the Star Wars movies. There is an Asian aesthetic or, to use an outdated term, an “oriental flair”, which permeates and stylizes our far away galaxy.

The Force borrows elements of Taoism and Buddhism. Borrowing from Buddhism’s meditative requirements, how many times have we witnessed the Jedi in meditation as well as Darth Vader in his meditation chamber? At the end of The Force Awakens, the “master on the mountain” image evokes a Buddhist motif. And surely the “awakening” is a theme familiar to all Buddhists?

The Jedi Order, a master-disciple relationship, Jedi mindfulness – these are all themes and concepts inherent in Buddhism.


Star Wars also appears to borrow from Taoism, a Chinese philosophy based on the writings of Lao-Tzu. Taoism advocates humility and piety. Similar to the Force, the Tao is what binds all things in the universe. Tao is said to be the interconnected nature of the universe. Tao is also your true essence and a principled way to lead your life.

The notions of light and dark, good and evil, male and female, Jedi and Sith, find their parallel in Taoism, which uses the Yinyang to portray these counter-balancing forces.

The Asian Aesthetic


Going hand in hand with Eastern mysticism and spirituality discussed above, there is the matter of an Asian aesthetic seen throughout Star Wars. The Jedi don’t just think and live like a Zen Buddhist or a Taoist; they also dress like one with their Jedi robes.

Kimono (Japan, left) vs Hanfu (traditional clothing of the Chinese Han people, right)

And it’s not just the Jedi, whose costumes appear to reflect a Far East sensibility. Certain Sith Lords appear to have brethren in Japan.

Darth Vader’s mask and helmet certainly echo those of the samurai.

And who can deny that our favorite lightsaber battles mimic the katana sword fighting style of Japan?

Asian Actors in Star Wars


Diversity and inclusion (D&I) were not corporate bywords or an aspirational goal during the early years of Star Wars. D&I simply was not on anyone’s radar 40 years ago.

To its great credit, Star Wars did feature a major female lead (Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia) and a major African-American actor (Billie Dee Williams) cast in an important role (Baron Administrator of Cloud City and, later, a general in the Rebel Alliance). But one smooth-talking guy and a brave female do not a diverse cast make.

The Force Awakens (2015) has helped to further the D&I goal by casting black, Latino and female heroes alongside major Caucasian actors. John Boyega (Finn), Daisy Ridley (Rey), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), and Lupita Nyong’o (voice of Maz Kanata), among others, diversify a cast to appear before a global audience. But were there any Asian actors?

It wasn’t until Rogue One (2016) that Asian actors were cast in any roles of consequence. Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen (Chirrut Îmwe) and Chinese actor Jiang Wen (Baze Malbus) play two characters instrumental in the takedown of Starkiller Base. The British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed (pilot Bodhi Rook), Mexican actor Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), English lead Felicity Jones (Jynn Erso), and American actor Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera) all contribute to one of the most diverse casts in any Star Wars movie.

Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) in “Rogue One” (2016). Photo Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm

The Last Jedi, debuting in less than two weeks, will add yet two more actors with Asian roots: Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico) is Vietnamese-American and Ngô Thanh Vân (Paige Tico, older sister to Rose) is Vietnamese. The depths of their roles and fan reaction remain to be seen.

Conclusion


Over the decades, writer-director George Lucas has discussed the various influences which have combined to bring his Star Wars universe to life. Whether it was the Flash Gordon episodes he watched as a youngster, the scholarly writings on mythology by Joseph Campbell (The Hero with a Thousand Faces), Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces, or other muses, they all weaved their way into Lucas’s vision of a space thriller.

And yet while the title crawl of Star Wars tells us about “a galaxy far, far away”, the reality is that many of George Lucas’s ideas originated right here on Earth in a place we call Asia.

Four Trailers in One: “The Last Jedi”

December 1, 2017 – For those who need their weekly (daily?) Star Wars fix, here is a new mini-trailer plus three previously released TV spots for Star Wars: The Last Jedi:



On Dec. 9th, Los Angeles, California, will be the first city to see the premiere of The Last Jedi. The movie will then roll out worldwide on staggered dates, e.g., Dec. 13th (France, Belgium, Norway, Italy, Taiwan); Dec. 14th (UK, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong); Dec. 15th (USA, Canada, Spain, Japan, Philippines).

Audiences in the People’s Republic of China will have to wait until Jan. 8, 2018 to view the eighth Star Wars installment. The late date is due to China’s quota allowing only 38 foreign films per year (previously 34 in 2016 and only 20 as recently as 2012). The quota is designed to encourage the growth of China’s domestic film industry.

Chewie Shoves Porg

November 26, 2017 – In this latest TV spot for The Last Jedi, we see:

– Old Man Luke boards the Millenium Falcon for the first time in decades
– Captain Phasma gets snarky: “So good to have you back.”
– Finn shouts another “Whooo!” in the pilot’s seat
– Chewbacca shoves a squealing Porg out of the way