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Tuesday, April 19 2016 10:27

STAR WARS: Awakening The Force at Home...

When the original STAR WARS Saga (aka "The Old Trilogy") first rolled out between 1977 and 1983, it was a great time to be a kid, though one that seems archaic by modern standards. Back then, viewing STAR WARS was an experience that was reserved as a cinema-only event... unless you were among a very select few that were lucky enough to have an RCA SelectaVision player (video disks that were encased in a square plastic cartridge), or one of the early VHS machines. Even then, you couldn't watch 1977's STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE at home until the latter half of 1982. For our family, it was when HBO scored the rights to STAR WARS in 1983 that we'd get to see it at home on the small, square, screen. In fact, I distinctly remember eating Aurelio's Pizza while watching the film, the brightly-colored wicker paper plate holders still fresh in my mind. For us, the STAR WARS adventures were brought to life and continued daily through Kenner's STAR WARS collection of action figures, playsets and vehicles, with the films essentially recalled from memory. Being there the first time around, it's astounding to think that families in 2016 were able to enjoy J.J. Abrams' STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS at home... a mere four months after its theatrical debut. But like their parents before them, our girls are creating their own STAR WARS adventures daily with Hasbro's extensive collection of STAR WARS toys, and to celebrate the in-home release of THE FORCE AWAKENS earlier this month, our friends at Hasbro sent a box of goodies so we could have a slightly belated premiere party right here at Rock Father HQ. And we did it with pizza... just like back in '83!

When Hasbro relaunched STAR WARS action figures in the 1990s under the POWER OF THE FORCE banner, themed sets and "Cinema Scenes" were commonplace, often becoming sought-after for quite some time. In recent years there's been less of that, but that might be changing with the release of the STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Takodana Encounter Action Figure Set, a four-figure collection that made a huge splash as Toy Fair back in February. While it does seem a tad odd that John Boyega's Finn, Daisy Ridley's Rey, and the lovable Astromech Droid BB-8 would be paired-up since many people probably already have them in some form or another, the big draw here is that this set marks the action figure debut of Maz Kanata, the scene-stealing alien played by Lupita Nyong'o via motion capture. This set captures our heroes as they were in the film when Rey felt drawn to a curious trunk containing the lightsaber formerly owned by both Anakin Skywalker and his son, Luke. One of the coolest elements of the set is that the trunk itself is included, and it's now up for pre-order through my allies at Entertainment Earth!

With the long-awaited release of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, we've entered a new realm of having a STAR WARS film for a new generation that's been created by fans of the Original Trilogy. While filmmaker J.J. Abrams may be the most famous STAR WARS fan to play in the live-action sandbox, as Yoda once said, "there is another..." Actor John Boyega (Finn aka FN-2187) wasn't even born until March 17, 1992 - the very day that NO DOUBT released their debut album, and WHITE ZOMBIE would release their landmark LA SEXORCISTO: DEVIL MUSIC, Vol. 1 - the record that spawned the still in-rotation "Thunderkiss '65." When it comes to STAR WARS, it was an era known to myself as "The Dark Times" - nearly a decade past RETURN OF THE JEDI, and five years prior to the 20th Anniversary Special Editions. Boyega was just five years old when STAR WARS came back to the big screen in 1997 - and he missed it, his family opting for 1998's Disney•Pixar collaboration A BUG'S LIFE for his first big screen experience. For Boyega, his "first step into a larger world" that is STAR WARS came with George Lucas' Prequel Trilogy...

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To say that my most recent visit to Los Angeles was "surreal" would border on understatement - stepping into a world that just a few years ago none would've expected, nor believed. Going back even further, the small child that still resides housed in this now 39-year-old body would never understand the weight or gravitas of the situation - STAR WARS is back, and aside from the original era of 1977-1983, there's been no better time to be a STAR WARS fan than now. The Force is strong in our family, my wife and I sharing our love of "a galaxy far, far away" with our daughters - our children finding themselves enchanted with the very stories we grew up on, but now with new tales that we can experience together... for the very first time. Sixteen years had passed between the release of RETURN OF THE JEDI in 1983 and the debut of THE PHANTOM MENACE in 1999... "the dark times" bridging the gap between the end of the "Original Trilogy" and the start of the "Prequel Trilogy." Now, in 2015, another sixteen years have passed and we've arrived on the cusp of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, the start of a new Trilogy - but one that unlike its predecessors, will be punctuated by standalone "Star Wars Stories" in between. This week, a little boy that spent countless hours immersed in a world of Kenner STAR WARS action figures nearly 40 years ago would be invited by Disney to take a step into a larger world - the Global Press Event for the launch of THE FORCE AWAKENS... a film directed by another little boy (J.J. Abrams), who's now grown-up and and has taken those toys to help relaunch the Saga for new generations of families to enjoy for a long, long time to come...

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How did I get here? There was a moment of pause that was punctuated with misty eyes as I looked over an itinerary placing me in the same room - and the same table - with actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o and filmmaker J.J. Abrams. What really took a moment to sink in was the other name present - Harrison Ford. This is a man who was there the first time around - when STAR WARS was a new thing, and a little boy named "Jimmy" would spend countless hours having adventures with Ford's dashing smuggler, Han Solo in Kenner action figure form. It was STAR WARS that inspired me to try my hand at working in film and television, and here we are on the cusp of a new film that continues the original saga, with STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS hitting theaters on December 18th... and I've been invited to Los Angeles to cover the Global Media Days! While The Force is strong with this adventure, my journey to a galaxy far, far away is just one piece of the puzzle that includes projects from Disney, Lucasfilm, Marvel and ABC...

Published in James' Journal

The Force was with JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE last night, as the show drew its 4th-biggest-ever Monday night audience with appearances by the cast of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Jimmy welcomed Director J.J. Abrams and castmembers Harrison Ford with Chewbacca, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega and R2D2. ABC will re-air JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: THE STAR WARS SPECIAL in primetime on Wednesday, November 25, at 10:00|9:00 CT on ABC. Check out a clip below...

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