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Tuesday, July 21 2015 08:10

Force Friday Countdown: Kenner STAR WARS Lando Calrissian feat. Recess Monkey's New Single, "Oh, Lando!"

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Card player. Gambler. Scoundrel. No matter what you call Lando Calrissian, chances are you'd like him! From his first appearance in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in 1980, Calrissian has become Billy Dee Williams' signature character, returning to pilot the Millennium Falcon and help destroy the second Death Star in RETURN OF THE JEDI, and most recently he's been making appearances on Disney XD's STAR WARS REBELS. For today's entry into Hasbro's Force Friday Countdown Calendar, it's the classic Kenner STAR WARS Lando Calrissian from 1980 that's featured as we continue our look back at nearly 40 years of STAR WARS toys en route to the September 4 debut of the new toys from J.J. Abrams' STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Today is a little bit different, though, as it's a "Special Edition" entry that features a brand-new single from GRAMMY-nominated Seattle Kindie Rockers RECESS MONKEY - and a few words about STAR WARS between myself and the band's own Jack Forman, whom you might know from Kids Place Live on SiriusXM. Stream "Oh, Lando" below... punch it, Chewie!

JAMES ZAHN/THE ROCK FATHER: Of all the characters in the ever-expanding STAR WARS Universe, what made you zero in on Lando Calrissian as the subject of a song?

Jack FormanJACK FORMAN/RECESS MONKEY: For whatever reason, Lando's been my favorite character ever since I saw THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK all those many years ago. I love how conflicted he is as a character, how you're really never sure what side of the fence he's playing on, and how ultimately Lando's most interested in Lando. At the end of EMPIRE, his friend Han is seemingly gone forever, Luke's more machine than man, and as an audience member - things are looking pretty bleak. But then Lando plays a key role in the finale of RETURN OF THE JEDI and proves himself again and again to not be quite the scoundrel that we once thought. He and Han are definitely cut from the same cloth, but to me Lando is just a whole lot more entertaining and puzzling of a figure in the STAR WARS Universe.

Additionally, I knew that I was on to something when I realized that the word "annoyed" rhymed with "protocol droid." It was super fun imagining Lando through Han's eyes, particularly as he's dealing with freezer burn there in his Carbonite hibernation. I laughed out loud several times in the demoing stage. For the record, that really is Chewbacca playing the guitar solo. One take.

ZAHN: What were some of your favorite Kenner action figures, vehicles and playsets from the original trilogy?

FORMAN: This is really funny - I was doing some spring cleaning last year and found an old lunch bag, super crumpled and torn, that I figured was garbage… but when I opened it up, it's like golden light shot out of the bag! It was my original collection of STAR WARS figures! I found the C-3PO that would come apart so that Chewie could carry him around in pieces on his back like in EMPIRE, a teeny Yoda with a snake that clings around his neck, and even the Obi-Wan Kenobi figure with functioning retractable light saber! I love these guys so much! A girl brought a Lando Calrissian action figure to our show a couple of days ago and was super excited to show us. It was obviously one of the mid-90s re-releases since Lando was super muscular. Time has treated Lando very well, apparently!

ZAHN: You’re flying toward Bespin (Cloud City) in a Hot Air Balloon and find yourself surrounded by Cloud Cars. They ask what your business is – what is your answer?

FORMAN: "MONKEY BUSINESS!" Next question.

ZAHN: Empire or Rebels: Which side would you play?

FORMAN: I was definitely part of the Rebel Alliance when I was a kid, probably mostly because Luke's feathered hair was something I just could never really pull off in real life, so it was fun to live vicariously through him. It WAS super fun doing the Darth Vader choke move on the playground though, and now that I'm an adult my voice lends itself more to Darth's depth than to that squeaky Luke voice. My family will tell you that after playing several Recess Monkey shows in a day, I most resemble Jabba.

ZAHN: You mention the Battle of Hoth in the song, so of these - Yavin 4, Battle of Hoth, Battle of Endor, or Battle of Jakku – which conflict would most like to have seen first-hand, and why?

FORMAN: I have to admit that I had to search Wookieepedia for the Battle of Jakku, and suspect that by the end of this Fall I'll have a lot more to say about it, but for now I'm torn between Yavin 4 and Hoth. I really have zero time for Ewoks, especially after learning that George Lucas' original plan for Endor was for it to be an entire planet of Wookies… can we just stop for a second and acknowledge that this would have been the greatest thing ever put on film? Ewoks occupy a very similar space in my mind as the dreaded Jar-Jar Binks and I shan't mention their name again in this interview. So yeah, I'm really torn between the trench run at the end of Episode IV and the look and apparent feel of Luke's fallen Tauntaun. We reenacted the trench run in Legos for our "Brick by Brick" video last year, and even a year earlier in our "Walkie Talkies" video. I should also note that the cockpit of the Tambourine Submarine was inspired by the Falcon. The trench run is so satisfying, and Han's "You're all clear, kid!" is what I say to myself anytime I jump off of a high diving board. The Ice Planet of Hoth is so stark and beautiful, and I love that it's kind of the Rebel Alliance on the ropes -- they had to hide away in the most desolate place ever, their adversary was so strong. Consider me definitely torn.

A photo posted by James Zahn (@therockfather) on

ZAHN: I probably know the answer to this, but what’s your favorite chapter in the STAR WARS Saga, and why?

FORMAN: Without a question, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. We have to remember that STAR WARS fans had to wait three YEARS to resolve that lonely, sad vista out of the medical ship's window at the end of the movie- that took such amazing guts. All was lost! Luke was becoming Darth! Before that, the Yoda scenes in the Dagobah system were so strange and inspiring, and to see him mere minutes later hanging from the heating element in Cloud City… Let's just say this was not the feelgood movie of the summer, and definitely made me shiver. I remember compulsively rewinding and watching my VHS tape to see the reveal of the massive Super Star Destroyer with a friend of mine. So unbelievably stunning. I think it's a stone cold masterpiece of a film, kind of occupying a similar place in my mind as THE GODFATHER: PART II. All's not super rosy, and I really like that about it.

ZAHN: Since we're having this discussion because of Hasbro, will you and your kids be collecting the new toys from THE FORCE AWAKENS?

FORMAN: My kids are both a little young for STAR WARS yet, and I'm a little sad that Oscar (my older one) won't really be ready to come watch Episode VII with me in the theater, but for sure he'll be ready for Episode VIII! I'm so excited for that, and have already devised a gifting strategy for my old Kenner figures (If he thinks he's getting Yoda, he's got another thing coming!). I can say with certainty that he'll know the new characters as well as I know the old ones, and I'm positive we'll have a lot of figures around here!

RECESS MONKEY's latest album, HOT AIR is available now on iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp as a digital edition or a CD/DVD Combo. Keep your browser pointed toward THE ROCK FATHER as we continue the #ForceFridayCountdown en route to #ForceFriday, the day that new Hasbro toys for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS arrive at retail! 45 Days to Go!

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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