Treasures from the Cantina: Collecting Scum & Villainy!

By Gus Lopez
Bith
The Mos Eisley Cantina was one of George Lucas’ most ground-breaking visions in the 1977 release of Star Wars. This seedy bar of outlaws was a nod to the saloon scenes from Westerns, but populated with a wide range of alien species to set it in a galaxy far, far away. The cantina scenes were originally shot at Elstree Studios outside of London, but Lucas was dissatisfied with the original shoot and the limited range of characters, so the cantina was reshot in Los Angeles in early 1977; footage from both shoots was seamlessly combined in the version we see onscreen.

Many of the masks used in the cantina came from other productions, and creature makers Stuart Freeborn’s and Rick Baker’s teams added many aliens to the mix. Because of the extreme time pressure to complete the cantina scenes, many of the alien masks were one-of-a-kind and incredibly detailed, requiring many days of work to build from scratch, yet dropping the standard production practice of creating backup masks.

Snakehead

Surprisingly, quite of few of the original cantina masks still exist today and have made it into the hands of collectors. Most are in great condition despite being made of materials (like foam and latex) that decompose with age. But the one-of-a-kind nature of the cantina shoot makes collecting original cantina pieces exceptionally difficult.

Famed animator Phil Tippett was hired to help create the Star Wars cantina creatures on a rushed schedule. Several years ago, Tippett sold a few of his cantina pieces at a Profiles in History auction. My favorite piece from the Tippett collection is the Dice Ibegon (or Snake Head) puppet. The Snake Head character was actually not a mask but a large hand puppet. As a puppet, it could achieve the desired scale relative to other characters and have goo oozing from its mouth through tubes.

Yamnose

One of other cantina pieces kept by Tippett was the M’iiyoom Onith mask (also known as Nightlily or Yam Nose). Her character is seated next to Feltipern Trevagg (Gotal) at the same table. The Yam Nose mask has many details such as pimples and round disks on the surface, green eyes, horns, hair along the surface of the mask, and a long nose used to sip drinks. Although I was disappointed to miss out on the Dice Ibegon and M’iiyoom Onith screen-used pieces at auction, I was able to purchase them from a fellow collector years later. That serves as a great reminder of the important role that friends play in helping out fellow collectors.

Skullhead

Seated on the other side of the table next to Feltipern Trevagg is Elis Helrot (aka Skull Head). Helrot was another Rick Baker mask for the Los Angeles reshoot based on a Ralph McQuarrie’s design for the species. Star Wars fans touring Rancho Obi-Wan can see Steve’s Elis Helrot mask on display in one of the cases near the front of the museum.

Duros

Rancho Obi-Wan also has another production-made cantina mask on display, one of the Duros aliens. A pair of Duros characters are seen chatting away at the cantina at another table. The Duros species appears in other Star Wars stories such as the bounty hunter Cad Bane from the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Greedo Hand

Other cantina pieces to surface include alien hands such as this Rodian hand which was made of a simple rubber glove with elongated fingers and suction cups at the end. This simple design served its purpose in close-up shots of Greedo reaching for his blaster. For the Star Wars prequels, Rodian characters had much more elaborate detail in their prop hands. Another cantina character with a prominent hand is Kabe, the short rat-like creature seen reaching for a drink at the bar. The piece shown here is Kabe’s left hand with fingernails and lots of hair. These examples are just small selection of the masks and props from the Star Wars cantina that are now sitting in private collections, preserved by collectors who showcase these timeless pieces.


Gus Lopez, a preeminent Star Wars collector, created The Star Wars Collectors Archive in 1994, the first Star Wars collecting site on the Internet and a virtual museum of the rarest and most unusual Star Wars collectibles. Gus is a frequent speaker at conventions and has led the collecting track for every Star Wars Celebration convention. He has co-authored four books: Gus and Duncan’s Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Prototypes, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Cast & Crew Items, and Star Wars: Year by Year.

The Many Lives of C-3PO’s and its Premiums

By Gus Lopez

Kellogg’s released C-3PO’s cereal in the U.S. and Canada in 1984, the first-ever Star Wars-branded cereal. During its relatively brief life, there were character masks on the back of each box to cut out, sticker-covered trading cards, and something that seemed pretty far out even for Star Wars.

C-3PO’s box with Rebel Rocket promotion
C-3PO’s box with Rebel Rocket promotion

One of the first premiums available in specially-marked boxes was the “Rebel Rocket,” a plastic rocket that you launched with air pressure. The Rebel Rocket came with decals to decorate it with familiar Star Wars designs. Since there are few rockets or missiles in the original Star Wars trilogy, the premium seemed odd to say the least. Certainly it was cheap, and probably remade from very old molds.

The rocket!
The rocket!

It turns out this wasn’t the last appearance of the Rebel Rocket. Ad Pac, a company that specialized in producing food premiums, reissued the Rebel Rocket in 1989 in General Mill’s Lucky Charms cereal, this time re-branded as “Lucky’s Magic Rocket” and available in four colors: pink, yellow, green, and orange. Similar to the Rebel Rocket premium, kids could decorate it with different decals such as Lucky jumping for joy at the marshmallow goodness of Lucky Charms cereal. In 1991, Ad Pac rereleased the rocket for Dairy Queen as “Marshmallow Moose’s Rocket” and “Butterscotch Beaver’s Rocket,” again with different decals to recreate the adventures of Butterscotch Beaver’s rocket trip.

Lucky’s Magic Rocket?
Lucky’s Magic Rocket?

Even C-3PO’s cereal itself was recycled by Kellogg’s. The company decided in 1987 that the nutritional properties and taste of C-3PO’s could be sold as the food of choice for Ironman triathletes in a new cereal, “Pro Grain.” Like its predecessor, it wasn’t available in stores for long. It consisted of the same honey, wheat, oat, and corn infinity-shaped cereal as C-3PO’s. Pro Grain even “goes up to 11” with the extra push of 11 “essential” vitamins and minerals, one more vitamin than C-3PO’s. Unfortunately for Kellogg’s, triathletes didn’t adopt Pro Grain as their choice for “Ironman food.”

Fans of C-3PO’s cereal may be interested to hear that a group of truly crazed Star Wars collectors held a C-3PO’s eating contest at a party at Star Wars Celebration VI, opening a sealed box of C-3PO’s. I can’t say what possessed these folks to try 28 year old cereal, but following the contest over 20 party guests tasted vintage C-3PO’s with no casualties…and it tasted about the same as it did in 1984. But kids, please don’t try this at home!

The Celebration VI party challenge
The Celebration VI party challenge

Gus Lopez, a preeminent Star Wars collector, created The Star Wars Collectors Archive in 1994, the first Star Wars collecting site on the Internet and a virtual museum of the rarest and most unusual Star Wars collectibles. Gus is a frequent speaker at conventions and has led the collecting track for every Star Wars Celebration convention. He has co-authored four books: Gus and Duncan’s Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Prototypes, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Cast & Crew Items, and Star Wars: Year by Year.

Kenner ‘Luke Endor’ Large-Size Action Figure Used in Making ‘Jedi’

By Gus Lopez

Star Wars fans begin their journey into collecting along many different paths, and action figures are frequently the “gateway collectible” of choice due to their widespread popularity.

A lot has been written on the subject of Star Wars action figures, and the fascination continues for novice through veteran. My first objective as a beginner was to complete my set of Kenner loose action figures. Over the years as I learned a lot and expanded my network, that interest grew into other areas related to action figures: boxed vehicles, carded figures, toy store displays, and eventually prototypes of the Kenner line. Along the way, I learned more about Kenner’s production process and helped unearth examples of unreleased toy concepts that never went to market. The networking that led to the discovery of previously unknown items eventually fueled my interest in collecting production memorabilia, props, and costumes from the Star Wars films. This same transition was repeated by friends who progressed from Kenner Star Wars figures to Star Wars movie props, while never losing the passion and interest for the toys that brought us all into the hobby.

Luke_Endor_front

The Kenner large size action figures were amazing in quality and detail, even by today’s standards. But at the time, the competition from the Star Wars small-scale action figures cannibalized sales, and Kenner shut the line down shortly after the release of The Empire Strikes Back. So how could there be a Luke Skywalker large-scale figure in Endor poncho when the line was shut down prior to Return of the Jedi? In an unusual confluence of the action figure and movie production worlds, this Luke Skywalker large-scale Endor figure was created by the Industrial Light and Magic Model Shop for the speeder biker animatics in Return of the Jedi. Animatics are rough, early sequences of a scene designed to connect the shots and establish the timing of the special effects. Today, animatics are done digitally with computer generated models, but back in the day of Return of the Jedi, animatics were shot by hand in film or video using whatever pieces that could be assembled.

Luke_Endor_back

For the speeder bike chase animatic, ILM used Star Wars action figures in different scales for various close-ups. Large size Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Boba Fett action figures (the latter standing in for Biker Scouts) carried out the action in many of the animatic shots. The Luke figure displayed here was the one used in those animatics. ILM staff took a Kenner 12-inch Luke in Tatooine outfit sold in stores and painted the tunic, pants, and boots while adding painted socks. In many of the animatic shots, the Leia action figure is actually wearing this camouflaged Luke tunic reversed to appear as Leia’s poncho. The final special effects sequence in the film is faithful to the early action figure animatic. The other pieces from the speeder bike animatic are not known to exist today, and this 12-inch Luke Endor is a unique remnant from that filming.

Star Wars action figures revolutionized the toy industry and movie-product licensing, but also played a small part in planning and creating the third Star Wars film. This piece also symbolizes something special to me: it connects the universe of toys that brought me into Star Wars collecting with the universe of items used to make the movies—the center of my collecting focus today.

See a comparison of the animatic with the final scene here:


Gus Lopez, a preeminent Star Wars collector, created The Star Wars Collectors Archive in 1994, the first Star Wars collecting site on the Internet and a virtual museum of the rarest and most unusual Star Wars collectibles. Gus is a frequent speaker at conventions and has led the collecting track for every Star Wars Celebration convention. He has co-authored four books: Gus and Duncan’s Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Prototypes, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Cast & Crew Items, and Star Wars: Year by Year.

Collecting Star Wars…Barf Bags?

By Gus Lopez

ST barf bag_lo

I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other and seen a lot of strange Star Wars stuff, but there’s nothing that could prepare me for finding a Star Wars barf bag in the seat compartment in front of me!

The first Star Wars air sickness bag was produced by Disney for the Star Tours ride at Disneyland. Flight simulator rides such as Star Tours can trigger motion sickness in guests, so Disney planned for that eventuality with Star Tours branded bags—for possible practical use, but also as a gag gift for test riders including families of the Walt Disney Imagineers who worked on the ride.

The bags have a 1986 copyright date; the first Star Tours ride opened to the public at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim in January 1987. By then, just about all of the really stomach-churning moves of the Star Tours flight simulators had been removed from the programming. So the bags were seen as more of a clever publicity gimmick than a necessity. Enough had been produced that many—unused ones—ended up in collector’s hands.

VA Barf Bag Front_lo

In 2005, Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., working with LucasArts, promoted the release of the video game for Episode IIII Revenge of the Sith on their trans-Atlantic flights with a series of four different Star Wars barf bags, all themed around Sith vs. Jedi. One bag featured an instruction guide for using a lightsaber, another had a diagram illustrating lightsaber components, and yet another offered insight into Jedi combat. My favorite was the Jedi and Sith seating chart with the Light Side and Dark Side of the cabin to keep both sides separate and avoid any unpleasant confrontations.

ROW barf bag

And there is another—a very limited bag indeed. Rancho Obi-Wan, being a special place, shares the highly-coveted distinction of having its own barf bag alongside those of Star Tours and Virgin Atlantic. To commemorate the November 2013 road trip to Rancho Obi-Wan by members of SARLACC, the Seattle-based Star Wars collecting club, member Curt Hanks designed “Admiral Ackbar’s Air Sickness Bag” for this special occasion. With the SARLACC and ROW logos and highlights such as green Mon Calamari spew, this uniquely designed collectible adds the slogan: “Rancho Obi-Wan—A collection so big it might make you sick!”


Gus Lopez, a preeminent Star Wars collector, created The Star Wars Collectors Archive in 1994, the first Star Wars collecting site on the Internet and a virtual museum of the rarest and most unusual Star Wars collectibles. Gus is a frequent speaker at conventions and has led the collecting track for every Star Wars Celebration convention. He has co-authored four books: Gus and Duncan’s Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Prototypes, Gus and Duncan’s Guide to Star Wars Cast & Crew Items, and Star Wars: Year by Year.