The Rancho Obi-Wan Experience: Poster Deep Dive Tour

A series of tours we started in 2019 was called a “Deep Dive”. It delved into more detail on certain subjects and included dinner and drinks. One tour was focused on Posters.

By Pete Vilmur

The Rancho Obi-Wan poster deep dive was a great opportunity to share a part of the museum that few get to explore, since Rancho’s vast poster collection is archivally stored in flat files away from the regular tour route. The Star Wars saga has such a rich history of poster artwork, but, as collectors know, there are only so many that can be exhibited at any given time, since they require such a large amount of wall space (and if you’ve seen Rancho’s gallery, you know how little room is left on those walls!).

We had a rare opportunity to share some classics, like the Tom Jung Star Wars “Style A” one-sheet, which has the classic Luke with raised lightsaber, and the similar Hildebrandt version, with which it is often confused. We talked about the classic The Empire Strikes Back “Gone With The Wind” artwork for the release poster, which actually has a pared-back composition compared to the original artwork (the original composition was actually offered on a retail poster by Factors, Etc. the same year).

There was also the iconic Australian Empire one-sheet by Japanese artist Noriyoshi Ohrai, which, interestingly, is a far more valuable version than that from its country of origin (the English logo in silver ink takes this one into the stratosphere, value-wise). We also had a chance to discuss Kazu Sano’s Return of the Jedi “Style B” art, which some may know has a pretty significant variation among countries – in Japan, the poster was printed prior to an upsizing of Lando Calrissian’s portrait, so he appears smaller on the Japanese posters, as well as some other countries.

We also had a rare chance to discuss the legendary Triple Bill poster, which few have an opportunity to see in person, since only 18 were ever printed (with far fewer surviving). Though the black and white design is rather spare, it is by far the most valuable Star Wars poster printed, going for tens of thousands of dollars at auction.

We of course also talked about some rare international posters, specifically one from Russia (which, for some reason, depicts a puma-like figure at its center with lasers shooting out of its head), and the very rare, very frenetic Hong Kong Star Wars poster, which exhibits the Tom Chantrell artwork amid bold Chinese script and snipes all about the composition. There were about a dozen other rare and noteworthy posters we discussed, including one that I actually brought from my own collection – a rare local poster from Rancho’s hometown of Petaluma which advertised a limited 1978 engagement of Star Wars in our own historic Mystic Theater (then called the Plaza). It was a great poster to end on before guests could opt to mill about the collection for a spell – a great way to end what I hope was a rewarding experience for all who attended.