This Month in Star Wars History: January
January, throughout the years, has been a busy month for Star Wars. Whether it be the careful planning of a trilogy that would forever change the world, or the fallout from the saga’s latest cinematic instalments almost four decades later, the new year always begins with a bang as far as Star Wars is concerned. But what exactly happened during this pivotal month for the galaxy far, far away? What were some of the events that helped shape the franchise as we know it in 2018? Well, let’s find out! But before we begin – since there are literally too many historical Star Wars events to name in one article – be sure to follow my Twitter account (@TheCancrizans) for daily updates on this very topic and much more! Also, most of the information used in this series can be found in the fantastic read Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle. I recommend you check it out! Anyway, without any further ado, here is This Month in Star Wars History: January.
Number 10. The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis “the Wise” – January 10th, 2012
“Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis 'the Wise'?" Well, if not, the 10th of January, 2012, was definitely the day for you! Why, I hear you ask? Well, Del Rey officially releaed James Luceno’s novel Darth Plagueis – which sought to uncover some of the mystery surrounding the legendary master of Emperor Palpatine. It quickly became a bestseller, as a result, all while garnering praise from fans and critics alike. In fact, to this very day the novel stands as one of the greatest pieces of Expanded Universe material ever created, even if Disney now deem it non-canon within Star Wars continuity.
Number 09. The Battle of Coruscant – January 8th, 2004
Whether you love or hate the Star Wars prequels, I’m sure we can all agree that Revenge of the Sith boasts one of the greatest opening shots in the entire Star Wars saga. We had simply not seen a space battle to that scale before – not to mention a lengthy continuous sequence like it, following the trademark title crawl. Sure, 76 seconds may not sound like a drastically-long period of time, but John Knoll and his team of digital artists had to work around the clock to painstakingly realise the vision of George Lucas. And it all happened on the 8th of January, 2004, and beyond.
Number 08. “Revenge” of the Title – January 27th, 1983
By now it’s common knowledge that Return of the Jedi was initially known as “Revenge of the Jedi”. But what you may not know is the exact date in which Lucas made this renown title change. Actually, you probably do if you paid attention to the above header... Where is the Men in Black Neuralyzer when you need one? Anyway, the last-minute decision caused the many then-outdated teaser posters to skyrocket in price on the black market. Even Lucasfilm got in on the action, selling around 6,800 units of “Revenge of the Jedi” merchandise to lucky members of the official Star Wars Fan Club.
Number 07. The Beginning of the End – January 11th, 1982
Speaking of Star Wars: Episode VI, principal photography for Revenge of the Jedi – yes, “Revenge” of the Jedi – began on January 11th, 1982, at Pinewood Studios in England. The first scene to be filmed depicted the likes of Han Solo, Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker leaving Tatooine in a sandstorm – no, not that Sandstorm. Ultimately, the sequence was dropped from the final theatrical release, but not before briefly airing during the first trailer. As for the mock-up Millennium Falcon used during this scene – well, that was later broken up and sold for scrap. RIP partially complete Falcon.
Number 06. Real Life Death Star – January 11th, 2013
Contrary to any jokes I've made so far in today's article, I do quite enjoy a bit of humour. However, there comes a point where a joke is taken a little too far, resulting in official statements against, I don't know – the creation of a planet-destroying superweapon... Ha, ha, that would be quite the story. Wait, that actually happened? Oh... Yes – as I'm sure many of you will recall – 34,435 Americans petitioned for the creation of a real life “Death Star” in January of 2013. This prompted the White House into increasing the number of signatures required for an official response, but not before issuing a rather witty response:
“The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850 [quadrillion]. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it. The Administration does not support blowing up planets. Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?”
Number 05. Adventures of the Starkiller – January 28th, 1975
I'm sure most of us are aware by now that Star Wars as we know it today could have been vastly different. Whether it be multiple drafts of each script, the input of countless personnel, or editing that literally saved the movie, it's fair to say the final version of A New Hope – and the effect it had on the world – is something of a miracle. So if we choose to go way back to 1975, it should come as no surprise that the second draft of 'Adventures Of The Starkiller' – as it was then titled – changed almost everything that Alan Ladd Jr and Francis Ford Coppola originally deemed satisfactory. For example, the new opening sequence featured R2-D2 and C-3PO much more prominently.
Number 04. Beyond the Silver Screen – January 11th, 1990
April 3rd, 2013 – remember the date, because that's when LucasArts died. Come to think of it, I should totally reuse that line in a few months time! Anyway, LucasArts may no longer function as a subsidiary of Lucasfilm, but it was on this day – January 11th, 1990 – that the organisation was born! Announced by then Lucasfilm president Doug Norby, it was founded after the consolidation of Industrial Light & Magic, the THX Group, LucasArts Licensing, the Skywalker Group, LucasArts Attractions, LucasArts Luminaire, Lucasfilm Commercial Productions, Lucasfilm Games, and Lucasfilm Learning Systems.
Number 03. Painting a Galaxy Far, Far Away – January 5th, 1975
There are far too many people to name when it comes to influential Star Wars creators. Atop the pecking order, however, has to be Ralph McQuarrie. Without him, Star Wars wouldn't have the same feel or look. It's as simple as that. So you could say history was made on the 5th of January, 1975, when McQuarrie painted his first ever piece of concept art for George Lucas. Depicting R2-D2 and C-3PO on a sand planet, as they emerge from an escape pod, the legendary artist sought many real-world inspirations for the alien world:
“I gave Artoo three legs, figuring he'd throw himself forward like a person on crutches. I picked up some landscape from a photograph [of the Oregon coast] because I liked the cliff, and I just put the sand dunes in.”
Number 02. The Box Office Awakens – January 6th, 2016
Other than perhaps The Empire Strikes Back or The Phantom Menace, Episode VII surely holds the title of the most anticipated Star Wars movie of all time. Not only had fans waited ten long years for another cinematic trip to the galaxy far, far way, but J.J. Abrams' blend of nostalgia and breathtaking action seemed all too an attractive offer to simply turn down. Ultimately, all of these factors perfectly made for box office success. So much so that The Force Awakens overtook Avatar as the highest-grossing film in US history – a feat achieved in only twenty days of release.
Remembering Those Who Passed Away
Unfortunately, despite the many highs January has gifted Star Wars fans over the years, the month hasn’t been without its low points. So before we uncover the number one spot on today’s list, let’s take some time to remember those who have sadly passed away.
Known for his role as the fight choreographer, sword master, and lightsaber double for Darth Vader in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Bob Anderson passed away on New Year's Day at the age of 89.
Legendary actor Ian Abercrombie, who voiced Palpatine in the first five seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, passed away from kidney failure at the age of 77. His legacy as the Supreme Chancellor was ultimately continued by Tim Curry.
The resume of actor and martial artist Khan Bonfils was not to be scoffed at. With the likes of Tomb Raider 2, Batman Begins, Skyfall, and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace all under his belt, Khan's Hollywood career was seemingly on the ascendency. Unfortunately, during rehearsals for an upcoming stage production, he collapsed and could not be resuscitated. Bonfils was only 42-years-old.
Number 01. Ahsoka is Born - January 29th, 2008
It's hard to believe that the concept of Ahsoka Tano is already ten-years-old. It only feels like yesterday she was pestering Anakin Skywalker in a series no one really expected to go the distance. In fact, most fans initially found this character to be extremely annoying and downright unbelievable. But as Star Wars: The Clone Wars progressed, both she and the show seemed to mature. So much so that nowadays many a fan cite Tano as one of their all-time favourite characters. It just goes to show that if we were to hold back our judgement just a little bit more, we may come around to ideas and concepts that we initially didn't like.
So there is just a glimpse of the important historical events that have taken place throughout the month of January. But if you want even more content like this, be sure to follow my Twitter account (@TheCancrizans) for daily updates.
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