Smuggler’s Route: Your Path to Expanded Universe Merchandise from the Unknown Regions of Space (Part
The Gifts of Christmas Past Reflecting as we often do this time of year, I was looking back and thinking of some of the best gifts an Expanded Universe fan could have or would have received. If you are a Collector, if you are a relatively new Expanded Universe/Legends fan, or an SW EU Veteran, you still may not have seen these items before. These were blink and you missed it opportunities; most are Past/Retired or Rare Items, but from time to time, they still pop up on the secondary markets. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane, a golden age of merchandising. Do not be discouraged if you cannot get these items for this holiday season as a gift; the Expanded Universe fan in your orbit does have a birthday coming up. The will of the Force will determine if these items are your destiny.
So, let’s sail back through time, back to best gifts that had been released under the Expanded Universe banner on this Gifts of Christmas Past Edition of Smuggler’s Route.
Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album (1980) Produced in 1980 by RSO Records, Christmas in the Stars features a number of Star Wars–themed Christmas songs.
Over the course of the album, our favorite Star Wars Storyteller, Threepio, teaches Artoo what Bells are, how to sing, and shares a story about a droid factory where the droids make toys year-round for an "S. Claus". Who is this "S. Claus" and why does he require so many droids to make so many toys? The songs and stories end with a message from Threepio and Artoo, “Merry Christmas, everyone. And may the Force be with you…always." I’m sharing this album now because when else could I? I got this album years after the fact when I was a teenager when I discovered it was re-released on CD; I bought it simply because it was more Star Wars. I was already armed with an eclectic sense of humor, being a long time fan of " Weird Al" Yankovic and a number of other parody artists, but I will admit this album may not be for every Star Wars fan. Running just over a half an hour, this album includes 9 original songs, instant classics such as "The Odds Against Christmas" (Spoiler Alert! is 365 to 1), "What Can You Get A Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb)" and my personal favorite, dedicated to my favorite droid, "R2-D2, We Wish You A Merry Christmas"; not your usual fare of Christmas Carols, I grant you. With Real World references such as Einstein, HG Wells, and Christmas, itself, take this album for what it is, marketed to capitalize on the enormous popularity of Star Wars in the late 70s/early 80s, it is still a hilarious journey with two of our favorite droids with fun, funny original songs that will get stuck in your head. Now I present to you The 12 Fun Facts of the Christmas in the Stars album: 12. This album was one of the music industry's first non-classical-or-jazz projects to be recorded and mixed digitally. (Wikipedia) 11. When "What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)" reached No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1980 it was only the third digitally recorded single in the chart's history.(Wikipedia) 10. "The song "What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas" was referenced in the video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, when Zaalbar responds to Mission's suggestion that he get groomed by saying, «Wookiees do not brush their teeth, Mission! It... It just isn't done! What humiliation will you use on me next? A comb?» " (Wookieepedia) Does that make this album C-Canon or S-Canon? We will have to ask Matt Wilkins, perhaps on a future Matt Chat. 9. Anthony Daniels reprised his role as C-3PO, with Lucasfilm’s Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt, who provided the sounds for R2-D2 and Chewbacca on this album. (Wookieepedia) 8. The original Christmas songs were written by Maury Yeston, a Yale University music professor who went on to win Tony awards for the musicals Nine and Titanic . (Wookieepedia) 7. Christmas in the Stars was recorded in 1980, two years after the much maligned Star Wars Holiday Special aired. Though they share similar themes, they have no connections to one another other than the fact that they were both marketed in conjunction with major holidays; the Holiday Special being tied to the American Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas in the Stars marketed towards Earth's Christmas. (Wookieepedia) Bonus Fact: To this Day, Nerds around the world still celebrate Wookiee Life Day on Nov. 17, because that is the anniversary of the original and only airing of the Star Wars Holiday Special, November 17, 1978. They commemorate it with Holiday Special Viewings, especially if they have a friend who has never seen it before, and sharing Wookiee history and knowledge. (for more information on Wookiee Life Day, feel free to message me on the Facebook page.)
6. One day during recording, Lucasfilm sent a surprise guest to the studio: Darth Vader, only he would be so bold. Meco Monardo tried to give the Dark Lord a singing lesson, but his asthma prevented it. See photo below. (StarWars.com)
4. The album made its CD debut in 1994 as an unheralded budget-label release by JFC/Polygram Special Markets (catalog # 314 520 216-2), with all artwork and references to Star Wars (except those in the song titles) removed from the packaging. The only credit on the package was "Meco," and it featured a generic cover photo of space-themed Christmas boxes and decorations. On October 15, 1996, Rhino Records released a CD with the original cover art by Ralph McQuarrie restored. This release included liner notes by Stephen J. Sansweet, head of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm for 15 years and genuine lover of this Star Wars Christmas Album, he lobbied for years for the album's release on CD. (Wookieepedia) (StarWars.com)
3. Christmas in the Stars almost wasn't (reference to the movie The Christmas That Almost Wasn't). The album was almost killed by George Lucas. The entire album was written, recorded, and produced in under a month; Anthony Daniels had flown in from London to record all his songs in one day. Then while reviewing the finished product, Star Wars creator George Lucas, still a little sensitive after the Holiday Special failure, objected to some lyrics of a song where Yoda referenced the birth of Jesus Christ on Earth. Lucas was against the intermixing of "the message of the Force with Christianity . . . Yeston and Bongiovi were able to convince Lucas to let them just rewrite the lyrics, as opposed to scrapping the album." (fastcodesign.com)
2. Album creator Meco Monardo, the man who gifted us with the now infamous “disco version” of A New Hope's main theme, wrote a nine-page letter to George Lucas asking if he could produce this type of album for the Star Wars saga and later talked to George Lucas who jokingly told him about what he could and couldn’t do on the album, including “the one thing you must not do is kiss the Wookiee.” (StarWars.com)
1. 18-year-old and future rock star Jon Bon Jovi (credited as John Bongiovi) made his recording debut on this album, singing lead vocals on "R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas." Bon Jovi did it as a favor to his cousin Tony Bongiovi; Tony ran the Power Station recording studio in New York and co-produced the album. (Wookieepedia) (StarWars.com)
Christmas in the Stars was originally released in November of 1980 (Post ESB) on vinyl LP and cassette, but you can still acquire this album on CD today, on Amazon.com. Please listen to samples prior to purchase, to make sure this is your cup of Caf.
Here is a link to the product page:
Gentle Giant Grand Admiral Thrawn Mini Bust (2014)
Before the decanonization of the original EU canon in 2014, the master artisans at Gentle Giant Ltd had worked for two years to create a 6.75" Grand Admiral Thrawn mini bust. Digitally sculpted and hand-painted, each limited-edition piece came individually numbered and included a matching COA. Only 1,350 were made of this iconic fan favorite character and the mini bust originally retailed for about $79.99. In Imperial dress whites, hand painted, his Ice-blue skin and glowing red eyes are brought to life. With a ysalamir draped over its shoulders, the detail and design of this statue is simply “so artistically done.” If you are able to find this one, you won't have the holiday blues.
Gentle Giant Mara Jade Skywalker Mini Bust (2006)
In 2006, Gentle Giant released an exclusive mini bust of Mara Jade for the Indianapolis Gen Con convention. With the use of 3D scans, Shannon McRandle, the original model for Mara Jade, posed for the likeness of this mini bust. A trading card-sized certificate of authenticity was also included. Hand painted, this mini bust comes in two pieces, the lightsaber blade separates from the hilt. Limited to an edition of 2,000 units, this bust commands a large bounty on the secondary market to this day. Original Retail Value of $49.99, I’ve seen this item go for $500 or more in recent years with the Change of Canon. I am proud to say I own this one; She is along side her husband Luke in a place of honor among my collection.
Kotobukiya Star Wars: Mara Jade ArtFX Bishoujo Statue (2014)
Kotobukiya released a Mara Jade statue in their popular animated Bishoujo ("beautiful young girl") line in 2014, ironically around the time of the decanonization announcement. The statue features a very stylized Anime Mara Jade, in a two tone blue flight suit, removable cape, blaster holster at her hip, includes two lightsabers (Purple/Imperial Service/Emperor's Hand and Blue/Jedi/Anakin Skywalker blade) and two bases (Imperial logo, Rebellion logo); this Figure stands 9" tall (1:7 scale). The original Retail Value was about $75, but this item averages on the secondary market from 150-300 dollars these days. This was a pre-painted model that you had to assemble and could choose different display options with her assorted accessories.
Gallery Pictures from RebelScum.com
Kotobukiya Star Wars: Jaina Solo Bishoujo Statue (2012)
Jaina Solo, ace pilot/Jedi warrior/daughter of Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa, was actually the first Expanded Universe character released in the Kotobukiya Bishoujo ("beautiful young girl") line in 2012. A Kotobukiya Japanese import, Jaina appears in her X-wing flight suit and comes with a helmet, vest, lightsaber and Rogue Squadron base; this figure stands 9" tall (1:7 scale). You will need to save your credits for her too, still appearing on the secondary market at $150.00 starting price. Just like her Jedi Master and Aunt Mara, Jaina was a pre-painted model with some assembly required. Sadly, Jaina and Mara are the only EU figures released from this line. If you read the announcements from 2012, the Jaina Solo statue was stated as a promise that a long line of EU females from all Eras of Star Wars would get the Kotobukiya Bishoujo treatment; a promise, that for now, cannot be fulfilled.
Gallery Pictures from RebelScum.com
Celebration VI 6” Maquette collection - (2012)
The year is 2012, Star Wars Celebration VI saw the release of four exclusive 6” Resin maquettes, one for each day of celebration, originally retailing for $65.00 each. A Mara Jade Maquette (Thursday), Quinlan Vos (Friday), Darth Bane (Saturday), and a Death Trooper Stormtrooper (Sunday). Each character was limited to only 300 statues produced, making this likely the rarest item in this category. These maquettes are rarely available on the secondary market, and when they are, I have seen the Mara Jade one alone, a humble 6-inch resin statue, go for north of $700. Highly desired items indeed.
Mara Jade - Celebration VI- 6” maquette - (2012)
The exclusive maquette of Mara Jade, came with two interchangeable right arms, one holding a blaster and the other right arm with an open palm for “Force Push”. Finally, something other than a Black Cat Suit, this blue flight suit is a nice change of pace, and Mara is stylized, but just as lovely as ever.
Quinlin Vos - Celebration VI - 6” maquette (2012)
Quinlin Vos, Jedi of action and mystery, this statue depicts our Jedi Hero running toward the danger. Given the rarity of this item and lack of known reviews for it, I cannot properly describe any points of separation or details other than the picture below.
Darth Bane- Celebration VI - 6” maquette (2012)
Again, only limited to 300, and so detailed information is hard to come by. I do know that this Darth Bane statue came with two heads, Masked and Unmasked, and has a removable, billowing cape for that extra touch of drama; beautifully painted and sculpted.
Death Trooper Stormtrooper - Celebration VI - 6” maquette (2012) A 6-inch Maquette of a Death Trooper (Blackwing Virus–infected stormtrooper) inspired by the popularity of the Novel Death Troopers (2009). Again, I apologize, but due to the rarity of this item, I am unable to give it a detailed review of separation points or alternate display options. Please enjoy the pictures that I could find in the gallery below.
If you were lucky enough to snag one of these maquettes at Celebration VI or on the secondary market, please help us fill in the details of these rare items; Alternate display options, accessories, points of separation. Share your pictures or your review in the comments. Of course, the greatest gift an Expanded Universe fan ever received was. . . The Star Wars Expanded Universe itself. It gave us an excuse to revisit beloved films from the Original and Prequel Trilogies. The Expanded Universe increased our knowledge of a galaxy far, far away; We learned history and philosophy of the Jedi and the Sith, and even a few galaxy-weary Scoundrels. The Expanded Universe gifted us with a greater understanding of those films, like the Star Wars Tales Series of short stories, which offered additional context for what was going on in the background. We were able to go on adventures with some of our favorite characters from the films and fight along side them, and yet meet new characters and visit new worlds beyond the camera. The novels and comics gave us the ability to really understand the perspectives of our Heroes and Villains, get inside their heads and see things through their eyes. The Original Expanded Universe C-Canon awakened our imaginations and curiosity to go and find the answers to questions these characters and stories inspired in our minds. For me, personally, it has given me a life long love of reading all genres of novels, a love I am thankful for more and more; for all the adventures I've gotten to witness from the comfort of my favorite chair. The EU has given me Audio Dramas and Audiobooks to make car rides and the work hours fly by. It has given me comics and video games to share with the beloved "Fantastic Four" in my life,my nephews and niece, and novels to share and discuss with my dear dark sister, Darth Moll and my new found friends of The Expanded Universe Movement. Perhaps that is truly the greatest gift of all, beyond the EU itself; the friends I have made who love The Expanded Universe as much I do, and passionately long to see it continued.
I hope you enjoyed this Gifts of Christmas Past Edition of Smuggler's Route. From all of us here at TheExpandedUniverse.com Happy Holidays and May The Force Be With You
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