Creator of Star Wars
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."
How many kids grew up perfecting their reading skills with the Star Wars films' famed scrolling titles? Or maybe the question really is: Is it even possible to count the kids who still feel the utter thrill of watching that white type roll over that black screen as they await light saber battles, Jedi wisdom, roguish heroes, and more than a few intergalactic creatures?
The credit for getting a generation hooked on the Star Wars films goes to George Lucas, who dreamed up his far, far away galaxy back in 1977 with Star Wars Episode IV -- A New Hope. Many of today's parents where just kids themselves, but Star Wars fandom isn't lost -- at all -- on today's children.
Now, proving there are many tales left to tell in his galaxy, Lucas has released Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a computer animated yarn that depicts, yes, the clone wars, ever so briefly referred to in Episode IV, when Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that he fought with his father, Anakin (yet to become the menacing Darth Vader), in those battles. In The Clone Wars, we get to see these battles, complete with Anakin training his very own padawan (the name given to a Jedi apprentice). Even more exciting for fans old and young is that The Clone Wars will continue on the small screen, with an animated series debuting on Cartoon Network in the fall.
Lucas, who is father to son Jett, and daughters Amanda and Katie, called Family.com from his not-too-far-away headquarters in San Francisco, California, to talk about his kids' influence on his films, his favorite family movies, and the benefits of having a padawan.
I attended the Clone Wars panel at Comic-Con and kids were so excited about the footage they saw. And our reviewer said she saw everything from little Jedi knights with their full-grown Jedi parents to a remote control R2D2 at her screening. Having created three generations of Star Wars fans, do you have tips on how families can enjoy these movies together?
I think the movies sort of have an age range [they appeal to]. For the younger kids, they're actually all pretty intense. But I think the most important thing is to understand your kid's ability to withstand some of the issues that are dealt with in the films. They are fun to watch as a family, because there are a lot of family issues in them and they're something that everybody can watch together. I've discovered that, even people who saw the movies 20 years ago are still enthusiastic about them. As for kids, they can ask questions, and everyone can argue about what the answers are.
It is nice to share something with your kid that you loved as a kid. How does it feel to know you've affected at least three generations?
It's pretty amazing. Basically my only ambition to begin with was to inspire young people to think outside the box, to stimulate their imaginations, and to encourage them to be creative. And what's happened is beyond my wildest dreams.
You're well known for hiding secrets and references to your other films within your movies. Are there any hidden things to look for within The Clone Wars? I heard that we might get a glimpse of the Millennium Falcon.
There is a Millennium Falcon. But with the Millennium Falcon, remember, it's a brand of a cargo ship. So, the M1 does appear back there somewhere. In the TV series, as it goes forward, we'll have certain surprises like that.
I know you and your kids have made tiny background appearances in the previous movies. Were you able to do it in Clone Wars?
In animation, it's a little tougher to do that. But sometime in the future, it might happen.
Speaking of your family, how has being a parent affected the way you make films or approach movie making?
You know, my son really loves Star Wars, while the girls are sort of indifferent. I mean, they like it but they're not obsessed. So that's been an interesting experience to see how different kids react in different ways. Parts of them they like and parts of them they don't, so I get a lot of feedback from them I didn't get before.
What kind of feedback?
Usually, what they think works and what they think doesn't work. I didn't have their point of view when I was doing the first group of films. The second group of films probably reflects more of their concerns.
In The Clone Wars, there's a large focus on Anakin's padawan, a female character. Is the choice to focus on a girl at all because your daughters weren't as interested in the movies?
No, it was more we put the padawan in to help Anakin settle down. The best way to become a mature person is to teach somebody else or become a parent. So it was really designed as a way for Anakin to become a better partner with Obi-Wan. I made her a girl because I've raised two girls and I know what it's like to raise two teenage girls. I figured I'd put that experience to work.
I know you're a fan of old cinema. What films besides the Star Wars films do you think every parent should introduce their children to?
Well, those classics like The Wizard of Oz and Disney animation is where everybody should start. Swiss Family Robinson and Mary Poppins were good movies. And The Sound of Music.
Any more undiscovered classics or the stuff you watched as a kid, the sci-fi and action serials?
I watched the serials and things but they're hard to watch now because movies' level of quality has gone up so far I'm not sure kids will like them. I know some kids like some of the serials, like Flash Gordon and Don Winslow of the Navy so they're stil valid in their own way.
It just takes a certain kind of kid?
Yes, it does. (Laughs).