C-3PO: Oh, my stars, Han shot first!
Han Solo: Of course. It was me or him. Why wouldn’t I?
C-3PO: That is a subject of some debate.
– LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out
LEGO Star Wars isn’t a just set of LEGO bricks or even an epic videogame series. It’s also a three-part television series, the last of which airs tonight at 8 pm on the Cartoon Network. It’s a sly, funny poke at the movies we all know and love, much like Seth Green’s Robot Chicken cartoons, but with fewer four-letter words.
In the brief clip I saw last week on a Jumbotron in Times Square—where we gathered to watch the unveiling of the ultracool full-scale X-wing, and with 5.3 million bricks, it’s the largest LEGO model ever built—viewers were reminded that parsecs are a unit of distance, not time.
If you’ve ever played the LEGO Star Wars videogames, you’ll know just how fun the blending of the classic movie series and the toys really are. But it wasn’t until the LEGO Star Wars videogames that I fully appreciated how the combination was greater than the sum of its parts. It’s like peanut butter and chocolate (if you’re American. Apple pie and stilton if you’re English).
Michael Price, the writer of the LEGO Star Wars three-part series, has learned how to bring balance to the show’s all-ages audience. A fan since 1977, as well as a father, Price is also a writer and producer of The Simpsons. Price said his show is “leavened with satirical jokes that are aimed at the parents watching with the kids, who perhaps like me are 38-year fans of Star Wars and obsess about the little changes that George made and the little fun discrepancies… but also at the same time staying true to what Star Wars is.”
This isn’t the first Star Wars cartoon. There is another: the recently cancelled The Clone Wars (and let’s not forget the Boba Fett segment 1978 Christmas special). But Price doesn’t believe the two shows can be compared.
“I’m a huge fan of [The Clone Wars] and they had comic episodes and comic bits, but it was a very serious and canonical Star Wars show. Our shows, I would say, are distinctly non-canonical.
“Things happen in [the LEGO Star Wars series] that would never happen in the Star Wars world. In the first two shows, we broke the fourth wall. In the first show, LEGO George Lucas walked out, kicking Darth Vader off the set. It’s like playing…with our LEGOs on the living room carpet.”
LEGO and Star Wars have been partnered since 1999, and according Michael McNally, brand relations director for LEGO systems, Star Wars was LEGO’s very first licensed line. Since 1999, “We’ve made about 360 different models from the Star Wars universe and we’ve represented almost 460 different LEGO mini-figure characters from the universe.”
McNally said, “Star Wars is the only licensed property that we’ve kept in the LEGO collection every year since its launch year. It grows year upon year, with or without major movie events taking place. It also ranks within the top three LEGO themes globally every year.”
So how much do Star Wars LEGOs earn? “We’re privately held, so we don’t disclose revenue for different themes. But what I can tell you is that we have sold well over 200 million LEGO Star Wars boxes since 1999.”
And it looks as if many of them were used in this terrific X-wing, which was constructed in the Czech Republic before it made its way to New York City: The scale of it was impressive, as were the touches that LEGO brought to the event, such as brick R2-D2, brick C-3PO, brick Yoda, brick Chewie, brick Porkins, and of course, a ubiquitous stormtrooper…who unfortunately wore standard issue and not brick.
LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles – The Phantom Clone airs tonight at 8pm on the Cartoon Network. The previous episodes air at 7 pm and 7:30.
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