Star Wars, while set “a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” really took off with the release of its first episode in 1977, A New Hope, featuring characters that would become essentially legendary to their generation and the next. Creator George Lucas, a culmination of the space adventure comics and cartoons he reportedly obsessed over in the early parts of his life, formulated the idea to hook older kids into space exploration the way he had been targeted at a young age by heroes such as Flash Gordon. After years and years of revision, and taking a leap of faith with the expected budget, he was finally able to begin filming the series in Tunisia, just a year before its completion and release to the public, grossing over $500 million as a result.
While the money was a huge endorsement to the marketability of the story, it was not as large as the dreams Lucas had for the initial trilogy of the film. He continued to film in the deserts of Tunisia to reduce costs, tucking away his plans for intergalactic cities and space fights, but remained over-budget in his ambitions. In a book by Chris Taylor on the creation and progression of the saga through the decades, detailing its booming successes and moments of near peril, he recounts when The Empire Strikes Back could not be completed until the sale of toys and action figures could supplement its budget. Taylor refers to it as poetic that there were “millions of children joyfully acting out the further adventures of Luke Skywalker literally fund[ing] the further adventures of Luke Skywalker.”
By 1983, the first trilogy was completed, and Star Wars fans were left to watch and rematch, and children were constrained to the adventures they could make up with their imaginations and a plethora of available merchandise. However, 15 years later the empire struck back again, so to speak, with the initiation of the prequel trilogy that introduced the early years of many characters. While the responses to these were slightly more varied, the renewal of the series for diehard fans flamed the industry enough to once again send them off into the “Star Wars Expanded Universe” featuring video games that many college aged students now remember playing with joysticks and computer mouses connected with a cord to their computers; light sabers that shook out to an astonishing four feet when waved at a peer; and endless other games and toys involving the theme and characters.
Star Wars was noted to be the fifth highest grossing film series in history at the completion of the sixth, but moving to fourth place after beating out The Lord of the Rings when this year’s newest episode The Force Awakens was released to the big screen. Highest grossing of the 7 episodes, without counting for inflation, the movie once again brought the infamous series to the forefront of many minds. Now speaking to a new generation as well as original fans, new owner of the franchise, Disney, has announced that this was the first in another trilogy installment that will add to the classics.
The Star Wars franchise was not the first in the era of space-military epics, but it has certainly lasted the longest and with the most infamy of any cartoon or comic dominating the field. What George Lucas began almost half a century ago continues to gain momentum, gathering more and more fans as well as improved technology along its path.