Toys saved Han Solo’s Life – Star Wars forever Changed

Seems some things take 30 years go get out of your system, and the mystery as to why Gary Kurtz produced the first two Star Wars films (Episode 4&5 for you younglings who dont know what was “first” in the Star Wars films) and then dropped out completely for Return of the Jedi.

Well it seems he saw a sore spot that took years for others to see. Lucas was more interested in the merchandising of toys to take the risk of a dark bittersweet victory for his third chapter of the trilogy.

Cinematical quotes Kurtz

“The original idea was that they would recover Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. … George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.” Kurtz claims it was the toys that ultimately began dictating which direction Lucasfilm would go in, claiming that Lucas’ priorities changed heading into Return of the Jedi.”We had an outline and George changed everything in it,” Kurtz told the Times. “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy.”

Now its hardly news that Lucas’ empire is built on two things. Toys and toys.

Sure, the movies and tv shows bring in tons of cash, as well as his effects studio that is loaned out other productions like a stripper on cheap beer night. But the merchandising, and licensing is the bread and butter of his business.

He makes the shows and the movies to sell more toys. And he keeps tinkering with his franchise to sell more movies… but more on that later.

Now people call this a “sell out” and while technically true, he was never in the film making business to lose money, so its hardly derrogatory.

Back in the day when Return of the Jedi came out, the biggest selling toy for boys was Hot Wheels. George Lucas invented the “action figure” (essentially dolls for boys) and he continues to grow his money machine all the time.

So did he “sell out”. Yup. I would too. He is a smart businessman, inspired storyteller and terrible director. And I have nothing but respect for him.

I don’t think Star Wars would have been better or worse if they had gone with a gritty dark poignant ending.

It just would have been different. And likely less appealing to kids.

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15 thoughts on “Toys saved Han Solo’s Life – Star Wars forever Changed

  1. I want to preface this by saying I think ROTJ was fine. I enjoy that movie to this day. That said, you set up a false dichotomy: going into the direction of kiddifying Star Wars was not a choice between making money or losing money, as you suggested (“he was never in the film making business to lose money”), the choice was between making more money than god, or making more money than god x2. “More money than god” is almost like infinity… the guy is so filthy rich that if you took away half his net worth, it would be almost meaningless. He could still finance small countries :P

    I don’t really have a problem with the direction he went in for ROTJ, and I don’t begrudge him trying to make more money by keeping it fun in the end of the original trilogy… but did he have to become so damn far in the “toy” direction with the new trilogy? Then again, I would have settled for a different Anikan… and a real script-writer to craft the story of the new trilogy. /sigh

  2. I can’t say that Han dying would have really made too much of a difference to me. What would have made Jedi truly GREAT is if they never had used the damn ewoks. Drives me nuts every time I watch the movie…

  3. You know what George should really do if he wants to make some more money? And this would be some serious cash right here as well as a SUPER service to the fans…

    He should write up the oft requested and oft shot down Sequel Trilogy and do it all animated like Clone Wars (with different design of course).

    And do it while all of the familiar principals are still alive to lend their voices, and most important of all DONT direct it, let someone else handle that part.

  4. Rodney, here is the difference. The original trilogy used sets, the Prequels used a greenscreen. Maybe if they had been made in 2009 it would look better but the technology was not perfected at the time and now it really shows.

    1. Exactly. The difference in look of the 2 trilogies is not the planets we were visiting. But the fact that he went from real sets and real locations to prop sets and green screens. When you take away whats real. You lose the realistic feel. Which changes the whole tone of the movie.

  5. Interesting blog. Boy would I kill to get the outline of the original draft, the one where Han dies. I don’t think Han dying would have really changed they way kids thought about the movies. When I was a child I loved the movies because of the droids, ewoks, and lightsabers. For example Obi-Wan dying was not a big deal to me, I wasn’t in it for the humans.

    On the other hand, as an adult I like ROTJ much less than I did as a child. I prefer the darker episode V. Makes me wonder what coulda been.

  6. I had the GI Joe scuba diver ‘action figure’. That thing was huge lol. The 6 Million Dollar Man action figure was the same. I think that came out before Star Wars too.

    1. But Star Wars perfected them. Even GI Joe switched format from the Barbie scale war heroes to the 3 inch Hasbro generation toys.

      You are correct. GIJoe was the first “doll for boys” marketed as Action Figures to differentiate.

  7. I agree with that last statement you made. I don’t think it would have been any better or worse. But I don’t think his “fall” was with ROTJ but rather Phantom Menace. The art direction was all wrong from that point on. If he kept the more rustic look found in the originals then it would have been for the better.

    1. The “rustic” look of the original trilogy had a lot to do with setting. Even in the original trilogy you could see pristine clean floors and reflections in the Death Star and the Imperial Star Destroyer bridge. Most of the OT took place in the rougher backwater planets where things did look grittier for a reason.

      We just saw the part of the story that took place in the cleaner, more luxurious side of the Universe.

      1. Not to mention that I, II and III takes place before the Empire and it’s oppression. Naturally things are cleaner and brighter.

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