Wookiees and droids invade Science Museum

8:12 PM, Jun 14, 2008   |    comments
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A line of 13 semi-trucks created a temporary traffic jam in downtown St. Paul on a cool day in May. It was an extremely exciting time for folks at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Inside the trailers were dozens of plain wooden crates, filled with priceless relics and artifacts from an American institution. A loading dock is where the exhibit, "Star Wars, Where Science Meets Imagination," was born. "This is going to be a blockbuster, this is going to be a huge hit. We had, within 48 hours of the announcement, 6,000 people line up for tickets (online)," said Mike Day, vice president of museum enterprises. The St. Paul stop is the eighth and final U.S. stop before the exhibit is shipped to Australia. It will feature 80 artifacts, relics, costumes, and props from all six feature films associated with Star Wars. They're the actual pieces used by Lucasfilms. "It's the actual stuff from the movie. George Lucas has a prop shop where they build these things and when they're not used after the films, they're either thrown away or stored. This is the stored stuff," Project Leader of Special Exhibits Joe Imholte said. To see this "stuff" unpacked is to watch artists create something special. "It's extremely delicate and we are as careful as you can possibly be with anything," Imholte explained. There is a 20-person team that will take three weeks (one week more than normal) setting up the displays, going over every finite detail as they put together the exhibit. They wear surgical gloves, take photos of every artifact, and make sure each piece is sealed in glass case that is both temperature and humidity controlled. For example, the seven-foot Chewbacca display comes in a foam mold inside one of those massive crates. Curators were very cautious and careful as he is unstrapped, placed on a dolly, placed in a case, and then literally, combed with a fine-tooth comb. You can see original Han Solo and Princess Leia costumes. You'll find Yoda, Luke's Landspeeder, and the Millennium Falcon. "It can do point-five past light speed," Imholte joked. The ship itself isn't the larger-than-life vessel you see on the silver screen. But what you will notice is that every little detail was planned on this flying ship. There are even a few touches that creators added that didn't show up for film-goers. Look for a Champion Auto Parts sticker and a "Drive Safely" bumper sticker. "I'm amazed, I've grown up with these films," Day said as he toured the exhibit for the first time with KARE 11. "I'm amazed at how futuristic Lucas' vision was and how it still looks very fresh and very forward." Day says a consortium of museums approached Lucasfilms about the exhibit. The response was overwhelming. Lucas had carefully packed away his artifacts over the years. Museum leaders added an educational touch. "There are a lot of hands on opportunities. We wanted to inspire people to get engaged in visioning what the future can be; what we can do with science and technology to create a better future." That ambitious goal is what brought Anthony Daniels to town. Daniels was the man in the suit. He is also the voice of C-3PO. "Why not use this enormous force for something good, not just entertainment," Daniels said. There's a gleam in his eye as he talks fondly about the Star Wars series. Daniels is the only person to play a role in all six films. He had the last line in the last movie and the first line in the first film. "We all did it full out with great sincerity, and that's why in its hokey way it worked, but at the time, we didn't believe that," he said. As for C-3PO, Daniels remarks that the character grew on him, but the 17-piece costume did not. "I'm not going to keep it a secret anymore. I was in tears at the end of the first day. I was cut all over the place, it was fiberglass, had rough edges," he explained with a chuckle. The first day on set it took crews 2 hours to get the contraption around the actor's frame. Later, the folks at Lucasfilms got it down to a science, assembling the contraption in four minutes time. Click here to watch KARE 11's extended interview with Anthony Daniels. The exhibit will be on display for 10 weeks. Because the demand for tickets has been so great, the Science Museum will offer expanded hours. They'll be open 15 hours a day, 7 days a week.

By Scott Seroka, KARE 11 News

(Copyright 2008 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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