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Looking back at last september, the world of Star Wars fandom looked as it had since the last time anything had happened, things were just running “as usual” and there was little indication to major changes.
However when Disney announced it was purchasing lucasfilm ( and all other linked companies) inclusive full rights on Star Wars, it was not a wind of change that fan started to feel blowing but a hurricane, including the latest developments with the closing down of lucasart.
We know there will be a new trilogy, we also now other “derivation” will come to life following other characters. There are rumours of a new animated series and we can’t forget the old unicorn of a TV show a la battlestar galactica. Disney is taking poll on wether they should open a complete Star Wars theme park. Literature has been written about the parallel between Marvel comics franchise and Star Wars in terms of opportunities to develop character based movies. It has also been clearly established that unlike Marvel, with Star Wars Disney fully control every aspects, the galaxy is the limit.
All looks and sound good for an explosion of Star Wars extravaganza and I welcome it, all of it the great, the good and the lesser one will be all ok in my book. The most irreverent the better I might even suggest, after all this is what Han Solo was all about.
All in all it is safe to foresee a new generation of Star Wars fan coming to join the rank of the millions already existing. Where we would be wrong is to think that this is going to be an incremental increase based on the existing fan population. Of course, I, like million others, try to be a responsible parent and make sure to thoroughly help my daughter in being a fan herself, after all she made me reconnect with an old passion.
We need to get ready for a massive influx of new fans, people who have not seen the original trilogy, people who are new to the Star Wars universe…and yes in this world it exist. As a matter of fact, one could almost see it as a goldmine of new fan, people ready to embrace the experience and everything that comes along including buying toys, fashion, collectibles and much more.
This untapped source is of course China. So why would China be such an important place for Star Wars expansion? The original trilogy was obviously not released in China, as a matter of fact the founder of the Chinese 501st garrison only saw the original trilogy for the first time in 1997, 20 years after the first release.
The prequel was rather well welcomed in China but only reached the post 80ies generation and in a time where China was growing and had not yet attained what we see today in urban centres: a massive increase on spending power from the middle class and young adults looking for an “out of this world” escape to show to all. When the next trilogy hits China, the disposable income in urban centres will be at its all time high.
Something else has happened since the last trilogy: super heroes and transformers are all the rage! Fantasy and sci-fi have found a deep echo with the Chinese movie goers crowd. So much so that current development of major blockbusters are collaborating with Chinese co-producers to ensure that they will be allowed on the silver screen in mainland without having to jump through too many hoops. As a matter of fact Iron Man 3 has announced that it will have two versions: an international one and a Chinese one which will have added scenes recorded in Beijing and including famous Chinese actors.
This is yet another factor Star Wars will be able to tap into to attract new fans: Chinese Actors. They are followed heavily by their own fan, can attract millions to the movies and are extremely well established in mainland. To this date, the Star Wars movies have seen little asian faces, a couple of slaves and senators at most. There is obviously a huge universe to be filled with new characters… and considering the belligerent theme, some Chinese action movie stars could very well bring a distinctive asian flair, remember the green hornet with Jay Chou who remains amongst the very favourite stars in mainland.
One could not discuss the influence of Star Wars without thinking about the international costuming society known as the 501st: Vader’s Fist. With 10.000 registered users worldwide and over 6000 active ones, the 501st is an unprecedented group with truly iconic costumes. They are found in China as well and started as late as 2009 with 4 members, merely 3 years down the road, the group is now 40 members strong and is expecting to increase to 60 members by end of 2013. It would be hard to downplay the asian cultural trait of cosplay, which, with a strong influence from the neighbours, is gaining traction in mainland.
In a ultra-connected society such as China, with a huge craving for fantasy world and sci-fi saga, where the middle class is increasing fast and the rich (and super rich) look for ever more ways to show their purchasing power… the stage is set for an explosion of fandom…maybe to the scale of what the original trilogy brought to the US.
Since last August I have been following my own advises as to design for fun and design with passion. I reconnected with an old flame of mine ” Star Wars” and have since used it as a medium of design inspiration for various projects.
Looking back at the last months here is a retrospective of the work done during my free time…
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