Star Wars - 40 years
I first encountered the Star Wars universe in 1977, at the screening of the first film in the saga, Episode IV – A New Hope, at the beloved Cinema Império.
For a 7-year-old kid, this was a foray into a new universe, full of special effects, innovative visual stimuli, completely realistic scenery, figures from other worlds, robotic characters and previously unseen, improbable vehicles, coupled with a disconcerting soundtrack, all in the hands of a supremely talented team, whose members themselves were growing up and learning on the job, led by a visionary man called George Lucas.
This saga, which has yet to be completed and brought to a close, was supplemented with new films following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and continues to captivate generations of fans, immersing them in the constant struggle between the light and the dark side of the Force. The Star Wars saga was and continues to be one of the most profitable ever, and also took a pioneering role in launching a sideshow of fervent collecting and cross-cutting, broad-based visionary merchandising devised in such a way as to delight people of all ages, fuelled by its hugely enthusiastic fans, who are just as great in number today as they ever were.
For many collectors of the action gures and the array of items that were released onto the market, the saga gave rise to another passion – the inevitable transition from collectors of “dolls” to “action gures” themselves. The 501st Legion, the world’s biggest fan club, was born and spread throughout the world with its outposts and garrisons, ranking as the biggest fan organisation worldwide according to the Guinness Book of Records.
The 501st Legion, a global organisation created by Albin Johnson, is a voluntary fan club formed with the express aim of bringing together costuming enthusiasts and making a di erence in our society, whether in one’s own life or on a wider scale. One of the main features of the 501st Legion is its collective identity as a group that perpetuates and celebrates the Star Wars fantasy, a new mythology for the modern world, as dreamed up by its passionate creator, George Lucas. Even more important than its role in promoting quality items and the improvement of the replicas and props used by its members is its willingness to contribute towards the local community through volunteer work and other endeavours.
By o ering a genuine experience in which the characters leave the screen for the real world, the potential for garnering support through fundraising, charity and volunteer work can thus be harnessed, almost as though the members of the legion are playing extras in the action drama. This little hobby allows the global family of the 501st Legion to make a di erence and provide assistance, o ering support and time to those who are most in need. For instance, they have provided direct support for a range of initiatives to combat leukaemia, from giving blood to donating bone marrow.
“May the force be with us, always!”
João Carreira Founder of the 501st Legion in Portugal