Star Wars: The Inner Seven-Year-Old Awakens

Local fans are eager to break out the popcorn and reconnect with their childhood icons

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Nope, the desert planet in the force awakens isn’t Tatooine. Abrams says this new planet is called Jakku.

Lucasfilm 2015


The lights go down in the theater and the show begins. There’s the 20th Century Fox logo, the drum roll and trumpets, a quiet pause and a puzzling storybook intro: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … .”

A moment of darkness, then it hits you. A gladiatorial musical exclamation punches you in the gut as the words “STAR WARS” blaze across the screen before receding into the starry distance as the opening crawl reels into view.

It’s the summer of 1977, and life as you know it is about to change forever. From now on, you will never know a world without Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Darth Vader.

Today, the characters and their story are immediately recognizable throughout the known universe. Creator George Lucas built a mega-empire based on this one film. It spawned two sequels, a really bad Christmas special, a prequel trilogy and countless cartoons, games, books and toys. It became the standard by which all future summer blockbusters were to be judged. And it rocked the universes of millions of people, particularly those moviegoers who were 7 or 8 years old at the time.

“It literally just blew me away,” recalled Blake Kandzer, 45, an award-winning Tallahassee illustrator, artist and graphic designer who saw “Star Wars” in a Winter Haven theater when he was 7. “I will never forget it because we were late getting to the theater — I can see it in my mind — and there was a huge line. We rushed to the theater and we got there right as the words were going across and the big ship comes down.”

Erika Peterman, 45, an editor for the Florida Medical Association and a comic book “cosplayer,” was also 7 when she saw the movie at an old Valdosta theater. When she talks about it, the little girl in her still bubbles up with excitement.

“Gosh, what can I say? It really was the first movie that just blew my mind,” she said. “I had never been immersed in a fictional world that way. That very first shot, the imperial ship going across the sky, I just thought, I had never seen anything like this before. It’s amazing.”

Local TV personality and man-about-town Greg Tish, 44, said he has no clear memories of seeing “Star Wars” in the theater, but he played the heck out of “The Story of Star Wars,” an LP he got for Christmas; he memorized every line.

He remembers “The Empire Strikes Back,” but cannot recall when he first saw “Star Wars.”

“I saw ‘Empire’ at Capitol Cinemas, which is now closed, but my first memory of ‘Star Wars’ is the (action) figures and the album, ‘The Story of Star Wars.’”

Tish still has the album, framed and on a wall.

“I can still hear them say, ‘Clear Bay 327, we are opening the magnetic field,’” Tish said. “That is where side one ends and side two begins.”

Even younger fans — too young to have witnessed history firsthand — revel in their memories of how they first experienced the “Star Wars” universe.

Marc Thomas, 39, senior designer for the Office of Creative Services at Florida State University and a comic book artist, was 10 years old when he had his first experience with the “Star Wars” franchise. He saw all three of the original trilogy movies as “one long continuous movie,” and they made a huge impression on him.

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