“There’s an assumption that Star Wars toys just appeared on the shelves as a cynical marketing push, but the truth is there is a creative history and a narrative to their development,” says filmmaker Brian Stillman, director and executive producer of the documentary Plastic Galaxy. It tells the story behind the merchandise in a bid to “show there is more to these toys than just plastic”.
The project began when Stillman, a vintage toy collector, took a trip to a toyshop and spotted some Star Wars figurines that got him thinking. “They were only 30-years-old, much younger than the toys I usually collect, but they kept playing on my mind, triggering memories of my childhood until I eventually gave in and started collecting them,” he explains. Not satisfied with just purchasing the products, however, Stillman wanted to discover more about his new obsession. “I found a bunch of books on the subject but I was surprised to find that a documentary on the topic had never been done before. I’m a journalist and a filmmaker so I decided to do it myself!”
Twenty-four interviews, 14 cities and more than four terabytes of footage later and Stillman has uncovered stacks of trivia, from why Kenner’s version of the TIE Fighter was out of proportion to the curious popularity of knockoff toys. “I’ve spoken to people who collect Star Wars bootlegs, toys that were produced by companies that didn’t have the official license,” he says. “We’re mainly talking about the eastern bloc trying to cash in. They come in every conceivable colour, every degree of quality, all attempting to lay claim to the Star Wars lineage whilst avoiding possible lawsuits. You understand that this thing is so huge that even people with no access are so desperate to have a tiny piece of Star Wars. The Iron Curtain? Not a problem.”
When the self-funded film began to grow beyond budgetary constraints, Stillman invited fans to support the project via Kickstarter, proving to be a big success. “I think people were excited to see a film about these toys they love and I hope they felt confident because they know I’m a collector myself,” he tells us. “It’s not asking the usual question of why the toys are so expensive and instead it’s saying ‘Who cares that the toys are so expensive?’ so the real question becomes: ‘Why are these toys so cool and interesting that people will so enthusiastically collect them, making them expensive?’”
Plastic Galaxy will be released in November via www.plasticgalaxymovie.com.