Bantha Tracks-Sprocket Systems: Distinctive by Design

Back in the 80s, the official Star Wars fan club sent out a quarterly newsletter called Bantha Tracks. This one was unique in the sense that it was a playable record. (Yes, a paper-thin record located inside the magazine.) Sprocket Systems was the Lucasfilm sound department, headed by the famous Ben Burtt, and what we now know as Skywalker Sound. The name was officially changed when their office of operations moved from San Anselmo, Ca. to Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, Ca. in 1987.

This 34th issue is known as the special Soundsheet Edition, and is a very rare and unique look into the sound design dept. of Lucasfilm at the time. This was released in the Autumn of 1986, during a time when Star Wars had already (essentially) fallen off the map. The Kenner toys had since been discontinued, as with the Droids and Ewoks cartoon TV series, and even the Marvel comic run. There were no immediate plans for another film, and the interest of the general public had waned. Star Wars had entered what I like to call its “Dark Times”, where the only time you’d really hear mention of it (outside of geek circles) was in reference to the home video releases. So it’s probably safe to assume that the official fan club didn’t have as many members on their mailing list by the time this was released. However, this issue wasn’t JUST about Star Wars. This company had already worked on MANY other films, and has since achieved iconic status within the film industry. This was the only issue to feature such a clever gimmick, but maybe they had plans to releases more soundsheets had the interest been there. Who knows, but this is a really fun look back at what was going on at post-Star Wars Lucasfilm in 1986.

I uploaded this directly from the issue from my personal collection, and it is complete with all those wonderful “pops” and “clicks” that only those of us old enough to remember records can appreciate. (Oh, the irony of a record album about sound design that doesn’t have “perfect” sound quality!) I also took the liberty of uploading scans of the actual magazine pages so you can read about it while listening. (Albeit much more condensed than the usual Bantha Tracks issue.) Now, grab yourself a glass of blue milk, sit back and enjoy this 6 minutes of nostalgic bliss.

Worth noting is the fact that this was the second to last issue of Bantha Tracks. The Fan Club later reappeared in magazine form as the Lucasfilm Fan Club in the Autumn of 1987. If you already didn’t feel old yet, here’s a link to a scanned, downloadable version of that first issue.
Bantha Tracks

Oh…and since i’m sharing links to scanned, vintage magazine issues, here’s one that features EVERY issue of Bantha Tracks for your viewing pleasure. You’re welcome!

Underoos

1980’s The Empire Strikes Back Underoos Commercial!

You might imagine that The Empire Strikes Back was kind of a big deal when it was released in 1980. You know what was also incredibly popular at that time? Fruit of the Loom’s Underoos of course!
Underoos

It is rather a simple thing to see why those of us growing up in the 80s loved these. While the original idea for Underoos came about in 1977 thanks to Larry Weiss. The concept was sold to Fruit of the Loom – in fact they were the company Weiss hired to provide the shirts and underwear that characters would be printed on. Furthermore the company that was originally interested in the children’s line of clothing was Hanes.

Equally important are the popular properties that Fruit of the Loom went after for their Underoos. It is a rather astounding number of cartoons, toy lines, comic books, and films. The A-Team, Gremlins, Transformers, and Star Wars of course to name a few.
Underoos

This 1980’s commercial only showcases four sets of Underoos. In addition to Boba Fett, Darth Vader, R2-D2, and C-3PO. They also offered Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing pilot outfit. Princess Leia in Hoth attire, and two different colored versions of Yoda.

Star Wars TV Archive

It bears mentioning that Underoos didn’t offer anything for 1977’s Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back marked the first offerings. Although they continued with Return of the Jedi as well as The Ewoks animated series in 1985.

What was the first set of Underoos that I received?


Why none other than DC Comics’ Scarlet Speedster. The Flash!

Now I hope you will forgive me but I have to leave The Retroist Vault. I have tickets to go see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I will let you know however if while standing in line I happen to spy any fellow Star Wars fans wearing some Underoos!

Can I Have An Amen For The Star Wars Ewok Gospel?

The Ewoks from Return of the Jedi seemed to have gotten more than their fair shair of grief over the years. Surely I am not the only soul on the internet that can see that these admittedly cuddly looking pint-sized warriors are important to the outcome of the story, right?
Ewok Costume - Gaston LeBoux

Why the Ewoks are Important to the story of Return of the Jedi!

Join me as I take a quick look at how some things would have turned out differently for the Rebel Alliance in the third chapter of the original Star Wars trilogy without the Ewoks:

  • The Empire would have captured Princess Leia after she crashed her speeder bike – if not for Wicket leading her to the rest of his Ewok tribe.
  • Without the aid of the Ewok scouts leading the Rebel forces through the forests our heroes wouldn’t have located the alternative entrance to the shield generator bunker…and the Rebel Fleet would have either been utterly destroyed or at least been forced to retreat.
  • Han and his troops would have been imprisoned by the Empire during their assault on the bunker – or worse – if not for the last minute rescue of the combined might of the Ewok tribes, who I think you will agree were instrumental in defeating the Empire on the forest moon of Endor.

But couldn’t Lucas have come up with something better than teddy bears?

Now I will meet you halfway with that argument but I must also remind you that just because something appears “cute” at first glance it doesn’t mean there isn’t something scary about it when you look at it properly…
ewok-stormtrooper-lunch
…I mean if you think about it, when the Ewoks capture Luke, Chewbacca, Han, and R2-D2 as well as C-3PO – those little fuzzballs are flat out going to eat our heroes – well the flesh and blood ones at least!
ewok-barbecue-han-solo
Look, I totally understand if the way I see it doesn’t mesh with your views on Return of the Jedi and the Ewoks…but perhaps none other than Andrew Zilch and Billy Dee Williams might change your mind with the Star Wars Ewok Gospel?

Now can I have an Amen for the Ewoks?

Random Star Wars Music

2013-11-08 18.33.07

While moving stuff around in my Star Wars room the other day I realized that I had several different forms of Star Wars audio. I have vinyl records, 8-tracks, cassette tapes and CDs. I finally combined all of them into one single area, a “Star Wars Audio” shelf.

I used to really enjoy those Star Wars audio books in which voice actors and a narrator relayed a story relating to the Star Wars universe. In Ewoks Join the Fight, which you can see above, you can relive that epic battle in which a bunch of small teddy bears helped the Rebel Alliance crush the Empire on Endor in 45 RPM.

And if you would rather dance, well, there’s always Meco.

Festival Fantástico

Festival Fantástico

I recently stumbled upon these interesting comic covers whilst browsing around the internet. It’s hard to find information about them but I believe them to be Mexican of origin, printed during the late 80’s. The artwork isn’t original, the first issue for example is the 1985 Care Bears #1 Comic from Star (Marvel) and I recognize several of the others shown here.

Festival Fantástico

Festival Fantástico

Do we have any Mexican readers who can provide more information? Did the series feature characters other than the Ewoks, Spider-Man, Heathcliff, Thundercats, Muppet Babies and Care Bears?