When Star Wars came out back in 1977, there was no merchandise — the toys came a year later — or fast-food tie-ins, or Funko Pops, or “character posters” or endless reels of online trailers to pore over in search of a fix.
We had only the movie, and our memories of it, to go on.
One 4-year-old kid — who grew up to be this film reporter — saw Star Wars on opening weekend that year. He was so eager to manifest what he’d just seen that the minute he got home, he plopped down at his desk to storyboard everything he could while his mom started making dinner.
He began with a grid that was pretty atrocious — you’d think someone might’ve helped him out with a ruler here — but the images he drew in those janky boxes showed a stunning level of accurate detail for some little kid who had just come back from the theater … and had no other point of reference.
It all just speaks to the powerful, sharp relief of George Lucas’ imagery and storytelling that this little tyke, barely old enough to write basic letters, captured its essence in a single sitting.
He called his one-sheet creation a “mini-movie,” and his mom kept it in an old photo album for all these years. On Thursday, the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars, he dragged it out for a look:
The opening battle
The chaos of that corridor battle, the smoke and turmoil, the freakishly firghtening stormtrooper outfits — even the dismay on the Rebel soldier’s face. It’s here.
Darth Vader confronts Leia
No idea who taught this kid how to draw perspective, but the back of Vader’s cloak and helmet would be pretty menacing if his only words weren’t … “O.K.”?
The giant skeleton
This image is onscreen for maybe five seconds in Star Wars, as C-3PO traverses the dunes alone. But there was something indelible about it, and though it doesn’t play into the story, the kid decided it was worth its own panel.
Vader does the Force-choke in the boardroom
This image suggests that the kid thought Vader was using some kind of poison? Apparently? From a cup perhaps? In any case, he was clearly a little confused and probably a lot scared.
The Jawas’ sand-crawler
I’m particularly impressed that the kid pulled off the closeup of the sand crawler’s wheels and tracking, capturing the mechanics and scale. Good one, kid.
Luke fixes R2
Come on, kid, you’ve got better profile skills than this. Luke looks like Ernie from Sesame Street.
Return to form, kid. That thing looks exactly like the movie.
R2-D2 … talks?
Here’s R2-D2 showing astonishment. How the little robot conveys this emotion is a testament to Lucas’ articulation and sound design, and the kid just nailed it here. Trouble is, you can see that he’s used up nearly all of his panels and he’s still somewhere in the first act. Time to fast-forward to …
Darth Vader confronts Obi-Wan
Not a lot of dynamism in this recreation, but then that wasn’t the most dynamic lightsaber battle, either. But he gets Obi-Wan’s face and stature just right somehow. And with just two panels left, he’s got to wrap this up, so we go straight to …
The Death Star trench-run battle and medals ceremony
And there we have it: Star Wars, in its entirety, doodled on a sheet of scrap paper on a rainy afternoon in 1977. In a world where movies didn’t give us anything to remember them by, he got it down the best he could so as not to forget.
Through the years he collected the Kenner toys, built X-Wing fighters instead of forts, and won and lost many a lightsaber battle dueled out with cardboard gift-wrap tubes.
But his first Star Wars swag will always be that storyboard, which he’s kept all these years in a yellowing photo album, just in case he wanted to remember what it was like to see Star Wars in the theater for the first time.
As a 4-year-old.