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Star Wars Takes On SMOKING - plus more old commercials!
Matt - 08/28/00


Again, I must reiterate before we start, I am a Star Wars fan. It's not my fault that the extra media surrounding it back in the day was so hilariously stupid. In the past, we've looked at such plights as the infamous SW Holiday Special, Mark Hamill on the Muppet Show, and of course, R2-D2 falling in love with a fire hydrant on Sesame Street. Well, just like Yoda has infinite wisdom, Star Wars seems to have an infinite number of bad media ties connected to it.

In this case, it's more commercials. Back then, Star Wars was one of the very few movie genres that was actually popular enough to be mass-marketed. So they got a lot of offers for commercial tie-ins. George Lucas, who depending on which fan you talk to is either really careful with where his legacy appears or just completely reckless in getting it everywhere possible, seems to lapse in and out of temporary insanity when you look at some of the things that Star Wars logo is brandished upon.

For whatever reason, the Droids are the ones who usually get shafted and drafted into these various conquests. C-3P0 and R2-D2 have been on more awful commercials than Sally Struthers. That's what happens when the actor royalties check is so low. If the midget who played R2, Kenny Baker, was dead...he'd be rolling around in his grave. Actually, he might be dead. It's pretty hard to tell. Midgets seem to have lost their mass appeal in the past few years. Really, the last time I can remember even a remote mention of a midget in something big budget was that little freaky blonde from Total Recall. And she didn't even get cast as the girl who got to have three tits. But we're getting way off track here...

Anyway, sorry, we've got no downloads for these. Not right now, anyway. I'm working on finding the infamous 57-reel, which is a video of old Star Wars commercials bootlegged and sold to fans on the black market. Right alongside the alleged video of George Lucas getting frustrated on the set, kicking R5-D4, and hurting his foot. Let's take a look..



The Star Wars Anti-Smoking Commercial

If there's anything in Star Wars that can be construed as 'controversial' besides having a giant alien puppet strip Leia naked and stick it's tongue down her throat, this is it. But it's not controversial in that sense, it's controversial because it's incredibly stupid.

It aired on television around the time Return of the Jedi was shown in theatres worldwide, and it might've been the only thing out there that could've convinced someone not to see the movie.

In case you can't tell what's going on up there, R2-D2 is smoking a cigarette. Under normal circumstances, that'd be all I'd have to say...but it gets better. Just like Gary Coleman did on that infamous episode of Diff'rent Strokes, R2 is trying to hide his habit. C'mon, the droid has gotta be at least 40 years old. It's not like he's doing anything wrong, and besides, he's got no lungs to fuck up. Really, if anyone should be allowed to smoke without being blasted, it's R2.

Anyhow, C-3P0 enters the room and does his best to act completely disgusted. This is where the action starts getting good. As 3P0 is being all virtuous, like any good Droids would, R2 is doing this little shimmy on the side that tells us he's too cool to be lectured. It's a great moment. And when you really look at it, R2's not even smoking the cigarette. He's just holding it about a foot away from him in a well ventilated area. I mean, how virtuous does a droid need to be? If R2 goes into a magazine shop and sees that Forbes is behind the Playboy magazine, is he going to get in trouble just for moving it out of the way? Seems to me like 3P0's being a little too high and mighty in this case. Not that we should be surprised - this is the same guy who said it wouldn't be 'proper' to lie to Ewoks!

Eventually, 3P0 strikes a chord with R2 by playing the 'set a good example' card. R2 beeps something and gets rid of the cigarette, because after all, he doesn't want to look like a dick on camera. Whether this was one of those deals where R2 just pretended to stop smoking for the sake of getting everyone off his case, we may never know. Hey, I've done it before. I can't count the number of times I told my mother I officially quit smoking and was going out for a healthy walk. Four steps out the door, and three cigarette butts were already stuck to my feet.

Hey, a little redundancy never hurt anyone. If the galaxy is distant, that's one thing. If it's 'far, far away', that's something else. But if it's a distant galaxy, far, far away? Shit, that's a long way from home. It just makes it all the more impressive that 3P0 manages to nail the British maid accent so perfectly. Those droids can do anything.



The Empire Strikes Back Toys

I remember, as a child, having really no other purpose in life than Star Wars figures. I mean, I had Transformers, I had G.I. Joe...but Star Wars figures gave me this euphoria I wouldn't feel until over a dozen years later when the bassist from Nirvana broke his wrist on the stage during the MTV Awards. As a former collector/dealer of this crap, there'd be occassions when an old Star Wars figure's package accidentally opened. I'd smell the new plastic like I was fucking doing whippits, and turn into a real bitch for about two weeks when the smell was gone. Hell, I remember opening up these 50 dollar figures every now and again just so I could smell the plastic.

One of my brothers used to work at Toys R Us during the original Star Wars era, and I knew how to use this to my advantage. Whenever he was working, I told my parents how much I missed him and needed to say hello desperately. I'd act like I hadn't seen him in five years. Eventually, the tantrum would succeed, and we'd go see my brother at work. Course, I wouldn't see my brother until I was ready to leave the store, as he rung up my Han Solo figure. It was the absolute perfect crime. My brother felt loved, I got my toys, and my parents were too winded with me being the last of seven kids to give a shit either way.

But the thing that probably got me so into the toys was the commercials. I remember the later ones being pretty nonsensical. There's one where these two kids are playing, and whenever a bad guy walked over their surrogate bridge, they'd turn it over and make him fall. It looked pretty dumb, but it got even worse when they acted all impressed with what they did.

Or in the case of this commercial, it's C-3P0 again. His job's not to shill promotional posters or anti-smoking messages this time...it's simply to tell kids that the new Empire Strikes Back toys were now on the shelves! The acting range of 3P0 is absolutely incredible. You can't imagine how excited he got over things like this. Retrospectively, he would've made a great used car salesman. Hell, he convinced me that I needed to add Klaatu in Skiff Guard Outfit to my collection, and I hate that figure. But this commercial's not funny because of 3P0's advertising, it's funny because it makes Chewbacca look like a fool.

Chewy got cast in the Ed McMahon role here. Only it's even worse, because instead of laughing and being chunky, all Chewy could offer up was an occassional Grunt. The commercial went something like this...

C-3P0: Oh Chewbacca! I am so excited about these new Empire Strikes Back official action figures!

Chewy: Roaaarr!

C-3P0: Why, they even made a figure for the AT-AT Driver! No collection is complete without one, isn't that right, Chewbacca?

Chewy: Roaaarr!

C-3P0: I love big breasted woman dressed in monkey suits who carry around tuna sandwiches at all times, don't you agree, Chewy?

Chewy: Roaaarr!

So yeah, Chewbacca came off looking pretty dumb. The best part was his facial expressions. He's paying attention to 3P0 as if the Droid was reading off a newly-discovered passage from the Wookie Bible. But hey, in everyone involved's defense, I'd probably cast Chewbacca on these commercials too. Harrison Ford isn't going to come cheap...but Peter Mayhew? Please, I offered the guy five bucks to lick my windows clean, and he started rolling around the floor giggling like he had just won the lottery. Ultimately, kids will buy anything. They may as well stick to a low budget.



C3P0's Cereal

The first article on X-E and the first article I ever wrote for it was a tribute to forgotten cereals. For whatever reason, I was really pining to write about this cereal. It's odd, but this site might not have even happened in Lucasfilm didn't decide to branch out into the breakfast world. Obviously, I lived and breathed Star Wars. Now with C3P0's Cereal in the mix, I lived, breathed, and ate Star Wars. It's no wonder I ended up so geeky. My entire childhood was led by robots and Billy Dee Williams. There's no way you can not end up at least somewhat maladjusted with that shit flooding your childhood years. For eight years I thought that all the lightning in the sky came from the Emperor, and all the ugly kids at school from Luke and Leia's unholy union of love.

This commercial's pretty odd. I wish I had more pics to show you, but wouldn't you know it, internet resources on old Star Wars cereal commercials really aren't at an all-time high. The commercial featured two big 'Os' flying in space, merging together to form what I'm swearing to you is the number eight. I don't know what else this cereal is supposed to be. I look at it, and I see a bowl full of eights.

There's also some pretty weird alien action going on in this one. It's strange...they must have a warehouse of about 2,000,000 alien costumes used in the films. But when it came time for a commercial, they went out and found the most ludicrous alien outfits possible. Still, knowing Lucas, I wouldn't doubt us seeing a special line of action figures from the C-3P0s Cereal commercial line within six months. I mean come on, they've got a different figure for Luke for every different pair of shoes he wore. It wouldn't be all that surprising.

Unfortunately, C-3P0 couldn't compete with the Trix rabbit and Count Chocula, so this cereal didn't have a long life on the shelves. Hmm...you know, I'm looking at the cereal now...and I wouldn't be surprised if they were supposed to be C-3P0 heads. If that's the case, someone really fucked up. C-3P0's head looks robotic, not numeric. In any event, it's a new Force in breakfast, which is a tagline they got to use for the cereal's entire run, because by the time it was taken off production, it was still very new.


Don't think this stuff is all in the past. They'll be more oblivious Star Wars commercials and dumb products in the future. They've already nailed Taco Bell and Pepsi, who knows what the future holds? For Christ's sake, I remember seeing a poster from The Phantom Menace with fucking Captain Panaka on it. PANAKA! The poor man's Lando dressed like a colorblind Egyptian. The saga's a long way from over.

- Matt
matt@x-entertainment.com