2ND UPDATE: I always thought reversing fanboy disgust over George Lucas’ unbridled filmmaking greed and turgid storylines and stilted direction would be the most difficult job facing Kathleen Kennedy and Bob Iger after their deal bringing Lucasfilm to Disney was announced a month ago. Ah, silly me. Because it’s oh-so-apparent that the truly Herculean task ahead will be assuring fanboys that Disney and Luscasfilm don’t further eff up the Star Wars franchise through unnecessary synergy. Disney doesn’t even technically own Lucasfilm yet. But already ABC ensnared Star Wars characters a year ago into last night’s treacly Christmas-themed special episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. “I just saw the opening two minutes and they had Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers helping build a new house!” one Star Wars fanboy complained to me. “This is disgusting and it’s exactly what people were afraid of with Disney buying Star Wars. They are ruining the franchise by using it for trivial bullshit. Please write about this. It’s outrageous and it’s totally wrong.” I’m ubercynical, but hear the details and see this photo from the taping and judge for yourself (contd):
Maybe someone at Disney and ABC might have thought better of angering the already put-upon Star Wars fanboys with this episode. (They still recall with disgust that Star Wars Holiday Special back in 1978…) But noooooooo. According to my intel, host Ty Pennington visited the Zdroj family after the female firefighter volunteer’s own home was destroyed by the largest wildfire in Texas history. The episode featured an appearance by BMX biker Matt Hoffman, Oprah-famed chef Art Smith and “some special guests from Star Wars“. Turns out a handful of Star Wars re-enactors “including an Imperial Officer, Storm, Sand, Snow, and Clone Troopers” showed up for the taping a year ago. They were from the Central Texas 501st Legion, also known as Vader’s Fist, which is a Lucasfilm-pproved organization that coordinates do-good visits and events. “All of the Legion’s members are employed full time and come from many different industries, including but not limited to technology, public service (police officers), and corporate businesses. Each member designs and creates their own costume replica.” For this family, they made a Storm Trooper mask for the family and autographed the inside because it turns out family man Chris Zdroj and his 8-year-old twin sons have long been fans of the Star Wars saga. Whaddaya think the chances of that might have been?
Zdroj had a bunch of Star Wars movie memorabilia that he had been collecting since he was a young boy in the 1970s, but it all was destroyed when the family’s home burned down. So the 501st Legion volunteers took pieces of their own Star Wars memorabilia and donated it to the Zdroj family. According to one behind-the-scenes account, “When [one] Storm Trooper was asked why he volunteers to be part of these types of events he replied, ‘It just makes me feel good.’ [Another] says the squad members are often happy their suits include masks, “because it helps hide the tears”.