Star Wars Teaser Trailers – My Personal Journey 1976 – 2014

I vaguely remember seeing the teaser trailer for Star Wars as a 7 year old when I saw the 1976 version of King Kong in the theatre. But I do remember seeing monsters, battles and sword play. Honestly it could have been a trailer for Star Wars or Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (which was also released the summer of 1977 and also starred Peter Mayhew). Unfortunately these exact memories are lost due to time. I’m sure it was Star Wars since I remember seeing robots.

1976 Original Star Wars Teaser Trailer

However, when the teaser trailer that featured actual footage from The Empire Strikes Back was tagged onto the 1979 re-release of Star Wars, I remember everything! Keep in mind we didn’t have the Internet, Twitter or Facebook to tell us it was coming, we just had a red banner announcement splashed across the middle of the re-release poster. Pulling double duty, that same red banner also told kids about Kenner toy discount books they could get at participating theaters. That was our social media.

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The Newton Corner Paramount Theater where I “lived” every summer with each re-release of Star Wars made us young moviegoers wait until the end of the film to show us The Empire Strikes Back coming attraction. As excited as I was to watch Star Wars on the big screen again I was eager for it to be over so I could see these new scenes with Luke, Darth Vader and all my friends.

Finally the credits ended, we heard that last note of John Williams score and up came a starry field with a blue Star Wars logo. My adrenaline shot to an unprecedented level. What were we about to see? What new characters or planets will we get a sneak peak at? I could hardly contain my excitement.

1979 Empire Strikes Back Teaser Trailer

A fast-paced voice filled us in on where we left off. “Luke Skywalker and Han Solo rescued the princess, destroyed the Death Star but their story didn’t end there.” (it was years later until I found out that it was Harrison Ford doing that voice over).

My eyes widened as I saw Han Solo shoot at Darth Vader, Princess Leia shoved around by stormtroopers, Luke shot at by someone I don’t recognize, 3PO’s head flying through the air, Chewbacca being tortured in a cell, and, is that Luke and Leia about to kiss?

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Whatever was going on in this coming attraction disturbed me. Where was all the fun and lightheartedness of Star Wars? All these bad things were happening to my friends and I felt helpless. Luke and Han have been up against many perilous odds before and they always got away unscathed. Now, it looks like they’re in more extreme physical danger and they were not getting away unharmed. I was scared.

Was this new movie going to be too dark? Will I not be able to enjoy it because I’ll be so worried? Rest assured, I was very relieved when I saw The Empire Strikes Back on May 21, 1980 and it goes without saying that I absolutely loved the new adventures. However it took some time to deal with all the awful things my friends had to go through.

Then in 1982 without any warning came the teaser for Revenge Of The Jedi that came with another re-release of Star Wars. Even though the movie poster for this release had a banner about the coming attraction, the Newton Corner Theatre did not get this particular one-sheet. Imagine the surprise that was about to come!

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My friends and I sat there waiting for Star Wars to begin when the first trailer started. It opened with a starry field. A voiceover said, “a long time ago in a galaxy far away,” then the Star Wars logo appeared in red.

“Wait, is this how Star Wars starts? Has it been that long that I forgot?” And then there it was, the logo for Revenge Of The Jedi. “The next chapter in the Star Wars saga,” the voice over continued. I threw myself on the seat in front of me just to get closer to the screen.

1982 Revenge of the Jedi Teaser Trailer

“Join the further adventures of…” The trailer proceeded to highlight each main character as they were introduced in a “3-D” box-type graphic.

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This took me by such a surprise that I could hardly comprehend anything I was seeing. It was so action packed. Luke in a battle with a blue Lightsaber, Han intensively firing at the enemy, Chewbacca throwing Stormtroopers. Then there was a shot that intrigued me, Darth Vader looked like he was wearing an arc of blue light around
his neck. They gave Darth Vader an accessory? He wore the same outfit in the last two movies so I wonder what this blue light is for? (Since the shot in the trailer was so fast I didn’t realize it was the bottom edge of his helmet just reflecting a blue light. Shucks.)

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By the end of that minute and a half teaser, I was so excited that this film felt a lot lighter in tone and it had such a unique feel to it. Star Wars trailers have always featured a montage of characters turning their heads and this one was no different. I tried to figure out if they were all looking at each other or if it was just random shots from the movie.

Over the next few days I would return to see Star Wars again and again with a pen and sketchbook and I would quickly draw what I was seeing in the Jedi trailer so I could “watch” it using my crudely drawn sketches and then act it out with my action figures. (YouTube, where are you?) I knew this trailer so well now that when I saw the actual film I knew what shots were missing and what alternate takes were used.

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Zzzzzzzzz…..

I had to wait 16 years to see the next new Star Wars teaser trailer. That came on November 6, 1998 with Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. My friend Russ Houston called me from Boston to ask me if I had heard they were releasing the trailer the next day. I was embarrassed being such a huge fan and I knew nothing about it. I got on this new thing called the Internet and looked it up. 35 minutes later it told me the trailer was going to play at the Universal City theater in Hollywood.

1998 The Phantom Menace Teaser Trailer

I cleared my morning and went down and bought a ticket for Adam Sandler’s, The Waterboy. I didn’t mind spending the money because I knew I was going to get it back with my devious scheme of “having to leave” and getting a refund after the trailer. I sat in the back of the unusually crowded theater for a weekday morning and anxiously waited.

I agonized as I waited through a couple of other trailers. But then it happened. The 20th Century Fox logo came up and I knew this was it. The Lucasfilm Limited logo faded up. The theater erupted in applause! The first shot slowly dissolved into a foggy location and then something lumbered out of a mist cloud. It was such a great shot which made me even more excited.

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“Every generation has a legend,” and my generation has Star Wars! And now Star Wars is back. But in this new trailer I was seeing a lot of unfamiliar faces cut together to the John Williams score. These characters were fighting with Lightsabers and blasters. They were on the familiar planet of Tattooine. But yet I had never seen these characters before. It was all quite confusing.

Then there was Darth Maul with his double-bladed Lightsaber. I know this weapon had appeared in the expanded universe but here it was in the new movie being used by the new bad guy. This changed everything about the upcoming duels. The other shot that really made an impression was the battle droids readying for battle, then one droid head pops into the frame. These must be to this film what Stormtroopers were to the original films, and I love me some Stormtroopers.

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I got goosebumps when Qui-Gonn spoke the line, “Anakin Skywalker meet Obi-Wan Kenobi.” The theatre went nuts. So this is how that union started. When Ben Kenobi spoke of Luke’s father in Star Wars I pictured him much older.

When the teaser ended I got up, but so did the rest of the audience. Uh-oh, did they have the same devious plan? I shot over to the lobby with my beeper (that’s how we used to get messages before cell phones, kids) in hand. “I just got an emergency call and I have to leave. I’d like to get a refund,” I told the manager. He knew what was up. He gave me the same thing he gave the other crowd of fans, a voucher for a free small Coke.

I didn’t want to sour the morning by arguing my false claim. I took the voucher, got my free small Coke and slowly walked to my car. I tried to process everything I just took in. It took me 2 hours to find my car.

It was all over the internet that the teaser for Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones was coming with the release of Monsters, Inc. on November 2, 2001. Starwars.com had been posting some really artistic and interesting pictures taken on the set which got me even more excited. So that morning, there I was ready to see another new Star Wars teaser.

2001 Attack Of The Clones Teaser Trailer

 

The teaser started with the breathing of Darth Vader. Then a fade up on a beautiful, more mature looking Padme. Vader’s heavy slow breathing continued as more shots faded up and down on various action scenes, Anakin and Padme and a pensive looking Yoda.

Then there was this great shot of Jango Fett firing his two laser pistols as he flies backwards behind a column. We had only seen Boba Fett use his jetpack very briefly to get from point A to point B in Return Of The Jedi, but now here’s Jango using it in battle. The rainy backdrop made it look that much more intense. During the last few seconds we see Anakin fighting an unknown assailant in a darkened location which made the Lightsabers glow more brilliantly.

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I felt so good about this. I knew these characters more now than when I’d seen them in the Phantom Menace trailer. I loved all the shots that said so much but at the same time told us nothing. I was in my Star Wars world until… Some jerk in front of me said something derogatory. I forget exactly what he said but it was something like, “it’ll still be terrible.” I yelled at him to shut up! He turned around and could see that I wasn’t playing. I was so angry that this moron ruined this moment for me. Then I just repeated to myself “why let some stranger ruin this moment.” I just saw the first footage from Attack Of The Clones. I was back to being excited again.

“This is the last one,” I sadly thought on November 5, 2004 as I went to see The Incredibles on opening night. Unfortunately I had to wait until the evening showing to see it which put me on edge the whole day. Finally the house lights went down and the first trailer to come up had the Fox logo and I knew this was it.

2004 Revenge Of The Sith Teaser Trailer

I was ready but…Uh-oh. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a couple moving into my row of seats and were looking to pass right by me. This meant they would’ve blocked 3/4 of a second of the trailer and that was not going to happen. After two or three times of them saying “excuse me,” my friend Dave had to tell them they’ll need to go around, and, “next time show up on time.”

I love the set up for this teaser where Ben Kenobi is telling Luke about his father from A New Hope which is intercut with scenes of Anakin from Ep. II and III. Then I saw something I have been waiting 28 years to see. The lava planet!

The audience went crazy with the first shot of Darth Vader as he is raised upright on the medical table. From there the trailer follows suit from past trailers with lots of shots of characters turning their heads which always makes a great montage. I was stoked with what they showed us including Palpatine who had now turned into the evil Emperor!

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When Disney bought Star Wars and it was announced there will be more movies coming the first thought that passed through my head was, “more teasers!” I know I should’ve been excited about the movies themselves but seeing the teasers was always such a big deal for me. And for the first time I get to experience it with my sweetie, Sarah.

 

Our reaction to seeing #starwars #StarWarsTeaser trailer! Only 385 days…

A photo posted by Sarah Woloski (@jeditink) on

Then it was announced that on Friday, November 28, 2014 the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was going to be released in 30 cities in the US. Of course it will play in Los Angeles where we live but, will it play in Wisconsin which is where Sarah and I will be for a funeral? Yes it will!

Thankfully no one minded that we slipped away to the Majestic Theater early that morning to see the eagerly-awaited 88 second trailer. Sarah and I counted down the minutes speculating what we would see. Sarah was more interested in the new score John Williams composed just for this. I desperately wanted to see clips of Luke, Han, Leia and my old friends.

2014 The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer

The teaser trailer started. No Disney logo. No Lucasfilm logo. Just darkness. Then sand. I was in the moment. “There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?” says a voice. Seconds later John Boyega pops into frame wearing Stormtrooper armor. OMG! It’s here!

There’s new Stormtroopers, a rolling thing with an R2 head, a (Sith?) heading into the woods with a Lightsaber that had two small blades that popped out the side! Wicked awesome! The scene that got my blood pumping was when the X-Wings went racing across the desert floor. We’ve only seen them battling in space or crashing on Dagobah so I was excited to see them in a different manner.

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I was looking forward to another head turning montage, but nope. I was certain that JJ Abrams would follow such a Star Wars trailer tradition.

Sarah and I grasped each other when it was over. We were both thinking the same thing – we need to get on social media and share our thoughts with the world! But we opted to stay and see Penguins of Madagascar. Our iPhones buzzed throughout the whole movie with incoming messages and tweets. We couldn’t wait until the film ended!

Everywhere we went that day people were talking about the new Star Wars teaser. All kinds of people of all ages were buzzing. Maybe it’s the nostalgia in me, maybe it’s just so thrilling to see the first released footage from the new film but either way I will be there. And unlike before where I just had my small group of friends to relive the excitement, now I can share this personal experience with fans all over the world. And they can share their experience with me.

Note to JJ: Please bring back the head-turning montage.

Now we would love to hear your stories. Please comment below on your experience with Star Wars trailers and let’s all share the excitement together!

2 comments

  1. Great write up! It’s so amazing that you have memories of all the teasers, man! I’m super stoked about the new film, but this retrospective from you is just beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

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