First I wanted to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to participate in our “10 Questions” segment. The fans really appreciate it. Let’s start off with your latest book, Star Wars: The Ultimate Action Figure Collection, which is available for order now through http://www.ranchoobiwan.org/store.php and at Amazon.com (where orders are now shipping).
Mark: Can you just give us a little info about what this book meant to you and what you hope fans will get from it?
Steve: I feel a lot better about the book now that I have a copy in my hands. It was a very difficult book to do—something I didn’t fully realize going into it. It’s just the massive amount of figures and information to deal with: The original Action Figure Archive (1999) had around 280 figures. This book has nearly 2,300! Thankfully I got great support from my co-authors (Anne Neumann, Dan Curto, and Paul Harrison) and the rebelscum.com database. But there were constant changes, corrections, and updates. I’m happy to say I think we got most of it right. This is the most complete book ever on the central part of many collections. And I really wanted to do it differently, by character instead of by strict chronology. I find it fascinating to see all of the changes and variations as the ability to do better and better sculpting and tooling made so many figures miniature works of art! I think that even casual fans will find it of great interest to track Star Wars action figures from the first through recent releases.
Your latest endeavor is Rancho Obi-Wan (a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation), which you recently brought a fraction of to Celebration VI in Orlando. Many of us followed the journey from start to finish, including the stressful return trip home. If you had the opportunity, would you do it all over again?
Either doing Rancho or Celebration over again? In a nanosecond! Putting together Rancho Obi-Wan was a huge undertaking and took a major investment of time as well as money. I couldn’t have done it without my friend and right hand, Anne Neumann, as well as countless other friends who were always willing to help (and that usually meant moving heavy pieces). The first year of ROW has been amazing, and we’ve got lots of new and exciting plans for 2013. As for Celebration VI, it was a lot of work and stress, but we look at it as our public coming-out party. We had a blast meeting so many other fans and exposing them to a place that we like to say is “Inspired by the Force of Imagination.”
Since CVI, has interest in membership and tours at Rancho Obi-Wan blown up?
Yes, and it was very noticeable! We doubled the number of members and the number of tours increased exponentially. We’ve had visitors from every continent except Antarctica and Africa—although we’re working on that! Africa.
Rancho Obi-Wan was recently featured on Super Fans with Adrianne Curry, which seemed to make her day. Was it as much fun as it looked in the video?
Absolutely! Adrianne is great fun to work with, a fellow geek, and a very intelligent lady. She and Eliot Sirota along with the crew were here most of the day. I had been worried that too much exposure online or on TV would take away some of the fun. But I realize now that seeing part of ROW in a video cannot in anyway replace visiting in person. It’s not just a trip to the world’s largest privately-held collection of Star Wars memorabilia, it really is an experience—a personally guided two- to three-hour tour by me tailored to the interests of the guests, with lots of stories and anecdotes.
Since the big news broke that Disney is buying Lucasfilm, opinions have been on both sides of the fence, from very happy to very sad. What is your opinion on it, especially dealing with how you think the merchandising could be affected?
I was thrilled when I heard the news. To know that there will many more Star Wars movies in the future is just fantastic. I love the universe that George created and I think it’s in excellent hands with Kathleen Kennedy and with Disney. As for merchandise…gee, do you really think there will be merchandise with the new movies? Frankly, I still haven’t come up with a game plan. I think I’ve already bought just about every Star Tours and Star Wars Weekend product ever made, and that already takes up a nice-sized space in the collection!
You are well known as “the man” at all the Star Wars conventions. Do you feel the Disney acquisition will change any of the plans already announced? Do you foresee Celebrations continuing?
The Disney purchase hasn’t closed yet and it would be premature to even speculate on specifics. Disney certainly knows how important fans are and how to treat them well. Just look at Star Wars Weekends and their D23 club and conventions. I don’t see Lucasfilm’s laser focus on and commitment to fans softening in the least.
With the latest announcement and the massive amount of characters in the Disney world, the mash-ups could be endless. Will you continue to expand your collection, and are any plans in the works for a new wing of Rancho Obi-Wan?
Well, I’d be happy to have a new wing on Rancho Obi-Wan. Would you like to take up the collection now? ;) I’m afraid I can’t afford it! As for mash-ups, they’ve existed for years because of the close working relationship between Lucasfilm and Disney.
The StarWars.com Blog has taken on a new approach the last few months, with you being one of the contributors. With so many other big names also on that list, how do you guys decide who gets to post the “big breaking stories”?
As you know, I’m a consultant to Lucasfilm and not in the office on a day-to-day basis. The Blog and starwars.com are run by Lucasfilm and folks there make the decisions. I enjoy contributing to the Blog on a regular biweekly basis. It’s a great outlet for a writer and a fan.
Do you ever think there will come a day where you say “Nah, I’ll pass on that item”?
Oh, that day came a long time ago. My collecting buddy Duncan Jenkins and I still call ourselves “completists,” but by the term we mean we like it all: toys, statues, foreign items, books, food collectibles, and lots more. But even if you had endless time and an vast amount of money, nobody can have it all…not even the Licensing archive at Lucasfilm. We do as we preach: We only buy what we like. Perhaps unfortunately, we like most of it!
What are your plans now that the book out? Will you focus mainly on Rancho Obi-Wan, or do you have any new adventures planned?
I have some other book ideas that I’d like to get to, but I need a break from that for a bit. I want to concentrate in the coming months on Rancho Obi-Wan and scaling up and improving everything we do here. I also want to continue accepting invitations to meet fans around the world. In the last two years I’ve done conventions in Canada, Ireland, France, Poland, Guatemala, Peru…and a few in the U.S. That really is the best—meeting and talking with fans around the world who are as passionate about Star Wars as I am.
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