Boasting numerous awards, box office records and an estimated US$20 billion in sales of paraphernalia ranging from toys to comics and games, there is no denying that the Star Wars franchise is one of the most well-known pop culture phenomena. And its empire looks set to grow, with its seventh instalment Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens slated to be released this December.
But that's not all for fans of the film series. Pewter manufacturer Royal Selangor has jumped on the bandwagon with a new Star Wars collection modelled after iconic characters and memorable scenes from the franchise.
Available in Malaysia since late August, the range was released in Singapore in September and is designed in collaboration with the Walt Disney Company (which owns Lucasfilm, a production company founded by Star Wars creator George Lucas). It seems an unlikely alliance, considering how the 130-year-old brand is more known for its tableware, ornaments and wine accessories. But its Executive Director Chen Tien Yue is confident the collection will be a hit.
“Star Wars has been around since 1977…and for a lot of our customers, it's what they grew up with,” he says, describing himself as a “casual fan” of the franchise.
At the official launch at Kuala Lumpur's Sunway Pyramid shopping centre, guests had a preview of the 16-strong collection, which includes figurines, mugs and cufflinks. Among its highlights were limited-edition figurines of Han Solo, Darth Vader and Princess Leia, which are available in 5,000 pieces each internationally. The figurines have been beautifully sculpted to resemble their appearances in the films. The Darth Vader statuette, for instance, sports a detailed control panel on its chest and stained markings on its body, while Princess Leia's figurine required several adjustments to painstakingly recreate the character's pleated hair and slave costume in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983).
Another standout was an intricate diorama portraying a showdown between protagonist Luke Skywalker and Rancor, a monster owned by villain Jabba the Hut. Offered in 500 pieces worldwide, the diorama took three weeks and multiple revisions to perfect Rancor's menacing countenance.
The creation process was tedious — the pewter parts that formed the figurine had to be cast separately so the molten metal could cool proportionately without affecting its details. Other items in the collection include smaller figurines of Yoda and Boba Fett, tumblers emblazoned with the likeness of a Storm Trooper and a trinket box shaped like the Death Star spacecraft.
This isn't the first time that Royal Selangor has produced a pop culture-influenced collection. Some 12 years ago, it worked with Disney on a Winnie the Pooh collection of mugs and ornaments. And in 2001, it launched a Lord of the Rings-inspired line of goblets and shot glasses based on artists' renderings of the characters from the books; the range later expanded to include chess sets and sculptures. For its newest collection, Chen explains that the company wanted to create something with timeless appeal. “We think Star Wars has longevity. It's been around for 38 years, so we think it's something that will be a strong collection for us,” he says, adding that the whole production process, from conceptualising designs to getting approval from Disney, took 18 months. It was only in January that Royal Selangor's craftsmen embarked on sculpting the pieces, using on-set photos and film screenshots as reference.
“Pewter is not rocket science; it's just a laborious process of putting it together,” says Chen. “We had to limit how much we could do to launch in time, so we [started with] what we thought would be the most popular [items].”
Royal Selangor has its sights set on the global market: The collection will be available in countries such as Australia, Indonesia, China and the UK from this month onwards.
Confident of Star Wars' pop culture appeal, the company has already started working on designs based on characters from the upcoming The Force Awakens and plans to add more products over the next five years.
“I think some of the initial feedback we've already had…is that we've done a good job in staying faithful to the characters. So that has been an important box to tick: To make sure we capture the essence of the characters,” says Chen.