Star Wars blasts into the Science Museum
The much anticipated Star Wars exhibit opens today at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Some 300,000 people are expected to visit the show over the next 10 weeks to see props and costumes from the movies and to learn the science behind the movie magic.
St. Paul, Minn. — For all the excitement about the Star Wars exhibit, there's a serious reason behind the show.
A few years ago a national study challenged the U.S. public to be better stewards of scientific development. The Science Museum's Mike Day said it was a challenge a consortium of museums from around the country took very seriously.
"And what we wanted to do was create an exhibition that made people think about the future, get engaged in the engineering of that future, and someone at that meeting said, 'We need a starting point, a common starting point, that's really exciting.'" explained Day. "And someone said, 'What we need is Star Wars.'"
And for Star Wars you need Lucas Films. Day says the organization really liked the idea, and it has provided the 80 artifacts which form the backbone of the show.
There are models of the spaceships, costumes, and a lot of robots, including one with golden body-work which attracted the attention of one distinguished visitor.
Anthony Daniels played C3PO, the mildly unctuous and occasionally snarky protocol droid. He is the only actor who appeared in all six Star Wars films. Daniels has a love hate relationship with C3PO, or more accurately the C3PO costume. It never fit right.
"So that I would be squeezed and crushed and cut and generally pained. Maybe that's why 3PO is a bit tetchy from time to time," Daniels said. "And he'd certainly get tetchy with actors who forgot their lines and we had to do it again."
Daniels says at first he wasn't interested in playing a robot. Then he saw an artists drawing of the character, which is included in the exhibition.
"There was something in the face of this one that appealed to me, a slightly, sad, lonely, as though he was coming up to you for warmth, for human contact. That's what I think he's showing me, and I've never said this before, he's looking for human contact. Thank you, I finally get what happened all those years ago," he laughed.
Daniels came on board with the Star Wars exhibit very early. His father was a chemist, and Daniels says he's worried about making sure interest is maintained in the sciences.
"Although I understand we are landing on Mars very soon, there are a lot of more basic needs here on Earth," he said. "And that includes people to be scientists, people to go to school to be scientists."
The Star Wars exhibit examines two areas essential to the films' storylines: transportation and robotics.
Daniels says he enjoys the hands-on opportunities in the show, including the chance to build levitating cars using magnets.
While the Landspeeder craft from the first Star Wars film stands nearby for inspiration, it doesn't seem to be helping Anthony Daniels.
"The thing is, I see 10-year-old, six-year-old children doing this any old how, because they know what they are doing. Me, clearly not. So We'll leave that one, thank you," he said quickly walking on.
You can also try your hand at operating a pair of robotic legs. Anthony Daniels may have played a robot in the movies, but it's not helping him right now.
"There goes the right leg," he said as the pneumatics pump and hiss. "The object is to get the legs to walk forward. Look at this! This is a first on radio!" he said.
And then the leg jams. Daniels explains it's better to have one person on each leg, and this is really an exercise in teamwork.
He's clearly having fun, and he hopes other people will too, while perhaps learning a little about the realities behind the Star Wars fantasy.
"The designers can make up anything, because nowadays you can certainly do it on the computer. But here you can do it in real life," Daniels said.
The Star Wars show will be open 15 hours a day for the next 10 weeks. Science museum staff advise booking online as they expect the box office will be very crowded.
- Morning Edition, 06/13/2008, 7:50 a.m.