By Pete Vilmur
While 1982 was an off-year for Star Wars movie releases, worldwide promotions were touting the airing of the original Star Wars on television as well as the upcoming Revenge of the Jedi (before its famous name change).
One 1982 promotion that’s come to be known more for its poster than the contest it was part of was a General Electric Star Wars competition in Australia. The poster is notorious for being somewhat misleading; it’s undated and appears to be promoting Star Wars “The Movie” but shows a photo from The Empire Strikes Back. To add to the confusion, the original Kenner logo with the classic Hildebrandt Bros. Luke and Leia art appears in the lower left, suggesting some kind of Kenner tie-in; that detail has long piqued the interest of Star Wars toy collectors.
Until I came across a paperwork lot in a recent auction, I was pretty much in the dark about the details of this promotion. I knew it was a contest promoting the first Australian televised release of Star Wars, but didn’t realize how, well, bizarre some of the contest specifics were.
Take the rules, for example. Entries required answers to a set of questions starting with Star Wars ones like: “Which planet is Princess Leia from?”
No sweat. Alderaan.
Next: “Name the droid who speaks English in the Star Wars movie.”
C-3PO. All too easy.
But then: “How many times a week does Continental Airlines fly from Sydney to the USA?”
And: “How many refrigerators are there in the General Electric No Frost range?”
“What is the largest capacity refrigerator in the General Electric range?”
Google please? Sorry, 1982.
Granted, the contest form was likely planted on a showroom floor full of GE appliances, but still!
Then there are the prizes: The Grand Prize was an all-expense paid trip for four to the premiere of Return of the Jedi in the U.S., followed by second prizes of Kenner toys and playsets (hence the logo and art from Kenner, which partnered with the GE brand licensee on the promotion). That sounds about right for a Star Wars competition.
But then there are the “consolation” prizes: dishwashers, clothes washers, blenders, heaters, refrigerators, TVs, toasters, clock radios, shavers, and vacuum cleaners. That brings me to the gem in my recent paperwork purchase, a letter from GE announcing the great success of its Star Wars competition and the awarding of one VX20 Sadie Vacuum Cleaner (or perhaps the less-plucky VB66 – it’s not clear) to provide “continued enjoyment in years to come.” Indeed!
Sure, there were those 1,000 Star Wars poster prizes to commemorate the contest, but frankly I’d prefer framing the vacuum cleaner letter. How often can one proudly display a Star Wars contest prize that literally… sucked?
Pete Vilmur, a director of Rancho Obi-Wan, is Director of Public Relations for Fine Art—Sculpture at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where he reports to department director Lawrence Noble, sculptor of Lucasfilm’s iconic Yoda statue. Star Wars fans know him for his nine years working for Lucas Digital Media, where as senior editor he created content for Lucasfilm’s websites, blogs and social networks. Pete co-authored two books with Steve Sansweet – The Star Wars Poster Book and The Star Wars Vault – and a third with Ryder Windham, The Complete Vader. He has long collected Star Wars posters and ephemera. Pete lives in Petaluma with his wife Teri and their two children.