At the Emmy awards in 2010, Casey Pugh’s Star Wars Uncut won an award. This is an Internet project that invited fans to submit their own versions of their favorite 15-second scenes from the movie. After receiving hundreds of submissions, some made with Legos or pets, and others mash-ups with parodies from the cartoon South Park and other sources, Pugh had fans vote on their favorites, and edited the most popular clips together and then added the original musical soundtrack for continuity. (However, he doesn’t yet have permission from LucasFilm to use the soundtrack, but you can buy it from Amazon.com and play it yourself along with Star Wars Uncut.)
What a wonderful example of group genius, crowdsourcing, the wisdom of crowds…choose your favorite term for the new kind of collective creativity that is enabled by the Internet. Of course, it couldn’t happen without the structure and form provided by the original movie; it’s not some free-form improvisation, it’s more like a series of embellishments on a theme.
Star Wars itself–the original movie–was itself a sort of mash-up of previously existing material. Few of the visual elements that Lucas used were themselves original. Film historians point out that many of Lucas’s visuals were taken from past movies: the lightsabers and Jedi Knights were inspired by Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress; the robot C-3PO was a character straight out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis; Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Han Solo resembles Butch Cassidy. And the story, as is widely known, is based on common mythical elements analyzed by Joseph Campbell. It’s often said of Lucas that “he didn’t actually invent anything” (Seabrook, 1997, p. 48).*
*Seabrook, J. (1997, January 6). Why is the force still with us? The New Yorker, 40-53.