“History in Objects” is a continuing series exploring Lucasfilm’s legacy stretching from our founding in 1971 to today. Through objects both rare and commonplace, the company’s past, present, and future are brought to life.
Like any good cryptic symbol, one randomly discovered in a Lucasfilm snack kitchen several years ago came with a tantalizing mystery — and ultimately revealed an insight into an important part of the original 1988 Willow campaign.
Employees at Lucasfilm’s San Francisco office have a long tradition of leaving any unwanted items that might enjoy a second life in one of the company’s kitchens, which are often frequented several times a day. Items from our long history are occasionally found, including posters, promotional material, and giveaway items.
One such item discovered in 2017, though, didn’t match the usual fare — an odd metal stamp engraved with a vaguely familiar symbol that didn’t seem to fit any kind of modern use. Intrigued, one employee plucked it from the pile and dropped it into a desk drawer, where it laid forgotten for the next five years.
Fast-forward to 2022, with the new Willow series playing on Disney+ and several Lucasfilm offices readying for a move to a new floor, the stamp was rediscovered — and this time recognized for what it was: a symbol matching the one on Elora Danan’s arm!
By an amazing coincidence, many storage closets were also being emptied for the move, and one of them contained an item that revealed the full answer to the mystery — a 1987 invitation from Lucasfilm and Tonka Toys to attend an early Willow promotional presentation, emblazoned with a red wax seal stamped with Elora’s symbol. Mystery solved!
The discovery of the invitation provides some clues to the early campaign around the Willow feature, which included Tonka, the film’s primary toy licensee. Collectors may recall that Tonka (now part of Hasbro) released static miniature character figures available individually or in sets in 1988, as well as a large Eborsisk dragon toy, which today has become a rare collectible. This partnership, as well as the other licensing agreements made for Willow, represented the first major licensing effort for Lucasfilm following the original Star Wars trilogy era. While the Willow campaign was not as robust as those from Star Wars, it did set the stage for more formal campaign launches to come, namely the company’s licensing summits.
Beginning in the early ‘90s with the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Lucasfilm began hosting “summits” for potential licensees, often on its home turf — Skywalker Ranch — for one or two days, depending on the size of the campaign. These continued for roughly 20 years through the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, after which the mantle was handed to Disney’s Consumer Products, Games and Publishing group, who stage large multi-day events around the world for their brands, including Willow.
As random as finding a decades-old wax seal stamp in a Lucasfilm kitchen may seem, it did prove to be somewhat prescient. By total coincidence, another set of promotional materials was recently prepared for the new Willow series, sealed with a red wax stamp, proving good ideas never really go away. They just get lost in a drawer for five years.