You don't need me to tell you how popular Star Wars is, but there's some very exciting times in The Force. With Star Wars VII coming to cinemas in December, featuring the original cast and a new canon of films and spinoffs in the pipeline for old fans in their forties like me, it's an excuse to feel like a youngling again... but there is another...
Like millions of other children in the 70's and 80's, Star Wars was a staple part of my childhood and every week I went into town to get a new Star Wars figure; these were the times when toys were actually bought to be played with and not kept 'Mint' in the packet to reach silly prices on eBay, oh in hindsight!
I had quite a collection and was slightly gutted (totally destroyed) when I found out my mum had given them away. Our young son Jacob has recently become the next generation to sample Star Wars. I tried with our eldest daughter and succeeded for a short time, but I think I overkilled it with one Christmas, every present was a Star Wars figure so it didn't last that long!
Our son's favourite character believe it or not is Darth Vader whom I was always petrified of, he had his sister's lightsabers that were gathering dust so I just had to get him an outfit and he falls straight into character, it's so funny to see a three foot Lord Vader!
We were very (very) lucky to be invited to the latest Star Wars exhibition at Madame Tussauds, which opens this weekend in London. We just had to dress our little Jedi up of course which made all the staff smile, but my beam was even wider as we were greeted by a Stormtrooper. I even had a slight tear in my eye when Jacob was led into the 'Trade Federation Bridge' themed entrance by a young Obi-Wan Kenobi...fantastic!
You really do feel like you've been taken to "A long time ago in a galaxy far far away" because each set is meticulously designed for each set of characters and as you can expect from Madame Tussauds perfected to a very high standard.
Each set of waxworks is placed in a movie action scene which you can walk around, get up close and personal and even take selfies. Starting with the 'Duel of Fates' you can battle with Qui Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Darth Maul, it really looks like someone's pressed the pause button!
...and moving on, feeling the heat on the molten planet of 'Mustsfar' you can see a very angry young Anakin Skywalker preparing to battle Obi-Wan. Each staged setting just gets better and better.
Next off to 'Tatooine'. Fancy sitting opposite Han Solo like Greedo did in the Mos Eisley Cantina bar? Well you can do that, or stop off for a chat with some old friends in R2-D2 and C-3PO.
One of the most impressive waxworks you'll meet on your space travels is the amazing Chewbacca which took a team of ten designers eight hundred hours to manually insert each strand of his Yak hair (every costume has to be signed off by Lucas Film so are exactly the same as in the film). You can sit next to Chewy in the 'Millennium Falcon' and even press a button that takes you into hyperdrive!
Walking through the 'Death Star Corridor' be careful as you might meet some Stormtroopers, I won't spoil it, but be careful as I got a bit of a fright!
Onto 'Degobah' you'll meet the Grand Master of the Jedi Order, Yoda sitting on a log with all the sights, sounds and yes, smells of a dark dank swamp.
Jacob's favourite section now, with a clever stage setting you can re-enact the "I am your father" scene from the Empire Strikes Back. 'Jabba The Hutt's Palace' next and you get to meet the huge Jabba and Salacious Crumb plus arguably the most studied waxwork, by the dad's anyway, the lovely Princess Leia in her slave costume.
Finally (and sadly) you come to the last epic showpiece, the last battle between Luke and Vader watched by Emperor Palpatine in the 'Death Star Throne Room'.
If that's not enough for you, there's a 4D cinema and, oh yes the rest of Madame Tussauds to look around!
Madame Tussauds are completely onto a winner with this exhibition as generation after generation enjoy the tale of good versus evil and I'm positive it'll grow with the ever expanding Star Wars universe.
Our family thoroughly enjoyed this amazing experience and you will too. May the Force be with you...
It took 12 months to create the experience and bring to life 11 authentic sets with dramatic special effects and dynamic theming, featuring 16 famous Star Wars characters.
A team of 180 talented Madame Tussauds sculptors, hair artists and colourists worked hard to create the wax figures featured in the attraction.
Every hair on each wax figure was inserted by hand – from Yoda’s fine grey wisps to Chewbacca’s mass of brown Wookiee hair – with an average of 10,000 hairs per head.
Amazingly accurate skin colour for each character was achieved using over 100ml per figure of oil paint applied by hand.
The total cost of producing the wax figures alone was £2.5 million.
The smallest wax figures in the experience are Master Yoda and Salacious B. Crumb.
Yoda stands at just 66cm tall and his figure was created using detailed measurements from one of the original Yoda models.
Jabba the Hutt’s court jester, Salacious B. Crumb, is marginally smaller at a diminutive 41.2cm tall and his distinctive ears are 14cm long.
The largest figure is Jabba the Hutt. 1.5 tonnes of clay was used to create the figure, which measures 2.9m long, 1.5m high and weighs in at a whopping 35 stone.
The hairiest figure is 2m tall Chewbacca. It took nearly 1000 hours for a team of 10 expert hair inserters to create his head to toe Wookiee hair in painstakingly accurate detail using real yak hair.
The lightsabers featured in the experience were specially created for Madame Tussauds by the team behind the weapons used in the original films.
The largest scale set is the Duel of the Fates scene featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn in their epic lightsaber battle with Darth Maul. The space spans two floors and the figures are portrayed in front of a gigantic light cylinder featuring 1,600 fibre optic tails to realistically recreate the lightening effect of flickering energy bursts.
The biggest set is Jabba’s Throne Room featuring the massive gangster with Princess Leia and Salacious B. Crumb. The grill of the rancor pit in the floor of the room was recreated using original reference materials from Skywalker Ranch.
Yoda’s harsh swampy home on Dagobah is one of the most atmospheric sets in the experience featuring astonishingly realistic fake trees, swamp foliage and fog effects.
The ‘I am your father’ scene featuring Darth Vader was brought to life using a delicate and extremely detailed scale model of the 1980 scene from the Skywalker Ranch archives.
Entry to Star Wars at Madame Tussauds is included in the main admission price, which starts from £24.75 for adults, £21.60 for children. Find out more and see how the experience was created at www.madametussauds.com/london. Nearest tube is Baker Street.