In December of 1990, I borrowed my brother-in-law’s camcorder to film Animation Wars and Animation Wars: Part II. Now there’s an opener you didn’t expect.
Watch ‘em both, down below:
I was already dabbling with stop-motion shorts before then, but after learning that my brother-in-law’s camera had a feature that automatically shot one second of video every thirty seconds, I knew that I was on the cusp of my opus. (Or opuses, as the case was.)
Animation Wars and its sequel starred my collection of vintage Star Wars figures. Even by 1990, Kenner’s Star Wars collection was long discontinued, and not more than two of those figures were leftovers from my childhood. The rest were procured through classifieds from the back of Starlog, and at the occasional flea market.
Yes, at the ripe old age of 11, I became a collector. (And okay, MAYBE I was just using that as a cover so I could continue playing with toys beyond a reasonable age.)
I used to carry the figures around in my father’s hand-me-down briefcase. As if the sight of an eleven-year-old clunking down the street with a briefcase wasn’t confusing enough, mine was full of action figures from a line that went extinct five years prior. Everything about me was straight out the worst arthouse film.
I tried not to advertise these eccentricities. A few friends had passing knowledge about my collection, but since they tended to use it against me — e.g., “…let me go first or I’ll TELL THE WORLD about your old Luke…” — I learned to keep quiet about it. To my stupid kid brain, hiding action figures in a briefcase made everything seem more normal.
If you watch the video closely, or at all, really, you’ll see that neither Animation Wars nor its sequel were especially big productions. Despite only needing to stay silent for one out of every 30 seconds, you can still hear me and my brother-and-law talking over roughly half of the shots.
And then there’s that disaster near the end of Animation Wars: Part II. Ugh…
In the climactic scene, Emperor Palpatine lifts Wicket W. Warrick over his head, and literally hurls him across the screen. I thought it was important to show Wicket in mid-hurl, and tried to keep my fingers just out of frame as I dangled the upside-down Ewok over the table. I totally whiffed it, and you can practically see my entire hand. That alone may have been forgivable, but paired with my audible concern over the blown effect in the very next shot, I was clearly more Wood than Kubrick.
Speaking of Wicket, I’m struck by how I remember the stories behind every one of those action figures. I remember when I got them and from where, and often enough what they cost.
In Wicket’s case, he was a gift from a mail order dealer. I’d ordered the Ewok Glider vehicle (shown in the above screenshot), and perhaps realizing that I was just a kid, the dealer threw in a free pity Ewok. Wicket wasn’t a cheap figure on the collectors’ market, so to me that was like winning a really good Showcase Showdown.
I wish I could go back in time and have a conversation with Kid Matt.
Old Matt: Someday you’re gonna put this dumbass movie on the internet, which is kind of like a Speak & Spell from Hell, and you’re gonna write about it and total strangers are gonna read about it and it’s all going to be SO WEIRD.
Kid Matt: I’m sitting here recreating Three Stooges bits in stop-motion using five-year-old Star Wars figures as my Moes and Curlys. When I’m done, I’m going to put them all in that $75 leather-lined attaché case.
Old Matt: I don’t know who wins.
Kid Matt: Oh God trust me neither of us win.