Joseph Campbell, Star Wars, and Transformers

Discussion in 'Transformers General Discussion' started by UltraAlanMagnus, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. UltraAlanMagnus

    UltraAlanMagnus See ya!

    Mar 29, 2009
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    I always wonder if the Transformers universe was heavily Influenced by the works of Joseph Campbell.

    There are some Star Wars References around:

    While no official connection between the two franchises existed in the Generation 1 era, Star Wars was a frequent influence on illustrators and production artists, who would slip Star Wars character designs into backgrounds or use Star Wars sound effects in animation. For example, an episode of the Victory anime shows Ewoks and Jawas among the inhabitants of an alien settlement, and the iconic droids C-3PO and R2-D2 make a very brief cameo in another episode.

    In the American cartoon, no visual references are made, but the names of two film-actor characters (Harold Edsel and Karen Fishook) are plays off of the real-life Star Wars actors Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. In the audio production, the Star Wars sound-effect library was put to use throughout the series; for example, the TIE Fighter and Millennium Falcon engine-roars are commonly heard from jets and spaceships. Battle sounds include the swish and hum of a lightsaber and even the Death Star destroying the planet Alderaan. A certain blaster effect used in the third season actually contains a bit of what might be dialogue: When C-3PO is shot in The Empire Strikes Back, it sounds as though he says "NO!" This can be heard in at least three episodes.

    In the Marvel comic series, the Dinobots are seen using a shuttle that looks very much like Boba Fett's Slave I, and the C-3PO design might have inspired some background characters in two issues. Incongruously, a filmmaker in another issue actually mentions to the "Star Wars" movies.
    The Transformers: The Movie was marketed as "conceived in the epic tradition of Star Wars", and it's not hard to make comparisons between the two. The brash, young hero aided by a wizened elder in a quest to destroy a planet-killer with the last-minute assistance of a ghostly mentor? Somehow that seems a little familiar. The on-package bio for Springer, one of the movie characters, even described his sword as a "light saber", though it never remotely resembled the Star Wars weapon.

    The exclusive toys at BotCon 2002 were branded as "Expanded Universe", which was clearly inspired by the Star Wars concept of the same name, indicating material not within the primary canon. After that BotCon, more toys and comics were produced in the same vein, but the name was shortened to Universe.

    Hasbro launched its Attacktix figure-battle game using Star Wars characters, and Transformers soon followed. The figures were completely compatible in gameplay, and in fact an "Intergalactic Showdown" crossover pack pitted characters from the two franchises directly against each other. No fiction was provided to explain the circumstances; moreover, the Transformers involved came from multiple universes: the Unicron Trilogy, Generation 1, Universe, and (if Attacktix hadn't been cancelled) the live-action film series. And by the end, even Marvel Comics superheroes had joined the fray.

    In 2006, Hasbro launched the Star Wars Transformers toyline, later rebranded Crossovers. Strictly speaking, this is only a "crossover" in terms of physical design, with Star Wars vehicles (or "mechs") turning into humanoid robots piloted by Star Wars characters. The story information in the bios and packaging blurbs only relates to the Star Wars universe, not Transformers.

    The toys from 2006 through 2008 all feature little pilot mini-figures that sat in the toys' cockpits. Originally, this was done to make sure kids would not be confused and think that the giant robots were not piloted mecha but living robots like the Transformers. Starting with the Crossovers rebranding in 2009, however, the pilot mini-figures were dropped from the toys, and the "carryover" older toys were packed with the pilot figures already in the cockpits. Hasbro cited this as being both a cost-saving measure (thanks to rising manufacturing costs) and a move born of their discovery through play-testing that kids really weren't getting "piloted mech" and "living robot" confused (also the likely reason such figures were not included for the Marvel Comics Crossovers toys).

    Live-action film series
    In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (the title itself uncannily similar to a Star Wars movie released just a few years earlier), R2-D2 appears hidden in a pile of "desert junk," making this his second film cameo appearance in 2009.

    The marketing for the first Transformers live-action movie included an alternate-reality game that stated Reggie Simmons and John Ho had attended the premiere of Star Wars at Grauman's Chinese Theater on May 25, 1977. However, this is of dubious relevance to the universe presented in the actual Transformers films, since the ARG also claimed that the Transformers movie was part of a counter-intelligence campaign by Simmons' Sector Seven organization to discredit claims of the existence of alien robots. Make of that what you will.

    An here's something I picked up:

    George Lucas was the first Hollywood filmmaker to credit Campbell's influence. Lucas stated following the release of the first Star Wars film in 1977 that its story was shaped, in part, by ideas described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces and other works of Campbell's. The linkage between Star Wars and Campbell was further reinforced when later reprints of Campbell's book used the image of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker on the cover. Lucas discusses this influence at great length in the authorized biography of Joseph Campbell, A Fire in the Mind:

    I [Lucas] came to the conclusion after American Graffiti that what's valuable for me is to set standards, not to show people the world the way it is...around the period of this came to me that there really was no modern use of mythology...The Western was possibly the last generically American fairy tale, telling us about our values. And once the Western disappeared, nothing has ever taken its place. In literature we were going off into science that's when I started doing more strenuous research on fairy tales, folklore, and mythology, and I started reading Joe's books. Before that I hadn't read any of Joe's books...It was very eerie because in reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces I began to realize that my first draft of Star Wars was following classic I modified my next draft [of Star Wars] according to what I'd been learning about classical motifs and made it a little bit more consistent...I went on to read 'The Masks of God' and many other books.

    It was not until after the completion of the original Star Wars trilogy in 1983, however, that Lucas met Campbell or heard any of his lectures. The 1988 documentary The Power of Myth was filmed at Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. During his interviews with Bill Moyers, Campbell discusses the way in which Lucas used The Hero's Journey in the Star Wars films (IV, V, and VI) to re-invent the mythology for the contemporary viewer. Moyers and Lucas filmed an interview 12 years later in 1999 called the Mythology of Star Wars with George Lucas & Bill Moyers to further discuss the impact of Campbell's work on Lucas' films. In addition, the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution sponsored an exhibit during the late 1990s called Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, which discussed the ways in which Campbell's work shaped the Star Wars films. A companion guide of the same name was published in 1997.

    Christopher Vogler, a Hollywood screenwriter, was also highly influenced by Campbell. He created a 7-page company memo based on Campbell's work, A Practical Guide to The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which led to the development of Disney's 1994 film The Lion King. Vogler's memo was later developed into the late 1990s book The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers.

    Many filmmakers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have acknowledged the influence of Campbell's work on their own craft. Among films that many viewers have recognized as closely following the pattern of the monomyth are The Matrix series, the Batman series and the Indiana Jones series.

    Popular Literature
    After the explosion of popularity brought on by the Star Wars films and The Power of Myth, creative artists in many media recognized the potential to use Campbell's theories to try to unlock human responses to narrative patterns. Novelists, songwriters, video game designers, and even amusement park ride designers have studied Campbell's work in order better to understand mythology—in particular, the monomyth—and its impact.
    Novelist Richard Adams acknowledges a debt to Campbell's work, and specifically to the concept of the monomyth. In his best known work, Watership Down, Adams uses extracts from The Hero with a Thousand Faces as chapter epigrams.

    Follow your Bliss.