In 1977, Star Wars: A New Hope, the first installment on George Lucas’s famous Star Wars film series, became one of the biggest box office hits of all time. It also gave rise to an innovative mass-marketing campaign for toys and other products that became an industry model.
"Buck...Rogers...in the twenty-fifth CEN-TURYYY!" This enthusiastic refrain from a deep-voiced announcer is how the popular 1930s radio show featuring space hero Buck Rogers began. It was followed by the roar of a spaceship blasting off, simulated by the sound of an air conditioning vent. Many of you have probably never heard of Buck Rogers, but he was a household name in the 1930s and ‘40s. Rogers was the very first science fiction comic strip hero. The character, at first named Anthony Rogers, was introduced in the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in August 1928. In a story titled, Armageddon 2419 A.D., written by Philip Nowlan, Rogers was a 29-year-old World War I veteran who took a job inspecting mines for radioactive gases.
When Disney•Pixar approached the National Air and Space Museum about donating the Buzz Lightyear figure that had flown to the International Space Station for 15 months, I was delighted. As the curator for the Museum’s social and cultural space artifacts, I have the unique job of getting to take toys seriously.
At the National Air and Space Museum, we tell stories in a number of ways — through objects, artwork, lectures, videos, planetarium shows — even puppets. Storytelling through puppetry can be a powerful educational tool for our youngest audiences in particular.