I often refer to myself as the “eternal 8-year-old” because I consider 1983, for many reasons, to be the best year of my childhood. Seeing Return of the Jedi that year was a huge part of that.
At one point, though, I was not sure I would ever see the conclusion of the Star Wars trilogy. The movie’s opening weekend came and went, but there was no trip to the theater for me. My family surely knew I wanted to see the film. I had even taped up newspaper ads touting Return of the Jedi to my bedroom wall.
The second weekend of release, I was in a department store with Mom. I rushed over to the record section in search of the Return of the Jedi soundtrack. What I found was not the soundtrack but a book that included a 7-inch, 33 1/3 RPM read-along record. After just a little begging, I convinced Mom to buy it for me.
Videotapes were really not in wide circulation at this time, so other than catching a random television airing, a book and record set was one of the best ways available for a kid to relive a movie once it left theaters.
In this case, though, I would not be reliving Return of the Jedi, I would be experiencing it for the first time.
For a split second, I considered saving the set until after I had actually seen the movie. Impatient and unsure if I was ever going to make it to the theater, though, I had to know what happened after The Empire Strikes Back.
As to why I begged my mom for the Return of the Jedi read-along and not for a trip to the movie theater, I have no idea.
By the time we were home from the agonizingly long car ride (it was at least five minutes), I already had the shrink-wrap off the set.
I placed the record on the player with care as my brother entered the room. I showed off the book to him. He was in high school and had already seen the movie. There were distinct advantages to being able to drive and having your own money.
“Don’t you want to wait until you see the movie?” he asked.
“No,” I told him. “I want to know what happens now.”
“You’re going to spoil it,” he said and left the room.
I lowered the arm of my player onto the record and soon arrived in the Star Wars universe.
“This is the story of Return of the Jedi. You can read along with me in your book. You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear Artoo-Detoo beep like this,” explained the dramatic narrator.
The book moved along at a brisk pace, packing in many of the movie’s major elements. By the end, I knew the overall story. Who needed a movie theater?
Later that afternoon, it turned out my brother had been planning a surprise for me. He was going to Ridge Cinema to see Return of the Jedi again with his friends, but this time he was taking me along.
That stupid record! If only I had waited a few more hours.
I recently listened to the Return of the Jedi read-along record for the first time in over two decades.
The character voices surprised me most. As a kid, I thought they were the same actors as in the movies, but with dialogue taken from alternate scenes or recorded specifically for the record.
Playing the record today, it is quite obvious that different people are playing the roles. I have now seen and heard the Star Wars films many, many more times than the 8-year-old version of me, after all.
There are also a number of plot points that are different between the record and the movie.
- Threepio and Artoo plead for Han with Jabba, who takes them prisoner [versus, in the film, they are “gifts” from Luke, who wants to bargain for Han]
- The bounty hunter who frees Han is given a name, Boushh [versus never being named]
- Both Leia and Han are placed in prison when the rescue goes wrong [versus Jabba keeping Leia at his side]
- Luke kills Jabba by destroying the sail barge [versus Leia killing Jabba directly]
- Yoda does not die
- Obi-Wan does not appear, nor is the information he confirms about Leia revealed
- It is Luke’s idea to chase the biker scouts on speeders, even exclaiming, “Come on, Leia!” [versus Leia following them impulsively, against Luke’s warning, and Luke hopping on behind her out of fear for her life]
- The Ewoks surround the Rebels without having to rely on a food trap
- Threepio is aware that Luke is using the Force to levitate him to scare the Ewoks
- Lando shouts, “It’s a trap!” [versus Admiral Ackbar]
- Some of the Rebel ships crash into the Death Star shield [for years, I thought this actually was in the movie; when I saw Independence Day on opening day, I even thought it ripped off a similar scene from Return of the Jedi; apparently not]
- Luke never unmasks Vader
- Luke leaves Vader’s body behind on the Death Star
- The Jedi spirits do not appear at the end
Another surprise was that Return of the Jedi was on Disney’s Buena Vista Records. The Star Wars book and record sets, then, marked some of the first collaborations between Lucasfilm and Disney.
Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, can The Force Awakens live up to the legacy of the original Star Wars trilogy? In only three months, the answer will be revealed.
Meanwhile, this eternal 8-year-old will keep playing his records.
This is a modified version of a Pastimescapes 1.0 post that first appeared on May 13, 2013.