George Lucas' Super Live Adventure
"It's not just a concert. It's not just a stunt show. It's not a musical - but it has elements of everything,"-Scott Faris, director
Running from late April to September 1993, George Lucas' Super Live Adventure! was a show like no other. Part stage show, part rock concert, it combined elements of all the Lucafilm properties into one live show. Originally costing $25 million to produce and taking over two and a half years to plan, the show had everything from live tigers to lasers.
The original idea behind the show was a touring exhibit of LFL props and materials to celebrate its 20th anniversary, as time went on however, the project evolved into a stage show. The designers of the show had previously worked on shows for Vegas and Disney, so it's not surprising that the production became so over blown. They attended many other live arena shows, such as an MC Hammer concert and wanted to do something similar with LFL properties.
The show ended up functioning like an actual theater production, with a story and script driving the action taking place on stage. Even the stage itself was an amazing piece of technical design. The main stage area had a diameter of 60 feet across, and was built to incorporate all manner of mechanics underneath. The stage had built in fog machines, spring loaded spears, catwalks that actors could repel down from and hinges to make it easier to disassemble. The action on the stage was supported by two huge movie screens showing scenes from the various Lucas properties being featured. The main character at the center of all this was a small Japanese girl "chosen" from the audience to journey through the magical world of LFL. Honestly, I'm not sure just how random this selection was. If I had to guess, I'd say that she was certainly an actor placed in the audience and then called onto the stage. The girl would have to confront and defeat all the LFL villains with the help of the
LFL heroes (sans Howard the Duck of course), pausing for musical numbers, battles and elaborate dance sequences.
It must have been rather odd seeing a child go from dancing and singing with automotive magnate Preston Tucker (every child's dream) to trying to flee the Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant. To help with this dramatic shift in story however, the show featured over 400 costumes, a cast and crew of 150, blaring music originally provided by a full 76 piece orchestra, and of course a gigantic flying Millenium Falcon complete with landing lights.
The dialogue, music and sound effects were all pre-recorded, so the actors could concentrate on their movements and the action. The sound systemn was state of the art as well, and had its own dedicated computers to ensure that the sound and action matched up perfectly. To keep the show from getting stale, the show also featured an alien stripper (she shed her skin instead of her clothes), sword fighting and explosions triggered by lasers fired by the actors on stage.
The process behind this was actually quite involved. Targets were mounted around the stage that would detonate pyrotechnics when hit with the beams fired by the actors, who had to take shooting lessons to make sure they could hit their targets.
In addition, machine gun like devices were employed to shoot even more lasers out over the stage, with mirrors to create ricochets.
Honestly, it must have been really astonishing to witness the staged battles in full swing. Production designer Douglas W. Schmidt explains:
"The script virtually presents a trick a minute, some gag that has to be dealt with. There is never a moment where two characters sit on a sofa and talk about life. Rocket ships land and spears come out of the stage and things fall down and blow up." At the end of the journey, the girl encounters Darth Vader and could only escape with the help of the audience and a magic wand given to her by Cherlindrea the fairly from Willow.
The story has a cheesy kind of charm, and its easily to guess that everyone had a good time. I imagine the production as a sort of Ice Capades, only without the ice. And with a tiger.
The production team seems to have had great plans for the future of the show, saying that the show might leave Japan on a world tour, or even become a permanent fixture in some venue. Indeed, that wasn't too far fetched an idea. After all, they had spent a ton of money on this show, and had the backing of one of the most powerful organizations in Hollywood behind it. Sadly the plans were never to be however, and after 22 weeks and 4 major Japanese cities, the show closed.
US audiences never got the chance to see a world where you could cruise the streets of Modesto in a Tucker car, evading Stormtroopers with Willow riding shotgun. It is ironic however that a few years later a very similar idea would be employed when the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular opened at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando. This would also feature live actors performing stunts from an LFL film on stage. Sadly, there are no musical numbers in that production. Still, one has to wonder what would have happened if George Lucas' Super Live Adventure! was allowed to take up home in the US.
The event is remembered mostly by collectors today for the strange assortment of collectibles released through its gift shop. The images on the items
combine all the LFL properties, and actually have a strong visual appeal to them. A list of the items released for this event can be found here.
Images courtesy of Duncan Jenkins and Scott Bradley.
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