George Lucas’ Star Wars is one of the defining film franchises of the past 50 years. With that level of popularity, the series was bound to inspire jokes and parodies. Lucas himself has expressed admiration for some of these spoofs.
Star Wars has been parodied by everyone from Seth MacFarlane to “Weird Al” Yankovic. It’s been parodied in film, television, music, and even paintings. This raises an interesting question: Did Lucas ever single out one parody as his favorite?
From parodying ‘Star Wars’ to being a part of it
The original Star Wars film was released in 1977. The following year, the world got its first notable satire of Lucas’ film: Hardware Wars. Whereas Lucas’ magnum opus stunned the world with its special effects, Hardware Wars looks ridiculously cheap and derives much of its humor from its low-budget aesthetic.
For example, Princess Leia’s home planet is replaced with a basketball. Chewbacca is replaced with Chewchilla the Wookiee Monster — a character who is clearly a Cookie Monster puppet dyed a different color. In a similar vein, Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder is an old jalopy.
According to AllMovie, the 13-minute film was directed by Ernie Fosselius. HuffPost reports Hardware Wars would play alongside The Rocky Horror Picture Show at cult film venues. Hardware Wars cost a mere $8,000 but went on to gross around $500,000 over the course of a year.
Fosselius went from spoofing Star Wars to being a part of it. After the release of Hardware Wars, he did character voices for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He also helped arrange a piece of music for the latter film.
How George Lucas and others reacted to ‘Hardware Wars’
Michael Wiese, the film’s producer, told SF Weekly “We got it into Industrial Light and Magic and those guys were all cracking up about it, and they told their friends. We sent Lucas a print and he saw it, and was supportive of it, and got me a meeting at 20th Century Fox with the president. We were hoping that they’d show it as a theatrical short with their movies, which they didn’t. They didn’t think it was so funny.”
According to the book Star Wars FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies, Lucas said Hardware Wars was his favorite Star Wars parody in a 1999 interview. To put this in context, Lucas said Hardware Wars was his favorite Star Wars spoof after some of the most well-known satires of the Star Wars saga were released (e.g. Spaceballs, “Weird Al’ Yankovic’s “Yoda”) but before some of the more recent series came down the pipe (e.g. the Family Guy episode “Blue Harvest”). Lucas might prefer some of these later parodies to Hardware Wars but he’s never said so publicly. Regardless, Fosselius and company accomplished something major by making a Star Wars spoof Lucas enjoyed.