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Last month fellow Star Wars collectors Stephane Faucourt and Yann Leroux released the latest in their series of books examining the impact of Star Wars on the French market.  Their new publication focuses on 40 years of French Star Wars Culture by licensees promising rare, original and unusual products spanning A New Hope right through to The Last Jedi in a beautifully designed paperback which will appeal to the casual and hardcore fan alike.

I was delighted to spend some time with Stephane to discuss this book:

FT: Stephane, you’re primarily known as a vintage Star Wars Meccano historian and enthusiast but you’ve released a book covering 40 years of French culture. What was the inspiration behind this?

SF: That’s an idea that came up 4 years ago, yes FOUR years ago 😉 we were having dinner with a few close pals and I said we should make a nice commemorative book for the 40th anniversary of the original movie release. This inspiration came from Steve Sansweet’s “1000 collectibles” that I like very much – nice pictures of iconic items and collectibles from various thematic with personal anecdotes. We had to make it work from a French market perspective by focusing on rare, commonplace, and unusual products that were marketed in France since 1977.

FT: What is the ratio between vintage and modern pages? Is the vintage section reused from previous books or has it been updated?

SF: It’s really unlike any other previous books – it’s arranged chronologically featuring iconic French products from Star Wars (La Guerre des Etoiles) in 1977 to The Last Jedi at the end of 2017. Pictures of the vintage era (up to 1987) takes 1/3 of the book, and they’re totally different from the previous books because it’s merchandise at large (not only toys) and items are very nicely arranged all together thanks to Yann Leroux’s talented photographic skills, it’s not the typical pictures of “laying flat” items. We selected products all the way even during the “dark times” of Star Wars marketing (1987-1993).

FT: Most of the modern Star Wars promotional items in the UK were generic and usually featuring movie stills. How does French culture present modern items?

SF: That’s right. Merchandise and packaging were specific in many countries up to ROTS and shortly after, but since, many products are generic. Some of the modern merchandise featured only has its packaging French specific, but we were quite surprised to find that we still have exclusive items, or at least items first marketed in France, all in all with French packaging. To name a few iconic modern French products, let’s mention – LaserDisc sets, lottery tickets, food premiums, TV channels and Phone operators packs and merchandise, convention exclusives, Atlas collectibles-by-subscription, Cereals, water and milk bottles, credit cards etc… so that’s pretty nice.

FT: Many collectors assume that it is fairly simple researching modern items but I’m sure that’s not always the case. What were the different challenges in researching the modern items? 

SF: Collecting modern merchandise is not always easy because there is so much to potentially collect, and most merchandise and associated marketing materials are available only during a few weeks (if not days) just to cover a particular event or movie release. Nowadays everything is event-driven, products or promotions move on quickly to the next event.  For those reasons, and also because we can’t be all completists, it was necessary to team-up our five collections in order to make this book possible.

FT: Is there anything surprising about the French approach to merchandising that those of us in other countries would not expect?

SF: I’d say that marketing materials were always handled specifically for the French market, and it’s still pretty much the same nowadays – but I guess that’s not unique to France. I think the most memorable campaigns showing the know-how of French marketing teams are related to vintage toys, and food premiums, both vintage and modern, like Motta ice creams and Palmito cookies in the 1980s, and BN cookies, Le Gaulois snacks, Quick burgers including the squid ink black bun “Dark Burger”…

FT: Where is the book available and how much does it cost?

SF: The book is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk at the price of $48 / £34.50. It’s a nice 8.5” square format, and 162 color pages.

FT:  You’ve included forewords and interviews in other books. Does this have the same?

SF: Yes, we were very excited to have a foreword from famous collector Steve Sansweet to share his appraisal and appeal on the French merchandise, as well as a more local take from Jean Bernard, as 1st time collector and now manager of a vintage toys boutique in Paris. They really added a valuable insight.

FT:  Does it cover up to The Last Jedi? What is the general French impression of The Last Jedi and modern Star Wars?

SF: Yes, the book stops with The Last Jedi merchandise offered in theaters. It wasn’t supposed to be there, but since we were already back on schedule for wrapping up, it nicely fit as an open-conclusion to these four decades.  We like to speak about the latest movies with other collectors, friends, or even colleagues. I think that the general response of the French audience is pretty much the same as elsewhere – we were not fully satisfied with EP7 due to the sense of deja-vu in the plot, and we came a bit more excited with EP8, which still has a lot of pros and cons unfortunately. Let’s place our hopes (again) on the next installment next year. I personally vouch for Rogue One as the best Star Wars movie to date since the reinstallment of the franchise in theaters.