Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our eighty-fifth guest was the brains behind The Palitoy 2007 Archive, All The Cool Stuff – Dave Tree.
Lightsabre – Dave, welcome to Lightsabre.
DT – Hey Mark, nice to be back. How’s it going?
Lightsabre – The Palitoy 2007 Archive was a highlight of Celebration Europe and Attack of the Garrison at the National Space Centre. What sparked it off?
DT – The idea originated right back when Celebration Europe was first announced. I am good friends with the Event Director, Barry Eldridge, and right from the word go I said I wanted to make a contribution to make the event stand out. After four Stateside Celebrations, Celebration Europe had a hard act to follow and in order to seal it’s success for future shows, I was reluctant to let it be perceived as a ‘poor man’s’ version of the US based events after one show. I wanted to create something that was an attraction and unique for the event and give regular Celebration visitors the chance to see something they hadn’t seen covered at previous events.
Using what knowledge I have and looking at where best to apply it, I suggested to Barry that it would be great to showcase the UK Star Wars toy heritage. He agreed and from there I was left to my own devices to research and pull in as much information as possible. Most vintage collectors are familiar with seeing pictures of Palitoy collections online, but never complete, up close and in person, however beyond that, I wanted to offer an museum quality experience looking at the Palitoy company history and giving a glimpse back in time of the toy industry, it’s advertising/ promotions etc.
Lightsabre – Stephen Sansweet was “As excited by that exhibit as anything he’d ever seen.” How does that make you feel?
DT – That’s great and coming from someone like Steve is a real compliment.
I think it was a real surprise to most people, although many collectors were aware of what I was doing within the collecting community, I don’t think many understood the vision of what I was looking to achieve for the exhibit as nothing like it had ever been done as such within the UK, whilst some, I think, had it pegged as just a display of someone’s collection on a table. I think the branding identity that was created helped gel it all together, giving a real sense of purpose from the crew T-Shirts & Caps to the watermarking on the display panels to the slideshows. As a result, I don’t think that most visitors realised it was actually a fan organised exhibit. There was a report that a Frenchman actually broke down in tears at seeing the exhibit and it was also an honour for Simon Pegg to drop by too.
Lightsabre – Organising the exhibit must have taken a lot of time and effort. When did the planning start, and who else is on the team?
DT – It was a huuuuuuuge amount of time and effort, which nearly killed me more than once. The bulk of the time was spent researching by myself, looking up as much company history as I could track down. Beyond that though, a massive amount of time was spent working out how/ what to display. It was really difficult at first as I could not get confirmation on what size area I would have access to, so I needed to create something that would be flexible as a result (which was beneficial as we actually ended up in a room that was half of intended size, except we would not learn that until we arrived to set up). The display mechanism started as grid walls, then changed to printed foamex panels before finally settling for felt shell scheme and printed paper due to budgetary constraints.
Once the content for the panels was finalised my partner Chloe and friend Deon Tucker, both graphic designers, began the process creating the brand and art working whilst I was responsible for copy and images, which had me cleaning up 30 year old newsprint images on Photoshop. With images cleaned, filmmaker Brian Cleckner set about creating show reels and slide shows for the screens. Brian also worked hard to restore as best as possible old Television adverts to provide the best audio and visual quality.
For the stars of the exhibits, the original toys, several collectors were approached, which altogether with a few of my own pieces would possibly allow a full collection to be displayed. This took a fair amount of convincing and incentives as some of these items are few and far between. Some collectors wanted to remain anonymous, but notable mentions have to go out to Gary Smith, Jason Smith (no relation) and Darren Simpson, Gus Lopez and the Collectors Panel team, all whose contributions made the exhibit so special and achievable.
The print was handled by Livewire Intelligent Media, who managed to print 20 1 meter X 2.2 meter panels, signage and handle t-shirt and cap production without completely bankrupting me. Logistics, collection of materials, set up and breakdown of the exhibits and displays were handled by ACP Exhibitions.
For the event itself it required a team of known and trusted collectors to safeguard and protect the exhibits. Mark Alders, Mike Lennon, Mark Cox and Jamie Priestly all done a sterling job assisting Gary, Chloe and myself over the three days.
However, the biggest thanks has to go to Chloe, who had to put up with my tinkering for over a year, get dragged into the design, help set up, stand there for 3 days and then pack it all away way after everyone had left.
Lightsabre – What started your interest in Star Wars?
DT – Originally, from what I remember it was seeing The Empire Strikes Back in Swansea. Although I was taken, I don’t remember seeing Star Wars but I have a few figures. However after coming out from seeing AT-AT’s in Hoth, Mum and Dad bought me 2-1B and Boba Fett and from that point I was a hooked kid. My interest eventually shifted to Transformers and Action Force at the time of the last figures here in the UK.
My interest renewed back in 1992 at college with the odd cocktail of Super Star Wars on the SNES, X-Wing on the PC, Dark Empire comics and Bend Ems. Going to my local comic shop started me collecting the loose vintage figures in a dumpbin for a £1 each, at first it was trying to find the ones I never had as a kid, then it snowballed to loads of Stormtroopers etc. I started digging out my old figures and displaying them all on a shelf above the window. By 1994 I came across an organisation called The Falcon Society, which held a really dark and dingy convention in North London. My friend and I travelled up and were star stuck to meet Jeremy Bulloch, Michael Sheard, Kenneth Colley and Declan Mulholland (the guy who played the original Jabba in ANH). I was blown away and by that point, I was buying anything and everything. These days I (try) to stick to a few product lines and am a lot more selective – although ask any non-Star Wars fan who knows me and they will say I buy everything.
Lightsabre – We remember you from your Ultimart days. What happened between then and when we next bumped into you – literally – at Celebration Europe?
DT – Yeah, man that was weird and what made the event so great. Following the untimely demise of Ultimart in 2001 I walked into the desert and came back with a toy exhibit.
Seriously though, I went into newspapers and magazines, eventually ending up with working for UK Console Gaming titles such as Play and GamesTM, which was fortunate as I was helping my friend Jeremy Beckett on the Star Wars retro gaming site, The Emulator Strikes Back. From there I then went into product design and had the pleasure of working with some great companies like Philips, Eurostar and Hasbro. I now work for a US company responsible for the design, development and implementation of retail displays as well as running All The Cool Stuff and Quank Design, which are my own businesses for toy collectables and toy/ fashion design.
Lightsabre – The exhibit has clearly been a success, but what next for the Archive?
DT – Ahhhhhhhhh, well that would be telling. If there is another event, you’ll see it bigger and better (and with funding this time I hope). There are some great leads that were born out of the first one and some great ideas on how to improve and add that extra level and experience. I would love to take the exhibit overseas, but who knows? A lot of people are asking when a book is going to be born out of all this too.
Lightsabre – You are trying to seek out former Palitoy employees in order to learn more about the Coalville days. How is that progressing?
DT – Slow, but it’s expected, it’s easy to find the employees as it employed a lot of people in the region, it’s just not easy to find the right ones for Star Wars. That said, each one does have a lot of fond memories and if you are a toy collector in general, some of the stories are fascinating.
Lightsabre – What do think of the current Hasbro product compared to the classics of the 1970’s and 80’s?
DT – I went off the Hasbro product after TPM, however they have really upped their game in the last 2 years with some stunning figures featuring incredible detail and paint jobs. I still buy the odd figure that I like the look of, but on the whole let most of it pass.
The Hasbro product I think is the freshest though has to be Galactic Heroes, which have edged out from pre-school toys into a popular mainstream collectable. The vintage line will always be where my heart is but Kubrick’s are a vintage collectors dream, as it respectfully nods at the vintage line with Vinyl Caped Jawas, Blue Snaggletooths and retro carded figures whilst being different and unique in their own way. Problem is, at times they are just as expensive as vintage toys ;o)
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your other interests outside of Star Wars?
DT – Huh?
Just joking, I love toys in general and the design of good products. Chloe and I share a passion for Japanese animation, we’ve just finished Oban Star Racers, if you’ve not seen it, go out and buy the 2 volumes off Amazon, it’s incredible, think Ulysses 31 meets Dungeons & Dragons meets Pod Racing. Great mix of storyline, adventure, action and character development. Watch it!
Lightsabre – All the Cool Stuff is really taking off. What’s next for the site?
DT – Getting it up and running ;o)
Around the convention show circuit in the UK, it has become well known for providing Star Wars army builders, but I’d like it to become the first port of call for loose figure collectors looking to expand their armies. Although supply of products in the UK has greatly improved since the days of Ultimart, there are still room for improvement and choice. So many UK dealers hop from the latest product wave to the next, without really offering anything and the passion is completely lost. Very few have any kind of backorder or catalogue. This is ok for the ‘1 of everything collector’ but anyone new to the hobby or those buying for others usually have to resort to ebay. All The Cool Stuff aims to redress the balance and if some wants 300 Chief Chirpas or more Clones than is feasibly sane, they now have a new port of call
Lightsabre – What lies ahead for you in the future?
DT – 2 books and a DVD, although will probably get dragged kicking and screaming into other things too. The first book is something I’ve threatened to inflict on everyone for a while, a guide to Bend Ems. Although ridiculed, these guys are fascinating and cover a period of time that is not counted as Vintage or Modern, yet without them the Modern line may never have come about. There is a phenomenal number of variations out there too along with tie in with Topps and a unproduced toys that looked to have been cast off the vintage toys too. Once that is done, work will begin on a Palitoy book, although there is so much research that still goes on.
Lightsabre – A quick question about our site, Lightsabre. Any comments?
DT – You still dishing out those cool awards? ;o)
I personally would like to see more UK fans drawn to the wealth of content here. I think the work that you are doing with Lightsabre is great, there is more to Star Wars in the UK than just toys and I think you guys showcase this brilliantly with all the fan produced content.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest on Lightsabre. Just one final question. You have a simple choice of what you want from any past Star Wars collection, but the choice comes down to the final three. Vinyl caped Jawa, Blue long-legged Snaggletooth or pristine Palitoy Cardboard Death Star. Which one would you plum for?
DT – Oooooooooooo Palitoy Death Star as they are sooooo cool. Chloe would say the Jawa (it takes up less space).