I’ve been working on a personal project since August of last year. I finally finished it this week. I’ve been wanting to share it ever since I started, but went back-and-forth constantly on if I should and how to do so, if I did.
Well, I’ve decided to share it.
I’ve been making a special box set collection for the Star Wars films. It’s been a long (and expensive) journey, but I absolutely loved the way they turned out. Take a look.
It all started in 2015 when I read this Lifehacker article titled “Watch the Original Star Wars Trilogy Before George Lucas Screwed It Up.” This article taught me about the “Despecialized” versions of the original Star Wars films. I bookmarked the article and kept it in the back of my mind.
The Despecialized editions are a fan project that takes the highest quality versions of the original trilogy and restores them as best they can into high-def. All the details can be found here. It is quite the process to download them, but I finally lightspeed-skipped my way through the hoops a few years later. I had the movies on a USB stick and could play them on my Xbox One.
I never watched them.
I honestly never liked the idea of plugging in a USB stick to watch the movies. It felt disjointed to me. I think a big part of that is my love of physical media. I still buy a bulk of my games and movies on disc. I love owning and displaying my things, especially collector’s sets and cool boxes. Star Wars is near and dear to millions. I much preferred pulling out my Blu-Ray collector set and using them. It was convenient and tangible.
Leading into The Rise of Skywalker, I wanted to rewatch all the movies and I knew this was the perfect time to watch the Despecialized editions. So I started wondering what it would take to make physical copies for myself.
It didn’t take long to find forum threads filled with people’s own custom boxes and discs labels; after all this is Star Wars we are talking about. I quickly settled in to loving boxes that used Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art and were inspired by the Criterion Collection. I found a fan’s files and got to work on making it my own.
I started doing the research of what kind of hardware I’d actually need. First would be the discs themselves. I needed a Blu-Ray disc drive! It is weird buying a disc drive in 2019. The other end of that equation was the discs themselves. I did not like the idea of a blank CD with Empire Strikes Back scrawled in Sharpie across the top. So what would it take to make fancy disc labels?
Turns out that printing companies charge out the wazoo for custom disc printing. I wasn’t about that, so it dawned on me that these other fans made their own. I needed to figure out how. Turns out that there are home printers that can print straight onto discs to make custom labels. This blew my mind. I found on that I really like that also let me print out home pictures and regular documents. I found compatible Blu-Ray discs and ordered it all.
Next, I looked into clear Criterion-style cases. I ended up at Casetopia. They didn’t ship for weeks, despite the site’s claims of being ready to ship in 24-48 hours. They finally showed up after I used PayPal’s report claim after the suggested window of time for requesting a refund had elapsed. My order was promptly shipped then. I’ve bought a few more cases, this time directly from Criterion. These shipped much sooner, even though they were more expensive and only had one disc tray.
As for the art on the cases themselves, I went very minimal. Most collectors sets I saw had official descriptions on the back to try and make the set look as legitimate as possible. While cool, it’s not my style. I cut all that out. I wanted the concept art, the logo, and the little collection spine art. I kept the art for the original trilogy from the files. It was all high quality and I thought looked great. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I whipped up the discs and was incredibly impressed. This was the coolest physical thing I had ever made. I put the discs in their cases and put them next to my other Star Wars movies.
They looked great.
They actually looked way cooler than the other boxes.
What if they all had matching boxes?
I owned the movies already. I just needed to find logos, art, and print! So I did just that. I came up with designs for the entire saga. If I couldn’t find high quality art online, I borrowed official concept art books from my local library. I found a cool set of logos all stylized like old-school logos. This helped keep everything similar. I made the boxes and put my prequel and sequel discs inside.
They looked great.
Except for the discs. Those didn’t match now.
They looked far less cool than the original trilogy.
You know what happened next.
In the end, I made an entire matching set. I love them. My favorite was The Last Jedi, until I got the concept art book for The Rise of Skywalker and found the Darth Vader helmet art. I absolutely love that art. I tried to tell the story of the films with each box while choosing art that complimented each other. Here are some thoughts on each case and things I’d change if I could go back.
I love the warm pink on the Phantom Menace box. The Naboo Starfighter is my favorite ship in the saga. I had to include it. The blue that the Gungan city provides gives me a contrast I like, while still being peaceful like the idea of just cruising in that starship. This is a time before war.
Attack of the Clones has a lot a battle concept art and most of it is darker colors. The inside of the cloning facility was the brightest art I could find. I wish I could have found a high-enough-quality image of Slave I. I loved the art I did find, but just couldn’t find an image up to snuff.
Revenge of the Sith is a favorite for sure. I love having the duel be small scale on the cover and up close on the inside. The opera art on the disc so starkly contrasts with the lava red of Mustafar. It is also a great scene.
For the original trilogy, I didn’t swap any art from the files. I think they all look great. I do think I would have changed the disc logos for Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi so that they matched the other discs, but I still like them.
You may have noticed one additional disc with Return of the Jedi. There is a copy of the movie out there called the “Grindhouse Edition.” It’s a 35mm scan of a grainy theatrical release of the film. I thought it’d be incredibly fun to have it in the collection; maybe play it on a projector some day! As for the art, it is from a poster when the film was titled Revenge of the Jedi. There weren’t any good quality scans of it online though. I remembered that I kept a rad poster calendar from 2006 with this exact poster in it. I pulled it out from under my bed and scanned that sucker in. I love it.
Rogue One has one of the best discs, I think. I love the tropical cover. It gives the illusion of the calm before the storm.
This project got me to go out and buy Solo: A Star Wars Story. I enjoyed this movie a lot more the second time I watched it. While it may be about Han Solo and Chewie, the star is the Millennium Falcon. I tried to make it the core them of the box. The train heist is a fun scene and I think Han reaching out to Chewie is a good representation of their relationship.
The Force Awakens was so easy to find art for the first three pieces. Kylo Ren is begging for the cover, while an AT-AT buried in the sand is a beautiful contrast to their debut in the snow. That disc art makes me sad in the best way. For the second disc (the included documentary), I had a harder time choosing the art. I finally stumbled across this art of Rey and the Falcon on Luke’s Island. I thought it was a good balance to have to pieces featuring Rey and two with Kylo. Plus, the art leads into the next film, which I thought was fitting for a documentary. I unfortunately don’t have an extra two disc box from Casetopia, so I have to store the documentary disc in a blank case until I can get another one.
The Last Jedi is probably the most cohesive in its art selection. It is all about Luke and all about that tree. I’m proud of the selection I made.
The Rise of Skywalker was tough to pick out. While the Vader helmet art was a lock for me as soon as I saw it, the rest was tougher to choose. I wanted concept art of Palpatine’s throne, but there was none in the concept art book. So I chose to focus on Rey and Kylo. I chose the inside art because it is tied directly to the cover when the duo have their Force fight. The disc is straight from one of the first scenes revealed. It is a very powerful scene in the whole film. I love it. I had to include the warm pink Leia art too. It was a great fit for the documentary disc.
In the end, I am beyond proud of this project. I know it’s not the fancy 4K releases. I know it is all physical instead of digital. If I wanted to watch them that way, I can with my Disney+ subscription. Or I could use my original copies of these films. If I really wanted to, I could go buy a LaserDisc Player and watch my copies of the original trilogy that way.
This project was uniquely me. For such a beloved franchise, Star Wars has a unique ability to be both universal and individual. It is adaptable to its audience. Someday, I’ll be able to share these original versions of the movies with any children Abby and I may have. Then they can grow to (hopefully) love Star Wars too. I’m proud of this and am glad I decided to share it.