In 1991, an up-and-coming stage manager named Scott Faris took a phone call from Kenneth Feld, whose Feld Entertainment ran the so-called Greatest Show on Earth, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The year before, Faris had been instrumental in helping Feld Entertainment open Siegfried & Roy's magic show in Las Vegas, which cost a record-setting $28 million to produce.
This phone call was not about Siegfried & Roy.
"Hey, this Lucas thing's happening," Feld said. "Come up and meet with me."
Faris gave notice at his current theatrical production. A few weeks later, he flew to Oakland, rented a car, and drove to Skywalker Ranch in San Rafael, California. There he toured Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic with Feld and a group of Japanese businessmen. The party ended up in a boardroom with about a dozen members of Lucasfilm, where Feld took charge. After a day of sightseeing, it was time to talk about why they'd all gathered together.
"The show's got to be an arena show, and the show has to be two acts, and it has to involve the audience," Faris remembers Feld saying matter-of-factly. No one else in the room spoke.
"I thought 'Okay, what the hell? I'll pick up the ball,' " Faris remembers. "I said, 'what I think we should do is find a way to tie together all of George's films.' " Pens rustled on notepads. Again, no one spoke. So Faris kept talking. "I'm going to create an assignment for you Lucas guys and for myself," he said. And then he laid out the simple instructions that would soon inspire the most bizarre celebration of Lucas' films this side of the Stars Wars Holiday Special: "We're going to watch the Lucas films, all of them, from five different points of view. What is the thematic high point, the special effects high point, musical high point, comedic high point, and [most memorable] action sequence. I'll fly back to San Rafael in a week and I'll meet up with you guys."
Everyone was on board. With that, the meeting was over. They all went out to dinner. And for the next two years, Scott Faris spearheaded what Kenneth Feld casually referred to as the "Lucas thing," hiring and directing more than 100 cast and crew for an arena production eventually titled George Lucas' Super Live Adventure. Japanese TV companies ponied up $25 million dollars to finance the production. Faris dreamed up a script that combined Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Willow, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, and American Graffiti.
In April 1993, George Lucas' Super Live Adventure opened to a crowd of more than 10,000 in the Yokohama Arena in Japan. The show toured Japan for five months.
And yet, 20 years later, almost no one has heard of, or remembers, the Super Live Adventure. It persists only in the minds of the Japanese children who once saw the show live, and few remnants--newspaper archives, blurry VHS recordings, tacky merchandise--survive to preserve its memory.
How could such an enormous production, based on some of the most popular films ever made, drift into obscurity?
How could such an enormous production, based on some of the most popular films ever made, drift into obscurity? It was elaborately produced, even for an arena show, with an elevated stage 60 feet across, a pair of giant screens showing 70mm projections of Lucas' films, hand-fired lasers, and a full-scale inflatable Millennium Falcon landing on stage for the finale.
In a single night's entertainment Willow defeated General Kael, Luke vanquished Vader, the rebels destroyed the Death Star, Nazis unleashed the Ark of the Covenant, and Indiana Jones wrestled with a live tiger. This is the story of how it all happened, how it almost didn't, and why, 20 years on, barely a trace of George Lucas' Super Live Adventure remains.