May 9, 2023

FAN BUSINESS: Anticipating the Prequels (with DAN MADSEN)

FAN BUSINESS: Anticipating the Prequels (with DAN MADSEN)

The first editor of the Star Wars Insider remembers the lead-up to Episode I

We are joined by the illustrious DAN MADSEN, the founder of the Lucasfilm Fan Club in the 80s which rebranded as the Star Wars Insider. As the professional fan inside the Lucasfilm apparatus, he was in a unique position to witness the creation of the most anticipated films of all time. Josh has a great conversation with Dan as we discuss the delicate balance between business and fandom, why it was a bad idea to have only one pair of socks at the first Star Wars Celebration in 1999, and what the legacy of the prequels is today.






[00:00:00] JOSH: Welcome to the official season two premiere of Trash Compactor. I am, as always your host, Josh, and if you were a fan of Star Wars or Star Trek in the 1990s, chances are you've encountered the work of today's special guest. He was the publisher of both the Star Wars Insider and the Star Trek Communicator.

Probably the coolest jobs in the world for any fan of either of the Star franchises, and I'm incredibly humbled and honored to be joined today by Mr. Dan Madsen. Mr. Madsen, welcome to Trash Compactor.

[00:00:30] DAN MADSEN: Josh, thanks. It's, it's nice to be here with you.

[00:00:33] JOSH: thank you for doing this. As I mentioned, off air, I'm a big fan and have been since before I even knew your name because I grew up in the nineties and the Star Wars Insider and Star Trek communicator were, before I had subscriptions. they were my, you know, the first thing I ran toward at the rack at the Barnes and Noble. But, so, this is the beginning of our prequel season, and I primarily want to talk to you about the period of anticipation leading up to the release of episode one, The Phantom Menace, and what that was like. But, first if you could just briefly explain how you came to find yourself the head of, the Lucasfilm Fan Club magazine, which later became the Star Wars Insider in the first place.

[00:01:10] DAN MADSEN: Absolutely. Well to, to get to the answer to that, I have to go all the way back very briefly to my Star Trek days. When I started a Star Trek fan club just out of high school, um, it, uh, it captured the notice of, um, creator Gene Roddenberry, um, and later then Paramount Studios who, um, licensed me to do the official Star Trek fan club and magazine, of which I did for many, many years until about 1986.

Um, I got a call from Lucasfilm, Howard Rothman, the head of licensing there at the time, who had said, you know, they had closed down their internal Star Wars fan club, but they had seen what I had been doing for Star Trek and thought, well, you know, maybe we should license this and have somebody outside of Lucasfilm start doing it now.

And. I said, Hey, I'd be happy to talk to you more about it. I was a huge Star Wars fan. I, I love Star Wars every bit, as much as I like Star Trek. So, um, I hopped on a plane, flew out to Skywalker Ranch, sat down with Howard, got introduced to George Lucas. Um, long story short, we got a contract. And I started doing the official Lucasfilm fan club and we, we discussed whether it should be renamed the Star Wars Fan Club again, or the Lucasfilm Fan Club.

And since at that time, at that point, Josh, you know, in 1986, early 1987, there was no assurance that George was ever gonna do any more Star Wars movies. He had talked about it, but there was nothing on their. That said, oh yeah, we're gonna do these at, at this date. Um, so we all just kind of had to hope that maybe someday he'd get back to it.

But what was on the plate was, um, the movie Willow and the movie Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. So we said, well, you know, let's call it the Lucasfilm Fan Club. We'll cover everything that Lucasfilm. But there'll always be some sort of a Star Wars connection as well in the newsletter slash magazine of the Lucasfilm Fan Club.

Um, and that seemed to appeal to everybody. So we, uh, in fact the very first issue back in 87 was the 10th anniversary of Star Wars, and, uh, we had. Three po and R two on the cover holding a birthday cake for their 10th anniversary. And, uh, I featured an interview I did with Anthony Daniels in that issue.

So, um, long story short, I guess that's really how I came to do the, the Lucasfilm Fan Club. I, I kind of owe it to Star Trek and my work on that, that franchise.

[00:04:04] JOSH: Now, uh, just out of curiosity and please, uh, take every opportunity, uh, to be as self-aggrandizing as you want, because I think it's well deserved. What do you think it was about your Star Trek fan club that you said you started just out of high school that attracted the attention of the Great bird of the galaxy as it were?

[00:04:20] DAN MADSEN: Yeah, well, I had started working in a print shop. And, um, I learned the, the technique of how to make my newsletter look really professional. Um, and I think it really caught, and I know it caught Gene Roddenberry's eye because it was probably the most professional fan newsletter that had been out there at the time.

and I also was very, um, Very active in reaching out to Gene and sending him the magazine, the newsletters, um, cuz it wasn't a magazine yet. Um, and said, you know, Hey, I'd love for you to see the newsletter and I'll send it to you every issue. And at some point Gene would respond to me and then we started responding back and forth to each other.

Um, and at one point about the time when my fan club newsletter really. Starting to look more like a, a professional publication than a fan publication. That's when Paramount got ahold of it and they basically called me up and said, Hey, you know, you're not doing this with a license. You, you, you're not supposed to be doing this.

And I said, well, gosh guys, you know, I'm just a kid in my mom and dad's basement putting this out. And I still remember to this very day the comment of the head of licensing at the time. And they said, well, you had the right. Fanaticism mixed with the right amount of professionalism. We think you might be the one to do our official Star Trek fan club.

And so they asked me to fly out to Paramount Studios, which I did, and Gene was told in advance, and Gene put in a good word for me, he said, this is the guy. We're gonna do an official Star Trek fan club. This is a guy, do have him do it. So with Gene's blessing and a contract that arrived on my doorstep, that was you. Extremely thick. Um, and I, I, I signed that contract and I became the official Star Trek fan club. And then as each issue came out, Josh, it just, I learned more techniques, I got better and better at it. Um, I started making it look even more professional. Um, I was able to reach out and do interviews with cast members and production people.

Um, and I think it was just, A mixture of all the things of, you know, hard work and effort and timing and, um, getting to know Gene and getting to know the people at Paramount. And, uh, one thing I led to another and it, and it just, it, it blossomed and it became the official Star Trek fan club. And, uh, you know, being in the right place at the right time doesn't hurt.

[00:07:04] JOSH: Sure. That's certainly true though. I think you hit the nail on the head. You're, it's that right mix, that secret sauce of fanaticism and professionalism. You need to sort of speak the language, as it were. Yet you need to conduct yourself as if you're,

[00:07:19] DAN MADSEN: Yeah.

[00:07:19] JOSH: one of the team.

[00:07:20] DAN MADSEN: Yeah. Well, and as I would tell people, I said, you know, I'm, I'm as, I'm as fanatic about Star Trek as anybody, but I realize that in order to keep the official fan club growing and building and, and getting it better, it has to be run like a business. Because if I'm losing money, I, you know, I can't keep it going.

So I had to have a businessman's mind, but a fan's heart and. Combining

those made it happen.

[00:07:50] JOSH: No, I like that. A businessman's mind, but a fan's heart. I think that sums it up perfectly. Um, You know, you mentioned that initial meeting you had with Howard Rothman and, George Lucas at Skywalker Ranch, and you know that that time the, the late eighties was sort of a fallow period for Star Wars in terms of, I mean, I don't think there was any, aside from Star Tours, I don't think there was really, any new Star Wars, media.

that was on offer. So, so just out of curiosity, you know, as you mentioned, George Lucas had at that time spoken about this idea of prequels and other Star Wars films. Though it seems like you really got the impression at that, at that moment, he really wasn't thinking about making more in any real capacity.

[00:08:34] DAN MADSEN: Yeah, that's true. I actually, you know, I had hopes, that George would get eventually get back, and I hope that it didn't take too long, that I could still be around while he did him. Um, and so, I guess, you know, the way I would describe it is I kind of felt like I was a miner down in the, the mines of whatever in, in a mountain.

And I'm, pounding away on the side of the wall hoping that I'll find that little vein of gold, you know, and so I kept going and going and going with the Lucasfilm Fan Club, covering everything. Tucker, the movie that Lucasfilm did to Maniac Mansion, a TV show that they did at the time.

and covering Willow and Indiana Jones. and just thinking, okay, if I keep chipping away a little bit more, boom, that Gold's gonna come out and there's Star Wars, and that's when it's gonna go crazy. and lo and behold it did. And, I stayed around long enough for George to actually start doing new Star Wars movies.

That's when things just went wild.

[00:09:31] JOSH: When was the first time that you heard that the Star Wars prequels were actually going to happen? Do you recall that?

[00:09:38] DAN MADSEN: Oh, yeah. I was told many, many, many months before it ever got announced to the public. And as you can imagine, I was not only absolutely exhilarated by the fact that as a fan, I was gonna get to see new Star Wars. But I was a businessman tied directly into the thing. So I thought, okay, this is gonna be, this is gonna make the business very successful.

So I was, I was, um, excited, uh, on two fronts and, you know, I, I flew out to Skywalker Ranch many times, in those early days. and I. Given the chance when the script was completed to, basically sign my life away and be taken into a room, lock the door and sit down and read the script, long before anybody ever saw it.

Um, so I would've an idea of what it was that I was gonna be able to work with. and then as things started progressing a little, we started doing updates with Rick MacCallum, who was the producer on the prequels. And Rick graciously would, give me time. Every issue he'd give us updates, what's happening, what's going on.

You know, he'd tell us about getting, you know, all the sets are starting to be built, you know, um, at leaves and studios and on and on and on. And, um, and then he invited me out to Skywalker Ranch. one day I flew out there and he took me up into a special room up in the top of the, the main house where George's office is.

And there was even a special knock he had to make on the door, you know, to get in. And when I walked in, it's almost like Willy Wonka. You walked in and there's all these artists. Working on the designs for the new prequels. and there's maquettes and Little bus. It's the first time I'd ever seen Jar Jar Banks.

There was a, a bust, of Jar Jar sitting on a table. There was artwork, you know, all over the place showing what certain things would look like. storyboards on the wall. and I was introduced. All the various artists. That's when I first met Doug Chang, who was there working on projects. And, uh, Rick took me around and introduced me to everybody and pointed this out and pointed that out and said, this is what this is.

And then sat me down and we watched some computer animation of what one of the scenes might look like. And, uh, yeah, it was, um, I, I felt really like I was on the inside, I was privileged. I was seeing things that Star Wars fans would kill for, you know, and, uh, but you know that therein, Josh, is why it was so important to paint the picture that I was not only a fan, but a businessman.

Because if they thought I was some crazy fan, they would think, oh my gosh, he's gonna go out and he's gonna spill the beans to everybody. But they knew I was profess. And as a professional, I could keep my, my enthusiasm, you know, under wraps and, and be professional about all the things I was seeing and being able to think about how I could utilize those for doing new magazines, doing new products, uh, working with licensees.

So that was, uh, that was a real exciting time. For me to be involved with Lucasfilm.

[00:12:51] JOSH: I think that's an understatement. Yeah. I think, um, you know, I don't recall if this was in the, the Star Wars insider or if it was something on Star, but I remember there were a couple of, pictures, I think of the, Nabu sets and sort of like the set dressing of these like silver control panels on the doors or something.

And I remember I freaked out over it. I was like, new Star Wars is coming. It's coming. And it's just so, it's, it's so, it's so wild. The, the degree to which you can get excited over such, you know, minutia. But you're exactly right. your ability to modulate your, your enthusiasm at a sort of an appropriate level as not to freak anybody out that may think they made a mistake bringing you in.

[00:13:32] DAN MADSEN: The hardest time for me to do exactly what we were just talking about was one of the times that I was at the ranch and Rick said, come here, I have something I wanna show you. And so I followed him and we went to the back of the, the main house and we open a door and we go into a big editing bay. And sitting at the editing bay is George Lucas and he says, George is editing the final.

Trailer for episode one. He says, I wanna, I want, he says, I, George, can we show it to Dan and see what he thinks of it? And George says, absolutely. So I sit down and there's Rick and there's George both looking at me while I'm watching the trailer. And I'm, you know, and I'm like, oh my God. You know, I'm watching the very first new footage from Star Wars while the creator of it is sitting here looking at how I'm gonna react to it.

And of course, I was floored. I was enthused. And by the time it was done, I told, you know, I, I turned to George and I said, I got goosebumps right now. I said, this is, this is incredible. I said, it's, it's so different, but it's still familiar to me and. And they got a big grin on their face and they laughed.

And I don't know, we had a little more of a conversation about things and then, and then I, I left with Rick and we went and had lunch at the restaurant there at the ranch. But, um, yeah, you know, I mean, uh, these are the kind of things that as a fan, you would, you, you, you, you could dream about but would never happen.

And, uh, I've been very fortunate that I've had some experiences that. I, I, I would never have dreamed I would be able to do when I was a 14 year old kid sitting in the theater watching Star Wars for the first time.

[00:15:17] JOSH: Absolutely. trailer that you're talking about is, um, something I wanna, discuss a little bit more. I mean, first of all, it's a phenomenal

[00:15:24] DAN MADSEN: Yeah.

[00:15:25] JOSH: Like I, the first time I saw it, I didn't see it in the same conditions as you. but um, you know, my reaction was, you know, jaw on the floor. I'm sure you can recall, I am one of, the people who went to see Meet Joe Black on the Water Boy. So

[00:15:41] DAN MADSEN: You can see the

[00:15:42] JOSH: and then, yes, so, so we could see the trailer and then stayed through to the end because they played the trailer again after the movie um, um, so, but out of curiosity. there was, I think last summer there was a vice documentary that was called Icons on Earth that you participated in.

and, um, someone who gave an interview. David West Reynolds, the fame, star Wars archeologist who wrote, that great, piece for the insider about, locating the original shooting locations for the original Star Wars.

[00:16:13] DAN MADSEN: Yeah, David's, one of my David's piece in the Insider will probably go down as one of my top three favorite things we ever did in the Insider. While it was under my My Control I, that was just a phenomenal article that he did.

[00:16:28] JOSH: I loved it. I was so fascinated and I must have been like 12 years old and I was, there was something about it that was so, captivating, this idea you know, and again, at the time the movie. Wasn't that old, you know, so, but there was something about seeing these, um, you know, ruins, To see that no. Star Wars was a real place where people constructed and it was a thing and there's a place on the Earth that you can fly to and you can see what's left from. It was very compelling to me.

[00:16:58] DAN MADSEN: it was, it was like, you know, digging up archeology, you know, like going to a, an ancient historic site. Um, and Star Wars changed the world. I mean, it was, it was, it, it was a monumental. Thing that happened in the pop culture world at the time it came out. And so, uh, yeah, it had this kind of a mystique and aura around it because, you know, it, it, it really did change the world in many ways.

[00:17:23] JOSH: So that's really interesting, to me because I was born in 1984, so, so I'm from a very unique generation that still grew up with the original trilogy as Star Wars. The beginning and end of what Star Wars was yet did not have the experience of seeing it when it originally, came out. So for me, it's always been sort of hard to distinguish between, you know, in a lot of ways Star Wars sort of always existed.

It was like, you know, the stone tablets from the mountain, right? but it is really interesting to hear that. That mystique, as you put it, was something that was there for everybody from the beginning. It was just something about it that was captivating.

[00:18:03] DAN MADSEN: like, you know, there's certain things that happen in your life that you will remember. If you live to be a hundred, you'll never forget them one of those things for me, Should I be, you know, lucky enough to live, to be a hundred was the very first time my cousin took me to see Star Wars and it was playing here in Denver, Colorado at what was our, biggest, most luxurious theater, big giants round screen.

And I sat up in the front row of the balcony. And I'll never forget as other people I've seen, you know, interviews with all kinds of people who experienced it for the first time and watching that huge star destroyer just keep coming and coming and coming, going over your head. And I just, at that moment, my jaw dropped and I, I just knew I was like, I, I love this and I'm, I'm gonna love this for the rest of my life.

It's just something told me that this was, this is, this was a, a very special, incredible thing. And one scene after another just captured my imagination, kept me glued to the screen. you know, and that's what made it such a, a, a legendary motion picture. And, uh, yeah, I'm.

I'm grateful to be honest, that I'm of the generation that got to see it in the theaters for the first time, and I think I was the right age too. I think George kind of geared the movie towards 14 year olds, and that's about what I was, so I, uh, it, that movie was kinda like made for my age group and it, it certainly hit or struck a note with me, that's for sure.

[00:19:31] JOSH: So I wanna ask you about that because that, kind of ties into, the question that I, wanted to ask you about, Mr. Reynolds. So he had a quote from the Vice Documentary, regarding The Phantom Menace. according to him, he was involved in some capacity in the editing of, the trailer.

and he said in the documentary, in regards to the Es. He said, it's not exactly what I was looking for. And then he said, are we gonna make a trailer that reflects what this movie really is? Or are we going to make the trailer for the movie that we wish this was, we went with Let's create the trailer that we thrilled to see before you find out what you're really gonna get.

uh, which I found a very revealing comment and I'm, I'm wondering, if you know to what he's referring, and I've read in a few places that in the lead up to The Phantom Menace, some people inside Lucasfilm and its associated companies, maybe were having a realization that this movie might not be what the fans of the original were looking for.

And I was just wondering if you were sort of aware of any of that or if you even shared some of that sentiment.

[00:20:36] DAN MADSEN: Um, Never got that from any of the people I worked with at Lucasfilm. and I don't know if maybe the ones I did never shared that with me if they did have that feeling. Um, you know, I can tell you that when I read the screenplay, I didn't read through it and think, oh my gosh, what a nightmare this is gonna be.

Um, I was enthused about it when I, um, saw the trailer. I was excited about it when they had a licensing summit prior to Episode One coming out and all the licensees were invited to Skywalker Ranch and I was one of them. And I was there. Um, and we watched, uh, a few scenes, particularly the, the pod race scene.

Um, we got to watch on the big screen. so I right up until, you know, the movie, I saw the movie for the very first time in the theater and that was, um, Lucasfilm I had about a hundred employees at the time the first movie came out, and so Lucasfilm had a special screening of it for us at a theater in Denver, and we literally closed the company down for an afternoon and bused all of the employees over, and they got to go in and see the Phantom Menace before anybody else did.

And it was only after the end of that. And I can remember, you know, thinking, okay, there's some things in there I'm not sure I'm crazy about. And, uh, I can remember talking to, my editor of the Insider at the time, John Snyder, and we were both the bit in denial. I said, well, that was really good, don't you think?

He's like, yeah, I, I thought it was good. What do you think? Yeah, you know, we were kind of like, Not trying to say, well, there were some disappointing things about it, but the one thing I will say is that George always has the last laugh. And I think that as we're seeing now, you're seeing the people that grew up with the prequels and that a lot of the fans these days are starting to have a much less harsh view of those prequels, particularly episode one.

and, I think they're kind of coming around to being appreciated for what they were and that George set out to do something different. He didn't wanna rehash where he had already been. And I'll be honest with you and Frank with you, I think the first, the Force awakens was just, you know, a rehash of, the original Star Wars movie.

I mean, it had all the components that were in the movie, but put into a different, setting with different characters. And George wanted to do something different, but he wanted to tell the beginnings of this character of, of Anakin Skywalker. So, you know, I think at the end of the day, I think George is the one that has the credit and credit deserved just because, I can watch the prequels now and I have less harsh reactions to them when I did initially.

and I, I find them, I find them more watchable. And some of the sequels I've, I, I have no interest in even watching again. So I never had anybody within Lucasfilm warn me that, oh boy, you're not gonna get what you're hoping for. I never had anybody discuss that with me at any one time.

[00:23:28] JOSH: That's interesting. Yeah. no, I think you're exactly right. There has sort of been a great reevaluation of those films and I had the same experience. So we record these, podcasts out of order. So we've already, I've already, uh, recorded, we did, uh, rewatch of the Phantom Menace and of Episode Two, Attack of the Clones and You know, I find them much more enjoyable and a much less harsh on them than I was as a, you know, as a youth. How, um, how much of that do you think is a result of the expectations you go into the theater with? because with The Phantom Menace in particular, I don't know that there has ever been another movie that had as high expectations as the first Star Wars prequel.

[00:24:09] DAN MADSEN: I don't think George could have given us anything and that people wouldn't have found some sort of disappointment in, you know, it's like the second coming of Christ, you know? I mean, how, how do you top Star Wars? And there have been these years since the original movies and the fans were so hungry, and when are we gonna see New Star Wars?

And then we finally get the we're, we're gonna make new Star Wars. And I've said before in other interviews, Josh, and I'll say it again, in my opinion, the best time ever. And that goes today. Even the best time ever to be a Star Wars fan was in those few years building to Episode One because the anticipation and the excitement of the fact that we were gonna finally get to see some new Star Wars movies.

And in those years we had the special editions, which had their you know, their fans and their detectors as well. But you know, it kind of helped us remind us of the greatness of Star Wars with the idea that, oh my gosh, we're gonna have something new coming. I've never experienced it experienced Star Wars fandom, anywhere near the excitement and anticipation that it was in those years building up to Episode One.

And the unique thing about where I was, was that we were really at ground zero. Because I was working directly with Lucasfilm and we did the official fan club. We did the official magazine. We were doing all of the merchandising for the official Star Wars store online, and then we were tapped to do the official Star Wars celebration, the first one.

So it's like everything that was circling around Star War. We were kind of right there on ground zero with the fans, communing with them about everything, hearing their excitement, hearing their enthusiasm, working with Lucasfilm to try to get things that, that we could give them, to give them some, tidbits of information and early photos and such.

And I, I'll, I'll never, ever in my life experience another time quite like that. I think that. Once in a lifetime of experiences, and I don't know that you'll ever see Star Wars be that exciting ever again.

[00:26:15] JOSH: I would tend to agree with you. I heard some people comparing the lead up to the Force Awakens, and I'm like, no, it's not. It's not like it was it, it's not like it was in, you know, like 90.

[00:26:27] DAN MADSEN: 97, 98, 99.

[00:26:29] JOSH: Yeah. 97, no, no, because there's a precedent for having more Star Wars and then there wasn't so, so it was really,

[00:26:39] DAN MADSEN: yeah. No,

[00:26:39] JOSH: No, but anyway, I mean, not to debate that.

[00:26:41] DAN MADSEN: I've heard others say that too, and I, no, I disagree. There's no, there's no comparison to that time prior to episode one and the time period working up towards The Force Awakens. it's, it's a whole different animal.

[00:26:52] JOSH: I agree with you. Um, speaking of the Star Wars Celebration, um, I'm not gonna ask you, too much about that because, you covered it in an interview on the Talking Bay 94 podcast. friend of the podcast, Brendan Winer, I believe, episode 68, of Talking Bay 94. So I won't rehash all of that though.

I do want to let you know that I was there and. I was all of, I guess I was 15. I was, um, there with my, friend and his father graciously. took his two nerd Star Wars sons across the country. Cause we lived in New York at the time, to go to this, uh, star Wars convention. And I want you to know that I only brought one pair of socks.

[00:27:28] DAN MADSEN: my gosh.

[00:27:29] JOSH: I only packed one pair of socks and that rainy, muddy, frigid weekend, that was tricky.

[00:27:34] DAN MADSEN: Oh my gosh.

That was, that was both for me. It was the best of times and the worst of times. You know, we, we wanted so badly to have that inside, completely inside at the convention center, and it was booked solid. there was no dates open that Lucasfilm would even agree to. So we added, ended up having to find some other place to hold the convention and that's when we, we found the wings of the Rockies Air and Space Museum and we did a deal with them and then we had these big giant circumstances.

You well know, um, outside the host, the, the main stage and the secondary stage and never. In our wildest dreams, did we ever imagine that on that weekend we'd have the worst rainstorm in a hundred years? It never even crossed our mind.

[00:28:22] JOSH: Why would it?

[00:28:22] DAN MADSEN: It just, uh, it was like the heavens opened up on us. You know, it.

[00:28:28] JOSH: Um, no. Yeah, I recently, I, um, I corresponded with my friend's father, several years, and I asked him if he remembered that, and he was like, are you kidding? It was like nerd Woodstock.

[00:28:38] DAN MADSEN: No, that's, in fact, that's funny because Rick MacCallum backstage on the second day when it was just continuing to come down and just rain cats and dogs. And I looked at Rick and he could tell I was just, Dejected and I said, I cannot believe, the weather we're having. And he says, Dan, he says, I'm telling you right now, someday fans are gonna look back at this as their Star Wars, Woodstock.

They're gonna remember, you know, surviving the rain in the mud to come and celebrate Star Wars. And he said, he says, I wouldn't have it any other way. And I'm like thinking, well, maybe you wouldn't, but I would. But you know, hey, whatever.

[00:29:14] JOSH: Well, that's very prophetic. And also that's a producer. That's a producer. That's a producer. You want producing your movie.

[00:29:21] DAN MADSEN: Yep, that that's really right.

[00:29:24] JOSH: Um, uh, how do you feel about, the legacy of the Star Wars celebration as we're recording this? I believe they just wrapped up, a Star Wars celebration just concluded in London, and I think, I think accepting Covid, I think the tradition you started has continued for the last 20 some odd years.

How does that,

[00:29:40] DAN MADSEN: I am extremely proud of the fact that what we started and what we built the groundwork of in Denver back in 99 is still going forward. And, and, you know, being is still going forward and having, uh, brand new events happening. Um, and fans coming from all over the world, being able to celebrate Star Wars, it just, you know, it's a good feeling to know that a lot of the things that we set down then are still things that they do today, but, you know, it's, but it's done on a much larger scale with a, a company that, manages conventions with a hundred thousand plus people.

and. You know, it's, ours was a, I I always say that Star Wars celebration had a humble beginning because it did. It was a, it was event for fans put on by fans. We weren't a convention company. We were the runners of the fan club.

I'm an the insider, and I'd never run a convention in my life. So, you know, I was biting off a bit more than I could chew, I think, when I agreed to do that.

But I thought this is an opportunity for us to really do it right. And so, uh, it, it gives me great pride to see all these events continue on, and I've been at many of. and, uh, have been on stage talking with Anthony Daniels about that first, that first celebration and the struggles and the triumphs that we had to go through.

Um, and, you know, and then this last one in London was awesome. And now I think two years from now, the next celebration's gonna be in Japan. So, you know, it's a worldwide, thing that's just, it blows me away every, every time I hear.

[00:31:13] JOSH: It's incredible. It's incredible. Um, so in the aforementioned vice documentary, you said, there was a lot of pressure on George to somehow make Episode Two more likable. Um, so that seems like you had some sense that certainly George had a sense of a certain, um, reaction to the first one.

you know, what was your sense of his reaction to the reaction and, what, if any influence that had on his creative decisions moving forward with Episode Two?

[00:31:45] DAN MADSEN: Well, on the one hand, you know, when all the criticism started coming out about episode one, and I mean it was cruel. There were some really mean things being said. You know, you know the whole story about Ahmed Best and the people. Slamming Jar Jar Binks. I mean, he, even him, his himself said, you know, he'd considered suicide at one point.

It got so bad. and, um, so I mean, people were unmerciful towards the complaining and the criticizing of it. And I, I'm certain that that hurt George to a certain extent, but at the same time, he's a visionary and he was like, this is what I wanted to make. This is what I wanted. This is the story I wanted to.

and I made it the way I wanted to make it. did he take some of the criticism to heart as he moved forward? I'm sure he did because, you know, jar Jar just got, slaughtered after Episode One came out, and as you noticed, jar's hardly in episode two.

That was one of the things that George listened to, potentially from all the criticism. But, um, yeah, I still think, you know, I think it hurt him and I think it also, He, he held his ground and said, I'm making the movies I wanna make and this is what it's gonna be, and I hope people like it. And if they don't, I'm sorry, but I'm, I'm doing the best I can with what I wanted to tell.

And that's how I see George going forward after Episode One.

[00:33:09] JOSH: What do you think is the legacy of that first prequel? The Phantom Menace? What do you think is its legacy?

[00:33:13] DAN MADSEN: Um, well, its Legacy is being the first of all the Star Wars movies to kick off the new era of Star Wars. you know, it, took Star Wars. We had the, the original era, which was, you know, star Wars, a New Hope Through Jedi, and then the new era. Which was the prequels and then the new, new era, which was the sequels.

But you know, there was a lot of, things set down in the Phantom Menace that I think, set the future of Star Wars going forward. Um, One thing I can tell you for a fact is that I think some of the best music that was ever in a Star Wars movie was in the Phantom Menace. You know that that doula fates theme still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

Darth Maul is an amazingly cool. Character and everybody commented, it's like, man, he wasn't in the movie nearly long enough. They killed him. What the heck? You know, and so we've seen obviously Darth Maul return and he is one of the most popular characters now. Um, and, and I think another thing, Josh, that is a credit to the Phantom Menace and it shows. There were the beginnings of, and the foundation of the new era of Star Wars is, is look at the OB one Kenobi series that was on Disney Plus. I mean, they essentially took, you know, that story from as it ended in, in, in the prequels and brought, you know, brought us back to Obi one and brought Anakin back.

And, you know, I mean, I think it showed that there is still a lot in the Phantom. That can be admired and enjoyed and it had a, a real impact on the future of Star Wars storytelling. And that's the way I, I think that's its legacy in my opinion.

[00:34:54] JOSH: very well put. I guess I'm always curious, you know, you got into this because you were, uh, you were a fan, out of a genuine love for the movies, but, um, what happens when something new comes out that's not necessarily to your, to your taste, shall we say, but it's still your job to cover it, like it's the best thing since sliced bread.

Has that ever happened to you, and if so, how do you handle it?

[00:35:13] DAN MADSEN: Um, yeah. Yeah, I mean, It's, uh, it's, uh, you know, I mean, uh, once again, I come back to the, uh, the fan and the professional. Um, and there's a fan side of me that might be disappointed, but the professional side of me says it's my job to continue to promote and give to the fans, Encouragement for what's ever, what the latest thing is.

and so I, you know, I knew there were people out there that didn't like, um, episode one, but I, we, we continued with all of the interviews and all of the articles and the behind the scenes stuff on it, because, we went into this. Believing we would love episode one. And afterwards we still were writing articles about loving Episode One.

so I think really that's where the fan and the professional comes in, and that is if you're a professional, you still have to do your job, even if you didn't think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. but there was still enough there that you could pull out and. Find all kinds of amazing, interesting stories about the people and the sets and the designs and the characters, that were in episode one.

And I, uh, I tell you, you know, I do, I still have my problems with Episode One. Absolutely I do. There's some things that, that I just, I don't care for, but I can still watch it and enjoy it. Now, for me, it's a bit of nost alg. Because I was on the set, I was there, I covered it all up, up, right up to its release.

So, you know, for me it's a bit of nostalgia, but I still really enjoy watching that movie. And, uh, of all the prequels, it's still my favorite of the three prequels.

[00:36:50] JOSH: Oh, is that

[00:36:50] DAN MADSEN: Yeah, I still prefer episode one. Over episode two and episode three, the, I still think episode. was the better of all the prequels. I don't know the, the, it just, it, there was something about George coming back and, getting back into that universe and that world.

And then I, you know, I mentioned earlier that the music of John Williams. the badassery of Darth Maul. You know, I just think that, um, it's still, for me, it's still my favorite of the three prequels.

[00:37:22] JOSH: So when I was watching The Phantom Menace, , for the first time in a few years, , the other day, I, it made me think of a question, and I can't think of a better person to ask than you. , but as fans, why are we so invested in these movies?

why are we so invested in them being good?

[00:37:37] DAN MADSEN: Well, you know, for so many people, they've, this has been a part of their life since they were kids, and now we have generations. We have grandparents and their son, their kids, and their grandkids, who all love Star Wars. It goes back a long ways, but it's a story of. You know, hope and good versus evil. and I think, you know, George tapped into the whole mythology concept as he, developed the original three films.

so you know, I mean, when you go to a Star Wars celebration, you see how important these movies are to people and now television shows. you know, their lives, their lives are intero with them. they make their own costumes and they wear these costumes to the conventions. They buy these, the, all of these, this merchandise, and they have entire rooms devoted to it.

You know, I've met doctors and lawyers and, bankers and, they have, enormous rooms full of their Star Wars collection. Um, and many of them have their own home theaters that are designed to look like something from the Star Wars universe. you know, it's, it's just, it's important to people and that's where Star Wars and Star Trek are similar. Is that, depending on which one you're most a fan of, it still has that still underlying positivity and that underlying, amazing hope for the future. you know, people love these universes. They love these worlds and they've invested their, their lives in them.

And so when you. That much into something, and I don't mean to invest this in money. Well, although some of them have invested a lot of money. you want it to be good. You wanna have, you wanna rekindle those feelings you had when you first experienced Star Wars. You know, you remember that moment.

When it just was magical and it just made your eyes light up and you keep thinking, God, I hope the next thing makes me feel like that. You know, I want this to be the best Star Wars I've ever seen. And um, you know, so far they've made some pretty good things that I don't think anything has been as good as the originals, but they've come pretty close.

They've come pretty close.

[00:39:39] JOSH: I would agree with that. So, Mr. Dan Madon, I wanna thank you from the bottom of my heart, not just for agreeing to do this interview, but again, for the years and years of, of information and access and fun and all the peaks behind the curtain that you gave fans of both Star Wars and Star Trek. and I want you to know that my childhood and adolescence was enriched because of you and your work.

So thank you very, very much.

[00:39:59] DAN MADSEN: Thank you, Josh. I've enjoyed talking with you.

[00:40:02] JOSH: uh, before we go, is there anything that, you wanna plug or that, uh, you wanna mention that you'd like

to, uh, to, uh, draw some attention

[00:40:08] DAN MADSEN: The only thing that I can tell people about is, um, I'm working on my memoirs right now, which I hope to have out next year. That's gonna have a lot of behind the scenes stories, um, and, uh, things that they've never heard before about my life. Working within the Star Wars and Star Trek and other projects back to the Future, the Lord of the Rings projects, but primarily Star Wars and Star Trek.

It's gonna be a fun book. I'm already enjoying reading what I've written, so I think fans are gonna like it cuz there's a lot of stuff they've never heard before. that's, they're gonna love absolutely.

[00:40:44] JOSH: Oh, well, that sounds like a, a must-read addition to my list. I'm very much looking forward to that. Well, Mr. Madsen, thank you very much. if you liked what you heard, please visit, where you can find transcripts of this episode and all our other episodes. We are trash com pod across all social media, and we will see you on the next one.