Before the prequel trilogy released in the late ‘90s/early noughties and Disney bought LucasFilm for an exorbitant amount of money in 2015, Star Wars licensing was a bizarre no man’s land. While I was, admittedly, a bit too young to recall anything other than plastic lightsabers and scratchy Padme Amidala headpieces, thanks to a tweet from gaming historian Damiano Gerli, I am now keenly aware of just how weird this time period was.
The tweet in question shows an Italian toothpaste commercial where Darth Vader (in a helmet that’s airbrushed like an NHL goalie mask) fights an Italian Luke Skywalker (Luca Cielocamminatore, I guess) on the surface of a rocky planet (could be the Faraglioni Rocks). They’re both fighting with white lightsabers, which seems like a canon error that would, in this day and age, have Lucasfilm kicking down your door. But just as it appears our Luca is going to lose to Darth Vader, he’s thrown a tube of toothpaste that’s also a lightsaber by a woman in flowy white robes.
He activates the blade and it’s red (gasp! That’s a Sith color) but then it changes to blue (gasp! That can’t happen!), before it’s revealed that these are actually just two very attractive Italian models standing in their very ‘90s bathroom, presumably brushing their teeth. I’m guessing this guy daydreams about lightsaber battling Darth Vader instead of battling plaque? The commercial never mentions Star Wars, based on my shitty translation and the much better translation provided to me by OG poster Damiano Gerli—which is wild considering this is a direct rip-off of the franchise.
But Italian toothpaste isn’t the only weird thing Star Wars was associated with back in the before Disney times—in fact, European Star Wars shit is unsurprisingly some of the weirdest stuff. In Germany, Star Wars toilet paper and paper towels were released in tandem with Revenge of the Sith (or Die Rache Der Sith), the latter of which had the heroes printed on the paper itself. At least that’s what I think “Star Wars helden auf jeder rolle” means.
Ahead of the 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace in 2012, a French fast food chain called Quick had two tie-in burgers available to add some midichlorians to your pedestrian-ass palate. The burgers in question were a “Dark Vador” burger that had a black bun and a “Jedi Burger” which was just a regular burger, once again reminding us that the Jedi are boring, no-fun-havers.
Never one to get upstaged by the rest of mainland Europe, British-owned airline Virgin Atlantic had specially branded barf bags for the release of the Revenge of the Sith video game. In case you remember just how badly the prequels botched telling the story of Anakin Skywalker’s fall (you can watch the Clone Wars animated series to fix that) and need to hurl, you can do so right into one of these bags. Although I’m assuming they hold together about as well as George Lucas’ explanation of the relationship between Anakin’s fall and Luke’s rise.
Over here in America, things are a different brand of weird. The infamous Jar-Jar Binks lollipop that makes the enjoyer look like they are deepthroating Gungan tongue was a choice, and not a good one.
But even after Disney bought the franchise and milked it for all its worth like Luke milks those thala-sirens in The Last Jedi, Star Wars has inexplicably been tied-in with produce at your local grocery store. In 2015, we got bags of Star Wars apples, oranges and lettuce, as well as individual Star Wars stickers for the banana bunches.
While none of this is as weird as toilet paper and airbrushed Darth Vader fighting a toothpaste-wielding Italian man, it’s still interesting to see how Star Wars licenses are used to hawk shit. Personally, I think they’re missing out on the sex toys market—a Kylo Ren lightsaber dildo would make a killing at Comic-Con.