Between January 31, 1997 and March 3, 1997 the special editions of the original Star Wars trilogy were released in theaters. With the recent reinvigoration of the franchise and the impending release of Episode One in 1999, the stage was set to restart the marketing machine that had laid dormant for close to a decade.
I was 21 when the “force awoke” for the first time. To be a fan in the ’90s was a hardcore thing. You were only left with novels, comics, role playing games, and the random video game. I still proudly displayed what toys I had left from my childhood, played a random game now-and-again, and read a few comics, but I was fan until the day I died…still am. But in certain circles Star Wars was something left in the past even though it was weaved into the fabric of our pop culture security blankets.
It wasn’t until 1997 that it felt like the electricity was back and it hummed through our bodies again like a long dead astromech. The excitement of seeing it on the big screen again was hard to contain (and hard to explain to my girlfriend at the time). I speak for myself here, but I was so excited to see the new things the special editions had in store for us. I won’t use hindsight and poop all over it like most people nowadays, at the time it was awesome…hell, I still find most of it awesome today. Except for what they did to the Max Rebo Band scene…that is inexcusable.
As I mentioned above, the marketing machine jerked back to life as well as our beating Star Wars hearts. In a scene that I envision, I see Lucas pulling the tarp off of an unseen, large, dust covered object, exclaiming with a crazed look in his eyes…”It’s Alive! It’s Alive!”
A year before Star Wars was set to return to the theaters a new fad was born, virtual pets. The first virtual pet was the Tamagotchi, released by Bandai in November of 1996 in Japan. This little egg shaped gadget was home to a pixelated pet that kids (and adults) had to care for and play with. The creatures that were housed inside this little egg shaped key chains ranged from the bizarre to the practical, from dinosaurs to dragons to dogs and cats.
The Tamagotchi quickly grew in popularity and spread worldwide. Jumping on the fad bandwagon, Tiger Electronics developed their own version of the virtual pet in 1997 called Giga-Pets. Following almost the same formula as the Tamagotchi, Giga-Pets also caught on in popularity. the driving forces behind the Giga-Pets popularity were that they were easier to find, they were five to ten dollars cheaper, and they had licensed properties. Among these properties (which they were already making handheld games for) were Disney, Barbie, Looney Tunes, and Star Wars. The Jawas that ran Lucas’ marketing department were working overtime.
Always being a kid at heart, the idea of virtual pets intrigued me. At the time this was pretty cutting edge technology albeit on the sickening cute side. So it was a no-brainer when Tiger Electronic released their Star Wars line of Giga-Pets in 1997 alongside the release of the special edition Star Wars films hitting theaters.
The three and only three that Tiger Electronics released were Yoda, R2-D2, and the Rancor. This was an easy choice for me because I always had a dream of being a Rancor Keeper when I grew up and being this guy…
And in 2017 I truly have lived up to my dreams…I’m fat, bald, and cry at the demise of my beloved Rancor daily…but I’ll get to that later.
So at 21 (in 1997), I strolled into my local mall’s Kay-Bee toy store, pushed through the droves of children and grabbed me a pet Rancor. I couldn’t wait to care and feed my new little buddy. And I did for about a week, then I got tired of it. My little guy pooped himself to death almost everyday because he cared not for his keepers work schedule or social life. Which is like a real child, but they are little harder to put in a drawer and ignore.
I eventually put my pet Rancor away with the rest of my Star Wars collectibles and there it sat next to my talking Boba Fett key ring and my Pez collection. Sad I know.
Fast forward 20 years…
Recently I’ve been thinking about one of the things I wanted to do with My Side Of The Laundry Room that I haven’t really done. I’ve wanted to talk about some of the items I have squirreled away over the years and shine a spotlight on some of my favorites.
So I opened a drawer of one of my organizers and right there front and center was my pet Rancor. The poor guys batteries have probably been dead since the Clinton administration, so I didn’t have any delusions that if I could find batteries that this 20 year old relic would actually work. Oddly enough I had a couple LR44 batteries laying around that came extra in a laser pointer we got for our kittens. So I thought, “What the hell. Let’s give it a try.”
I was rewarded an ear splitting beep that wouldn’t stop. Nice payment for my humane resurrection. I quickly found a rest button on the back and after pressing it we were back in business.
After putting in the Time and naming my little pixelated killing machine, I went right to work feeding him. Under the little bone icon you have the choice to feed your Rancor a plump and succulent Gamorrian Guard or a tender and tasty Twi’lek dancing girl.
Never one to rob anyone the chance of a good meal, I fed him both. And he was happy!
and with feeding any pet…you know what eventually happens.
Now it was time to train my little dude, which didn’t go over to well and pissed him off. I was a little disappointed that it looked like this…
and not this.
By then it was time for me to get dressed and go to work (mind you this was all happening at 5 in the morning.). I threw him in my backpack and went along my merry way.
Later at work I decide to see how my baby monster is doing and I was met with this
Oh no, a crying Malakili, this can’t be good. What? the little bastard died already…from poop. WTF! Ok, lets try this again.
Ok, lets train some more. Ok lets roar
No sound, but looks cute. After a good training, lets eat…
Ok, that’s expected. One more training exercise…
And another treat. Ok, my lunch break is over. I put my Rancor back in my bag and go about the rest of my day. When I get back home a couple of hours later I decide to check on him again, and…
OMG….let me spare you the day-to-day murder schedule I kept. It’s been a week and I’m ready to put this back into storage again. No matter what I do little Targo keeps pooping himself to death.
How do I have children???how do I have pets???? I can’t even keep a 20 year old Giga-Pet alive. I’m so bummed, I had high hopes this time around. I mean I’m 40 now, I should be able to take care of a F’n fake creature….
Oh well, no job for me at Jabba’s Palace.