"All wings report in." - Garven Dreis, Red Leader
I don't know about you, but I've never been an Imperial sympathizer. Nothing about their ideology appeals to me. I much prefer liberty, and freedom to being a faceless automaton in plastic armor.
I am a Rebel, and a very specific one at that. I'm not royalty, a smuggler, or a general, and I'm no Jedi (though I do prefer a lightsaber to a blaster). I'm an X-Wing pilot. I have been ever since I saw the Battle of Yavin forty two years ago, and my first squadron commander was Garven "Dave" Dreis - Red Leader.
I've always liked X-Wing pilot gear, and nothing epitomizes that dashing look like their flight helmets. The one piece of equipment that could be personalized were their distinctive Koensayr model, #K-22995 Starfighter Helmets. And, to me the helmet most tied to aerospace combat was Red Leader's.
Now, I've lived most of my life around Airforce aircraft. I served in the USAF, was an AirForce brat before that, and I grew up around jets. Red Leader's helmet has always caught my eye because its primary color is the same, greenish-yellow "zinc chromate" pigment that all military aircraft are born with. Everything from freighter to fighter starts out with a primer coat of yellow zinc chromate to act as a base layer protectant against corrosion for the aluminum structure and skins that comprise any air or space-frame. Eventually those hulls end up wearing whatever color they require for the duty they're assigned to. But, if you pull a panel, or open an equipment bay you'll find that same yellow staring back at you, the color of Red Leader's Starfighter Helmet.
Red Leader's Helmet flash (the proper fighter community term for what designer John Mollo referred to as "graffiti art") is unique too. The red marks on the front of his helmet are stylized representations of the shapes used for fighter weapon system targeting reticles (similar to symbols seen on the Death Star's main targeting array). And, while it lacks the familiar Rebel Starbird, its earcups display the insignia representing "The Alliance to Restore the Republic.”
Costume design is an art unto itself. The best designers consider a character's traits while they also take into account the actor playing the character, story, back story, and even elements of the surrounding set dressing, when designing a new costume. A great costumer is one that tells an unwritten story with clothing, and John Mollo was a master storyteller. My feeling is that he had very firm ideas about what kind of squadron commander "Red Leader" was supposed to be, and that character was ALL pilot. That would account for the elements on his Starfighter helmet that tie into aviation. From its distinctive color to its markings, everything unique about this helmet says "Fighter Pilot". Sure, ultimately Red Leader was bested in combat by Lord Vader, but his flying during “The Battle of Scarif” proved his skill as a leader in the cockpit, and it took a pilot who just happened to be a Dark Lord of the Sith (!) to knock him out of the fight.
Rest in the Force Garven Dreis, Red Leader. We'll keep ’em fighting, and flying!
Greetings, valued customer,
We recognize the wait for your Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Star-Lord jacket has been exceptionally long and cannot thank you enough for your loyalty to this project. We encountered multiple challenges getting the look of the faux leather to meet our expectations. This caused quite a few restarts. Finally, we were forced to find a new vendor. You have waited this long, and we are determined to get it right.
With our new vendor/manufacturer came an amazing opportunity, but it comes at the expense of starting from scratch. As a result of the changes and improvements, we now estimate that your jacket will ship by Q4 2019 (October 1–December 31, 2019). Thanks to our new vendor, you will receive these free upgrades in exchange for your faith in our project:
- Genuine Leather. Your jacket will now be made of genuine leather, just like the original. It will have the exact feel, durability, and body as the original. This costs us more and when we re-introduce this jacket for additional orders, it will be much more expensive. But you will get this upgrade for free.
- Replica Prop Communicator Badge. As seen on Quill’s jacket in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, we are adding Star-Lord’s communicator to complete the look of your jacket.
- Special Certificate of Authenticity. You will also receive a special certificate that signifies your place as an early adopter. It will entitle you to 15% off future purchases for a limited time.
Please note: This jacket will return to pre-order for more orders in the near future. It will have a higher price to reflect the use of genuine leather and the inclusion of the communicator badge. Because you were an early adopter, for a limited time, we are extending an opportunity for you to purchase an additional jacket at the same price as your first. Just email us directly for more details.Please feel free to send us an email via our ticket system using subject line “GUARDIANS STAR-LORD JACKET INQUIRY” with any changes to your pre-order, including sizing and change of address.
J. James, Operations Coordinator
When people talk about their dream careers, or anything they really hope to achieve in the future, the topic of “meaning” tends to crop up. You can aspire to do what you love, sure, but is it meaningful? That’s the holy grail. There are the obvious choices in that regard, of course; doctors, nurses, firefighters, charity workers…these are significant and meaningful pursuits. Me, personally, though? I mainly, humbly, traffic in Star Wars.
Now I have never thought of that as a small or shameful thing by any means. If you had asked me as a kid if I thought I would end up not as a lawyer or a ballerina, but as someone who professionally chats about sci-fi and debates the color of fabrics filmed over 40 years ago, I would have said “probably” and “I hope so”. I would have gone to school for a degree in ‘the fandoms’ if it was offered, no questions asked. Who wouldn’t, right?
This past Star Wars Celebration however, having met so many of you and cheered with you and thrown back shots of Malört with you (I have neither forgiven nor forgotten this one) after the show, no longer a vendor and a customer but true friends who simple share the same love of a galaxy far, far away, I was reminded that my job, too, has that special little X factor called meaning.
This was my first celebration and to say that I was unprepared for the level of warmth and good spirited fandom that you all brought to our booth is a huge understatement. I had lost count of the number of kind strangers that came to us for a handshake and chat alone within hours. Words of encouragement passed by us like leaves on the wind and troopers wearing our armor gave friendly waves as they happily marched to their next mission. We honestly had come to the con armored for blowback regarding our recent string of long, very transparent blogs and newsletters issued that same week. Instead we found that we had reopened a channel between us that had been closed for way too long. We were finally reduced back to the ideals this company was founded on: Just a bunch of fans, us but especially you, collaborating to turn out the most kick ass costumes and props we can muster. That may seem silly to some outsiders but you and I both know it’s not.
Like any sales experience we did have our share of customers come to us with difficult questions or unresolved issues but it was a wonderful feeling to be able to talk with them in person, face to face, and do our level best to help. Some of you came to us upset but I like to think that we left each other as friends.
The love we all share for this franchise is meaningful. The time we got to spend with you all and the friendships we left with are too. This is my job as much as it is my passion and I may not be a lawyer or a doctor, but at ANOVOS we work daily to make dreams come true and I refuse to believe that’s silly. It was an absolute pleasure to have geeked out with you all and I’m waiting on the edge of my seat for the next one. The human spirit was alive and well at Celebration this year and you just can’t beat that. You can’t beat Star Wars, man.
See you next time!
I wanted to update you on the fulfillment of your Han Solo “A New Hope” style shirt.
We’ve just received the final pieces from the manufacturer, and are doing the final quality control checks on these in the week ahead.
Shipments of fully paid orders shall begin after May 4, 2019, once the items have successfully passed in-house quality control.
A few notes and action items for your consideration:
For those who ordered via our Payment Plan: For orders where the Payment Plan has been completed, you will be receiving an invoice for the shipping and handling. That invoice must be remitted in order to ship the item.
- For those who pre-ordered in full: We ask that you verify your order information, and send us an email via our ticket system with the subject line “ANH HAN SOLO SHIRT UPDATE” if there are any changes by May 4, 2019. If we do not hear from you by then, we will proceed with shipment, and thus any address redirections or re-shipments will be the responsibility of the affected customer.
As to the other components from the Signature Series ANH Han Solo ensemble (the vest and pants), we are aiming for a late Q2 to Q3 fulfillment on those, as they are coming from different manufacturing sites. When they are prepared, an update similar to this one will be sent on those particular components!
May the Force be with you,
J. James, Operations Coordinator
Please be advised that we are shipping these out in waves throughout the next two quarters (basically from April, and continuing through October), as we are receiving these in waves in order to catch up on the backlog of this exceedingly popular product.
The primary reason for the delay is due to the shift of manufacturing from our U.S. manufacturer to our Asia manufacturer, as a result of the extreme demand for this particular product. Frankly, it was far more popular than we had projected.
An unexpected result of this shift was that we ran into challenges regarding how customs would react to prop replica “firearms”, given that the Discovery phaser ticks off a few disconcerting marks: it has a gun-metal look, and it has the silhouette of a pistol. This required further review and planning in order to meet the proper legal guidelines. We even re-engineered the phaser so that we could have components finished at our Asia factory, with the final assembly of the completed Phaser by our state-side team, if needed. (Fortunately, we didn’t have to go that far.)
One notable thing from these re-engineering sessions came to pass: we were able to redesign the internals for the Battery pack for the phaser. While we’ll dive deeper into that for a future blog, the summation of it is that only one type of battery is required--instead of two separate battery types to power the main body indicator feature and the power indicator light in the battery pack. This battery type (4LR44), as well as battery installation instructions, will be located in our instructions for the Discovery Hand Phaser—we’re in the process of finalizing the update to the instructions now, and will share that in a future blog update.
A note regarding the display stands: These have been re-designed as well for better durability, and are being handled by another vendor. However, we do not expect the stands to be available until late Q3 2019 at the earliest, as we have prioritized the release of the phasers first. (Because, phasers are cool, and are the most important part of this whole thing.)
Hailing Frequencies Closed, for now.
J. James, Operations Coordinator
Hello Star Warsies!
I’ve just returned from Star Wars Celebration Chicago. Since we breezed through setting up our booth in record time, I was able to wander around a bit and see what was in store for us over the next few days.
If you weren’t able to make it, let me just say that it was INCREDIBLE! I was amazed by the complexity of some of the displays as well as the attention to detail displayed by the costumed participants I met. I’m always impressed by the level of devotion people display for the fandom, and their commitment to all things Star Wars is truly amazing!
Right near our booth was a full size, fan-built Hover Tank from Rogue One that you could have your picture taken with! The detail was so precise that it felt like actually being on an occupied desert planet being pursued by the Emperor's troops.
The Canadian 501st Regiment set up a life-size, 3-scene diorama. Each scene had a donation box in front of it and they would take a photograph of you in any of the scenes for a small donation to that particular charity. These fan-created scenes brought you into the world of Star Wars in a very realistic way. It’s no surprise why so many people choose to express their fandom through serving in this international organization. I’d like to give a special thanks to Karl Fetts of the Sith Lord Detachment for giving me a tour of the display. Keep up the good work, Troopers!
A great many ANOVOS customers came by the booth to see what we had to offer, which included answers to well thought out questions. They brought their passion with them, and I had many discussions about their future plans, and how all of us at ANOVOS could best help them to achieve their dream costumes. It was a pleasure talking to each and every one of you and I look forward to seeing you all again at the next event!
One of my favorite days was when a fan-built droid showed up to our booth. It turned out to be stuntman, puppeteer, and creature effects artist Lucky McQueede. He took home the coveted ‘Best in Show’ prize in the official Cosplay Competition, and having seen this phenomenal cosplay up close, I can tell you his win was well deserved!
Yes, there is an actual human in there somewhere, and you can learn more about Lucky here. Great work, Lucky!
After a while, I noticed the crowd’s attention seemed to drift away from Lucky’s handiwork, eventually shifting entirely away from him at one point. A quick look around the booth told me why - the voice of Darth Maul had arrived!
It seemed that Sam Witwer decided HE needed a selfie with the droid too!
As is often the case, many celebrities not scheduled for panels showed up to support the franchise. Late night talk show host Stephen Colbert made an appearance on the ‘Galaxy’s Edge’ stage to the delight and raucous applause of fans, and I heard that the original Lando Calrissian, Billy Dee Williams, was also seen in the building. Having seen him in the teaser trailer for Episode IX: ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, I wasn’t surprised.
All in all, I found my trip to Star Wars Celebration Chicago to be exactly that: a celebration of new and diehard fans coming together in honor of one of the greatest fandoms to ever exist. The collective love of all things Star Wars was everywhere, from ‘Dark Helmet’ and ‘Barf’ to the Ralph McQuarrie design concept Darth Vader costume by Kenn Kooi (that scared the crap out of me every time he walked by), and all of the screen-accurate depictions of every Star Wars character imaginable. All I can say is that I can hardly wait for next year!
Special thanks to Christopher Copeland for this AWESOME fan shot!
May the Force be with you!
Last time we shared a few of the research notes we gathered at Lucas Museum of Narrative Art archives at Skywalker Ranch while examining the original Imperial Royal Guard Helmets. This time we'll discuss the techniques we are employing to replicate this classic helmet.
Just as the Royal Guard's helmets were initially created in a different, unique way from other helmets in the Original Trilogy, so too would ours.
Okay, so here’s our Imperial Royal Guard Helmet:
- Our helmet's shell is made of fiberglass and finished to match the look of the original.
- The helmet's interior is fully lined with adjustable padded cushions to ensure a comfortable, and secure fit.
- Our helmet is painted the precise shade of "Candy Apple Red" that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi designers Aggie Rodgers and Nilo Rodis-Jamero chose for the Royal Guard, and polished to a high gloss.
So why use fiberglass when the original helmets were made from thermal-formed plastic? Strength, and durability. While beautiful, the original helmets were never intended to last much beyond filming the movie. Of course, our replica had to be built tough enough to stand the test of time. Thermally-formed plastic is flexible, and that could easily lead to damage with a piece with this much plastic real estate. When plastic flexes it can crack the paint finish. We want this helmet look just as good years into the future as it does the day it comes out of the box, and so fiberglass provides the needed scaffolding for a truly wearable, serviceable piece.
Recall for a moment that one of the weird things we discovered about the original helmets was the odd way in which they were made. Originally sculpted in one piece, the helmets were manufactured in two thermally formed halves joined together vertically with a number of thin, glued plastic rectangles right up the middle of the sculpt starting from the back lip to the front. We could easily see a rough puttied line along the seam while examining the exterior back of the helmet. The sort of structural putty used to join these two halves together is subject to stress in the form of torsion or torque. The exact sort of stress placed on the helmet simply by wearing it, could cause the plastic to flex. This flexing would in turn cause the putty joining the two vertical halves of the helmet to split eventually leading to structural collapse. We couldn't have that, and it's another reason we opted to craft our replica from fiberglass.
The original helmet's internal geometry is weird as well. Designed to look fearsome, it featured sunken cheeks, a single visor, and intentionally slender, otherworldly proportions. The original helmet was so narrow that when Pete Ronzani (Head of the Jedi Plastics Department) mocked up, and tried on the first prototype Guard helmet - the sides of it touched his face. Our helmet has been engineered to be a bit more forgiving on the inside than that first attempt. It's been lined for both a finished appearance, and for comfort. And to insure a proper fit, it comes with moveable pads to adjust the helmet to the wearer's ideal size.
And that leaves us with the most striking aspect of this piece, it's color. It's not just "red." In stark contrast to the Empire's ordinary monochrome look, the red Royal Guards signal the arrival of The Emperor himself. No ordinary red would do for The Emperor's most fearsome warriors, and so Jedi costume designer Aggie Rodger - recalling some cars from George Lucas' classic American Graffiti, used a very specific shade of "Candy Apple Red" from a few of the hot rods in that film. That beautifully rich, red color is just as vibrant today on the surviving helmets in the archive as it was in 1982, and so we were able to precisely match it for our replica. A strikingly cool color for the hot rod of Imperial helmets.
I said last time that the Imperial Royal Guard Helmet was one of my favorites in the entire franchise, and I meant it. It's bold, it’s red, it’s creepy, and I love it. Oh and Mom, I'm sorry about the book (but really, it didn't spoil the movie for me).
So it's time for a confession of sorts. I read the novelization of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi BEFORE I saw the movie. I found the book on May 22nd, 1983. I begged my Mom & Dad for it, and I promised that I wouldn't read it before the movie opened.
I read it that night.
The best part of the book was the middle section that consisted of eight pages of fuzzy, over saturated ’80s publication photos, and the coolest picture in there was the very first one. Darth Vader standing next to something red and radical. Some kind of amazing new trooper in red armor and a cloak, which the book described as the Emperor's Royal Guard. I mean, look at those guys. They’re beyond intimidating. I know they’re wearing helmets, but somehow they’re even more expressionless than simple Stormtroopers. Are those pikes? You know, the things people display heads on? Dude.
The takeaway from this I suppose is don't trust an obsessed twelve year-old Star Wars fan with no self-control, and I've been fascinated by the red Imperial Royal Guard since before the film even opened.
This is only one reason why working at ANOVOS is amazing. It gives us the ability to investigate, measure, and document these amazing pieces from our past. We do this to preserve these pieces, and to facilitate their recreation, so that we can see and touch and wear something from long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
So, it really shouldn't be much of a surprise that I'm really excited for us to finally be making the Royal Guard's helmets. These things have been on my personal "Holy Grail" list for a long time now, and the wait is almost over. There's just a tiny problem, we have to totally re-engineer the helmet from the ground up.
What we see in the archive is sometimes not how we necessarily imagined it when seeing them on the movie screen. By now, that should be a familiar trend in our blogs.
So, this first blog will be what we found. By studying these artifacts (I prefer the term “sacred relics”) we begin to understand the story of how they were made back in the day. We should be able to discern the intent from the technology as a function of its time and, if we’re lucky, see if our current technology can either complete or re-tell that story. It’s almost a form of archaeology.
Okay, here’s a few “Did you know?” facts :
- This helmet was thermal-formed.
- Helmet was assembled in two-halves, and seamed right down the middle.
- This thing was fastened directly to the cape.
Thermal-Formed: One thing we were not expecting to discover, was that this helmet had been thermal-formed—the process where a sheet of plastic is heated to a forming temperature, stretched onto a single-surface mold, and forced against the mold by a vacuum. Admittedly, we were guessing it utilized fiberglass construction. So, to pick it up and find it so lightweight was surprising to say the least.
Seaming: The other weird thing we discovered was its odd construction. As you looked inside the original helmet, there was an unsightly seam of glued thin plastic rectangles right up the middle of the sculpt starting from the back lip to the front lip. When you then looked at the exterior back, you could see a roughly puttied line which was, in fact, the seam of two halves! As any curious ultra fan of this suit would then ask...how exactly was this even fabricated. That’s when it dawned on me, it had to have been a single sculpt that was then cut in half with each half then being vacuum formed. Ockham’s razor, right? Had each half been sculpted or milled separately, you would think that they would have engineered a gluing lip or something.
Cape Attachment: The last thing that was worth bringing up is how this was made functional. Did you ever notice in the movie, the head never moves independently of the cape and vice versa? Well, we have a definitive answer as we found two hooks that we assume latched onto the fabric ponchos that the guards wore. This couldn’t have been comfortable to say the least.
Okay folks, that’s it for now and I hope you enjoyed our research notes.
Part 2 will talk about how we discussed and concluded which technique we decided to go with in replicating this classic helmet.
This update reflects changes that pertain to orders placed on and after April 11, 2019.
To our customers,
To begin, we are going back in time to explain how a well-intended policy eventually led to a growing problem for both ANOVOS and customers alike. Specifically, how our Golden Rule policy concerning refunds prior to shipping ended up negatively affecting production cycles and fellow customers.
Our forementioned Golden Rule policy stated that so long as a pre-order product had not shipped, ANOVOS would provide a refund to any customer that requests it—no questions asked. While this policy is not standard in our industry, it was a way to make customers feel comfortable about their pre-order. The issue we experienced was not in its intent, so much as in its application.
For example, when a product had production issues and became delayed (as discussed in our earlier letter), we would push out the delivery date. This change caused some customers to cancel their orders, and in some ways, resulted in a buying habit of waiting until an item was in-stock prior to making a purchase. However, this “wait and see” behavior frequently backfired on the customer since the majority of our items are produced to meet a minimum order quantity, leaving little—if any—inventory available after pre-orders were fulfilled.
As an unintended consequence, cancelations of pre-orders caused a gradual shrinkage of overall production budget. Fewer pre-orders led to a number of issues including an increase in raw goods pricing, increase in per unit cost, a deprioritization of product (moving items to the back of manufacturing queue) and—in some extreme cases—the cancellation of items that no longer met the factory’s minimums. This not only elongated the manufacturing time for one project, but also other projects, causing a more systemic issue.
After careful study and consideration, the only conclusion is that the funds secured via pre-orders need to be locked in order to ensure a product is financed through production and delivery. The only path forward is one where all sales are final effective April 11, 2019. We will continue to honor any existing refund requests made prior to this policy change as business permits, and will still consider future refunds for customers after a product is in-stock and ready to ship, but only on a case-by-case review.
Many of you have been customers of ANOVOS for years, and we are thankful to our community for your loyalty and support. This decision was not made lightly, and is necessary to ensure all products are produced and delivered in a timely manner. Thank you for your understanding and continued support.
Joe Salcedo, CEO ANOVOS Productions LLC
Dana Gasser, COO ANOVOS Productions LLC
So, let’s jump right to it and talk about the elephant in the room. Shipping.
Following last November’s Black Friday sale, we have been struggling to consistently stay ahead of the orders placed for in-stock items. We are aware that many of you have seen delivery dates shipping beyond our current anticipated windows. It sucks, and there are no apologies that are sufficient for that ball being dropped. The only thing that matters are solutions.
Now what are we going to be doing about it?
Let’s start with the root cause and go from there, just for the sake of “setting the stage”: The reasons for these exacerbated delays stem from a perfect storm of internal changes, ranging from the technical to internal personnel changes. Fulfillment is both a digital task that segues into the physical realm, and you can’t have one without the other.
Beginning last summer, we began upgrading our internal systems that handled, well, practically everything in terms of data for products. From order queuing, to inventory allocation, and all points that lead to the final fulfillment of your order. While this was a Herculean task, we took this on to further optimize and shore up our process for easier streamlining.
Regrettably, this preparation and onboarding process spanned into the holiday season, and took staff members out of contention. Both of these facts were very much undesirable for obvious reasons, but once the train overcomes inertia there’s no stopping it…
The second point is that we have lost key people in the fulfillment division, and unfortunately were not able to adequately backfill during the holiday season. Due to the small nature of the company, it wasn’t feasible to simply throw people at the problem to address it, as putting people in a situation without proper training—in a high-stress situation to boot—is a recipe for further problems.
This is particularly true as our product (frankly, esoteric in and of itself) undergoes final QC spot checks before we ship it out. Further, our fulfillment personnel not only handle consumer goods, but also items that require the utmost discretion (as we offer services beyond consumer product), and so trust, discretion and adherence to Non-Disclosure Agreements play heavily into any of our talent onboarding decisions.
Now, how does that help you?
I get that’s what you’re really here for, so let’s get down to it.
Starting a few weeks ago, you will have seen a definitive increase in fulfillment after we’ve allocated proper resources to that division. The reason being is that we are catching up on the backlog, not only of in-stock products, but also of long-awaited product (such as the Rey Jakku Ensembles and Star Trek: Discovery Hand Phasers).
That said, we are going to readjust expectations to the following:
We will only be shipping on Mondays and Wednesdays. (Unless there’s a holiday that falls on either of those days, then those days will shift to the next available business day, e.g. Tuesday and Thursday.)
We are working towards recommitting that domestic in-stock shipments will take 10 to 14 business days to process.
- International shipments many take as much as 21 to 30 days to process.
The reason for this is pretty simple: our shipping people also handle other tasks in the company regarding operations, maintenance and other tasks. As you may have already surmised, we do not have a full-time fulfillment team, and due to the esoteric, highly-specialized nature of our product offerings we have to allocate our resources accordingly. File under: Work with what you’ve got.
For those who have items on pre-order, this one’s for you: as we progress through the year, we will be deploying “flash fulfillment teams” to handle the processing and fulfillment of pre-order product after it arrives at our freight forwarder (so it doesn’t even hit our warehouse, thus removing another “stop” along the product’s way, and shortening processing time). We beta-tested this during the unprecedentedly massive launch of our Classic Imperial Stormtroopers, which we saw great success in, and will be going back to that. More on that program in the future, as it’s exciting stuff.
To wrap this up, I cannot thank you enough for your patience and support. You are just like us in that we’re all insanely passionate about our fandom, and we appreciate you!
J. James, Operations Coordinator
ANOVOS Productions LLC