By Denise McCarty
Great Britain’s Royal Mail will issue 18 face-different stamps and several varieties Oct. 20 to commemorate Star Wars and the upcoming release of the new film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The seventh film in the Star War series and the first in the third trilogy, The Force Awakens was filmed at Pinewood Studios in London and on location at the Forest of Dean in Gloucester. The film is due for release Dec. 17 in Great Britain, and in the United States on Dec. 18.
Royal Mail made the surprise announcement of the new stamps Sept. 12 and unveiled the designs at the same time.
A dozen se-tenant (side-by-side) stamps feature characters from the film series, and a separate souvenir sheet contains six stamps picturing vehicles and spaceships. All of the stamps are nondenominated, paying the domestic first-class rate (currently 63 pence).
In addition, Royal Mail will offer panes of stamps and labels that allow Star Wars fans to place their own photograph next to their favorite characters, and it will also issue a prestige booklet with text and illustrations in addition to the stamps.
Numerous living people are shown on Great Britain’s Star Wars stamps, including Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, all from the original Star Wars film, which debuted in 1977. The three actors are reprising their roles in The Force Awakens, which is set 30 years after the last film in the first trilogy, Return of the Jedi.
Royal Mail reports the characters to be featured on the stamps were “chosen following insight from Disney and Lucasfilm regarding the fan’s favourite characters.”
If you look closely at the designs, even more characters are revealed. For example, Chewbacca can be seen in the lower right of the Han Solo stamp. Peter Mayhew, born in London, played this Wookie warrior.
The robots R2D2 (portrayed by British actor Kenneth George Baker) and C-3PO (British actor Anthony Daniels) are pictured on the Princess Leia stamp.
The London design agency Interbang designed the stamps using illustrations by British artist Malcom Tween, along with trademarked and copyrighted images from Lucasfilm Ltd.
On the stamps, the font used for the “1st” service indicator replicates “the iconic font used for the films,” according to Royal Mail.
In the nearby illustration, the stamps in the upper row feature Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, a stormtrooper, Han Solo and Rey. Portrayed by British actress Daisy Ridley, Rey is one of characters from the The Force Awakens included on the stamps.
The official Star Wars website describes the character: “Rey is a resilient survivor, a scavenger toughened by a lifetime of dealing with the cutthroats of the harsh desert world of Jakku.”
In the corner of the stamp design, Rey is shown walking with BB-8, a round astromech droid.
The bottom row starts with the Princess Leia stamp, followed by stamps picturing the Emperor, Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, Finn and Kylo Ren.
Of these, Finn (a stormtrooper portrayed by British actor John Boyega) and Kylo Ren (a villain portrayed by American actor Adam Driver) are from the upcoming film.
Also from The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma (commander of the First Order’s legions of troopers, portrayed by British actress Gwendoline Christie) is shown in the corner of the Kylo Ren stamp.
Other characters pictured in the corner illustrations that are not shown elsewhere on this issue include Anakin Skywalker on the Emperor stamp, and bounty hunters Dengar, IG-88 and Bossk on the Boba Fett stamp.
International Security Printers printed these stamps in sheets of 60 (sold as panes of 30 at most postal outlets). The stamps, which have moisture-activated gum, are square, measuring 35 millimeters by 35mm.
The stamps in the souvenir sheet are self-adhesive. Royal Mail describes the design of this sheet as featuring detailed images of six iconic Star Wars vehicles (Resistance X-Wing Starfighters, Millennium Falcon, TIE fighters, X-wing Starfighter, First Order Special Forces TIE fighters, and AT-AT Walkers) “brought together in front of a spacescape background showing the dreaded Death Star.”
GBH, a London design and advertising agency, designed the souvenir sheet. International Security Printers printed it by offset.
The souvenir sheet measures 192 millimeters by 74mm, and the stamps are of varying sizes.
According to information from Royal Mail, personalized panes, known as “Smilers,” will be available for the Han Solo, Darth Vader, Stormtrooper and Yoda stamps. Each pane includes 10 stamps and 10 labels that can be personalized.
Also offered by Royal Mail will be a Heroes and Villains pane of 10 stamps (three each of the Yoda and Darth Vader stamps and two each of the Stormtrooper and Han Solo) with se-tenant labels showing film stills from the Lucasfilm archives.
Royal Mail calls this item a “generic collectors sheet,” and will sell it in a plastic-wrapped package with a backing card.
The 26-page prestige booklet will contain the 12 mint stamps and six souvenir sheet stamps across five panes. In addition, one pane includes nondenominated first-class Union Jack and Queen Elizabeth II definitive stamps.
According to Royal Mail, the text in this booklet “explores the unique British contribution throughout the Star Wars phenomena.”
In announcing the upcoming stamps, Royal Mail said: “The Star Wars series began in 1977. So far, there have been two trilogies of movies that have included major British involvement at UK studios. 17 December 2015 will see the UK theatrical release of the latest installment in the Star Wars saga, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which has been filmed at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, using British expertise in cast and crew. The two further episodes in this trilogy will also be filmed in the UK.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens will reunite the three principal actors from the original trilogy as well as the robots R2-D2 and C-3PO. New characters Rey and Finn will be played by British actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyega respectively, with additional British cast members including Gwendoline Christie and Andy Serkis.
“Disney’s decision to base production in the UK is a major contributor to the British film industry. Not only is it providing employment and exposure for British acting talent, it also employs the British technical expertise in set design, cinematography, and costume design at Pinewood Studios. In the field of digital special effects, London is already a world centre, and the effects for the new Star Wars film have been created by the London office of Industrial Light & Magic (Lucasfilm’s special effects company).”
The new-issue announcement also mentions that the United Kingdom is the third largest market for the Star Wars films.
Additional Royal Mail products offered in conjunction with the Star Wars issue include first-day covers, 19 postcards reproducing the designs of the stamps and the souvenir sheet, a presentation pack divided into the light side and the dark side of the Force, and various packaged stamp sets aimed at people who are not stamp collectors.
Royal Mail has set up a website for preordering the stamps.
Ordering information also is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland.