In 1994 there was a magazine called Science Fiction Universe and the first issue had a cover story stating that the next Star Wars trilogy was only three years away.
Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but the 1995 Faces/THX vhs of the OT was literally advertised as “The Original Version, One Last Time.” For whatever reason, I don’t think I’d put it together that it meant George would be making changes to the films.
In November of 1996 I saw Star Trek: First Contact on opening night (with vfx by John Knoll!) while my mom took my sister to see Jingle All The Way, which of course co-starred Jake Lloyd not long before he would be cast as a young Anakin.
When we met up in the parking lot afterwards, they mentioned that they saw a preview in front of Jingle All The Way announcing that the Star Wars movies were going to be released in theaters again starting in January.
This was news to me.
I also vaguely remember them saying something about there being new special effects, and at some point in January I very clearly remember seeing an ad on tv with the “praxis shockwave” added to the Death Star explosion.
Anyway, I remember my mom taking me to see ANH on opening weekend. Maybe one or two of my friends was with me. I somehow didn’t notice the change to the Han/Greedo scene until almost a year later watching it on letterboxed vhs. The newly added Jabba scene kinda overshadowed it anyway. I always loved how funny and goofy and cartoony this cg Jabba looked and kinda missed it when the model was redone for the dvd in 2004.
My mom took me to see Empire a week or so after it opened in late February. It was during the week, so it was a much different experience than the huge crowd for ANH.
The thing that still sticks out in my memory about RotJ, which I saw with some friends on opening weekend in mid March, was how LOUD Luke’s lightsaber was. I was eleven (closer to twelve) and had seen the movies multiple times either on USA Network or on vhs, so pretty much all of the changes were noticeable to me. The new piece of music John Williams wrote for the ending felt much more epic and went along well with the sweeping new Galactic Celebration montage.
Of course, in the years since I’ve come to appreciate and mainly prefer the original versions that much more, maybe because they’ve been suppressed by the very man who created them.
As cool as it was for me as a kid growing up in the 90’s to see these three films I’d known as classics for the very first time on the big screen with updated technology, I think George would’ve done better to leave well enough alone and not change a thing.
But in November of ‘98, as I watched that first teaser for TPM and saw the newer Lucasfilm logo and cg dewbacks and rontos, I got the feeling deep down that the Special Edition was going to be considered the “official” version of the OT going forward.
Still, I never would’ve imagined that George would not only make further revisions (if only logical to make the OT of a piece with the prequels) but also take such a disdainful view of the unaltered versions. The enthusiasm and ingenuity demonstrated by the community on these forums is what brought me here in the first place and I am grateful to have found fellow fans who care about preserving the legacy of this franchise.