When I grew up in Springfield, Missouri, the Green County Courthouse had a small replica of the Statue of Liberty out in front of it. In the course of learning about local history, I found out that the statue was one of many such replicas dedicated around the country by the Boy Scouts in the 1920s and 30s.
Kind of makes you wonder, why we can’t even do something like that anymore.
Our public memorials rarely have much heft or national scope (the OKC Bombing Memorial a notable exception). Our post office makes itself busy with Disney character stamps and the U.S. Mint inspires few with the collectors’ item dollar coins. (Oooh, I got Martin Van Buren.)
So what do we do then with the gift that we have been given with this project? Still not a month old but with thousands of people filled with passion and possibility.
Here’s my pitch, less than a hour before May 4th, International Star Wars Day, fades into the sunset.
When the word went forth about this project, I was bowled over by the response. My phone’s battery kept dying because my email inbox was filling up. I heard from people and places I never before knew existed.
We have all of those connections. Connections I once thought would enable me to put together build teams and brain trusts.
Now, though, that can’t happen officially. The risk of a full-scale, fully operational AT-AT is not one Lucasfilm is support in any way, especially without a budget and a blueprint.
So instead, I think the next phase of AT-AT For America is to help you connect with each other. And hopefully turn all of those sparks into a ripple around the world.
Honor your country and inspire its people by building what you think best represents what geek culture has done for you. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or 50-feet tall or equipped with lasers.
But it does have to be something. Something that you can touch and feel, stand next to and get your picture taken with, something that will stand for all of this.
We want to be awesome again. So why not AT-AT across America (and Australia, England, New Zealand and whereever that really cranky guy on our Facebook page was from.)
My job will be to connect you.
If it’s OK, I am going to finish up the excel file of all of the people who volunteers, which contains their names, email and states they are located. I’ll post it on Google Docs and make it public.
I urge you not to do this alone. Form teams, make plans, build things.
A 4-foot AT-AT for your local park. A Lego Yoda for your library. A bronze Han Solo in Carbonite for the American Legion Post.
My goal is for us to help each other, to show everyone what can be done. Geek culture has done so much that’s awesome but ephemeral. Wikipedia is an incredible achievement, but it’s not out there in the public to take everyone’s breath away.
Go then, let me help you find each other. Grab some tools and head to the garage.
This is going to be extraordinary.
As always, I welcome your thoughts, feedback and prayer. The email is still hanging out on hotmail: email@example.com
Sorry for the long silence.
I will post a revised plan to this site on May 4, the same day I send it to Lucas.
Wish me luck!
For the past couple of days I have had some very heartfelt conversations with Steve Sansweet, the official fan liaison of Lucasfilm.
Long story short, I can no longer solicit any kind of support for the AT-AT for America project in its current form. Seeking financial donations to build a piece of Lucasfilm intellectual property goes far beyond what is considered proper.
I’ve thinking all day about what to say to everyone who reads this blog, our Facebook and to everyone who has emailed me in support of the project. I’ll try to get all of those thoughts down and then we can see where it leaves us.
* First, all of the donations will be returned. I did spend some money working on the Kickstarter video, but that isn’t going to happen now. Everyone who donated something from $100 to $1 will get it back.
* I can’t thank all of you enough for the offers of support and the work that so many did from helping with the websites to the social media and offering to do so much more. It felt good to be able to inspire such quick and exciting movement into action and I think there is still something we can do with that (more on that later). I was so often reminded of the Parable of the Widow’s mite (For those who aren’t familiar, here it is on Wikipedia.) Fans who didn’t have money but still offered to do anything moved my heart.
* There are so many smart people in our world. This project would have been a great example of what Clay Shirky calls our nation’s “Cognitive Surplus”. As I write this I just got an email from a former Naval nuclear sub officer. If some bum from Oklahoma can get those kind of volunteers, why can’t we solve the real problems of our country?
* Steve Sansweet pointed out many flaws in this plan, the first being that I didn’t let Lucasfilm know from the start what we were doing. It sounds as if they aren’t the bogeyman when it comes to giving the blessing to fan project. So I don’t want my mistakes to make anything think they are the bad guy in this. I didn’t think ahead and have as firm a plan as I should of. And again, for that I am very sorry.
* All of this grew so fast. I don’t know what to say. Maybe there’s a lesson in there about our age of internet journalism. I appreciate all of the blogs and hard-working writers who spread the word. I will follow up with everyone. I don’t want anyone to feel that this was a hoax or a stunt. I genuinely felt that we could do this. With so much help, I was sure of it.
* I have a tiny kernel of a idea with what we could do going forward with AT-AT for America that I will discuss with Mr. Sansweet and Lucasfilm once I get a plan together. I think there is something that can be rebuilt from this. We have more than 2,000 facebook fans and hundreds of volunteers who have emailed us. They all want to do something and I think we still can. I ask for your patience as I try to put that together.
* I also ask for you ideas. What do you do with hundreds of passionate people who want to do something to make our country awesome?
* Finally, I ask for your prayers. I feel like I let so many people down, not just all of you, but my friends and my family who supported all of this craziness for the past two weeks. I still think the fan (nerd, geek, whatever you want to call it) community and culture has been such a blessing to me, my kids and the world.
Don’t stop being awesome and don’t stop believing that dreams can come true.
I think I have an idea. Don’t give up.
Lucasfilm has contacted me and had their say. I’m trying to put my thoughts together. I’m sorry everyone. I will try to post something tonight. Mike
Let’s see if we can take this to another level. Here’s an open letter to President Obama about why he should be supporting the project.
Dear President Obama:
It’s been said that you are our nation’s first geek president: A fanboy’s love of comic books, Mister Spock’s logical behavior, Superman’s strange alien birthplace. :)
You have combined your interest in nerdy things with a drive toward innovation and an embracing of science. These things, you say, will put America back on the competitive track it needs to be in the global marketplace.
We agree Mr. President, that we need to follow in the footsteps of giants.
But we also think, Mr. President, that we should be creating some giant footsteps.
That’s why I would like for you to put your support behind the AT-AT for America project, which hopes to build on the good will that geek culture has spawned in America. For more than 30 years, we have come together online and off to share our passions, to build costumes and businesses, to enjoy some fellowship and forget about how tough the world can be.
If you want the country to be more united than divided, if you want the country to look toward a bright future instead of a divided past, if you want America to make something awesome again, then join us.
One Nation. One Dream. One AT-AT.
Thank you and God Bless America.
Mike Koehler and the AT-AT For America Team
Big thanks to Andrew Grexa for the cool new logo! Please spread around.
I overuse the words great and awesome as well as exclamation points so bear with me.
It was another exceptional day for our momentum. At one point the AT-AT for America project was the lead story on Gizmodo, io9, Geekdad and Time Magazine’s tech page plus the great story on the Ny Daily News.
I’m expecting mainstream TV to pick up next. Fingers crossed that will be Colbert.
Thanks to all who have donated. Just like the widow’s mite, it’s the $1 or $2 that mean so much to me. In the past week we have raised about $300in just the paypal giving.
We have spent about $110 of that on the new AT-AT toy that we are using in the kickstarter page video. Will also post on YouTube for everyone to pass around. It will have some great stopmotion work on it, thanks to my pal Kyle of Reckless Abandonment Pictures. Some of his geekcentric work has gone viral in the past.
Let’s see what tomorrow brings. If you see any other big blog or media mentions send them our way or post them to the facebook wall.
Atatforamerica.com is up now too. It has feeds from all the sites thanks to some great volunteers!!
We had a great write-up today in the New York Daily News, so I thought I would go ahead and update the New Yorkers on some important info.
To contact the AT-AT for America team email firstname.lastname@example.org
Just a quick update before I hit the sack.
Had a great meeting today with an uber creative video guy who is going to do some cool stop-motion for our Kickstarter fundraising page. Hopefully that will be up by next week and we can see some big donations.
Just got a note from someone at MIT. Looks like they are onboard to some extent.
Tons of great engineering volunteers flooding the email. Big brains with a mind-bending ideas.
Geekdad.com should be featuring us tomorrow. NY Daily News link as soon as it comes.
Thanks ATATers. You rock.