The force has not been with an Oklahoma City man who wants to build a 50-foot-tall and fully functional “Star Wars” AT-AT.
Mike Koehler says his dream is to make “America awesome again” with the replica of the huge machine used by the Empire in “Star Wars” films.
But “Star Wars” rights owner Lucasfilm Ltd. objects.
Koehler, who is a social media and public relations consultant, first came up with the idea of a life-sized AT-AT after reading about a campaign that raised $67,000 to build a RoboCop statue in Detroit.
“I thought, ‘Robocop is cool for Detroit,’ but what could we do to sort of inspire the whole country?” So, just sort of thinking as out there as we could, I came up with idea of the AT-AT,” he said.
From there, Koehler e-mailed a few friends and started a page on Kickstarter, an online fundraising platform where anyone can donate as little as $1 to raise money for various projects. Hundreds of people from all over the country, including nuclear physicists, mechanical engineers and Massachusetts Institute of Technology students, soon came on board and volunteered to help with the project.
Koehler raised about $400 and was in the process of filming a fundraising video with a toy AT-AT when he was first contacted by a representative from Lucasfilm Ltd.
“It was sort of in the back of my mind and everyone’s mind that they would have something to say because they’re sort of notorious for cease and desist letters,” said Koehler, whose first childhood memory is being 5 years old and sitting in a movie theater watching Darth Vader appear on screen.
Steve Sansweet, the fan relations adviser for Lucasfilm Ltd., contacted Koehler via e-mail once the project went viral.
“We talked to Mike and told him that, as much as we loved the idea of a life-sized AT-AT, we were worried about his solicitation of funds for a project that has neither a budget nor a blueprint for building. Mike decided to stop further outreach until he could be better prepared,” Sansweet said in an e-mail.
Koehler contends that he was still trying to estimate a dollar figure for the project, but said people “a lot smarter” than him told him that a fully functional AT-AT was possible.
“I can’t change the batteries in my remote control, so I don’t know anything mechanical, but all the volunteers said conceptually, it should be able to walk,” he said.
The 38-year-old married father of three is now working on refunding money to donors and thinking of ways to keep the volunteers united to honor their love of science.
“The kernel of the idea I have is to help all these people connected with me connect with each other,” he said. “Maybe they can all get together and build something that really excites them and motivates them and honors this geek culture. This to me was a monument to geek culture,” Koehler said.
Article by Krisiti Eaton