Stephane Faucourt (Le Retour du Jedi)
Trilogo.info welcomes back familiar face for a second interview, we hope you enjoy this interview with the French Author and collector, Stephane Faucourt!
Trilogo.info- Hi Stephane, it’s great to have you here for your second interview! You’ve been super busy since I last spoke to you and I’d love to talk to you about a few of your recent projects. Firstly, we have to talk about your latest book , can you tell us a little bit about it?
Stephane – Hi Joe, sure! My latest book is titled “La French Touch”, subtitled “History of French Star Wars merchandising and marketing 1977-1986”.
This book covers many different areas of interest for readers.
First, it re-examines the response that the original Star Wars movies received in France, through wide press campaigns and documentary references; Then, it features the entire range of merchandising released in France between 1978 and 1986, with individual product photography (some unreferenced items publicly shown for the first time) for all existing product categories, along with associated consumer and professional marketing material – totalling 240 colour pages and 1200+ photographs.
“La French Touch” is full of pictures for the reader to browse through but also a “literary” book to read with a full story, the equivalent of 70 full-pages text, allowing the reader to follow the development of the merchandising and marketing methods in France.
Each section is reviewed from my perspective, in the broader context of the 1980’s, which makes it quite engrossing.
Trilogo.info – Now, your original book “Meccano to Trilogo” was released in 2006, what gave you the incentive to publish a second book?
Stephane – Honestly, I never thought I would make a second book!! As time went on, I realized that a certain amount of new information had come to light, which is the way collecting goes of course and I also had upgraded and found many items for my own French and Trilogo toy collection that I felt I could document better in another book.
Actually in 2010, I had all the necessary material needed to release a “Meccano to Trilogo 2nd Edition” but I just didn’t want to simply rework my original book, change a few articles, and upgrade photos.
I came to the conclusion that if I were to release another book, it should cover the entire range of French merchandise – not just toys – and aim to reach a broader audience. The issue with that idea was simply that there are a lot of products that fall outside of my collecting interests, so I was rather short on hundreds of items to make such a book… and if I were to hunt them all down for my own collection it may have taken me another 10 years to gather what I was missing.
After thinking a while about it, I realized that some close friends and French collectors around me, had all the necessary material that I was missing, so I decided that with their help I could indeed release the book I wanted to.
Trilogo.info – We discussed the process involved in publishing a book like M2T last time we spoke. How did you find that process this time? Was it any easier than M2T or just as much hard work?
Stephane – It’s hard to compare the two really. M2T was really just pictures of items and short blurbs. When I wrote it I pretty much had the whole story in mind so it was basically just me writing down everything I knew on each item.
That may sound like it was easy but of course there was a lot of work involved, even for a book like M2T, over 6 months work in fact. Along the way I also had to learn everything involved in publishing a book, from things like the layout software right through to different printing techniques.
When I decided to release “La French Touch”, the amount of items I wanted to cover in the book was quite extensive. I also wanted a “book to read” rather than small informative blurbs next to pictures. So for “La French Touch” I focused only on the text and went into a real process of writing, and re-writing, proofing, writing, re-writing and so on. I probably spent 1 or 2 hours a day over the course of a year and a half just writing. Sometimes I would write a chapter, sometimes only 3 lines, I’m sure you get the idea, It was a lot of work! In addition, I had to also do a lot of research into many different areas. At the end of the writing process, I had around 70 pages of text in draft form!
Only once the draft was done did I start to work on the pictures, sorting, photographing, scanning and finally turning to the layout of the book, which took me another 6 months to complete.
The French edition was finally released in March 2013, but it wasn’t the end of the hard work. I then had to complete the English version which I actually thought would have been fast and easy but I had really underestimated the task since I wanted to reproduce the same “casual” style of the French edition. It was another very intense 3 months before we completed the English edition (which was finished in June 2013).
When you look at the acknowledgement section of the book, you really understand just how many people have contributed to the project. From people providing me with material from their own collections, helping on the designs, the translation… it was a huge task and it would not have been done without all that help. That’s really important for me to highlight.
Trilogo.info – Has the book been well received by fans so far? Would you say it’s been more successful or less successful than M2T was?
Stephane – The book has been very well received so far. Speaking in terms of copies sold, I’d say that it’s had pretty much the same success and at the same pace as M2T.
Promoting the book was actually more difficult than it was for M2T in 2006. Back then, I could rely on forums and collecting websites to spread the word and of course it helped that I went to a few events, but their audience is generally more collector-oriented. Because of its broader content, there are probably many more potential readers out there for “La French Touch”; the only problem is reaching them.
To help with this, I have recently made the book available on Amazon and hopefully people just looking for stuff like Star Wars, merchandising, marketing, will find it interesting enough to order.
Trilogo.info – I’ve had La French Touch for quite some time now and I must say it’s a great read from start to finish. It’s much more than a new version of M2T and I highly recommend it! It was nice to see Trilogo.info acknowledged in the book as a resource for Trilogo collectors!
Stephane – Well, you’ve certainly helped me locate a few items over the years 😉 but I also wanted to thank you for your efforts and enthusiasm towards the Trilogo line. I am well aware of the personal investment it requires and I know it’s not always easy, it’s also surely time-consuming.
Trilogo.info – That it is but it’s all worthwhile! It’s much appreciated – thank you once again! Now, you’ve also recently announced that you are going to be reprinting a commemorative edition of the M2T book, why did you decide to do that?
Stephane – Well, M2T officially sold out in 2011 yet three years later people keep asking me about it. I was a bit reluctant to make a reprint of hundreds of copies but the demand seemed to be there. Even when I told people about the outdated content and “La French Touch” including the full M2T coverage with better pictures of even upgraded items!! In fact, collectors now want this book as a collectible itself to place next to the Kellerman in their library, which is quite an honour for me.
I decided to go ahead but instead of making a reprint, I decided to release a “Commemorative Edition” available only on Amazon to satisfy the demand. Although there is a slight 0.5 inch format change due to Amazon standards, a cover update, and an additional page to promote “La French Touch”, the original content is identical to the original M2T in terms of text and pictures.
Trilogo.info – You will have the variation collectors buying copies now! Back to collecting, since I last spoke to you have you made any new discoveries or picked up any missing variants?
Stephane – Oh yes, I’ve picked up some nice Trilogo variants as usual, a bunch of Meccano cardbacks along with their original figures, which allowed me to keep a selection of loose figures with confirmed provenance, some square carded Meccano figures and some printed material like rare magazines and posters too. It’s not outstanding stuff compared to the incredible pre-prod stuff I see showcased every day on Facebook, but still nice stuff anyway 😉
As well as framing some nice Meccano stuff for display recently, I also created a diorama similar to one used in the Meccano 1978 Toy Fair.
Stephane’s diorama and a picture of the Meccano 1978 toy fair diorama, built using a moon plate surface to create a sci fi/space feel.
Trilogo.info – There was a big buzz in the community recently surrounding two separate (and quite large) auctions in France that included Vintage Star Wars, can you tell us a little bit about both? I believe you went along to the first?
Stephane – Well, that’s a good transition from recent finds 😉 I actually attended the first auction this year and I was lucky enough to find little to no competition on the items I coveted – some professional toy related promotional material and two Ewok’s posters I had been hunting for over a decade, which completed my 17×21” original saga poster run.
There was a lot of very nice vintage stuff in that auction. There were vehicles including uncommon Meccano and Bilogo, carded figures from various licensees including a 12-back Meccano Leia (won by the famous bald-headed Leia focus collector 😉 ), a 20-back Meccano Greedo and a few ROTJ’s including R2 sensorscope and Chewbacca, and of course a few French Trilogos; in addition you could find various stuff among non-toy products and I was able to win the famous Amora mustard glasses from 1983 with their original caps and ROTJ contest stickers – that might not sound interesting or important but those stickers have never been seen anywhere else until that auction!
The second auction you’re referring to was actually a video game related auction. There was a lot of rare material which sold at fair prices – it’s almost as if the video game collectibles hobby isn’t as well developed as toys, at least not in France anyway. Looks like there are still many buying opportunities in that area.
This particular auction ended with a few random toy listings, among which were a few Miro-Meccano toys lots composed of those now famous lots of 48 Meccano carded ROTJ figures, some “Tenté” (Lego-like toys) and Glamour Girls.
The Meccano figure lot included 10 different figures corresponding to the Return of the Jedi “Star Wars” assortment (although Vader was missing), some of which had not been seen on open sale over the last 15+ years! The Meccano ROTJ Leia original figure which was really only known to exist through pictures of vintage advertisements (and a few that were in black hole collections) and had never really been seen “for real” by the current generation of Meccano collectors, so it was quite an amazing auction.
The good thing is that 3 to 6 of each figure surfaced, which is a considerable amount for the ROTJ Meccano field knowing it’s a niche market. The downside to this amazing find is that they are now available for sale at 30 times the price paid at auction..
Trilogo.info – That was quite the auction, the pictures were amazing to see and I was rather taken back by the inclusion of the original shipping case! So, going back to Trilogos again – How do you think Trilogo figures are doing right now in terms of collector interest?
Stephane – I think the current market is still very good for Trilogos and I also think we will see a growth in the interest in them in the future. Like in many other Star Wars collecting areas, collectors are now looking for the rarest or most uncommon piece. They are also looking for the highest condition possible, Trilogo collecting is an area full of challenges, be it quality or rarity – Trilogo collecting has it all.
I think the interest in “special” Trilogos like PBP or Meccano ones will also continue to rise as they were produced in much fewer numbers and are of interest to collectors who are in search for “special” items. Last but not least, people continue to turn to Trilogos because they allow collectors to get almost a full set of figures on the same card front. I think Trilogos will continue to remain popular for many years to come and will be of interest to the next generation of collectors too, along with the original 12-backs which will always be seen as the very first figures made and therefore more desirable.
Trilogo.info – Now, this is something I never thought I would be discussing with you but I’m so glad I am..the production sheet of Trilogos that David Tree recently discovered! Just how exciting was that discovery for the Trilogo community and what’s your take on it?
Stephane – Dave was kind enough to allow me to be one of the first to see the sheet at Celebration Europe 2 and although the excitement might not have been visible on my face at the time, I was (and still am) absolutely thrilled by this discovery. It’s fantastic.
Trilogo.info – Does it give you hope that more items of a similar nature will turn up and allow us to piece together the puzzle of European production?
Stephane – Sure, but you know European licensees really didn’t have the same culture as Kenner with saving all the packaging material in the production process. As a result much of it was discarded over time, especially with all the multiple merges that each European licensee went through. A handful of these items have surfaced over the years, and each time I can remember, it was just down to a combination of odd factors and luck rather than because of the company or their employees. More will probably turn up, but the only way to know is to sit and wait 😉
Trilogo.info – Thanks for your time Stephane, before we go I must ask you, “What’s next?” You seem to be one of the busiest collectors I know and there always seems to be some kind of project on the horizon for you, any surprises for us?
Stephane – Well, I’d also like to thank you as well for your devotion to the Trilogo community and running the site. I’m not sure if I’m among the busiest collectors haha but I’m surely running out of time to do all the things I’d like to do in the hobby. Sometimes it’s slow and sometimes we’re running projects one after another at a frantic pace. However, I can tell you I’m currently starting work on two projects and possibly a few giveaways/goodies for upcoming events..but I can’t tell you more right now in case I don’t meet my schedule.
Sounds exciting! Watch this space for news of Stephane’s upcoming projects and if we get any updates we will let you all know! And just because, here are a couple of pictures of some Meccano and Trilogo figures from Stephane’s collection.