‘The Phantom Menace’ Trailer Was a Recreation-changer, And Not Simply For Star Wars

I might really feel it: a disturbance within the Drive.

I stick my head out of my door and run into two of my neighbours. “He is watching it once more!” we yell at one another. Collectively we dash down the hall of our school residence, our new dwelling since leaving our household solely a month or two earlier, to the room on the finish — the place the one man with a pc and a modem performs the trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace at earsplitting quantity, once more.

It was 1998. Like Star Wars followers all around the world, my buddies and I could not get sufficient of the Phantom Menace trailer. Lengthy earlier than Star Wars’ present ubiquity, lengthy earlier than The Drive Awakens and The Final Jedi and Rogue One and Solo, earlier than Disney Plus and The Mandalorian, earlier than even the Clone Wars cartoons, the return of the sacred saga to the large display screen was set to be a world-shaking second. The trailers for The Phantom Menace gave the primary glimpse, and subsequently have been big occasions for followers.

However they have been greater than that. At the moment, teasers and trailers and teasers for trailers are an enormous a part of the film advertising machine on YouTube and numerous leisure and fan websites. However again then the previews for The Phantom Menace did not simply supply a peek at a brand new Star Wars flick: for a few of us, the Phantom Menace trailer was our first main brush with this new-fangled invention referred to as the World Extensive Internet. The trailer was a game-changer, a milestone for the next-generation know-how driving a cultural and technological quantum leap into a brand new millennium.

Eventually, we are going to reveal ourselves to the Jedi

It is astonishing to assume how a lot issues have modified within the final 20 years, and plenty of of these adjustments started for me that very yr. In 1998, not solely did I am going to school, however I additionally I acquired my first e mail deal with — Hotmail, after all. My telephone was a payphone on the finish of the hall, and also you needed to hope somebody passing by would reply it and knock in your door — which is why I additionally acquired my first cell phone, an Ericsson T28, in very brief order.

I even hand-wrote essays, till I acquired a phrase processor with an LCD display screen that displayed three strains of textual content. 

By 1998 we had the iTunes Trailers web site and information web site Ain’t It Cool, however there was no Fb, no Twitter and no YouTube. Into this veritable stone age got here the primary teaser for The Phantom Menace, six months earlier than the movie’s launch date Nov. 18 1998.

The primary trailer was proven at 75 US and Canadian theatres earlier than Common’s Meet Joe Black, Disney’s The Waterboy and twentieth Century Fox’s The Siege. Star Wars followers queued across the block to get in, watch the trailer, after which go away. Trailers have been additionally repeated afterwards, so some followers are reported to have ducked out earlier than the characteristic presentation solely to return on the finish for a second glimpse of the preview.

However the actual impression was seen on-line. StarWars.com provided a free obtain of the trailer in Actual Video, QuickTime and AVI codecs. After a decade and a half of anticipation since Return of the Jedi, the world went loopy for the primary glimpse of the brand new Star Wars adventures.

At all times two there are

A second trailer was posted on-line on 11 March 1999. Longer and higher high quality, the two-and-a-half minute video was posted in Apple’s QuickTime digital video format. Based on Jonathan Bowen’s Anticipation: The Actual Life Story Of Star Wars: Episode I, this was a serious coup for Apple over rival codecs. Certainly, QuickTime itself was downloaded 600,000 instances simply on the day the second trailer went stay.

The second trailer was much more of a galactic-sized hit. Opening with a room-shaking rumble of an oncoming droid invasion power, the trailer launched Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor as Qui-Gon Jinn and the younger Obi-Wan Kenobi, in addition to Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala. Like followers around the globe, my mates and I went nuts for the spine-tingling Imperial March by John Williams and the double-lightsaber-wielding Darth Maul.

In 24 hours the trailer was downloaded greater than 1,000,000 instances.

Within the first 5 days, it was downloaded 3.5 million instances, hovering to six.4 million downloads inside three weeks. Steve Jobs himself described the second trailer as “the largest Web obtain occasion in historical past”.

Based on Empire, the trailer “created on-line congestion not seen for the reason that publication of the Starr Report“. As if that wasn’t sufficient, it landed similtaneously the US sporting frenzy often called March Insanity, making this an insanely busy interval for internet visitors. However the internet held.

Actually, the success of the Phantom Menace trailer demonstrated the success of a brand new know-how for dealing with such colossal visitors. Beforehand, if plenty of individuals immediately visited a web site it might be overwhelmed and crash. However an organization referred to as Akamai had provide you with a technique to extra effectively distribute the load.

The Phantom Menace promised a long-awaited return to the Star Wars universe.


Akamai was based by MIT graduate pupil Danny Lewin and his advisor Professor F. Thomson Leighton, who met a problem from internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee to provide you with an algorithm for optimising web visitors. Akamai’s FreeFlow system distributed on-line content material so a spike in visitors hitting a selected web site did not trigger it to crash, fixing the issue of “scorching spots”. Akamai’s resolution was so important, Wired on the time in contrast it to the event of seafaring or written numbers.

In March 1999, the know-how proved itself. Between Leisure Tonight’s web site internet hosting Phantom Menace trailers and ESPN’s on-line protection of March Insanity, Akamai efficiently dealt with 250 million hits on these two websites alone. Whereas rival web sites crashed, Akamai’s know-how juggled as a lot as 3,000 hits per second.

In 2001, Lewin, a former officer within the Israeli Defence Drive, was flying on American Airways Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles when he confronted hijackers and was stabbed to dying. The date was 11 September; Lewin was the primary particular person to be killed within the 9/11 assaults.

Akamai’s know-how was certainly one of many vital steps ahead in enabling the Web to change into the worldwide communication device it’s as we speak. A couple of million individuals watching QuickTime movies may not seem to be a lot in an age when billions have considered Despacito and Gangnam Type, however the Phantom Menace trailers gave a preview of how big cultural occasions would quickly be voraciously consumed and mentioned on-line. They gave a glimpse of the way forward for film promotion, and the best way followers would interact with popular culture within the coming on-line age. And so they proved the know-how that helped result in as we speak’s world of high-speed web video, like YouTube and Netflix and Disney Plus, dwelling of each single Star Wars film and TV present. Together with, on Might 27, a miniseries bringing again Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi

The Phantom Menace trailers have been a milestone in creating as we speak’s on-line world. And the movie itself? Sadly, the outcomes did not fairly match as much as the anticipation…

This story was first printed on 28 November 2014, and has been up to date.

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