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Spotting the References in Conan O’Brien’s Star Wars by Wes Anderson Sketch

November 13th, 2012 | Posted by Philip J Reed in film | spotting the references | television

On November 8, Conan O’Brien presented another batch of skits based on the concept of a new director taking over Star Wars. The moment he debuted this concept I knew Wes Anderson was coming, and, sure enough, we eventually got him. (Though, I have to admit, the Woody Allen one is still my favorite.)

Anyway, Conan’s Wes Anderson parody is very clearly the work of a true fan. It doesn’t just hit his basic themes and atmosphere — which would have been funny enough on their own — but it contains a wealth of smaller details, many of them relatively obscure. So I thought I’d take a moment to itemize all of the ones I was able to recognize. And please do let me know what I’ve missed in the comments below.

We open with the drawing of a red curtain, a clear visual reference to Rushmore. The music is also an obvious echo of Mark Mothersbaugh’s score for that film.

Once the curtains part, however, we get a reference to The Royal Tenenbaums with a formal invitation on a table, similar to what we see in that film announcing Henry and Etheline’s wedding. The title, of course, is a reference to The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, and the font, good old Futura, is a general Wes Anderson standby.

However it’s worth noting that The Life Aquatic uses a Futura variant with hollow lettering, whereas this is solid. Therefore it actually calls to mind Fantastic Mr. Fox most of all. That’s four of his films out of the way already, so not bad!

And now we have Bottle Rocket, with a wonderfully observed riff on Dignan’s notebook of future plans…right down to the lovely touch of a rectangle around the page heading. The “chapter” caption hews most closely to being another Tenenbaums reference, though in that film our chapters are denoted by pages in a book rather than overlaid captions.

Han Solo is clearly meant to be played by Luke Wilson here. (AND EVERYWHERE.) Wilson only appeared in three of Anderson’s films and he looked quite different in each, so it’s easy to pinpoint this as being a reference to his performance in Bottle Rocket. The wallpaper is reminding me strongly of the parlor area in the Tenenbaum house, and we’ll deal with the pictures on the wall in a moment.

I’m not sure who Greedo is meant to be played by here, so please do chime in if you know.

The blazer worn by the boy and the very concept of the younger sidekick both come from Rushmore clearly enough, but the eye-patch is straight out of Moonrise Kingdom. It also took me several viewings to realize that Greedo is dressed the same as Bob Balaban’s narrator character from that film: green winter hat, red coat, white shirt, green fingerless gloves. That’s some admirable attention to details that most folks won’t even notice.

The goggles may be a reference to those worn by Max in Rushmore‘s montage of extracurricular activities.

Apart from Han’s membership card for the Junior Telescope Club — which is most likely another Rushmore reference but could also be one to The Life Aquatic — there’s more a thematic similarity to Anderson’s choice of details than anything specific. Though I do want to see a visual reference to Bottle Rocket‘s scene of Bob Mapplethorpe reaching for the car keys at the motel, I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

Might as well deal with the full room shot since we’re almost finished. I’ll admit that I want to figure out the significance of the baseball bat on the table, but I’m coming up blank. Anyone?

The paintings on the wall, particularly the one of Lord Vader with his little dog, are reminiscent of similar imposing paintings in Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic.

Otherwise I’m coming up frustratingly empty on specific references dotted about the set. I know I’m missing something…help!

Two members of Team Zissou from The Life Aquatic witness the shooting, one of whom looks like he could be a specific reference to Jason Schwartzman — particularly as Cousin Ben in Moonrise Kingdom.

The other guy is some Star Wars shit.

I don’t know what to do with the little boy poking Greedo. Did something like that happen in Rushmore after Max got beaten up?

We finally get our lone Darjeeling Limited reference as the sketch closes, with the music clearly aping “This Time Tomorrow” by The Kinks. In The Darjeeling Limited the brothers Whitman did indeed ride motorbikes, but the sidecar here — and hirsute driver — make this much more of a reference to Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Han’s exaggerated gestures are also a reference to something, though I can’t put my finger on it.

Anyway, there you have it…all the references I was able to spot in Conan O’Brien’s Wes Anderson Star Wars parody. Please let me know what else you’ve found below!

There are obviously other Wes Anderson parodies to found on youtube, and they’re all so lovingly done that I might end up pulling a couple of those apart as well, if there’s interest. Maybe I’ll even do a less terrible job.

Maybe.

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