This Week’s Word Is “Galaxy.”
“Look at the size of that thing.”
The Ultimate Pop Up Galaxy is a feat of paper engineering. It’s a beautiful 3D homage to the Star Wars saga. We’re not strangers to pop-up books here at Word Wednesday, but this book takes things to a whole new, and massive, level.
What is Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop Up Galaxy?
The book is an ode to Star Wars, with 24 incredible pop-ups across 5 amazing spreads. If you have space (and decent visual/spatial skills), it folds out to form an incredible 37″ X 44″ diorama.
The book takes in episodes I-VIII and Rogue One. The five main panels (or “spreads”) have a central pop up-structure, with three of four further outer panels surrounding it. Flaps on these panels unfold to reveal set pieces from the movies. On the upper-side of these flaps, there is text that gives a brief synopsis of the movie scenes displayed in the pop-up underneath. The text can only be easily read when these outer pop-ups are folded away.
Panel 1 is devoted to the prequel trilogy, and, whilst it might be appropriate to have made Hayden Christensen’s sections out of wood, paper is still the medium of choice. The central structure represents the battle on Geonosis, complete with battling droids, clones, and Jedi. The paper edifice is truly a 360° structure; don’t forget to check on all sides if you’re looking for Christopher Lee! The surrounding panels show Naboo, Kamino, Mustafar, and Coruscant.
Panel 2 features an impressive, if not especially spherical, Death Star (or at least not with my cack-handed assembly). Nevertheless, said Death Star does have a flap that opens to represent the workings of its super laser, which might just be the coolest thing ever to exist in pop-up literature. It also has flaps that reveal little scenes from A New Hope and one that explodes an X-Wing as it flies past.
The surrounding flaps include a larger panel, with the tower on Scarif, a small picture of Luke and his landspeeder on Tatooine, the Rebel base on Yavin, and the “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy,” speeding away from the Death Star.
Panel 3, which essentially forms the central spoke of the book, with the other 4 panels surrounding it, features Endor, complete with speeder bikes swooshing through the trees. Around that are 3 flaps. One long one, a snowy Hoth, complete with an AT-AT. On the other side, we’re treated to the “Betrayal at Bespin” and “Return to Tatooine.” The former has a lever that allows you to encase Han Solo in carbonite, and the latter a flap that sends Boba Fett flying out of Jabba’s sail barge. This one took me a little while to find and elicited a whoop of delight when I did, such is its quality.
Panel 4 Is devoted to The Force Awakens, the central construct depicts the hulk of a wrecked Star Destroyer on Jakku and features Rey’s speeder plus an awesome Millenium Falcon flythrough. The flaps that surround the central panel reveal Maz’s pirate hideout, the rebel base on D’Qar, and a mini Starkiller base that somehow manages to depict Kylo Ren killing his dad AND fighting Rey without destroying visual continuity. “Impressive. Most Impressive,” as Ben’s grandad used to say.
Panel 5 focuses on The Last Jedi with the salt flats of Crait and two imposing AT-AT walkers. (I’m sure they’re called something subtly different, but to me, they’re all AT-ATs, or, as my dad used to call them, “elephant walkers”.) There are a couple of pop-up speeder vehicles and, if you look carefully, one final lightsaber battle between uncle and nephew. Surrounding the salt-flats we have a pop-up representing Luke’s island paradise, the casinos of Canto Bight, and Snoke’s throne room on the Supremacy.
There is also one final intriguing panel of First Order TIE fighters, heading off to look for Resistance hideouts. It talks of new resistance allies and Kylo Ren’s probing of the mysteries of the Dark Side.
Why Read Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop Up Galaxy?
I always use “read” in my Word Wednesday heading, and whilst there some text to read, in this book, it’s almost entirely superfluous. You want this book because you love Star Wars. You (mostly) already know what the text is going to say before you read it.
This book is about its artistry and cardboard engineering. The illustrations are great, but the magic lies in how the pictures interact within the cardboard structures. It’s an absolute joy to look at. In many ways, I recommend not looking too closely at first. That way, the little hidden surprises will gradually reveal themselves over time, and you can spread the joy.
The gallery below has a few inexpertly taken shots, straight from my dining room!
For Kids or not For Kids?
If the book has a problem its the price tag. This is a premium product and its price point reflects that. The MRSP is $85, though it currently has a hefty discount on Amazon at the time of writing. Pop-up books are generally for kids, but you’d be right at thinking twice about spending that much on one for children. Perhaps. This one, certainly, is extremely intricate, and whilst your kids will probably clamor to look at it, mine certainly did, if you hand it over to them, it’s a case of sitting back and waiting for the inevitable sound of tearing cardboard.
This book is not easy to unfurl. There are a lot of sections, flaps, and magnetized spines to unclip before you can access the book in all it’s glory (ok, there’s only one magnetized spine.) There are written instructions on how to safely unfold the book, but these read rather like a flat-pack furniture stereotype. Admittedly, I seem to have particular difficulty decoding written spatial instructions, but I barely got past stage 2 before I had to run to YouTube for help. Without it, I may never have dared fully open the book. Note: You can turn through the Ultimate Pop-Up Galaxy spread by spread, but it’s not such a magnificent way to enjoy it.
I’ve added an official Insight Editions video into this review, but there are a number of home videos of how to do it, that are very helpful. Just search for Ultimate Pop Up Galaxy.
Nevertheless, despite the book’s apparent fragility, I didn’t do any serious damage when unfolding it, and the kids haven’t destroyed any bits of it yet. It is unexpectedly robust. Arguably, the Pop Up Galaxy’s fragility is also one of its strengths; it makes the book even more awe-inspiring, and because you handle it with care, it does take a while for you to notice all the little details, flaps, and pull tabs, adding to the feeling that there is always something new to discover.
This pop-up book is a premium product but it is magnificent to behold. In terms of quality, it is in a galaxy far far away from the competition. Despite its hefty price-tag the Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop Up Galaxy is a worthy gift for fans of the saga.
You can pick up a copy of Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop Up Galaxy from here in the US, and here, in the UK.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.