Years ago Lucasfilm Ltd., in partnership with Jeff Merhige of YMCA Camp Kern, came out with a Star Wars: The Clone Wars toolkit for camp wanting to run a Clone Wars themed camp. In 2013 they released a new general Star Wars Camp Toolkit to replace the specific Clone Wars Toolkit.
These are both great resources, and the fact that Lucasfilm offers free resources to camps is amazing. Yes, it helps to market their brand, but really that makes it a win-win situation for them AND summer camps. If only other companies, like Warner Bros with the Harry Potter franchise, would do the same.
However, with something like this coming from a huge corporation there are always going to be certain terms and conditions.
My Recent Experience
Earlier this year I decided to run a Star Wars camp. I contacted Amy Miller, the camp liaison at Lucasfilm, to get permission to run the camp since the activities I wanted to offer were not part of the Clone Wars Toolkit. After some back and forth phone calls I was told that
- I could not do any activities that were not part of the toolkit.
- I could not do any marketing without permission from Lucasfilm.
At that point I decided we would go ahead and only do the activities in the Clone Wars toolkit and I submitted my marketing materials to be approved. After a week of waiting Amy informed me that because I was not a YMCA or an ACA approved camp I could not use the Clone Wars Toolkit at all – I was not allowed to run any Star Wars activities. (Side note: being part of a parks and recreation department, becoming ACA is not an approved budget item – but because I come from an ACA resident camp background I make sure I meet all the standards.) Amy said that because the YMCAs and ACA have enough liability insurance Lucasfilm feels comfortable allowing them to run approved Star Wars activities. I mentioned that we are a city and have plenty of liability insurance. Apparently it wasn’t good enough for Lucasfilm’s lawyers…or was it.
A couple of months later, after I cancelled our Star Wars camp, Lucasfilm and Jeff Merhige came out with the Star Wars Toolkit. This new Toolkit, however, isn’t limited to just YMCAs or ACA accredited camps. It’s for all camps – well not all – it’s for non-profit camps. It seems liability insurance is no longer an issue. Interesting.
I sent Amy a few emails to clear up a few things. She decided not to respond to me.
I want to make sure that if you use the Star Wars toolkit you understand what is in the terms and conditions. After all, both Lucasfilm and Disney are known for sending cease and desist letters to companies (including camps) when they use their names, logos, images or anything else that may be copywritten or trademarked without permission – as they should and have the right to do. I would hate for you to market and design a camp that you find out later you can’t even offer. Update: Since writing this I have spoken with many camp directors who run Disney theme weeks at their camps. Not one has ever had a problem. In my opinion, Disney is not worried about a camp running a program based on one of their properties, they are after the companies that are using their logos, images, music and stories for pure profit (apparel, entertainment, etc.).
The More You Know…
So here are the things you need to know.
- The Toolkit is FREE! Lucasfilm does not charge a licensing fee of any kind to offer a Star Wars camp (as long as you only use the approved activities).
- It is full of some neat Star Wars activities that can be run almost anywhere.
- Despite not returning my last few emails, Amy, the camp liaison at Lucasfilm Ltd., is awesome! She is so nice and helpful. Her hands are tied when it comes to tweaking the program or giving camps permission beyond what the lawyers will allow, but she is great and will help however she can.
- Jeff, the executive director of YMCA Camp Kern, is also awesome! He has been even more helpful. I wouldn’t try to contact him right now as he is very busy preparing for camp (as we all are), but in the off-season he may have more time if anyone has questions. By the way, if you have any questions leave them in the comments section and I will try to get them answered.
Update: Amy Miller is no longer the Public Relations Coordinator since Disney purchased the rights. Jeff has left Camp Kern to Executive Direct another Y camp.
- You must be a non-profit camp to use the Star Wars toolkit. For-profit camps cannot run a Star Wars camp of any kind.
- You must get all marketing materials approved by Lucasfilm Ltd.
- You cannot use any Star Wars images for your marketing or for the camp that are not included in the toolkit.
- You cannot create your own activities that are Star Wars related. For example, you can not have foam lightsaber battles (at least you can’t call them lightsabers). This is to avoid liability issues. I imagine Lucasfilm Ltd. gets sued all the time for ridiculous reasons. They have to protect themselves legally anyway they can.
Update: These were all conditions of the toolkits. I, and many other camp professionals, have run Star Wars camps with my own programming without getting a notification from Disney to stop. They have bigger fish to fry. That’s not to say they are not within their rights to send a cease and desist letter.
- The downloading of the Star Wars Camp Toolkit took forever and it crashed the browser (Firefox) twice before downloading the whole thing – and that was for the low-res version.
- My regular readers know that I love camp programming. Those that participate in the email roundtables know the caliber of great ideas we get from camp pros from all over. I offered to submit additional activities to be included in an expanded version of the Toolkit or for a 2nd Toolkit. They had no interest in hearing our ideas, no interest in improving their toolkit. What a missed opportunity – in my humble opinion.
- The Toolkit is only for the 2013 camp season. This makes it very difficult for camps to plan a Star Wars theme for 2014 summer season, especially if they won’t be coming out with next year’s Toolkit until the end of April 2014, like they did this year. This is way too late for any camp to plan and advertise a Star Wars Camp. For all I know there may not even be a 2014 version.
The Bottom Line
This is a great resource for camps. While I don’t think the Star Wars Camp Toolkit offers enough activities for a specialty Star Wars Camp, it does offer enough for a Star Wars Day at camp. As someone who spent a lot of time trying to get permissions from corporations and film studios to run certain camps I know how difficult it can be and how heartbreaking it is to get a “No”. Lucasfilm has made available an instant “Yes” and has told us what is okay to do and what isn’t. That alone saves a lot of headache and time for camps wanting to do a Star Wars theme day.
Overall, while I would like to see more activities and leeway as to what camps can do with a Star Wars theme, I am thankful for what Jeff and LucasFilm have put together for summer camps (excluding for-profit camps…sorry about that).
Tip: If you decide to run your own Star Wars (or any Disney property) camp with your own activities, be sure you never use any images from the movies, books, etc. in your marketing materials. That’s the kind of thing that gets the attention of big corporation lawyers. Also, I would suggest you not name it “Star Wars Camp” but something like A Galaxy Far Away Camp, The Camp Force Awakens, Sabers and Wookies, or something else that says what your camp is all about but doesn’t use the main title of the franchise.
Update 2/23/15: It seems the toolkit is no longer available.
Update 1/9/17: I have written my own ebook on how to run a Star Wars camp. I compiled my favorite information from online resources that I have used, tips and tricks from other camp directors who run Star Wars themed camps, and the Jedi Training Camp program I designed. Star Wars Theme Book