Making And Selling Star Wars Costumes Ruled To Be Legal


[Andrew Ainsworth] has been making and selling costumes based on Star Wars character (some original, and some of his own creation) for several years. Lucasfilm sued him for $20 million back in 2004 claiming infringement of intellectual property rights. He stopped selling them in the US (as it was a US copyright) but now the UK Supreme Court has ruled in his favor, siding with his claim that the costumes are functional items and not works of art.

Good for him, but copyright issues aren’t what interests us here. The BBC clip showing him using a vacuum former to make the Stormtrooper helmet really caught our attention. A bit of further searching led us to find the thirteen minute video after the break showing the entire process, from sculpting the mold by hand, to forming the components, and the final assembly seen above. It’s a fascinating process that makes use want to build our own vacuum former (preferably on a larger scale than this one). It would come in handy whether it’s Star Wars, Daft Punk, or any number of other projects you’ve got in mind.


[Thanks Danny]

25 thoughts on “Making And Selling Star Wars Costumes Ruled To Be Legal

  1. If the vacuum forming really interest you, then you might consider reading “Secrets of Building a Plastic Vacuum Forming Machine” by Vincent Gingery. It’s a bit of simplistic document, but it does give you enough information to get up and running quite quickly.

  2. It might be interesting to add that this person was the original designer of the storm-trooper helmet. So it’s not just a replica, it’s THE replica. Quite awesome.

  3. I used to use an old convection oven, a gast vacuum pump with a footswitch, and a homemade tabletop to vacuum form prosthtic limb sockets. An even simpler setup is to use a regular kitchen oven, a shop vac, and a custom table top. As long as you can get your plastic to temp and seal it to the tabletop over your mold, any vacuum could work.
    BTW, I have lots of burn scars from doing this.

  4. @Andrew Smith
    The UK Supreme Court was opened on 1st October 2009. It replaced the House of Lords as the highest court of appeal in the UK (Besides Scottish Criminal cases).

    It was also my 18th Birthday. =D

  5. I can understand why Andrew Ainsworth wants to make and sell his own costumes, as he was the original designer.
    I can also understand that Lucasfilm wants to hold the rights to everything to do with Star Wars.
    Shame they couldn’t get together and Andrew give Lucasfilm 1% of sales.
    Lucasfilm will also get free advertising for his film.
    Star Wars would not be the same film with different costume designer.

  6. now that I am thinking about it…
    if that is the dude that made the costumes I bet that machine is what gave them the idea to make that into the movie. And used to make the prop no doubt.

  7. FYI: Vacuuming forming was how the *original* storm trooper costumes and helmets were made too.

    This guys is decent, though his originals don’t really feel like Star Wars to me, maybe Dr. Who… or is his accent playing tricks on me? Anyway, he could have totally done all the costumes for something like Space Balls.

  8. This site shows the true facts about the creation of the original Stormtrooper
    Ainsworth vacuum formed the helmets and suits they were designed, sculpted, moulded and tools created by the artistic team at Elstree Studios. This was proven in court.
    It has also been shown that he does not have the original moulds. He recast a GF suit – a guy who had parts of a Return of the Jedi suit and tried to make convert it back to A New Hope.

  9. If you look at how a car is made, you will see that it not only involves a lot of people, but also a lot of different teams. 1. Draw it. 2. Made a prototype for it. (Use to be made out of clay, not its made using a CAD computer program, and goes through “virtual” testing via computer simulators and computer analysis.) 3. Actually build it.

    It is the same way for making movie props. Well, the Very First step is to have the idea, then get a stroy writer to write it out. In this case, both were done by George Lucas.

    The stormtrooper helmet was first based on conceptual illustrations made by Ralph McQuarrie. From THAT, Ms. Liz Moore made a scupture for the helmet, and Mr. Brian Muir
    made the design for the body armor.

    That was the inital steps. From there, came the makining/ manufactureing of it. The guy that was hired to do it, wasn’t able to. So he refered it to Allen Ainsworth, because he could get it done because he had experience in making things from plastics, and he already had the equipment to do it.

    THe point of all this, is that Mr. Ainsworth overstates his involvement. HE is not the creater of the helmet, never was. He was only the manufacturer of it; based upon OTHER people’s work.
    I got excited to build my own machine after watching this also.
    I still might.
    There are videos on YouTube about how to do it.

  10. P.S.
    Allen Ainsworth LOST in court for copyright infringment, to the tune of $20 million USD.
    But in England, it is not enforceable, due to English law.

    So G.L. had to sue again, this time in England, where he won a partial victory.

    The court saw the stormtrooper as a movie prop, and as such, it has a copyright of 25 years, which had since expired. Therefor, A.A. had not broken any laws.

    But also, it recognizes that G.L. owns the rights to it, and all things Star Wars, so A.A. is not allowed to sell any of his own products in the USA.

    A.A. continues to make, sell, and advertise the stormtrooper armor and props. And per English law, is allowed to do so. But he can not sell to or advertise in the USA.

    For those new to this issue, NO ONE has a true original stormtrooper mold. There was a big fire in the SDS building, and they were all lost.

    The very best anyone, anywhere can do, is to make a cast/mould from an original suit that was made from the original mold.

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