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Here's The Only Reason George Lucas Allowed Spaceballs To Spoof Star Wars

When it comes to the art of the parody, there isn't a single soul in Hollywood that can match up to the legendary Mel Brooks. The famous comedian has built a name for himself through his ability to poke fun at the big screen's most recognizable titles, often making his spoofs just as iconic as their template. Films like Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights endure to this very day thanks to their remarkable casts, near-perfect comedic writing, and, of course, their handling of the source material, which is arguably the trickiest aspect of the genre to master.

If you want to make a proper parody, it's best practice to seek permission from the person responsible for the source material in question before starting production. Case in point, Mel Brooks wanted to avoid stepping on any toes when he came up with 1987's Spaceballs — a clever spin on the original Star Wars trilogy. He got in touch with George Lucas to pitch the idea, and while the director gave the thumbs up, he outlined one key condition of their deal that Brooks had to adhere to.

Spaceballs wasn't allowed to produce any merch

Back in 2012, Brooks sat down with Entertainment Weekly to promote the 25th anniversary of Spaceballs, talking everything from its cultural impact to the chances of a sequel. During the interview, he mentioned that early on, he was worried about a potential legal battle with George Lucas over his film, saying "I was afraid to get sued by Lucas. I sent him the script, and he said, 'It's fine.'"

This gave Brooks the green light to make the movie, but the American Graffiti director made it clear to him that "You can't do merchandising. You can't actually have, you know, a Dark Helmet action figure, because they'll look too much like ours." Given the lucrative nature of Star Wars products, even in 2020, Lucas' caveat makes total sense.

Alongside being a massive hit with audiences, and making a nice chunk of change at the box office, the first film trilogy kicked off a major marketing craze in the late '70s that forever changed how studios handled movie tie-in merchandise. The highly popular Kenner toy line, various t-shirts, cereal, books, and everything in between packed shelves across the world, further fueling Star Wars' domination of pop culture.

Spaceballs actually made quite a few jokes about the overabundance of Star Wars products, from Yogurt's (Mel Brooks) fourth-wall-breaking merch stand to Dark Helmet's (Rick Moranis) action figures of the cast. However, Brooks is a man of his word, and even over 30 years past its theatrical run, Spaceballs merchandise has never made it to store shelves.