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See 'Threepio,' other Star Wars creations

ST. PAUL -- Anthony Daniels remembers creaking along in the brassy, iconic C-3PO costume like it was yesterday.

When it was cold, assistants on "Star Wars" sets would shoot hot air into the costume with blow dryers.

Heat was another matter.

"I cooked. I cooked inside there," Daniels said in an interview, recalling a 1976 heat wave in England during shooting of the first "Star Wars" film.

"Microwaves weren't invented. But now I know where they got the idea from, because they would look at me when I came out of this mask, running with water."

Despite the pains, Daniels still holds his character -- and the costume -- close to heart.

Through August, Science Museum visitors will be able to get an up-close look at C-3PO and dozens more pieces of "Star Wars" history in "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination."

The exhibit blends "Star Wars" lore with the science behind the fictional spaceships, weapons and myriad devices populating the galaxy from far, far away.

"We're thrilled to be hosting an exhibit that gives our visitors the opportunity to play with concepts like magnetic levitation, artificial intelligence and medical technology," said Mike Day, the Science Museum's senior vice president of museum enterprises.

For true "Star Wars" nuts, the exhibit won't disappoint.

The self-guided tour boasts original pieces of everything from a life-size Darth Vader to scale models of spacecraft to a collection of light sabers.

Audio stations accompanying the props reveal how the filmmakers brought the pieces to life.

"Really, a lot of it was a piece of magic that happened," Daniels said of the original three films, which took Hollywood by storm in the late 1970s and early '80s

The saga wowed new audiences with a second trilogy that began showing in 1999.

Visitors hoping for a reprise of the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts' larger, more artistically oriented exhibit from 2000 won't find a carbon copy in this tour.

Instead, museum-goers can try their hand at getting robotic legs to take a step -- or two, if they're skilled enough.

Kids are bound to gravitate toward the hovercraft simulator -- fashioned in the spirit of the "Star Wars" land speeders -- that they can hop right in and steer.

Young and old alike can delve into two separate engineering design labs at the exhibit.

One allows visitors to build and operate robots. Another sets out space for people to assemble vehicles that float and are propelled by magnetism.

Beyond the special effects breakthroughs, audiences are drawn to the essential conflicts present in the movies, Daniels said.

That includes good and evil, empires and rebels. Conflict even exists between Daniels' character and his squat sidekick R2-D2, he says.

"They're two utterly opposite characters," he said, comparing his "tall, elegant and intelligent" character to his "dumpy" little partner.

But what is it about the films that has enraptured audiences for more than 30 years?

"If I knew the answers, I'd be George Lucas and I'd be a lot richer than I am now," Daniels said of the "Star Wars" creator.