Jeff Stanford
Rose Minutaglio
December 15, 2015 12:00 PM

Tate Stanford, 5, was destined to become a Star Wars fan from the beginning.

After all, the first photo ever taken of the newborn in 2010 shows him cuddled up to a stuffed Darth Vader doll.

Five years after the iconic photo was taken, the kindergartner is gearing up to see his first Star Wars film in theaters – and his dad couldn’t be any more excited.

Jeff and Tate Stanford wearing vintage Star Wars shirts
Jeff Stanford

Tate’s father, Jeff Stanford, saw the first 1977 Star Wars movie in theaters with his own dad – and it completely changed his life.

“I was eight, and the movie blew my mind, I had never seen anything like it,” Stanford, 46, tells PEOPLE. “From the time the crawl came across the screen, I was hooked.”

Stanford, an Orlando, Florida, resident, has been collecting framed movie posters, action figures, model toys and limited edition collectors items ever since.

The father says the movies meant so much to him growing up because they were a way for him and his father to bond. He hopes the new Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens will do the same for him and Tate.

“I want to share this experience with him,” Stanford, vice president of marketing for the Orlando Science Center, says. “It was such an important part of my childhood and my relationship with my dad to go into a theater and be transported to another world I want to share that experience with my son now.”

Jeff Stanford taking his son, Tate, home from the hospital in 2010
Jeff Stanford

The Floridian says that although he has a great relationship with his own dad, they struggled finding common interests during his childhood.

“He took me to see Star Wars because we didn t like the same things. He loved cars and football and I liked comic books,” says Stanford. “But there’s an element to the movies that transcends. We bonded over that first movie and from then on we saw all the movies together. It became our thing!”

Tate and Jeff Stanford posing with Chewbacca
Jeff Stanford

“The movie is all about fathers and sons and how they take different paths and I think on some innate level, that’s why I initially attached to the movie,” he says. “Star Wars is a part of my life and I’m excited to be able to share it with my son in the way that my dad shared it with me.”

Stanford says Tate has already seen all of the movies, has an impressive collection of theme toys and pretends Chewbacca stands outside his bedroom door at night to protect him from “bad guys.”

“I would never pressure my son to be a Star Wars superfan, of course,” says Stanford. “But I m not going to lie, my heart warms whenever I hear him talking about the franchise. I’m looking forward to talking to him about the new movies.”

Jeff and Tate proudly sporting Star Wars shirts
Jeff Stanford

“Every father wants their son to follow in their footsteps in subtle ways and share some of the same passions,” he adds. “It just happens that I’m passionate about Star Wars.”

Stanford says he won’t take Tate to see Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens on opening night, but will take him once the crowds lessen due to his “chatty behavior” in theaters.

“Every father wants something he can share with his son,” he says. “I’m excited to share this with him.”

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