Friday August 13
The only genuinely unlucky thing that happened to me was on early Friday morning. The problem with our motel room was that it overlooked a highway that seemed to be busy at all hours. I woke up in the middle of the night and whenever I travel, hearing traffic outside, and there was a lot of it, signals to my brain that it's morning and time to wake up soon. I couldn't see a clock. But I had a tough time getting back to sleep and I "woke up" feeling tired and groggy. Bleah. Marie wisely decided to sleep in but I figured it was pointless, so off I went with Debbie to Denny's. Our trainee waitress was back and she remembered what we all ordered the day before. She even asked if any of us were going to see Mark Hamill that day. It was going to be just me on that account, since Debbie was focused on collecting and Marie was sort of up in the air about it. We went back to the motel, collected Marie, and went to go wait again for the bus. Within minutes we were back inside the convention center's Star Wars Fan Corral, where we were closer to the front of the line than we were on Thursday. Debbie and Marie were excited because it would make the process of picking up exclusives easier. We sat around and waited, talking, reading, doing Sudoku puzzles, issuing Facebook updates, and checking the news on my iPhone. Some smart, enterprising soul brought in a pushcart with coffee and other drinks and snacks.
Just before we were let in about 10 minutes early, Jay Laga'aia came out on a segue and spoke to the crowd on a microphone. I was pretty amazed Laga'aia could do both at the same time. I don't think I could even handle a segue with my full attention and two hands on the steering thingie. We were let out of the corral and then had to line up again outside the exhibition hall. Hurry up and wait! But five minutes later the doors were opened and off we went, splitting up three ways.
My game plan was to go back to the art show to pick up the print I wanted, wander around a bit, eat lunch, and get into line for Mark Hamill at 12:30. I got to the art show no later than a couple minutes after 10 and already there were TWO (albeit shorter) lines! WTF? The good news was Acme wised up and brought on a second guy to do check outs. The bad news was they came up with a Fast Pass line and a "regular" line. Once I got my receipt for the print, I was confused as to which line to get into. They came up with the Fast Pass late in the day on Thursday, so a few people had those but when I asked one of the guys working the art show about getting a Fast Pass, I was told I would have to come back in an hour. Nothing doing! I got into the regular line and sure enough, that went faster than if I'd waited another hour, then came back. But I still had to wait about 35-45 minutes. To pass the time, I spoke to my fellow line inmates. One of them was married to an exhibitor and she told me George Lucas had visited the exhibit hall shortly before it opened. Wow, I was surprised he was even there. My expectation was that Lucas would parachute out of a plane into the convention center on Saturday morning, do his chat session with Jon Stewart, then get hustled out of there in a helicopter by Navy SEALS immediately thereafter. My line mates also raved about the new Magical World of Harry Potter at Universal. "YOU GOTTA GET A BUTTERBEER!!" Sadly, there was no time for Harry on this trip. My cousin is getting married in Jacksonville next April, so I'll go then. Anyhoo, while stuck in art show hell, I also ran into someone I know from the old Hayden Yahoo group I used to belong to.
At last I was free. So I spent some spare time visiting the booths. There were quite a few people selling vintage items, toys, prototypes, and what-have-you. I stopped by the Disney booth and bought some pins.
As an aside, I noticed the ultra-geeky quotient seemed to be higher than usual. Maybe I’m becoming a snob in my old age but I saw plenty of supremely White 'N Nerdy types wandering about. Since a lot of them don't do crowds very well, navigating was like wandering into a flock of birds. I also discovered a new creature, the Nerdus redneckus. But at least it was not as stinky as other cons I've been to. Well done on the showers, people.
There were plenty of kids, with their ranks growing each day. It was always cute to see them in costume. Speaking of costumes, the number of costumers remained about the same as Celebration IV, with all of the best ones hanging out in the main foyer and taking pictures with people. I have to say, Padme's many costumes were quite popular with the ladies. I also saw that Padme Nouveau tee from Her Universe was insanely popular…it seems like every fourth or fifth girl was wearing one. Including me along with my japor snippet necklace.
I took the time to admire the incredible setups done by Belgian Star Wars fans. They included a reproduction of the cantina, Jabba the Hutt (complete with Slave Girl Leias hanging around), the Endor bunker, the Millennium Falcon corridor, and TIE Interceptor. Did I mention they were all lifesized? How the heck were they able to get all of this stuff to Florida? The Rebel Legion booth had a lifesized reproduction of a snowspeeder, but I don't know if the Belgian guys built that one or not. All of them were popular spots for photos.
Around noon, I headed over to Jabba's Food Court for lunch. Today I went with a gyro from the Greek food joint. All they had in the area were large tables, so I parked at one inhabited by some Disney employees. I asked them about the food situation at Last Tour To Endor, because I didn't want to go there and find out there's nowhere to eat since the park was closed to the public at 7. From there, I went to get into line for Mark Hamill.
Even though it was 12:30, two hours before Hamill's appearance, the line was already insanely long. People started lining up that morning. 2000 could fit into the Chapin Theater and that's where they were going to cap the line. I figured I was well within that number even with the length of the line. Sure enough, staff slowly went down the line to hand out wristbands. I tried to call Marie because she needed to get there quick in order to get a wristband, but she decided she wanted to see the panel prior to Hamill's and skip this one. Eventually I got my wristband and I sat down to wait the remaining hour/hour and a half. I couldn't believe it when some people left the line once they got their wristbands. Sure they were guaranteed seats but if you leave, you'll be sitting in the nosebleeds.
After talking to my line mates and entertaining myself on my iPhone, the line finally got rolling. I wondered how the panel was going to start on time if all of these people needed to be seated first. The queue made its way down an escalator to the theater entrance. Once I got inside I heard a lot of shouting. Why were they shouting at us? Once I went inside the seating area, I realized that the shouting came from a guy who was onstage, appparently there to jazz up the crowd along with a dj prior to the panel. With all of the shouting and cheering from the audience, I felt like I walked in on a game show taping. The guy got people cheering for the Empire and then said, "Are you Rebels going to let them get away with that? MAKE SOME NOIIIIISE!" There was some trivia questions for prizes and he got some people in costume to get up for the crowd, including the girl who had been in line behind me yesterday, in her Victorian Star Wars sheet dress. Complete with a bustle!
Finally, the panel got rolling with Jay Laga'aia, and then the guest of honor, Mark Hamill. Star Wars fans love him and it's easy to see why. Jay didn't have to do very much, except fail miserably at trying to keep Mark on track and end the chat session at the appointed time. It was mostly Mark just talking freestyle about his impressions and experiences with Star Wars. When he said that meeting famous people can be disappointing, one fan yelled out, "Not you!" He had some really funny stories, including a scary car ride with Anthony Daniels in Tunisia and the filming of "The Shining" in the same studio where TESB was shot in England. He said that it's widely believed Stanley Kubrick had the set burned on purpose so the production could be shut down and he'd have more time to think about the film, particularly since Kubrick was known for having shut down his sets many times for various coincidental catastrophes. The doctor who treated Mark for a cut thumb--which he got for coming in on a day off--threw a pillow at him to "test" him; apparently the same doctor worked the set of "The Shining." At one point, they showed a clip of Mark's classic appearance on "The Muppet Show" back in the day (I remember watching it on t.v.) and Mark was just mortified. He even jokingly tried to walk off stage. Heh heh.
Another thing that was really funny was his pride in not knowing all of the names of objects, places, and vehicles that were named post-production by the toy companies. The grappling hook used in TESB was known as the "phew gun" while filming.
But of course, Mark's respect for us as fans was apparent as he referred to us as "family" and as "ultra passionate fans." It's really impossible not to like him.
All in all, a great session that was worth my time.
Afterwards, I went down to the 501st's room to see where its shindig that night was supposed to be held. All it says on the bash's website was that it was at a Doubletree, but there were two or three Doubletrees in the area. I asked the guys at the party table which Doubletree was hosting the party and they looked at me suspiciously. "Are you a member?" "Did you get your ticket yet?" Fortunately, my wristband and stuff were in my purse, so I pulled it out and showed it to them. See, I wasn't some loser party crasher. But they still couldn't tell me since they didn't live in Orlando and couldn't tell which one was which either. Sigh. I did however take the time to view the TK Project. Similar to the Vader Project from a few years ago, various personalities and artists reworked stormtrooper helmets destined to be auctioned for charity. To be honest, I liked these more than the truly strange Vader ones. My favorite was the beautiful Maori style helmet by Daniel Logan and some other artists…it looked like a wood carving.
By late in the afternoon, I was tired and punchy. Caffeine was of little help. I walked upstairs and found a bench near the Celebration Fan Stage, sat down, and took a brief nap. I felt a little better, which was good considering up next was the Why We Love The Prequels panel.
Given that the panel was late (6:00) and was running the same time as the Robot Chicken panel, I was amazed at how packed the room became prior to the panel's start. I did manage to spot ladyaeryn
, and a_p
and went over to briefly say howdy.
Let me tell ya, this was perhaps THE highlight of the convention. Moderator Bryan Young did a great job and he brought along artist Tom Hodges, Lucasfilm Animation Singapore employee Jesse Hildreth, Fanboys director Kyle Newman, James Arnold Taylor from Clone Wars, and Eric Geller from TheForce.net. Dave Filoni appeared about halfway through. What was cool about the panel wasn't just that it was all rah-rahs re the prequels or the enthusiastic crowd, as welcome as they are. It also offered something missing from Celebration IV…an actual discussion about the themes in the saga, the inner workings of its mythology, and how they all tie together. And for that matter, what makes Star Wars resonate with people. They brought up great points about Palpatine's restraint, preferring his smarts over his Force powers, and how the prequels are about the Dark Side while the first set of SW films were about the Light. Dare I say it was inspirational
Of course, it was fun. Kyle Newman had a rather amusing point about fans who seem to like only ANH and TESB ("4 out of 6 films...that's like an 'F!'") and a really good point about viewing the series as two separate trilogies instead of as one whole saga. At one point, Tom Hodges was talking about the scene where Obi-Wan leaves Anakin after their duel on Mustafar and James Arnold Taylor exclaims, "You were the Chosen One!" in his Obi-Wan voice.
The panel ran about 15 minutes over time but I would have been happy to sit there another hour or two. I really wanted to go up to these guys afterward but I did not have time to introduce myself. I needed to get on a bus to meet my friends back at the hotel room. By now they had to be getting hungry and we had that 501st party to attend.
Back at the room, Debbie called her friend Virgil and figured out where the Doubletree was located. We heard they weren't serving much more than finger foods and booze, so we decided to stop by McDonalds on the way. When we got to the party it was already in full swing. There was one large dark room with a DJ, the food, a bar or two, a very nice ice sculpture of the 501st's logo, and lots of people. Nobody was dancing. The other completely-lit room had free books that I already had, another cash bar, and a table full of stuff for the raffle. Nobody was wearing stormtrooper armor but a lot of the guys were wearing kilts for some reason. One guy had a kilt that seemed to be made from plastic or something. We didn't know what the story was with that. I also noticed that a lot of the ladies wore a lot of black and really short skirts. The only food I grabbed was half of a cookie...it was the Doubletree cookies! Diet or not, I love those damn things. So I ate half of one. I then managed to pick up a nice red 501st plastic cup and some cool coasters.
I had to laugh at the VIP "entrance," an area in the lit room sectioned off by potted palms. It went all of the way down to a second entrance in the dark room, so I guess the VIPs can come in without being harassed by the hoi polloi. It was so Vegas nightclub, I'm surprised they weren't charging members $1000 for a table with a $500 drink minimum. Give me a break. I did catch the ever-present Filoni and CW voice actor Dee Bradley Baker drop by the raffle table to leave stuff donated as prizes, and Jay Laga'aia showed up. I saw Robert Watts wandering around. I also saw miana_dude
at one of the tables.
Truth to tell, the whole scene was like a throwback to my college days. The girls in black short skirts, the red plastic cups, the hordes of people smoking outside...even the music selection was right from that time period! The only differences were the fewer numbers of gay emo boys and the fact nobody was dancing.
Anyway, Debbie, Marie, and I were all really tired so after about an hour and a half, we split. As it turned out, we didn't win anything in the raffle anyway.
Before going to bed, I stuffed my ears with cotton and pulled a pillow over my head to help with the noise problem. It worked.