lazypadawan: (Default)
Give Reed Entertainment a piece of your mind here:

What's up with that hinky question about whether "you" would attend a Celebration abroad? Yeah, I'm going to spend $6000 to fly 25 hours to Johannesburg to attend a future Celebration. I don't care if they have smaller Celebrations for fans in Japan, Australia, Europe or something, but the heart of Star Wars fandom is in the U.S. of A..
lazypadawan: (Default) posted today that attendance at Celebration V was "more than" 32,000. That's at least 4000 more than a previous estimate of 28,000 and a lot closer to the numbers for Celebration IV. I've seen some scuttlebutt that Lucasfilm had hoped for 40,000 but I don't think that was happening with the economy being what it is or its schedule between several major summer conventions.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Celebration V might have been to mark TESB's 30th anniversary, but if you ask me, it was Clone Wars that helped make it worth your while to attend. Why? From what I understand, Dave Filoni made any panel where he appeared interesting because he is very thoughtful and obviously cares a great deal about the Star Wars universe. There wasn't too much of that on display at Celebration IV; it was mostly a carnival. Moreover, the Clone Wars cast turned out to be much more popular than organizers expected. I saw big lines at the autograph booths. Ashley Eckstein's lines turned out to be so long, they stuck her in the "tent" area where folks like Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels were signing. Everybody loves Ahsoka. And having met just about everyone on the show, save for the lady who voices Asajj Ventress, they're all supremely cool. What's there not to love about that?

Kudos to Bryan Young for his Why We Love The Prequels panel. It was interesting, substantive, and inspirational.

Mark Hamill's presence was greatly appreciated. It's kind of a shame that big marquee names like him are, as ladyaeryn put it, autograph machines because he clearly enjoyed speaking to us in the Chapin Theater. As I noted at Comic Con, this is a guy who really likes interacting with his fans and of most of the folks involved in the saga, he comes closest to understanding where we are coming from.

As for the unsung heroes of the con, I would have to say that Meaghan, Dave Filoni's assistant, deserves a raise. I saw her tailing after her boss everywhere he went, running along like an Energizer bunny. She was even conscripted to appear in one of Ashley Eckstein's fashion shows. What a trooper. Also, the orange-shirt volunteers and the blue-shirt crew did a fine job keeping things running smoothly. The actual convention center employees were generally not real knowledgable and while they were not douchebags like the staff in Indianapolis, they were at times obnoxious.

I will however be forever grateful that the convention organizers let us wait inside. The AC got to be freezing by midday (yay for bringing a sweater) but in the morning it was actually pleasantly cool. Much better than forcing us to wait in the hot sun and high humidity.

The R2 builders, the Belgian fans who built those impressive life-sized set pieces, and other talented fans also helped make the convention a success.

Here's what needs to be improved at future Celebrations:

1. Revise the stupid system for the art show and have enough cashiers on duty.

2. Official Pix needs to ensure there's a schedule available for everyone signing. "I dunno" or "whenever they get here" does not cut it, especially since I cannot get refunds on my tickets once I've purchased them. Fans have other things they want to do and other places they need to be. Show us some courtesy.

3. It seemed to me after a while there were lines for the sake of lines and doors closed for the sake of keeping them closed. Why force people to line up? Why not just open the doors at 10 and let people flood in like they do at Comic Con? It was stupid to keep only two sets of doors open at far ends of the exhibition hall and why was there only one way out of the Celebration Store, way off in the corner somewhere?

4. For God's sake, stop choosing the worst month of the year to have a convention in any given city. What's next, Wichita in April? Minneapolis in January? Las Vegas in July? How about Dallas in the springtime, so we can get pelted by softball-sized hail while waiting outside of the convention center?

5. In terms of guests, they're going to really need to step up their game. Now that Hamill finally appeared at a Celebration and Lucas made his second trip, it's going to be a lot harder to impress Celebration veterans from now on. People would fall all over themselves to see Ian McDiarmid or a legend like Christopher Lee (if he holds out another 2-3 years). A guy as busy as Samuel L. Jackson might be a pipe dream but not an unattainable one.

6. People who paid for the Jedi Master packages didn't feel like they got their money's worth. From what I've read, they had to contend with staff that didn't understand what their bennies were, their reserved seating wasn't necessarily in the best areas, the meet-and-greets didn't pan out the way it was advertised, and the lounge amenities were sparse. People who got the Jedi Knight packages seemed to be a little bit happier, but that's probably because their benefits weren't significantly different from the Jedi Masters and they paid a lot less money. Everyone said that the best benefit you got was, you guessed it, avoiding lines. However, it took a day or so for Official Pix to figure out that Masters and Knights got line-cutting rights as part of their package.

I don't know about you, but there were no benefits at all for Hyperspace members as advertised, save for the Main Event. I had no idea if I was ever in the Hyperspace line or not and supposedly there was a special lanyard, but I never saw it. Celebrations have consistently had problems with making good on promised benefits for anyone. Now that the club is shuttered, I guess they don't have to worry their little heads about planning anything the next time around.

7. The system for doling out exclusives needs to be improved. It doesn't bother me so much that Masters and Knights got first dibs because they paid for the privilege. It does bother me that exhibitors, crew, and volunteers took advantage of their jobs to snap up exclusives long before anyone else is allowed in the door, even before Masters or Knights. It's simply not fair. I was #112 to get that Her Universe necklace and it was purchased not even ten minutes after 10. Where did the prior 111 people come from? Frustrated collectors who wanted the Hallmark exclusive ornaments or Gentle Giant's figurines found themselves hosed. (Hallmark's lame excuse was it "underestimated demand." At a Star Wars don't say.)

8. Sucker punches like the Hayden jibe at Disney shouldn't happen. They need to respect all of the fans instead of polarizing them or pitting them against each other. Really, it's not that hard.

9. We need MORE substantive and thoughtful programming. The prequels and Clone Wars panels were a start. A panel on female SW fans similar to one at Comic Con would be a great idea. ([ profile] ladyaeryn wants to start encouraging Ashley Eckstein to push for it, heh heh.)

10. 2013 seems like a natural for the next Celebration since it's the 30th anniversary of ROTJ. Beyond that, they're going to have to get creative if there isn't a live action show or anything else big in the SW universe by 2013-2016.
lazypadawan: (Default)
So sayeth Steve Sansweet on his Facebook page.

This is the lowest attendance since Celebration II, which brought out 27,000 in 2002. (Both Celebration III and IV drew over 30,000 people, with the L.A. con bringing out the highest attendance thus far at 34,000.)

I had a gut feeling there weren't quite as many people as Celebration IV and it wasn't just the size of the convention center. Frankly, if it weren't for Clone Wars's current popularity, Mark Hamill's first time appearance, or George Lucas's appearance, it might have been 20,000 or less. 28,000 is pretty good when you consider the following:

1) The State of the Economy

Unemployment remains high and lots of people have cut back to make ends meet, which might have made a trip to Orlando out of reach. In fact, I talked to a number of attendees who have lost their jobs, had their pay cut, had their hours cut, etc. and could barely afford to go. Another person I spoke to wouldn't have been able to make it had her boyfriend not paid for the trip as a birthday present. As for trying to attract visitors who were already in town for the parks, it's expensive as it is just to visit Disney World, Universal, or Sea World without squeezing in extra days for a convention.

2) Timing

I'm sure there were fans who balked at going to hot, humid, tropical Orlando in August. Not only is it barely tolerable on a good day, who wants to invest all of that money for plane tickets, hotels, and convention tickets if there's a risk that a hurricane could blow through town? Thankfully, that didn't happen. But it could have.

But I'm sure that what was even more of a factor for fans was scheduling Celebration two and a half weeks after Comic Con, one week before Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, and three or four weeks before DragonCon. Comic Con was no big deal to me because I live here. What were you supposed to do if you'd already paid for your Comic Con tickets and made arrangements to come to San Diego and then this gets dumped on your schedule? I had a lot of leave time to use; not every working fan is that lucky.

Moreover, the media was much more focused on TESB's 30th last spring, which marked the film's actual anniversary. I'm sure it came out in August 1980 somewhere, just not in the U.S. of A.

Also, I think you need to bear in mind that Celebration III's attendance was bolstered by the release of the last SW film ever while I think Celebration IV's attendance was bolstered by the fact Los Angeles is a huge city that's part of a megapolis extending from L.A. to Tijuana. You'll easily find 34,000 people in Southern California who don't have to travel too far to attend a SW convention. Orlando's closest neighbors are small cities like Tampa-St. Petersburg and Jacksonville. Miami is a four hour drive away, though the flights are pretty short.

Should they then look for another large metropolitan area/megapolis to hold a future Celebration, i.e. Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Boston, back in L.A., or San Francisco? There might be cost-benefit balance that needs to be met. You might have had 6000 fewer attendees at this con, but it might have been a heck of a lot cheaper to hold the con in Orlando than in Los Angeles and the profit might be higher this time around.

There's more to say on this, which I'll get to in my next Celebration V post.

Update: Steve Sansweet later posted on Facebook:

For those of you questioning the attendance number at Celebration V, there are several things to remember. Lucasfilm and Reed are thrilled with the final total; I had been predicting a max of 25,000. We are still in the worst economic times since the Great Depression of the 1930s. We had less than 8 months to promote the show, and many European fans—who have to make August vacation plans a year in advance—could not change those plans. And we had 8,000 more attendees than the last event, Celebration Japan. The Orange County Convention Center was a perfect location: its layout, total cooperation from all the great people who work there, and because Orlando is the ideal family vacation spot.”
lazypadawan: (Default)
Sunday August 15

Having knocked the major stuff out of the way by now, Sunday was Pure Gravy Day. My plans consisted of finishing with the booths in the exhibit hall, deciding on last minute purchases, and taking pictures. Since I've seen Carrie Fisher twice already, I felt no need to see her planned chat session at 11.

We did our usual routine even though we went to bed pretty late. We got back to the hotel room from Disney on Saturday night and felt icky enough from the heat and humidity to take showers before beddybye. So after four or five hours of sleep, we were back up at 5:15 a.m. and went off to Denny's as per usual.

People must have slept in or were heading home already because we were the only people waiting for the bus and it was less than half-full once it showed up. At the convention center, we were very close to the front of the line. The coffee cart was back and eventually, Jay was back on his segue. It was a bittersweet day, as is per usual on the last day of any Celebration. Everyone knew It Was All Over, and unless you were planning an extended vacation after the con, it was like the Soul II Soul song, "Back to life, back to reality." Boo!

About an hour and a half before the opened doors, a convention volunteer went down the line announcing that Fisher's appearance had been cancelled because she needed to take an early flight out of town but they were going to try to see if she could at least sign autographs for a couple of hours. I have no idea if she did or not. But that created some murmurs in the line. I'll get to the whole rumor mill about Fisher's sudden cancellation and early departure in the separate, friends-locked Celebration Gossip Post.

Once we were in at 10, Debbie, Marie, and I went the rounds to the exclusives tables: Hallmark for pins, Cartamundi for the fourth and final exclusive card, etc.. Topps thankfully had plenty of Star Wars Galaxy 6 preview cards, three different kinds, available. At Celebration IV, you had to find the right employee and pester him for one. Dark Horse had posters, preview comics, and a Boba Fett/Jango Fett mask (picked up on Saturday). I managed to get a couple of the ROTS vintage style cardbacks from Hasbro, which I forgot was handing those things out. I got Commander Cody and Anakin. From there I foraged on my own through the various booths, on the hunt for obscure treasure. Some booths were already offering discounts, while others had already packed up! I recall overhearing from one dealer that it cost $5000 to set up a medium-sized booth. Wow! A few dealers had the Jaina Solo action figure but they were going for $20-25 apiece. Ridiculous. Never even saw the Jacen one.

I forgot to mention some purchases I'd made on Friday! I went by the Starbase Atlanta booth, which was at every con I ever attended on the East Coast when I lived there. I was amazed to see they had Celebration IV pins. Those were underordered and sold out very quickly, so I never got one. But here they were, three years later for 10 bucks. So I bought one. And I got a cute Padme patch. Not enough Padme stuff out there.

Okay, back to the program. I swung by the Intergalactic Trading Company's booth, where I picked up a small vintage TESB tin in excellent condition, a (deflated) beach ball from 2008 I'd never seen before, and, amazingly, John Alvin's poster commemorating the 10th anniversary of SW. I'd foolishly passed on it as a college student, then saw it go for over $100 in the 1990s. Now, here it was for only $25. Sold!

I also took some time to watch one session of the Jedi Training Academy show. This is the same show they have at both Disney parks, where two Jedi attempt to train a mess of unruly younglings pulled from the audience. Kids loved it! A swarm of them and their parents showed up as soon as it was time to start the first show of the morning. A young lady I'll call Goth Mom showed up with her two boys, both them dressed in cute homemade Potato Head costumes. The younger one was like 2-3 years old and he was the Artoo Potatoo while his older brother was Darth Tater. Both boys got picked for the show and at first, the little guy starting crying. But as soon as he got a lightsaber, the tears dried. As the kids went through the training routines, Goth Mom was standing near the stage capturing it all on her cell phone video camera, beaming with pride as though her kids were graduating summa cum laude from Harvard. Darth Vader and a pair of stormtroopers showed up to take on the youngling trainees. Yoda's voice, apparently on speakerphone from Dagobah where's hiding, gave a pep talk to the kids. They all fought Vader one by one as the Dark Lord issued threats and invitations to join the Dark Side. Vader was pwned by the pint-sized warriors, so he skulked away in humiliation. One of the grownup Jedi used a mind trick to get rid of the stormtroopers. Ha ha.

For lunch, I considered going to the Pointe, a shopping center/restaurant place just down the road from the convention center. On the bus it looked like a short walk but on foot, it was way too far. Especially in that awful heat. So I went back inside the convention center and went for a Cuban-style sandwich, otherwise known as a media noche. Basically, it's Cuban bread, thin slices of marinated pork, slices of ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles that is grilled like a panini until the cheese kinda melts. It's virtually impossible to find a 100% authentic one outside of Little Havana or any other Cuban neighborhood but these guys tried the best they could. They didn't have the Cuban bread and went with a baguette-type bread instead and the pork wasn't quiiiite as good, but I thought it was a pretty solid attempt. I saw the same place had a lot of other Cuban goodies like guava and cream cheese pastries. But the sandwich was plenty.

After lunch, I spent some time taking pictures, including of the Artoo-decorated cement posts outside the convention center and a completed Clone Wars chalk drawing in the exhibit hall. The chalk artist told someone that he couldn't draw in Savage Oppress--Darth Maul's brother--until he was revealed at the Clone Wars Season Three panel on Saturday. He had to wait for someone to call him and let him know when to start drawing.

I also went by Tom Hodges's booth, first to buy the trade paperback collection of the Clone Wars webcomic and then to get his freebie poster giveaway at three. While I was parked in line, I saw Nathan Hamill drop by the booth. There was a small flash mob that showed up to sing the Ewok song for an exclusive poster after Hodges put the word out on his Twitter account. (Debbie was a little miffed about that, since she doesn't have a smart phone or a Twitter account.) When I got to speak to Hodges, I said I really enjoyed the prequels panel and he said, "Thanks, we have to stick together!"

There was a fruitless search for those plastic pocket pages for widevision trading cards. Nobody had them, even though I found one guy selling the recent TESB 3D card set for $18. So now I have two widevision card sets and no pages for them. Sigh. Another guy was selling all kinds of sketch cards. I saw a beautiful one of Anakin handing Padmé his lightsaber, from that Clone Wars episode "Hostage Crisis." When I asked about it, I was told those were really expensive, like hundreds of dollars expensive because most of the cards were artists' proofs.

It was a lot cheaper to swing by Katie Cook's booth in the dreadful art show area. It had cleared out by now and you didn't have to pay the Acme guys for the $5 sketches, so I was game. Cook drew for me in about a minute a little sketch of Anakin and Padmé riding a shaak with the caption "Naboo Love" and a little heart floating above them.

I went by the DCSWCC where Debbie was working the booth. She asked me to swing by the Scion booth and get some of the CV posters they were giving away. Since there were three people at the table, I couldn't grab a big stack, just a little one. I brought them back to Debbie, who then asked if I could watch the booth at four if the club couldn't find anyone to take it over once her shift was over. I said, "Sure" and then went off to buy these bouncy egg thingies with Clone Wars art on them. They were on sale...six for $10. I have no idea where I'll put them or store them but that's usually the case with Star Wars collectors, no?

During the con, Debbie and Marie joked that since I live fairly close to the water I should buy a boat and use that to store my collectibles. Instead of Rancho Obi-Wan, I'll have the S.S. Skywalker or something.

I returned to the booth around 3:30 and Debbie told me they found someone to man the booth at 4, so I was off the hook. Which was a good thing, because at this point I was exhausted. I decided my Celebration was over and I took the bus back to the hotel. Since I was the first person back, I took advantage of the quiet to take an hour-long nap. Afterwards, I started packing.

When Debbie and Marie returned around five, they started packing and sorting through their things too. We took a break at six to head to the Olive Garden for dinner. (Whenever Marie or other friends would come to town to visit, Debbie and I would usually end up at the Olive Garden.) While we were waiting, I ran into a guy who recognized me from the Magic of Myth museum exhibit at the Smithsonian back in '97-'99. Amazing! We had a really chatty waiter and very er, relaxed service. I had cappellini pomodoro and minestrone soup along with a giant glass of iced tea. It was good, but I never realized how salty everything is! I must have gotten up three times that night for nocturnal potty breaks. For dessert, we split one of those small dessert shots of white chocolate strawberry cheesecake.

Back at the hotel, I finished packing as much as I could before conking out around 10.

Monday August 16

My flight was at 9 a.m. and Debbie and Marie were kind enough to drive me to the airport. Would it be an easy morning? No, of course not! We got up at the same time and once we were dressed, headed over to Denny's for my last trip there. Unfortunately, their morning cook and a couple of other people were late, so they were short-handed. Uh oh. Usually they were really fast but even though I only ordered an English muffin, Marie only ordered a bagel, Debbie got her usual, and the only extra thing we ordered was these "pancake pups" (sort of like doughnut holes), it took a while. I started looking at my watch nervously. I wanted to be at the airport at 7, or at least get on the road by 7, but it was 6:40 and our food hadn't been brought out yet. Debbie tried to reassure me that it'll be fine, most people have flown out already, etc. but she doesn't fly all of that often and I know there are many pitfalls that can make the difference between getting on a flight and missing it.

We were on our way shortly past 7 and unfortunately, Debbie couldn't find her glasses, so she had to wing it. She could see well enough to drive, though, which is good! We got to the airport without much traffic but we were in for a shocker when we saw that Terminal B was closed (I found out later it was because of a broken water main), and all of the traffic was being herded into Terminal A, where I had to catch my flight. Aaaagh! We crept and crawled through the traffic. Again, I looked at my watch nervously. Who knows how long it will take to check my suitcase and get my boarding passes, or to get through Thousands Standing Around's security checkpoint? We decided that I would get dropped off at the first curb, which so happened to be right next to Continental. Whew! I literally ran while pushing my suitcase and carryon.

Inside the terminal, there were only six people in line ahead of me, but the process was still too slow for my liking. Finally I was all checked in by ten 'til eight. I couldn't upgrade to first class because my flight out of Orlando was overbooked and the leg to San Diego was almost $200. No thanks.

Security was a cluster@$#%. Seriously. It was a big mob of people moving oh so slowly. They kept running out of those bins used to put bags and shoes through the x-ray machine and they wouldn't let anyone through until more were placed out. This had to have been managed by the same people who put on that art show at the convention. I stared at a clock on a money exchange booth nervously, since my watch was now inside my purse. Boarding was supposed to start at 8:15 and it was now just after 8.

I finally got through security with 5 minutes to spare before boarding. I sprinted down toward what was supposed to be my gate only to see I had to take a freakin' tram to get there! D'OH! The tram showed up about a minute later and I got to my gate right at 8:15.

But I then noticed the flight was delayed until 9:10 a.m.. There was a huge standby list and Continental, in its infinite wisdom, decided to change to a smaller 757 overnight, which is why the flight was overbooked. Official Pix must have been running things that day. To make matters worse, TSA decided to do random checks on carry-on bags right at the gate. Huh?

Fortunately they didn't have to boot anyone off involuntarily and despite the delays, I still had plenty of time in Houston. There I got a hamburger, a bottle of water, and a magazine to pass the time.

The flight to San Diego included the adventuresome bonus of dodging around desert thunderstorm clouds. Forgot it was "monsoon season" in the Southwest. I watched Dr. Phil, Pawn Stars, and American Pickers to pass the flight. But I made it to San Diego in one piece and got my suitcase. It was finally sunny and warm here. After I got home, I called Debbie and let her know I made it safely.

Believe it or not, my report isn't done! Stay tuned for the epilogue! And I still haven't loaded pictures...
lazypadawan: (Default)
Saturday August 14

There was no way no how we were going to bother with the vaunted "Main Event" with George Lucas and Jon Stewart. Debbie, Marie, and I have seen Lucas speak before, at an event at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium back in '97. We didn't have to camp out on the concrete all night. Besides that, none of us really liked Stewart either. I wasn't expecting any Earth-shattering news, with my prediction being that if anything was brought up, it would be the SW Blu-Rays. So, on Saturday morning we did our usual routine, said howdy to the staff at Denny's (they knew us by now), and got into line for the bus. We met a very animated, amicable fellow who was an airline pilot for U.S. Airways and he kept us entertained for the next few hours. He showed us pictures on his iPhone of different locales from the cockpit, usually shot during takeoff. He also mentioned that pilots frequently do "tour views" over places just for laughs and giggles, as long as it doesn't lose any time or fuel. He talked about one time when they pushed back from the gate, leaving behind Adam from "Mythbusters." The other staff from the show mentioned it to the pilots and since they were fellow geeks, they pulled up back at the gate to get him.

Anthony Daniels came by the Star Wars Fan Corral again and I saw him pose for a picture with a girl in a Snowbunny Padme costume, which I recognized as ladyaeryn. Lucky duck!

The plan for Saturday was to follow the airline pilot, Debbie, and Marie to the Hallmark booth, since Marie wanted to buy an ornament for someone who couldn’t attend the con and Debbie wanted the buttons they were giving away. They capped the line just as we got there, no thanks to exhibitors, VIPs, and volunteers who got in line before the rest of the great unwashed. But we learned a new expression that day…never leave the gate until the plane pushes back. Despite the line cap, they still had ornaments left so Marie was able to snag one. Debbie and I got buttons. Next we all headed to the Cartamundi booth. I hadn't known until now that they cut corners on a promotional card to give you a daily exclusive playing card featuring Ralph McQuarrie's artwork. I showed them my card and my four day pass, so they gave me three cards to make up for the days I missed. Nice!

From there we split up. I went over to the Official Pix section to see if Jaime King had started signing yet. She wasn't there; she like almost all of the VIPs were at the Main Event. But there was already a big line. This hawk-faced, unsmiling woman in a red shirt who worked for Official Pix walked over to the volunteer working the line and barked out a bunch of questions. She waved at the back of the line and said, "Who are these people?" Uh, we're paying customers waiting for an autograph?? She pointed at the guy in front of me and said, "Cap the line here." What about me? Especially since there was no one behind me? When Ilsa She Wolf Of Official Pix walked off the volunteer shrugged and told me I could stay. No one else could get in line until Ms. King showed up, and no one really knew when that would be. After a while we were told King wasn't going to start signing until 12:30. That was at least an hour and a half away. I didn't feel like hanging around, so I decided to come back around then.

I took advantage of the 6500 fewer people to look at the amazing R2 Builders' exhibit. It's certainly not a cheap hobby…every placard listed how much each R2 unit cost to build, and it's the price of a used car. Many of the builders are what one would expect: engineers, an auto body specialist, graphic artists, prop builders, Hollywood VFX artists, etc.. Then you also had a self-described scrapbooking mom and a 17-year-old girl. I couldn't build one of those things out of papier mache, much less craft one out of real metal, fiberglass, or wood. In addition, the room had all kinds of cool life-sized dioramas, even a snowtrooper with a gun that read "Free Rebel Photos. Smile And Wait For The Flash." R2 building has come a long way since it started as a somewhat obscure hobby about 10 years ago and I wouldn't be surprised if someone very soon figures out how to put an Apple G4 into one and have it do all of the cool stuff you see Artoo do in the movies.

From there I headed upstairs to check out the Ralph McQuarrie exhibit. Lots of very beautiful pieces were on display and I could actually get up right in front to look at them. It's too bad the frail McQuarrie couldn't make the convention but I wrote a few words for him in the exhibit's guest book, which is supposed to be given to McQuarrie after the show.

By this time it was getting to be close to the end of the Main Event and I had already noticed that a t.v. outside of the 501st's room was simulcasting it. The volume was really low, even as I was standing right under the t.v., but I could hear bits and pieces of what was being said. I showed up in time for Stewart to get his custom stormtrooper figure, a gift from Hasbro. Hey, I've been here 33 years and I haven't got boo from them. They also showed some clips from Clone Wars Season Three, including one where Lucas's character from ROTS gets into a crazy shootout. One thing I know from many years of seeing the Steve Jobs speech at any convention is that the good stuff gets saved for last. Sure enough, Lucas brought up the Blu-Rays. What did I tell ya? He didn't give a specific later noted that the Blu Rays were set for Fall 2011--but he did talk about new stuff and deleted scenes. Then they brought out Mark Hamill and rolled tape on the now-widely-viewed ROTJ cut footage. The crowd went nuts. The people around me went nuts. I have to say, it's a very cool scene and my first reaction was, "That has to go back in." Had I seen this footage in 1995, I would have thought it interesting but not essential to the film. Having seen it now, in light of Eps I-III, it's too awesome not to use! The scene really emphasizes that Luke could have gone either way in ROTJ, something that was never apparent until you saw the prequels and noticed that no Jedi save Anakin ever dressed the way Luke did or choked anyone. Dave Filoni raved about this scene later on during the Clone Wars Season Three panel, saying it reminded him of Darth Sidious. Yes, Sidious or ROTS Darth Vader.

Once that was over, I headed over to a Nathan's booth for a hot dog, which I ate with a banana. Then it was back to Official Pix Land for more pain and misery.

By now, King was at the table and signing but the line was, yes, long. Official Pix decided to retroactively apply its numbered wristband system. I was fine with letting people with smaller numbers ahead of me, but once again, they tried to make everyone with a larger number go away and come back whenever. When these people can't even tell you when somebody's signing and they don't know how long that person is signing, forget that! I stood my ground. King was only signing that day and if I leave, by the time the Clone Wars panel was finished, she might be gone and I'd have a $20 ticket that I can't use and can't return for a refund.

An aside about OP. I don't know if the organization is getting too big or if the folks running it now are new, but it just isn't as efficient as it used to be. I experienced this at Comic Con, when they were haphazardly announcing when people were coming to sign and they couldn't tell you someone's hours or how much the autograph was going to cost. I have been to many conventions since the early 1990s and have gotten into many lines for autographs. At virtually every one of them, a personality has a set day and time to appear. I know these folks are human too and need potty breaks, smoke breaks, or lunch breaks. I know many of them are working actors and have professional obligations that might prevent them from attending or cut an appearance short. There are traffic jams and cancelled/delayed flights. They could have personal emergencies or get sick. I get all of that. But while OP probably needs its stars more than the stars need them, at the same time, they're taking OUR money and they need to respect the fans. Everyone should have a set schedule with a cost in advance and Official Pix ought to have that information available to people. Let me tell ya, I was plenty steamed. This is so it for Official Pix as far as I'm concerned.

So I bided my time in line but I grew worried that things were cutting too close for the Clone Wars panel. Sure, if worst came to worst, I could have seen it on Sunday but goshdurnit, I wanted to see all of the Season Three stuff FIRST.

Anyway, I finally got to the front and Jaime King couldn't be nicer, though it sounded like she had a little bit of a cold. She's very pretty too. I was wearing my sparkly Her Universe hat and she said, "I love your hat! It's awesome!" I told her she needed to get Ashley Eckstein to make her one.

From there I dashed up to the fourth floor to line up outside of the Digital Theater, praying it wouldn't be too late. I saw ladyaeryn and sreya in line but I was good and got into line without cutting. I met up with them once I got inside and sat with them. Prior to the panel, they were showing shots from the mega expensive, 1500 lb. Star Wars Frames. When they showed the frame from TPM with Darth Maul falling in half, people cheered. Heh heh. They had a great Anakin/Padme shot from ROTS too.

Finally, the panel got rolling with Joel Aron and Dave Filoni. We saw many new sequences from Clone Wars with Asajj Ventress, who was sadly missing from Season Two. Dooku fights some invisible ninjas, and we meet the Nightsisters of Dathomir and Darth Maul's brother Bradley. But he prefers to go by his screen name "Savage Oppress." (Okay, I made up that part about Bradley.) Filoni, a Pittsburgh native, noted Savage had Steeler colors though that wasn't intentional. Right. In any case, Darth Maul having an evil brother kicking around might sound rather fan fic-ish but hey, if they made Anakin having a padawan work, I don't see why not. A longer trailer was shown at the end with a brief glimpse of Republic Commandos, which made the crowd go nuts. We can expect to see more of Satine, too. How about a catfight with Asajj over Obi-Wan? Now that would be hilarious.

There was some discussion about continuity, the expanded universe, and the show, which was rather interesting. Personally, I'm okay with leaving Aurra Sing as a kick-butt bounty hunter instead of a crazy Jedi washout with a bad childhood (Filoni noted that Asajj already fills that role). As far as I’m concerned, CW only needs to not contradict the films. The other stuff is apocrypha and being too slavish to the EU ends up being creatively stifling. How many of the eight year olds watching the show have read or played everything produced since the 1990s anyway?

Speaking of kids, I was there when the kid asked Filoni about any OT characters showing up in Season Three and when Filoni hedged, he uttered the catchphrase of the year, "Don't hide what's inside." Too funny!

After the panel, I wandered around in confusion, looking for where the fashion show thing was supposed to be held. I bumped into a collector I knew from Northern VA, chatted a little, and realized I had the wrong location. It was out in the exhibit hall, DUH! So after walking about half a mile, I was at the stage that was the very same one used at Comic Con. The fashion show was short, about 15 minutes long, and no big shakes. If you didn't catch it, you didn't miss anything terribly exciting. The only new stuff were some tees from Bloomingdales that will be out this fall (all OT only of course…pffft) and some new stuff from Adidas (dittos…pfffft).

Afterwards, I went over to Tattoo-land. I'd been by there on Thursday and I really admired the artwork done on some skateboards on display. Another tattoo booth had a banner with Yoda tattooing Vader and there are a long list of names below "Mom" that had been crossed out, heh heh. Another booth had a funny banner of several SW characters tattooing a Slave Leia. Now, I am not a tattoo person. I hate needles, I hate pain, and I don’t want my body marked up with stuff that's stuck there forever. Even if I was into tattoos, I wouldn't get one in a convention center. Now before someone complains that this is done all of the time at tattoo shows, I wouldn't get a root canal or a boob lift at a convention center either and they are all forms of surgery. Besides, what a hassle it must be to keep it all slathered with cream and making sure it doesn't get infected while at a con in a disgustingly hot and humid location. All of that said, I do like some of the artwork they come up with for these things. There were some flash sets for sale with some cool artwork, so I bought that, and I got "The Force In The Flesh," a show special at $40.

Tired for the day, I headed back for the Econo Lodge to get ready for Last Tour To Endor. We decided to drive there instead of taking the buses, since the convention center shuttles stopped running at 9 p.m.. Using Debbie's evil GPS navigator, we miraculously managed to find the park. Fortunately they waived the $14 parking fee. $14??? Sheesh. Anyway, we rode the tram to the park entrance and got our wristbands. Yet another one! It was hotter than ace at the park and very muggy, even with the sun going down. We found a place to eat, then we headed over to Star Tours. Debbie had never been at this Star Tours before, so she took a lot of pictures before going on the ride. Somehow, we totally missed the "trailer" for the new Star Tours that apparently played on the monitors. Oh well.

Let me tell ya, I've been on Star Tours at both Disney World and Disneyland many times but it was a blast to go on the ride with nothing but hardcore Star Wars fans. While I'll miss this version, I look forward to Star Tours 2.0 next year.

After the ride, we walked into pandemonium at Tatooine Traders. It. Was. MOBBED. But did that stop us from attempting to buy anything? Of course not! I grabbed a few pins and got into line with Marie outside. Debbie eventually joined us. Yes, the line stretched outside and down the side. We waited over an hour to get to the cash registers and in the meantime, we just missed George Lucas. Figures. As we got close to the front, a guy who only wanted to buy a single pin for his son asked me if I would take some cash and purchase it for him. Hey, it was the kid's birthday and everything. I didn't think it was fair to have to stand in that godawful line for a single pin, so I said, "Sure." I bought the pin and refused to keep any of the change. I was just helping out a fellow fan.

Unfortunately, we got out of the store too late to catch the first Indiana Jones show, so we walked over to the Great Movie Ride and went on that because it was air conditioned. Everybody cheered when ANH came up on the big screen at the end. We went by the main stage where they were doing trivia questions. I thought the guy was asking, "What political party did Leia belong to?" Strange, since that was never addressed, but being me, I shouted out, "The Libertarian Party!" Everyone around me laughed. Then I realized he meant, political body. Don't blame me, I'm over 40. Anyway, we went from there to the Death Star Disco where we watched Darth Goofy and Stormtrooper Donald dance with fans. The DJ wore an Imperial uniform and the mirrored ball was made up to look like a Death Star. It was also air conditioned, which was nice.

We decided to head back over to see the Indiana Jones thing at 9:50, where I saw the ubiquitous Dave Filoni standing outside of the attraction without his hat. The theater was completely packed to the rafters and even standing room was two or three people deep. I'm a bit claustrophobic and at 5'4", there wasn't much I was going to see anyway. We gave up on the Indy show and walked toward the Tower of Terror, stopping off for a strawberry-flavored slushie. I needed it. The sultry air just hung there oppressively. There was hardly a breeze. If it was this bad for me, it was a nightmare for Debbie and Marie, neither of which have never done time in the tropics like I have. They went on the Tower of Terror, while I waited. I hate rides with freefall drops. Once they were done with the ride, we decided to go. They just couldn't take the heat and humidity anymore.

It would have been nice to hang around to see the fireworks show but I had a good time nonetheless. Nice job, Disney...just keep more registers open the next time.
lazypadawan: (Default)
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 [ profile] ladyaeryn, [ profile] sreya, and [ profile] 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 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 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 [ profile] 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.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Wednesday August 11

I was up at 4 a.m. to make a 6:45 a.m. flight. The problem with the West Coast is that most of the flights heading east are really early and you end up getting there late in the day. Having lived in Florida and having traveled to the tropics many times in life, you always want to fly in and out as early as possible to avoid bad weather. The earliest I could get in was 4:55 p.m., which is right in that window of when summertime cloudbursts and thunderstorms happen. Yay.

Flight #1 to Houston was pretty uneventful, which is the way I like my flights. The cool thing is when I checked in online 24 hours beforehand, I was offered the option to upgrade to first class on either leg, or both. The leg to Houston was expensive but the upgrade for Houston to Orlando was a mere $79. I've flown first class three times before and if you can swing it, it's worth every penny. You get more (and better) food, nice big seats, and your suitcase is the first one off the plane. It's especially worth it on long flights. Anyway, I got a sandwich at the Houston airport and hopped on the 757 to Orlando. As I somewhat expected but much to my chagrin, it was a bumpity-dumpity flight almost the whole way. It wasn't the scary kind of turbulence, just constant annoying movement. I did however get a good-sized bowl of fruit, a mini brownie, crackers, and a cheese and summer sausage plate as a "snack." As the plane landed in Orlando, we mananged to touch down just as blowing rain dumped on the airport. As I was waiting to get off the plane, I noticed a guy two rows behind me who looked like Daniel Logan who was accompanied by some big guy who wore sunglasses, a cap, and a towel around his neck. "Hmm, he kinda looks like Daniel Logan," I thought. Then I noticed he was wearing an Air New Zealand t-shirt and when he spoke, I knew it was him. I didn't want to bug him or anything. I wasn't wearing my "colors" and I figured he was going to have a whole four days' worth of fan gushing. I made my way on the tram from the gates to baggage claim only to find out baggage delivery was going to be delayed because of the weather. Since you know, it never rains in Orlando or anything. I figured it had to be some kind of union rule. So I'm forced to call my friend Debbie, who drove down with mutual friend Marie from Maryland, and told her to wait in the satellite lot until I got my bag. I passed the time complaining about the delay on Facebook and chatting with other fans waiting for their luggage. Finally, the bags got delivered and mine was the first one down the chute. It's a Celebration miracle!

Debbie and Marie picked me up and off we went to the luxurious Econo Lodge Inn and Suites. Well, not quite luxurious but it was cheap and close to the convention center. It even had a stop on the shuttle bus route. The sign flashed "WELCOME STAR WARS FANS! ROOMS AVAILABLE!" After dumping off my suitcase and carry on, I distributed freebies picked up at Comic Con (what few I got anyway) and Debbie and Marie showed me all of the cool stuff they bought on the road and at Downtown Disney. We then headed for a Friendly's next door for dinner, came back to the room, and vegged in the high powered AC until going to bed around 10 p.m. (well, I unpacked). I'd forgotten that Florida motel rooms are often colder than an igloo and I sat shivering in my bed. Good thing I brought my extra blankie for the trip but my feet were still cold.

Thursday, August 12

We were up at 5 and by the time we all showered and dressed, it was around 6 a.m.. Debbie was shocked that it was still pitch black at that time. Florida's further down and sunrise happens later than in the Northeast. So off we went in the dark to the only place nearby open at that unholy hour, Denny's. Denny's was all decorated with Star Wars stuff. Somebody must have told them about our little convention. Fortunately, we were not the only loons up at that time though it wasn't real busy. Our friendly trainee waitress tried to get our orders all right, even going the extra mile for crispy bacon. I was pleasantly surprised that not everything on the menu was 12,000 calorie extravaganzas with piles of bacon, sausage, pancakes with stuff slopped all over them, fried potatoes, and a henhouse's worth of eggs. How about that? After going back to the room to brush our teeth and pick up our con bags, we waited with a small group of other fans for the bus.

I put on sunblock and everything, expecting to have to wait hours outside in the hot sun and enduring the unforgivingly high humidity. The bus pulled up, we got on, and a very short ride later, we were let off at the massive (and I mean massive) convention center. We were guided inside the air conditioned convention center and led to a large hall to wait it out another two hours. Thanks, guys! That was the first thing the con organizers did right.

People were really excited and the buzz grew as the 10 o'clock hour drew near. We talked to a young couple behind us from Portland, OR about past Celebrations and costumes. They were both dressed as Imperial officers. The young woman said she made a Victorian-style outfit with vintage SW sheets and was planning to wear it the next day. Anthony Daniels made a brief visit to the lines, shaking hands with fans, and taking pictures, but I was on the other side of the barrier.

At 10, we all streamed into the convention hall, herded by staff into the main exhibition hall. My objectives were to 1) visit the Her Universe booth first to get a crack at the exclusive necklace, limited to 150 then 2) visit the art show to buy prints then 3) visit the Celebration Store. I memorized where the HU booth was located (#1111!), so I looked up at the banners to find row 1100. I dashed over there and quickly found the booth. There were maybe five people ahead of me, so I figured I had a good chance to get the necklace. Sure enough, I managed to snag one a few minutes later. I didn't look until later to see that I got #112…crew, volunteers, and exhibitors got first crack at every exclusive which IMO sucks, especially with so many of these limited to very small numbers.

With that success behind me, I hustled over to the art show and saw that it was already a freakin' mess. People were in a long line to pay, weaving through the booths in a way that made it hard to get around. Still, I wanted my prints. Acme had the same system it used at Celebration IV: you get a receipt from the artist, you pay for the print, then you pick it up from the artist. I didn't like the system then and I liked it a lot less now. So I got receipts from Jerry Vanderstelt and one from another guy whose print was only 16 bucks. I went to get a receipt from Erik Maell but he told me that the prints he had were damaged and he had to get them re-done and they should be available on Friday. Grrr. So I got into the pay line and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. I saw that the problem was there was only one guy to check out all of these people and it wasn't as simple as handing him your cash or plastic (boo for that extra 4% fee for using a credit card). He and his assistant had to scan the work you were buying, print up a second receipt, etc. on top of the payment transaction. And some customers had *several* receipts. I wondered why they simply couldn't let you pay the artist and you walk off with the art, as it works at every other convention in the world. I was told that Acme wanted to make sure the artists weren't skimming more than their cut, so they come up with this stupid system.

Two and a half agonizing hours later, I paid for my artwork and picked up my prints. And I had to come back the next freakin' day. The only reason why I stuck it out was because I knew that it would only get worse and by then, the line stretched off into eternity. All I wanted out of life by the time I got out of there was to go to the bathroom and eat lunch.

Once those tasks were accomplished, I went to the Celebration Store. Thankfully, it was as accessible as the store at Celebration IV. The aurebesh dog tags were already sold out and I decided to pass on the beach blanket. I bought the Slave Leia perfume, the postcard set, the commemorative guide, a kids' Clone Wars tee designed by Katie Cook, the I Am Not A Committee t-shirt, some bumper stickers, and a CV pin. I think that's all I bought, heh heh. From there I decided to head over to Official Pix to buy autograph tickets. I decided to buy 5 $20 tickets...I already have the big draws' autographs save for Anthony Daniels. On the way out of the line, they slapped me with the first of several arm bands I'd have to use over the course of the con.

The first autograph I got was Daniel Logan's. Logan was practically bouncing off the walls. He had a lot more energy than I did, that's for sure. When I got there, he was taking his time chatting with and taking pictures with a small group of attractive teenage girls. He had to go for a bathroom break and when he got up, he said, "I promise to wash my hands!" Heh heh, what a trip.

From there I went to Nick Gillard, the stunt coordinator for the prequels. I'm all about the behind-the-scenes people who made their own contributions to the awesomeness of the saga. That's why I went to the line for Ben Burtt next. The Official Pix volunteer tried to chase me away because my wristband number wasn't high enough but there were only a few people ahead of me and no one waiting behind me. I stood my ground though and I got to stay in the line. What was really funny was some redneck guy walking up to a volunteer near Ben Burtt's booth, pointing at Burtt, and asking, "What character is he?" Here you are at a Star Wars convention and you have no idea who Ben Burtt is? Security! Escort this guy out! Sheesh. Burtt couldn't have been nicer. I asked him if he was still at Pixar and he said no, he was working independently now and was working on a new animation project. Cool. Next I got Matthew Wood's autograph. He smiled when he saw that I had Burtt's autograph in hand and said, "That's my mentor."

The only other person I wanted to get was Jaime King, but she wasn't signing that day. I tried to find out from Official Pix's people if there was a schedule for when people were supposed to sign but there wasn't one and nobody seemed to have any idea about anything. It was frustrating.

From there, I wandered around a bit. I picked up my party wristband and raffle ticket from the 501st's booth. I went and checked out the Hoth Ice Bar. It was a room with low lighting, white carpeting, dry ice, and ice sculptures of a wampa and a tauntaun. A t.v. playing G4, which sponsored the Ice Bar, was off on one side of the room and the sound system pumped out "Cocktails In the Cantina," an album full of old-style lounge-y Star Wars covers that came out in 1997. I took a look at the menu and along with snacks like The Nachosen One, you can get cocktails with names like Death Stick or Tatooine Sunburn that had real live alcohol in it. That's right...Celebration V is the world's first convention where fans can slam down hard liquor in the middle of the day. Star Wars pioneers yet another innovation.

After wandering around a bit more, it was suddenly 5 p.m. and I was ready to head back to the hotel. In the gift shop I picked up a pair of socks and my room key then got demagnetized, which meant I had to walk all of the way back to the lobby for a new one. Shortly after I got my new key, Debbie and Marie returned from a long busy day of running to buy exclusives and attending collectors' panels. Debbie was on a mission to get all of those cereal boxes.

From there we tried to walk to Pizzeria Uno, which seemed so close on the bus, but turned out to be a longer hike than we thought. We gave up and just went to Ponderosa. The grilled shrimp wasn't too got a lot of shrimp but everything was a tad bit saltier than I would have liked. We went back to the room, did show and tell with our collectible takes, and collapsed into our beds by 10 p.m..
lazypadawan: (passion of lovers)
Boy was it a zoo getting out of Orlando, but here I am! I got in around 2 p.m. local time and I'm trying to stay up until at least 10:30 to start getting acclimated to PST. I've already unpacked my suitcase but haven't yet reorganized everything or put them away.

I had a great time at Celebration. You'll get the full blow-by-blow over the coming days...even if you've read my Facebook bursts you still didn't get The Whole Story! There's always something that turns out to be not all that or was a disaster (*cough*art show*cough*Official Pix*) but after dreading a convention full of really stupid programming and really awful people, Celebration V had something IV didn't...inspiration. It didn't come from the dopey stuff like the super lame "Commitment Chapel" that turned out to be a cheesy gazebo. There were surprisingly fantastic panels, George Lucas proved you could still get people excited about something new in the saga (that amazing cut scene from ROTJ), Mark Hamill's first U.S. Celebration turned out to be one of the con's highlights, and Clone Wars really gave the con a good shot in the arm in a number of ways.

I've heard more about Carrie Fisher's early departure and the (possible) reasons for it. I'll post about it separately with a friends-lock because it can be a little upsetting and I can't verify for sure it's all true but it does make sense based on bits and pieces I'd heard separately from different people at different times. But while I'm sure it was disappointing for people who wanted to see her on Sunday or still hoped to get an autograph, it didn't affect my experience at the con at all.

Okay, I've got lots to do before bedtime. Stay tuned for con reports all this week!
lazypadawan: (LJvacation)
Well, sort of. If you're on Facebook, look up Lazy Padawan and you can keep up with my misadventures at the con.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Actually, two more things for you Celebrationers....

1. Use cash for things like tips, cab fare, bus fare, and small incidentals. Put the bulk of your purchases (anything over say, $20), your hotel room, car rental, airline bag fees, etc. on your credit card or debit card. Finding an ATM might not be easy and the ones inside the convention center might run out of cash quickly. It's always better to have plenty of cash on you just in case you need it.

2. I hate to say it, but not even a Star Wars convention is safe from crime. A friend had her purse, along with her wallet and passport, stolen at Celebration IV. Another guy related a tale about a poster he had several of the celebrity guests sign. He was carrying it around in a poster tube. When he saw a friend of his, he set it down a second to shake his buddy's hand. When he turned to pick it back up, it was gone. There are less-than-honorable fans among us. There will be people at the con whose only purpose in attending is to buy exclusives and re-sell them on eBay and other outlets...if that guy couldn't get a whatever-it-is and you managed to snag one, and you turn your back on it for a second, it'll be tempting for someone to snatch it away. And there will be people who will attend the convention knowing there are thousands of fans carrying cash, credit cards, iPhones and other smart phones, Blackberrys, iPods, laptops, digital cameras, etc. with them. It's easy to get distracted at Celebration and crooks will take advantage of that. My advice is to never let anything valuable out of your sight, ever. Don't set your purse beneath a chair and keep it closed at all times. Don't flash money around. Dudes, don't let your wallet dangle out your back pocket. If you are waiting in a line alone and have to use the potty, most fans are kind enough to hold your place but don't leave anything valuable alone with a stranger. You don't know if that person will help himself to some 20s or your credit card number. Even if your line mates are honest, they may not watch your stuff all that carefully. If you have leave a place holder in a line, leave something like a goodie bag with flyers.

Lock up any valuables you aren't bringing to the convention center in your hotel room safe. If your room doesn't have a safe, lock valuables inside your suitcase. Lock your room with the deadbolt at night and if you're not expecting someone, don't let him into your room. Never invite somebody you've just met into your hotel room. Be equally cautious about going to the room of someone you don't know.

While out on the town, please, please, please don't wander the streets alone at 1 a.m. drunk out of your gourd. Go out with friends and stay together. Leave no one behind on his or her own. If you need to leave alone early, take a cab straight back to your hotel. Keep an eye on your surroundings. Be aware if someone is following you. If you're getting freaky vibes from someone, get away from him as soon as possible and get your cell phone ready to call 911 if necessary.

Finally, people tend to be rather genial and courteous at Celebration. SW fans are good at policing themselves. But everybody's anxious to do, see, and buy what they want and the problem with these kinds of conventions is that most of the attendees are going to be interested in the same thing. It's going to be hot and tempers can flare. If somebody can get stabbed at Comic Con, it can happen at any convention. Beware of situations escalating out of control. Try not to break up fights yourself; call security or a cop. If someone is being especially bellicose, get away from that person, even if you have to change seats or leave the line. It's much easier to live with disappointment than it is to live with a pen in the eye.

Good luck!
lazypadawan: (Default)
If you're going to Celebration, you're probably tossing stuff into your suitcase as you prepare for your sojourn to O-town. You definitely need the following:


Don't forget your four day pass and any party tickets, including the small credit card-sized ticket for "Last Trip To Endor." Epic fail if you make it aaaaaallll of the way there and you realize you left everything back in Piscataway or Seattle or whatever. You can forget pajamas. You can forget your toothbrush. You can even forget your underwear. But DON'T forget those tickets. Pack them right now! (Note: If you're flying, take them in your purse or in your carry on bag. Do NOT pack them in your suitcase...if it gets lost, you'll be just as hosed if you'd left the tix at home.)

2. Comfy shoes

This is no time for stilettos or tight shoes. If you're costuming, make sure your costume shoes/boots can go the distance.

3. Poster tube

Get the cardboard kind you use to mail posters at Staples or Office Depot. Bring some rubber bands too.

4. Big reusable bag

These are invaluable for lugging around your loot. The sturdier the better. I'm using one I got for free at Comic Con (not the crappy one whose shoulder strap broke).

5. An umbrella and/or rain poncho

All day washouts are rare, but afternoon or evening showers/thunderstorms are common this time of year in Florida.

6. Techie accessories

Be sure to bring stuff to charge your cell phones, laptops, etc..

7. Sunblock and/or a hat

When the sun is out, it's out. Remember, you're closer to the equator and the sun is a lot stronger than it is up north or the Midwest.

8. Bug spray

The area near the convention center and the parks probably has been sprayed galore but as a native Floridian, I can tell you mosquitoes can get you even in the middle of town. I was an all-you-can-eat feast for scores of mosquitoes in New Orleans' Garden District.

9. Plastic file folders

These are great for holding small items and flyers and preventing them from getting bent. If you're getting autographs, bring some clear photo sleeves to protect your pictures.

10. Your survival kit: mints, gum, snacks, hand sanitizer, vitamins, bottled water

About Florida...

There's no way around it. August in Central Florida is like being stuck in Satan's armpit while he's sitting in Hell's sauna. Temperatures are generally in the 90s and humidity is very high. It's a tad more tolerable at night. Rain cools it off a little for the duration of the rain. Prepare to feel like a wilting flower so long as you're outside.

Inside is a different story. Every building's nuclear-powered AC is set all of the way up. My advice is to bring a jacket to wear in the convention hall in case it's too chilly.

Orlando has every chain restaurant known to humanity except for In-N-Out (sorry, California peeps). International Drive is chockful of places to eat for budget, as is Universal's CityWalk, which is nearish the convention center. If you're willing to venture out that way, Downtown Disney has a ton of restaurants, bars, and shops. Orlando has its own Medieval Times in case you're in the mood for jousting and mediocre grub at high prices ;).

But if you want something with a little bit more local flavor, here's my advice. Check Yelp Orlando for places the locals like best. For years, I loved going to Sonny's for its good old-fashioned politically incorrect Southern BBQ. As far as I know, it's still around but I can't speak now for its overall quality. My favorite fast food chain in Florida is the awesome Pollo Tropical. Every time I go back to the F-state, I make it a point to go to a Pollo Tropical location at least once. It's mainly Latin-style rotisserie chicken with Latin/Caribbean staples like black beans and rice, sweet plantains, and fried yucca ("yuca") but you can also find Cuban-style roast pork, ropa vieja (shredded beef), ribs, grilled shrimp, and grilled steak. The smoothies are permanently off my list, but I can tell you they are really good. Even the tres leches dessert is decent for a fast food joint. Oh, and you cannot come to Florida without having key lime pie. Well, I probably won't be having it but for the rest of you, it's worth a yummy try.

If you're flying in, check to see if your hotel runs a shuttle service (Disney's hotels have buses to pick up guests). If you have to take a cab, figure it's about $45-$50 in fare.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Since I just ended one vacation, I'm already half-packed for another, heh heh. Since I'm going to a convention, I don't have to worry about packing different shoes or bags or lots of extra accessories. This will leave room for goodies!

I looked over all of the stuff that's being offered in the Celebration store and all of the exclusives. Even with my "eh" attitude toward a lot of the merch this time around, it looks like I'll be blowing around $200 in the Celebration store alone :/. How could I say no to the beach towel? Or the Slave Leia perfume? (Unless it smells awful.)

My game plan for Thursday is 1) get to the Her Universe booth to check out the exclusive necklace for Celebration V...only 150 are going to be available 2) the art show to buy that print I posted a couple of weeks ago along with a few others (at least another $150-200 there 3) the Ralph McQuarrie booth for autographs and prints 4) the Celebration Store and 5) buying autographs. I need to figure out which ones I want; I think Ben Burtt, Daniel Logan, and Jaime King are definitely on my list. Too bad Temuera Morrison couldn't go.

Tomorrow: What you really need to pack and other things you should know about Florida if you've never been there before.
lazypadawan: (don't panic)
The good news: Tropical Storm Colin has been downgraded to "a meaningless blob" near Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The bad news: There's a chance it could make a comeback over the next five days.

Given where the blob o' clouds that was Colin seems to be heading, it doesn't look like it will hit Central Florida even if it were to strengthen. Keep your fingers crossed!
lazypadawan: (omg)
Uh oh! Here comes Tropical Storm Colin, which is expected to develop into a hurricane:

Most computer models show it staying well to the east of Florida but one possible path shows it heading right for the F-state.

If that's not enough, dengue fever has hit Key West. Now, Key West is pretty far from Orlando but for a blood-thirsty 'skitter with wings, it's not far enough:
lazypadawan: (seven nation army)
I picked up my pass after work today since they decided for the first time to distribute passes at a location where there are a lot of hotels, away from downtown. It's on the way home for me so it was quite convenient. Despite the seemingly long line, I was all set in an hour and waited another 20 minutes or so to get out of the busy parking lot.

First up will be a visit to the Her Universe booth to pick up one of these:

Naturally, I posted on the Her Universe FB they need to make an Anakin/Padmé one ;). They're also selling SW baseball caps with glittery rhinestones on them but I'll have to see them in person and check out the price before deciding whether or not to buy one.

I'm so over con exclusives. I'm not planning on picking up anything other than freebies unless there's plenty of an exclusive to be had and it's no trouble to buy one. I'll be on the search for widevision trading card sleeves, a complete set of the TESB 30th anniversary trading card set, and some photo sleeves that I'll use at Celebration.

Speaking of Celebration, I've looked though all of the exclusive art available and I think we have a winner:

lazypadawan: (kissintwins)
So, while I was only sporadically online over the past couple of days I saw that they finally gave a date and time for "The Daily Show Live," er, George Lucas's appearance at Celebration V (Saturday the 14th, 11 a.m.). I knew it was going to be tricky getting into this thing, but this is ridiculous.

Let's just really low-ball potential attendance at Celebration V with 25,000 people, about two thousand less than Celebration II. Even with "only" 25 grand souls, about 6500 people will be able to see this presentation at all. That includes the main stage where the live interview will take place and all of the other stages being used for overflow. That means AT LEAST 3/4 of attendees will be SOL. If attendance is the same as or higher than Celebration IV, i.e. 34,000+, that makes it even less likely you'll see Papa George in person. Making matters worse is that Lucas is appearing one time only, whereas at Celebration III, he did like two or three appearances.

Here's where it really gets to suck-land. You have to have a bracelet to get into the presentation or the overflow rooms and since 1) they start handing them out at 6 a.m. on Saturday and 2) the official Celebration site's FAQ practically encourages you to camp out overnight, it is obvious that you have start lining up on Friday and stay in line overnight or you will have no prayer at all of getting in on Saturday. Because if you don't, there are 15,000 other a-holes who will. And even if you are fine with pooping in your pants and not showering and risking getting hit by lightning, there's still no guarantee you'll get in. The only people who don't have to wait are those who paid the extra bucks for the VIP packages, which is only fair if you paid that kind of money to go. You know how unenthused I was before about Jon Stewart's presence, but this pretty much sews it up for me. Unless Lucas is handing out bags of money, I'm not going to those lengths for anyone. Eff that noise, as we Gen-Xers used to say.

Here's an idea, Reed Entertainment. Why not let people PREORDER their bracelets??? First come, first serve to the first 6500 people who can hit the click button. Give first priority to Hyperspace members; after all we paid that $15 per annum for no good reason anyway. Set it for 6 p.m. PST so everybody's home from work or school. That way nobody has to camp out overnight or forego other events to get into a line.

But I guess making things easy doesn't make for good press, does it? And I'm afraid that's what they want...a line full of crazy, wet, smelly fans they can show on t.v..

Ah well, who wants to sit in a room full of people who haven't bathed on a hot humid August day anyway?

In other Celebration catastrophes, I hear that the company the con used to set up "official" hotel reservations went belly up. Oops. I'm booked through, whew!
lazypadawan: (Default)
It's going to be crazy town around the lp lair as I'm on and offline the next few weeks.

Comic Con is going to have an abbrievated Star Wars presence this year. No Star Wars Spectacular in Hall H, no Official Pix bringing stars to autograph stuff, and no annual fan club breakfast. I assume it's due to Celebration V being right around the corner. However, Gentle Giant is bringing Billy Dee Williams to sign autographs and a few other booths might bring in guys as well. Drew Struzan is going to be there to promote a new documentary about his life and artwork and Mark Hamill is going to appear to promote a new Batman MMO. I guess he's playing the Joker again! Ashley Eckstein is going to be at the Her Universe booth and will host a panel on Saturday. I probably won't go because it's late, like at 6:30 p.m. and I'm jumping town early-ish the next day.

It kind of sucks I'll be 35,000 feet over the Pacific on Sunday because that's when the cast of "Merlin" is appearing :/. So much for my big chance to meet the hot guy who plays Arthur. However, the guys from Ghost Adventures will be signing autographs, so I'm definitely going to meet Zak and company. I'm also psyched to see there's a panel on techie crime solving with both Pauly Perrette from "NCIS" and Kirsten Vangness from "Criminal Minds." Abby Scuito and Penelope Garcia in the same's like crossover fic come true!

I'm very "meh" on the whole exclusives thing. I so no longer care. I'm not killing myself to get the exclusive Hallmark ornaments or the Hasbro action figure or whatever. Blah. I'll probably spend a bundle at Her Universe if they have new stuff out and pick up any books available.

Celebration's official website has a skeletal schedule up full of TBAs. So far, I want to see the fashion shows and maybe check out the make-your-own frame thing. There's supposed to be a prequel appreciation panel on Friday, but the location hasn't been announced yet. I definitely want to see Mark Hamill. Still undecided if I want to sit through "The Daily Show Live" and risk blowing a gasket. I hope the Celebration Store is run as well as it was run at Celebration IV instead of the day-long lines at Celebrations II and III.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Steve Sansweet dropped a few things during tonight's The Forcecast show:

1. All six movies will be shown digitally during the con, two per night.

2. The Opening Ceremonies, or whatever they'll call it, is scheduled for Thursday afternoon and will have some "surprises."

Given how the opening ceremonies went at Celebration IV, I'll be 'surprised' if it's worth going to.

3. The Daily Show Live, er, Lucas's appearance is a one-off thing. There will be "plenty of seats" for attendees and an overflow room.

lazypadawan falls over laughing...yeah, I'll believe 'plenty of seats' when I see it.

4. Saturday is the last day to buy your passes and have them mailed to you.

5. Besides the Faux Wedding Chapel there will be...speed dating.

Oh NO. God, NO!!! Why are they so desperate to try and fix people up? To ensure there will be more generations of Star Wars customers?

6. The U.S. Postal Service will offer exclusive "Celebration Station" cancelled stamps.

So that's why they're jacking up stamps another two effin' cents?

7. The collectors' cereal boxes that will be given away at collecting panels are limited to 500 apiece.

But do they actually have cereal in them??
lazypadawan: (vader)
David Prowse has been booted from the roster of guests appearing at Celebration V. Why? Lucasfilm declared him persona non grata. Here's what Prowse posted on his site:

"It is with regret that I have been informed by my friends at C2 Ventures, Ben and Phillip, that I am not to be invited to C5 this year or any other Lucas Film associated events. After enquiring, the only thing I have been told is that I have "burnt too many bridges between Lucas Film and myself" - no other reason given."

TFN verified this with its co-owner/Rebelscum owner/Official Pix owner Philip Wise:

"Lucasfilm does have the right to prevent celebrity invitations to official Star Wars conventions and they did exercise this right as it relates to Dave Prowse and Celebration V."

Burnt too many bridges? Ya think? The only thing shocking about this whole story is why it took this long for it to happen. Prowse hasn't had much of anything kind to say about his former boss over the past few decades, yet he's been to prior Celebrations and other events.

Speculate and discuss.

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