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Star Wars Celebration V: More Memories

Ever since getting back from Orlando, I’ve been going through those weird waves where Star Wars Celebration seems at once a distant memory and something that’s close enough that if I turned around quickly, I’d still see armored stormtroopers and kids carrying lightsabers and R2 units rolling down the hallway.

These are a few of my favorite leftover memories from the weekend. Once more, then, into hyperspace:

Punch it, Chewie.

(Incidentally, all the photos in this post come from the perpetually-fantastic Jim Carchidi.)

For starters, here’s a funny picture of me and Jon Stewart:

I'm down there on the floor, oblivious. (Not, perhaps, the first time that's happened.)

You know why it’s funny? Because this happened when I was meeting Tony Pacitti, and I had just knelt down so I could sign him a copy of Collect All 21! when I heard Jim trying to get my attention: “John – um, JOHN.” I finished signing and stood back up – and that’s when Jim showed me that picture, which he had taken over my head as Jon Stewart walked right past me.

Bonnie Burton’s Dark Side commitment to R2-D2 was fun for several reasons (Jim and I both show up briefly a couple times in the StarWars.com video),  not the least of which is I found myself standing next to Adrianne Curry right before the ceremony and got a picture with her afterward.

Nice day for a >Billy Idol sneer< Sith Wedding.

Also got to chat with Elvis Trooper while he was in full uniform – Kelsey & I had bumped into him on Thursday, while he was just in street clothes – and caught up with Bonnie for what would sadly be the last time that weekend.

Great stuff from the art show area over the weekend:

After Jim showed me the Katie Cook piece he’d bought for Kelsey, I had to go and get something for Jenn, so I requested this Star Wars/LOLCat-inspired piece:

By Katie Cook

I also bought her a copy of Katie’s totally-not-for-kids-but-utterly-hilarious-to-cat-owners book.

Made sure to catch up with Joe Corroney, who’s said nice things about my book and designed the OSWCC C5 badges –

Yay OSWCC! (and, by extension - Yay Joe Corroney!)

– and complimented Grant Gould on his Celebration badge artwork, too. (Also loved his “Quantum of Sarlacc” postcards.)

G, that's a nice badge.

Jim and I also crossed paths and hung out with Scott D.M. Simmons a couple times, meeting up at the collectors’ social on Friday and then wandering the exhibit hall on Sunday.

On Saturday, I met multi-talented and all-around-swell Orlando Sentinel online guru Tanya Hanson face-to-face for the first time. She’s the one who engineered the web coverage Jim and I provided for Celebration III in Indianapolis five years ago, and it was great to finally be able to thank her for that assignment in person. Since Jim was spending much of the day shooting the 501st and the Slave Leia group photos, Tanya and I hung out and attended the weekend’s second Robot Chicken Empire presentation. It was a blast and absolutely worth the hour and 20 minutes we waited in line, which we spent talking about cats and Tron Legacy and video games and assorted nerditry.

After that came an unexpected surprise: When Robot Chicken let out, I got a text from Jim saying he was in line for the Gary Kurtz solo panel just 20 minutes from starting – and it wasn’t too crowded.

Gary Kurtz‘ attendance at this Celebration had me whooping as soon as it was announced. The guy’s influence as a producer in shaping the first two (and, to my mind, the best two) Star Wars movies in the saga is legendary, but since leaving that galaxy behind after differences with George Lucas during and post-Empire, Kurtz has rarely looked back and, as far as I know, had never attended any conventions to talk about his involvement in the series. Given that a big part of Celebration V was marking the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, for all we knew, this could be the only time he’d be doing so.

I was absolutely astounded, then, to find that even when Jim moved further back in line upon my arrival (because I didn’t want to be that guy), we still easily made it into probably the first 10 or 15 rows of the auditorium, and even once everyone was in, there were still plenty of open seats. And this was Gary on his own, during his final presentation of the weekend, not sharing the stage with anyone but presenter Pablo Hidalgo. I’m still a little surprised, almost two weeks after the fact.

Gary "Oh, man, that's GARY FREAKING KURTZ" Kurtz.

And it was an awfully neat talk. He may not have been as blunt on a few points as he was in this L.A. Times interview published the day Celebration V kicked off, but Kurtz made no secret of his feelings on Lucas’ changes to the original, more bittersweet Return of the Jedi ending – Han dead; Leia crowned “queen” and working to rebuild the crumbled republic; Luke riding off into the (double?) sunset as the tragic hero. Another interesting note: If my memory is correct, Kurtz – who did some second-unit directing in Empire – said that it’s his hands which are seen wielding the lightsaber in the close-up during the famous Tauntaun belly-slitting scene.

He also talked a fair bit about working on The Dark Crystal, which was an unexpected treat.

One of my favorite things about the whole weekend, though, came in the closing hours of Sunday afternoon. With no panels or presentations on our schedule, Jim and I leisurely took in the whole of the convention again, strolling through all the areas and the exhibition hall, meeting up with Scott and Adam again, shooting ourselves in the giant action figure card, stopping to play with toys at the Hasbro booth, exploring the fan-made Hoth diorama. Just generally trying to soak it all in and stave off the disbelief that it was all coming to an end.

After I filed my final GeekDad post, we decided to visit the Ralph McQuarrie exhibit one more time – a fitting return, it seemed, to the first room we’d visited on Thursday morning to start the convention.

So we’re in there, and who do we see taking in the paintings and sketches but ILM modelmakers Lorne Peterson and Jon Berg – whom we’d just seen give a panel on model-building and Empire three days prior – each kind of separately just slowly walking and looking over the works. Now, I probably wouldn’t have approached either one – we’d just said ‘hi’ to Lorne the other day, and I didn’t want to bother Jon – but during a moment when Jon was walking around the end of an aisle, and not looking at anything, Jim took the opportunity to go introduce himself and thank Jon for his work and for attending the convention and letting us all sort of see a bit of our favorite saga through his eyes. (Or something like that, I bet. I was a little busy thinking, “Hey – Jim’s over there talking to Jon Berg!“)

Jon Berg during his Empire Strikes Back panel.

So of course, I go over and extend a hand, which Jon accepts as Jim introduces me, and I say, “I’m sure this is probably similar to what you’ve heard already, but you know, your work was responsible for helping shape a very good part of my childhood, and I wanted to say thanks for that.”

And he looks at me and says something like, “You know, I don’t have kids of my own, so thank you,” and he puts a hand on my shoulder, and the other on Jim’s shoulder and says, “My boys,” as he pulls us into a fatherly sort of hug. It is a very brief but honest moment, and there is nothing like learning as a creator that you have managed to make something that lasted and mattered to someone else, and as a fan, I’m glad to take the chance to tell artists and writers when they have done so.

It was just about the perfect way to close the weekend. Yeah, Jim and I walked around a little bit more, and the crowd at the convention center got smaller and smaller, and the merchandise store felt kind of empty and echoing, but we were already starting that mental shift back to “real life.”

We headed toward the exit, and I took one more picture, looking back at the main entrance hall. We stopped at the McDonald’s right down the road for a long-overdue lunch, and though there were plenty of con-goers there in their Star Wars T-shirts, still wearing convention badges and lanyards, it was a different atmosphere than it had been just a couple days earlier, in the midst of the Celebration.

Still, for four days, it sure felt like if there was a bright center to the universe, we were there.

Looking back.

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August 25, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Star Wars Celebration V: Day One

So, this was my first Star Wars Celebration in five years, and my daughter’s first ever, as well as her first really humongous-scale convention, and we just had a spectacularly awesome day.

Kelsey and Jim and I arrived shortly after 10 a.m., and once inside the Orange County Convention Center, we made a beeline for an exhibit of Ralph McQuarrie original art, a good portion of which had only recently been rediscovered, and some of which hadn’t been viewed in decades. Seriously neat stuff, from the most bare-bones concept sketches to fully-realized designs that were just never used, like this one:

ESBdesign

Then we visited the 501st costuming room –

– and the TK Helmet Project display:

Jane Wiedlin's Cylon helmet

…and then the R2-D2 Builders’ room (about which I wrote at GeekDad):

Jim went off to a photo shoot while Kelsey and I went with Adam & family to visit the exhibitors’ hall and take part in the construction of a giant Lego mural.

Off, then, to a Bonnie Burton talk about Star Wars crafts, after which we met Bonnie face-to-face and she presented Kelsey with a signed copy of her Girls Against Girls book, which was an awfully generous and most-appreciated gesture. (Yeah, Bonnie kind of rocks.)

We hit the showroom floor again for a longer stretch, and then took in a panel about model-building and The Empire Strikes Back presented by Lorne Peterson and Jon Berg – Jim rolled for initiative and caught Lorne’s attention afterward, so we talked for a moment and planned to meet up again over the next few days.

After that, Kelsey and I relaxed for a good long while over a Dr. Pepper and some french fries, and I talked to people I knew as they passed by.

Just before the main hall closed for the day, she and Jim and I popped in to take our turns posing in the giant Boba Fett action figure package.

We spent our last half-hour or so of the day hanging out at a collectors’ social, talking to friends, then called it a day and grabbed pizza on the way back to Jim’s.

Other super highlights: Jim surprising Kelsey with an original Katie Cook sketch of a Yellow Submarine; finally getting to chat with Steve Sansweet and having him sign my beat-up copy of his Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible, which played a hugely inspirational role in reinvigorating my love for the saga in the early ’90s (my Dark Times), and also giving him a copy of Collect All 21, which he asked me to sign; watching my daughter emerge from changing into her brand-new TARDIS-emblazoned Doctor Who shirt.

This was Kelsey’s only day here, and while she was exhausted at its close, she also had an awesome time, and no matter what else, that alone means I did, too.

August 13, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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