© Maikel Das and TM & © Lucasfilm LTD. 2005
Used with permission by the OSWFC
Once more, the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis played host to the world's largest Star Wars extravaganza ever. Over 30,000 visitors from all over the world gathered here for the 2005 Star Wars Celebration III, on April 21 through 24.
Organisationally, things were very similar to the last Celebration three years ago, except there were a few thousand extra guests this time. But we had the entire Convention Center to ourselves, and two floors, four stages and lots of conference rooms left nothing to be desired. Simply listing all the attending star guests would exceed the scope of this article. As it was impossible to see everything, it seemed a good idea to put together a personal tour program from the riches on offer. This way, everyone could focus on their favorite area and pick the topics of most interest to them, be it autographs, collecting in general, the artistic and technical aspects of filmmaking, fan activity, the Expanded Universe, personal contacts or shows and entertainment. There was something on for almost every aspect of the Star Wars saga.
The opening ceremony saw Hall B filled to capacity with thousands of eager fans. The Menifee Jazz Ensemble from Mt. San Jacinto College, California, entertained the assembled fans with arrangements from a galaxy far, far away until the lights dimmed and a squad of armored Imperial troopers led by Darth Vader marched through the audience up to the stage. A rather short stormtrooper in white shorts and T-shirt stumbled inelegantly up to the microphone - under the helmet was Steve Sansweet, head of fan communications at Lucasfilm. He officially opened the Celebration, thanking the many organizers and helpers. Afterwards, Rick McCallum entered the stage, thanking the fans in his inimitable way. "Guys, thank you so much for being here. It's... awesome. It's dot dot dot awesome... I know there's a lot of kids out there."
Next on stage was Howard Roffman, president of Lucas Licensing, introducing the Revenge of the Sith soundtrack. The CD will come with a DVD of 16 accompanying videos from all six movies. Each piece is introduced by Ian McDiarmid (Chancellor Palpatine). To set the tone, he presented the Episode III video 'Battle of the Heroes'.
Following Jay Laga'aia's phenomenal success at last year's Jedi-Con in Düsseldorf, he had already made it to MC this time - at only his second con! During the con, he was working the Sagamore Ballroom's main stage, entertaining the 3,000-seater hall. Even the birth of his sixth child could not keep him from attending Celebration III. "My daughter is a week old now, and I am here. So where are my priorities?" Jay specifically welcomed his German fans with a hearty "You're UGLY!" [running joke from last year's Jedi-Con panel, tr.]. As a tribute to all Star Wars fans, he sang 'The Saga Begins', Weird AL Yancovic's American Pie parody, accompanied by the Menifee Jazz Ensemble.
Next up was Warwick Davis, who introduced himself as the MC on the smaller stage in Hall G, where many of the shows took place, among them the Star Wars Musical and the One Man Star Wars Trilogy by Charlie Ross from Canada. Without any props or instruments, equipped with nothing but his voice, he played out the original trilogy, complete with music, noises and, naturally, dialogue. Patrick T. Gorman's high-speed play, 'Star Wars in 30 Minutes' was featured once more too, after rocking the house at Celebration II. The L.A. Times quotes George Lucas as saying, "I was pretty impressed they had found a way to make Star Wars faster and more intense."
The opening ceremony ended with recorded greetings from Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid and Hayden Christensen as well as a film collage of the entire Star Wars saga followed by a rain of confetti. The clapping and rejoicing was loud as the crowd filed out of the hall.
The centerpiece of the con was the Exhibition Hall with the dealers' and licensees' stalls. Here you could turn your cash reserves into old rarities, exclusive collectors' items and the latest new releases, or just drift around the colorful melee, pick up some nice freebies and admire the stunning costumes worn by some fans. And in case there was any money still left over after visiting the dealer's room, the Celebration Store beckoned just left and down the hallway from the Exhibition Hall. Only here could you get the coveted Darth Vader Celebration III action figure with its four phrases spoken by James Earl Jones (Darth Vader's original voice). But getting into the Celebration Store with all its treasures was not exactly easy. At times, the line around the store reached waiting times of up to seven hours!
Toughness was an advantage too if you wanted to see the first of three appearances by George Lucas on Saturday morning. As early as midnight, the first aficionados started lining up in icy wind and light snow to make sure they wouldn't miss the show. It was George Lucas' first convention in 18 years, and expectations were high. This was the man who had made all this possible in the first place. A short video warmed the audience up, then Rick McCallum entered the stage to introduce Lucas' children Jett and Katie, both of whom have cameos in ROTS. After that, George Lucas took the stage to thunderous applause and a barrage of flashlights.
Asked about Steven Spielberg's involvement with Episode III, Lucas answered, "He did it all! Steven had a project that didn't get off the ground. He sat around all summer with nothing to do, and it drove him crazy. So I offered him a few action shots that he could work out at the poolside with an assistant. So Steven made some arty storyboards, others that were very Spielberg-ish, and some of them have even made it into the movie. But I'm not telling which ones - I want all the fame for that." After about half an hour, George Lucas said goodbye to his fans. "I'm grateful to all of you. Star Wars is something that's supposed to be fun and maybe help you with your lives. But don't let it take over. The point to the movies is to get on with your lives, accept the challenge, leave your uncle's moisture farm, go out into the world and change it to save the universe."
Down the corridor from the main entrance, passing the Exhibition Hall on your left, the first thing to catch our eye was the Lucasfilm Archive, with costumes, models and props from Lucasfilm's treasure chambers on display. Many were from ROTS, but some classics such as the Millennium Falcon, a Star Destroyer, and a sandcrawler were on show too. Directly next door was the Fan Stage with panels and shows by the fans for the fans. Further along the corridor lay the Star Wars Fan Film Room, where all nominees and winners of the Fan Film Awards were playing on a loop. Next door, the 'Star Wars in 30 Minutes' crew hat set up their stage, and at the end of the corridor was the great Hall A, where over 40 star guests had set up shop and were signing autographs with passion.
Hans and Richard
Matt and Sarah
Star Wars producer Rick McCallum had set up camp in the 500 Ballroom with its digital projector and THX sound system. Here, he presented his truly spectacular and exclusive snippets of Episode III several times a day. Anyone avoiding spoilers would have had to keep their eyes shut, and some of us even did! The clips were scored with music, so that none of the dialogues were audible, but the sheer visual information was enough to make us leap out of our seats. After every showing, Rick McCallum had a Q&A with the fans. Many questions revolved around the status of the production and future projects. "We have finished work on Episode III on Tuesday (19 April). Now we're working on the foreign-language versions. We need to finish 22,000 copies in the next three-and-a-half weeks. I think we have 40 countries that need dubbing. It'll be merciless." As already reported elsewhere, there will be a Star Wars TV series, but development on this hasn't started yet, simply because there was no time. Also, plans to convert A New Hope into a 3D film are still being discussed - however, this is still a very expensive and complicated procedure these days. Steven Spielberg has recently seen ROTS and given his blessing. "I hope you'll love this movie, because I can promise you that it's the one. The one movie that has it all. This is the one you've always wanted to see. And I hope you have a great time with it."
Star Wars will go on even after ROTS. See you around for the 30th anniversary and the start of the TV show at a fourth Celebration?