From May 3rd to May 5th, approximately two weeks prior to the
release of Attack of the Clones Indianapolis (USA) was the center
of the Star Wars universe. Tens of thousands of fans from across
the world arrived to attend Celebration II, the greatest Star
Wars Convention of all time! It was held in the huge Indiana
Convention Center, a total area of approximately 113.000 m2.
The program was phenomenal! Stars and team from all of the five movies, authors, artists and fans covered all aspects of the Saga. On three stages and in a number of rooms there were shows, demonstrations, exhibitions, autograph hours and guest panels.
Coruscant or the Sagamore Ballroom with approximately 3000 seats
was the main stage of the Con. It was under the supervision
of the Master of Ceremonies Anthony Daniels, better known as the
protocol droid C-3PO.
At noon the Celebration was officially opened with a welcoming ceremony. Steve Sansweet, Lucasfilmís ambassador for fan relations welcomed the visitors and introduced the program.
îYou wonít be able to see it all ? unless you let yourself be cloned ? but there is lots you can do,î Steve was joking.
Like Anakin one had to make decisions. Do I go there or will I watch that? It had to be well thought out. After all you did not want to stand in line for nothing only to find out you missed one of the highlights someplace else. With more than 30 people ? counting the Stars only ? the list of present Star guests was impressive. Stars who could not attend had prepared video messages. Drawing great applause were the greetings by Samuel Jackson, Pernilla August, John Williams, Natalie Portman, Christopher Lee, Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor and George Lucas. Sam Jackson had had a lot of fun pointing out the fact that among the Jedi he was the only one with a violet lightsaber.
îFor years ? centuries even ? people will try to find out the significance of the violet light. But Iím the only one that knows. Not even George Lucas knows the true meaning of the violet light!î
Of the main actors of Attack of the Clones Hayden Christensen dared to attend Celebration II. He admitted to the audience that this was his very first convention and that he was quite impressed by it.
Steve Sansweet gave the stage to Jim Ward, Lucasfilmís vice president
of the marketing division. After the presentation of the Episode
II Across the Stars music video Jim Ward moved on to the Spider-Man
movie which has just been released. Surprising everyone he praised
the technical qualities of this block buster. To allow the audience
to decide for themselves he wanted to show the newest Spider-Man trailer.
Allegedly it was really great, which did have him worried a little.
Were they really going to show a product from a competitor on a Star Wars
Convention? The lights went off. On the three large screens
the text in well known Spider-Man font announced the arrival of a new action.
But instead of the net swinging superhero Yoda appeared throwing lightning
bolts and whirling his lightsaber! No one expected this. The
audience went crazy!
Together with George Lucas producer Rick McCallum is among the pioneers of digital development in theaters. Rick is known for giving honest answers and for sharing his experiences in the movie business with the fans. That makes him a popular guest on conventions who should not be missed. For Celebration II he showed selected scenes from Attack of the Clones on a digital projector.
îNothing is more frustrating for us than to spend three years and millions of dollars to work over every detail of the movie and the Soundtrack only so you can go to a Multiplex and you see dust and scratches and hear cracks in the soundtrack after only 3 or 4 showings. So I ask you if there is a Force in the Internet, some sort of movement, put some pressure on the theater chains. Let them know that quality is important, that you know the difference and that it is important to you!î
And Rick McCallum is right! Whoever saw the 8 minute excerpt from Episode II was enthusiastic about the crystal clear and sharp pictures and about the bright colors. For the first time the technical standard is so advanced that computer generated elements and filmed scenes can be merged without fault. On top of that there will be a few differences between the digital and the conventional version of the movie. So whenever you get the chance watch the digital version of Attack of the Clones!
On the smaller stage Tatooine - the 500 Ballroom with approximately
1200 seats ? many of the guest panels were held. The digital projector
(impressive piece) too was located there. Filclips from Episode II
were shown there several times a day.
John Knoll, ILMíS visual effects supervisor was present for all shootings of scenes for Attack of the Clones and documented them with his camera. His îholiday picturesî suggested that the group had a great time rather than showing that movie professionals were hard at work. Many great shots were taken around the globe.
If you wondered what mysteries could be found in the crater next to family Larsí home you may be disappointed. There was no more than a few old boxes lying around. No less mundane the production of the îblue milkî ? milk from a plastic bottle mixed with a few drops of food coloring. Monsters with hoses in their latex mouths through which cold air was blown into the costumes look like they are being fed. Stage technicians have worked for 2 months to build the night club set. Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks) got their short appearances outside their masks there. After only a single day of shooting it was all over and the wonderful set was torn down ? it is the cruel everyday life in the movie business. A film team too is exhausted after a 30 hour flight from Sydney, Australia to Caserta Italy. Exhausted and hidden underneath sunglasses the crew sat in the tour bus. A cappuccino machine found on board was the only thing promising any sort of refreshment. In Sevilla, Spain 4000 people lined up at the fence at a nearby park in order to watch the filming. After the shooting was completed George Lucas and Hayden Christensen were giving out autographs for the fans.
On the 2nd floor was Naboo with 500 seats. There many of the authors, artists and licensed companies held their presentations.
Animatics are sort of îanimated storyboardsî. They are animated on the computer. They allow a director to show a sequence quickly and at low cost, before a lot of time and money is invested in the production of the actual scene. Thus a director can effectively and precisely plan his movie.
Using two Episode II Trailers Dan Gregoire - who is in charge of JAK Productions - demonstrated the work of his team. In direct comparison first the finished scenes of ILM were shown and then the Animatics were shown. It is quite amazing how close these "computer sketches" got to the finished trailer. I for one expected them to be a lot more simple.
Next to the panels of course there was a number of other things to be experienced. Another high point of Celebration II was the merchant - and license holder area. The trick here was to hang on to your wallet, to stay calm and to compare costs. Unless of course you did not mind spending all of your cash in a heartbeat. At the end of the room were the star guests. Standing in line once you had the chance to get the autographs of all of your movie heroes. Many of the actors were impressed by the sice of the con and the number of visitors. The merchants hall lead to the Star Wars toy museum. There all of the Kenner- and Hasbro products of the last 25 years were on display. Additionally there were a number of prototypes and casts. It was heaven for any collector of action figures! Right beside it was a stand where free books were offered. More than 10'000 Star Wars books from across the world were there to be taken. Like locusts the people fell upon them. In less than two hours all the books were taken. Afterward the location stayed abandoned for the rest of the convention.
If you did not go to the shoppping room but instead took a left before then you reached the Padawan Training Stage. The youngest Jedi apprentices had had the chance to go up against Darth Vader in order to test their talent with the force. Further down the corridor you passed Bespin, better known in civil life as White River Ballroom. In Cloud City collectors got a chance to follow their trade. Professionals and fans shared their experiences with collecting. Also in this room was the auction of rare collectors items. At the end of the corridor one found the Celebration II Store which was also a magnet of ten thousand visitors. Only here fan exclusive items like the Commander Jorg Sacul action figure could be acquired. If you read the name backwards you'll know who I'm talking about.
In the lobby was a children's play area and the Art Show
in which a number of artists presented their works. In the Diorama
room one could actually participate in the creation of "Little Tatooine".
If you went across the lobby one could see Obi-Wan's starfighter.
Next to it was a small, but dear exhibition of original costumes, models
and props from the Star Wars saga. It is always fascinating to
look at these props up close. Many of the details, especially the
details of the costumes cannot be seen in the movies at all. At some
of the props you can also see flaws if the artist was not careful.
An important aspect of any convention is to meet with friends and to keep up contacts. For me at least this is an important part. After all it's not every day you get to go to the USA and thus contacts can usually only be kept via e-mail. Thus on Friday night I hung out with some friends and I have to admit I missed the fan movie awards because of it.
The popularity and entertainment value of home made Star Wars movies has reached a very high level among the fans. To acknowledge this Lucasfilm Ltd. in cooperation with Atom Films has founded the Star Wars Fan Film Award. 44 finalists had made it into the final round. Awards were given in a number of categories. Among them the George Lucas Selects Award going to the move which the creator of the saga himself chose as his favourite. It was awarded to Matt Bagshaw for Christmas Tauntauns. On Atom Films' homepage the audience could choose their own favourite movie. The Audience Choice Award was given to Star Wars Gangsta Rap by Thomas Lee. Kevin Rubio's fantastic Troops has basically started the "fan movie" ball rolling. He was honoured with the Pioneer Award.
Organizers of Celebration II had expected up to 25'000 visitors.
This number was broken by a multitude on Saturday. Con visitors had
had to be very patient if they wanted to visit a certain panel. This
number seems a bit unreal considering European standards. It has
to be mentioned that in the USA Star Wars is an integral part of pop culture
- much more so than in Europe. A con is visited like we may visit
a soccer game or a concert. Often the whole family comes along.
In Germany maybe 3'000 people visit a con and a vast majority of them are
actual "fans". This comment should point out the significant difference
between the European and the American fandom.
Next to the Coruscant- and the Naboo stages the makers of R2 have also taken up residence on the 2nd floor. The R2-D2 Builders Club is an organization with 600 members who have dedicated themselves to building Astromechs and other droids. About 25 of the talented craftsmen were present and presented their homemade R2 units. A "naked" C-3PO too was presented there. The creators presented the skills their droids could perform and there was a time for questions about these creations. If you were lucky you could get the odd engineering tip.
Also on the 2nd floor were the various fan clubs. It is noteworthy that most of the fan activities are now going in in the Internet or they find expression as amateur movies. There are virtually no Fanzines left anymore. I did not expect this to be so completely changed. As an old fandom veteran I think this is rather sad, but it seems to be the trend of things. Next to the fan clubs Star Wars in pop culture was shown. Its a 6 hour long non-stop program containing specials, trailers, cartoons, music videos and ads from 25 years of Star Wars history.
The highlight of the 2nd con day was the sold out 25th anniversary
Star Wars concert. It was presented by the Philharmonic Orchestra
of Indianapolis and the Circle City Chorus.
Conductor Jackson Wiley started the evening with the Star Wars Main Title followed by Princess Leia's Theme. The A New Hope part ended with a swinging Jazz Song of the Cantina Band. The romantic piece Han Solo and the Princess then led to The Empire Strikes Back. Asteroid Field and Yoda's Theme. During the Imperial March elements of the 501st Legion marched into the hall. They were led by Darth Vader who was flanked by Stormtroopers. As a fitting end to the first half of the concert the Empire End Title was played. After a short break Orcenith Smith conducted the second half of the concert. He started with Luke & Leia from Return of the Jedi.
While the orchestra played The Forrest Battle R2-D2 rolled onto the stage to accompany the piece with a number pirouettes. Anakin's Theme then introduced The Phantom Menace part. For the grand final the Circle City Chorus joined in and together the choir and the orchestra gave a powerful performance of Duel of the Fates. Two encores followed with Angie's Municipal Band, the celebration on Naboo at the end of Episode I. Cannons fired off confetti which rained down on the audience from the ceiling. The evening closed with Throne Room and Finale which is of course from A New Hope. The enthusiastic audience showed their gratitude to the musicians with standing ovations and long applause.
Except for promotions like Disney Weekends Star Wars Celebration II was Carrie Fisher's first Con. If you hoped to get an autograph you had to be able to stand in line for hours. As soon as the doors opened to her room which was beside Bespin the collectors centre an almost endless line formed. I decided not to do this to myself. However, I did not want to miss her only guest panel on Sunday. These 30 minutes were memorable.
Carrie Fisher has her own talk show on American television. This does not come as a surprise. She is very witty, tells intriguing jokes and doesn't take herself too serious. Like in one of her shows Carrie Fisher and Anthony Daniels were sitting together, talking of the good old days. The also liked to criticize George Lucas, all in good humour of course. His directing commands could be summed up in the wards "faster" and "more intense". If you were to install two different horns at his director's chair he would not have to say anything at all. In spite of the 25 years since then Carrie Fisher remembers the work on Star Wars as if it had been yesterday. Her hairstyle, which she hated, have almost become a classic. She was always pulling at it, trying to rearrange it. Before every take the hairdresser had had to put her hair back in order. In 1977 no one could have guessed the success this space fairy tale would enjoy. Meanwhile Carrie has developed a new strategy to answer the same old question.
"Today my standard answer is: yes, we did know. We all knew, everyone except George. We kept it secret from him, because we wanted to know what he looked like when he was surprised. We did it just to see what he looked like when his facial expression changed. And do you know what happened - nothing! We'd need ILM to work on it to have his expression change.
Can the complete Star Wars trilogy be told in 30 minutes? It can! Patrick T. Gorman has turned the saga into a dynamic stage production for the University of Southern California School of Theater. People are speeding across the stage. The most famous dialogues are given at break neck speed. And lighted chairs represent X-Wing fighters. It is great to watch Steve Josephson as Yoda, as a moves across the stage on knee pads and his fists with extended thumbs representing ears. A real treat is Scott W. Mullin in his dual role as Darth Vader when he wears sunglasses and as Chebacca without glasses but with a patch of fur on his chest. The show, produced by John E. Blankenchip meanwhile has become a trade mark of this enthusiastic group. It would have been a shame to miss this performance at Celebration II!
Three days of con and going out to bars at night do a job on you.
On Sunday night I just wanted to go back to my hotel room to let all of
the impressions I had pass in review. I was looking forward to watch
the series final of X-Files which had been announced in the US medias.
Tired and exhausted however, I fell asleep shortly before it started.
Sometime late at night I woke up, the TV was still running. Damn,
I guess I'll have to wait for the German airing of the show after all.
One thing is certain, I will be there for Celebration III in three years!
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