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C3: Scott's Recap of C3

Posted By Scott on April 25, 2005

Now that Celebration 3 has come and gone, I thought I?d throw out random thoughts about the show and anecdotes about my own experiences for those one or two of you that are interested. :)

Celebration 3 was a lot like Celebration 2. All the same cool stuff was there and the same fun was to be had. The exhibitor?s room was fun, there was a lot of bonding in the long lines, and the presentations revealed a lot of cool stuff about ROTS to get you excited. And a lot of the same mistakes and horrible experiences for some folks were repeated as well. The lines were an absolute nightmare, the store was completely mismanaged, and a number of the volunteers were clueless. I think the experience you came away with depended a lot on your personal attitude toward it all and how well you planned in advance.

While there, I heard all sorts of interesting stories. I was told that after George Lucas? presentation, The Flanneled One himself visited the Droid Builders for a personal meet and greet along with Rick McCallum and Don Bies. Lucas was quiet and gracious while McCallum was reportedly his usual outgoing and boisterous self. I?ll say that McCallum?s entire demeanor was a lot different at this show. He was like a man who had seen the light at the end of the tunnel. His language was a bit more restrained in front of the hundreds of children in the audience and he seemed a lot more energetic and excited about the film than in the past. Lucas seemed very relaxed in his presentation, too. Hopefully a good experience at this show means he?ll be more open to doing more in the near future. Honestly, he made up for the glaring lack of other big names from ROTS.

I spoke with one fan that ran into Temuera Morrison and Bodie Taylor while getting breakfast one morning. He chatted with them briefly in line and they invited him to sit down with them and eat. They ended up talking for a half hour. Morrison has always been fantastic with the fans and this just shows it again. (He even sang Happy Birthday to Rebelscum.com?s Anne Neuman over the autograph hall PA system on Sunday morning.) This brings up another point ? some of the best experiences that fans had at the show were actually AWAY from the convention itself. One of the best places to meet the celebrities was in the Mariott hotel bar. It looked like the freakin? Star Wars Cantina with everyone from Nick Gillard to the E3 Art Department hanging out there. It was a common sight to see Wookiees, bounty hunters, and everyone else sharing drinks with fans.

I kept randomly running across Nick Gillard early at the show. It seemed like everywhere I turned, we suddenly ran into each other. I?m sure he thinks I was stalking him. It was the same with John Knoll and his family. Though we never spoke, I saw them over and over. (At the Celebration Celebration, I saw Knoll battle his daughter in a duel with padded staffs. He mercilessly took her out.) Many of the E3 crew were there with their families and it was quite fun to see them treated like rock stars in front of their kids.

The E3 art department seemed to roam the show as a gang going from one signing to the next. Iain McCaig was an incredible ball of energy no matter where he went. He led a funny and impressive session where the fans helped the art team create a Jedi and a Sith. McCaig also revealed that he?s leading the art department working on the upcoming film ?John Carter of Mars?. I spoke briefly with Don Bies at one presentation about his work on Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and I spoke with another model maker about his work on War of the Worlds.

The costumes at the show were a major highlight. The Slave Leias were popular as always and I was shocked to see one woman who went so far as to shave her head for an Asajj Ventress costume. One General Grievous costume was particularly amazing and got honors at the costume contest.

The 501st did a good job of adding fun to the show. Their costumes were cool as usual and they were all a highlight for fans both young and old. The only problem I heard with a 501st member was with the line that was queued up to see George Lucas the night before. A Biker Scout (who later bragged about this) nearly caused a riot when he told one line of people who had been camping out in the rain and cold for hours to merge with another line. The volunteer work by these folks is great, but a lack of training in crowd control could have created a potentially dangerous situation where people could have gotten hurt. It should be a consideration for future shows.

My experience with the Gen Con staff and LFL PR folks was not very good. I had a press badge to cover the event, but it didn?t gain me or any other ?press? member any real access to any event besides the George Lucas talk (and people were able to walk right up and get into that despite thousands of people camping out overnight). I was told by one LFL person repeatedly that this event was ?all about the fans, not about the press?. (I think the fans stuck in lines for hours or shut out of buying badges might have disagreed with the ?about the fans? comment.) Well, I can accept that, but why hand out press badges at all then? It would have been better to tell the hundred or so reporters to stay at home rather than to invite them there and then shut them out of all the discussions. No press is better than pissed press. I also found it bitterly ironic that I was told it was ?about the fans? as I stood there with my Fan Club lanyard, my ROTS T-Shirt, in my Jar Jar Underoos, after having spent hundreds of dollars on Star Wars crap while trying to cover the event for a Star Wars fan site for fans that couldn?t make it to C3. What does it take to get street cred as a fan? Despite this, I was able to make it into most of the presentations the old fashioned way ? standing in line. A few times I arrived at a talk just as it started only to have the door shut in my face and be told I couldn?t enter despite the fact that the room was only 1/3 full. I even saw a Gen Con security guard try and turn away Pablo Hidalgo at one presentation. I was able to talk my way in once or twice, but I had the door closed on me more often than not just like other fans. The only real time I was accommodated was when an ILM PR representative got me and other ?press? into Rick McCallum?s talk and Jim Ward got us into some good seats so we could take photos better. Despite the snub, though, I had a good time and hopefully got you guys a look at parts of Celebration 3 that SW.com didn?t cover.

Celebration 3 is always like a reunion of sorts and I saw all sorts of people I knew from the days of Episode I. I ran into some old spies of ours that were there incognito. I ran into artist Matt Busch, former fan artist / current official artist Tom Hodges, former TFN staffer Chris Knight, and even T-Bone. I also met guys from Sir Steve?s, IESB.Net, Yakface, and a few other websites. Ironically I never even saw TFN staff member Jeff Yankey during my entire visit there. Most of the time he was with the 501st or busy catching the flu in the middle of things. I witnessed Chris Gore from FilmThreat talk his way past the most stubborn Gen Con security guard at the show and get into a presentation. It was masterfully done. I ran across Steve Sansweet a few times. On Friday he was walking with a noticeable limp. I asked him if he was OK and he mentioned that he had taken a spill on stage during the opening ceremonies. I saw him fall while dressed as a stormtrooper, but I thought it was part of his act as a bumbling trooper. I mentioned that I thought he did it on purpose and he jokingly said something like, ?Oh yeah, I did! Sure! That was all staged!? But it was obvious he was in a lot of pain and I admire him for sticking it out and going on with the show.

The autograph area seemed to operate pretty smoothly (and I can say that even though TFN is associated with Official Pix). You could walk right up to many of the actors and get autographs immediately. They were willing to take pictures, chat, and shake hands with everyone. The only hiccups seemed to be Billy Dee and Temuera Morrison showing up late and a long line for the popular Matthew Wood (General Grievous). Michael Kingma (Tarfful) didn?t make it because he was turned away by U.S. Customs in Detroit. Obviously Wookiees are a threat to national security. I was able to chat with Jay Laga'aia briefly as he did a surprise signing there. I asked him about George Lucas mixing him up at the big talk with Bodie Taylor, the clone trooper. He said that after it happened, Lucas went backstage and was immediately chastised by his daughter who corrected him on his mistake. Jay took to opportunity to say to Lucas, ?So you?re doing a TV series? You?ll be doing that in Australia, right?? There?s nothing like using guilt to secure a job opportunity!

The Celebration Store was an exercise in chaos. The lines were extraordinarily slow. The people running the cash registers were so slow that I heard stories of some customers actually pushing the buttons on the register themselves so that they could speed up their order. Many of the people running to get the merchandise were slow or couldn?t find all the items they needed in one trip. My suggestion for next time would be to have a separate area for sales for the figures and to find people that know how to operate a cash register better. To top things off, I see now that these ?exclusives? are available at the official site for everyone.

I found that I underestimated the weather, too. I was a little shocked to be standing in the freezing wind in my short-sleeved ROTS shirt and seeing snow flurry by. Being from Texas, I wasn?t expecting it to be this cold so late in April. I thought I was going to be indoors a lot more than Gen Con allowed, too. I started having Denver ?Hellebration I? flashbacks, just without the mud. My hat?s off to anyone that braved it for any amount of time. You?re a lot tougher than I am.

A number of the events were a bit of a bust. The opening ceremonies were lukewarm (no pun intended). The highlights were Jay Laga'aia singing Weird Al?s Star Wars parody, the one man Star Wars show, and the SW in 30 Minutes folks doing the E3 trailer. The rest I could have done without. The Celebration Celebration was disappointing, too. After paying to get in, fans were asked to pay outrageous prices for food and drinks while carnival attractions went on all around. A line wrapped the entire room for the exclusive shirts. But like most of the events at C3, the highlight was meeting the fans you were stuck next to for so much time. Friday night featured an invite-only party by Master Replicas, but it was overcrowded, hot, and disappointing (despite free shirts and hats). The FanForce party on the floor below looked like it was a lot more fun as they featured fan films, folks in costumes, and good food.

Well, that pretty much sums up my Celebration 3 experience. A lot of good stuff and a lot of bad stuff. Fortunately there was more good than bad, so I came away with a positive experience. I have heard rumblings of them doing a Celebration 4 in 2007 to coincide with the 30th Anniversary of ANH, so maybe they?ll be able to fix the major problems of the show by then. In the meantime you can start training for that show by standing in line for ROTS now. Standing in line is what Star Wars fans do best.

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