I was already looking forward to Celebration VI, but being that this was going to be the first time that I'd be attending a convention since I joined Rebelscum earlier this year, I was especially excited to have the opportunity to hang out with other members of the team.
Fellow Scummer D. Martin Myatt and I were travelling together and we decided to make something of a road-trip of it, stopping to look for toys on the way to the airport. Going toy-hunting with a buddy is always a lot of fun, and it's even better when you get to visit a place as awesome as the Toy Stable in Tacoma, Washington. Lynne the owner, has been trading for decades and has known super-collector Gus Lopez since he was just a wee boy! The only frustration was not wanting to leave anything in the car for the week we'd be away, so I sadly left empty-handed, but I certainly hope to be able to return at some point in the near future.
After uneventful flights (the best kind, but more on that later) from Sea-Tac airport to Miami International and from there to Orlando, we were met by another new member of the Rebelscum team, Rich Alot, who's a local lad and so he was able to show us some of the sights, including a visit to Acme Comics, Cards, and Collectibles, another awesome toy store, and this time I couldn't stop myself from picking up a few things to take back home. Having not had the opportunity to ride on the new Star Tours since its launch in May of 2011, I was desperate to go to Hollywood Studios while I was in Florida, and so the three of us made our way to the park where we were able to ride the attraction four times. Despite thoroughly enjoying the ride, knowing how varied Star Tours is, it was slightly disappointing to see the same introduction all four times, visit Kashyyyk three times, Coruscant and Naboo twice and Hoth just the once. Prior to going on the ride however, Dave, Rich and myself spent a good couple of hours picking up the build-a-droid parts for our friend Paul H., and it was really neat when one of the staff told us that she and her husband both frequently visit Rebelscum.com and that she'd look forward to seeing the new parts when we update our Disney Parks Droid Factory Photo Archive which includes an exclusive interview with Cody Hampton, Associate Product Developer of Toys for the Disney Theme Parks, conducted by our very own Chris Wyman.
Next day was set-up day, and the first real opportunity for me to work alongside the other members of the team, most of whom I'd previously met, but it was awesome to actually be a part of such an amazing group of people. I also got to meet yet another new addition to the Rebelscum and Cool Toy Review teams, Anthony Pomposello (AnthonyP on the Rebelscum forums), who I already knew to be an absolute posting machine on CTR. Hitting it off with both Anthony and Rich straight away, we all mucked in and did what we needed to do as we made last minute preparations ahead of Celebration VI starting the following day. Heading out for a fans of the ForceCast gathering at The Pub across from our hotel meant that we also got to down a few cold ones with Aussie brothers and Jedi Masters Saesee Tiin and Kit Fisto, also known as Jesse and Zac Jensen, fellow Jedi Aayla Secura, aka Amy Allen, as well as the likes of Matt Wood, David Acord, Stephen Stanton and Kyle Newman. The beauty of this gathering, is that it wasn't exclusive to a select few, and the guests seemed happy to talk to everyone and anyone who struck up a conversation with them.
In addition to spending time with the Scummer team, manning the booth for Rebelscum.com, TheForce.Net and the ForeCast.Net also provided me with the chance to meet many of the multitude of fans that visit the three sites, and who were keen to partake in our draw to win a patch from each of the sites, as well as the anchor patch from OfficalPix.com. Having started by asking for three phrases from each of the sites ("You can't spell Star Wars without 'RS'" - it's true, you can't!, "I get my daily dose of Star Wars from TheForce.Net" - I would certainly hope so! and "The galaxy is listening" - you bet it is!), we soon realised that it would be more fun to have visitors to the booth give us their favourite Star Wars quote. Among the more familiar "May the Force be with You", "These aren't the droids you're looking for" and "You Rebel scum!", we got some very uncommon quotes, and Anthony even had the good fortune to have a huge chunk of dialogue which had been impressively memorised recited to him. I consider it a privilege to be a part of Rebelscum, providing me the opportunity to give back to the Star Wars community, and it was extremely humbling at times to hear how appreciated the site, along with TheForce.Net and the ForceCast.Net, is to our readers.
After catching my first panel on Thursday, it was then back to help out with the ForceCast's first Live Show of Celebration VI and while I really shouldn't be all that surprised, it honestly never ceases to amaze me the quality of guests that Jason and Jimmy Mac draw to the show, with the likes of Steve Sansweet, Ashley Eckstein, Leland Chee, and James Arnold Taylor appearing on day one of CVI. What was especially satisfying for me on the show, was the awarding of Rebelscum's Star WarsLicensee of the Year to Her Universe, which Philip presented to a very astounded Ashley Eckstein. Seeing the look on Ashley's face, hearing her reaction to the award, and later seeing it on the Her Universe stand validated the whole team's decision to recognise the achievements of Ashley's persistence and hard work in making Her Universe the force (pun intended) it is in providing apparel and jewellery for fan girls, something that Dave Filoni further alluded to in Sunday's ForceCast Live show.
Having spent a few hours working on posts and other site duties once the day's events had concluded, it was then time for TheForce.Net party and a further opportunity to catch up with friends old and new before heading back to the hotel for some much needed sleep ahead of the following day.
Friday began with the traditional Rebelscum/TheForce.Net/ForceCast team photo, though a first for me, and after gathering in front of the sites' booth, we then posed with Roxy the Rancor for a second set of pictures. With everyone from the family of sites in attendance, we took a moment to present the man responsible for bringing us all together, Philip Wise, with a photo album that was made up of contributions from many of the team, as a gesture of our combined appreciation for all he has done in our lives through our involvement with the sites that all started from "Philip's Star Wars Pictures, Toys and Thoughts" back in 1996.
Once the team had been dispersed, it was back to the booth to hand out more tickets for the patch draw and I must have been having fun, because the time just flew by before I needed to head to what would be my only panel of the day, to find out "What's New at Hasbro?", and then a little later in the day, myself, Dave and Rich had the opportunity to chat at length with Derryl DePriest, the Vice President of Global Brand Management and Brian Merten, the Senior Manager of Product Design. Attending the 501st party that evening gave me the chance to let my hair down a little after the day's exertions and I am not ashamed to admit that I took the opportunity to strut my stuff, plus I was fortunate enough to have a brief chat with Jake Lloyd whilst waiting in line for liquid refreshment! I later discovered that while I was waiting to be served, the other members of the team that were there were chin-wagging with Seth Green, someone with whom it would seem I am destined never to cross paths! To be fair, I do have the honour of having been "shushed" by Seth, as he was trying to remain inconspicuous while taking a picture of the Muppet troopers, but that's as close as it got! On our way out of the 501st bash, we ran into Lucasfilm's Chris Spitale, who was hastily making his way up to the now traditional vintage swap meet where many dealers with some of the rarer Star Wars collectibles were trading in a hotel corridor, their wares spread over the carpet! While much of it was beyond my modest budget, I couldn't walk away without getting something, and was able to haggle a pretty good deal on an unpainted prototype Han Solo Power of the Force 2 action figure.
Following a tip-off we had received about a certain someone taking a leisurely stroll around the exhibition hall on Saturday morning, Dave, Chris Holoka, Rich and I had an early start to our day to get into the convention centre and see the Maker himself, albeit from a relatively safe distance, before we were soon back into the swing of things, manning the booth to welcome the hordes of fans eager to participate in the raffle to win one or more of the site patches. Taking a break from the chaos, I had a chance to spend some time with the other Brit on the Rebelscum team, Grahame Wright, while we waited in line for the Super-Secret Star Wars Panel with Todd, Seth, and Matt, and it was nice to have the chance to get to know him more. We were soon joined by Chris H. as the three of us waited patiently to go into the Chapin Theatre, where we got to see not only the awesome trailer as well as some amazing footage from Star Wars: Detours, but Chris and I also got to see George for a second time! The rest of the day was spent on the booth until it was time to pack up and head on over to the Digital Stage for Smuggler's Gambit, with The ForceCast's Jimmy Mac producing and providing live sound effects as well as Chewbacca's dialogue! Saturday night proved to be a quieter affair than previous nights, though there was still the opportunity to catch up with a few friends including Ruark Dreher and J. C. Reifenberg of Hughes the Force fame.
And so to Sunday, and one of my highlights of the weekend, Celebration of Worship, which was held in the Rosen Plaza, led by "Big Honkin'" Steve Glosson and special guest James Arnold Taylor, and provided an opportunity for fans of a Christian denomination to gather in a church environment for a time of teaching and worship. Heading straight from there to do my final stint handing out tickets for the raffle, taking a couple of minutes to have a quick chat with Christopher Malcolm (Zev Senesca - the Snowspeeder Pilot, Dave!), after which I was able to spend some time soaking up the vibes at the ForceCast's final Live Show before heading off with Chris, Grahame and Eric Geller for the closing ceremony. It was straight back to the booth to participate in some modeling for the Star Wars Celebration VI Store merchandise photo gallery for Rebelscum, though I've since been told that I got bumped for Daniel Logan who also wore one of the t-shirts I did. I can live with that! The day wrapped up with the tear-down/up, depending on your point of view, and a final opportunity to hang out with the team before we all went our separate ways, though Dave and I would be travelling back to Vancouver together. Waiting around in the Official Pix area also meant that a number of the celebrity guests were milling around before heading out, providing an opportunity to speak briefly to the likes of Kenny Baker and Warwick Davis and receive the merest of smiles from Ian McDiarmid, the Emperor himself, as he passed through the back of the Rebelscum booth.
In all honesty, most of the weekend just blew past me (largely due to burning the candle at both ends working on the site and a steady flow of caffeine that put me in a zombie-like stupor), and while it was disappointing not to get to more panels and I was sad to also miss catching up with many people that I had wanted to see during the course of the four days, the biggest upset was failing to make it to a single panel from the collecting track. I'm still dumbfounded as to how that happened! At the end of the day though, when I'm representing Rebelscum, it's not about me, it's about ensuring that no fan gets left behind, and though there was a lot of programming that we weren't able to cover, due to a combination of the sheer number of panels and also spending hours waiting in line along with everyone else, the team made every attempt to cover as much as they possibly could.
With an early flight on Monday morning, our team-mate Rich picked Dave and myself up from the hotel, but due to some issues with the airline (and that's putting it mildly!), we managed to miss our flight to Dallas and were subsequently re-directed to L.A., where we would get a later flight to Seattle. I joked to Dave that we would end up on the same flight as James Arnold Taylor, so you can imagine our surprise when who should be sitting across from me, but JAT! Being as tired as I was was probably a good thing, as I didn't have the energy to harass James throughout the flight, though we did have an opportunity to talk briefly just prior to touchdown in California. Another uneventful flight a few hours later, and we arrived in Seattle, though no sooner had we hit rush-hour traffic as we approached downtown, than Dave's truck broke-down! And so it was that we ended up spending another night away from our respective families, finally making it home the following day.
So what am I able to take away from my experiences of being a part of Rebelscum at Celebration VI? I've said it already, but I am immensely proud to be a part of this team, knowing how hard they work to provide the latest news and updates from the world of Star Wars licensing, and when it comes down to it, they're a great bunch of guys that are especially fun to hang out with. It goes without saying that having the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the celebrity guests that frequent the area behind the Rebelscum booth gives you a real buzz, but the truth is that I still have to respect their privacy and so it doesn't entitle me to interrupt them when they may just be seeking some respite from the hours of signing autographs. Still pretty cool though!