Star Wars Fan Days III is now over, but the memories will live on for a long time. The gathering of thousands of Star Wars fans from around the world attracted guests from all aspects of the Star Wars franchise. Attending voice actors from The Clone Wars included most of the cast which included: Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker), Nika Futterman (Ventress), Matt Wood (General Grievous), David Acord (Stinky!), Catherine Taber (Padme Amidala), Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka), Tom Kane (Yoda), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Dee Bradly Baker (Clones, Rex, Cody Etc).
Also, from the Original Star Wars Trilogy: Dave Prowse (Darth Vader), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Ray Park (Darth Maul), Anthony Forrest (Sandtrooper), Jack Klaff (X-wing Pilot), Hugh Quarshie (Captain Panaka), Chris Muncke (Scan Crew), Nalini Krishan (Barriss Offee), Matt Wood (General Grievous), David Acord (Various Droids).
The show featured a large exhibit hall, which included vendor booths and over 30 Lucasfilm artist tables. The Saturday-only signing by Star Wars in Concert narrator (and C-3PO actor) Anthony Daniels was in the exhibit hall as well. There was also a large auditorium where major panels took place. The ForceCast (Official podcast of TheForce.net and Rebelscum.com) also had a booth at Fan Days III, where hosts Jason Swank and Jimmy Mac broadcast two live shows.
The Star Wars magic began with the arrival of Star Wars In Concert in the Dallas area. As I was unable to attend personally, I spoke about the Concert to several Star Wars fans who went to see the show at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.
Stuart Tullis, who brought his son Luke and daughter Abbey with him from Alabama, explained how he felt during the concert:
You can't miss the myth of Star Wars presented in Star Wars in Concert. Though the themes composed by John Williams have always resonated deeply within us, when combined with appropriate lighting, precisely-timed video, and a complement of thousands of fans, the evening became more than what any of us could have expected. The well-known score lived vibrantly in the stadium, reaching out to touch our hearts like a spirit creature, beckoning us to understand the fullness of George Lucas's saga. With but a few adjustments to the arrangements with which we're all familiar, the music was fresh -- something familiar, yet brand new. To top it all off, the magic of master storyteller Anthony Daniels provided our touchstone to the saga. With honesty, clarity, and humor, C-3PO's alter-ego drew us into that galaxy far, far away like the ancient poets and minstrels who passed on the legends of our own past. We left Cowboys Stadium more in tune with Star Wars than ever before, having experienced the saga, sight and sound, in a most impressive manner; it was like a breath of fresh air -- renewing and reinvigorating our connection with this beloved mythology.
Sheldon Norton, a Star Wars fan from Canada who traveled to Texas with his son Chase, had this to say:
Have you ever lost your voice at a symphonic concert before? Well thousands of us almost did at a super charged launch party of the Fan Days III weekend with Star Wars in Concert at the Dallas Stadium. It was quite honestly the most exhilarating live performance I've ever been to, and that includes many rock concerts and theater performances. The state of the art jumbo screens, the video coverage of the symphony, the charm of Daniels, the beauty of the Star Wars imagery, the power of the music, and the brilliance of the script and music selections all brought Lucas's mythic story arc to sublime heights. If you have a chance to attend this show, don't be surprised if you find yourself with a lump in your throat and teary eyed during many of the segment climaxes. It's a fresh reminder of all that is grand and inspirational about the two trilogies, and there was no better way to enter a two-day gathering of friends new and old who share a common interest - the modern day legend that is Star Wars.
Pedro Jorba, a Mexican Star Wars fan who also attended the Concert, had nothing but good things to say about his experience:
I've been fortunate to attend several live performances of the music of Star Wars, and this one ranks up there with the best of them. There were none of the problems common with this type of show, such as inaccuracies in tempo or rhythm. The addition of a live chorus is a very welcome bonus. The selection of pieces was also very good. Most live performances of Star Wars music focus on the main themes of the saga, such as The Imperial March, Princess Leia's Theme or Across the Stars. All of these were present, but we were also treated to seldom played action cues, such as The Flag Parade, The Forest Battle or my all-time favorite Star Wars track, The Asteroid Field. The collage of movie scenes that is played during the concert is masterfully selected and coordinated with the live interpretation, combining to form a unique audiovisual experience.
The official Fan Days III festivities kicked off on Saturday morning with the opening of the Plano Centre doors at 7:30am for the Fan Club Breakfast. As they walked in, fans were given swag bags full of posters, stickers, action figures, a breakfast-exclusive t-shirt, and other goodies. Upon being seated, the breakfast attendees were told by event organizer Anne Neumann that one lucky individual at each table would be allowed to take home the table decorations. The giveaways didn't end there as Neumann, Steve Sansweet, special guests James Arnold Taylor and Dave Filoni, and the ForceCast's Jason and Jimmy raffled away various prizes from the Lucasfilm collection. One lucky young man won two prizes, one of which was a signed George Lucas trading card!
When the breakfast ended, attendees were allowed into the convention proper ahead of its official opening. Once inside, fans flocked to the autograph rooms, the artist tables, and the variety of other attractions. The ForceCast hosts began setting up their equipment, and The Clone Wars actors settled in for long signing hours. Fan Days III had officially begun!
At 12:00pm, Don Bies took the stage in the large auditorium for a panel moderated by the ForceCast hosts. Bies discussed his experiences working on the films (including a funny story about a C-3PO mishap), the mockumentary R2-D2: Beneath the Dome, and the differences between operating a C-3PO puppet and having Anthony Daniels wear the costume independently.
At 12:15pm, Gus Lopez and Duncan Jenkins spoke in the collector room about their new book, Gus and Duncan's Comprehensive Guide to Star Wars Collectibles. The panel, entitled Stockpiling Star Wars, featured the two co-authors sharing their experiences compiling the largest compendium of Star Wars collectibles in history. The collector room also saw the 1:00pm panel Star Wars Plush Toys, where host Andy Loney presented and discussed plush Star Wars collectibles old and new. At 3:00pm, Gus Lopez returned to the stage for the Un-produced Star Wars Toys panel. Fans were treated to examples of Star Wars toys that never made it to market.
When 1:00pm rolled around, Ray Park spoke in the auditorium about his experiences in Star Wars and martial arts. A large portion of the panel was about Park's youth, when he learned martial arts and idolized figures such as Jackie Chan and Jet Lee. Park also talked about how he got the role of Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, as well as other, non-Star Wars roles he would like to play in the future.
After the Ray Park panel, Steve Sansweet presented The Future of Star Wars in a panel very reminiscent of those at San Diego's and Chicago's Comic-Cons. Highlights included a promotional video for Star Wars In Concert, the hugely-popular trailer for The Old Republic, and a series of clips celebrating Star Wars fandom to raise excitement for Celebration V. While Sansweet didn't reveal a location or a date for the convention, he did say that Lucasfilm had narrowed down a list of potential cities to less than five. Dave Filoni also joined Sansweet on stage to talk at length about the process of creating episodes of The Clone Wars (which he described as a series of weekly movies). Dave Filoni and Steve Sansweet began signing for fans shortly after the panel.
Shortly after the Future of Star Wars panel, The ForceCast went live with its flagship weekly program. Jason and Jimmy broadcast before a live "studio audience", often soliciting reactions from their Fan Days III viewers (one Fan Days III attendee even got the opportunity to do a live commercial for show sponsor Audible). To bring their previous Outrageous stories about Dave Prowse to a close, the ForceCast hosts invited Darth Vader himself behind the podcast table to talk with them about his adventures in the news. At one point, James Arnold Taylor wandered over to talk with the hosts. He even performed a variety of voices for the assembled fans -- and those watching around the world on the ForceCast's live Ustream broadcast. Later in the afternoon, Dave Filoni himself made a surprise visit to the ForceCast table, and as they were still broadcasting, Jason and Jimmy talked with Dave about his work on The Clone Wars. You can listen to the show now right here!
At the same time the ForceCast was recording their live show for fans, Steve Sansweet and Dustin Roberts were busy luring fans to bid on merchandise in the Star Wars Fan Days 3 Charity Auction. A Star Wars Fan Days 3 George Lucas promo card, SIGNED by the maker himself, George Lucas went for a final bid of $1600! A Rebelscum Exclusive 1 of 18 triple Darth Vader autograph acrylic display went for over $500! And the list goes on and on... Overall they helped raise over $6,000 for charity!
Net to Breast Cancer $521.10 Net to PKD $5,737.89
At 6:00pm, the show ended for the day, but attendees weren't done yet. A number of fans met up at local bar and restaurant Humperdink's for a lively evening of food, drink, and conversation. Photos were posted, tweets were written, and a good time was had by all.
On Sunday, the show started at 11:00am. The day featured similar signings (with the exception of Anthony Daniels). Katie Cook presented a How To Draw Star Wars panel, Duncan Jenkins discussed Star Wars poster collecting, and Shane Turgeon made a presentation about Star Wars tattoos. Still, on Sunday, it was the panels that made the convention exceptional.
At 12:00pm, Steve Sansweet and Anne Neumann talked about their book Star Wars: 1,000 Collectibles. The presentation featured a slideshow of pages from the book, with Sansweet explaining how he acquired the items and Neumann explaining how she photographed them.
At 2:00pm, Dave Filoni and Steve Sansweet once again shared the stage for what many regarded as the weekend's feature presentation: a live table read with the voice actors behind the characters of The Clone Wars. Steve Sansweet introduced Dave Filoni and the actors as they approached the table. With Sansweet playing the narrator, the actors read from a script that Filoni wrote specifically for the event. Afterward, Filoni talked about how important the voice actors were to the process of creating an episode. He also explained how and why he chose each member of the voice cast. Then, James Arnold Taylor and Dee Bradley Baker delighted attendees with their vocal repertoire. Matt Lanter shared his impression of a clone trooper who'd drank a bit too much, and Taylor and Baker did a back-and-forth (much to Ashley Eckstein's amusement) of two amateur voice actors discussing how excited they were to be working on The Clone Wars. The panel was followed by more signing time for Sansweet and Filoni.
Sheldon Norton summed up the convention in this way:
The word spirit best defines it. I attended Fan Days III, my first Star Wars Convention, this past weekend, and was overwhelmed by the experience and the quality of people. If this three-day gathering held any indication of what defines SW fans, it is that we wear our hearts on our sleeves and follow our bliss without any inhibition. The positive energy and sheer delight expressed at every venue of this convention was truly testament to the fact that Plano is the place to be each year in October if the Galaxy far far away is your thing. The excitement of the attendees was coupled with the enthusiasm and graciousness of Lucasfilm personnel and talent, and of all the convention guests. But our ForceCast community friends especially made it the best time together that my son and I have ever shared. I can't imagine not returning to this very special event.
ForceCast fan Mandy also shared her Fan Days III thoughts with me:
As I'd never been to a con, FD3 was the perfect convention for me. It was an intimate setting, yet the experiences offered were vast. There was something for everyone: collectors, autograph seekers, art lovers, or just general Star Wars enthusiasts. The fan response created a positive and exciting atmosphere even though we were relentlessly teased about dates for Celebration V and spoilers for Season Two of The Clone Wars (thanks Steve and Dave!). All in all, whether it was standing in line with friends made only seconds ago, listening to the cast of TCW read through a brand new script, or having dinner with your new/old ForceCast listener pals it was the best weekend a Star Wars fan could have.
So what did I think? Well, this was my first Fan Days, and I can say that I really look forward to attending again. I had previously been to Celebration IV, but this was so much more intimate and exciting. Part of it was the size of the convention -- there was a smaller crowd of attendees, and the celebrity turnout was still excellent. But the community aspect was also a major factor in my enjoyment. I have known my ForceCast friends for years now, but never have I met so many of them before in such a Star Wars-centric way. (The only time I've met a ForceCast friend for Star Wars was when Jay Shepard and I saw Fanboys together.) I was almost overwhelmed by the communal nature of Fan Days III. Combine the ForceCast's podcast outreach with the widespread use of Twitter and other social networks, and you've got a recipe for instant success at the first in-person meeting. I felt like introductions weren't necessary, and that I could just pick up our normal online conversation in person. I could not have been more thrilled with how the ForceCast community came together at this convention. This will be a weekend long remembered.
Overall, the convention was a huge success. Attendance was high, especially at the breakfast, and Star Wars fever was in the air throughout the whole weekend. Many fans were overheard saying, "I'll see you at Celebration V!" Others said that this was the highlight of their year. One thing is for sure: Star Wars is forever!
Thanks for reading this, and all of TFN's staff-wide coverage of Fan Days III. May the Force be with you!