Monday, August 25, 2008

Fast Facts Display

I've been creating 501st PR material for some time now, on both the local and Legion level. I really enjoy creating flyers, advertisements, banners, posters, trading cards, the Legion PR kit, kid's activity book, the first official Legion typeface and more. I heard that the 501st booth at Dragon*Con was in need of some things, so I put together a 3-sided "Fast Facts" display using the trivia list I've compiled over the years for use on's page headers. The 3-sided design is based upon a 7-inch-tall acrylic display that looks like sample A in this image. Each side features a different photo of a Legion member in costume with 4 factoids. I think something like this would work well in larger sizes as a series of ceiling-danglers (we've got plenty of facts to choose from). If this is a hit at D*C, I'll propose the idea on the Legion level.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Clone Wars Midnight Premiere

Star Wars: The Clone Wars premiered on Friday, August 15th, so many theaters around the world contributed to the hype by hosting midnight screenings for eager fans. I have to say that a lot of the fun surrounding new Star Wars films is the anticipation, the lining up, the going to the movies in costume, and the instant connection you feel with fellow fans at events like this. There wasn't a huge turnout at the AMC Concord 24 in Concord, NC, but those who did show up truly appreciated the interaction with the 501st Carolina Garrison as we took endless photos, did interviews for the local Fox television news crew and handed out flyers I designed for the following Saturday's big event. A couple of fun highlights were kids asking me to autograph their trading cards and also asking one guest to look up on his iPhone right after he took my picture (low and behold my image randomly appeared on the home page!). This was also my first trooping event using the ROM/FX, and I have to say that using a voice amp makes a huge difference in the overall character presence and serves to intimidate the public (in a good way). I'll talk more about that particular electronics mod in another post. On a side note, I'm really starting to feel I need a Clone Wars-era costume! Click here for a gallery courtesy of the sister of TB-1345.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Clone Wars Press Screening

The 501st Carolina Garrison was asked by Warner Brothers to supply some characters for a Charlotte, NC, press screening of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Monday, August 11th, at Regal Phillips Place Stadium 10. Ironically, I didn't see anyone who really looked like press, but, as an extreme anti-bootlegging measure, WB supplied three very intimidating bodyguard types who wanded everyone entering theater number 8.

The small crowd seemed to enjoy the Clone Wars-era characters as they mingled with guests, but R2-KT was the real star of the evening as she gleefully accepted hugs from kids of all ages.

Now the meat of this review of The Clone Wars.


Likes: Nicely colored and textured marionette-like "Thunderbirds" style animation, some new Clone types, reasonable derivative design elements (as opposed to all new droids, ships or objects that don't look "Star Wars"), vintage newsreel-style introduction vs. the "opening crawl" that we're used to seeing, realistic ambient lighting from lightsabers (jeesh, did we have to wait until an animated film to get it right?), parts of the musical score, R2-KT guest appearance in the film

Dislikes: Battle Droid antics, Rotta the Huttlet (really?), Ziro the Hutt (seriously?) , no mention of the 501st Legion by name (although mentioned in the Karen Traviss novelization and on related toy packaging)

I can't really tag this blog entry as a "tour of duty" but it was a fun evening hanging out with the Carolina troops in and out of costume, and I got to operate R2-KT once again. I was talked into helping load her back into her chauffeur's vehicle after the screening, and that pink astromech really needs to lose some weight! Thanks to Cockroach for the photos.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cheesegraters and Jawbones: The Hearing

I came across the full hearing document from propmaker Andrew Ainsworth's recent court loss to Lucasfilm regarding claims of intellectual property rights over various Star Wars helmets and armor including those of the classic Stormtrooper, Imperial Gunner, TIE Pilot, and others. Hardcore costuming enthusiasts may find a few gems within the lengthy court document. Although not directly mentioned by name, I was excited to see the 501st Legion get a tip of the hat in this passage:

85. In 2004 Mr Ainsworth set up a website ( and started to sell products in a concerted manner. There is a significant market for such products amongst aficionados of the Star War (sic) films all over the world, some of whom organise themselves into "Garrisons".

Yeah, we crazy fans will actually pay money for this stuff. And on a related note, it seems that Ainsworth's invoice for Stormtrooper helmets in 1976 was about the same as one can expect to pay now for a Master Replicas Collectors Edition bucket ($98 US):

39. Mr Pemberton told Mr Ainsworth that he wanted 50 helmets and Mr Ainsworth quoted £20 per helmet. Mr Pemberton said he would have to get back to his customer about that and a couple of days later the price was approved.

And, believe it or not, the armor itself was also priced very similar to what a fan-made kit would go for today on ebay (~$755 US):

43. Mr Ainsworth agreed to attempt to produce armour. Over the following weeks he did so, both for the initial filming and for subsequent studio production. He also modified the armour in order to make it more wearable, based on the experience of actors on the Tunisia shoot, and produced modified tools to produce it. The armour that one sees in the 1977 film was all made by him. He made 50 sets. In relation to the armour, Mr Ainsworth contracted directly with Lucas. His invoices were drawn on the instructions of Mr Mollo. He did not have an order number before the Tunisia shoot, but he obtained one afterwards. His first invoice was for 50 sets of armour at £385 per set, and his invoice for new tools, including some for additions, apparently, was for 12 sets of tools at £200 per unit.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rubies Redefines "Supreme"

More dreadful shots of the Rubies Supreme Stormtrooper costume are surfacing. Here's one from Celebration Japan which shows that you, too, can have an Imperial mannequin that does "The Robot" for the price of 90,000 yen ($837 USD):

An out-of-costume 501st member approached the Rubies booth at San Diego Comic-Con 2008 and had an interesting conversation with a sales associate:

The Rubies guy actually told an interested party ahead of me that the armor they see on most people costs $4k to complete and this is licensed and only $1k. When I came up, he answered some assembly questions (mostly velcro and elastic) and told me that most other suits run $6k to complete and this is only $1k. He asked if I'd seen the other suits, I replied politely that I have one, he hesitated and asked me how much it cost to complete, I told him about $800. He said well, considering the work it must have required, the two are about the same.

And here's some shots from Comic-Con (where the sales price is shown as $1000 US):

Among the costuming community, there is great disappointment in the quality. Among the 501st, there is great concern that newcomers may believe that a set of armor like this is acceptable for Legion membership and unwisely drop $1000 in "off the shelf" armor. While no official statement has been released, I feel confident in telling potential 501st recruits that the general consensus is that the Rubies Supreme Stormtrooper is not eligible without considerable modification. Furthermore, the Rubies armor does not come with boots, blaster, neckseal, and other components which are needed to complete the costume. Trust me when I tell you that you can find a more complete and more accurate set of Stormtrooper armor for less money. And I'm still waiting for Museum Replicas to unveil their take on Stormtrooper armor at Dragon*Con 2008. Click here for other related Rubies posts on my blog.

Shepperton Loses Lawsuit Again

I first posted about the case of Andrew Ainsworth's unlicensed replica armor back in April 2007 (click here for the background info). It took months to come to a conclusion, but on July 31 a British High Court judge ruled in favor of George Lucas and Lucasfilm regarding ownership rights of Star Wars costumes including the iconic white-armored Stormtrooper design. While many argue that Ainsworth/Shepperton's costumes are highly accurate, the costuming community also knows that many of AA's production claims are misleading (if not altogether false) and that he is breaking a cardinal rule---blatantly seeking to profit from someone else's designs and hard work. In fact, Lucasfilm's Vice President Howard Roffman made the following statement:

"We do not intend to use this ruling to discourage our fans from expressing their imagination, creativity and passion for Star Wars through the costumes and props they make for their personal use... Rather, we see the Court's decision as reaffirming that those who seek to illegally profit from Star Wars will be brought to task, wherever they may be."
You can read a press release of the outcome here.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Midnight Madness

Every so often, Toys R Us stores will host midnight toy premieres on the eve of their official release date. The closest thing I can think of outside of Star Wars is the Harry Potter midnight book release parties. It's been a while since I've attended one of these (I think the last one was for The Phantom Menace before even I joined the Legion), but since there was a store only 9 minutes away and I wouldn't have to worry about work in the morning (it was Friday, July 25), I figured I should take advantage of it. 501st Carolina Garrison members Dave Petty (TI-1626) and Jada Diaz (DZ-5232) handling organizing this event and I contributed the flyer.

It was great to see so many Carolina members again, and many new ones as well. We met at a local Jason's Deli and then arrived at TRU around 10pm where there were a few shoppers already lining up. I suited up in my TK armor for the first 40 minutes then switched to street clothes to facilitate an international 501st podcast call where we simultaneously counted down to the toy release from New York's Times Square with Northeast Remnant Commanding Officer Dion Rupa (TK-1217) and Taiwan Outpost Commanding Officer Roy Waung (TD-1668). You can hear the countdown from opposite ends of the world on Episode 21 of the 501stCast. This was also the only toy release event to feature an actual celebrity from the Clone Wars, pink astromech R2-KT!

After the madness, the 501st participants mingled among the emptied shelves (they sold an amazing amount of merchandise) and looked through the remnants. At one point, Carolina CO Cheralyn Lambeth (TB-0976) picked up the Star Wars Ultimate Visual Guide book and joked to me "Let's see if you're in here." Amazingly, we both appeared on a page featuring a group photo of the 501st from Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis. I exhibited an unusual sense of self-restraint regarding toy purchases, but in actuality this was simply due to the fact that I don't collect toys anymore. I walked out the door with a $10 Clone Wars lunchbox for my son. Click here for more event pics from DZ-6570.