Monday, September 10, 2012

Celebration VI: Orlando, Again!

Only two years after 2010's Star Wars Celebration V, Orlando played host once again to the year's largest Star Wars convention as 30,000+ fans from around the world converged on Central Florida's Orange County Convention Center to revel in four geeky days in honor of that galaxy far, far away.

I've always enjoyed being involved with the planning of the 501st Legion's presence at any event (the Legion's reputation precedes us and one does not want to disappoint), but the tremendous amount of work that went into this Celebration was simply astounding. I was privy to and deeply engaged with more than a year's worth of volunteer preparation that escalated over time from an occasional e-mail to a daily regimen of communiques concerning everything from hotel contracts and celebrity appearances to writing dialog for General Grievous and George Lucas. Oh, and I even managed to squeeze in some time in armor.

Knowing how much was going to happen behind-the-scenes, I arrived in Orlando a day early and, after securing my Exhibitor badge, made my way to the 501st Experience room to help set up 5,355 square feet of amazing fan-made costumes, props, backdrops, displays and signage. Although we had the same room at the last Celebration, this year's charity exhibit was located in the main exhibit hall giving us room to include new features such as an awesome Death Star Superlaser control station, Trash Compactor set, Detention Block AA-23, Clone Trooper Locker Room and the Midsouth Garrison's new 1:1 scale Dewback prop---a mobile two-man puppet which won "Best in Show" at the CVI costume contest.

I also helped as a handler for an amazing project that debuted at this show---Roxy the Rancor. The life-size 700-pound sculpture was created by Rick Bohler of Pizzazz Scenic Contractors with assistance from the 501st's Matt Paisley and was undoubtedly one of the most iconic interactive backdrops for Celebration VI. In fact, Roxy even got a private visit from George Lucas and Mark Hamill during their very secretive visits to the con floor. One of the contributions I made was helping produce an mp3 loop of roars, screams and Stormtrooper intercom chatter that provided an audioscape for Roxy's appearance.

Always a hit (and always a major headache to coordinate) was the 501st group photo. How to arrange our members in a fair and logical manner has always been a challenge. Do one-of-a-kind costumes get preferential treatment up front, or the ones that are most recognizable...or most logical as "leaders" of the Empire? What colors look good together? Do AT-AT Drivers go next to the Snowtroopers or the Stormtroopers? Where do we put Honorary Members? All things considered (and realizing that it's virtually impossible to make everyone happy), I was happy with how the Florida Garrison tried something new by having members in the center of the group form a large "CVI" to commemorate the picture.

Far Away Creations also contributed their fantastic Han in Carbonite display as seen in Jabba's Palace, however this particular set piece was first used for the 501st Bash on Friday night. This sold-out event was one of the highlights of the con as the Legion played host to members, fans and celebrities at Rosen Centre following a private members only 501st Banquet that had its own surprises including an epic Darth Vader cake by Oakleaf Cakes and personal visits from Ian McDiarmid, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Bonnie Piesse and other celebrities. I was also honored to receive a coin and patch for my service as a long-time Legion Command Staff member.

Our friends at Doctrine Creative helped document the entire event in a well-produced DVD which is available here. Check out the trailer for a taste of the exciting blur that was Star Wars Celebration VI.