Star Wars Celebration III: Day 3, GEORGE!

There can be no single word to sum up the experience of Saturday except: George.

Call him the pope of the Star Wars religion, if you like, as he inspired many zealots to come out in the bitter, wet cold to stand in line to catch a glimpse of him. I heard early on the day before that people were planning to start lining up at midnight. Mind you, the temperatures were going to be in the 30s that night, but hey, some of the things you could buy after your 7 hour wait for the Celebration III store was a stadium blanket and a folding chair.

Natasha and I got to the convention center line about 8am or so, having pretty much set ourselves to just do some other stuff that morning instead of bothering with the whole George madness. The line was actually shorter by about half, and one of the people in line behind us (one of those authoritative types who claims to know everything, including what George had for dinner the night before) claimed to have talked to a volunteer and been told that they had already let everyone in who was going to see George because they were already in line at 3am that morning.

For the most part, the wait wasn’t too bad, although the fan club is supposed to get into the convention center at 8am, but the doors didn’t truly open until 9am. One of the line compressions brought us away from our protective wall and into the bitter sting of the wind and freezing sprinkles that were going on, which set me to looking for someone in a Taun-taun costume to slit open – there were enough lightsabers in evidence that I wouldn’t have had a problem finding a tool to do it. I don’t know how the people that got there earlier managed to stand in the wind and rain that long. Round about 9am the line started moving and we got inside the building.

As we walked inside, a stormtrooper handed me a blue wristband, which got me to thinking…huh? Natasha and I conferred, slapped our wristbands on, and went looking for a line of people with the same wristbands to ask what they were for. That’s been another common theme here at the convention – every time you find yourself standing on a line, you have to ask the people on the line if you’re standing on line for the right thing, and then you have to answer that same question for the next 49 people that ask you.

We ran into some other people with the wristbands, who confirmed that, yes, they were for the second George show.

The second George show!!!!

So we went looking for the line. The first huge line we located that had people with blue wristbands on it turned out to be for the Celebration store. I simply cannot believe that some people chose buying t-shirts and action figures over actually going to see George. Bah! Such greed and consumerism.

We did finally find the line, and once we got there everything ran relatively smoothly as we made our way to seats in the theater.

George was introduced by Jett and Katy Lucas, two of his children. He arrived on the stage to a thunderous standing ovation and an array of flashes bright as the twin suns of Tatooine. He did a quick little speech thanking people for their enthusiasm and for their coming out to see him and they got pretty quickly to the QA part of the program.

Some of the things that got announced during the QA were:

  • Star Wars: Clone Wars 30 minute animated series
  • Star Wars TV series, live action, taking place between Ep3 and Ep4, and featuring all new characters, and no movie characters. “Well,” George added, thinking about it, “One character from the movies, maybe.”
  • George and Warwick Davis (who was hosting one stage at C3) talked backstage about Willow TV series
  • George just received the latest script for Indy 4. He has yet to read it, but will read it on Sunday. He said he has some mixed feelings about reading it, since if he likes it, he might actually have to start making the movie.
  • George is planning to finally make “Red Tails”, the movie he’s been talking about for ages about the Tusekeegee Airmen. (The online chapter of the “Making of Revenge” book showed George talking to Samuel L. Jackson about playing a part in it.)

I think that was it for the major announcements.

George very nicely thanked the fans for their support over the years, pointing out that none of this would be possible without them.

Someone asked him what he thought about all the craziness that was Star Wars, and he said, “Well, it’s a movie, and it’s meant to be enjoyed, and if you can take something good away from it that helps you live your life, that’s a bonus. You shouldn’t let it take over your life, but if it helps you to ‘leave your Uncle’s moisture farm’ and have those adventures that help you live your life fully, then that’s a good thing.”

One of the great things about seeing George is, like all the other people who worked on the movies that I have met this weekend, he seems very humble about what he does. Lucasfilm appears to be made up of creative artists who are passionate about their work and seem to like to share the process with others, and seem to genuinely want to help other pursue their own artistic work. I think one of the main reasons I’ve enjoyed this convention is that everyone I have heard speak has been an advocate for people to build their own artistic life.

Case in point, the next event we went to was a character creation session with Iain McCaig and his team of artists from the Ep3 art department. It was a great interactive session where they taught the audience what the process was to build a character for a Star Wars movie. They broke the audience up into two separate sets of brain cells; one side would help a sculptor build a Sith, the other would help Iain draw a Jedi to fight the Sith. “When you’re working on a drawing like this,” Iain said, “The first thing your brain cells tell you to do, that’s what you create.” They took suggestions from the audience and created the characters right there from the wacky things people shouted out, and ended up turning out some great stuff. Even better, at the end, they gave away the sculpt and the drawing to some lucky winners in the audience.

Now, I’ve seen Iain work before, and it’s some pretty incredible stuff. He bounces around like a five year old on sugar and from pure enthusiasm draws his audience into his craft. He’s a great teacher, and the kind of artist that can really give people confidence that they can just do something creative and it will all work out. There’s one thing he said, that I think goes a long way to describing what it means to really be creative. “If, when you’re drawing, it’s not fun. It’s not like when you were drawing monsters with crayons when you were five years old, then you’re doing something wrong.”

After that session we went to see an interview with Warwick Davis. Warwick is a very funny guy and a fan favorite. He was very surprised and pleased to hear that George had mentioned their Willow TV series conversation to thousands of people (evidently more than once) in the sessions in the morning. “And you all clapped and hooted really loud like that, did you?” he asked when the audience cheered. “Ah, yes, good,” he added with a big, ‘we’ll be chatting at the next Lucasfilm picnic George’ grin.

Warwick is working on a movie called “Agent 1/2”, a project he has written and plans to star in once they find a studio willing to fund it. The film is about a team of short spies, who are the people who work in the shadows to make the average-sized spies look good. He said Val Kilmer has expressed an interest in playing the normal-sized spy in the movie.

Warwick is also the actor inside the costumer of Marvin the Paranoid Android in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” movie, and he recently did a dramatic stint in “Ray”.

Of course, after that, we had to go see the Ep3 footage that Rick McCallum brought with him again. It was a little different this time, as Rick took questions. Of course, part way through he stopped and said, “Do you really want to hear a wanker like me answer questions, or would you rather see the footage again?” The audience cheered, Rick answered a couple of more questions, evangelized about digital cinema again (“Go out there and tell the theater owners that in an era of people like Robert Rodriguez and Jim Cameron and George making totally digital movies that you want to see movies the way they were meant to be seen!”) and then ran the footage for us a second time. W00t!

Our last session of the day was a presentation by John Knoll, visual effects supervisor for the prequel trilogy. John showed some brand new, behind the scenes pics from the original trilogy that he has collected for a book he’s written about the making of all the movies. Some great stuff there, and a lot of pictures of the making of the original series that I had never seen before. He also showed some footage from the making of Revenge of the Sith, showed some blooper renders including the horrible things that can happen with capes (“Just like Edna said in The Incredibles, NO CAPES!”) and finished with some joke shots some of the artists had put together including iPod trooper and Palpatine playing solitaire in his office.

The big finish of the day was Celebration at Celebration 3, which was a giant party in the big ballroom with food, drinks, games, costumes, and celebrities walking through the crowd. It was a great event, with a gigantic merchandise line (*sigh*). Natasha even managed to win herself a lightsaber. So, the Force was with her.

More tomorrow, from the last day of Star Wars Celebration III.