Star Wars Celebration Episode V: Attack of the Con

It’s occurred to me that I’ve possibly spent more words describing my trip to a Star Wars convention than I did describing my honeymoon.  I’ll leave you to draw whatever conclusions you wish.

So I’d buzzed the exhibitor’s hall, sort of seen George Lucas live and in person, and watched a lot of people in a whole lot of plastic and spandex.  But there was more to do besides spend money and ogle.  There were plenty of exhibits and panels going on, probably more than one could realistically see in one day.  But I did my best.

The panels I sort of shied away from.  Part of it was due to sheer sensory overload in the exhibit hall; by the time I’d gotten my bearings and done a lap or two, a few hours had gone by and most of what I’d wanted to see had already happened.  But some of them were worth skipping, unless I was really interested in the history of in-store free-standing Star Wars merchandise displays.  And no, that’s not a joke.  There was actually a presentation discussing the various display racks for Star Wars toys used over the years.  I’m not going to begrudge someone their entertainment … no, yes, yes I am going to begrudge someone the entertainment value of listening to stories of how the third wave of Return of the Jedi figures were displayed at K-Mart.  You paid sixty bucks to be here.  Go leer at a Slave Leia or something constructive.

G4, the network that really tries too hard to get geeks to like it, sponsored the Echo Base Ice Bar, which was basically a bar that used dry ice, ice sculptures and a guy in a Wampa suit as an excuse to charge nine dollars for a beer.  Olivia Munn could have been body-shotting the beer and I think I still wouldn’t have paid nine dollars for it, although I certainly would have appreciated the effort.

But tucked away in a side room near the Ice Bar was probably the highlight of the entire day for me.  It seems that one day, artist Ralph McQuarrie was moving some boxes around, and inside one he found a stack of concept drawings he did for the first three Star Wars films.  Just sitting in a box, collecting dust.  Some of these hadn’t been seen since 1975 or 1976, when Lucas was still working on the script and trying to get a studio interested in the project.  And it was McQuarrie’s artwork that helped convince 20th Century Fox to take a chance on this weird space movie the guy who directed American Graffiti was peddling.  So to see the actual drawings that not only inspired the designs of many of the characters and ships in the films, but which were actively responsible for it even existing, well, that was a thrill.  And to me, that room away from the hustle and bustle is what cons like this are all about: the little things that surprise you, either by you not expecting them to be there or by not expecting them to be as captivating as they are.

It seems I wasn’t as thorough in my side trips as I could have been.  When I got home that night and saw photos posted by friends of mine who’d also been at the con, I realized there was an entire room of props and scenes that I had somehow walked right by.  I could have sat in the Emperor’s throne.  Where was my head? Oh yeah, probably wrapped around the idea of Olivia Munn body-shotting that beer.

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