In the limited sunlight of early dawn, we all packed into the car the left for a 3-hour journey to heart of Indiana. The ride was long but filled with more Star Wars sounds and chit chat than I could almost tolerate. We must have heard the theme song six times, but a few Weird Al songs thrown in livened up the trip a bit.
We arrived in Indianapolis at the RCA Dome to find a line longer than anything I had ever seen. The weather was extremely crappy, sub-40 degrees and rainy snow, plus wind. We drove around trying to find the parking garage and I just watched these people freeze in line dreading my own wait. Even the Stormtroopers and Jedi looked cold.
We got there around 9:00a and the doors didn’t open until 10a. We got down to ground level and it felt like the Santa scene from “A Christmas Story.” Line stretched all the way back to Terre Haute. We even stopped to ask a guy in line where the end was, just like in the movie, and he said something along the lines of “it starts here, it ends down there,” and pointed down the block.
The line was easily a mile if you would measure it, and we were heading towards the tail end. Preparing myself for a very cold wait, Ryan saw a smaller line that was actually moving. The Terre Haute line was on the sidewalk near the street, this line was up next to the building. We rushed over, hoping it was a new line forming. We had nothing to lose at this point, if we were in the wrong line we would have been at the end of the other one anyway.
We get in the line with our one-day passes around our neck and start asking more questions. “What line is this?” we asked, and a guy replied back with “the George Lucas line.” We all looked at each other with smiles of disbelief and asked more questions to make sure we could get in. We got up to the entrance door and waved our passes and we were inside. After only five minutes we were inside and warm, while the rest of the masses were standing along the street freezing their sabers off. Score!
The Lucas Line moved pretty quickly. A volunteer walked by handing out green wrist bands that were apparently our ticket in to see George Lucas. The first photo op was a Darth Vader was roaming around for snapshots. The line continued to stretch down a hall, into a line room which seemingly served no point, and then back out and up some stairs. Stormtrooper ushers pointed the direction and within 20 minutes we were sitting in an auditorium with 3000 other fans waiting to see George Lucas.
We knew Lucas was going to be there, but we hadn’t anticipated seeing him because we didn’t know exactly when he was going to be there and figured it would be a special event that required lots of waiting and possibly Fan Club access, which only Tom had. So getting in the Lucas Line was huge, huge, huge and just the most perfect way to start off the day. Not only were we not outside in the cold, we were inside waiting to see George Lucas!
The host for the all the special guest shows was an actor from the new movies, the Queen’s security guard, and after listening to all the rules about cell phones and flash photography, George was introduced by his two kids and everyone was standing, cheering, and shooting photos. After some chit chat the floor was open to questions.
Although there were some good questions, George’s answers sounded a lot like DVD extras answers. Nothing really new was learned besides there are two Star Wars TV series in the works, one animated, and one live action that will becoming in the next few years. Another question got a little different response. A kid walked up to the microphone and started to ask a question about a new droid from Episode III – big mistake. At the mention of the new droid the crowd of 3,000 booed and hissed at this poor kid as though it was blasphemy. A spoiler of the new movie is not welcomed information. You almost felt sorry for him. In fact, I don’t think he was able to get his question answered because the crowd got too rowdy. After the crowd questions, George went one some more and then was on his merry way. I couldn’t have asked for a better surprise at 9:30 in the morning.
We all exited the auditorium to lines and crowds of what seemed like millions of people. The layout of the convention center was not cut out for this sort of event. The layout was not continuous. Instead of being a loop or square, it was a layout where you went out to a point, then had to turn to go back to the middle hub and back out again. Thus the halls were always filled and extremely hard to move through. Making things worse were the stupid people dragging sleeping bags, chairs, and suitcases around. There were plenty of strollers too, but those you just can’t help, but suitcases? Come on. I’m sorry you waited outside for three hours (and I only waited five minutes), but have some consideration, jerks.
We got ourselves a program guide and a map. Looking at the guide we saw that Billy Dee Williams was a special guest at 11:30a. Billy Dee! It was about 10:30a at this point so we had a half hour to kill before we had to get in line. We decided to hit the exhibition hall to see what was there. Passing many troopers, Vaders, and Jedi along the way, the exhibition hall was filled to the brim with vendors hawking the best and worst of Star Wars merchandise.
You had the big boys like LEGO and game companies in the middle with the mom-and-pop vendors along the outside selling old action figures and toys. The space was big but not big enough for as much as there was. Narrow aisles plagued the hall and made looking hardly any fun. They should have expanded it to two halls and had a little more breathing room. Nonetheless, we scouted the hall and figured out what we could come back and buy later. Before too long we had to go get in line to see Billy.
Lines were the single most spoiler of the entire day. There were lots of scheduled events at Celebration, but almost all of them required waiting in some sort of line, and of course lines formed quickly and grew to ridiculous sizes. Because the lines were so long, you had to show up at least 30 minutes early just to get in line to make it into a show. Unfortunately, this type of organization took up majority of the day. We were all expecting a little more open environment where you walk in, roam around, view, and leave. The other problem was the program guide. It had all the events labeled and the times, but no description of the event or what was involved. We had to rely on information coming in from people we met in line that had the 4-day passes and had seen everything already, which was actually probably better info than any program guide would have told us, but then we got sucked in to listening to them the entire wait.
We finally got in to see Billy Dee, but only after the second George Lucas session had run about 20 minutes late. We were there to see Lando, aw yeah. He is introduced and out comes Billy. Now, I know Billy is pretty old – reaching 70 – and a little worse for wear, but man, he comes hobbling out on a walking stick and crashes into his chair. After a standing welcome, he explains that he is little jet lagged. Jet lag, huh? Well, if you ask anyone there it was a little more than jet lag – maybe a little liquor lag, or drug lag, or a little of each. Poor Billy Dee. The interview was almost a disappointment had it not been so funny. He didn’t remember anything from any Star Wars movies, so all the questions asked were left pretty much unanswered. There were a lot of dead pauses where it seemed as though Billy’s brain had run out of gas.
Then we moved into non-Star Wars questions which I think pissed off a lot of people. Questions about his appearance in “Undercover Brother” and some show on Showtime that lasted only a season or so?what the hell? This is a Star Wars convention, people, let’s stay on task. Then again, it was obvious he had nothing good (or bad) to say about Star Wars. However, he did ramble on about how “Return of the Jedi” was one of the most sexual movies he had been involved with. Talking about the innuendos that Lucas had put in the movie…”what was that movie rated? Should have been rated X,” Billy laughs. This coming after he couldn’t remember Jabba the Hutt’s name. “What was that big slug?” he asked the host, because Jabba was such a forgettable character – especially for someone who had 75% of his screen time spent with him. Poor Billy. To Billy’s credit however, he was wearing a new pair of black All-stars…so at least he has good taste in comfort.
After Billy, we had some more time to kill before we had to go jump in line for another show. We wandered around, past some Tusken Raiders and Imperial pilots and stumbled into another hall, this one filled with vehicles. A giant X-Wing fighter sat in the middle with lots of characters roaming about. Backdrops were available for pictures and I caught a group of troopers hanging out with Boba Fett. Lots of models and robots were around too. A robot competition was going on where people had remote controlled R2-D2s and others. Just more eye candy than anything.
We walked down the hall to where the Celebration store was only to find it had closed. When we had arrived in the morning there was a sign posted that the store was closed, and this was before the convention even opened its doors. Midday we got word that the store opened and closed throughout the day. The Celebration store was the souvenir shop where you could buy convention-branded merchandise. Apparently, people that got into the store bought up everything then went to the vendor exhibit hall and sold everything for double the price. Unfortunately, this screwed over everyone and kept the store closed, or made the line unbearable. One sign I saw said the wait for the store was seven hours. We were all extremely bummed that we wouldn’t be able to get any souvenir that said we where there. Beyond the photos and the nice one-day pass, we had nothing with “Celebration” on it. The organizers really messed up here.
The next show was for an Episode III “spectacular.” Due to the poor program, we really had no idea what it was, but we had heard it was a continuing show that previewed footage from the new movie. So back into line we went. This line stretched for quite some time, and again into another line room, but this time the room was packed as the lined snaked through like an amusement park ride. But as always, the line was filled with enough human entertainment to make time go pretty fast. In this line we met what we dubbed the Roaming Lucases. Four guys dressed in flannel with beards and added gut with a sticker reading “Hello, my name is George Lucas.” They got originality points in my book. A little low on production value, but creativity was there. Once inside the Star Wars producer, Rick McCallum, was interviewed and introduced a montage of Episode III.
Wow. I mean, wow. This movie looks incredible and I think it will deliver, unlike the previous two films. This footage went beyond the trailer and showed quite a bit of plot, action, and new characters. After more questions and answered, Rick showed it to us again! That screening alone just got me totally jacked for the new film and made me realize that this film is the single most anticipated story in the entire Star Wars story. We could have skipped Episodes I and II, frankly. Just make Episode III showing the Vader transformation and we would have been happy.
After the preview we ran into another line, this time for the heralded Star Wars one-man show. We had heard good things about this show and had marked it on the program as one of the four things we had to see before we left. Another auditorium packed to the walls, all to watch one guy go through the entire original trilogy in about an hour. This guy was on fire and nailed everything perfectly, and by far was the most hilarious Star Wars thing I had ever seen in my life.
He started with “A new hope” and went through “Return of the Jedi”, each performance lasting about 15 minutes. He had no props, no set, just him on stage dancing around like a lunatic mimicking characters, vehicles, explosions, and the music. What made it so funny was that he hit on all the subtle things all Star Wars fans see and pick up on in each movie. All those little parts you have noticed since you were five years old and thought you were the only one that noticed it, he proved us all wrong. As delivered the scenes and characters the entire room burst into laughter, showing that everyone had the same experience as this one guy on stage. It was one of those times where you realized that everyone there, all 15,000 of them, were all the same.
When the show ended, it was already about 6:00p and a lot of things closed at 7:00p so we went back to the vendor hall so we could buy all the junk we wanted before we left to go home. Following our purchases, we went around just checking out what as left and open. A few open presentations, like fan films, were running and we stopped for a break. For the most part, the last hour was spent roaming and checking out the spectacle of people in costume. General Grievous showed up, as winner of the Star Wars costume contest. Everyone was stoked when this mechanical wonder came walking down the hall. Even the Stormtroopers had to wait for this one.
What was almost more amazing than the wide range of Star Wars characters roaming the halls were the many non-Star Wars film stars making an appearance. I found the Ghostbusters and even saw Wayne and Garth in the vendor hall flashing their passes at anyone that looked their way. Indiana Jones was there and Captain Jack Sparrow of “Pirates of the Caribbean” was stumbling around too. Any kid wearing a costume was an instant “aw how cute” moment. Little Vaders, tiny Jedi, and even a wee Lando were following their parents around. More so, however, was that the parents were usually in costume as well. There was nothing more heart warming than seeing dad in a Jedi outfit while his daughter was running around as Princess Leia.
On our way back to the parking garage, we found Yoda wandering down the hall and I stopped for the best photo op of the entire day. The day started with a surprise George Lucas show and ended with me and Yoda hanging out in the hallway. Not a bad day by any stretch of a Star Wars fan’s imagination.