Star Wars Celebration V ran at the Orange County Convention Center from August 12-15. Literally, an army of geeks descended upon our fair little town. The 501st Legion (Vader's Fist) is a fan organization that creates replicas of the costumes shown in the Star Wars movies and wears them damn near anywhere they want. Many of the uniforms are most impressive. A few look a little less than impressive, and then there are the variations. You see Storm Troopers wearing kilts. You see a Storm Trooper wearing a fez. You see a guy in a suit wearing a Storm Trooper helmet. You get the idea. Then there are the fans who dress up on the other side of the Star Wars fence – the Jedi. Those costumes range from elaborate to a drunken guy in a brown bathrobe. Many of these folks carry light sabers and when the two sides meet, they perform the ceremonial banging of the sticks. At least, that was my impression.
So just who is the average fan in the Star Wars universe? According to my observation, they're somewhat overweight and pushing baby strollers.
They also have poor hearing. I attribute this observation to the fact that they yell at each other – often right in my ear – across great distances. They yell LOUD AS FUCK at each other. Despite the ear-shattering volume of their voices, they often have to repeat and yell SEVERAL times to get the attention of the person who needs to hear this important message. Again, all of this yelling occurs right in my ear, as if the message could pass through my head and out the other ear to the intended recipient. That's why I think they have poor hearing. It takes about five times to yell the same message – in my ear – before someone turns around and responds.
However, you can't really stereotype all of the fans. Adrianne Curry is a fan and she came ready to play in Princess Leia's slave costume.
She was posing with a fan when I grabbed this shot from a distance (ask me about my LONG lens). At the time, I didn't know who she was, but one of my objectives for this trip was to get some good portraits of a girl in a Slave Leia costume. I was trying to make my way over to ask her for a photo, but I couldn't get there. Too many other fans were in the way, often stopping for no apparent reason and it was just impossible to get through the sea of people in time before she left. I was about twenty feet away when she disappeared, so that was the end of my opportunity. I did get some action shots of her in at the Disney show – Indiana Jones and the Jedi Temple of Doom – but those were shot from the stands and not quite the portrait I hoped to get. I'll say one thing, though. This girl is fit from top to bottom. Unfortunately, some drunken dude tried molesting her at the Rosen when she got back there about 3:00 am or so. Welcome to Orlando.
Most of the show floor was full of booths trying to sell something. Some of the major players included Hasbro, Lego, Disney, and Sirius was broadcasting from its own booth. If it was related to Star Wars, you could buy it – right down to the toaster that leaves an impression of Darth Vader's helmet on your white bread. You want a light saber? They had those, too.
The things that really impressed me were the full-sized sets created by fans. There was a full-sized TIE Interceptor, a copy of the inside of the Millenium Falcon and the back door to the Imperial Base on Endor. Put some characters in front of these sets built by some Belgian fans and you have a great place to take portraits. That is, if you can battle for space against the other hundred people trying to take pictures with their children on those sets, or the guys who walk right in front of your camera so they can stick their cell phone out for “one quick shot.” Blast him!
As I told you, I suffer for my readers. This experience was no different. I like Star Wars, but I'm never going to dress up for it. I also don't know every little detail and don't feel like being challenged for nerd superiority. Some of the conversations I overheard just left me shaking my head. They ranged from the philosophy of Light vs. Dark side of the force, whether Han shot first (we all know he did), and the inevitable trivia challenges. These broke out as often as the ceremonial banging of the sticks. What amazed me is that people knew the answers to questions like:
- How many body parts were cut off by a light saber in the first trilogy?
- When the Millenium Falcon landed in the cloud city of Bespin, what was the docking port number?
- What was the name of the medical droid who delivered the twins Luke & Leia?
The people who attended seemed to be having fun. It was their version of Nerd-vana. In my mind, it was overpriced, overcrowded and overhyped. Then again, I'm not really the target audience. There is no way in the world I would travel to see this event again if it were held outside of Orlando the next time it happens in three years.
Will Star Wars Celebration VI happen in Orlando? Hard to see, the future is. There was definitely rumor about it during this event. Orlando makes sense as a tourist destination. We have plenty of convention space, hotel rooms and Disney World is definitely on-board with the Star Wars theme. They had Jedi Mickey at the show and a new MK-D2 droid (with mouse ears) for the event. Disney hosts Star Wars Weekends every year and has part of its Hollywood Studios park setup with the Star Tours ride and other events. Orlando does seem like a reasonable home. However, rumors are just that and I've never heard or read anything official that Lucas is going to bring the event back here. Time will tell.
If it does come back, I don't know if I'll return. While I was out there trudging through the fans, sweltering in the August heat and wondering why people were dressed up as the Mario Brothers with light sabers I swore that I would never do this again. Honestly, it's a pain in the ass to lug the camera bag out there and fight the Storm Troopers with strollers just to try and get a decent shot. In three years time, I may have a different attitude. No way in hell will I ever do the whole four days. If I go again, I just need to make sure I have a better opportunity to get a picture of Adrianne Curry in her slave Leia costume. That could be worth it.