Star Wars Celebration III - The (not so) Amazing experience
So the task of telling you guys how was the long-awaited Star Wars Celebration III is upon me... Well, let me say that the same way I carry mixed emotions about the approaching release date of Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (it's a new Star Wars movie, but it's also the last Star Wars movie) I also carried home mixed feelings from Celebration III. To be perfectly honest with you, I had a lot of fun but a lot of things in it sucked big time!
I'd love to tell you everything of course but this is not what this report's all about. It's about the highlights of the convention (the Star Wars official website has it all in detail for you if you want). Therefore besides all the good artists and professionals who made it very special and besides all the interesting attractions (Lucasfilm Archives, Fan Films, etc) a couple of things stood out - the presence of George Lucas himself and the Rick McCallum Spectacular (indeed!) presentation.
(Let me add that a standing ovation to the fabulous artists responsible for the Star Wars in 30 Minutes and the One-Man Star Wars Trilogy is not enough. Those guys deserve to be crowned or knighted or something like that! They were absolutely awesome!)
Wow, George Lucas attending a convention! It's not something you can take for granted and it's no small businees, no sirree! The best part of having a guy like Lucas (and by that I mean a guy who rules the universe he lives in) is that we can have real answers to our most aching questions. If you ask Rick McCallum "Will there be a new Indiana Jones movie?", "Will there be a new Star Wars animated series?", "Will there be open Starbucks in New York tomorrow?" the answers will be "Maybe. Or maybe not. Next!". I'm not saying that it's McCallum's fault because I know it's not - he's not allowed to give information and I understand that. I've worked with Lucasfilm for three years and I know the drill - if you tell your mother what you've had for lunch you're probably breaking a confidentiality aggreement you've signed for them. So the best thing to do is to ask the master himself, and he was there to give some answers - oh boy and he did!
Lucas not only let out that there will be another animated Star Wars series much like Clone Wars but there will also be a live action TV series in the future. The animated series will have 30 minute-long episodes and they'll be 3-D (yes, t-h-i-r-d d-i-m-e-n-s-i-o-n!) and will be premiering soon. The live action series will start to be written by him next year and when he has the first season on paper he'll shoot it back to back (much like he did with the Young Indy series). After the first season he'll step back and choose other people to continue the work (supervised by him, of course - thankfully!). The series will take place between Episode III and Episode IV displaying all the changes that universe went through - from pristine and colorful to worn out and opaque - with the presence of known characters however not the main ones.
Talking about Indiana Jones a new screenplay is under way to be approved and as soon as Steven Spielberg is free from "a new commitment" (War of The Worlds or maybe even something after that) the film will be shot. And The Young Indy Chronicles series are about to be released on DVD altough it may take another year - they are doing things themselves (Lucasfilm) and there will be 100 (yes, one hundred!) documentaries which were shot specially for the package as special features. Each important historical character or fact Indy bumps into on a chapter will have a documentary on the extra features explaining them further. How nice is that?
Talking about DVD packages there will be another Star Wars DVD box (probably in 2007) featuring 7 DVDs - all the 6 films plus a special one with extra materials (the Classic Trilogy old making ofs and deleted scenes among them!). In 2007 we will also see Episode IV in the theaters again celebrating its 30 th Anniversary - but a little differently - in 3-D! And in each year after that we will have another 3-D Star Wars Episode on screen until 2012 with the premiere of the last one - Episode III 3-D.
Lucas also confirmed the rumors about his cameo role in Episode III - he'll appear as Baron Papanoida, a "blue guy" on the left side outside of Palpatine's opera booth (so check him out when Anakin goes to the opera looking for the Emp... er, Chancelor. He'll be talking to his - also blue - daughter Katie).
About the rumors of Spielberg's involvement in Episode III they were also confirmed. According to Lucas he gave his long-time friend a couple of action scenes to storyboard once Steven was "bored at home at the time". Spielberg bored at home?! That's news to me! Anyway, what a nice way to help a friend - "Hey, here's some Star Wars work for you, buddy!".
Lucas also said that a Willow II movie is out of the question however a TV series would not be a bad idea...
Another highlight was the presence of Rick McCallum. As always he was very nice and fun and this time he said something magical: "I know I always say that the film is awesome, but this one is the one! This is the one that will deliver. This is the one that you always wanted to see", and he proved it showing the audience a 10 minute-clip with never before seen footage of Revenge of the Sith. And let me tell you – it's like seeing that huge package shaped after a bicycle under the X-mas tree when you're a kid. You haven't opened it yet but for what you see you think "there's no way it's socks!".
And the other thing that stood out for me during Rick's presentation is the fact that he did not curse! He didn't say this time "This film is unbefuckinlievable!". So let me think here for a while - in Celebration I (yes, I was there!) he called Episode Ithat, and I loved the film but it wasn't par to any of the Classic Trilogy films. And then in Celebration II (ditto) he called Episode IIthat, and I liked the film more than I liked Episode I but it still wasn't par to any of the Classic Trilogy films. And now he does not call the movie that. Is it a sign? Is it the one indeed? Well, as far as I've seen, folks, until proved wrong (and I bet it won't be!) it is!
Look, I don't mind driving from New York to Indianapolis altough I think it's a major drag. I don't mind paying to stand in line - for a while. But in order to go to the Celebration Store you had to endure a long, long while. And I'll tell you how long - the amount of hours in line for the Celebration Store: 3 to 5 on the first day, 5 to 7 on the second, 7 to 9 on the third, 3 to 5 on the fourth.
But that's not all - on the morning of the second day most of the products were sold out! Now I ask you - didn't they know how many tickets they had sold? Couldn't they have supplied the store accordingly? And let me tell you - the same happened in Celebration II. Can you imagine the look on a child's eyes after hours waiting in line and not being able to get the toy he wanted? Well, I saw that – and it's heart breaking.
And there's more - the same happened at the Celebration at Celebration party on Saturday night - they sold that many tickets (yes, besides the regular ticket you had to buy another one in order to get in the party) and the kiosk they had inside selling exclusive T-shirts (the T-shirts with the party logo) also had a huge line and ran out of products before everybody could get theirs. So it's endemic. Gen Con (the company which organizes the convention) works that way. It wasn't a failure or a mishap - it's their modus operandi, their working system.
And if all of the above weren't enough I had the sad opportunity of having another display of "costumer courtesy treatment" from them; when I tried to exchange a T-shirt (my friend bought me the wrong size) they told me that "No exchanges are accepted. Period". And I asked three of them guys at separate places and different ocasions. "No!", all of them said to me. That's where their so called organization is - they all can give the same answer! But that's all. So let's think together for a minute - I've driven hundreds of miles, spent hundreds of dollars, waited many hours in line and they cannot exchange THE SAME product for me? Just to make it even more clear - I didn't even want my money back, just the SAME thing, different size!
Not convinced yet that GenCon means GENeral CONfusion? Ok, one more for ya - amount of waiting time in line for George Lucas' first showing (detail - it was raining, windy and very cold in the waiting line): 10 hours; order by which the GenCon staff placed everybody inside the auditorium: they started filling the extreme right seats, then the right seats, then center seats and so on (left, then extreme left). So the guy who waited 4 hours (or less) got a center seat and saw George Lucas, but the guy who waited 10 was placed at the extreme right and just saw the screen... No comments!
But if on one hand we had GenCon who didn't want to screw you purposedly (I want to believe they just do that by sheer incompetence; just to give you an example they felt pity for the guys in the Lucas line – myself included - and managed to put most of them inside the Hyatt, where it was warm and dry hours before the show), on the other we have the guys who not only want to screw you but make a living out of it - the vendors (who I like to call the dealers, 'cause that's what they are - they have what you need and exploit your weakness for it).
At the end our so called "friends" (yes, I'm a Star Wars collector too, have been for 28 years) were selling the exclusive Darth Vader figure (being sold at the "unreachable" store for 15 bucks) for 75 bucks! Yes, and they were buying them from you too for 30 bucks; so if you sold them yours and think you made a 100% profit check Ebay today and see for how much they're selling it now - and it's being sold to a peer of yours (another collector who probably didn't have the money to go but now will spend the same he/she would on the trip itself in order to purchase this very item). Not cool.
And a major stab in the back was given by the Star Wars official website - on the day after the convention they had the very same "exclusive Celebration III" Darth Vader figure being sold by 20 bucks! I just can't stop thinking about the people who spent 9 hours in line in order to get it... Go to any Nursery Home and ask the first 90 year-old guy you meet if they'd like to buy 9 hours of extra life time for 5 bucks - I give you my collection if he says no!
Wrapping It Up
I don't think Celebration III was a bad experience, not at all. But it was full of bad experiences and the worst part is that they could've been avoided! If GenCon had learned from the previous one (and had a good communication system with Lucasfilm), most of the bad things would not have happened. For the love of God, they had the idea for the "cash only line" and the "Vader figure only line" at the end of the second day! Well, let's see what Celebration IV stores for us - yes, there will be another one in 2007. I actually have some suggestions for their marketing campaign:
- Slogan: Get in line for Celebration IV!
- Button: Stormtrooper pointing a gun and saying - Celebration IV - License to Queue.
- T-Shirt: A Tusken Raider saying - Come hide your numbers at Celebration IV.
So, to sum things up I could say that Celebration III can be compared to having a tattoo made - the pleasure of having that beautiful design that you love on you must be preceded by hours of pain and bleeding. And if I have to name names, let's say that Star Wars fills for the beautiful art, the attractions fill for the skillful artist and GenCon fills for the needle.