Last Thursday at Celebration Anaheim, I returned to the frigid confines of the Digital Stage (I’d been there for the Abrams ‘n Kennedy show) to see a presentation called the Untold Clone Wars. Dave Collins was the host while Dave Filoni and Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo served as panelists. The panel showed concept art and animatics—often with voices and sound effects—from various episodes that never got to see light of day. You can find some of the art, some of the clips, and a rundown of the panel at The Wookiee Gunner.
Filoni and Hidalgo kept joking about how they never got permission to show any of the stuff but nobody told them no either. As great as it was to see the tantalizing art and clips to a room packed pretty close to capacity, in many ways this panel just dug the knife deeper into your gut. There were so many great ideas left for the show, some of which will be told in other media such as Christie Golden’s upcoming novel, which is indeed based on eight scripts from the series. But others may linger in Star Wars Limbo forever, such as Ahsoka’s post Jedi adventures (there was a great action sequence when her bike breaks down while flying around Coruscant). There were even plans to introduce the expanded universe’s Yuuzhan Vong to the series. Other ideas, such as Ahsoka’s crew of loyal clone troopers, clearly made their way to “Rebels.” During the Q&A session. I really had planned on getting up and asking why the show was canceled but some other lady, who happened to be the same age as me and everything, got to ask it first. In fact, there were people who thought it was me. Seriously, it wasn’t! Filoni of course had to be diplomatic but my takeaway from his answer was that the suits simply didn’t want to deal with that era anymore. If cost was an issue, and it may very well have been an issue, it wasn’t mentioned nor hinted at. Another person asked if there will be another art book or something publishing the concept art from the show. Pablo Hidalgo asked the audience if that was something they would be interested in and when the audience shouted, “Yes,” he said to tell every publisher. Throughout the panel, the crowd was enthusiastic and I heard “save the Clone Wars” shouted more than once.
Later that evening I returned to the Digital Stage to see what the situation was for AOTC 3D. TPM was already underway and the staff working the door wasn’t sure if there was room left. But I could see when the doors open there were seats left in the back. I plopped myself on a couch out in the convention hall to wait. Originally I wasn’t going to see TPM, just watch AOTC but by about 7:30 or so I thought, “Why sit around here being bored not looking at anything when I can at least be entertained with the movie?” So I ended up seeing 2/3rds of TPM anyway. The crowd got into the movie, cheering when Anakin won the pod race, going nuts when the duel with Darth Maul got started, and cheering again when Maul was defeated and the Trade Federation ship was blown up.
AOTC got going sometime after 9 p.m.. The crowd thinned out a little after TPM ended because it was late and for many Celebration attendees, it had been a long, long day. Many had been up all night or since early that morning for the TFA panel. The 3D looked fantastic, even better than the TPM conversion. I was particularly impressed with AOTC’s opening scenes and the chase through Coruscant. The crowd was a little quieter but there were plenty of cheers when Yoda showed up to duel Count Dooku.
On Friday, it was back to the Digital Stage uh-gain for the Bad Batch screening. I was ready for the noon panel expected to last two hours. I’d bought a sandwich the day before, put it in the hotel room fridge, and packed it one of those soft-sided coolers. That way I could eat and watch the show. I said hello to Candy and her friend who were at the front of the line and took my place in the queue. Unfortunately the staffer working the line had all of the charm of a prison guard. She literally screamed at everyone to “keep moving” and banned anyone from leaving, even to go to the bathroom, or else be relegated to the “back of the line.” Only thing missing was the German shepherd barking at your heels.
Dave Filoni was there again along with two of the show’s writers and later on with Dee Bradley Baker, who voiced just about everyone in the 4-arc episode. The Bad Batch are a unit of clones who thanks to messed up genetics, differentiated from the other clones. In short, they look and act more like individuals. They are sent out on a mission with Captain Rex against a diabolical plan involving General Trench, the big spider who had survived the last episode he was in. Over the course of the mission, it is discovered that Fives of Domino Squad fame is still alive. He is hooked up to a machine to steal secrets from his brain but is rescued. Things really get crazy when Anakin is brought on board. All in all, even in its animatics form, it was a great series of episodes. It would be amazing to see them fully completed one day. Unfortunately the Q&A after the showing was full of the kind of questions that were asked of William Shatner in the infamous “get a life” skit on Saturday Night Live, though Filoni of course handled it far more graciously. Someone finally asked if the episodes were going to be available online and the answer was, we don’t know yet.
That evening I got in line for the ROTS 3D showing an hour in advance. I was shocked at how many people were there, but I guess the showing being early enough with the added bonus of Ian McDiarmid introducing the film drew a lot of con-goers. Unfortunately I was stuck in a room that was overflow for the other room where the line began. We were in there for ages in a hot, stuffy room and none of the staff gave us updates on when people will be seated or if there was any room left. This drove me crazy, especially since I’m a little claustrophobic and those kinds of situations start spiking my anxiety. They had started to slowly move people out of the room and the film had started when a couple of con-goers, not staff, came in and said, “The seats are all full and the movie’s already started.” Frustrated and annoyed at being herded like cattle, people knocked over the poles that separated everyone into rows as they left the room. Some poor schlub had to pick them up later but that was just lousy of the con staff to do that to us.
The ROTS showing should have been on the Celebration Stage to be honest. I was kvetching about the botched organization with an internet friend on the way out when somebody handed me a card advertising a party sponsored by Pacsun out on the patio. Pacsun was putting out some Star Wars wear, which was on display. There was a bar where you could get drinks (not open of course) and a booth where you could get your picture taken for free. I’ll have more details of this event in my full con report, but the party was a bit of a bust even with the added amusement of the DJ playing uncensored rap and hip hop. N-word this, f-word that, and other assorted profanities rang through the air at a Star Wars convention. Yeah. After a while I went back inside and thought, hey, maybe there’s room in the Digital Stage now.
I walked back to the auditorium and saw a guy and a girl leave the room through one of the side doors. “They’re unlocked!” the girl said. So I went in and tried to look for a spot to sit down. A guy led me to an empty seat and then I realized, “Hey, I don’t have any 3D glasses.” That morning I’d taken out the pair I got from seeing TPM and AOTC because I thought I’d get another one at the ROTS showing. D’oh! But I stayed anyway. If you squint, it looks almost normal anyway. So I cannot tell you how the 3D looks. But the audience got into the movie. There must’ve been a lot of Dark Side fans present because Palpatine got big cheers when he declared himself Emperor and when the mask got put on Darth Vader. On the other hand, there was applause when Luke and Leia were born. Heck, they even clapped for Jar Jar at the end. Some people clapped when Padmé died and I thought that was a little odd…was that showing appreciation for the character or were they just happy she croaked?
So those were my Clone Wars and 3D movie adventures. Full con reports and pictures are coming soon, likely to my other page but links will posted!
The show is over, Roxy the Rancor’s been packed up, and we’re all back to mundania, or what we in post-con funk refer to as “boring crappy lives.”
Before I write out a long con report, I figure I would share some SWPAS relevant thoughts. My big takeaway from this con is there’s a disconnect between Disneyfilm leadership and fandom, largely because Disneyfilm and too many licensees view the prequel-bashing/Lucas-bashing sect as the real heart and pulse of fandom. It’s easy to do that when that segment of fandom is so dominant because they are so vocal. As a result, Disneyfilm is selling the prequels, and their fans, short.
As exciting as it was to see the trailer last Thursday, I have to say the attitudes of J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy kind of stunk. Abrams came off as having at best a B-student facile understanding of Star Wars and the overselling of practical effects uber alles as well as his comments about using real sets and shooting on location are dog whistles for calling the prequels mistakes. Maybe it’s his personal opinion, maybe it’s a political thing to reassure disgruntled fans who haven’t been happy with Lucas over the past 18 years, maybe it’s both. But it’s disrespectful and it’s not even accurate. TFA DOES have CGI and it has used green screen. It’s appalling they’re downplaying those facts while at the same time pushing memes about the prequels that aren’t true. TPM was shot on location in Tunisia, Italy, and the UK. AOTC was shot on location in Spain, Italy, and Tunisia. Even though no principle photography was done on location for ROTS, second units shot in places like Italy’s Mt. Etna and Thailand’s Phuket Island. Real sets and models were used on all three films. Abrams had somehow decided unpopulated locales are “real” Star Wars and the used look was somehow the only correct look. More dog whistles. As I tweeted, the story’s logic should dictate how the movie looks, not nostalgia. How about if he’d said the post-ROTJ galaxy they’re envisioning is one plunged into a post-Empire dark ages? Or that he wanted to show heroes arising again out of the middle of nowhere, just like Luke and Anakin before them? But no, Abrams wanted to score points with certain fans, which he did as evidenced by fist pumping and cheers to his comments.
Kennedy annoyed me when she said that they are taking the fans into account when creating new work. I can’t think of a worse way to make movies than trying to create art around focus groups. Maybe it’s again just politics and telling an audience what it wants to hear, but it’s not encouraging to me.
Disneyfilm should take heed of the huge crowds that went to see the Untold Clone Wars and the first two prequel films in 3D on Thursday (AOTC looked fantastic in 3D), the huge crowds that turned out for the Clone Wars Bad Batch and ROTS 3D on Friday (I got turned away and sneaked in later), the reaction fans had to Rex’s return to “Rebels,” and the large number of PT cosplayers of all ages throughout the con. Ray Park was a popular guest. I almost got Ian Doerscher to sign my copy of “The Phantom of Menace,” only to see a long line of people with their own copies to sign.
Which gets to my next point. “The Phantom of Menace” and the other prequel movies got the Shakespeare treatment because readers ASKED for them. Prequel fans have to realize that if they want fandom to be better for them, they have to start speaking up. Someone who also attended the con was discouraged how there wasn’t anything with Padmé or Naboo symbols. While Rubie’s, Lego, and Hasbro have consistently made stuff from the prequel films, other licensees are going to need prodding. Especially ones that cater to teens/adults. Why? I think they really believe fans don’t like the prequels based on what they’ve heard or read on the internet. I went up to the Hallmark booth and told a very nice, very polite rep that I’d like to see knickknacks from all of the Star Wars films. I told another licensee, one that makes jewelry, the same thing. Now, if it’s just me doing this, it’s just an outlier, a crank. If LOTS of us do it, then they’ll pay attention.
I saw all of the set recreations from the OT created by a fan group in Belgium. Why aren’t prequel fans this motivated to show off their dedication and creativity? They’re good about the cosplay stuff but they need to expand their horizons. Join a droid builder’s club or something. If they won’t let you build prequel stuff, start your own club that will.
We also have to be more vocal about stuff like letting people knock the films even at official functions, like that moron on the Verizon livestream feed that I thankfully missed. Again, if it’s just me, I’m a crank. If it’s lots of us, they’re going to have to pay attention.
If I had lots of money, plenty of time on my hands, and the charisma of a cult leader, I’d start my own con. (Seriously, I could run a Celebration store better than they could.) But that’s not an option and prequel fans shouldn’t have to believe they need to be somewhere else in order to feel comfortable. We’re Star Wars fans too.
Dave Filoni had said, I think at a Rebels panel, that prequel fans/Clone Wars fans matter too. We need to start acting like it or else we’re permanently afterthoughts and second-class citizens. Squeaky wheels get the grease.
Speaking of which, Clone Wars fans are showing the way. It would’ve quickly disappeared down the memory hole had CW viewers decided to go off quietly into the sunset. There would’ve been no Lost Missions, no Bad Batch, and no Clone Wars favorites turning up on “Rebels.” But they haven’t given up and I don’t think they should give up. There were too many great ideas left to just flush down the toilet and if viewers keep up the drumbeat, CW will come back. I’m convinced of it. It may take 10 years but if it can happen for “Arrested Development,” “Family Guy,” “The X-Files,” or “Twin Peaks” (which was taken off the air 24 years ago!) it can happen for Clone Wars.
Tenacity is the key, people.
Next, I’ll post my thoughts on AOTC and ROTS in 3D as well as the two Clone Wars panels.
When the TFA second teaser traile debuted on Thursday it was met with joy, glee, and excitement. Admittedly it was not hard to get caught up in the excitement. I did not camp out overnight at Celebration but I did get in one of the overflow rooms and saw it on a big screen anyway. I spent hours in line just to see the few costumes and models from the film. I even engaged in rabid fan behavior in the Celebration store, like a rat fighting for the last crumb of bread on the floor, in a failed attempt to snag one of the t-shirts. That story is for another day.
But of course people were thrilled…it was the first glimpse of anyone from Eps IV-VI since 1983 and it was more substantive in terms of presenting the post-ROTJ GFFA than the November peep show. Sure, it looks cool. Luke’s narrative sounds cool. There’s a mix of familiar faces (Han and Chewie’s anyway) and a bit more of the new kids in town. We got to see the new villain and more neo-stormtroopers. There’s a chase scene with the Falcon. There’s the Hollywood staple of people running from a big flaming fireball. There’s Williams’s music. What’s there not to love?
Yet later on when I was talking about the trailer with a friend at a booth, he said I sounded a bit hesitant. Well, if I had to nitpick the trailer I felt that since it is the Skywalker family saga, I’d rather have seen actual Skywalkers rather than their hands. It also doesn’t reassure me that this won’t be Rehash of the Jedi. Based on what I saw in the costume exhibit and what was in the trailer, there’s going to be a thin line between the repetition that’s part of myth and just plugging back into a familiar conflict. That story is also for another day.
I told my friend this is strangers making Star Wars and I won’t be reassured they have it right until I actually see the film. I also told my friend that it seemed to me the fan reaction was going to set people up for disappointment and backlash again.
We’ve seen this movie before and it came out November 1998. The reaction to the first TPM trailer was very much like the reaction to this trailer a few days ago. The media went nuts reporting about it and the hype machine for TPM fired into overdrive. People were saying this was going to be Biblical, epic, the greatest movie ever, a return to idyllic childhoods, the cure for cancer, and other over-the-top gushing. Then they got mad when the actual film didn’t deliver on their wild-eyed expectations and they’ve stayed mad for 16 years. This time around, TFA is going to be Biblical, epic, the greatest movie ever, a return to idyllic childhoods, the cure for cancer, a return to 1970s filmmaking (no thanks to Lucasfilm’s/Bad Robot’s own marketing), a rebuke against Lucas and the prequels, a retcon of the prequels so that they don’t exist anymore, and whatever the hell else they expect. I’m going to say right now that opinions on the film will be all over the place. Oh sure, I think Abrams will try to skate by on frenetic pacing, action scenes, nostalgia, and whiz bang, which will impress some people but it still won’t save him from the same kind of inflated expectations that TPM faced. Having read some spoilers/rumors, I can tell you if some of them are true, there will be fans who will find the fates/roles of the OT3 upsetting. And there’s at least one CGI character in the film.
It’s not to rain on anyone’s parade but to caution people. It’s better to be pleasantly surprised than to be bitterly disappointed.
On Facebook, Frank Witte linked to this post on a blog called A Universe In Words. The author captured a lot of my feelings over the weekend, as you might have guessed if you were following me on Twitter.
When people like me who love the PT films and were introduced to the Star Wars-fandom through the PT films, see a disproportionate stream of criticism and hate directed towards these films it hurts. It may sound melodramatic, but these films are as much a part of us as the OT films are. When a small section of fans controls the fandom’s dialogue to such an extent that they make it seem as if the PT films are something of the past which is better left forgotten, a large part of the fandom will feel willfully ignored and potentially even insulted. Fans have invested not only their passion into these films, but also their time and money by creating fan films, fan fiction, art, cosplay, music and much more. The PT films substantially add to the emotional and literary depth of the whole Star Wars saga. Take the six films as a whole and you see a family saga the likes of which does not exist in modern day cinema. The six films form a continual narrative, the story of a single galaxy told through different generations, genders and species.
Basically, don’t expect very much. My iPad charger picked today to go wonky on me and I don’t want to have to do blog posts on a phone.
I will however post sporadically on Twitter (@lazypadawan) and Facebook (Lazy Padawan and of course the SWPAS Facebook page).
P.S.–SWPAS comments are moderated. If you don’t comment here all of the time, your comments are going to be in queue until I approve them. It might be a few days before I can get to your comment.
10:00—Panel with JJ Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, and “Special Guests” (Celebration Stage +4 additional stages)
Promises to be a Hall H style clusterfark with desperate fans spending the night in a convention hall in the hopes of getting into at least an overflow room. I wouldn’t have worried about it but for the fact 4-day badges are sold out or very close to selling out, which has never happened at a previous Celebration. Let’s put it this way…if 25,000 people go on Thursday there’s a good chance you’ll get to see the panel if you really want to see it, no matter what time you show up. If 40,000 people go on Thursday, I hope you’re in line right now. Frankly I’m annoyed they are supposedly simulcasting this on some street in London where pigeons and winos can see the trailer while you can be right there in the convention center and not see a damn thing in spite of paying $150 to be there. They should have given out tickets online instead of this campout malarkey and opened the con to everyone at 10 a.m..
3:30—The Untold Clone Wars With Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo (Digital Stage)
4:00—Ian McDiarmid (Celebration Stage)
The Emperor speaks!
6:30—TPM 3D (Digital Stage)
8:30-9:00?—AOTC 3D (Digital Stage)
11:30—Ray Park (Celebration Stage)
12:00–Clone Wars Bad Batch Screening/Panel Discussion (Digital Stage)
3:00—Ahsoka Lives group photo (Fountain outside of convention center)
6:00—Rebel Women Who Fought The Clone Wars
Women animators/producers who worked on “Rebels” and “Clone Wars”
6:30—ROTS 3D Introduced by Ian McDiarmid (Digital Stage)
7:00—Anthony Daniels (Celebration Stage)
2:00—Composing Star Wars Music With Kevin Kiner (Digital Stage)
3:30—John Knoll Master Class (Room 206AB)
6:00—James Arnold Taylor & Mark Hamill (Celebration Stage)
Two voice actors on the same stage? Total mayhem!
2:00—Designing the Art of Star Wars With The Master: Doug Chiang (Digital Stage)
2:30—James Luceno: Is Writing About Bad Guys Hazardous To One’s Health? (Star Wars University)
3:30—Celebration Closing Ceremony (Celebration Stage)
Ya think they’re going to announce Celebration Orlando for the next time? (Face it, Celebration will ping pong between O-town and Anaheim forever because, Disney.)
Check out the sweet lightsaber skirt and matching tee from Her Universe!
Still not a lot of prequel merch. Bummer.
Kyle Newman along with various Clone Wars alumni will put on the “radio” drama “Smuggler’s Bounty” at 1 on the Celebration Stage.
Bryan Young has a couple of panels, including a live version of his Full of Sith podcast on Saturday at noon (podcast stage).
Catherine Taber will be on a Sunday panel called “What Princess Leia Means To Me” at the Fan Stage.
A post at The Cantina Cast takes a look at the six Star Wars films, celebrating the author’s favorite light-hearted moments and favorite serious moments of each film.
April 2 was the last Midnight Madness for a live action Star Wars film (they did one for Clone Wars in 2008)…presumably until the TFA stuff comes out. Which Hasbro will either release in July or in March of 2017 the way things are going.
The last Midnight Madness didn’t get the same media coverage the TPM one got largely due to Pope John Paul II passing away the same time. But I still headed out to the local Toys R Us that night and hit a bunch of stores the next day. You can read all about my nocturnal adventures here.
Aaand on April 9, 2005, the MPAA officially gave ROTS a PG-13 rating, the only SW film to date to get it (but I’ll be shocked if TFA doesn’t get one too).