So, last weekend I did something I've never done before: I went to a Star Wars Convention—Star Wars Celebrations in Orlando, Florida. Some might wonder why a big Star Wars fan like myself has never been to one of these. Well, the short answer is that I don't particularly like crowds. I always thought it would be a hassle- both to get there and to actually do anything in the crowded convention hall. I also have to admit that part of me was not looking forward to having to deal with obnoxious Star Wars fans- you know, those stereotypical folks who can make you feel embarrassed to call yourself a Star Wars fan.
What really 'sold' me on the idea this time was the fact that so many of the original cast members of the movie were going to be in attendance. Most notably (for me), Mark Hamill was going to be there. Evidently he doesn't often go to these things. And then I found out it cost $125 for his signature. But... well, that didn't really deter me when it came down to it. I had friends interested in going to this convention, too (Sharon and Philip) so why not. Orlando is only a couple hours from where I live.
Long story short, the convention was quite enjoyable. There WERE huge crowds, and lots of lines, but I was pleasantly surprised by how nice everyone was. From the folks hosting the convention to attendees like me. If there were any of the 'bad stereotype' fans in attendance, I didn't run into them. Most people were really cool, and the costumes were awesome (though I still don't understand why folks dress up in Star Trek uniforms for a Star Wars convention).
As a fan of toys (and collecting toys), I was in heaven. There were all sorts of awesome things for sale- stuff I'd been looking for but couldn't find elsewhere. And oddly enough, things seemed to be rather reasonably priced. Okay, so maybe I spent too much for one item in particular, but darnit, I really wanted those "Cammie and Fixer" action figures.
As far as the premier/corporate presences at the convention, they were pretty cool as well. Hasbro had a great display set up for their current and new-release toys. They also had some neat photo-op stations around their booth- including the emperor's throne and a huge action-figure case that you could pose in. Disney, as always, was awesome. Seriously, those guys know how to present themselves well AND make it very easy to buy their stuff. I wound up getting an awesome 'rebel alliance' phone case from them for my iPhone.
Lego deserves a special mention here as well. They had a huge 'pit' of blocks for little kids to play with as well as 6 or 8 big tables set up with the 'standard' legos for bigger kids to play with. They had dioramas of Hoth, Tatooine, Naboo, etc. I had to laugh at all the parents hovering around their kids, urging them to go see something else. Nope. All the kids wanted to do was stay there and play legos. Can't say I can blame them.
As for myself, I was fixated on a gigantic diorama of Tatooine that was constructed by folks at the Con. There were dozens of paper-mache and other 'craft-built' buildings and terrain features mixed up with dozens of action figures and vehicles—everything from a tusken raider village to downtown Mos Eisley to a pod race. I know that as a kid, I would have been practically glued to that.
But more than all these 'draws', I came to the convention with the hopes of catching a glimpse of some of the stars. I was not disappointed. While standing in line to get in to the con, my friends and I heard a commotion from accross the room. This soon revealed itself to be Anthony Daniels (Threepio) making his way up and down the lines, saying hi and taking photos with fans. Just so cool of him to do that. It was cooler still when he plucked my friend's kid (Alex) out of line and took a photo with him. Hehe. It was all the more awesome in that Alex was wearing an R2-D2 shirt. Too cool.
Now, when I had heard that Mark Hamill's autograph was $125, I had dismissed the notion of shelling out that kind of money. I'm just not an 'autograph' kind of guy. Sure, I had mulled it over, but had pretty much written it off. Until I got to the con... and saw the line for his autograph. And saw it wasn't very long.. and.. yeah. So I payed for the autograph. I got to see Mark Hamill- the guy who played Luke- my personal hero from age 7 onward. As I told my friends afterwards. I felt like I was 7 years old again. All I could think to say to him was "hi" and "you're awesome" when I was leaving the autograph booth. Thankfully, the kid in line in front of me was more talkative and actually asked him a few questions. Mark Hamill seems to be a nice guy- at least he was with our little group. And btw, his favorite episode was episode V.
So, yeah. The con was fun. It wasn't until afterwards that I realized how much stuff was going on that I missed. All the panels and events and such. If I ever go again, I'll have to look into those.