Oct 28, 2010

A new trick up the Wampa's sleve - The Arm Amputation!

Coming soon for Halloween I am working on a new feature for the Wampa costume for when I am in costume contests.... The Arm Amputation! As a veteran of high stakes costume contests I know that it takes both size and surprise to win over a crowd to win. The beast won over $3500 in contest money and to help fun future 501st costumes I want to take the Wampa out to a few.

The issue is, unlike the beast which was an original character with spikes and mean looking, the Wampa is a specific character. Not everyone knows the reference so to them it is just a big abominable snowman. So to win over those people you need to wow them. So adding a theatrical effect like being able to chop off it's arm. To really sell over the crowd I added an additional surprise... Squirting Blood! Well it's just water but when your not expecting it (just think those 4D movies at theme parks) it really gets your attention. That is the goal, make the suit interactive with the crowd.

I needed to develop a quick release so i could keep the arm on until I needed to drop it. I did this by using a rope and pulley. The arm joint is held together with eye bolts and a heavy duty clip. I added the pulley to the clip and tied off rope to the other eye bolt. Inside the grip of the arm is a snap hook zip tied to the PVC. When I want to remove the rope I just squeeze the snap hook and I can either drop the arm or hold it until I am ready.

The red muscle is my old technique of paper towels, batting and latex around a long sleeve red t-shirt. I had an old modified bug sprayer which we used to dispense shots of alcohol at events and I used this inside a big chunk of meat that has the sprayer tip coming out the end of the bone, The trigger is hidden inside so all I have to do is squeeze it. I left the back end unmodified (look hard enough and you will see the cuff of the sleeve still on it) so if needed I can detach the hose and clean out the system. The jug can clip on to the framework inside the body of the suit and the hose leads down to the meaty bone. When I drop the arm, which my handler will be playing along with a lightsaber and holding onto the hand so it isn't a hard fall, my arm should slip out exposing the meat and I will ham it up turn to the crowd and give them the big surprise!

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Oct 21, 2010

Oct 6, 2010

501st Troop Report - The R2-D2 Droid Phone Release Party

We were recently asked to help with the Verizon R2-D2 droid phone release party. They went all out with spotlights, free pizza, free Chick-fil-A and they even brought out the cow. There was a light turnout but this was another great time to bond with the new family that is the 501st. This was also the first troop testing out the new shoulders on the wampa. They felt great and the posability with the fans was really improved. The night ended with one of our very own 501st members winning a new R2-D2 droid phone!
Next troop: Star Wars Grand Florida Alliance at Emerald City

Oct 5, 2010

Ever wonder what a Wampa skeleton looks like?

Check out ILM's halloween party invitation with the skeletons of many of our Star Wars favorites.

Sep 28, 2010

My Wampas: The Galactic Heroes Wampa

Well once you have a full size Wampa living in the garage, you tend to collect others, so here is the first of a series of posts about My Wampas. This was actually my first Wampa. I had a bunch of Star Wars figures as a kid but never had a Wampa .

Since I have 2 small boys the current line of regular sized figures tend to be a little complicated, then again I let them play with my old Kenners. Luckily for me Star Wars has the Galactic Heroes line where they can't lose the guns and they are stubby and easy for little hands. Last year I actually found the Battle of Hoth play set at Kohl's on discount and could not pass it up. I was still in the planning stages with the Wampa suit, but I was thinking ahead knowing that my kids would want to play with one of their own. As for the Wampa itself, I was surprised to see the red staining on the chest and he is quite yellow proving that Wampas like to roll around in their own filth. But paint jobs aside the play factor is great. He has a big bone in one hand which the kids like to beat the rebels with and a "swatting" hinge in the other hand.

Wampa vs. AT-AT... my money is on the Wampa!

Included in the set are all the Hoth favorites including a Luke with a TaunTaun which my little one loves to battle with the Wampa. This month we added AT-AT to my Hoth figure collection for my son's 2yr birthday. It came with a AT-AT driver and a snow speederbike. Included with the other set was a General Veers who fits right in. Another fun feature is a string that feeds through the center of the belly where you can have pilot Luke rise up and drop his bombs. Fortunately for me they were giving away these away free at CV so I have hours and hours of role playing time ahead for my kids!

Sep 19, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V Exclusive - The Plush Wampa

Still available at StarWarsShop.com is the limited edition Plush Wampa With Reattaching Arm. I almost bought one of these until I found a smaller one at a dealers table, though I still might get one before they run out. They are limited to 1980. (the anniversary of Empire Strikes Back!) We got to play with some of these at ICEBAR where they named him Wally and some fans posed with theirs and the big Wampa. So if you want a huggable amputee pick up the the wampa!

Wampa Sighting - Alecia Strikes Back, with Wampa Peeps!

In her continuing story about her Empire Strikes Back themed party, Alecia has made these Wampa marshmellow peeps using ghost peeps and a little bit of icing. Among her other great creations was Bossk Balls, Boba Fett Quiche, Tauntaun Bons and more fun themed food. My favorite a how-to turtorial on making a Luke Skywalker Piñata complete with velcro hand that you can whack off the Darth Vader blindfold and Darth Vader lightsaber piñata stick!

Check out the Alicia Policia blog by clicking here or the photo above.

Sep 17, 2010

Improving the Wampa - My Handy Cooler

While making the body, I installed a large computer fan in the top of the hump to circulate air in the body cavity, but ran out of time and money before SWCV to figure out a cooling system for the head. Today I made my first step towards making the Wampa suit an easier costume to wear. From the recommendation from my buddy Bossk down below (actually a fellow 501st member) I picked up a Handy Cooler. He let me play with his cooler and after being in my suit it felt great. He has one mounted on his costume and the company claims up to a 30 degree drop in temperature for 30-120 minutes depending on the humidity. Even if it is 10 degrees it will be an improvement.
Just like Bossk, I got the tube attachment which they market for baby strollers. He uses it to mount the cooler in a secure spot inside the costume, than direct the air where needed most. The Wampa head was made a bicycle helmet which already have holes for ventilation. When I built up the foam, I left open channels to let any heat escape. These already look like they will be a great way to get air into the head also. I have tested using 1/2 vinyl tubing going into the head and it seems to make a difference. And that is only blowing in room temperature air. The end result for this is to try to keep the head on longer, and keep the illusion alive!
I should have this mounted by the time of the next troop and I promise I will give a follow up to let everyone know how it worked. If it works great I just might replace the fan in the hump with a second unit and point the hose down into the body right on my back.

Photo by Andrew Siguenza

Sep 16, 2010

If the Wampa was a chess piece....

He would be a KNIGHT! Well according to LEGO builder Brandon Griffith of Los Angeles' Lego User Group LUGOLA. Check out this awesome custom LEGO chessboard over at MAKE Magizine

Sep 15, 2010

Verizon Droid R2-D2 Phone Release Party with the Wampa!

Meet the Wampa, Anakin Skywalker, IG-88, Darth Vader and more when the 501st & Rebel Legion helps launch the Droid R2-D2 in Florida. Wednesday Sept. 29th at Verizon on Park St. in St. Petersburg, FL

Costume contest wins a FREE R2-D2 Phone!

Wampa Sighting - WAMPA CAKE!! Complete with a bloody arm!

Found this great Wampa cake over at the Alicia Policia Blog where she plans on posting a series of crafts based on Empire Strikes Back. The cake is made of her Mom's sour cream pound cake recipe, buttercream icing for the fur and to top it off, strawberry preserves when you slice off it's arm!
My Son's 2nd birthday is coming up in a couple weeks. It is very tempting to try to do something like this, though I got a feeling I can't top this cake. Great job Alicia and to all my readers, keep up with her site to see her other crafts!

Sep 14, 2010

My Wampa is talked about on the Sarlacc Pit SWCV Podcast

In their review of Star Wars Celebration V they gave a top 5 costumes they saw. Guess who made the list!!!

Here is the discription of their podscast:

Welcome to "The Sarlacc Pit"! Here you'll find episodes of the official podcast of GalacticBinder.com - the fan's Star Wars podcast. Come join us as we digest the latest news and happenings from the Star Wars universe. The focus of the podcast is to help, "...bind the galaxy together..." so if you want to come on the show to promote your Star Wars website, a Star Wars event or product... or if you're a fan who just wants to talk Star Wars... then we want to hear from you!

I love when people talk about seeing the Wampa, just like a fish story, it seems to grow in size every time they tell it. The Sarlacc Pit is a new podcast and worth a listen, click their logo above to subscribe on iTunes!

Sep 13, 2010

My first set of photos is up on Flickr - Wampas at SWCV


How can you go wrong teasing a Gallery with Wampa Girl... I could have put any of my pics there but I know my viewers! Up first is a 100 photo set of all the various Wampas at Star Wars Celebration V. Click on the pic above to check them out.

Sep 12, 2010

Speaking of Yetis, here is a classic clip

I figured just for fun I would post this classic WCW clip with the Yeti. If you want a size comparison, my wampa is slightly taller than this guy. I was a watcher of WCW and don't remember this happening but you can see why they don't exist any more!

The Wampa - A Space Yeti?

A while back ago when first researching for the Wampa I came across this fun site I Love The Yeti. Any time a big white hairy creature is seen in pop culture, crafts or wherever they love to share it. There are some crazy yeti costumes including our Wampa buddy Jay Bleu.
So now that My Wampa costume is established, I figure I would submit my suit to their site to share with the fun. In return I got a great post from them, click the pic above to go check out their site.

Sep 11, 2010

Star Wars Celebration according to Genna the Wampa Handler

I am sure you noticed that everything of mine is posted by WampaDude, well in the 501st everyone is referred to either by Handle or by TK Number (mine is 2638). Well in the case of Genna who I have referred to her as "The Wampa Handler", but very soon she will be accepted into the 501st as a Juno Eclipse. Once accepted in she will be known as "Inkstess".

Genna was with me the entire trip to Star Wars Celebration and also has been blogging about her experience from her point of view. Click the photo above with Genna, and the hottest Imperial Officer you will ever see Mrs. Brady herself Adrianne Curry, or go to Inkstress.net. Over on her blog you can read her reviews about CV and learn about her artwork, costume and tattoo designs. Genna can also be followed on twitter at Twitter.com/inkstress and on facebook at Facebook.com/inkstress

Sep 10, 2010

Check out this Video: Preparing to meet Steve Sansweet

Thanks to the folks over at the HippoJuice Podcast we now have a great candid moment while I was preparing to greet the awaiting crowd and to head over to meet the Wampa Squad and Steve Sansweet. We were up by the Hoth Ice Bar at Star Wars Celebration V and it was time to suit up. Because the whole snapping of the waist and buckling the crotch usually gets hoots and hollers we turn the back to the crowd. But the flaw in the plan here was there was doors leading to the back entrance of the convention center. Sure enough with perfect timing here comes folks with a video camera!

In this video you can see our "Convention" set up. You can see all 3 of my support crew, Genna in black is helping with the grooming, Geff in the background is helping with water and talking with the crowd and Eric is shooting photos. You can also see our dolly we were transporting the body on with the yellow straps. Also this is a great video of showing how I slip my arms out to be able to have a drink and put my head on. You can see the latest additions to the outfit with my weightlifting gloves for better grip on the handles inside the arms. I found out with the Storm troop the sweat was running down my arms to my hands and made it tough to grip. The long sleeve compression shirt also helps with this. Also you can see the Underarmor skullcap to help keep the sweat which is what I feel is the best addition, it keeps the head cool and the sweat away from my eyes.

(The "Stage 2 Beast" costume at the Guavaween costume contest 2004)

The video ends with my traditional raising of the arms to meet the crowd. When I built the Beast costume in 2002 I found that when I do this it gets a great reaction from the people. It really shows how tall the costume can be. You can see me also do it in the LEGO promotional video. Once I modify the shoulders this will be an even more dramatic event because I will have a better range of motion with the arms and can really get a wingspan to go along with this move.

Sep 8, 2010

Check Out This Fan Video - The 501st Group Photo with the Wampa

I found this amazing video from the 3rd level shot by Pitu Vision. You can hear the enthusiasm of a fan as he narrates what he is seeing. It also shows my favorite candid moment of the 501st photo, the late arrival of Greedo. You can hear all the guys shouting out "Greedooooooo" at the 7:50 moment. We do have some obscure characters and you can hear him trying to figure them out. His "Ball Sack" Alien interpretation of Ponda Boba did catch me off guard.

Sep 5, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V Review: Day 4 - Part 2: Finally, Panels

While waiting for the panels to begin, I got to kill some time by myself wandering the trade floor. Next to the Force in the Flesh was the Clone Wars chalk drawing. Through the weekend, artist Eric Maruscak had been working on an amazing chalk drawing that would have a big reveal on the last day of the convention, and boy was it big. Savage Oppress was revealed by George Lucas during the Main Event and Eric was adding him to the mural.

I also ran into Steve Sansweet again with this AWESOME custom Star Wars suit. He was at the Commitment Chapel reading the vows to couples wanting their own Star Wars themed weddings. I later found out that he had been holding on to that material since 1980 when he got hold of a roll of fabric that was being used for kid's Osh Kosh B'gosh overalls. Now that my friends is why he is the greatest Star Wars collector, to hold on to something like that for 30 years and to finally have a use for it is amazing. Check out this article about his collection better known as Rancho Obi-Wan. I did get to pick up some stuff for the boys, for my oldest son who was with me on Thursday, he got the new Boba Fett helmet from Hasbro. For my youngest who is about to turn 2, he got a plush Wampa of course.

After my son left at 5pm on Thursday, I had either been in costume, pulling a costume or talking about my costume. It felt nice being somewhat anonymous for the moment and sit among everyone in a panel, though people still recognized me and we struck up a conversation. Who knew I would make such an impression as myself! My first stop was to a 501st costume building panel featuring Jason "Torment" Rucci - 8581. Jason was with me on my first troop and walked me through everything and made me feel right at home. He was hosting a panel on building movie accurate Clone Armor. Now how can you make clone armor when they were computer generated? That is where Jason can talk your ear off about how clone armor is superior to stormtrooper armor because it is that challenge to make it seamless and perfect! This panel changed my opinion big time about the clones and before my tenure with the 501st is done, I want a set of clone armor... yeah so what that I am short, but now I have a new attitude, it's for the kids.

(Here is a sample of the Armor panels, this one was the Animated Clones)

Next up was a panel with Star Wars sound guru's Ben Burtt and Matt Wood, hosted by LucasArt's lead sound designer David Collins. Little do people know is although they are sound guys they also have voiced some characters in movies and games. This brought up a fun scenario, where Proxy from the Force Unleashed (Collins) was interviewing Wall-E (Burtt) and General Grevious (Wood). People may remember the infamous video of Ben Burtt hitting guide wires to make the blaster sounds from Star Wars. He spoke to the crowd about how it is amazing that with any other movie sound editors never get any publicity but with Star Wars it lead to an Oscar and being treated like a celebrity, just as much as the stars of the films. He even brought some rare super 8 footage from the filming of Return of the Jedi. Who knew he was the last person to fly the Millennium Falcon before the set was destroyed.

Next up was the big finale for me, Dave Filoni and the Clone Wars Season 3 . This to me was one of the can't miss panels of the convention. I have been addicted to the Clone Wars since the movie came out in theaters. Some don't feel this is "real Star Wars" because it is a kid's cartoon. I beg to differ. I would actually go as far as saying that this series is more like the Original Trilogy and far superior the Prequels. All of the heart that was in the first 3 movies that was lost in the computer generated confusion that was the prequel movies is back in these 22 minute episodes. They really make you see Episode 3 and the whole Order 66 in a whole new light, because now the clones aren't just computer generated masses, they are individuals with names and dealing with the issues of being at war. From the brotherhood between the troops, to questioning the war and becoming friends with the Jedis. Also they are not shy of killing them off after just getting to know them, yep the reality of war packaged in cartoon form.

So back to the panel. Dave Filoni was telling what it is like making the Clone Wars and how characters develop, but he understood that many people were there to see video clips from the upcoming season. People want spoilers! Of course there was the Q&A where people love to make him squirm. There was the typical what happens to Rex and Ahsoka but someone brought up Hoth. It was sad to hear that there was no plans of going to Hoth, which probably means no Wampas in the Clone Wars, oh well. But we will get a new Zabrak warrior named Savage Oppress seen in the chalk drawing above, an attack on the cloning facilities on Kamino (which sounds like it will be the season opener) and a fun twist in using the force with the Sith Witches. Yep there isn't only the light side and the dark side, the Sith Witches use the force in their own way like using magic.

Then just like that Celebration was over. I met back up with Genna who was wandering the trade floor with new friends and we left the Orange County Convention Center. It seemed like we left as we came in, as regular fans, no costumes no hoopla and it felt right.

Sep 1, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V Review: Day 4 - Part 1: R2-KT honored at The Force in the Flesh

We finally come to the last day of Star Wars Celebration V. This was also the short day on the schedule ending 2 hours earlier than the other days. By this time we have seen almost everything on the trade floor but we haven't been to any panels. Funny how you look at a schedule ahead of time and highlight all the great panels you thought you would want to see, but once you get there you just go with the flow. We got to meet so many people and experience some wild things that we would have missed if we were sitting in panels all weekend.

Our first stop was to the Force in the Flesh tattoo area. Genna who is no stranger to tattoos wanted to get something done at the convention. She considered many designs from Mando and Jedi symbols but something else came to mind. Leading up to Celebration I would give her homework assignments of sorts. Learn this storyline, read about this character, trying to get her as well versed in the universe as I was. Don't want your apprentice going in blind now do you! There was one piece of homework that was essential. I told her, be prepared on this one, it will tug at your heart strings and you might even cry. Now Genna is a tough chick, a big fan of the Saw movies and doesn't get emotional that often. But I sent her the story of R2-KT. I think it should be mandatory reading for any Star Wars fans and anyone who has any interest in the 501st.

In short, because I want all of you readers to also do their homework at R2KT.com . Albin Johnson, founder of the 501st had a daughter named Katie. In 2004 Katie was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Albin had an idea to build her a droid to watch over her, just like R2 watched Padme. Her sister went one step further and said why don't we make her pink and name her after Katie, R2-KT. Knowing time was short, the R2 Builders club rushed a modified pink R2 and Katie fell in love. The droid watched over her until she passed in her sleep.

The R2 Builders continued to build the official R2-KT and was presented to Albin and his family the next year. R2-KT has since travelled the world and visited many children's hospitals, and even made it onto the big screen in the Clone Wars animated movie.

Genna with her tough no nonsense exterior was brought to tears over her story, so much so from that day on there has been a photo of R2-KT on her wallpaper at work ever since. Leading up to Celebration, while staring at the photo of R2-KT had an epiphany. She likes to hide stuff in her tattoos, stuff that if you know, you know. She wanted to get the utility arms on the front of the astromech. To anyone seeing that didn't know star wars probably wouldn't figure it out, and if you know do, and you know that special little pink droid than you know exactly what it is.

So she made an appointment for Sunday morning, and got the tattoo done. The reaction from fellow 501st members was fantastic. They were amazed that she made such a commitment and wasn't even a member.... yet.

We had to head back to the 501st room to get a pic with KT herself and Genna's new ink. It is hard not to tear up when in her presence. Funny how we talk about a piece of metal as if it was a person, but this is a traveling memorial to Katie. Even though we have never met her, she will always be in our hearts. Katie was and always will be a part of the family that is the 501st.

Up Next, Part 2 - My Day 4 Experience and finally, The Panels.....

Star Wars Celebration V Review: Day 3 - Part 3: LEGOs, and Droids and Rebels.. Oh My.

(Click the mural to see the official Star Wars/Lego promo video Featuring My Wampa)

So we are coming to the end of Day 3, and yes I am milking it for all it was, it was a very eventful day! While I was walking back from Hoth Bar to the 501st photo shoot, Genna was approached about the Wampa. They were begging and pleading with her that we have to go to their booth, they will give us an escort and it will be a big event. They weren't kidding, it was Julie, the Brand Relations Manager with LEGO! As the photo shoot was wrapping up Genna felt a presence behind her. It was the LEGO group. They had a 6 person escort to bring the Wampa to the trade floor. As soon as the legion broke formation I was lead to the Elevator that was being held for me. On the top floor more LEGO folks were there to head to the Mystery LEGO Mural.

For the last 3 days they have been handing out squares and having convention goers fill them out using single colored studs revealing a mystery image by the end of the convention. Well that time had come and the image was none other than their Wampa and Hoth characters with an Empire Strikes Back poster in the middle. The last piece in the mural was the Wampas eye and they had LEGO Master builder, Eric Vaszegi and a lucky Star Wars fan, A little guy named Jake and me as the Wampa to put in the last piece. The press was there and it was a huge hit with the fan. I posed with Jake for the fans and gave him a big Wampa hug. As soon as it was done they took me back to the main hall.

It had been a long day in costume, almost 4 hours at that time but it was pure adrenaline that was fueling me. Something I learned while talking to many 501st members, especially those who troop for 6-8 hours in armor, that sometimes when the fans want you to keep going you get that second, third and fourth wind that keeps you going. I was on my third and I knew if I was going to fulfill any of my appearance requests it would have to be soon. There was about an hour and a half left in the day and up next was the R2 Droid Builders room. The folks with me were trying to convince me that I was done but I had to go, with a 20 minute break without the top, I got back dressed and headed across the hall.

In the droid builders room the Mountain Garrison of Colorado had a display I just couldn't pass up. It was the WAMPA DOOR! If you are a reader of the blog you will know my fascination of this prop. It was part of the script of ESB but cut from the movie because of technical reasons. Now if Lucasfilm couldn't do it, could I... could I possibly accomplish something that uncle George couldn't? The builders of the door wanted me to do some poses in front of it with the R2 and C3PO that were there. Just like the Ice Bar upstairs, they had padded floors and add posing with those 15lb arms up in the air and trying to hold the position I could feel myself fading, but I pushed through. I told my handler that I can probably do 5-10 poses with fans, and she saw some kids up front and told everyone kids only. This was a blessing in disguise because after those kids I needed a break, though I had enough energy to pose with the builders responsible for the display too.

Now with the Droid room down, I got that 4th wind once I downed a bottle of water and got back on to solid flooring. I got thinking, we visited the Rebel Legion Echo Base booth the day before with half the Wampa and it was a hit I needed to go back there with the whole suit. They had a section roped off for a tauntaun costume but that didn't last too long. The person inside that costume couldn't handle more than 15-20 minutes in the suit. I watched them get dressed on Thursday and as soon it was on, she said that was enough and they proceeded to take it off. Well I am now going into my 5th hour in the suit and a jolt of duty I walked to the back of the Expo hall to the Rebel Legion Booth.

On the way I couldn't resist posing with a great Darth Talon costume. People say Slave Leia is the sexiest costume in Star Wars, No way Darth Talon, the Twi'lek sith tattoos from the Legacy series is freakin' hot.

We finally get to the Rebel Legion booth and talk to Lori the head of Ra Kura Base (Florida's RL group). She was excited to see us and thanked us again for coming back in full costume. To my surprise who was in the pen, non other than Chewie! Fans got to pose with not one but 2 - 7+ foot tall costumes. It was nice to be able to talk to someone eye to eye. After about 15 minutes the line of people died down and it was time to suit down.

The day was complete and after almost the entire time with Eric and Geff following us I told them to go enjoy the show. Geff was trying to hunt down show exclusives and ended up with the Gentle Giant 12 inch vintage Kenner Boba Fett. Eric did what he did best, event photography He went around and got some great shots of the full size props and the fans. Afterwards Genna and I agreed for all the work they did today we would treat them to a dinner anywhere of their choice.

So next up, Day 4 - Force in the Flesh and Panels

Aug 29, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V Review: Day 3 - Part 2: The 501st Group Photo

(click to enlarge...see if you can find me!)

For me I can pinpoint the exact moment when I knew I had to go to Star Wars Celebration V. There were rumors, will it be Orlando, will it be Chicago, Steve Sansweet kept playfully dancing around the subject in any of his interviews. It was October of last year in a Spirit Halloween store. While taking my kids to check out costumes by the front door they had a display, win CV tickets. How can you have a contest if there hasn't even been an announcement for one? There wasn't even an official logo on it. But they did use a great trick to get kids and adults hooked into putting entering the contest, a photo of hundreds of imperial costumes... it was the Celebration 4 501st Group Photo seen below.

(The 501st Celebration 4 Group Photo)

I would sit there and stare at it like a kid in a candy shop window, trying to figure out all the costumes. Hey there is a Grevious, and a Darth Traya, that Darth Maul is short, I could probably pull it off. I actually hunted down the photo online and looked at it at home. Eventually they announced that Celebration will be in Orlando, right here in Florida, and that got me really excited to go. As I said before I want to build a costume and since I go big, I went with the wampa. I wanted to make something that would be noticeable and it was for my love of the movies and wanted to do something to give back. I had looked up before if a wampa was 501st eligible and figured it would be a long shot. I thought to myself, damn I would love to be part of that photo that sold me on going to CV.

So fast forward to Saturday at Celebration, the day of the group photo. We finally made it outside of the 501st room in the little hallway that we found that we could suit up without a crowd and rested for a bit. Although this was away from the crowds we still got traffic anytime someone saw the suit and even had a reporter come over and ask some questions. We started to hear the call out to the legion members from the atrium below and knew it was time for the Wampa to make it's appearance. We got dressed and headed to the near by elevator.

As soon as the elevator doors opened and I stepped foot into the opening where everyone was assembling, a roar came over the crowd..... the Wampa had arrived. I wasn't even in full suit, my arms were out and had the head in my hand but the crowd and the fellow 501st members didn't care, they just erupted. It was an amazing feeling, the 6 months of building, the hard times the day before the pain I was in wearing it for the 3rd day in a row, every hardship I felt for the suit just melted away and pride overtook everything. The goal of the suit was to give back to Lucasfilm and the fans and this was the moment I knew that the suit was a success.

All weekend when someone complimented me about the suit, I tried to be as humble. I tried to redirect any praise towards the good deeds that the 501st did. I didn't want anyone to get the impression that I was out for personal glory or to out do any other costume makers or prop builders and take any attention from the stars of the movies that were there. But at that moment I felt like one of those stars. But the minute I stepped into my place for the photo any feeling of individual accomplishments meant nothing to me. I was part of something much bigger.

(Hyper getting a nose full of wampa butt)

I am a firm believer in the power of group thought. Each one of these brothers and sisters standing next to me have built their suits for the same reason. They love the Star Wars movies, they do it for the fans and many of them built their suits to be part of the good will and charity that the 501st represents. Our charter does not allow us to accept payment for appearances. In return we ask the hosts to make a charitable donation. This is why you can understand my feeling that you really become part of a greater good. So my suit is big, it dosen't make it any better than those hundreds of other 501st costumes next to me, each one of them deserved to have that same reaction from the crowd when they took the floor. Some of these guys have 20, 50, 100 troops under their belt, take our new buddy Craig "Hyper" Provine who was two rows behind me, he has over 160 of them. I want you to take a moment and look at the list of the troops he has made, all the great causes, he is what I inspire to be. This is what the 501st does all around the world. You could feel that sense of pride in the air and it was humbling to be part of it.

There were chants of 5 0 1.. there was the collective chants of character names when they were coming in a little late, my favorite was GREEEEDO!!!!!! When the celebrities in the pics arrived like Adrianne Curry and Dave Filoni the legion and the crowd started hooting and hollering, but the biggest cheer of them all came when the founder of the 501st, Albin Johnson arrived, the fans probably didn't know him but boy did the legion, the crowd soon caught on and cheered with us. I took a look at the crowd form my high vantage point. The stairs were filled with photographers, there were 2 more levels going up with people hanging off of the ledges. We were the biggest thing going on at that convention, it was time.

We were set for our photo though it took a few attempts, step forward, buckets off, buckets on, buckets off again... wait a bit, buckets on, take a few more steps forward, then once again buckets off. I did get accused of cheating once when they called buckets off, everyone held them high... well I got big arms, I held those about 3 feet higher than everyone else, it was a good laugh, but I did follow along with everyone else the next time and held the wampa head high. Once we were done the crowd showed their appreciation and the legion gave one big hoot and broke position.

Now all of the individual 501st detachments to get their group photos, the Imperial Officers, the F.I.D.S.(First Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment) and all the rest, but the Wampa really doesn't fit any of these detachments, and I do regret not staying around, because I am sure many of the individuals would of loved to have my picture taken with them, but someone else had bigger plans for me, and pretty much kidnapped the Wampa as soon as the photo ended.....

and that comes with Day 3 - Part 3: LEGOs, and Droids and Rebels.. Oh My.

Stay tuned

Aug 28, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V Review: Day 3 - Part 1: The Wampa Squad

While all our fellow Legion members party until the wee hours at the 501st Imperial Bash, we were up till 2:30am making repairs to the Wampa. All of the areas that I rushed to put together at the last minute to have it approved in time seemed to be the weak spots of the costume and the first areas that needed to be repaired. With emergency surgery (sewing) to the legs and feet, sewing together the armpits of the body, re-gluing the straps and the foam of the lower legs, gluing back in some loose teeth and repainting the toe and fingernails the Wampa was ready to make it's longest appearance at SWCV.

This day we had the chance to add 2 more people to our "Wampa Support Crew". Mr Promee from the Bunch of Dorks podcast and his friend Geff who is equally as big of a Fanboy as mMyself and the Genna my Wampa Handler. But before we met up with them we ran into Adrianne Curry again, today she was in her infamous Slave Leia costume, and I couldn't resist posting a pic with her on thi s post.

We learned from our mistakes the first day out and brought the costume in by dolly. I decided that this day I would not make the trek around the convention center in full costume but take it with me to the places I planned on being in costume. But I wouldn't be just dragging it around like the day before I had a better idea. I would be dressed from the waist down. Not only did this make it quicker to get in and out of costume but being up in stilts with giant Wampa legs seemed to get more attention than just the upper body like the day before.

You would be surprised who would stop you and want to talk to you when you are 7 feet in the air. Our first encounter was non other than Seth Green, who was there to promote his Star Wars Robot Chicken 3. He was on his way back from the Main Event with George Lucas and Jon Stewart. He loved the costume and being a fellow short guy thought it was great to see someone his size in such a big costume. But unfortunately he said he was in a hurry to another panel and couldn't get a pic. Could be the Hollywood thing but he was a really cool guy to chat with so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

(proof you don't need to be in full costume to satisfy the fans!)

Our first stop was the Hoth Ice Bar to meet fellow Wampa Jay Bleu. Jay will be featured in a future post. We were up there also to meet the Mandalorian Mercs "Wampa Squad". They asked us to make an appearance with them as they made Steve Sansweet, Director of Content Management and Head of Fan Relations, an honorary member of the Mercs. For anyone who doesn't know the Mandalorian Mercs are, they are a costuming club that specialize in customized Mandalorian armor made famous by Boba Fett. While waiting for Steve, as if by fate hanging out with the Mercs, Jeremy Bulloch who played Boba Fett came buy on a way to a panel and gave the mercs and myself a nod of appreciation, while he was whisked by with his handlers.
(The Wampa Squad's Amazing Logo)

Then the man of the hour came, Mr. Steve Sansweet. This guy just oozes his love for Star Wars. He complimented everyone on their costumes and was excited when accepting his plaque. He later asked for a big hug from the Wampa and told the crowd watching that it was his favorite creature in Star Wars. Read more about Steve here. The Mercs were awesome folks and if you are a fan of Boba Fett, Jango Fett, Pre Visla, Jodo Kast or just think Mando armor looks badass, I would recommend looking into building some armor and joining up at Mercs.firespray.net . If you want some great tutorials for Mando armor check out TheDentedHelmet.

After the presentation was done, we spent a short amount of time in the Hoth Ice Bar. Because of the padded rug and dark atmosphere it made it a short visit for a guy on stilts. We posed with some fans outside and started to head back to the main entrance for the 501st group photo. While in route we saw a crowd and because I was on stilts I instantly recognized the 3'6" man they were surrounding. It was Warwick Davis, the actor who played 3 characters in Star Wars, Wicket, Wald and Weazle and also well known for his roles as the Leprechaun, Willow and Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter movies. Again like the other celebs he saw me on the stilts and came to talk to me. I had to tell him "From a fellow short guy up here on stilts, you are an inspiration", which he is. We struck up a conversation about his new book Size Matters Not, which he told everyone that they can get a signed copy from his website WarwickDavis.co.uk.

Next Up... Day 3 - Part 2: The 501st Group Photo