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 . 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

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

Aug 26, 2010

Hear about our Celebration V experience on the Bunch Of Dorks Podcast

Want to hear about Star Wars Celebration from a non-fanboy? Well we invited our good friend Mr. Promee to help photograph us on Saturday and in the 3rd segment of the Bunch Of Dorks podcast he tells the other Dorks all about it. He may have got some of the facts wrong but it is a very favorable review and worth a listen.

Just click the logo above and listen. I recommend subscribing to them on iTunes and listen in. They cover a wide range of subjects, each dork has their own unique interest. Mow is a big fan of classic pinball machines and Japanese culture, Man with No Name is a Trekker, and Promee is a Disney fanatic and big into computer graphics. All are employees with me at the code named "Widget Factory" so inter office politics and cubicle life is a common theme. So in other words every podcast is different with a new subject from the topic phone.

Aug 23, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V Review: Day 2 - The Wampa Arives... sort of

So Friday the 13th arrives and boy did it live up to it's reputation. This was the day we were supposed to bring the Wampa out for it's first official Star Wars Celebration moment. Instead it ended in one of the weirdest days I had ever had in any costume.

To start the day we visited the 501st room to see the TK project. These were a collection of Stormtrooper helmets given to artists, celebrities and select 501st members to decorate. At the end of the convention these helmets were auctioned off to earn over $50,000 towards Make-A-Wish Foundation!

We were scheduled to participate in a Hoth walk through and had to get the suit to the 501st room by 1:30. We had to figure out a way to get it there, and our first mistake was thinking that parking in the back parking lot and walking it in was the best way to get it there. The wampa weights over 75lbs with the upper body about 55lbs. It was a half mile walk from the car and with only Genna my Wampa Handler with me, and no wall or ceiling to prop myself, I spent too much of my energy getting dressed and hauling getting the costume in place. We also noticed a problem with one of the feet. It started to show late at the IceBar event but also noticed it at the previous troop at the Storm game. Come to find out one of the snaps on the foot was ripped off, and was dragging along every time I tried to plant my right foot. To add to our folly we also forgot to install my batteries in my fan inside, forgot my headband to absorb the sweat and left the camel pack in the van. Also left in the van wasthe dolly to haul it back. But these are all rookie mistakes that we corrected and it all worked out great for us the next day.

So our Hoth walk through ended up being more of a Hoth pose for fans. Don't get me wrong, just because we didn't walk all the way around didn't mean it was a total failure, the fans ate it up. We were there for about an hour including breaks for myself to get a break and chug a water. With me were a General Veers and some Snowtroopers. Even Chef Vader came along and posed with us!

After we were done we had to figure out how to get it back to the van. I chose to walk the stilts back in my socks, yeah I forgot my shoes at the van too. I loaded up the stilts, got dressed, dumped my head in the cooler of ice water and brought back the dolly. This turned out to be one of the oddest things we saw. As we had the top half of the wampa loaded onto the dolly the fans still wanted to take pics. So we figured out we could just enjoy the rest of the day and drag the wampa along like a fresh kill.

Kids loved the fact that they can pose with it, stick their lightsabers in him and act like they slayed the beast. To solidify the fact that it was Friday the 13th, a Jason Voorhees Snowtrooper came by and posed with his machete and the wampa's decapitated head.
(notice the thumb? That is where I burnt myself good on the first attempt to make repairs!)

That I thought was the highlight of the day until the Golden man himself Anthony Daniels saw the wampa and went off onto one of his signature monologues about the suit and his opinion about wampas. He was after all part of that infamous cut scene. But before I could introduce myself as the wampa's maker he got snagged up by a camera crew. I was able to get a picture with him as he was leaving and he complimented me on the suit.

That 10 minutes made up for all of the troubles we had that day, and I knew I had to go back and repair the hell out of the suit. We missed out on a great party that night with the 501st Imperial Bash, but staying up till 2am sewing, gluing and painting we knew would pay off the next day... and boy did it... Day 3 is coming next!

Star Wars Celebration V Review: Day 1 - A Night With The Wampa At ICEBAR

Down the street from the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive is ICEBAR Orlando. When I saw a post on the 501st boards and hearing that there will be an actual room that is kept at 27*f I knew I had to take the Wampa in there. So after we dropped off my son and a bit of a break we headed down the street to ICEBAR.

Inside is a regular bar called the fire lounge. This is your typical bar with an added fire theme. But the real attraction is the ICEBAR. Inside here it is lined with blocks of ice and they offer a poncho and gloves for anyone heading in. Fellow 501st legion members showed up as well as one pesky Jedi and we had a blast posing with customers and ourselves. They also have their own photographer on hand to bring home a souvenir of your experience.

The alcohol inside the Icebar is actually served in cups made of ice and there was a big penguin that you can take shots off of too. To help with the Star Wars theme inside they also had some of the wampa rugs and tauntaun and wampa ice sculptures that they were providing for the Hoth Ice Bar inside the convention center.

This place has a great gimmick and normal admission is $20, I would recommend it to anyone staying on I-Drive in Orlando and if you have a night to spare

Aug 22, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V Review: Day 1 - Family Day

Going into Star Wars Celebration I had a plan, knowing that my Wampa costume had its limitations due to it's size I had to limit my time inside and have it available for scheduled events. I chose to dress up 2 days, Friday and Saturday. This gave me 2 full days out of costume to enjoy the actual event. If I didn't dress up the first day, I could scout locations such as high traffic/high impact locations for the fans and also places to hide and get dressed, or take a break.

I also found out that kids under 6 were free.This was the perfect opportunity to take my oldest son, who is 5, with me for one day. He is a huge Star Wars fan and it would also give me the ability to attend some of the scheduled family events that I would have probably skipped if he did not come. You also get to see the event through the eyes of a child when they are with you. True they are all over the place and have their head on a swivel. You have to be on high alert when there are distractions everywhere, but I think this was a great choice to bring him.

Finally when the big day came, it was my son Gavin, my handler Genna and myself going to SWCV for the opening day. We arrived to the convention center about an hour and a half early. Once I saw the line behind us the time the doors finally opened I think we made the right decision. Gavin was dress my up as Clone Wars Anikin Skywalker and we let him bring one of his many lightsabers. We knew that not every moment would be filled with things to do, so some role playing would keep him occupied. This ended up paying off in our favor when non other than Dave Filoni, supervising director of the Clone Wars spotted him in costume. Dave said ahead of time that if he spotted anyone in dressed up in a Clone Wars costume he would give them the elusive "Plo Kool" button. He used this Plo Kool stamp to approve any designs for the series. Dave personally pinned it on to his costume and to our surprise, the back of it was autographed.

We spent the next few hours wandering the trade floor. One of Gavin's favorite parts was the Lego section. Not only did they have large displays of the sets for sale, large pieces done by master builders, there was areas where the kids can free build their own designs. Their show exclusive was a white Ralph McQuarrie lego minifig. To get this you had to complete a square piece of their giant mystery mural. The mural would be completed on Saturday afternoon. (more info coming on that part!) Also on the trade floor was Jedi Training Academy. A master would come out and teach the kids on the ways of a lightsaber and eventually face off with the dark lord of the Sith himself, Darth Vader. Although we tried to get Gavin chosen for this one, he was not. It was limited to the amount of kids and like a typical 5yo once he wasn't chosen he wanted to move off to the next thing.

There were many sets around the convention to pose with scenes from the movies. In the 501st room there was the Emperors throne and a scene from Mos Eisley, in the Droid builder room there was a hallway from Echo base and the infamous Wampa Door from the cut scene from empire from Mountain Garrison. But one Garrison outdid themselves bringing 10 sets, the Belgian Garrison brought reproductions of the inside of the Milineum Falcon, a full size Wampa, Jabba the Hutt with his minions, Snowspeeder, Speeder Bike and Endor bunker and even a large AT-AT. But the most impressive was the full size Tie Interceptor by the Belgian Garrison. To see an actual ship hanging from the ceiling was awesome. And to add to the illusion, many of these sets had 501st/Rebel Legion members stationed to pose with. My son got to pose with many everyone from Han Solo to Slave Leia. Another fun photo op was the lifesize Hasbro toy package where you could pose yourself as an action figure.

I really wanted to get him to meet some of the Star Wars celebs especially Daniel Logan (little boy Boba Fett as he calls him) but I could see that he was starting to get tired. Soon after we got the call from my wife that she was on her way and the timing couldn't be better. We ended the day a couple hours early so we could get prepared for our first appearance by the Wampa at Ice Bar Orlando. All about that in the next post.

Aug 18, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V: Arriving in Orlando on Wednesday

The best part of Celebration V is having it in my home state of Florida. This was a major reason why I built the Wampa when I did, if this was in Chicago or any other location the Wampa may have never existed as we know it now. This also gave us the flexibility to leave when we wanted to. I work nights and we figured that if we show up a day early we could get everything ready that night before and be ready to go in the morning. Since I would have my son with us the first day, we figured we might as well have fun with it. So we packed up the Wampa in the family minivan and left Tampa Bay to Orlando.

Our first Star Wars experience actually started the day before when we stopped by Downtown Disney. Their toy store "Once Upon A Toy" has a great selection of Star Wars products from their die cast Racers to Mr. Potato Head parts. We were there for the make your own Lightsaber display. You can customize your own lightsaber or chose from unique famous sabers like Maris Brood's tonfa style lightsaber to Count Dooku's curved lightsaber for about $20. We got the infamous Darth Maul double lightsaber. The only Maul saber we could find for my son to play with was the Rubie's costume saber which says it is not intended for battle. The sabers at Once Upon A Toy not only hold up to the stress of battle, but they also light up via LED lights, have interchangeable crystals inside and make noise. You can swap out the parts too if you have more than one set!

Not your ordinary McDonald's food!

That evening we hit up the "World's Most Unique" McDonald's right down the street from the OCCC. Of course we got my son a happy meal but what makes this McDonald's stand out from the rest is their Bistro menu. We had tortellini, one with Alfredo and chicken, the other with marinara and meatballs. They also claim to have the world's largest Play Place. This was ridiculously huge and I could easily see how kids could get lost in this thing and drive parents crazy finding their kids.

Before we called it quits for the day we walked down to the convention center. We wanted to get a sneak peek and also judge the distance. We wanted to see if it was worth walking down there or taking the free shuttle the first day. It was a 20 minute walk down there and we got to peek in the windows and see the AT-AT and Wampa. We also found the R2-D2 parking barriers that were cute as hell. I kind of wish we didn't see some of this stuff because the anticipation built up by seeing what was inside made it hard to fall asleep. It was just like kids on Christmas Eve but eventually we knocked out.

Aug 17, 2010

The Wampa featued on Yahoo photos promoting the LEGO Mural

Today we found on Yahoo some pics of the Wampa taken by AP promoting the LEGO mural at SWCV. I was humbling to be asked to participate, especially when this piece was their centerpiece for the show.

Even George Lucas participated in the mural!

Check out the Wampa helping out LEGO at SWCV!

Aug 14, 2010

Wampa gets a Mani-Pedi!

We could have been partying all night like the rest of the Star Wars fans. Instead we spent all last night repairing the wampa. I put the suit in some extreme conditions for it's first few showings and it was already showing wear in those spots where I rushed to finish the suit in time to get approved. Lesson learned! We are ready to go for Saturday.

Aug 13, 2010

Super Mario Jedi

Jusr ran into these 3 guys and had to share. It's the second day of day of SWCV more posts to come!

It's a craft! My first day with my son at SWCV

Today I decided to not suit up at Star Wars Celebration and spent the whole day with my 5yo son. There was so much to do to keep kids entertained from lego building, Jedi training, the Clone wars playing on a huge digital screen and the family room filled with crafts.
Of course I miss the highlight of the day when Dave Filoni saw my son in his Anakin Skywalker outfit and personally pinned on the elusive "PLO KOOL" autographed pin. I was busy hunting down the autographed Ralph McQuarrie bounty hunters print.

So far in one day we have shot over 300 pics and we haven't started! Tomorrow the wampa makes his first official appearance at swcv

Aug 11, 2010

Wampa sighting: sneak peak inside celebration

Today we scouted the Orange County Convention center and saw the Belgian Garrison wampa statue perched atop the front entrance

Follow @mywampa on twitter for our SWCV coverage

Unable to make it to Star Wars Celebration V. We will post pics all weekend and give updates through twitter!

Star Wars Celebration Here I Come : Schedule to meet the Wampa

We are now leaving for Star Wars Celebration in Orlando Florida. I have scheduled a couple events with the Wampa so feel free to come by and take a pic with him.

Thursday Night After Hours Party
IceBar Orlando From 8-12.

Friday at SWCV
"Unscheduled" flash mob, with snowtroopers General Veers and Darth Vader
1:30 - 3 on the trade floor.
6-7 Door Guard Duty in the 501st Room

Saturday at SWCV
3:00 Photo op with the Mandolorian Mercs Wampa Squad (and possibly Steve Sansweet!)
4:00 501st Legion Group Photo (You won't want to miss this one)

Unscheduled Appearances
Also on Friday and Saturday I will be wandering the halls between shifts. Be sure to check the Hoth Ice Bar upstairs, this will be Official hangout of the Wampas (yes there will be more than one there) and be sure to check up at the Rebel Legion Echo Base booth, I will wander by there a couple times through the weekend.

Aug 10, 2010

My Wampa is now a part of the Wretched Hive!

Who knew when I was building this that the Wampa going to be eligible for both the 501st and the Rebel Legion. While posting in the 501st boards, the suit caught the eye of the CO of Rebel Legion's Ra Kura Base (Florida) and she said I should apply over there too. Now the suit has been approved by both costuming groups. To add to the membership the Rebel Legion, the Wampa has been added to a group known as The Wretched Hive. They are a group consisting of all alien species and not to mention an awesome logo. So now going into Star Wars Celebration V, it seems like I have a lot of support to help me along entertaining the fans!

Aug 1, 2010

Galactic Empire State of Mind

My First Troop with the 501st

This weekend I participated in my first troop with the 501st Florida Garrison - Tampa Bay Squad. We were at the last regular season for the Tampa Bay Storm. I got to say I was nervous being the guy in the unconventional costume around a bunch of seasoned troopers. But after meeting everyone and having a fellow trooper Jason help me out, I felt right in place. With us was Darth Vader, ANH Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Ep. III Anakin Skywalker, Jango Fett, an Imperial Officer, a 501st Clone Trooper, a Sandtrooper, a Snowtrooper and a handfull of TK Stormtroopers. We had a meet and greet on the plaza before the game, though because of the heat (over 95*) they kept myself and fellow furball Chewbacca inside as much as possible. We made our appearances in front the stadium on the plaza, through the hallways by the ticket gates and even in the Suite level where they had us positioned for the whole stadium to see.


The costume held up quite well. I was able to stay in costume for over an hour with the head on, which is something I had not attempted yet. It is more of a mind over matter situation, when you are in character you tend to not think about yourself, especially when kids are coming up and hugging you. I have always said to do something like this you have to have a little bit of an "Evel Knievel" gene in you. Putting your body on the line to give the fans what they want. My only regret is I did not bring my camel pack. The 501st handlers did a great job of providing us ice and water when away from the crowds, but there was that long stint that if I had some water then I could probably of been much more comfortable inside, I really started to feel the effects of the heat at the end. The fan in the back was also a big help, and I got some tips on how to improve it from fellow legionnaires.

For being in a big costume for the first time in years it felt good, but this time there was something more. This time there was a overwhelming feeling that I was part of something bigger. Before my costume was mine, as an individual. This time I was there in front of thousands of people, representing Star Wars. Watching people flock with cameras and wanting their pictures taken is a great feeling, and knowing that we do it many times to promote a great cause is an even better feeling. To stand next to legendary screen characters like Darth Vader, Princess Leia & Chewbacca was a childhood dream. To be recognized as one of them 12 months ago wasn't even in my thought process. And here I am, a member of the 501st. I would recommend this to anyone!