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Monday, 16 September 2013

AFICIONADO CLASSIC REVIEW: 'JEDI-CON' 2008



DESTINATION: DUSSELDORF!


A REVIEW OF THE GERMAN “JEDI CON” EVENT- 21ST TO 23RD MARCH 2008


By Scott Weller

I had never been to Germany before, and the idea of combining a visit there with a STAR WARS convention was too delicious an opportunity to pass up, especially as, over the years, I had heard that the four-yearly event known as JEDI CON, organized by the Official German STAR WARS Fan Club, had attracted some serious heavy hitter star guests over the years (including, I believe, Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams). With the lack of a CELEBRATION event this year, the opportunity to go to a smaller STAR WARS convention, that would also hopefully weigh less on my bank balance, sounded great fun. My good buddy, fellow AFICIONADO Contributor (or should that be conspirator?)), Ian Trussler, had similar intentions to go, so we joined forces once again for the Easter trip to Dusseldorf.

Quickly getting us into the STAR WARS (or should that be the German KRIEG DER STERNE?) mood whilst at Heathrow Airport, entering the departure lounge we pretty much walked into the always friendly Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy Bulloch, who, despite being asked to attend the convention at quite a late stage after several guests (including Ray Park and Rick McCallum) had pulled out, were greatly looking forward to returning to Germany for the event and meeting the country’s ever loyal fans. As our plane touched down and we quickly made our way through the Airport, the Bulloch’s travelled pretty much alongside us as we checked in and were great company. Arriving at the Convention Hotel, the luxurious MARITIM, and waving hello to a newly arrived and highly spirited Mike Edmonds (who had also been a last minute guest called into convention service only the Sunday before) we were greatly impressed with our new surroundings. Having only just opened the previous December it was a very spacious big glass and building affair, and the hotel’s rooms were gorgeously comfortable, modern and very trendy looking (I would have liked to have stayed in there and called it home-though I think the Hotel management would have had a problem with that!!). So cosy and warm they were, perhaps a little bit too warm in the evening when trying to sleep (which I didn’t really get much of during the event) - though it needed to be, I suppose, what with the varying cold weather hitting the country over that weekend-with varying temperatures far ranging enough to plague a STAR WARS film had one been shooting!! Dusseldorf itself, when we travelled into it from the hotel a short time later, was a very straightforward city-like many others around the world- but sadly it was pretty much a ghost town what with everything closed with the Easter Holidays. That first evening was a very drizzly affair, of which when we arrived there, it’s inhabitants were all closing down shop and going home (the result of our flight being late to arrive in-we weren’t able to look at many shops, though if you wanted to get your hair done there were plenty still open!!) and, having consumed some junk food inside the train/underground terminal, we returned to the hotel around eight-ish to get ready for the busy next day that awaited us.

AFICIONADO Editor Scott Weller enjoys the company of an old friend.

FRIDAY

After the usual breakfast, and getting used to where everything was, we entered the main lobby-surprisingly full of cigarette smoking-an interesting site as the UK has pretty much banned it from public places now (we know that Robert Watts must have been very happy with the German situation, finally attending a STAR WARS event where he could be left in peace to smoke quite contentedly!!)-we discovered the German world of STAR WARS and it’s many fans-just as enthusiastic and excited as they are in the UK and US, with many excellent costume replications, droids and Leia/Padme look-a-likes to last a lifetime-all of a very good quality. Once into the spacious main hall (named Corellia,), and having previously collected our badge and goodies bags (a very nice package including a cloth material (Eco-friendly!!) bag with STAR WARS OFFICIAL GERMAN MAGAZINE folder, top trumps card, a nicely designed glossy magazine for the convention and other bits and pieces (from earlier registration), we were treated to a rare film show kicking off the event in the main conference room (known as Coruscant). Though Ian and I had already seen the majority of it, we were aware that many fans hadn’t (including the BABYHUM fan release of the 1980 UK children’s making of film programme CLAPPERBOARD on the making of EMPIRE, and Brandon Alinger’s DELETED MAGIC DVD-of which they showed one of the Luke/Biggs scenes at Anchorhead). There were also, however, some intriguing general clips we hadn’t seen before, including samples of Eric Walker’s making of the Ewok TV specials/films video footage and some 1977 footage of cinema goers at STAR WARS original theatrical release in London and Germany, several German JEDI TV commercial trailers and a weird comedy music sketch from 1980, presumably the German equivalent of THE TWO RONNIES, to German voice over scenes from EMPIRE, and starring Mark Hamill in the flesh during its finale, and wearing the most ridiculous yellow space outfit that looks liked it had been previously worn by Gil Gerard on BUCK ROGERS from around that time. It blew my mind with its daftness!

Outside the convention hall corridor (known as Tatooine) where the tea/snacks and the main information/merchandise booth were was an impressive DEATH STAR wall background where you could pose for photos with Stormtroopers and Darth Vader’s of varying shape and size (though there was one Vader with a very bad beer pot belly who shouldn’t have even attempted to be the Dark Lord! If you’re reading this, then you know who you are!!).

Scott meets the lovely Orli Shoshan.

From there we skipped the STAR WARS GERMAN AUDIO DRAMAS presentation, as it would all have been in German (which neither of us spoke beyond “Danke”!!) and the Christian Simpson panel (regrettable, but there was much to do on that first day), as we headed into the small but comfortable ground floor merchandising area (named Corellia). It was small but had a good selection of items to cater to fans tastes-old to modern-from figures to rare magazines. Even Steve Sansweet managed to get hold of some rare EWOK comic books that he hadn’t had before, whilst some beautiful Japanese photo books on EMPIRE and the Prequels also made their way into my shopping bag. Being a smaller convention, it was nice once more to take our time and see merchandise on sale-we devoured the section in true fan ways, looking for any rare and interesting material, not only from Germany but worldwide, and found some intriguing nuggets-and Ian bought some superb merchandise at very reasonable euros, too. We also got the chance to catch up with the gorgeous Orli Shoshan who was signing with OFFICIAL PIX in the room-she was her lovely self, smiling, enthusiastic, talking to the fans and posing for pictures (oh, by the way, did I mention the fact that she looked terrific!!). Steve Sansweet, Head of LUCASFILM Fan Relations and all round Major Domo of STAR WARS collecting, would also be there signing and responding to fans over the next few days. Both guests did brisk business over the three days but, for reasons unknown, OFFICIAL PIX, of which co-founder Ben Stevens was present at the event, had no other stills product available for people to buy apart from the autographees-a great shame as that was one area of the dealers room that was severely under-represented (surely he could have put a box of about four hundred or so images together in a carry on and brought them with him?), and again I think that the German fans would have spent some good money there – I’m not aware of any official photo licencees in that territory, unless someone can correct me on this? A wasted opportunity to make profit and make STAR WARS fans happy with quality photography.

One of the terrific fan-made droids.

As a side note, special mention should also be made of the souvenirs of JEDI.CON, which were of an extremely high quality, and the line to get the items was very well organized, never too long and there were never any fights to get things as there were at one CELEBRATION in Los Angeles. People knew what they were doing and everybody was happy with what they ordered. Attendees had the chance to get hold of apparel ranging from jackets, umbrellas, two special exclusive t-shirts, cups, and pens, to the nicely packaged HASBRO special edition SHADOW TROOPERS (now available, I see, on STAR WARS.COM)-many of the attendees bought the latter items, some bought boxes of them-though we aren’t fans of the dealers who do this and then sell them for outrageous prices in the dealers room the next day-when that happens with limited edition items, we at AFICIONADO get very angry when it stops other fans from getting them at the prices they should be paying!!

Producer Robert Watts kindly lets Scott wear his Norway jacket and hold TESB's clapperboard. 

We also had a quick chance to look at the autograph room (named Geonosis) and see the guests-both of us getting numerous autographs, including Robert Watts (who had several great photos for signing, alongside some of this own personal items on display (he was brave trusting airport luggage control with his EMPIRE clapperboard”!!), Tim Dry, Barrie Holland. Also present were Derek Lyons (who really does like Germany and its Frauleins. To quote Frankie Howerd: “Oh, er..Missus!!”) and the ever cheerful Mike Edmonds (who humorously referred to fellow small actor Rusty Goffe as “Chesty Cough”!!). Watts’s autograph singing was terrific, thrilling the fans of all ages with histories about the making of the STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES films, and giving people the opportunity to hold the camera take slate clapperboard used during the original filming of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and to wear his original blue snow jacket, specially made to be worn by the numerous cast and crew members during the filming of EMPIRE in Finse, Norway (one devoted EMPIRE fan even came to the convention in his own fan-made version and it was an excellent replica). Robert kindly let me and Ian wear the jacket for posed photographs and it’s lovely-extremely warm-far warmer than I actually thought it would be.

By 4.00pm we re-entered the hall for the HUMOROUS STAR WARS COLLECTIBLES panel, hosted by the amiable US super collector Duncan Jenkins, who gave a very enjoyable slide presentation of said products ranging from the DIE EWOKS German comics (their comic titling being much more precise to fan feeling than the US titled edition could ever be!!), which Jenkins especially liked, to even more weird and wacky items from around the world. We were surprised to find that the event had started earlier than planned (something that surprised even Jenkins we understand!!) and many fans were still coming in as the presentation was closing-a bit of a shame that-after that Friday, however, things would be smoother running and proper notification of any changes was readily apparent on TV screens in the area outside the conference room/stage.

Contributor Ian Trussler and Scott meet fan favourite Barrie Holland.

By 17.00, legendary and well respected producer Robert Watts showed off his linguistic skills quite easily and fluently to the German fans (though he said that he was a little rusty and couldn’t remember lots, he could have fooled me-we also found out he was pretty good at Japanese too) - a talent that will hopefully hold him in good stead if he goes to CELEBRATION JAPAN. Watts was now on stage to hold a Q and A alongside with Tim Dry, who was the mimic/operator of one of the characters, Whiphid, in RETURN OF THE JEDI's Jabba's Palace scenes. Dry is also working on a biography of Watts varied and vast career (which won’t be as straight forward in the telling as you think-it goes into areas we won’t be expecting, apparently), as well as his own book about his part in the making of JEDI and other films that he has been involved with. Both were good value for money in their talk together. Unusually, this wasn’t a sit down panel with Wattsand his good buddy (of which Watts was a bit surprised by this and worried that there may not be any questions from the audience. Don’t worry, Robert, we had lots of questions). So the pair were literally on stage asking/hoping for questions. Though things were a little slow and uncomfortable to start off with, the panel soon got going and the very desert dry wit of Tim Dry became apparent. Robert, as ever, was excellent value, providing information and anecdotes on the making of his six films with LUCASFILM as well as other big name productions he has been involved with over fifty years, and his memory of events, times and places is excellent. We look forward to his upcoming biography, which Dry is writing for/with him, with great interest. The only sad aspect of things was that the audience for their talk wasn’t very large-all of those people who didn’t attend, you missed out, and Watts contribution to the success of the STAR WARS and INDY films cannot be overlooked.

Boba Fett lurks...

After a break, at 8.30pm the main Opening Ceremony had begun, and we enjoyed it-a lot-once again it was smaller and more intimate than any of the CELEBRATIONS we had attended, and had a great sense of camaraderie and family. The guests coming up on the stage were all enjoying themselves. Amongst the mini events starting off the ceremony was Belgian STAR WARS fan Mark Dermul’s annual ritual, as he and his dancing trio brought some further fun with his merry stage adaptation of the STAR WARS Cantina Song from “Weird Al” Yankovich-a sight you wouldn’t normally see at a CELEBRATION event.

The JEDI stunt fighting sequence which formed the opening part (and later closing parts of the convention ceremonies) were extremely good and it was nice to see a well realized Darth Vader make his entrance at the latter and take out the surviving Jedi Knight from the challenge with a Force choke-we all knew Vader wasn’t going to waste any time-and this was done well. The opening ceremony also had a neat little comedy fan film-a sort of STAR WARS meets SCROOGE, meets BACK TO THE FUTURE a story about a father (played by mad compere Horst Wust-more on him later!!) who has his daughter gets rid of her STAR WARS collection, unaware until told by numerous STAR WARS characters, of the consequences of her actions-she turns into an overweight, obsessed STAR TREK fan and the father is devastated, resulting in the future STAR WARS timeline being disrupted and it’s universe clashing for survival with that of STAR TREK in an epic, bizarrely mad but highly fun on-stage battle between STAR TREKs the Borg androids and the Jedi-in a sequence obviously inspired, and not unlike, the kinds of ambition seen in the live action/3-D integrated TERMINATOR experience at UNIVERSAL STUDIOS in the US. We understand that a major new German movie theme park is opening up this year–we wish it all the very best of success-if it has the enthusiasm shown by the fans here then it’s bound to be a big European hit-blimey, we really do need something like it.

As the guests walked onto the stage to receive their well deserved applause and say their welcomes, a cartoon image of each of them appeared on the screen as an intro banner-all of the art pieces representing them were fun and great to look at apart from poor Robert Watts-whose comic image made him look like a cross between Victor Meldrew and Albert Steptoe from the BBC UK comedies ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE and STEPTOE AND SON!! Not a very flattering artist’s representation!! We can only assume he/she didn’t have any photos to look at- we hope they get it right next time!!

The loss of guest Eric Walker-Mace Towani from the Ewok films-was a sad one for the event (due to passport complications) and, like many others, we were greatly looking forward to meeting him-and he very much looked like a young Mark Hamill in those two tv films. The same with Ray Park (filming GI JOE) and Rick McCallum (always busy anyway)-they were missed but life went on without them, and it went on pretty well organized in that respect.

Even the Sandpeople like to have a wander.

After the opening was the event that the majority of fans, including myself and Ian, were really looking forward to: the Steve Sansweet presentation, where he talked about everything coming up in the STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES universes. Though there was sadly nothing new to talk about, and all of the material shown was what we had already seen-presumably all that can be released for now-especially with regards to the new CLONE WARS animated series, it was very nice to see the INDIANA JONES trailer on a big screen finally (though it was the CGI changed version with the guns not pointed directly at Ford and Winstone in one of the shots). Sansweet was very enthusiastic about INDY and, all in all, it was a good presentation, with him then opening up the floor to questions and providing the best responses he could to certain things-some questions couldn’t be answered yet as the LUCASFILM schedule beyond the next year is still being sorted out.

With Eric Walker to have ended the event at 22.40 with a talk about the Ewok films now having been cancelled, we assume that Mike Edmonds bravely filled in the late night closing presentation in his absence, and presumably with some of the Ewok movie footage being shown at the same time (though we are not aware of Edmonds being in the two movies as they were predominantly shot in the US). We had decided it was time to end the day so we were weren’t actually able to see the Edmonds panel-anyone want to get in touch and let us know what it was like?

Friday was actually the busiest day for us and so, once we had the lay of the land, we could now afford to relax and really enjoy the convention. Day 2 was soon on the dawn.

Cover brochure art for the event.

SATURDAY

The HEADING FOR HOTH panel was certainly one of the nicest ways to start day deux, as the relaxed and professional Mark Dermul returned to the stage (watched in the front row by his brave expedition groupies) and presented his travelogue to the beautiful but harsh wilderness of Finse, where he and his organized party of thirteen traversed all manner of adversity (lost luggage being delivered to the 1222 hotel late in the day) and severe cold, to travel and recreate certain scenes at the Finse location (copies of his intriguing travel books, one on Finse and one on the sites of Tunisia, can be found at: http://markdermul.be/hoth/) Though there were a couple of bits of funny swearing used in the presentation that might have irked some family members with their young children, HEADING FOR HOTH was very enjoyable and we wish Mark further future luck with his travels to Naboo (Italy) and a return to Tunisia in a few years time (barring Al-Queada of course, after current frightening events in the country!!). We were back in the autographs and dealers areas after that (now moved from it’s original Geonosis location (a quite small room) and into the first floor main linking corridor area (named Hoth) -a good move as it was a more congenial place for everyone, certainly more comfortable for the guest artists and there was also greater accessibility for people to meet them and get the autographs. We also had a look at the Fan Area (named Alderaan) which housed there Art Room where there were many splendid artists works on displays, some excellent replica costumes masks and diorama (especially of the Mos Eisley Cantina and it’s interior) as well as other displays on show- giving proof that more than re-iterated the fact that the Germans are just as dedicated STAR WARS fans as any in the world.

Ready for action!

There was also the Charity tombola which I enjoyed and Ianbriefly became addicted to as if he were a possessed old granny on a slot machine in Vegas. I joined him in taking part the next day and he and I both won some great merchandise (one particular item which Ian acquired being the 1978 Bob Seidemann photographed STAR WARS action figure/birthday cake poster-a very nice item indeed!!). It was then back to the main conference hall for Gus Lopez’s presentation on movie prop and costume collecting-again, a nice smooth running affair, with Lopez, though guarded when asked about the items in his collection, going through all the do’s and don’ts of original prop collecting, giving good advice to wannabe collectors and tips on what to look out for so that people can get authentic pieces for their collections.

Our hungry stomachs were activating and soon after that there was a need to return to the dealers room and then to catch up on our autographs (including Derek Lyons who talked about his friendship with Peter Mayhew and Mark Hamill during the original film’s shooting in 1976 at Shepperton Studios). Being upstairs prompted us to miss out on the Oliver Doring STAR WARS presentation (again, it was probably all in natural German anyway), but we were soon back for the Auction. Interestingly, rather than raising money for charity, a lot of the money raised would be to help the German STAR WARS Fan Club (I hope that they aren’t in any difficulties and that LUCASFILM are helping them on this front..).

A brilliant fan recreation of the Vader helmet and shoulder costume from ROTJ.

I always love the auctions-I can’t afford to buy any items but it’s nice to cheer people on (I liked the opening auction item-the leather INDIANA JONES filofax-for the price it went for I could actually have bought that piece) and see what is being made available-though there were some hideous items being sold (a Chewbacca t-shirt in particular!), some great items included very rare props (including some 1977 original STAR WARS ILM Death Star pieces, presumably from Gus Lopez), and some props items that shouldn’t have been released (pieces picked off of Tunisian locations (sacrilege to us at AFICIONADO as those items are already decaying!!)) but on the whole, most of the items were pretty good, as Steve Sansweet and GERMAN INSIDER Staffer/Editor Marco Fromter braved a large audience to work out who was buying what. Some items went beyond the reserve price, some didn’t (which annoyed a few people) but I think everyone had a good time at the event. One more break followed and it was back to Robert Watts who had his own panel –and once again, it was very good, with a lot more varied questions, and more discussion of his work on both the INDIANA JONES and JAMES BOND movies. Sadly his talk, once again, was not a crowd filler-a fact that was a great disappointment to me, especially with his long and distinguished career-you have to make the most of talking and listening to people of this history and calibre who have worked within the film industries-once these guys and gals are gone, many stories of the making of classic films will be lost forever. Watt’s likability and his astonishing memory to remember key and fascinating behind the scenes stories going back to the sixties was incredible. We look forward to his upcoming interview in STAR WARS INSIDER and, despite it’s appalling layout, hope it lives up to it’s promise (in the UK, I wish we had the German version of the magazine in English-a much nicer product, better designed in some parts and printed on good paper for a start!!)

STAR WARS characters mix and match!

Leaving the stage twenty minutes early (interestingly, instead of people coming up to tell you you’re out of time, the guests cue to depart or wrap up was normally dry ice smoke wafting onto the stage-one thing was for sure, not only was it a good signal to end but it also unfortunately had people rushing out of the auditorium to stop themselves from coughing to death!!!), the crowd were about to leave the hall when, coming out of the stage mists like a desert apparition (almost like Omar Sharif in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA!), in an ethereal, almost slow motion moment, a fellow Brit named Dave Tree introduced himself for a talk in which he has been responsible for an intriguing new fan compilation DVD comprising numerous television adverts from the original UK PALITOY commercials (as well as other UK advertising memorabilia from the Classic Trilogy Era). His surprise presentation, one that he literally managed to slot in with thanks to Marco Fromter, was terrific and played to an enthusiastic audience, and proved to be one of our convention highlights. We had to meet this guy and help him spread the publicity cause for this project!!  Though we were unable to find him for the rest of the day, we, particularly a salivating with interest Ian (one of the biggest STAR WARS toy fans you could ever get to meet!!), were determined to find him on Sunday…

We decided that we were going to see Jeremy Bulloch for his individual talk the next day, instead of seeing him with Daniel Logan, so it was back to having a look at things in the reception area with the fans and their costumes, the dealers room and the upstairs areas-really soaking in the atmosphere of it all. Food then returned to our bellies as we joined the mass throng of people going into the restaurant for the Saturday night buffet-a pleasant affair, of which the events family-like atmosphere continued, with many of the paying customers happy with the vast amount of food on display to be gobbled up for their price of 25 euros (whether it was worth that price “depends greatly on your own point of view”)-it was also nice to see all of the convention guests pretty much there-and Jeremy Bulloch kindly stopped by to say hello to us at our table and provide some laughs along the way. I think everyone agreed that the food was on the whole very good and the service very polite and extremely efficient (at times too efficient-at the breakfasts they were so dedicated in taking the dirty plates away there were times when Ian and I had to stop them from doing it as wanted seconds !!). Once the evening food was consumed, many of the Guest departed for the evening but Derek Lyons and Barrie Holland, both of whom speak some German, would go on to attend the SATURDAY NIGHT STAR WARS FEVER event as Judges.

Another great fan head.

Thinking it was going to be a costume event /disco party of some kind, Ian and I travelled back down from our sixth floor rooms and were soon in for an unexpected surprise as what the “event” actually turned out to be.

Now, I love a good knees up, and to not go to a party or a Costume Party at a convention is criminal in my book-they are always a good laugh and fun entertainment-and a lot of the fan costumes can be sensational. So, at the Saturday evening, I was intrigued at what SATURDAY NIGHT STAR WARS FEVER was going to be like in the main CORUSCANT room. Walking through the linking corridor we had asked one of the waiters if it was open and he gave us a look that, in hindsight, pretty much said it all about the evening’s entertainment. Though the event started off fun enough with the costume part, including several Boba Fett’s, a cute English family as Leia from STAR WARS, a little Wicket, an Empire Chewbacca (with Threepio attached) and an EPISODE ONE Padme, Aurra Sing, numerous Padme’s from across all three Prequel films, a superb Imperial Walker trundling across the conference room to ear piercingly loud euro rock backing track, the rest of the evening turned into a rather bizarre affair and, being completely in German, there were times when Ian and I were baffled as to what was going on. Equally bizarre were some of the other “acts” that were to appear in this talent contest /X-FACTOR meets STAR WARS “event”, including a Stormtrooper costumed singer whose song seemed to just go on forever, and a strange magicians act in which I was completely lost with what he was attempting to achieve-I know it involved the names Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and lots of children were screaming out to him (I’m assuming they were telling him to get off the stage!!-I hope!!) but that was about it, really….. Boy, it was surreal (though I actually regret that we missed the equally surreal moment where a group of Twi’Leks performed the ABBA song GIMME GIMME GIMME A MAN AFTER MIDNIGHT, though part of it is up on YOUTUBE!!)-and at times I was shouting “LEIA!!” in pain, in the same way Luke did on the underbelly gantry from EMPIRE. Myself andIan left after two hours-we had strangely felt compelled to stay and see how each “act” was going to top the others-and there were some great fan efforts-particularly the previously mentioned stomping Walker, but things were getting worse and we left at about 11pm-though we understand that this “extravaganza”, where I’m not sure even the German/ British Judges (which included Barrie Holland and Derek Lyons) knew exactly what was going on, went on for another hour-and it had already been on two!!! We really couldn’t take any more of that one, and the German host seemed and acted like a deranged BUTLINS Holiday Camp Red Coat entertainer- and we understand from conversation with fellow fans that he got a little too pervy with the female fan dressed as Leia in the gold bikini-certainly not for a family audience. The whole event made the Japanese STAR WARS experience stage show from the early nineties seem normal.

Tim Dry's rare photo autograph.

Presumably to catch up on some liquid refreshment and cigarettes missing from his internal system earlier in the day, as well as doing other stuff, Robert Watts and friend Tim Dry managed to leave the event just as the bizarreness reached new heights, staying until after a couple got engaged live onstage (the groom-to-be actually dressed up as Darth Vader whilst doing it). We tried to not let them go, but they simply wouldn’t have it!

SUNDAY

The final day finally brought sun into Dusseldorf and it was a nice crisp blue sky that awakened us and led to another relaxed period of conventioneering- this time with the opening presentation linked to the German 501 Stormtrooper Garrison, with an additional Q and A to accompany it with Steve Sansweet (though the majority of it was in German, the actual scope of the 501 presence across the world was quite staggering to this writer (the video of the US garrison on parade from a few years back went on a bit, though, and I was starting to giggle as memories of the dancing Stormtroopers on the 1977 DONNIE AND MARIE show started to haunt me!)). The excellent costume 501 fans on stage were mostly excellent, including the charming, and very cute, female PINK FIVE Snowtrooper character, as well as other types of various trooper (one of which, one of the Garrison’s leaders, had an Easter Bunnies head on (reminding us all of the terrible character from the early seventies STAR WARS MARVEL comic). Though I’m not a “get into a Stormtrooper outfit” type of guy, and I’d certainly be typecast as an overweight Jedi Knight if I did put the robes on (that wouldn’t be too good, I can tell ya!!), the 501 dedication to helping charities around the world alongside LUCASFILM must be applauded. Interestingly, Steve Sansweet then gave a history of the LUCASFILM relationship with the 501 since 1995/1996-though there have been a few bumps on the road from time to time, it has been a pretty harmonious relationship, with Lucas himself impressed with the 501’s vast legion of Imperial officers at events he has attended, specifically requesting their presence at the ROSE BALL PARADE in 2007, with members selected from garrisons all around the world, something which would have cost vast amounts of money to organize and which, had it not been for Lucas himself initiating the idea, LUCASFILM’s marketing and fan relations would probably not have done due to expense.

A nicely realized fan diorama.

We missed the Derek Lyons panel (sorry about that, Derek) to return to the autograph lines and finish getting outstanding things done (sadly, despite enjoying the event, Christian Simpson had returned to England due to an illness in the family-we hope everything’s okay there). I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed that Boba Fett to-be Daniel Logan had put up his autograph fee price up from the previous first day –you now had to pay fifteen euros for an autograph and an extra five euros to get the signature signed on any photo!! I thought that was a little too pricey considering everybody else, including more worthy longtime STAR WARS legends like Bulloch and Watts, were charging fifteen euros (including a photo). Despite his friendliness with the fans, I have to say, that his doing this with the price put me off of him and getting his autograph, though we once more chatted with the ever amiable Barrie (“You Rebel Scum”) Holland before he did his own presentation, then we returned to the dealer’s room, soaked up some more atmosphere and took pictures of numerous costumes characters.

Some more of the droid builder's work.

The Artoo Builder’s Club room, which appeared closed when we wanted to see it yesterday, was opened up and we ventured into the small area which boasted numerous excellent Artoo/Astro Droid creations and a beautiful mural behind them of the droid hold from THE PHANTOM MENACE.

As fans went from place to place, Stormtroopers hustled and bustled, Jawas went “outini” and Ewoks brandished their fighting sticks, the staff at the MARITIM hotel were lovely people-always efficient, mostly English speaking, fast workers and very friendly. I bet many of them were not STAR WARS fans or had probably been only vaguely aware of it when it was released and re-released. If they were bemused by it all they certainly handled it well and were not nasty or mickey taking (we wonder what the mostly snooty air stewardesses thought, however, when they had their stopovers there during the weekend!)  It all went smoothly. The Convention also had a very good technical crew-nothing broke down and there were no major sound problems that have plagued other conventions that I have gone to in the past. There are always convention hic-cups like events having to be rescheduled and guests having to pull out at the moment, but those are things that fans of all types of science fiction genres have lived with since any type of convention started in the Forties.

Food time, and it was a short time after that we managed to find Mister PALITOY man himself- Dave Tree- who kindly talked to us at great length about the upcoming release of his fan DVD compilation of the PALITOY toy commercials between 1978 and 1985 (more on this will follow in a separate review..so keep an eye out for it on the main site)-I swear itwas a pleasant sight seeing Mister Trussler dribbling at the thought of all those PALITOY commercials he would soon acquire in his collection!! He couldn’t wait to purchase a DVD and neither could I.

The Walker has a new stomping ground.

We then returned to the conference room where Sansweet was now giving his own general Q and A talk (see the separate notes for more info on what was discussed). Carefully and concisely answering questions to the audience, he revealed his love of science fiction literature though there was a lot he hasn’t yet had time to read, referring to the fact that he’ll have a shelf of books to read when he’s retired, and fully answered fans questions as best as he could with regards to upcoming info and decisions on future releases and plans regarding things like computer games, and the upcoming animated and live action TV series (there will also be imminent news on the future of CELEBRATION conventions worldwide very shortly (with the rumours of an event in Chicago, as well as Australia)). Once again, a smooth running and enjoyable panel.

Staying where we were seating wise, the final event of the day before the closing ceremony was Jeremy Bulloch. Bulloch, to me the main star/guest of honour of the convention and still the only man worthy of inhabiting the Boba Fett costume and bringing him to life, was on fine form. Always a very generous, highly amiable person, his finale audience talk was quietly enjoyable with a look back at his varied film and TV career (on a specially compiled disc that he brought with him, playing his compilation to the effective song NOBODY DOES IT BETTER, first sung by Carly Simon for the JAMES BOND movie THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, of which Bulloch also appeared in (it was equally nice to see those fun GEORGE AND MILDRED and ROBIN HOOD TV clips), answering some questions about STAR WARS and his other films, and getting members of the audience (including AFICIONADO contributor Ian Trussler) up for some fun/embarrassing (take your pick if you were there) lessons in “acting” out a scene that might end up in an alternative comedy version of SPEED’s elevator sequence, as well as two other convention attendees who got the chance to utilize Bulloch’s body language talent at becoming Boba Fett. It was nice to Jeremy doing some different things at this convention, being more interactive with the audience-something that I wish would be done by more of the STAR WARS guest artists. Mister Bulloch is one of the true ambassadors for STAR WARS and we salute you, sir!

Watch out for thermal detonators!

Sadly, despite it being the penultimate event of the convention, and like the previous individual Robert Watts talks we went to, very few people attended Jeremy Bulloch’s individual talk event (presumably due to the fact that, with the session being so near the conventions end, fans were probably still trying to by last minute things in the dealer room), though this didn’t phase Bulloch, who was as friendly with the enthusiastic Saturday theatre matinee type fan crowd as ever.

And so, with the Closing Ceremonies, the joy of being immersed in STAR WARS was over. As mentioned previously, it was so nice to be at a convention that was more intimate and relaxed, and, even better-apart from one at the beginning of the first day- no horrendous lines to get in to for events.

As the guests returned to the stage to say goodbye (including some sprightly moves from Mister Bulloch and equally enthusiastic gymnastics from Daniel Logan), and Mark Dermul (I think the Kamino Cloners must have been working overtime-he seemed to be everywhere at the event!!) returned with his posse to sing out the event with another “Weird Al” song linked to EPISODE ONE, all the technical crews and stewards were thanked and a final celebrational video of the weekend’s guest and fan highlights was played as people departed. I’m always a little sad when Conventions are over, but always cheer up with the thought that there will be other events in the near future, and the Saga will continue..

A rare autograph image from Robert Watts, featuring him, Jim Bloom and the ROTJ cast.

Our plane trip back to the UK was also an enjoyable affair as we were in the airport and journey to the UK with Jeremy and his wife, Robert Watts and Tim Dry (don’t worry guys, we’re not stalkers!). On the small plane, Dry would jokingly (well, we hope it was a joke!) start: “oh no, watch out, more STAR WARS fans”. To which I equally jokingly replied, “Yeah, we should all have a public health hazard warning printed on our heads.” One interesting tit-bit on the way back was that Watts, once his production company is up and running, may be involved in the making of Mark Hamill’s BLACK PEARL-the pair having previously reunited at CELEBRATION EUROPE.

As the plane touched down after it’s brief one hour flight, I suddenly realized, as I looked back at the drizzly bleak world of Heathrow Airport, that normality had crept back into my life. The party was over but it had certainly been a good one if you had been a STAR WARS fan that Easter Weekend.

So, all in all, despite the loss of some major guests several weeks before, the JEDI CON faced adversity well and I felt it was a big success for everyone. It reached a peak level of 2,000 people attending the event over the three days with the ages of fans ranging from four weeks old (the baby was even dressed as a Stormtrooper! Yes, believe it!) to seventy years!! As ever, STAR WARS crosses the generational boundaries and provides entertainment for everyone on all kinds of levels-of which a good STAR WARS convention is a great place to channel all of that love and excitement of the saga. It was also nice this year to be at a convention that wasn’t as massive as the previous CELEBRATION, to take a breather, to get to see and meet people over three days and have a lot more to time to relax as you’re doing it. And special mention must be made to organizers Robert Eiba and Marco Fromter who did a terrific job (Marco, it was finally nice to meet you after five years!! And congratulations on the start of your family) against those previously mentioned difficult hurdles in putting it all together-well done.

Though there will be other CELEBRATION/LUCASFILM run conventions in the US and Europe (and beyond) in the near future, we hope that the JEDI CON events will continue to occur, separate and individual from the Big Gun events, for the many fans who have enjoyed them past, present and future…

Long may the fun continue...

Photos by Scott Weller and Ian Trussler


Video highlights of the event:▶ Best off Jedi-Con 2008 - YouTube
▶ Star Wars - Jedi-Con 2008 - Dusseldorf - Video #8 - YouTube

JEDICON 2014 is coming: Jedi-Con - Official Star Wars Convention

UPDATE 2015: Scott is still waiting for that promised autograph picture from Eric Walker!

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