Star Wars Celebration, and Throwback Thursday: Return of the Jediby Todd King, contributing writer
What a time for Star Wars! What a month! It's hard to keep up with it all, but that's why there are Star Wars communities, channels, podcasts, and of course, the official sources. I can't cover it all so let's hit some important highlights and return to Throwback Thursday with returning to Return of the Jedi.
Star Wars Celebration
Star Wars Celebration (the fan gathering that happened in Chicago this past weekend) has come and gone but its first major event was the Episode IX panel hosted by Stephen Colbert that included J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, and many of the cast for the new film not the least of which was Billy Dee Williams returning as Lando Calrissian. This was of course to be the unveiling of some of the new characters and also the showing of the first teaser trailer and the announcing of the movie's title.
Stephen Colbert hosted the Episode IX panel, a choice that pleased me since he is a self-proclaimed "first fan" of Star Wars (since he saw an early screening of the original film in 1977 in his youth). He first brought on J. J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy to a good reception. Kennedy honored George Lucas, citing his creation of the Star Wars universe as one relevant to our world. Abrams talked about how this new movie is the end of three trilogies but that it (as any good director will say) has to work as its own movie. This is about the new generation and whether they're ready to face the greatest evil. Colbert quickly asked, "What is that greatest evil?" Of course neither of them divulged an answer to that one. The answer is impled to be, "Wait and see," the answer I prefer at this point.
We've known for a while that Abrams set out to utilize unused footage of Carrie Fisher from The Force Awakens to include her in the new movie. What I didn't realize is that Abrams found a way to use those scenes to continue her story and even worked the script to write scenes around her. He said, "We are working with her still." I thought Fisher's scenes would end up feeling passive but to find ways to work with her scenes, as Abrams put it, makes me excited to see these in action. If pulled off well, they could be truly fascinating sequences.
We learned that unlike The Last Jedi (which begins moments after The Force Awakens), some time has passed since we left Rey and saw the Resistance taking off in the Millennium Falcon.
This is the new generation he was talking about: Rey, Finn, and Poe. Here they are finally all together. They're somewhere in the woods. We've seen our heroes in the woods before, in Return of the Jedi. More thoughts on this in a moment.
Next, Colbert introduced Anthony Daniels, mentioning that he is indeed in every film of the Skywalker saga. Daniels was honored with that distinction, saying that after all this time, C-3PO is his best friend. He is preparing to release a memoir which focuses a great deal on the character. He wanted to title the book, "Telling the Odds" which fans liked but his publisher didn't. The title was later revealed as "I AM C-3PO – The Inside Story."
Billy Dee Williams entered next looking as cool as ever. He probably had the best quote to come out of the panel. When Colbert asked him what it was like to come back to a character after so many decades. "How did I find Lando again?" said Williams. "Lando never left me." Perfectly stated. He also said in a light-hearted manner that he was tired of Lando always being accused of betraying Han, whereas Lando did what he could to keep Han and his friends alive. "Nobody died," he said to prove his point. Lando couldn't have said it better.
Joining the others onstage and receiving a large ovation was the rest of the main cast: Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), and Naomi Ackie (Jannah). Colbert began with Ackie asking if her character, Jannah, was the daughter of Lando. She said, "Lando could have children all over the universe." The arena nearly shook with laughter... and agreement.
John Boyega was in his usual joyful spirits when he said, "It's good to be back!" When talking about Finn, he said that now his character is, "full-fledged Resistance" and has come into his own identity, even coming through in his more personalized costume. Boyega also answered a question from Colbert that was much on the minds of fans: What of Captain Phasma? He answered with a cheeky, "Phasma, she dead." I loved that reply.
Daisy Ridley took on some questions from Colbert, first about the ancient Jedi texts and whether she's now versed in them. She said, "[Rey] may have got started, who knows?" This was a great non-answer because she probably couldn't reveal any real information about this part of the story. She did say that if they were in audiobook form, they would be narrated by Yoda—a hilarious prospect. I may have to try that in my Yoda voice. She also spoke on the broken lightsaber, saying, "The lightsaber she inherited from Luke lives." Indeed it looks to be already rebuilt in the trailer. She managed to avoid giving anything out about Kylo Ren.
J. J. Abrams also introduced us to BB-8's new friend, D-0, and like BB-8 before, D-0 ("Dio"?) rolled on stage for real at Celebration. We get a glimpse of him in the trailer a couple times and it is easy to see that he may be the hot Christmas toy this year. My frist impressions of him are that he looks like a traffic cone on a rolling smoke detector. It is a great design because he looks like something we could build. His movements reminded me of a lost puppy.
After the interviews were finished, Abrams asked the audience, "Who here wants to see a teaser trailer?" I think you know the answer that was given.
The teaser trailer for "Star Wars: Episode IX." Lucasfilm.
Since there have been lots of written articles and reaction videos, I don't think you need another one here—let me just say that I loved it. Well, and just one more thing: When it ended, I consider what happened next on stage to be a bit of an added bonus. Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine), dressed all in black, appeared on stage—the very person's character we just heard laugh at the end of the video—to a frenzied reception. And in the Emperor's voice, he ordered, "Roll it again!" After which I swear he almost did a mic drop. If anyone wasn't sure if that laugh in the trailer was from the Emperor, McDiarmid's presence on stage confirmed it. The experience was thrilling even sitting at my computer watching it on a screen.
Galaxy's Edge News from Celebration
If you want a quicker overview of the new stuff discussed about Galaxy's Edge, check out this news post from Starwars.com that tells six things we learned about the park from Celebration.
I couldn't cover the food and drink in Galaxy's Edge better than this article from Starwars.com, which describes Ronto Roaster wraps, Carbon Freeze drinks, and Blue Milk here.
There is some new information on Ooga's Cantina. Aside from the drinks mentioned in the article linked above, there will also be music run by the beloved Rex who used to be the pilot of Star Tours. Matt Martin, Creative Executive, Franchise Story and Content for Lucasfilm wrote a backstory telling how the droid flunked out of Star Tours, joined the Rebellion, fought in the battle of Jakku, then got involved in a TIE Fighter chase where he ended up crashing on Batuu and being repaired by the local droid-smith who repurpsed him into a DJ. At the Celebration panel, host Josh Gad asked if we could actually hear some of the music Rex (to be voiced again by Paul Reubens) will throw on us. Here is a video of the day's stream but queued up to when we can listen to some samples. (I really enjoyed this part because I love getting CDs of park music):
Music from Ooga's Cantina – bringing Star Wars Galaxy's Edge to Life at Disney Parks. Disney Parks.
For those of us ready to see some behind-the-scenes work on animatronics for a new Disney ride, like the Millennium Falcon, the following is again the day 2 clip from Celebration, queued to a look at bringing Hondo Ohnaka (voiced by Jim Cummings) to the park:
Hondo Animatronic – bringing Star Wars Galaxy's Edge to Life at Disney Parks. Disney Parks.
The panelists also aluded that there may be places in the park where we are visited by Jedi of the past, from the beyond. They confirmed that Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz himself) will be one such character! The Imagineers are going above expectations to make everything feel authentic. But when two worlds collide, they can't make everything seem alien. Take these Coke products; they've been designed to look familiar enough so we know what they are, but they also look different enough to be from another world:
Specially designed Coca-Cola products coming cxclusively to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Disney Parks.
The also introduced the things you'll be able to do in Galaxy's Edge using the Play Disney Parks smartphone application.
The Play Disney Parks app will feature interactive tools inside Galaxy's Edge including Hack, to interact with droids; Scan, to gather info by scanning barcodes; Translate, to read Aurebesh signs; and Tune, to listen in on characters and stories in the park. Photo by Disney.
Before ending the panel, Trowbridge gave a short sizzle reel of a quick tour through Galaxy's Edge in its current state. Set to some of the exclusive new music by John Williams himself, the following video shows these visuals. It does look great and while I'm excited to see X-Wings and Landspeeders, I also want to look at the small details in the nooks and crannies of the Outpost, some of which you can see here:
Galaxy's Edge preview video – bringing Star Wars Galaxy's Edge to life at Disney Parks. Disney Parks.
Quotes from the Galaxy's Edge Panel at Celebration
Why not places like Tatooine and Mustafar? Those places are a reflection of what those characters represent… On Tatooine, in A New Hope, Luke is a moisture farmer, he’s a simple person, and he wants to escape this mundane life. He has a longing for adventure. And so the bleak, desert landscape reflects this emptiness. And so when we approach our designs for the environments, we really wanted to approach the design of with purpose.
– Doug Chiang: VP, Creative Director, Star Wars, Lucasfilm
If you go outside the village, outside of Black Spire Outpost, in the forested area, in the remains of the ancient ruins, as we often do, that’s where we find the Resistance. They’re encamped there, looking for new recruits. And that’s us! But because it’s Star Wars not everything goes to plan and we might find ourselves as prisoners of the First Order and captive on board a Star Destroyer.
– Scott Trowbridge: Portfolio Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering
[When designing Black Spire Outpost], it wasn’t about a single person. It wasn’t about Luke or Anakin’s journey, it was about your journey. That was the turning point in the design for us. It’s really about you. You are that rogue adventurer, that scoundrel. We wanted to build a place that was timeless.
– Chris Beatty: Executive Creative Director, Walt Disney Imagineering
We took a lot of great care to realize that guests, when they walk into our land, are walking into it for the very first time. But this planet and this place, Black Spire Outpost, has a very long and rich history. And we wanted to tell all those stories. We wanted to tell the story of how the Resistance got there. And how did Dok Ondar, one of our Ithorian characters, got there and set up shop there. So we worked very closely with Lucasfilm story and publishing teams to tell these stories and build this rich tapestry to tell you everything that came before and soon after.
– Margaret Kerrison: Managing Story Editor, Walt Disney Imagineering
In "Thrawn: Alliances" (Timothy Zahn), we actually get to see Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader go to Ooga’s Cantina at Black Spire. 'Black Spire' (Ophelia Dawson) will tell the story of how the Resistance got to Batuu and a 5-part Marvel mini-series that will explore some of the antiques in Dok [Ondar]’s antique shop and how they got there. 'Pirates Price' shows how Hondo has possession of the Millenium Falcon and his uneasy partnership with Chewbacca.
– Matt Martin: Creative Executive, Franchise Story and Content, Lucasfilm
Throwback Thursday: Return of the Jedi, return of the fun
I do not believe I had anticipated a movie more than Return of the Jedi. The buzz in 1983 around its release was palpable and I was old enough to recognize it and feel it. It was a time of great excitement because it was to be the finale of the trilogy. But more than that, it was going to answer a lot of questions that had been raised after Empire Strikes Back—questions that we as kids had been debating for three eternal years!
Was it true that Vader was Luke's father? If it is, then what happens now? Will Luke kill him? Will we see Darth unmasked? Does Leia have the Force? Will Han come back? Well, we knew that last one because Harrison Ford was featured in the trailers—we just did not know how he would escape from his carbonite prison.
What would Jabba the Hutt look like (there was a bit of mystery there)? What's Lando going to do? Will he and Han be friends again?
As a kid, I did not question whether Luke would survive; I just knew he would. But I heard from others that this was a question on some people's minds. Anticipation was as high as expectations.
Sure I already loved Star Wars, but this was the film that felt like it was made for me. I wanted to see Luke grow in the Force, I wanted him to return to Yoda, I wanted to see Vader unmasked, I wanted Han to come back, I wanted Leia to fight, I wanted Lando to be the friend I knew he'd be… and I got all this and more. I got to see the building of a new Death Star (the image of it being half-constructed has always been so cool to me), I got to witness the Emperor and his power, I got to see what this Jabba guy was all about, I got to meet the fiesty and ferocious ewoks, and the biggest surprise of all: that Darth Vader would turn to the light side, save his son, and that Anakin would be the Jedi that returned.
The whole thing was a feast to me, a celebration and culmination of everything Star Wars. Whenever I watch it again, it takes me back to my youth and I remember how I felt then. I could finally look upon the entire saga and see where it all was going. It felt good. Then I got more actions figures and saw the film half a dozen more times.
So, when I watched Return of the Jedi again for this month's Throwback Thursday, I went in like I did with Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back, and focused on the fun. Like before, I soaked in the humor and still laughed out loud and some of the same stuff that had me laughing when I was a kid. We must remember the fun because that is most of the Star Wars experience since the beginning. I like to talk serious about Star Wars, too, but let us not forget the mirth in these stories. Let's go!
"Threepio" a Third Time
C-3PO has been the center of comedy relief since the first film and he gets a lot of humorous moments in the third one.
This door greeter-gatekeeper at Jabba's palace always made me laugh because it's so weird to just be welcomed by an eyeball.
Before C-3PO can walk away, the droids are greeted by another droid, this time by what can only be described as an impatient eyeball on a stick. I love the other-worldliness of this simple doorman. © Lucasfilm.
C-3PO's thoughts and feelings are always ignored.
C-3PO gets a new job as interpreter for Jabba the Hutt, but after seeing droids being tortured and disintegrated, he worries that he'll end up like this deactivated CZ-3, even holding the same pose in this moment of panic. © Lucasfilm.
It wouldn't be the original trilogy without Threepio losing a body part.
Never a dull moment at Jabba's
The first part of Jedi, taking place at Jabba's home on Tatooine, is more or less a monster movie with some of the most creatively-designed creatures ever seen. To make them all the more disgusting this whole first act co-stars gunts, howls, burps, slurps, and a whole bunch of drool (really, check out all the drool from the mouths of Gamorrean Guards and the Rancor). A couple bits always made me love them.
Even at dusk, in a moment of quiet, we can't escape grunts and burps around the gangster's palace, like this alien frog that tongue-lashes a bug for dinner and finishes it with a belch even Jabba would be proud of. © Lucasfilm.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and this guy, Malakili, was keeper of the horrible monster, the rancor, and loved it. We sympathize with those who lose a pet, and perhaps we even feel for him a little when he lost his beast. © Lucasfilm.
The many emotions of Salacious B. Crumb
In my youth, this was probably the character I absolutely loved to hate the most. He finds abomination funny, he finds torture to be comedic, he believes suffering is the greatest source of humor. I think he'd make an outstanding comedian.
The incomparable, Salacious B. Crumb, has the most infectious laugh in the galaxy. As Jabba's court jester, he finds the worst things absolutely hilarious, like when Luke gives away R2-D2 and C-3PO to Jabba. © Lucasfilm.
In one of those brief/fun moments, Salacious Crumb finds it funny how Jabba's tail slithers when the big slug is asleep. But even Crumb wouldn't dare wake up his boss with his trademark laugh. © Lucasfilm.
A little bit of Lando
Billy Dee Williams doesn't get enough credit for his comedic chops. There's a fantastic moment in Jedi where he is in a drastic situation and the only person to save him is Han, the one who last saw Lando making a deal with Vader. Han didn't see the rescue attempt. As a kid, I wondered if Lando was thinking at that moment if Han was going to take a little revenge. Of course he didn't, but I still wonder if Han perhaps was toying with Lando just a little.
Judge them by their size, do you?
Ewoks are so Star Wars. Like Yoda before them, they are much more than they appear. They're cute and fuzzy, but beneath the outer plush lies hearts of crafty warriors. What makes them great is their ferocity and their collaborative spirit. One on one, an Ewok wouldn't stand a chance against a legion of troops with blasters, but when they show up in vast numbers, on their own turf, the Empire should be the ones fleeing into the woods. Primitive, yes; naïve, not always; able/willing to defend what is right, always. All of these traits are evident in our first meeting with the first Ewok.
As gross and drooly as the creatures from Jabba's palace were, the film balances this with the cute and (at first) cuddly Ewoks. We first meet Wicket who is timid like a lost dog—even growling softly at Leia, being unsure of her. © Lucasfilm.
Leia, being the kind soul she is, immediately sees an opportunity to make a friend--something the Empire's Stormtroopers definitely did not do (and will suffer the consequences). Wicket plops right down next to the Princess to enjoy some food she's shared. © Lucasfilm.
The others meet the Ewoks in a different way, by being captured. Already the furry ones have an advantage on our heroes, they know their land better. But they're also primitive and hilariously believe C-3PO is a god. © Lucasfilm.
What's more dangerous? A Stormtrooper with a blaster, or an Ewok with a blaster?
Short fur meets long fur
There was mention by George Lucas that in an early draft of the Star Wars saga, the Empire had enslaved the entire colony of wookies on their home planet. After he had established Chewbacca as a sophisticated being capable of firing crossbow lasers and flying spaceships, Lucas adapted this idea to the Ewoks and made them a primitive race, and also made the shorter with shorter fur. He would later revisit a battle with wookies in Revenge of the Sith but here, we get to see Chewie channeling his inner animal with his new furry companions.
Here's a gag that didn't seem to age well--that of Chewie swinging on a vine and yelling the Tarzan call. It was such an odd pop culture reference, at the time. This was rectified later in Episode III when it showed that this is just what wookies do in battle. © Lucasfilm.
Han is always Han
Just as in the previous films, Han Solo never sees danger as dangerous, even though he should see it that way. But that's what we love about him: his heart, his attitude is always in the right place, even if his ego is not. Once again, Harrison Ford brings some of the finest humor in the movie and all from a place of irony and love combined. He is true to form to a fault.
Once freed from carbonite, Han is back in smuggling mode (like he did in The Force Awakens) as he tries to talk his way out of the debt owed to Jabba and he echoes a familiar sentiment from Empire Strikes Back, "It's not my fault!" © Lucasfilm.
As they wait, the rebels on the shuttle listen to Han have second thoughts. After telling everyone to "keep a little optimism," he says, "they're not going for it" and readies a quick exit. They're permitted to continue when Han says, "I told you it was going to work." © Lucasfilm.
Han always has an inflated version of himself, and his carbonite sleep did nothing to change that. Once on the moon, Luke warns him to proceed quietly to which Han retorts with, "Hey, it's me!" © Lucasfilm.
Han faces death more than once in the movies, but probably the most in Return of the Jedi. At one point, he's almost cooked into a main course at a banquet in honor of the Ewok god, Threepio.
Everybody needs somebody to love, even the low-lifes of Jabba's underworld. Here we see a Squidhead asleep next to one of Jabba's dancers, and they're holding hands. Aww. Did they die on the sail barge like lovers on the Titanic? © Lucasfilm.
I believe this next picture embodies a lot of the dry humor of this film.
Han: "Together again, huh?"
Luke: "Wouldn't miss it."
Han: "How we doing?"
Luke: "Same as always."
Han: "That bad, huh?"
What did I miss? What are some more funny moments from Return of the Jedi? I hope you enjoyed this trip down humor lane. I return next month with funny stuff from The Phantom Menace which won't be hard to find. Oh boy, wish me luck...