Beat by Beat: Opening Ceremonies Team | May 25, 2007

Editors Note: While the below events transpired inside, an entirely different story unfolded outside. Please read this statement regarding the events of that night.

7:30 PM: As the thousands of fans stream into Hall K of the Los Angeles Convention Center, a classical pianist performs a medley of John Williams’ score from all six Star Wars movies.


7:40 PM: The hall has now filled to three-quarters capacity. The pianist is performing Obi-Wan’s theme (a.k.a the Force theme, or the Throne Room Theme) from A New Hope. On the screen is the triangular CIV logo against a fireworks-spotted skyscape of Coruscant.


7:50 PM: The last rows are now beginning to fill in. Lightsaber salutes in the frontward rows are met by cheers. Tom Warner, Senior Director of Marketing at Lucasfilm takes the stage. “Hello Los Angeles! Welcome to Celebration IV. We’ve had a slight change of schedule to introduce a very special guest.” Warner recounted past venues that hosted Celebrations, like Denver and Indianapolis. “It took us about two seconds to decided where we wanted to be. For the 30th anniversary we knew we had to bring it back to Los Angeles. So, it is my pleasure to introduce the mayor of Los Angeles: Antonio Villaraigosa.


The mayor takes the stage wearing a Star Wars tie. “Let me welcome all the delegates of the New Republic to the city of Angels!” It’s been 20 years since the first ever official Star Wars event, the Mayor describes. “Today, we’re officially declaring today Star Wars day in the city of Los Angeles! We’re very excited to host you today. I understand it I’m one of the first mayors to greet you. My son wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s an honor to host you in this city. Spend as much as you can! We’ll take it in. Let me just to say, ‘May the Force Be With You!’”


The Mayor then introduced City Councilwoman Jan Perry who expressed similar sentiments, and quoted the proclamation. “It’s a beautiful sight to see all of you! I’m so happy that you’ve chosen to come to downtown Los Angeles… and a special shout out to the 501st battalion!”


8:00 PM: “Let’s get on with the show and get to the fun stuff!” said Warner. A booming announcer formally started the show, and then video recapped the efforts to kick the year-long Star Wars Celebration. That is, a highlight reel from the Star Wars Rose Bowl parade plays. It ends with a shot of the USC Marching Band… and then transitions to the real deal. Marching down the aisles of the audience is the USC Marching Band, playing (what else?) the Imperial March.

The band make its way to the front of the line, accompanied by various international 501st members in full armor, bearing the flags of their countries of origin. They arrange themselves in front of the audience, marching in place.


8:05 PM: The crowd erupts in applause as the band starts another set and disperses. The music that replaces their march is a definite change of pace — it’s the pianist Ewok parade. A number of 501st stormtroopers take the stage. Suddenly an Ewok sneaks onto stage (yeah, you read that right) and chases the troopers off with his spear.


Another march starts up — the Raiders march. Indiana Jones comes on stage and cracks a whip at the Ewok… who pulls off the head to reveal: Steve Sansweet.

“Now I know why I’m not a costumer.”


8:10 PM: “Tonight we celebrate that day 30 years ago when that space fantasy opened on only 32 screens in North America.” Sansweet describes the climate of 30 years ago, about how few theater owner or executives showed faith in the film yet the fans knew it was big before anyone. “It was the fans were there then, and we’re still here 30 years later.”

Sansweet passes on George Lucas’ regrets for being unable to attend. A video has a personal message from George Lucas. He explains, “I’m off working on a project about a man with a hat and a whip. Hopefully this 30th celebration will turn into a 40th or 50th, and I look forward to seeing you at one of those.”

Sansweet then offered a live satellite interview from London with Lucas… or… let’s say a less-than-lifelike paper bag puppet proxy.


8:15 PM: Sansweet continues a tradition kicked off at Celebration III: the parade of celebrities. Joining Steve on stage were… eventually (he stalled with an improvised Ewok jig)…


Producer Robert Watts, Mary Apostagos (Ewok), Richard Bonehill (stormtrooper) Lightning Bear, (stormtrooper), Jon Berg, Mike Edmunds (Ewok), Paul Blake (Greedo), Dermot Crowley (General Madine) Micke Carter (Richard LeParmentier), Motti Rusty Goff (Ewok), Kent Colley (Admiral Piett), Don Bies, Julian Glover (Veers), Shawn Crawford, Jerome Blake (Rune Haako), Anthony Forrester (Fixer), Garrick Hagon (Biggs Darklighter) Andy Secombe (Watto), Barry Holland (the “you Rebel scum” guy), Colin Higgins (Wedge), John Knoll, Gerald Hume (Jabba’s Palace), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Matthew Wood (General Grievous), Dave Filoni (Clone Wars director), Rena Owen (Taun We), Tom Kane (animated Yoda), Dave and Lou Elsey (Creatures) George Roubicek (Praji), Amy Allen (Aayla Secura), Michonne Bourriague (Aurra Sing), Shannon McCrandle (Mara Jade), Orli Shoshan (Shaak Ti), Producer Howard Kazanjian, Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett), Daniel Logan (Boba Fett), Debbie Carrington (Romba), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Lorne Peterson, Alan Ruscoe (Plo Koon), John Coppinger (Jabba’s palace), LucasArts’ Haden Blackman, Nathalie Cox (Juno Eclipse), Sam Witwer (Vader’s Secret Apprentice), Ian Liston (Janson), Felix Silla (Ewok), Bruce Spence (Tion Medon), Bonnie Piesse (Beru Whitesun), Michael Kingma (Tarfful), Femi Taylor (Oola), Arti Director Norman Reynolds, Simon Williamson (Max Rebo), Nina Fallon (Stass Allie), Kevin Thompson (Ewok), Zachariah Jenssen (Kit Fisto), and Jay Laga’aia (Captain Typho).

8:25 PM: Jay Laga’aia leads everyone assembled in singing “Happy Birthday to…” Star Wars, complete with a commemorative cake. “We didn’t think it’d be fair for us to have cake and you not have any,” says Jay, so there is actually cake available for everyone here in attendance.

8:30 PM: Can’t… type… eating… cake….

8:33 PM: Steve Sansweet introduces Howard Roffman, President of Lucas Licensing. “Hi everybody. I’m the after-cake entertainment. Hard to believe it’s been 30 years. What a difference 30 years make. Movie todays open on thousands of screens. 30 Years ago, Star Wars opened on 32 screens. Movies today are marketing juggernauts, but when Star Wars came out it didn’t have any tie-in promotion. No merchandise. Very little in terms of ad budget. So, you may ask… how did it become the biggest film franchise of all time? Because of you!”

8:35 PM: “You grew up, you grew older, a lot of you had kids, and you stayed fans. That means you and we Star Wars, Lucasfilm, George Lucas, we’ve been together 30 years. That’s a long time. It’s a relationship. There’s been ups and downs. We’ve had our fights. And then we kissed and made up.” Roffman cites one example — Greedo shooting first. He also brings up Jar Jar Binks. “It’s interesting because your kids probably that that was okay. The truth is, there is a new generation of Star Wars fans. And just like most of think that it is the original trilogy that rules, some of the younger ones think the prequels are better. It’s great that we get to have these debates and disagreements. It’s all part of being a family.”

8:40 PM: Roffman describes one of the tough decisions made in his lengthy tenure — the launch of a publishing campaign in 1991. “You all made it number one on the national bestsellers.” He then described the relaunch of comics. And the launch of Star Wars videogames with X-Wing. “Then in 1995, I had to make a call whether or not we tiptoe back in the toy market again,” he says. “Not only do we put out Star Wars action figures, but do we put them on steroids as well? I got talked into that one, and I eventually talked Kenner out of that one.”


Roffman then described one of biggest until-recently-unfilled dreams in licensing, one that would require the cooperation of the United States Federal Government. “How could we get the United States Postal Service to honor Star Wars, and not with one stamp. How could you do it with just one stamp? It had to be a sheet.” After a lengthy process, the stamps became a reality on the 30th anniversary.


“There’s 15 Star Wars stamps, 400 R2-D2 mailboxes, two different contests, a special website, I have to say the Postal Service was really behind this,” says Roffman. He then introduces Chief Marketing Manager of the USPS Anita J. Bizzotto, who names and thanks the people at the USPS who made the Star Wars stamps a reality.


8:45 PM: Anita Bizzotto describes the stamps: Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, R2-D2, C-3po, Yoda, Emperor, Obi-Wan, Falcon, stormtroopers, X-wing, Padme, Anakin and Darth Maul. “These stamps are beyond our imagination. They create a lasting tribute to one of the greatest film sagas of all time. Bizzotto and Roffman unveil the stamp art to the audience.

“But that’s not all. How many of you have a favorite of the 15 stamps? How many of you went and voted for your favorite stamp? For only the second time in history, the American public went and voted for their favorite stamp.” Bizzotto unveiled the winner: Yoda. The audience bursts into applause, and the pianist plays Yoda’s theme.

8:50 PM: Sansweet returns (now in a tux, not an Ewok suit). He lists some of the sights and sounds of Celebration IV, many of must-sees that you’ve been seeing here in this blog and our Flickr photostream. He then brings out Charles Ross, the One Man Star Wars performer, for a recap of the original A New Hope.

8:55 PM: Charlie’s already at the droid auction. He wraps it up at the Binary Sunset. Sansweet continues describing the show, including introducing Jay Laga’aia. He gives a run down of some of the activities on his stage.

9:00 PM: Hoping to shake things up a bit, and get the butts out of the chairs, Jay starts up the music and sings “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang.

9:05 PM: Sansweet’s back, switching gears to forthcoming LucasArts games. He starts off with Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron. He introduces the premiere of the Battlefront trailer, which calls out character customization as a key feature of the new PSP game. The all-new storyline puts you in Han Solo’s squadron of rogues. It is due out this Fall.

9:07 PM: The next subject Sansweet introduces is the movie Fanboys. He screens the trailer. (The Trekkers vs. Fanboys scene plays particularly well). “I’ve seen the rough cut, and you are going to love this movie.”

9:10 PM: Sansweet next introduces emcee Scott Chernoff. He runs down what’s happening on the Petree Stage (“Otherwise known as the Awesome Stage”).

9:15 PM: Chernoff describes his love of Star Wars in pop-culture, so he’s particularly excited about Seth McFarlane (“Family Guy”) and Seth Green and Matt Senreich (“Robot Chicken”) appearing on his stage.

9:19 PM: All new trailer premiere for LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.

9:22 PM: Sansweet next introduces a tribute reel that remembers those who contributed to the saga — both in front of and behind the camera — who contributed to making Star Wars a reality.

9:30 PM: Sansweet introduces emcee Doug Stevens who describes some of the programming on his stage.

9:34 PM: Sansweet introduces an abridged version of The Force Unleashed webdoc as he describes it as the next chapter of the Star Wars saga, the first step for the next 30 years of Star Wars and beyond.

9:37 PM: The crew from Star Wars in 30 Minutes take the stage to re-enact 30 years of Lucasfilms… in three minutes. They quickly breeze through Star Wars, The Star Wars Holiday Special, Empire, Raiders, the birth of the THX sound standard, Return of the Jedi, Temple of Doom, The Ewok Adventure, The Battle for Endor, Captain E-O, Labyrinth, Howard of the Duck, Willow, Tucker, Last Crusade, Episode I, Episode II, Episode III.

9:45 PM: Sansweet introduces Dave Collins, the last emcee of the night, who runs through the programming at his stage.

9:50 PM: Amira Sa’id, belly dancer extraordinaire, comes onto the stage to strut her stuff (you should have seen the photos by now)

9:53 PM: Sansweet begins to wrap up, thanking all those who helped. “The first 30 years have enriched the popular culture worldwide, provided bridges for global friendships, and made it okay — and even chic — to geek out in public. Can you just imagine what the next 30 years holds? I can’t wait, because as you know, Star Wars is forever!”

9:56 PM: Rocket Man (you may remember him from his appearance at the Rose Parade) actually soars in and lands his jetpack on the stage.

“Thank you, and good night!” says Sansweet.

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