Wednesday, March 22, 2017

USC Class Visit

Tonight R2 and Gordon Tarpley as C-3PO were invited as special visitors for the class "The Star Wars Phenomenon," a course at USC that takes a look at Star Wars, the influences surrounding it, and featuring various guest speakers. USC has a renowned film school, and George Lucas has given generously to it over the years. Lynn Johnston facilitated our visit.

Our appearance was scheduled around 8:00pm, after a screening of Return of the Jedi, and before a discussion with ILM Visual Effects Supervisor (and USC alumnus) John Knoll and Supervising Sound Editor Matthew Wood. (R2 met Matthew and had his back panel signed back in 2012.).

I arrived early and stowed R2, so as not to blow his cover.

Around 6:00pm the movie started, and I watched along with the class in USC's Norris Theater on campus. Gordon arrived around 7:10pm and texted me, at which point I exited the theater to help him find his way over and suit up for our 8:00pm appearance. While we waited for the movie to end, I checked out the theater lobby, which included a tribute to Frank Sinatra, and the fanciest drinking fountain I've seen.

Lynn gave us the heads-up that the movie was about to finish, so we stepped outside and prepared for the onrush of the 350 students that were eagerly awaiting to meet the two droids. Moments later, the stampede was on.

The students wrapped up their photos just in time to get back into the theater to hear John and Matthew speak. I helped Gordon out of his C-3PO costume, and we entered the theater to catch the talk from the back row. Both John and Matthew had fascinating things to say, some of which I'd heard before and much of which was new to me. The questions from the audience were excellent as well.

Around 10:00pm the talk wrapped up. R2 was still in the lobby, and there were a few more pictures once everyone exited.

I had a great time, and everyone appreciate having the droids as special guests.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Return to JPL

Today R2 and I joined fellow R2 Builders Keri Bean, Kevin Holme and Bryan Reniker for a fun day of discovery at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, CA.

Keri works at JPL, and she kindly offered to take us on a tour of the facilities. R2 and I have been here once before, but it was a long time ago and I was looking forward to seeing it again.

We started off in a room that exhibits replicas of various spacecraft and rovers, along with some actual artifacts.

It was all very cool, although the infrared camera proved there was warmth as well.

Next, we went to the Mission Control room. I'd seen this room many times, during the exciting webcasts when the various Mars rovers have come in for a landing.

There was a cool LED array that modeled live communications between various spacecraft and the ground via the Deep Space Network. The LEDs lit up as communications arrived. Some spacecraft were more verbose than others.

We then went to a high bay test bed, where an engineering model of a Mars Exploration Rover was situated in some gravel, as was a model of Mars InSight, a mission scheduled for 2018.

One of our last stops was a high bay clean room, where the Mars 2020 mission is just starting assembly. Mars 2020 is scheduled to be the next rover on Mars, and is planned to collect Martian samples for potential return to Earth in a future mission. A few years from now I'll look back at Mars 2020 and remember seeing it in its beginning stages.

Once our tour wrapped up, it was time to unload R2 and have some fun with the JPL staff! Employees heading home for the day were pleasantly surprised to find R2 in the courtyard to greet them.

And that's a wrap! Thank you again to Keri for taking the time to give us a great tour, I hope we get to return again sometime. JPL is a great place to visit, and it's always interesting to see what's next.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

CHLA Visit

Today R2 joined C-3PO, Darth Vader, and two storm troopers to pay a special visit to 3-year old Lindi and many other young oncology patients at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

I arrived at 11:00am, and they allowed me to unload at a convenient spot that would keep R2's appearance a surprise to everyone.

The characters changed into costume, and we hopped into the elevator for 2 hours of non-stop room-to-room visits.

As usual, there's a strict no-pictures policy with the young patients, but we visited dozens of rooms, and the kids' eyes lit up when they saw some of their favorite characters arriving to visit them and give autographs.

Once we were done, we retreated back to the changing room, where the characters' heads gathered for one last group photo.

It's always a privilege to do these visits, and I hope the patients we visited are all well on their way to a speedy recovery.

Thanks to all the volunteers, and the CHLA staff who came in on their day off to make this happen.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Charter School & Hospital Visit

The started off with rain and hail, but that cleared up just before I hit the road to head to downtown Los Angeles to take R2 for a visit to Dignity Health Charter School and Hospital.

R2 was joined by members of the Rebel Legion and 501st to help spread kindness and cheer, starting with a school assembly. We lined up for our surprise entrance.

The kids screamed with delight as the characters entered the room, and the doctors proceeded to discuss examples of how to spread kindness with the kids.

Next, we headed over to the adjacent hospital to visit some of the patients. While I didn't get pictures with patients, the staff certainly took an opportunity to get pictures with some of the characters.

Toward the end of the visit, R2 encountered the campus' security droid. It looked like some modern mash-up of an R2 unit and a Dalek. I think they got along ok.

Everyone enjoyed the visit and appreciated our presence.

Monday, December 19, 2016

UC Irvine Health Child Life Annual Holiday Party 2016

This evening R2 went to Pretend City in Lake Forest, CA, to help with the annual UC Irvine Health Child Life Annual Holiday Party. We were joined by several other heroes and cosplayers. This event is put on for kids who have been patients at the hospital during the year.

Justine Senna teamed up as Rey with R2.

As usual with these things, no pictures with the kids, but suffice it to say they were quite happy to meet the characters and Santa! Each child got at least one toy (I think they all got multiples.)

As we wrapped up, the UC Irvine Child Life Services staff jumped in for a picture with the characters.

It was another good visit, and hopefully we'll all be back again next year.

Friday, December 16, 2016

KABC-TV Spark of Love Toy Drive - 2016

Tonight R2 participated in his fourth consecutive Spark of Love Toy Drive at Honda Center in Anaheim, CA, headed up by Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC-TV, and our trusty cameraman Edgar, who has since joined the 501st Legion. We were joined by members of the 501st and Rebel Legions.

Many companies donate a boatload of toys.

The event runs all day, and I did the afternoon 4:30pm-6:30pm broadcast shift. People watching the news are encouraged to drop off a toy for those less fortunate and get some pictures with the characters. It's a great idea, as the characters are directly involved in getting people to come on down and meet them and donate a toy.

R2 was featured in several segments with reporters Bree and Alysha.

An example clip is here (as of this writing):

Twenty-eight buses were filled with toys this year, which is great considering it was pouring rain in the morning, which no doubt affected the drop-offs.

As always, I had a great time and I hope to be back next year.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Star Wars Night with the Anaheim Ducks - 2016

Today R2 was invited back for Star Wars Night with the Anaheim Ducks, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. "Star Wars Night," despite the fact that the game was at 1:05pm. Well, it's night somewhere. We were joined by members of the 501st and Rebel Legions.

I arrived early and was asked to drop off R2 near the Fox Sports broadcast area where we'd be greeting fans, while the other characters changed into costume. Early arrivals were eager to get some pictures.

A little while later, the other characters joined us and the fans started gathering.

Like last year, we were asked to appear on the pregame show.

The Fox Sports crew also asked to do an interview with me for their Ducks Weekly broadcast, and they followed me and R2 around a little bit.

The interview is here:

After that, the group was asked to make a couple of appearances. First stop, the food service crew's Christmas card picture.

Then we wound our way to our next location.

The second stop was a visit to one of the players' luxury suites, where his young son's birthday party was held. After 15 minutes of the boundless energy of a dozen six year olds, we managed to escape with our lives.

R2's commitments were done for the day, so I stowed him in the Ducks offices, by their Christmas tree for photo ops while we watched the game.

And a good game it was! The Ducks beat the Ottawa Senators, 5-1. R2's record with the Ducks is now evened up at 1-1.

This year R2 didn't get to be on the Dance Cam, but some of the other characters were.

But we weren't quite done yet. After the game, we were invited down to the clubhouse(!), and I got a selfie with Ducks Team Captain Ryan Getzlaf.

It was a fun day, and I hope we get to do it again next year.