Friday, December 18, 2015

KABC-TV Spark of Love Toy Drive - 2015

Tonight R2 participated in his third 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.

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. 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.

Lots of organizations sponsor the event with toys and other support, including my alma mater, UC Irvine.

R2 appeared on several cut-ins during the evening news broadcast.

A record 31(!) buses were filled with toys this year, beating last year's record of 27 buses.

This is such a good event, and we hope to be back again next year.

Monday, December 14, 2015

World Premiere of The Force Awakens

This isn't really an R2 event, but I can't not blog about what a wonderful night I had tonight at the world premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I'll make it a stretch and tie in R2 toward the end of the story.

I was extremely fortunate to be invited by Disney/Lucasfilm to attend the red carpet, followed by the movie and after party for The Force Awakens. To say I was elated is an understatement. I'll take you through the day.

I left Irvine around 11:45am and arrived at the Hollywood Bowl parking lot around 1:15pm, where I was instructed to park. From there, I caught one of the shuttles that was ferrying the invitees to Hollywood Boulevard. Once I arrived, the first thing I noticed was lots of security and metal detectors. To actually get onto Hollywood Blvd, you had to pass through a metal detector.

Once inside, I was able to see the benches I would be sitting on (well, everyone was standing the whole time) soon for the red carpet portion of the evening.

I took pictures of backdrops and carpets as I meandered along Hollywood Blvd. Lots of press was there, I even did an interview with Los Angeles CW affiliate KTLA, and another with a print/Internet journalist.

I met up with Mike and Amy Senna, and around 2:30pm we lined up to get our wrist straps that would let us into the bench area for the red carpet. Mike helped out with the wrist bands as names were checked off The List.

Once we got through that line, all of us were on the red carpet for a few seconds ourselves, as we made our way to the benches.

I spotted Chris Bartlett and his wife Raychelle. Chris was to be our C-3PO for the evening's red carpet stroll.

I made my way up to the last row (actually ended up seated in second to last row), where I got a picture with a Force Awakens backdrop.

I checked out my vantage point from the benches.

Once Mike was done handing out wrist straps he and Amy joined us.

Hey, what's Michael McMaster doing back there? We'll know soon enough...

A panorama of the scene.

It took a while, but we were finally given our theater passes while we were waiting for the red carpet walks to begin. Some of us were to go to the Dolby Theater, while others went to the TLC Chinese Theater, and, in the case of Mike and I, we ended up in the 2nd row of the El Capitan theater, along with fellow R2 Builder Carl Cunningham.

Ok, time to get this party started! First out the gate, Chris as C-3PO, and none other than Michael McMaster driving the actual Episode VII R2!

Next up, BB-8! He was too short for me to see him when he was in front of me(!), but I got this shot after he went by.

The actors started to arrive and did their walks.

Anthony Daniels/C-3PO

Peter Mayhew/Chewbacca

Max Von Sydow/Lor San Tekka

Gwendolyn Christie/Captain Phasma

Daisy Ridley/Rey

Andy Serkis/Supreme Leader Snoke

Oscar Isaacs/Poe Dameron

Adam Driver/Kylo Ren

Harrison Ford/Han Solo

Lupita N'yongo/Maz Kanata

John Boyega/Finn

Carrie Fisher/Leia

Mark Hamill/Luke Skywalker

There were others that do not appear in the movie that walked the carpet, including JJ Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Bob Iger, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Bonnie Piesse and more.

Speaking of more, somehow fellow R2 Builder Chris Romines managed to get to walk down the red carpet! He taunted us accordingly.

So, after about 3+ hours of standing in place and freezing, the red carpet walks were done, and we were allowed down ourselves on the carpet to start heading to our theaters.

Almost there...

Whoops, not so fast. The unwashed masses were instructed to go down a side corridor, haha!

When we emerged back onto the carpet we could see why. All of the stars were doing press inside the length of the corridor.

However, as they wrapped up I got to pretty much walk next to some of them, like Daisy Ridley and Gwendolyn Christie. They posed.

This was also our first chance to take in some of the displays in the (heated!) corridor.

We finally arrived at a neat intersection, where each of the attendees branched off to the theater where they were to watch the show. As I mentioned earlier, Mike and I were assigned to the El Capitan.

At this point we were ready to go in the theater. But not so fast, we had to turn in any recording equipment, such as cell phones and cameras to bag-check, where they could be picked up after the show.

So, in we went. We got free popcorn and drinks, and found our seats. We were still about 30 minutes from the movie starting, and they showed the webcast on the screen while we waited.

As showtime approached, they switched to a live feed from the Dolby theater, where Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke, followed by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and finally JJ Abrams spoke a few words, and introduced the entire cast onto the stage. And then... the lights dimmed.

I won't post a review or much reaction here, as I'm writing this before most people have had a chance to see the movie. I'll just say that I enjoyed it very much and look forward to watching again (and again). :)

Once the movie ended, we all filed out to collect our belongings. I said to Mike, "We are now part of a small, select group on earth that has seen the movie." But not for long.

As we exited the theater, plenty of press was begging for us to come over for an interview. I wasn't particularly inclined to do so, but Mike gave two or three brief interviews, and I did get talked into giving one brief one myself, but since I was so reluctant to say anything that might spoil the movie, I don't think I was of any use.

Once Mike was done, we went back into the corridor, and the after party!

There were decidedly two different sections, one for the cast and other Hollywood folks, and another for those of us who did not fall into that category. But a few cast members did walk through, including Mark Hamill and Oscar Isaacs. There was also plenty to see in there, and some appetizers and desserts were served.

So here's where I can claim to relate this to my R2. I had brought my droid's back panel, just in case there might be an opportunity for an autograph. As luck would have it, JJ Abrams was graciously taking pictures with people and signing autographs. So I made my move, and JJ signed the inside of R2's back panel! Neat!

Look sir, droids! I found Michael McMaster with R2 and C-3PO! (I missed seeing BB-8, bummed about that.)

I managed to get a picture right before they had to disappear behind the curtain. I may or may not have been able to follow them back there, and I may or may not have gotten to drive R2 a few inches. I forget.

Mike Senna caught up with us, and we took a group pic.

And with that, around 12:15am we were done, and it was time to go. One last look back.

The whole drive back home I just reflected on how lucky I was to participate in such a special event, and kept replaying the movie and whole evening in my head. I am so appreciative that I was invited to attend, and it's an evening I'll remember and think fondly of for a long, long time.

The full photoset is here.