Sunday, November 27, 2011

LosCon 2011

Today I joined several R2 builders for a panel at LosCon 38 at the LAX Marriott in Los Angeles.

LosCon is a science fiction-oriented gathering, and they invited Southern California R2 builders to present a panel on R2 building, and to hang out in one of the display rooms during the weekend. I was only able to make it today, but other builders were there the past two days as well.

Our panelists included William Miyamoto, Randy Eubanks and Mike Senna. I served as moderator.

As you can see, we had droids and parts on display, to help illustrate what goes into droid building. William and Nikki Miyamoto had some of Nikki's "Million Dollar R2" parts on display as well.

Among many topics, Mike showed how he can transform his R2-D2 into Dee-Dee, the droid from the Pink 5 fan film series. This shows how you can effectively have a second droid at a fraction of the cost of building a complete duplicate. The transformation took mere minutes.

I presented a series of questions, and we took questions from the audience. After an hour, our time was up, and we packed up and headed back to our display room, where we answered more questions and were able to provide a better close up view to the attendees.

I think our visit was much appreciated, and we'll likely be back in the future.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination Grand Opening at the Discovery Science Center

Tonight was the grand opening of the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, CA. This is the same exhibit that came to Los Angeles in 2007, and has been touring ever since.

I arrived around 5:00pm and parked. It was like Three Card Monte, except with three Honda Elements and a droid.

Star Wars characters, including R2, were invited to participate in the Museum VIP preview at 6:00pm, followed by the general audience admission at 9:00pm. Besides greeting the visitors, R2's main roll was to lead the Science Center's president down the red carpet for the 9:00pm opening. I did a few rehearsals, but there were no surprises. Just drive straight.

Once the VIPs entered, the characters provided plenty of photo ops for visitors and media.

This guy was definitely a favorite.

This being a Star Wars exhibit and all, I managed to get a few pictures of the official Lucasfilm props on display.

At 8:30pm they cleared the place out for the general audience, and we went back outside for the red carpet event.

Rich and Sarah Woloski were there. You may recall R2 was the ring bearer in their wedding.

At 9:00pm, the fanfare sounded, and R2 took to the red carpet. The picture is dark and grainy, but R2 is leading DSC president Joe Adams (dressed as a Jedi Knight) to the stage.

Once inside, folks lined up for the exhibit, and formed a second line for pictures with R2.

I ended up staying until around 11:00pm, which is about how long it took to get through the line for pictures with R2.

It was a fun event, and there's a chance R2 will be back for an R2 Builders event before the exhibit ends in April 2012.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On Stage with Weird Al in Hollywood

Tonight R2 got to participate in the last stop of Weird Yankovic's Apocalypse tour, at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, CA.

I actually hadn't planned to do this show, but with the tiniest last-minute arm twisting ("Wanna go?"), I was there. The call time was 6:00pm for the 8:00pm show, although we were to go on around 10:00pm for the encore. I picked up fellow R2 Builder William Miyamoto on the way up to Hollywood, as William was to be on stage as a stormtrooper, and was our main point of contact for the evening.

Once all the characters had arrived, we ran through a rehearsal on stage. It's a reasonably big theater, and has staged many famous musicals throughout the years. I test-drove R2 over the mats that covered the cables. A little bumpy, but nothing he couldn't handle.

More rehearsals and pictures in the dressing room, where we were treated to a pizza dinner.

We were invited to watch the first half of the show from the balcony seats, which was really nice. It was a neat to look down on the stage, and realize in a little over an hour we'd be back down there performing. In the meantime, R2 was parked to the side of the stage, waiting patiently to go on.

Around 8:45pm we headed back to the dressing room and the characters got dressed. Then, it was one final rehearsal session before going back upstairs to the stage. For those that haven't seen the routine, Al starts singing "The Saga Begins," to the tune of "Bye Bye Miss American Pie." The characters stand at attention during the initial slow verses, and then start bobbing their heads as the pace picks up. Soon, they are dancing semi-wildly. They are not supposed to be in sync with each other, so it's not as bad as it looks.

Since I didn't have to worry about changing into costume, I was able to hang out at stage-left, and sneak a picture or two of the performance from a distance. Here, keyboardist Rubén Valtierra wears a beehive on his head while playing "I Perform this Way," a parody of Lady Gaga's song, "I was Born this Way."

Finally, the show "ended," the crowd cheered, Al changed costumes for something like the 20th time, and he came back out to do the encore. As the music started, the Star Wars characters took the stage, with R2 trailing at the back. As the pace picked up, we all started to jam. With my hands full with the transmitter, I was only able to take one picture. Scaffolding mostly obscures R2 in the picture, but he's there, along with the other characters.

Darrin Forsythe, our Darth Vader for the evening, uploaded this video of the performance.

Shortly thereafter the show ended, and all the characters except R2 went out to the lobby to take pictures with the fans. R2 stayed backstage due to the complexity of getting him from the backstage area to the lobby, and the somewhat mobbed conditions.

Princess Leia's real-life father has a star on the Walk of Fame right in front of the theater.

After we were done with the fans, we went back to the dressing room area and ambushed actor/Robot Chicken co-creator Seth Green. He was ready with his 501st challenge coin.

The characters changed out of costume, and a little while later Al came out, signed autographs, and posed for the group picture. (I live vicariously through R2.)

And that was a wrap. It was another fun concert, I hope I get to participate again in the future.

The full photo set (yes, there's more!) is here.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

FIRST Robotics Competition in San Diego

Today R2 made an 85 mile trip south, for an appearance at the FIRST Robotics competition in San Diego, CA.

FIRST stands for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology." Today's competition was hosted by High Tech High School, its FIRST team and its leaders. The competition was for middle school students in the FIRST LEGO League, using LEGO Mindstorms.

R2 made his appearance at the lunch break.

It didn't take long for the kids to join in for pictures.

I guess I'm kind of partial to any team that wears In-n-Out hats.

Refs need a picture too.

After lunch, R2 took a spot on the stage, while the competition resumed.

At the end of the day, after all the middle school kids had gone home and the tables put away, I did a demonstration of how R2 works for the high school team. I even mentioned that all that trigonometry didn't go to waste after all.

Thank you to Cathy Schulz for inviting me to join them, and to Paul Bussiere for putting her in touch with me.