“How did you lose an eight foot tall Wookie?”.
“Just try and block out The Phantom Menace and keep going.”
“Can you hold the Storm troopers hand when you bring him back or he might fall over?”.
The Emerald Garrison returned to Dublin over the weekend with their Star Wars themed event, Invasion. Before entering, there were posters informing the patrons that proceeds from the event would be going to the Irish Autism Action and this immediately let me know that this event would have a far different feel to the recent MCM con, which seemed bereft of any heart or personality. This is not to say that anyone would be stuck for merchandise as the entrance hall was flooded with every Star Wars toy and trinket you could imagine, from Darth Vader business card holders to R2-D2 hoodies.
The main hall was an overwhelming hive of activity (and some scum and villainy for good measure) along with life size replicas of Jabba and Han frozen in carbonite. There were also giant sets of Hoth and Endor for fans to pose for photos with. The floor was packed with members of the Garrison dressed up as every character you could imagine. The care and detail in each costume was nothing short of spectacular and each outfit looked like it had been stolen from the sets themselves. All were happy to pose for pictures with (and in some cases get assaulted by) the fans. The event was clearly geared towards younger fans and in that respect the organisers outdid themselves. With classes being run almost non-stop for the kids to hone their training in the Force, before being taken on a mission to destroy the Sith. Watching, literally, thousands of children become immersed in their imagination, as they battled and bruised the various costume clad characters, would have melted even the most cynical heart.
The guests in attendance included Femi Taylor (Oola, Jabba the Hut’s slave girl), Alan Ruscoe (Jedi Master Plo Koon), Alan Harris (Bossk the Bounty Hunter), Barrie Holland (Lt Rennz “You rebel scum!”), Anthony Forrest (Sandtrooper “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for”), Andrew Lawden (Liam Neeson’s stunt double) and Brian Muir (sculptor of the original Darth Vader costume). All of the guests are now veterans of the convention circuit and were extremely approachable and full of wonderful anecdotes for the fans, which cannot always be said of convention guests who can be notoriously unreliable and temperamental (continues after video).
Watch Saxon’s great Invasion Dublin Montage:
Femi Taylor, who at (age removed under threat of legal action), appears to have discovered the fountain of youth and looks like she could effortlessly slip back into her slave girl outfit again which, it turns out, she had done for the 1997 re-release of Return of the Jedi. During the actor’s quiz, when the guests were grilled on their Star Wars trivia, Alan Ruscoe decided his team required some assistance and promptly invited all the kids on stage to help. The sight of 30 kids jostling to answer questions posed by the outgunned hosts from Following the Nerd, while Ruscoe sat back smiling at the chaos he created,was glorious.
Brian Muir treated the audience to some wonderful stories from his time designing sets and costumes on seemingly every major film in the last 30 years such as Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Harry Potter and recently Guardians of the Galaxy. Sadly, despite numerous attempts for details on Marvel’s answer to Star Wars, I could get nothing from him except “It has spaceships in it”. I suppose you don’t last over 40 years in the business without knowing how to keep a secret. Alan Harris, who played the reptilian Bounty Hunter Bossk in The Empire Strikes Back, is now retired and had no problems revealing secrets. He explained that it was actually his body that was used for the iconic frozen pose of Han Solo, with Harrison Ford’s face sculpted in afterwards.
Former Star Wars and current Spider-Man artist Will Sliney was also in attendance offering fans sketches and prints. In addition to this, Will was also running twice daily art classes for young fans. These classes were a huge hit as tables full of eager children were left stunned at being able to draw some of their favourite Star Wars characters using just a few basic shapes. Sliney might live to regret lighting a creative fire under so many new drawing enthusiasts, when they grow up and try to take his job in the next few years. It wasn’t all good news for the Marvel artist as he was controversially docked points in the quiz for committing the double whammy of both being from Cork and supporting Everton.
The main stage events, hosted by Following the Nerd, were a typical mix of organised chaos and fun. Along with Q&As, there was a number of quizzes and competitions. The highlight of this was undoubtedly the children’s cosplay competition, when scores of kids vied for various prizes dressed as their favourite Star Wars (or in one case Iron Man!?) characters. Onlookers were treated to a number of brilliant and bizarre scenes, including an 8-week-old baby dressed as Yoda, a young boy arguing and questioning his sister’s choice of outfit with the line “Darth Maul doesn’t wear glasses!” and the surreal moment when three Jedi found themselves stood next to Darth Vader and, without prompting, ignited their lightsabers and attacked the 7-year-old Lord of the Sith, before their parents were thankfully able to intervene.
Overall, the event was a huge success. The members of the Emerald Garrison deserve nothing but credit for their efforts over the 3 days, including adapting to a last minute reduction in the size of the venue that sadly left them unable to assemble some of their larger props. All the staff involved worked tirelessly to create a terrific spectacle for young and old fans alike and the family all-inclusive atmosphere was a stark contrast to the recent MCM event staged at the same venue a number of weeks ago. The Star Wars community is alive and well in Dublin and with the new movies on the horizon a whole new generation is about to be exposed to Star Wars fever. It is worth remembering also a comment from guest Alan Ruscoe who, when asked how he felt about the expanded universe now being jettisoned from the series cannon, remarked: “It is not up to some studio executive to tell people what is real and what isn’t, look at Dr Who. For years that only existed with the Big Finish audio productions, fans are what kept it alive and the fans are the one constant, and it’s them and the community that matters not any one person”. I couldn’t agree more.