What And Where
After touring the U.S., Japan and France, Portugal was the fourth country to host the exhibit previously known as 'The Art Of Star Wars'. Held at Lisbon's Museu da Electricidade - Central Tejo (Electricity Museum), where it opened on November 1, 2006 to end on January 14, 2007, more than 60,000 visitors graced the halls of this early 20th-Century Industrial era building to admire the more than 150 original objects taken from the Lucasfilm vaults plus (early) concept drawings, models, sets and costumes all spread over an area of roughly 2,000 square meters and were assembled with the supervision of two Lucasfilm representatives. Movie props, stills, mannequins with original costumes, maquettes, pre-production art from the six movies and documentary screenings couldn't have found a better environment to be displayed in.
Locally dubbed as the Exposição Star Wars – Descubra O Lado Secreto Da Força (Star Wars Expo – Find The Secret Side Of The Force) it was the first official Star Wars event to ever take place in the country's capital and was organized by Lucasfilm, UAU, ArtStation and the Fundação EDP. As a curious note, the northern city of Oporto (Porto) was the second Portuguese venue to hold the event when it left Lisbon and debuted there on February 2 to end by April 15, 2007.
The objects were displayed in nine different halls: Tatooine (Prequel Trilogy), Coruscant/Kamino, Naboo, Hoth, Tatooine (Original Trilogy), Moon of Endor, Mustafar, Death Star, Geonosis/Utapau/Kashyyyk.
The Venue And Its Public Advertising
From the photos above it's clear that this event couldn't have been hosted at better surroundings in the city. As you can see, it's near the river Tejo (Tagus) and quite close to one of the city's more emblematic architectural structures, the Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge) or more affectionately dubbed the Ponte Sobre-o-Tejo (Bridge Over The Tagus). The building itself is a wonder to look at from the outside, but also to visit its interior, a museum depicting what and how it was like to work there and its many different machinery.
The railway station that can partly be seen on the first picture's lower left foreground is part of the so-called Linha de Cascais (Cascais Line), which is one of the more scenic connections following the river's mouth by its banks between Lisbon and the more famous town of its outskirts (Cascais) near which lie some of the most famous beaches in the country lie: Oeiras, Parede, São Pedro do Estoril, Estoril and Guincho. The later has been for many years — and still is — one of Portugal's best Surfing, Windsurfing and Kitesurfing spots, visited all year long by many a watersports adept and also known throughout the world among the "experts".
Enough of the tourist-ride talk. Let's jump forward to admire in this section how the event was publicised.
Right on the venue's outside, over the side of one of the original oil deposits, was a large vertical banner (with Darth Vader's inimitable bust) and a board announcing the event. Whether you travelled by car, train and boat or simply strolling along the river's margins, it was almost impossible not to notice what the central Tejo harboured inside.
Other more indirect media was also used to publicize the event. At the time we shared with you the specially made TV spot that ran on the country's major TV channels.
Another rather original medium used was a fleet composed of several Smart cars appropriately decorated with Star Wars motifs and the Expo's logo (above, see fourth photo from the left).
All this heavy focus on publicity and the fact that Star Wars has always been such an eye-catching brand, was enough to warrant the more than 80.000 visitors during the duration of the event. Upon our two visits we saw not only Portuguese, but also visitors from Spain, France, United Kingdom and Germany (mainly because the exhibit covered the Christmas holiday's period).
Tatooine, Prequel Trilogy (Episode I) Hall
Starting on the building's first floor and following the obvious chronological sequence of the whole saga (with one single exception we'll tell you about later, on the Geonosis-Utapau-Kashyyyk section of this feature), the Prequel Trilogy (PT) Episode I worlds of Coruscant and Tatooine were represented by several real-size objects, namely Zam Wesell's ship (the first thing you'd see) and the podracers that ran the famous Boonta Eve course.
Each photo better identifies which is which when you pass the mouse pointer above it. Quite interesting (and impressive) was Sebulba's podracer, but also the intricate details of the Boonta Eve stands model, featuring a. . . "crowd" (?!) entirely made out of cotton swabs.
No less impressive was the actual full-scale 1:1 mock-up of young Anakin Skywalker's podracer, which was displayed right on the center of this hall, engines included.
Coruscant And Kamino Hall
This hall's most remarkable feature was that before you entered it, you had to go through the insides of one of the deactivated (thank God!) furnaces (ovens, actually) used in the process of the Central's producing energy through coal burning. This can best be appreciated in our second photo above and would be a rather fitting portal to the Mustafar area (the poorest of all, in terms of objects, but more on this particular latter on).
Continuing the visit through the Prequel Trilogy era of movie props, the Coruscant-Kamino hall focused on the Jedi and their direct enemies, the Trade Federation moguls and their agents.
Of note was the display case of the busts of the main players in this area, representing the Episode II, Attack of the Clones. Also make sure you enjoy the hall's many machinery, as though it were a part of some older century galaxy, or ancient Republic installation. Like I said above, Star Wars couldn't have found a better place to have its many memories integrated at.
Continuing with the Prequel Trilogy, Naboo would be the next planet (hall) to visit. In it we can see mannequins with some of Queen Amidala's more intricate dresses and other assorted wardrobe, as designed by three times award winner Trisha Biggar.
This was also the hall, that had the best representation of the movie's starships and craft with a very accurately detailed version of the Republic Cruiser and a full-sized version of the Naboo N-1 Starfighter hanging from the ceiling in all its 10-meter long glory. Can you see how it looks like it's about ready to launch from the Trade Federation Control Core ship with young Anakin Skywalker at the controls? Awesome!
Naboo's sea life was well represented with very interesting scale models, especially the one showing the insides of an Opee Sea Killer. Of course not all good things were displayed in this area and so we had to see an early concept statue of that Episode I character that cannot be named (but we will, anyway): Jar-Jar Binks). It sure is an even more dreadful sight than a full-sized Sando Monster (or even a Krayt Dragon, for that matter) if we were ever to cross paths with one. Moving on with our visit, we would wind up in the. . .
This is the hall of choice for someone like me who ranks the Episode V, The Empire strikes Back movie as the second best of the whole six movies (I'll leave you guessing which one I consider the first).
First of all, it's not clear why the exhibition's organizers decided to place Hoth before Original Trilogy (OT) Tatooine, but our guess is the space was the more important factor in the issue. Or lots of space, actually. Since this and the OT Tatooine occupied the central and biggest hall of the Central Tejo anyone even remotely keen on Star Wars fandom and its intricacies would feel lost and confused just trying to decide which item to go scrutinize first! Like we stated on the beginning part of this feature, it was all the expo's suggested path blame. The fact of the matter was that when you entered this space what you'd see first was Hoth. Period.
In fact Grand Jedi Master Yoda's (my fav Star Wars character, by the way) was the first statue you simply could not miss to see. And this is very important, if you consider this to be the actual puppet "worn" by Frank Oz at a time when digital effects and CG characters were a long way away in George Lucas's mind. I don't know about you, but I myself stood quite a while "studying" its many details *sighs*. . .
Special emphasis was naturally given to the Empire's massive AT-AT Imperial Walker machines, both in mini model form and on two of its introductory text boards (seen above). Three were two differently scaled Snowspeeders also, just to remind us of that fierce battle take took place a long time ago in that icy planet of Norway (sorry), of Hoth a long, long time ago.
Another interesting feature in this area was the working model of the Dagobah scene where Master Yoda lifts Luke Skywalker's X-wing Starfighter up above its swampy waters. It was supposed to be an interactive thing where it would move up and down at the press of a button, but we only saw it working once and it was on the exhibit's very first day. In January it was already kaput, unfortunately. But it was interesting to watch, with the scene's dim lighting, the vines, etc. that made you feel like almost witnessing the whole Master's performance.
Tatooine, Original Trilogy Hall
Moving on — or returning? — to Tatooine, this time to its future version, as featured in the OT's Episodes IV, A New Hope and VI, The Return of the Jedi.
Here, the more evident characters were, no doubt, the C-3PO and R2-D2 displays. No bickering could be heard between them, but I guess that was due to the fact they were... encaged inside sound-proof glass. Both, beauties to behold just the same. And how could you no miss Princess Leia's mannequin as Jabba's slave girl extraordinaire? All that was missing was Carrie Fisher (from thirty years ago)!
Speaking of Jabba the Hutt, him and some of his entourage were represented, especially the ugliest Jabba statues I was ever able to look at: the clay models (above). The photos speak pretty much for themselves: the Rancor, aliens, the band, the desert skiff with (potential) victims above the Sarlacc pit.
As you can see by my description, even inside OT Tatooine all was not displayed in as clear-cut fashion as it should and only the more hard-core enthusiast would tell the many incongruities: everything was mixed and there were no apparent attempts at a compartmentalized, sequential, display of the many events that took place on the best known desert planet of the galaxy. Cantina aliens, Luke Skywalker's tropospheric skyhopper craft (not actually seen on the movie except in the form of a model Luke played with in front of Obi-Wan 'Ben' Kenobi), Jabba scenes, Han Solo on Carbonite statue from the Episode VI, etc..
As a final note for this hall, upon leaving it toward the next one, one could see a mid-sized screen with projections of several holographic images, like the one of R2-D2 shown above. One of the more popular areas of the whole show, no doubt. You can also see a green screen area we never saw in working condition in our visits to the exhibit, but it was supposed to be a treat for the younger visitors, who could go stand in front of it and pretend they were either Rebels (which they some of them actually were…), Imperials or some rogue Jedi Padawan and take a photo or film of them to show at home as a souvenir. Moving along. . .
Moon of Endor, Original Trilogy Hall
What can I say about this area? It was mainly Ewoks, Ewoks and more Ewoks. Both in early concept design and sketch drawings (more later in the appropriate section, below) and in actual suits as worn by actors. The more interesting models were the Imperial Star Destroyer detailed bridge and Luke Skywalker in an Imperial Speeder Bike, as seen in the famous chase scene through the interior of the Moon's massive forest. This was said to be the single most expensive piece on display, of all.
To wrap the Moon of Endor area, of interest there were also the A-wing Starfighter and the models of imperial craft such as the AT-ST 'chicken' Walker.
I don't know what to say about this (so-called) "area" as in it there was only the mannequin on display. This was the single biggest disappointment of all, as there was not much else than this. No clonetroopers, no model ships, nothing except for a few concept sketches shown below on the Art section. Moving on. . .
Death Star Hall
The Death Star (DS) Hall. This was another major point of interest as inside there was on display one of the more interesting items: the Sith Lord himself, Jedi fallen at the hands of an evil Emperor, Darth Vader! This was the actual suit worn by actor David Prowse in 1977 and was (appropriately) very well displayed in the darkest area of the DS hall, as can be seen by both my photos. Also inside a showcase were both parts of Vader's mask, as worn by late actor Sebastian Shaw in the final scenes of his character's redemption before his son Luke, in The Return of the Jedi.
A few details of the Death Star's surface were on sight, as well as mannequins of an Imperial Officer and a Stormtrooper in armour. Droids and concept drawings and sketches were on display but I'll focus on the 'art' side of the exhibit later.
Geonosis, Utapau And Kashyyyk Hall
After Prequel Trilogy (PT) Tatooine, Naboo and Mustafar, we return to the of the PT's principal theatres of operations of the first part of what Jedi Master Yoda called the Clone Wars: Geonosis (stage for the Republic's first major battle involving its clonetroopers), Utapau (site of the demise of the leader of the droid armies of the Trade Federation, General Grievous, at the hands of (a younger) Master Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Kashyyyk (the planet Yoda had to escape from when the Order 66 was issued by Emperor Palpatine to "his" Clone commanders to carry.
The photos speak louder than words, when it comes to describe the intricate and almost "real" models of the Geonosian insect species' structures, Utapau's architecture or the insides and buildings of a Utapauan sinkhole city.
Leaving Kashyyyk toward the end of the exhibit and its small auditorium (where, contrary to what announced prior to the event, all that was presented was one of the documentaries that we already had seen on the movies' DVDs) we could appreciate one last time what wearing a Wookie suits would be all about. I'm sweating already, just to think of it.
Concepts & Drawings
Like we said before, we decided to present you the Art part of the Star Wars Exhibit in a section all its own.
From the works of artist extraordinaire Ralph McQuarrie to the more recent David Chiang, several of the main artists responsible for bringing forth George Lucas's universe to the screen and beyond were (well) represented, from the earliest concept design sketches hand-drawn by Ralph McQuarrie to the latest designs for Episodes I, II and III, some of which never made it to the final movies.
Ancillary Activities And Merchandise Booth Areas
Besides the exhibit proper, there were a few more things to do and see at the venue. Above you can see the area reserved for the gaming side of Star Wars with two 'islands' of Xbox 360 consoles where you could play this version of the Star Wars LEGO II game. Of course, as you can also witness, cheaters were not (very) welcome and a few of the available stormtroopers on duty were especially keen at apprehending the culprits. . . (now that I mention this, some of the costumed characters were contracted among some friends of ours from the SWCC-PT, the Star Wars Collectors Club from Portugal both on the event's pre-release ceremony and on the expo itself).
On the collector side of the exhibit, merchandising was available at the only dealer invited. In spite of what UAU told me, absolutely NO exclusives were ever issued during the events duration. About the only item that could be (remotely) deemed as an "exclusive" was a black T-shirt with STAR WARS LISBOA printed on its front and sold for EUR 10,- on the first day of opening (contrary to what is customary in similar events, its price tag rose toward the show's end, oddly enough; or not).
According to what we were able to see, items on sale at the counter were of a higher price than what could be found online, for instance. Offer ranged from T-shirts, Kotobukiya statues, a couple of Gentle Giant mini-busts, LEGO, Master Replicas lightsabers and little more. This was the third disappointment of the whole show (after the Mustafar hall fiasco and the theatre areas).
The event's organizers should have given collectors and the commercial side of Star Wars a bit more respect. A lesson to be learned, for future official events.
The more spectacular items were no doubt the 10 meter long 1:1 scale Naboo Starfighter hanging from the ceiling, the imposing Darth Vader costume and mask as worn by actor David Prowse, the Luke Skywalker on speeder-bike model and the inimitable R2-D2 and C-3PO droids. But each and every Star Wars item on display had in it enough magic and symbolism to bring a very special taste to many a fans' mouths (and brain) with its own special way of making us travel back to the time we were able to immerse and enjoy ourselves in the atmosphere conveyed by all those characters, craft and early concepts from that galaxy far, far away as imagined by George Lucas.
This is about it, Rebelscum visitors and friends. To wrap this feature up, all I can say is that lots more images could have been shown here — this is but a selection taken from 481 photos, totalling nearly 852 MB of my Compact Flash card space (I chose a more compressed file format). I chose to pick only those photos that better conveyed the excellent atmosphere that could be felt roaming the many beautiful halls of this first Star Wars Official event ever in Portugal.
What better way to celebrate the saga's 30th anniversary?
We hope you liked it.
From the Rebelscum.com team, May The Force Be With You, always. . .