New Releases: What upcoming games are you looking forward to?
Finally! A reason to watch the Rose Parade!
Guess I know what the Masons will be watching New Years Day....
The Subject Was Roses...and Stormtroopers
Fri Dec 22, 1:15 PM
Some things you don't plan. Like, training a company of stormtroopers for the Rose Parade. You don't plan that. And then one day the phone rings, and an emissary for George Lucas is on the other end. With a New Year's mission. For you.
You are Anthony Toledo.
"I was not expecting this at all," the 41-year-old Californian said. "It did blow my mind."
Being asked to train 200 civilians to march in Imperial warrior gear in the 118th annual Rose Parade before a million spectators, tens of millions of TV viewers and a grand marshal named Lucas will do that to you.
Come Jan. 1, you will be part of a 30th-anniversary Star Wars blowout in the streets of Pasadena, California. There'll be an Ewoks float. There'll be a planet Naboo float. There'll be a 175-piece college marching band—its players outfit as Imperial officers—blaring "The Imperial March." There'll be Lucas. And there'll be you. And 200 stormtroopers. Fortunately, you are a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, as well as a former drill instructor. You are prepared.
As much as possible.
"I'm going to be frankly honest with you," Toledo said in a phone interview. "I'm looking at a little bit of chaos. Just a little bit of chaos."
You are expecting chaos, at least at first, because you haven't met your charges yet. And you won't be meeting your charges en masse until four days before the parade.
You are nothing if not up for the challenge.
"It'll put a capstone on my military career," Toledo said. "I don't think too many people in the military have had the chance to lead a stormtrooper."
You might not have had the chance to, either, if not for two things.
The first thing: Lucas got a big idea.
The keeper of the Force, impressed by a Star Wars-inspired international service organization called the 501st, decided he wanted to do something special for the group.
Such as, getting its members a gig marching as stormtroopers in the Rose Parade.
According to Steve Sansweet, head of fan relations for Lucasfilm, Lucas' notion predated the floats, the band and even the man's own involvement as grand marshal.
"We've been working on this for 11 months," Sansweet said.
Briefly, the plan was this: Assemble members of the 501st from across the country, and across the world. Bring them to Pasadena. Send them marching down Colorado Boulevard.
Lucasfilm would handle the travel accommodations; the 501st would handle the costumes, as ownership of top-notch Imperial warrior gear is a prerequisite for membership in the group.
The next step was to select a marching corps from the 501st's considerable membership. Originally, Sansweet said, Lucasfilm considered assembling 501 people, in a nod to the group's name. Then it was decided 200 would make a more manageable force.
But which 200? Cue the auditions.
Sansweet put the word out to the 501st's garrisons and squads—the 501st is well-organized that way—that Lucasfilm wanted to see footage of their members marching in costume. The plan still a company secret, Sansweet didn't say why Lucasfilm wanted to see the footage.
Dean De Anda, for one, didn't care he'd be marching in the dark, as it were.
"[I was] pretty sure anything that comes from Lucasfilm is going to be interesting," said De Anda, executive officer of the 501st's Golden Gate Garrison in Northern California.
De Anda also was pretty sure that Lucasfilm was going to want to see some quality marching.
This is where you, Anthony Toledo, came in.
One day, De Anda, who works campus security at a high school in Hayward, California, asked you, his coworker with the military credentials, to help put him and his friends through marching drills.
"At first, I had this impression most of these people are going to be Star Wars fans, and I didn't know how they'd take to marching," Toledo recalled.
But the shoot for the Lucasfilm audition tape went smoothly. You taught the group in two days what a batch of new Army recruits would master in two weeks.
They got a real crash course," Toledo said, "but they picked it up."
Back at Lucasfilm, Sansweet started going through the tapes.
"The very first one [I saw], I thought, 'My God, this is awful,' " Sansweet said.
Then Sansweet got to the Golden Gate Garrison's submission.
"Every single one of them was great," Sansweet said.
In the tape, Sansweet noticed a guy, standing off to the side, wearing khakis and barking commands.
"He would bust their chops," Sansweet said, "but in a very friendly way."
Sansweet had spotted you.
"I said to Dean, 'You know, I got a call from somebody at Lucasfilm that they want me to train 200 stormtroopers for the Rose Parade,' " Toledo said.
Having accepted your mission, your first task was to film a training video for all the 501st members selected for the New Year's Day operation.
" Marching is not really as easy as many people think," Toledo said. "[It's] not really a natural thing because you're not really walking in a casual fashion, you're actually in a set tone."
Marching in a 20-pound stormtrooper uniform presents an entirely new set of challenges.
"It gets a little warm," said De Anda, who, befitting his role as an assistant drill captain, will get to wear the "more relaxing" Imperial officer uniform come parade day.
And marching in a 20-pound stormtrooper uniform for more than two hours through city streets presents even more challenges.
"We made it clear to everybody: 'Now you understand, you have to be able to march in that costume for five-and-a-half miles, now's the time to say I can't do it,' " Sansweet said.
Some people decided they weren't up for trek, Sansweet said, most decided they were.
Everybody who's on board—from Brunei to Belgium, from Texas to Thailand, from 22 foreign countries and 36 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia—arrives in Pasadena on Wednesday.
Provided, that is, they and their stormtrooper dress get past airport security.
"The one thing we've told them is [to] leave their weapons at home," Sansweet said.
Practice at a local high school commences on Thursday, the very first day anyone will have to take a good look at the marching corps in person.
The first and last full dress rehearsal is on New Year's Eve.
Your job next week will be to meld international marching styles—and, no, not everybody marches the same—devise simple choreography, keep the vision-obscuring stormtrooper helmets from messing with the formations, and make sure everybody walks in time to the Grambling State University Marching Tigers' Star Wars renditions.
Other than that...
It's different," Toledo said. "It's very different."
Oh, and one more twist: Your plan to sit back on New Year's Day and watch the troops in action from the sidelines? Nixed.
You're going to be marching, too, having been asked to join the parade, and don a black Imperial officer's uniform yourself.
The really weird thing about all this--other than the part about the stormtroopers and the Rose Parade? You're actually not the world's biggest Star Wars fan.
"I am in the sense [that] I love the movies," Toledo said. "But I actually grew up a Star Trek fan."
"Don't tell anybody."
Last edited by Armaya : 12-24-2006 at 06:32 AM.
They're talking about this on my local news right now! I guess a few guys from Connecticut will be marching.