Oct 30, 2012


Disney is purchasing LucasFilm, which includes the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Skywalker Sound and animation and special effects properties, for over 4 billion dollars, and plans on releasing a new Star Wars film. Stay tuned to this post for further updates.

LINK to press release

LINK to CNN News story

UPDATE: I listened to the Disney conference call which was short on details and focused primarily on the questions posed by financial analysts regarding the monetary impacts of such a huge deal. However, there were a few interesting tidbits of information:

  • The Indiana Jones films are partially owned by Paramount, and the earlier Star Wars films are partially owned by Fox, which  means Disney has some "encumbrances", or limitations with how much they can exploit and further monetize that franchise and those earlier Star Wars films. 
  • Disney is planning on making a series of Star Wars live-action films, the first of which is already being planned, and releasing a new Star Wars film every two to three years after that.
  • Disney is planning on expanding the Star Wars franchise further on television.
UPDATE 2: Below, George Lucas talks about the future of the Star Wars movies:

Disney's purchase of LucasFilm for 4 billion dollars gives Disney the ownership of the Star Wars empire, which includes Skywalker Sound (the sound-enhancing technology used in films), ILM (the special-effects company Lucas created which is responsible for the ground-breaking special effects used not only in the Star Wars films, but in countless other movies), the Indiana Jones franchise and of course, the rights to all of the Star Wars characters. Disney will be releasing new live-action Star Wars movies beginning in 2015, with additional films released each two to three years after that.

The shape of things to come? 

Disney and LucasFilm have collaborated on a number of projects in the past, most notably the Star Tours attraction as well as the annual Star Wars Weekends, a month-long Star Wars-themed event at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, the centerpiece being the parades through the park which feature members of The 501st Legion and Rebel Legion. These two groups are fan-based organizations who have movie-accurate Star Wars costumes and participate in and organize charity and goodwill events throughout the year. The 501st Legion has over six thousand members, many with several costumes. As a member of The 501st Legion for years, and who has participated in the marches at Disney, I can tell you this buyout of LucasFilm by Disney is not entirely unexpected, but will make life more interesting, not only for the fan base but for the movie franchise as well.

George Lucas was very supportive of The 501st Legion, which raised over eleven million dollars last year nationally (consisting of both direct and indirect contributions made in our name). Members are free to organize events for causes that interest them as long as there are no payments for appearances, and no profits are being made through the Legion. I organize an annual event for veterans called Trooping For The Troops, and members have organized and taken part in events focused on breast cancer, hydrocephalus, and sick children in hospitals, among others. LucasFilm has a close and cordial relationship with The 501st legion, and has stood up for the Legion on a number of occasions. It remains to be seen if Disney will be as tolerant. My hope is that they will understand the costuming community is a huge and very powerful, motivated base of support for the Star Wars franchise and for worthy causes, and will see it as such.

Disney will be able to bring a great deal to the Star Wars franchise, if they are careful with this intellectual property; they have done very well with the Marvel movies such as the Avengers series. It would not surprise me if Disney added more Star Wars attractions to their theme parks to coincide with the release of the next live-action Star Wars film in 2015 (which is already in early development; LucasFilm and Disney have obviously been working on this for a while). Only time will tell how this arrangement will shape the Star Wars franchise.

Bullied For Liking Star Wars

This story is well worth a read.

First-grader Katie Goldman started getting taunted by boys because she was bringing a Star Wars water bottle to school. One day she asked her mom for a pink one instead, and when her mom asked her why, Katie cried, saying she was getting teased by boys. 

Star Wars is not for girls, she was told. Act your gender and stop liking Star Wars.

photo credit: Chicago Now

Try telling Ashley Eckstein that. Ms. Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka in The Clone Wars, has been a high-profile voice proclaiming that Star Wars is for girls too. 

Ahsoka is a light saber-wielding, butt-kicking female character on the animated Star Wars series, and Ms. Eckstein has been a voice for girls who love geek culture but have been taunted by boys who think girls should stay out.

News flash: geek culture is for EVERYONE.

Her mom put out a plea for help, and The 501st Legion responded, helping Katie build a movie-accurate Imperial Stormtrooper costume.

There are pictures of Legion members, mostly women who have their own costumes, posing with a beaming Katie in her armor. This is a great feel-good story and represents perfectly what The 501st Legion is all about. This story will make your day.

Bullying is a serious problem. There are kids who attempt, and commit suicide because of bullying, and not enough school administrators are proactive enough to put a stop to it. There are groups that have formed to fight bullying and empower kids who are bullied.

One group is the Champions Against Bullying. 

Stop Bullying is another great resource for information about Bullying, and how to put a stop to it.
There's a great list of books for kids about bullying, grouped by age; check it out HERE

Oct 26, 2012

Costumes On A Budget: A How-To Guide

It's Halloween! Time for costumes!

I do costuming a lot, not just on Halloween. But for a lot of people, Halloween is the only time of year they dress up in a costume, and often the biggest challenge is how to put together a costume without spending scads of money. 

A costume does not have to be elaborate; just look at the woman on the left. This is a simple costume that works: an empty picture frame, elegant dress and empty wine glass. Presto! A living painting!

I went to a Dragoncon panel this year called Costuming On A Budget and picked up some great tips for gathering materials for costumes without spending tons of money.

So here, for the low, low price of FREE, are ideas for costuming on a budget.

The first step is to either decide what costume you want to create, or find inspiration by looking at other costumes, or through the effort of gathering materials. 

For example, one costume I might put together at some point is a used car salesman.

I'll go to Goodwill, or the Salvation Army thrift stores and find the most god-awful, hideous looking suit I can find, an equally ugly tie and tacky shoes. A cheap cigar would be a nice touch as well.

Presto! I'm a sleazy, fast-talking used car salesman! This costume may cost me twenty or thirty bucks, tops, maybe even less.

"What's it gonna take to put you in this baby today?  I'm talking about a last-chance deal, and I'll hafta check with my manager on this y'understand, but if you're ready to drive her home today,  I'll throw in white wall tires,  AM radio,    windshield wipers and brand new hubcaps. So whaddya say?"

Even if you're not sure if you can use what you find but like it anyway, snag it. Organize your costume raw materials in bins, drawers or shelves, so that you have a good supply of raw materials. You never know when you can use something. 

Always be on the lookout for nifty looking objects that can be re-purposed.

For example, the accessories for my Half Life 2 Civil Protection costume included the spools from my weed whacker. The spools had an interesting pattern, so I save them when they run dry.

I go to Army/Navy stores and thrift stores a lot as well, which are also good sources of materials.

Then when I get back home, I modify, sew, paint, adjust and re-fit what I've found.

Costuming is an art; it requires imagination and creativity. Embrace yours!

So, without further ado, here are some great suggestions for costuming on a budget!

  • Make friends with local business to get reduced pricing on cast-off or surplus materials. Introduce yourself and ask if they ever throw away excess raw materials. Machine shops, plumbing supply wholesalers, tool and die companies are all good places to obtain cast off materials you can use to make costume components
  • Ask the people of Goodwill what they have that hasn't been put out on the shelves yet. Sometimes the good stuff gets snatched up as soon as it's brought out, so grab it before that happens
  • The battery panels/compartments from kids' toys make great looking components for robotic or steampunk costumes
  • Let people know you'll take their cast off appliances, clothing, toys and other unwanted items they have
  • Look for purses at thrift stores (men, I'm talking to you now). Purses have interesting buckles, fasteners and other decorative pieces that would make good costume elements
  • Used kids clothing often has interesting patterns and textures, so go through the racks at thrift stores. You can cut up the clothes to re-purpose them
  • Dumpsters can be a great place to find some interesting items for costuming, if you're willing. In fact there's a whole sub-culture of people who save scads of money by dumpster diving, so much so that they have secret places they go to. If you dumpster dive,   be safe and do the following: wear thick gloves and boots so you don't get cut, and sterilize everything you bring home immediately. There's an interesting article about dumpster diving HERE.
  • Fabric from furniture can be a fantastic source of material for costumes. If you see a couch or chair left by the curb intended to be thrown away, and you like the fabric, cut away the fabric and take it home. Make sure the fabric is not too heavily stained or soiled of course; you want to be choosy. But sometimes couches are upholstered in nicely worn leather, suede, velour and other sturdy materials. You might want to be quick about it; some people might not understand.
  • Freecycle websites are good places for costume hunting
  • Post-Halloween sales are golden opportunities to pick up costuming pieces on the cheap. The temporary stores that pop up every year to sell costumes need to get rid of all their unsold merchandise, so go and stock up
  • Barter with people to obtain materials. If you have a skill or service you can offer, see if you can trade it for something in return
  • Curb alerts through the local paper or Craigs List are good places to obtain good stuff
  • Luggage abandoned by passengers at airports can be good places to find all sorts of things. Periodically airports will auction or sell off their inventory of lost luggage. Find out when they do
  • Pawn shops are good places to obtain tools and props on the cheap. Why buy new tools when you can buy good used ones?
  • Don't scrimp on tools, however. Buy good, name brand ones. You'll be using your tools a lot, and they need to hold up. If you buy cheap tools and they either don't work, or wear out, you're not saving yourself any money. Go for the Dremels, the Craftsman and Stanley tools
  • Old clocks are great sources of metal springs and gears for steampunk costumes. More modern clocks have all plastic works, so look for older ones at thrift stores. Take them apart and salvage their inner workings
  • Old printers have interesting components that can be used for costuming, such as gears, printer heads and circuit boards
  • 2 liter soda bottles can make excellent space suit oxygen tanks. Simply spray paint them yellow, or silver, or orange, and detail with other components and presto! Air tanks!

So...what are you waiting for...?? Go out and put together a cool costume!!

Oct 25, 2012

Drawing Classes Begin Soon!


The Cartooning and Drawing demo I conducted at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg was a big success; I had to add a second table for the people who came in for free five minute drawing lessons. If you are interested in learning more about the classes, check out this page, or e-mail me at magnumarts1@gmail.com.

Here's a fun retro promo image I created to promote the drawing classes that will soon begin at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, and, with any luck, the Dunedin Fine Arts Center. 

Oct 22, 2012

Night At The Museum

The Tampa Bay History Center asked the 501st Legion to make an appearance at the Night At The Museum event, in which kids visit the museum with their parents and trick-or-treat through the museum, mingling with costumed characters. The Tampa Bay Ghostbusters were there, the staff were all wearing costumes, and the kids in their costumes were unbearably adorable. Good times!

Below: Tim getting into his Chewbacca costume. The legs are made around painter's stilts, and the fur took three months to attach to the mesh body suit.

This little girl in the Ewok costume, the daughter of one of the Ghostbusters, stole everyone's heart. She was in her element, boldly exploring every area, checking out every costume, without fear.

Indiana Jones on the trail of another artifact

Below: Indy and Cat Girl compare their whip techniques

Oct 20, 2012

Archetypes 3

I'm heading over to the Tampa Bay ComicCon today. Here's the pen sketch I did last night during the Artists On Main St. fest to promote my drawing classes at the Safety Harbor Art Center. This one is called Archetypes 3.

Oct 19, 2012

The Most Famous Computer You've Never Heard Of

This is the most famous computer you've never heard of.

You've seen it, however, many times, on countless movies and television shows, performing functions it couldn't possibly be capable of performing.

Producers keep using this computer as a visual prop because it looks impressive. Indeed, they keep using it even though it is outdated for the movie or TV show in which it appears.

The computer is technically called the IBM AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central, or Q-7, also known as the SAGE Q-7. 

It was a computerized command and control system developed in the 1950s for Cold War interception used in the Air Force's Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense network.

Each of the 24 centrals weighed 250 tons and had two computers. The AN/FSQ-7 used a total of 60,000 vacuum tubes and up to 3 megawatts of electricity, performing about 75,000 instructions per second for networking regional radars (source: Wikipedia).

To give you an idea of how dated this system is, it used punch cards: cards with strategically placed holes that, once fed into a slot in the computer, would call up information related to that card, fed by reel-to-reel tapes placed in banks of machines.

Below is a video from someone who acquired and restored a Q-7:

This two minute long 1960 film shows the SAGE computer in action, punch cards, spinning tape reels and all, a real nifty piece of retro goodness:

This is a picture of the SAGE Q-7 from an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man (image credit: Mike Loewen)

The Q-7 has appeared in movies and TV shows, and continues to be used, because nothing is as impressive as all those lights, knobs and switches, even when the tasks the Q-7 are supposedly doing are impossible, or can be done by a computer a fraction of the size. 

The first time the Q-7 was used on TV was in a preposterous Irwin Allen show called The Time Tunnel about a secret government time machine that sent two scientists back through time, at, coincidentally, the exact dates of momentous historical moments. The ridiculous premise involved the scientists bouncing from time to time trying to prevent historical tragedies (not acknowledging the effect this interference would have on the current time line, but whatever...). 

Below is a trailer for The Time Tunnel that shows the Q-7 being used on the show:

This website has a large index of all the movies and television shows the Q-7 has starred in, sorted by decade, with screen caps, along with lots of other interesting information. No doubt you've seen many of these movies and shows.

Wired magazine has an interesting article about some of the more ridiculous uses of computers as props in the movies, read that article HERE.

This website has a large amount of technical information and photographs of the Q-7 SAGE system, which is by now an historical artifact worthy of preservation

Here's one more look at the Q-7 in action, this time from the movie Independence Day

Oct 14, 2012

Four-Legged Stilt Costumes

A couple constructed a pair of surreal, alien-looking four-legged stilt costumes which look incredible, and went out to see what kind of reaction they would get. This is what I'm talking about: be different, and never be afraid to try new things. Love this idea!

Oct 12, 2012

501st Legion: Behind The Scene Photos

Since joining the 501st Legion, the world's most definitive costuming organization, I've taken part in, as well as organized, a lot of events, events at which photography is a very big part. Being able to share pictures of our events and get-togethers is a core part of the 501st Legion experience. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of pictures I've taken over the years, there are some that deserve a second look.

So enjoy the wacky, behind-the-scenes pictures of Legion members doing what we do best: having fun and helping people. [Note: no photographs are to be used for any commercial purposes whatsoever] 

In this series of pictures during an Autism event at the Orlando Convention Center, we clowned around with the Chester Cheetoh head in the cast changing area. 

Instant hilarity!

Oh no here comes Lord Vader!!

Below: I try on Stormtrooper armor for the very first time after marching at Star Wars Weekends in 2009. This armor belonged to Marc Brugger, who passed away unexpectedly the following year, a huge loss to the Florida Garrison. Marc was a talented R2-D2 builder, had several costumes and was a father. There was a contingent of Imperial costumes at his service as an honor guard.

After a Star Wars Weekends march, we blow off steam at The Ale House, on International Drive in Orlando. We do know how to have fun!

The 501st Legion encampment at Disney's Hollywood Studios on a humid summer morning, in preparation for another day of marching for Star Wars Weekends

At a fundraising event for a little girl with terminal brain cancer, a sheriff's deputy gets in on the fun

Posing with a couple of goth-y Sith cheerleaders at Celebration V, the huge Star Wars convention in Orlando

Below left: having some fun during a Trooping For The Troops event at the Bay Pines VA hospital. Below right: after the troop, the fun continues

Below: I wasn't at this event; my friend supplied the pictures. Walt Disney World invited members of the 501st Legion to commemorate the last ride of Star Tours, the Star Wars-themed ride, before they closed it for refurbishment. Disney upgraded the ride experience. I was lucky enough to ride it on the very first day it re-opened.

Below: a Photoshopped group picture of the 501st Legion at Star Wars Weekends 2008, my first SWW

Below left: John Stewart at Celebration V in Orlando. Below right: a photographer took this picture of me at CV, and I added Dirty Harry's creed to it

Below: Newspaper clipping from Trooping For The Troops, the event I organized at the Bay Pines VA hospital in 2010

Back stage at the Weird Al Yankovich concert, at Ruth Eckerd Hall