September 8, 2011

How Star Wars and the zoo go together

Regardless of your feelings about Star Wars or George Lucas, you can't deny the never-ending presence and reach of the films. It's been over 30 years since the original trilogy was released, and besides the legions of devoted fans who support the franchise by costuming, hosting fan sites, and buying merchandise, Star Wars events still happen. They even happen in unexpected places like sport stadiums and zoos. Yes, you read that right. On August 27, Lucasfilm teamed up with the L.A. Zoo for a themed Star Wars Day. Space operas and caged animals may not usually go together, but on this day, the animals were given lightsabers.

Okay, the animals weren't actually given lightsabers.

I went with a gaggle of geek girls (to celebrate a birthday actually). We braved sweltering, smoggy heat. It was hovering around 100 degrees. We were wilting in minutes, and the chocolate Artoos and Han Solos on top of the birthday cupcakes instantly started turning into literal hot messes. We soldiered onward - right to the air conditioned auditorium where they were showing footage from the upcoming Blu-ray release. We're smart like that. Unfortunately, so was everyone else. The current showing was already full.

We moved on to the next Star Wars thing to do, sticking to the shade as much as possible. The 501st and Rebel Legions were stationed in the Eucalyptus Grove along with Obi-Shawn's car. Even after spending a warm morning with these groups at Legoland, I was still surprised by their spirit. You put me in heat like that, I get grouchy. Add suffocating armor, costumes made from heavy fabric, and exuberant children?! Let's just say it would be wise to keep blasters out of my reach at that point. These guys and gals kept smiling, talking, and posing for pictures.

On our way out of the grove, I made the mistake of mentioning how warm I was in front of a lady in a full TIE Fighter Pilot costume. You know, the costumes that are all black? In a joking way, she pointed out that I didn't know what heat was. I couldn't disagree and in fact, I apologized profusely.

Still. That much exposure to outdoors proved too much for us, and we dived into the nearest building with air conditioning, cold drinks, and food. We devoured the cupcakes before they disintegrated and bided time until we could go stand in line for the next showing in the auditorium. It was worth the wait. They showed a video that loosely tied Star Wars to the zoo: a documentary about the creature creation in Return of the Jedi. Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher hosted the 1983 show, and it ran about 30 minutes. It was touched by some cheesy segues, but really, it was fascinating to see how creatures like Salacious Crumb and Jabba the Hutt came to life. The sheer number of man hours that went into every sculpt is impressive.

After the documentary, Obi-Shawn asked trivia questions about Star Wars and even threw a few in about animals in the zoo. It seemed like one of those situations where it was meant for kids to answer, so I kept my hand to myself (even though I really wanted one of The Wildlife of Star Wars books). We could have continued to sit in the auditorium, but they had to clear people out for the next show.

There were a few more Star Wars points of interest around the zoo; they had talks about how the animals were like the creatures of Star Wars. For example, elephants are like Banthas. However, upon returning outside we decided it was way too hot to remain and explore further. Two hours was long enough. We saw two animals (flamingos and meerkats in case you wondered) and didn't even enter the main zoo. We stayed in the... lobby of the zoo, if you will. (Wait! Maybe the other animals did have lightsabers!)  Star Wars and the L.A. Zoo combo totally worked. I'd go back if it became an annual event. Let's just hope it's in November next time.


  1. That is so awesome!! I wish my local zoo would do that!

  2. Yeah November would definitely be a better time! So jealous, I really wanted to go but already had plans!

  3. So Cool! I want to go...if they do it again!

  4. Did the '83 documentary on creature creation have the clip of salacious crumb saying "Hello in TV land"? I know i've seen that clip somewhere, but can't remember where it originated.

  5. It was a great time; sounds like there are plans to do it again next spring. :)

    @jawajames - I don't remember seeing that bit... but I also have a deplorable memory.

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