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Behind the Scenes as "Star Wars" Turns 30

Sunday, 27 May 2007 | 4:33 PM ET

We finally made it down to the giant Star Wars Celebration that is being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center through the rest of Memorial Day Weekend.

More than 40,000 fans are expected and this is the show of shows for the movie of all movies: the $20 billion "Star Wars" franchise.

Our evening show "On the Money" decided to devote the last 40 minutes of the program tonight to recapping CNBC's special, weeklong coverage of "Star Wars." And what a blast!

AP

Producing a 40-minute special with weeks of lead-time is hard enough. Doing it with 36 hours of notice is, well, difficult. Anchor Melissa Francis anchored the show from New Jersey while LA-based reporter Julia Boorstin and I co-anchored from the show floor.

It was raucous, and loud and so much fun. I had the chance to chat with Peter Mayhew, the original Chewbacca, who appeared in four of the six films. At 7'3, he's a tall order. And while I said I was 6'1 on the air today to give you an idea of just how tall he really is, I'm really much, much shorter than that. But he played along.

The British actor, who was discovered when he was working as a hospital orderly, lives in Texas now and has built something of a cottage industry out of his notoriety. He does at least four major conventions -- per month -- all over the world. That's a lot of flight-time for a guy who needs a lot of legroom. But he was a great sport and we had fun.

From there, I tossed and tagged the taped stories we'd aired earlier this week. We showcased our behind-the-scenes looks at Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic and all the work that went into ILM's latest blockbuster, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." Next up for ILM: "Evan Almighty" and "Transformers," due out later this summer.

The show floor was a feast for the senses: a gazillion "Star Wars" memorabilia booths with everything from kitschy Pez dispensers to extremely rare $25,000 trading cards. When the experts tell me that the "Star Wars" franchise has generated $20 billion these last 30 years, after seeing the action here, it's no surprise.

Original release posters: $495 and up. Rare action figures: from $100 to thousands.

One of the cooler booths was devoted to the "Star Wars" animated series "Clone Wars." My 6-year-old son Jeb is a fanatic about all this stuff. Wyatt, almost 3, is working his way up to 'fanatic,' but is now merely a fan. They both love the cartoon, so I bought an original cel and a pencil production sketch -- both were ridiculously expensive. But, ummmm, it's for the kids!

And I hear the new version of "Clone Wars," coming next year as a weekly series from LucasFilm, is breathtaking. It's being produced in partnership with the company's animators and engineers in Singapore.

Meantime, in between shopping, we had to do live-shots that featured Darth Vader, R2D2, various storm troopers, a Wookie and Boba Fett. In fact, I met two of the three actors who played the original Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) and the young, Junior Boba Fett (Daniel Logan). Both were very nice.

Producer Annie Pong, who works with me in our Silicon Valley bureau, corralled many of these actors over to our live shot to act as a kind of live backdrop. It all looked pretty cool.

And that's the trouble with all this: you go to trade shows like the massive Consumer Electronics Show or CTIA, or even the old E3 and it was just overload of technology stuff. But here, it's all just so cool. I felt like Jessica Simpson in those DirecTV ads: "I don't know what that is, but I want it!"

So I bought. And bought. And bought. For the kids! And in between, did a little TV coverage of the most gripping Hollywood business and entertainment story for the past 30 years.

Hope you got a chance to see the special. What a blast.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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