The costume party that is Comic-Con International just got a major new photo op — fans and celebrities will participate in a 136-mile Olympics-style torch run in the days leading up to massive San Diego pop-culture expo but, of course, instead of torches they’ll be holding aloft their lightsabers.
The Course of the Force will begin in Santa Monica and every quarter-mile the ceremonial lightsaber — the trademark weapon for the Jedi Knights of “Star Wars” fame — will be handed off to a new runner that, considering Comic-Con obsessions, may be dressed as a Wookiee, Klingon, Time Lord or Justice League member. Through sponsorships, the event will raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation but Peter Levin, chief executive officer of Nerdist Industries, said the lightsaber run is also intended to widen the footprint of fanboy culture.
“I was at Comic-Con last year and I noticed that there was a real lack of announcements of any scale in the days leading up to Comic-Con because everyone is waiting to compete with each other once the Con has started,” Levin sid. “I was thinking while at home while watching my 6-year-old chase my French bulldogs around with a lightsabre. I also ran the Olympic torch myself while working at CAA and have the torch there in this acrylic case in the home office and all of it came together . It dawned on me that we could do something really big and really fun and positive and forward-looking in those days leading up to the Con. And best of all raise money for a wonderful cause.”
Lucasfilm Ltd., Nerdist Industries, Octagon and Machinima are partners in the Course of the Force. The Nerdist — whose host, Chris Hardwick, describes the saber-run as “the yellow brick road leading to Oz” — will host podcasts along the route. For Lucasfilm, which has “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” returning to theaters this month in 3D, the high-profile endeavor is reminder that it’s a cinematic brand that is more or less seasonal at this point.
“The Course of the Force lightsaber run is a great cause that combines fitness with helping others, principles that aspiring Jedi Knights can embrace,” Kayleen Walters, senior director of marketing for Lucasfilm. “We have long supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and this is a great opportunity to raise funds and awareness while letting ‘Star Wars’ fans celebrate their favorite saga.”
Thomas Tull of Legendary Pictures, the producers of “The Dark Knight,” “300” and “Watchmen,” said the lightsaber is the perfect torch for passing — and passion — the universe of pop-culture fans. “Without question it’s one of the coolest weapons or devices ever put in a movie, as evidenced by the fact that I personally have so many of the replicas — the Darth Vader one, the Obi-Wan one, the one for Yoda — and everywhere across the world people recognize the sound of it, even, and that iconic image of the Jedi standings there holding this awesome symbol of ‘Star Wars.'”
The torch run will finish in San Diego on July 11 in the hours before the Con’s preview night begins at the San Diego Convention Center. For more details, go to the Course of the Force registration page. Comic-Con International runs from July 12-15 and, with events now reaching well beyond the venue itself, is expected to bring 200,000 into the coastal city to sell, celebrate, promote and buy comics, toys, movies, television shows and fiction of the fantastic.
— Geoff Boucher
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