Star Wars' fans celebrate 30 years

 20,000 expected for anniversary fest

New "Star Wars" Web site launches

An anticipated 20,000-plus fans are expected to converge on downtown Los Angeles during the next few days to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of George Lucas' seminal film "Stars Wars" and its profound impact on the film industry and pop culture.

In recognition of the May 25, 1977, opening, Lucasfilm and Gen Con are presenting "Star Wars Celebration IV" at the Los Angeles Convention Center, which will be open to the public today through Monday. The event -- which kicked off Wednesday with a marathon screening of all six films -- includes live entertainment, cast-member appearances, film and video presentations and an exhibit of movie props and costumes.

"Star Wars" was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 1978 and won six. In 2005, the American Film Institute named John Williams' iconic score the most memorable of all time. The film has shown up on additional AFI lists, including the "100 Greatest American Movies" list, where it ranked No. 15.

The release of "Star Wars" marked a milestone in visual effects. Its makers pioneered groundbreaking visual effects techniques, and the work inspired many of today's VFX talent. Among the weekend program events is a Saturday session featuring the five visual effects supervisors from the 1977 classic through 2005's "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith." Scheduled to appear are Richard Edlund, John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston and Phil Tippett.

Edlund, who won Oscars for his work on all three films in the first trilogy, said: " 'Star Wars' woke up a sleeping giant. ... Since 'Star Wars,' its audience salivates for new effects movies."

Knoll, VFX supervisor on the more recent trilogy (and a certain three pirate movies, one of which opens today), said that he was in high school when the first "Star Wars" debuted. "Suddenly, there were new exciting things happening in the (VFX) field," he said, adding that he was then invited to tour Lucas' operation. "It was a life-changing experience. It helped me to decide that I wanted to do this for a living."

Carrie Fisher will be among the cast members making an appearance at the celebration. Lucas is out of the country and will not be in attendance, said Tom Warner, senior director of marketing at Lucasfilm.

"Generations of fans have loved 'Star Wars,' many passing along the 'Star Wars' gene to their children," said Steve Sansweet, director of content management and head of fan relations at Lucasfilm. "This is the first chance to celebrate all six movies in the saga -- George Lucas' complete story -- as well as the vibrant future of 'Star Wars.' "

To that end, Warner said the Los Angeles event will include a preview of a new video game, "The Force Unleashed," which will be available on multiple game platforms in early 2008. He said that in the game, the player takes on the role of Darth Vader's secret apprentice.

He also pointed to Lucasfilm's CG-animated TV series "The Clone Wars," which is in production and whose story is set in the time period between Episodes II and III of the film series.

When asked about future home entertainment releases, Warner said, "We are always looking at the formats, but nothing is planned today." He also did not have additional information on Lucas' 2005 comments that he was looking to remaster and rerelease all six "Star Wars" films in stereoscopic 3-D.