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Image: Ann Curry, Hoda Kotb, Matt Lauer, Al Roker, Kathie Lee Gifford, Natalie Morales
Richard Drew  /  AP
The TODAY hosts go “Star Wars” for Halloween: From left, Kathie Lee Gifford as C-3PO, Natalie Morales as Queen Padme Amidala, Hoda Kotb as Yoda, Ann Curry as Darth Vader, Meredith Vieira as Princess Leia, Matt Lauer as Luke Skywalker and Al Roker as Han Solo.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 10/30/2009 10:04:30 AM ET 2009-10-30T14:04:30

The Force was with the TODAY show this Halloween: The morning show’s hosts clearly enjoyed their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to raid George Lucas’ treasure chest and become “Star Wars” characters for a morning at the annual “Halloween on the Plaza” party Friday.

In one of the most elaborate Halloween parties ever for TODAY, Lucas and the folks at Lucasfilm decked the gang out in full “Star Wars” regalia, provided real props from the films, and even sent along 8-foot-tall Chewbacca and other characters from the long-running fantasy franchise to transform Rockefeller Plaza into a galaxy far, far away.

Dramatic entrances
Al Roker took the lead as the star of a tongue-in-cheek taped sequence. Decked out in “Star Wars” jammies and snuggled under matching sheets, Roker nodded off to a dream in which he found himself face to face with none other than Darth Vader himself.

Uncowed by the dread galactic villain, Al remained his irritating fanboy self, peppering Vader with such questions as “Jabba the Hut — any relation to Pizza the Hut?”

After Vader banished him, Roker ran out live onto the plaza dressed as Han Solo. Then the rest of the TODAY hosts began revealing their space-age fantasy alter egos.

Kathie Lee Gifford marched stiffly through the plaza dressed as fussy robot C-3PO. Then Darth Vader reappeared, rising from the emperor’s chair that was actually used in the “Star Wars” prequel “Revenge of the Sith” — only this time it turned out to be Ann Curry under the black respirator helmet.

TODAY
Matt Lauer brandishes his lightsaber as Luke Skywalker as Chewbacca, Han Solo (Al Roker) and Darth Vader (Ann Curry) look on.
Accompanied by two diminutive Ewoks, Meredith Vieira affected the regal majesty of Princess Leia as she stepped out onto the plaza, space-age firearm in hand. Meanwhile, Natalie Morales made an elegant entrance as Queen Amidala — wearing the actual costume Natalie Portman donned in “The Phantom Menace.”

Matt Lauer had planned to make a showy entrance as Luke Skywalker, but some of his thunder was stolen by a balky cockpit as he waited impatiently to exit from a nearly full-scale replica of the X-Wing fighter plane used in “A New Hope.”

Yoda Kotb
All the hosts seemed accounted for, until Lauer took a head count and asked, “Where’s Hoda?” And then came the most startling reveal of the morning: An unrecognizable, lime-green Hoda Kotb strolled onto the plaza dressed as — who else? — Yoda.

Video: Behind the scenes of TODAY’s Halloween Pulling off her Darth Vader mask, Curry gushed, “It’s so cool we got to use the original parts of the movie — it’s amazing!”

Roker was clearly taken with the wig Lauer donned to get Mark Hamill’s shaggy galaxy-cruiser look. “I always fantasized you as a blond,” Roker quipped.

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The TODAY hosts then kept the “Star Wars” theme rolling with a spirited game of Jedi Jeopardy on the plaza. While the team of Morales and Roker won the day, complaints over faulty buzzers and who buzzed in first led quizmaster Lauer to mutter, “I never heard such whining in my entire life.”

Video: ‘Star Wars’ invades the control room To prepare for the big morning, booty from Lucasfilm arrived by the boxful to the TODAY set on Thursday, from Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber to Han Solo’s blaster. It took a small army to put the “Star Wars” theme into hyperdrive in preparation for the annual Halloween bash on the plaza.

The “Star Wars” theme wasn’t limited to the plaza. Executive producer Jim Bell was revealed to be dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the control room, which was transformed into a warp-speed spaceship for the occasion. As Obi-Wan Bell gestured with his lightsaber, the control area leaped into lightspeed with appropriately dazzling visual pyrotechnics.

TODAY also spotlighted Roker’s visit to George Lucas’ SkyWalker Ranch in Northern California, where Lucas’ animation team created an Al Roker droid, or “Al-Bot.”

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Photos: TODAY’s ‘Star Wars’ Halloween 2009

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  1. May the force be with TODAY, 2009

    In conjunction with Lucasfilm, TODAY paid tribute to the “Star Wars” trilogy with anchors dressed as the films’ iconic characters. Matt Lauer went as Luke Skywalker, Meredith Vieira as Princess Leia and Hoda Kotb as Yoda. (Andy Kropa / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Solo shot

    Al Roker, as Han Solo, gets defensive while wearing Harrison Ford’s original blaster, belt and holster from the original "Star Wars." (Andy Kropa / Getty Images Contributor) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Lighten up

    Matt Lauer dressed as hero Luke Skywalker, Al Roker went as Han Solo and Ann Curry did her best impression of villain Darth Vader. Al is wearing Harrison Ford’s original blaster, belt and holster, and Matt is holding Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber from the original “Star Wars.” (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Storming the plaza

    George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd. outfitted the TODAY plaza with special elements and prop pieces from Lucas’ private “Star Wars” archive and replicas of favorite characters, including 30 Stormtroopers. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. 'Help me Matt, you’re my only hope'

    Meredith Vieira donned the iconic hair buns of Princess Leia, while Ann Curry was fully enclosed in her Darth Vader costume for TODAY’s Halloween extravaganza. Ann’s Darth Vader costume is an exact replica from “The Empire Strikes Back.” (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Bring on the droids

    Beloved android characters C-3PO and R2-D2 greet the crowd on Rockefeller Plaza. (C-3PO is actually TODAY host Kathie Lee Gifford.) (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Queen for a day

    Natalie Morales celebrated TODAY’s Halloween in a regal Queen Amidala gown and headdress, the original costume from “The Phantom Menace.” (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Muppet mob

    Fans dressed as Muppets characters line up along Rockefeller Plaza to participate in TODAY's annual Halloween costume contest. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A galaxy not so far away

    In conjunction with Lucasfilm, TODAY paid tribute to the “Star Wars” trilogy with anchors dressed as the films’ iconic characters. From left to right: Natalie Morales (Queen Amidala), Kathie Lee Gifford (C-3PO), Chewbacca from Lucasfilm Ltd., Matt Lauer (Luke Skywalker), Al Roker (Han Solo), Ann Curry (Darth Vader) and Hoda Kotb (Yoda). (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Jedi mind tricks?

    TODAY anchors, dressed as beloved “Star Wars” characters, participated in a game of “Jedi Jeopardy” on the plaza. Trivia categories included “space aliens” and “space junk.” (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Bun fun

    Meredith Vieira, wearing Princess Leia's trademark hair buns, flashes a smile for Ann Curry, dressed as Leia's nemesis, Darth Vader. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Cowgirl and calf

    A cowgirl complete with diminutive cow attends TODAY's annual Halloween costume contest on the plaza. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. N-B-C

    The Moser and Soyster-Heinz families dressed up as a xylophone to compete in TODAY's Halloween costume competition on the plaza. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. 'Damsel' is success

    Serra Hirsh from Brooklyn, N.Y., won TODAY's costume contest competition for her portrayal of a damsel in distress tied to a railroad track. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Yoda Kotb and KLG-PO

    TODAY hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb paid tribute to "Star Wars" by dressing up as beloved android C-3PO and Jedi master Yoda. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. X-wing marks the spot

    TODAY anchors costumed as "Star Wars" characters pose on Rockefeller Plaza by an X-wing fighter plane that is a full replica from the orginal movie. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A scenic View-Master

    Mary Matthews from Brooklyn, N.Y. shows off her creative View-Master creation for TODAY's Halloween costume competition on the plaza. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Trooping onto TODAY

    Stormtroopers from Lucasfilm Ltd. took over the plaza to help celebrate TODAY's intergalactic Halloween extravaganza. George Lucas sent TODAY a number characters, including several Ewoks, Chewbacca, R2-D2, "Clone Wars" characters Ahsoka and Cad Bane, and 30 Stormtroopers. Lucasfilm Ltd also brought 1,000 lightsabers as giveaways for the plaza audience. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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