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.
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.
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 KotbAll 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.
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.
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.”
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.”