There is something to be said for having a shared experience with over 6,000 people sitting in an arena in Anaheim, California. A single, solitary moment when a giant video screen fades to black and you hear a voice that you recognize but can’t quite process quick enough before the visual hammers it home, “Chewie, we’re home.” Everybody around me immediately jumps up, fists pumping up high, cheers deafening, not quite processing everything about the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer. Luckily, we are able to see it again and are able to focus more on what we just saw.

Thus began the four days of Star Wars Celebration Anaheim and if that was all I would ever experience at SWCA, I would have been perfectly fine with that. But Star Wars Celebration Anaheim was so much more than just the SW:TFA trailer, it was about fans of the Star Wars franchise celebrating all things Star Wars.

The opening panel set the whole tone for the Celebration. We got to see BB-8 as an actual robot, hear J.J. Abrams confirming that they tried to use as many practical effects as they could (which the crowd applauded loudly), meet the three new stars of Episode VII, see old friends from the original movies, and get a line-up of the new Stormtroopers who were of varying sizes and shapes (no more clones).

My focus for Celebration was watching panels with original cast members such as Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Billy Dee Williams. I scheduled everything else around those particular panels. What was learned from these panel interviews?

  • McDiarmid confirmed the Emperor is indeed dead at the end of Return of the Jedi so do not expect him to somehow still be pulling the strings in SW:TFA.
  • Hamill confirmed his voiceover in the teaser trailer was taken from the original dialogue from Return of the Jedi and he did updated voiceover that echoed that same dialogue for the trailer and is not actual dialogue from the new movie. Therefore, when he says “my father has it” rather than “my father had it,” he is not implying that Darth Vader is still alive for the new movie.
  • Daniels confirmed that he physically played C-3P0 in the new movie rather than being just his voiceover a CGI C-3P0.
  • Williams has not been asked to reprise his role as Lando for the new movie.
  • Fisher did not reveal anything regarding the new movie but her panel was by far the most entertaining.

Outside of the interview panels, the panel discussing the new Star Wars Anthology series of films was a nice surprise. Unfortunately, Josh Trank, director slated for the Star Wars Anthology movie for release in 2018 was sick with the flu and was not able to attend at the last minute. However, director Gareth Edwards did not disappoint. For Edwards’ release in December 2016, we’ll see Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One which was revealed to be a film that brings the real war to Star Wars. The film will be about a small group of rebels stealing the Death Star plans, placing its timeline between Episodes III and IV, but closer to IV.

The teaser trailer, which is something that ILM created in a very short period of time for Star Wars Celebration Anaheim since the film itself is still in pre-production, stirred up a lot of excitement. Only casting confirmation was that Felicity Jones will be one of the rebels soldiers. The rebels will have no assistance from Jedi and while the Star Wars films have traditionally shown good and evil in more clear cut ways, Rogue One will have good and evil shown in more of the gray areas with the possibility of a rebel traitors and imperial traitors. Sounds good and I cannot wait to see it!

Finally, for all of the lines and waiting that any con of this size is bound to have, the organizers of Star Wars Celebration Anaheim did a great job. Unlike some other cons, they managed to clear rooms after panels. While that meant we would leave one panel in the main Celebration stage and have to head back to the queue area for the next panel at the same stage, it made for a fairer chance of panel seating than at cons that do not clear after panels. The pre-panel entertainment at the main Celebration stage (hosted by DJ Elliot and Mark Daniel) kept the audience engaged while waiting for the arena to fill up. At the closing ceremonies, they showed a great recap video. Somewhere in that large group that was asked “who loves Star Wars?” was me yelling “we do!” along with over 6,000 other fans.

This Star Wars Celebration was the largest ever. If you missed all of the festivities this year, next year Star Wars Celebration will take place in London from July 15-17, 2016. Tickets are already on sale at the Star Wars Celebration site.

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