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A Look Back at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, From a Certain Point of View

Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, after quite a few pandemic delays, has at last come and gone. Three members of The Nerds of Color were present for all the action, including yours truly. This was actually the first Celebration I had ever been to and having bought my pass to it back in June 2019, this was a long time coming.

Admittedly, it was a strange mindset going into it, when just two days before, one of the deadliest school shootings took place in Uvalde, Texas. That along with other pressing current events to have happened over the last few months was something that was knowingly addressed by host Yvette Nicole Brown, at the start of the Lucasfilm Showcase Thursday morning. But she assured to the audience from Celebration Stage that sometimes, we need reminders like the multiple stories that make up Star Wars to show how good will always triumph over evil. After all, the inaugural Star Wars Celebration took place only a week and a half and not far from where the Columbine shooting happened.

There was so much revealed, so many surprises over the four-day event. It’s a different experience than just watching or reading up on it online, as the communal energy hyped up the anticipation of what’s ahead for the fandom. The excitement was felt by all at the Lucasfilm Showcase when it was revealed that everyone was invited to the premiere of the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi later that evening. A communal breath was drawn when the trailer for Andor was shown. Cheers erupted when a choir sang “Duel of the Fates,” when John Williams came out to conduct the first-ever performance of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s theme, and when Harrison Ford made a surprise appearance right afterwards. And that’s just from the first day.

Similar instances played out in the forms of moments like when we got a first look at Ahsoka (despite being three weeks into filming), when the trailer for the third season of The Mandalorian at the Mando+ panel was longer than the one shown at the Lucasfilm Showcase, and when the trailer for the second season of The Bad Batch let us know of some exciting guest appearances to look forward to. As divisive as the fandom can be sometimes, it’s times like these that has one feeling proud to be a Star Wars fan.

Beyond the big reveals of the events, the energy that hasn’t been felt since before the pandemic trickled down to smaller moments as well; from the likes of meeting friends you previously only knew online, running into voice actors like Christopher Sean and grabbing quick selfies with him, having conversations with the likes of Daniel Logan and Kelly Marie Tran at their autograph sessions, and constantly seeing the high quality creativity from cosplayers and droid builders alike. Although these experiences are common at other fan conventions, there is that extra level of uniqueness in the fact that this all based in and around Star Wars. It’s what made it particularly special for longtime fans such as myself.

Was it perfect by any means? No. I’m personally not thrilled with the fact that Celebration was open to everyone, regardless of their vaccination status. To have to worry about catching COVID – especially from those who weren’t adhering to the mask requirement – was a constant concern I’d rather have been spared of altogether. While I look forward to the day where we don’t have to worry as much about these things anymore when it comes to large events like this, that still didn’t take away from the otherwise incredible experience I had. If anything, it definitely makes this first Celebration one to remember by.

When George Lucas released the original Star Wars 45 years ago, I don’t think he would have anticipated the pop culture phenomenon it would become; so much to where a whole convention would be created, focused solely about this galaxy of his creation. However, as pointed out at Friday’s Light & Magic panel, it was obvious early on that he believed in it enough to where he knew it could be something, even if there has never been anything like it before. And look at what a difference he has made in pop culture and in filmmaking as we know it. As Breha Organa says to young Leia in the first episode of Kenobi: “You get out of this what you put into it.”

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