This weekend was Star Wars Celebration Orlando, the first Celebration to take place in Orlando since 2012, and as discussed previously, this Celebration took place less than 90 days before Disney purchased the franchise for 4 billion dollars.
The state of Star Wars at the time was questionable at best, with the biggest “news” coming from Celebration included the impending release of a Seth-Green-led cartoon and a recent release of Star Wars Kinect, featuring a demeaning dancing mini-game that lowered the standard of several beloved characters.
This year’s Celebration was a return to Orlando, and 5 years since the buyout, was filled with announcements and excitement about movies, cartoons, video games, and other officially licensed properties. So where does the Star Wars universe, no Galaxy, stand today? The answer is far from the world where Han Solo danced to a Jason Derulo song, Obi Wan hit on young women in a cartoon and Goofy dressed as Darth Vader down the road at Hollywood Studios.
Let’s start with the movies. Fans came dressed as a variety of characters from all the generations of films and shows, but there were almost as many Rey’s as Lukes and Leias, a sign that fans are embracing the new generation. Rey, Finn and a new character received a standing ovation when entering the “The Last Jedi” panel, and the crowd waited on every word they spoke.
The panel, which ended with a teaser poster and trailer being shown for the first time for the upcoming December film, was the highlight of the entire event. The excitement in the room crackled like Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, and the anticipation of the trailer brought the entire room to its feet, with cheers and tears creating a backdrop to the trailer’s soundtrack – and the chant of “PLAY IT AGAIN, PLAY IT AGAIN” adding an exclamation point to the event. (Don’t worry, they played it again.)
Other panels included a 40th anniversary panel, where George Lucas and Harrison Ford made surprise visits, and Mark Hamill’s Tribute to Carrie Fisher, BOTH of which highlighted the late actresses life and permanent entanglement with her character Princess Leia. Mark Hamill was surely the star of the entire event, signing autographs, posting for photos, and hosting panels until he lost his voice – when he continued anyway, his love for the fans and franchise as visible as ever. If Mark Hamill was the star of the event, he shared that status with Warrick Davis, who was everywhere as the official host being a part of several panels.
Star Wars Rebels announced it’s next, and final, season, with a panel nearly as large as the announcement for The Last Jedi, signaling the strength of Disney’s cartoon series and leaving questions as to the future of animated channels. Disney Parks announced small tidbits of information regarding the construction of the new Star Wars Lands being built at both Disneyland and Disney World locations, and the fans ate each nibble up eagerly.
On the show floor, surrounded by retailers, Star Wars Show LIVE stage became a secondary panel stage where the same stars would show up post-panel, and got face to face with the fans. Here a t-shirt cannon was officially named a “canon” weapon, and officials urged DICE/EA to place it in a videogame.
Speaking of videogames Battlefront, last year’s mixed bag, was given a sequel complete with a single-player mode and a variety of play modes.
On the show floor, retailers opened their doors to throngs of fans, and if you were after any of the officially licensed Celebration exclusive merchandise, fans were expected to stand in line. However, while hours-long-lines wrapped around the Funko and LEGO booth, other places like The Prop Store held true hidden gems, such as production used storyboards and blueprints at prices that were very reasonably priced.
While preparing for the Mark Hamill’s Tribute to Carrie Fisher tribute, our reporter sat next to a man from New Jersey. He had a crazy smile on his face, experiencing both his first convention and first Star Wars Celebration. He looked around and said to our reporter “You know you just cannot tell who a Star Wars fan would look like.”
The observation was true.
There were Star Wars fans from literally all across the globe with guilds of fans from places Australia, and across all gender, racial and sexuality divides. Fans embraced each other, cried with each other and laughed with each other, some with people they came with, others with complete strangers, but it didn’t matter; they were all family.
What was clear from the event is that Disney has saved Star Wars.
Maybe that’s a controversial statement, but realizing that Disney stopped several things back in 2012 that were already starting to bastardize the image of Star Wars in the fans minds, it stands to reason that events like Celebration might have outlived their usefulness if the mighty gloved hand of the mouse hadn’t stepped in. The decision to take Star Wars seriously, to tell original stories with gravitas across all platforms is one that has not only made the future of the franchise bright but has clarified the history, polishing our childhood favorite moments with a new shine.
In fact the only disappointing moment over the course of the entire four days was the final one, in which Warrick Davis informed us that there was no announcement for the next Star Wars Celebration. After four days of Star Wars characters, costumes, merchandise, movies and more… one thing was abundantly clear.
The fans want more.