A couple of weeks ago, Celebration Orlando carried on without me, but me being a good online fangirl I kept track of everything through Twitter and watched the live feeds and YouTube videos of the big panels later. It would have been magical to actually be there, but it was nice to experience it without the con fatigue, waiting in lines, crazy crowds, etc.
If there was one Celebration that was worth going to, it was this one. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars being released in theaters. Coming right on the heels of the passing of the legendary Carrie Fisher, Lucasfilm pulled out all the stops in honoring Carrie's legacy, celebrating the insanity that is Star Wars, and getting us all hyped up for The Last Jedi.
1. Warwick Davis as moderator
Personal opinion: I don't enjoy Davis as the moderator nearly as much as I liked James Arnold Taylor at Celebration 2015. But after a while, you get used to it. The thing to remember about Warwick Davis is HE WAS ACTUALLY THERE. He was a little kid when A New Hope came out in '77. He was only eleven years old when he got cast as Wicket the Ewok for Return of the Jedi. And he gets along with everyone who's been a part of Star Sars ever since. He's really perfect for the job, if you think about it. And plus, he's British.
2. George Lucas sharing the story of basically how everything began
Lucas started off as a small indie director with a couple of films that weren't very big, and it didn't seem very likely that his idea for a Sci-fi soap opera would ever get off the ground. However, Alan Sheppard from 20th Century Fox came to a screening of American Graffiti and told Lucas he would buy whatever his next project was--whatever it was. The rest is history.
It was really special to hear from the guy who made this possible about what he meant it to be and how it became possible.
3. The Cast Reunion at the 40th Anniversary panel
When he got on stage, Lucas admitted that he hadn't quite grasped how long forty years had been until he saw the gray in Warwick's hair. It was basically a bunch of people reminiscing--old people, some of them. But it was reminiscing in the best sense of the word. George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Warwick Davis and even (spoiler alert) Harrison Ford couldn't remember all of the details about filming the original trilogy and how the casting happened, what the funny incidents were. Warwick shared a story about a letter he'd written to Lucas after filming ROTJ to ask for some action figures. Very cute. And the fans were happy to see their favorite stars--ALL OF THEM.
Not to mention the video messages from LIAM NEESON and SAMUEL L. JACKSON ;jklasdfj;hksdafdsljk
4. The Memorials for Carrie Fisher
|Billie Lourde sporting a white Leia-style dress in honor of her late mother. (PopCrush)|
Oh. My. Gosh. Carrie. It's so unfair that she wasn't there for that panel. But I'll bet she was with us in spirit. George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy honored her. Mark Hamill positively LAMENTED her--and he also shared some stories of how she used to embarrass him. In a way, they really were brother and sister, Hamill said. And then Carrie's daughter Billie came out and gave that speech. *incoherent moaning noises*
5. The John Williams Concert
George Lucas called him the "secret sauce of Star Wars" and rightly so. I don't think I would like Star Wars half as well if not for the music. But to have Williams there, PERFORMING, CONDUCTING actual highlights from the score. I'd have died and gone to heaven if I was there. Bravo, Maestro!
|Inside the Magic|
6. BB-8 Rolling Back on Center Stage
BB-8 came out onstage for The Last Jedi panel, and Josh Gad got to tease him a little. A good thing BB-8 knows how to keep a secret, right?
Also, this happened:
A Prequels' fangirl's dream come true! Hayden made his only big stage appearance at the 40th Anniversary panel, where the only thing he got to say was that George Lucas had to tell him off during filming AOTC and ROTS for making lightsaber noises--and apparently Ewan McGregor and Ray Park also have this problem. Where did George find these children, seriously? It was darn cute. And Hayden looks like he almost hasn't aged a day in fifteen years, holy smokes.
He got to be on The Star Wars Show, too, but he didn't say much there, either. But, come on, he's our Anakin! I understand if he can't say anything in front of George Lucas but there has to be more about filming Star Wars than just lightsabers.
|Well, we also got this (Swag Eyes/Twitter)|
But anyway, it's great to know that the fandom still appreciates Hayden Christansen.
Including his space son:
8. Ian McDairmid giving the Tragedy of Darth Plageuis its due
I didn't appreciate McDairmid upstaging Hayden during the 40th anniversary panel. But Ian McDairmid is so fun to listen to, and this was no exception during his solo panel. He went into depth about filming the Darth Plageuis scene--he really has a grasp on Palpatine and just how deliciously EVIL he is, and yet McDairmid is so warm and funny in person--shocking, isn't it?
9. Ray Park
I have seen Ray Park in person, I even shook hands with him. He might be Darth Maul, but IRL he is actually a goofball and a really nice guy. So I have heard some of his stories before, but it's always a treat to hear them.
One thing that Ray Park loves, and is good at, is interacting with the fans. He got a group of padawans on stage for a lightsaber demonstration (did you see his reaction to that spot-on Kylo Ren?). He and Davis also reenacted Darth Maul's untimely "death" in The Phantom Menace. Warwick got to be Obi-wan. Someone had to hold him over the side of the stage and then pick him up for that final jump.
10. All the Rian Johnson
When we were getting our first news about The Force Awakens, I said that if J.J. Abrams managed to pull it off he would be my new favorite person. Rian Johnson, on the other hand, doesn't even need a trial period. The night before the TLJ panel, he went out to greet the fans who were camped outside the auditorium.
I was able to tune into the livestream of the TLJ panel before heading to work, and I actually saw most of it. Johnson kept a camera with him during the filming of TLJ and during the panel he shared some of his personal photos from the set--including a very candid shot of him autographing the Millenium Falcon.
And he was even taking photos on the stage during the panel!
|Screenshot Twitter/ Rian Johnson|
Rian Johnson is so endearing and cute and generous. Mark Hamill and Kathleen Kennedy had a lot of good things to say about him. Knowing all that, my expectations for The Last Jedi are even higher. And that's not necessarily a good thing.
11. Meet Kelly Marie Tran
I've heard about Tran from listening to Far Far Away Radio, and for some reason I was expecting her to be a villain. But no, Tran is playing a run-of-the-mill mechanic in the Resistance. Tran got to come onstage for The Last Jedi panel and be in public for the first time. She told how she had been forced to keep her casting in Star Wars a secret from her family, to the point where she even sent them a bottle of maple syrup to convince them she was in Canada. Mark Hamill said if she was any cuter she'd be an actual Disney cartoon character.
12. The Golden Idol: Anthony Daniels
Anthony Daniels actually shared a couple of stories from filming the prequels, oddly enough. He went into more detail about the deleted scene from AOTC where Padme had given him coverings--a part that would have done great service to both of their characters--and we even got a photo. He also had to tell the very embarassing story of how he fell over on the set of ROTS while Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman were trying to film a serious scene (and they both cracked up at him). Anthony Daniels, not surprisingly, made Warwick's job as moderator difficult. He even crashed the Droids panel--twice! Daniels can come across as a bit vain, but he's really fun.
13. Mark Hamill--I need him like I need air
I cannot get enough of this man. Seriously. He loves the attention from his adoring fans. And he gives them much adoration in return. He kept talking for his "Mark Hamill Himself" panel in spite of a hoarse voice. What a trooper. Also his dogs. Mark Hamill is so humble and grateful and I hope when we see Luke Skywalker again onscreen in December that he embodies at least some of that.
14. Cosplays of Characters from the Books
I thought I was the only person in the universe thinking of cosplaying Lady Carise Sindian. But no, this girl at Celebration beat me to it. Along with a gorgeous Ransolm Casterfro and a Leia all dressed in black. Don't get the reference? It's the cast of Claudia Gray's Bloodline.
Here's Ransolm. I love him and I will protect him at all costs.
|Twitter/Johnathan Nerf Baker|
And here we have Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, who started out as a lowly captain in A New Dawn which is one of my favorite books ever. And Sloane is one of my favorite characters ever.
15. Just being IN the Star Wars universe
For those of you who haven't heard of Star Wars celebration: think of Comic Con but exclusively Star Wars stuff. Displays of Star Wars merchandise, collectibles, models of every shape and size--anything you can do think of doing with Star Wars, it's probably there. Favorite character? There's probably someone--multiple people--cosplaying them. The Star Wars fan community has its own unique traditions and customs. To these people, that galaxy far far away is home. They might like different aspects of the franchise, but they make it their own. And celebration is a chance to actually be IN it and share that experience with thousands of other fans who share your passion. It's the chance to see the things you love about the Star Wars universe come to life in a way that they couldn't anywhere else.
I'm being a hundred percent serious when I say that if I could go live in any fictional universe, I would pick the Star Wars universe.
I am going to the next Celebration in Anaheim if it kills me.
16. I almost forgot to mention ALAN TUDYK!