Surviving the Spectacle of Star Wars Celebration Orlando
There’s nothing like a Star Wars Celebration.
This is coming from a guy who has been to a lot of different kinds of pop culture driven conventions. I’ve been to big shows and small ones; I’ve walked the halls of shows devoted to video games, anime, consumer eletronics, toys, and more comic-cons than you can shake a lightsaber at, including the biggie in San Diego; I’ve even been to shows that focus on specific icons in pop culture: The X-Files, Star Trek, and even the many works of Joss Whedon. And as fun as they all are, none of them match the spectacle of a Celebration.
Sure, I’m a bit biased. And while I’ve written the book on how to survive San Diego Comic-Con, there’s almost no way to adequately prepare yourself for everything a Star Wars Celebration can throw at you. I’ve been going to every U.S. Celebration since 1999 in Denver. I had never traveled to go to a convention before, but I knew I had to be part of a gathering of Star Wars fans. I had no idea what I was in for, but I didn’t care. It’s what I needed. Part of the struggle of nailing down what to expect from Star Wars Celebration is the fact that it often changes cities within the states. Denver, Indianapolis for 2 years, Los Angeles, Orlando for 2 years, Anaheim, and then back to Orlando this year. I dreamed of joining the foreign ones, but at the time, they were too rich for my blood. Also, I didn’t have a passport.
I arrived a few days early so that I could take in the local theme parks (Universal Studios and, of course, Disney World). Thankfully, they didn’t wear me out too much to prevent me from getting in line Wednesday afternoon for the Opening Ceremonies held on Thursday morning. Equipped with a backpack full of overnight supplies, a comfy collapsible chair, and my pal Sheryl (always use the buddy system), we made our way into the convention center holding area where we got to make a bunch of new friends, meet some of the people behind the Star Wars movies and TV series (including The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Ashley Eckstein aka Ahsoka Tano, just to name two), and catch maybe an hour or so of sleep before the big show began. Many hours later, wristbands secured to our arms, we were among the first to make it into the surprisingly small main Galaxy stage, where the 40th Anniversary Celebration panel would be held.
But as if that wasn’t enough to stir our hearts, what came next was something none of us were prepared for. The final piece of what makes Star Wars what it is fell into place when the curtains parted to reveal an orchestra conducted by maestro John Williams. As they tore through a collection of classic Star Wars themes, including Leia’s theme, which brought the tears flooding back again, I glanced over to my left to see Hayden nodding along to the music just a few feet away, drinking it in alongside thousands of other fans in that room and in rooms scattered throughout the convention center via closed circuit screens broadcasting everything we were witnessing firsthand, including on the exhibition hall stage, in the shadow of a life-sized TIE Fighter. Williams finished to a standing ovation (well, we stood through the whole thing, heads spinning with astonishment) and we were all ushered out of the hall to receive tribute posters featuring Carrie Frances Fisher as Leia 1956 – 2016.
And that was just the first hour or so of the event.
Between sneak peeks at what’s to come with Star Wars land at the Disney World and Disneyland, the Battlefront II game, and an endless list of panels featuring collectibles, cosplay, droid building, and so much more, no other panel beyond the two big ones I already mentioned knocked people for a loop more than the Star Wars Rebeles animated series panel, where series director Dave Filoni announced that the upcoming 4th season would be the series’ last. All while wearing a “Ahsoka Lives?” t-shirt. Honestly, I don’t care if he wore a shirt that said, “No, really, Ahsoka is dead. Seriously.” I wouldn’t believe it. She’ll be back.
I could go on for a few thousand more words describing every detail that I loved about this Celebration. Obviously, I love going to conventions of every type all around the world, but no matter where there is a Star Wars Celebration, I’m home. By the way, that’s one thing they failed to mention – where will the next one be? Hopefully, we will find out soon.
But don’t take my word for it, here’s the official Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017 recap video to show you how it’s done.
I can’t wait for the next Star Wars Celebration, most likely in 2019 in some as yet unnamed city! May the Force be with you until then!