The past 4 days, the Anaheim Convention Center across the street from Disneyland housed a massive fan gathering to celebrate Disney’s latest big acquisition: Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise. We all know that the galaxy far, far away will be making a return to screens big and small this fall, and while the convention brought plenty of exciting news for the upcoming multimedia blitzkrieg of Star Wars IP, Star Wars Celebration was also about the devout, raucous community that has surrounded the franchise since 1977.
I was fortunate to attend the Saturday of the show. I wasn’t really sure what to expect; I’m used to huge gaming conventions like E3 and PlayStation Experience, which are very much about hyping what’s to come, but I’ve never seen the kind of dedicated fan service of a convention like this. Most of the convention hall was packed with booths of independent vendors. These people sold everything from custom artwork to playing cards, highly detailed statues to props from the movie sets, custom T-shirts to exclusive LEGO gear. It was an absolutely massive display of products and decor that didn’t even come directly from Lucasfilm/Disney.
And then there were the people roaming around the show’s floor, dressed in all sorts of elaborate costumes. A group called the 501st legion paraded around in full Stormtrooper getup while real, working R2-D2 astromech droids zipped around them. Brave women in slave Leia costumes weren’t afraid to show a little skin, nor was one particularly dude who flaunted his stuff just as wistfully. Lines stretched for hours and hours just to get pictures with an actress pretending to be Daisy Ridley’s character Rey on a desert landspeeder, or a replica of the Millennium Falcon ‘s holo-chess table. Even longer were the lines to buy exclusive T-shirts, get into the guest panels, or check out exclusive Battlefront gameplay.
Of course, the best part of the impressive congregation was what Disney and Lucasfilm brought with them. This was my first Star Wars Celebration, but there was a palpable excitement to the re-energizing of the Star Wars IP on all medium fronts. The biggest of all of these kicked off the show as we got a new extended teaser of this December’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A panel with Director JJ Abrams and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy shed some extra light on the new movie, perhaps most notably that the desert planet seen in the trailers is not the legendary Tatooine, but rather a new planet called Jakku. (Don’t miss Earl and Jason discussing the trailer in detail on a special edition podcast!)
Then, EA came by to pull the curtain a little further off of DICE’s Star Wars: Battlefront reboot. The game looks absolutely stunning (or at least the footage created in its engine does, which was allegedly captured running on a PlayStation 4). The panel also revealed that multiplayer matches would feature up to 40 players, and while DICE wouldn’t be distracting themselves with a single player campaign, they are creating some standalone single-player missions based on scenes from the original trilogy. In fact, the original trilogy is the focus of the entire game; DICE had extended time at Lucasfilm capturing the actual props and visiting the actual sets from the original movies. The maps they revealed showed off Hoth, Tatooine, Endor, and Sullust, as well as playable characters Darth Vader and Boba Fett. Finally, DICE revealed that the first DLC will be set after Return of the Jedi and feature the “Battle of Jakku”, which promises to let players participate in the events that lead to the crashed Star Destroyer glimpsed in The Force Awakens trailer.
Finally, Gareth Edwards came by to share a little bit more detail on the franchise’s first standalone spin-off movie, Rogue One. The film will be set before A New Hope and feature a band of rebel soldiers on a mission to steal the Death Star’s plans. Edwards showed some concept art and a brief teaser that showed the Death Star in orbit over a planet with a voice-over by Sir Alec Guinness. Kennedy was also on hand to reveal that the planned slate of standalone Star Wars films will be branded Star Wars Anthology to differentiate them from the sequel trilogy.
There were far more exciting things on hand at the show and on display, not only would it be impossible for me to write about them all–I wasn’t even able to see everything in my day there! However, if you’re still thirsty for more from Celebration, check out Carrie Fischer’s “Date with a Princess” panel, Mark Hamill’s “Return of the Jedi” panel, and the Star Wars: Rebels Season 2 premiere.