Star Wars Celebration V: Day 1 & 2

13 08 2010

Whew! These last few days have been a whirlwind of costumed troopers, high-priced collectables and endless photo opps. Star Wars Celebration certainly lives up to its name: it’s a celebration of all things Star Wars, from obscure Expanded Universe lore to panel discussions with some of the original actors and creators. And being its fifth iteration, Star Wars Celebration is a well-oiled machine – or as well oiled as you can get with 40,000 rabid fans let loose in a convention center. But to be fair, considering the size of the four day event, the first two days have gone off pretty much without a hitch. So what all has happened in a convention center not all that long ago in a city not all that far away? Here’s the breakdown:

Day 1
Arriving to the Orange County Convention Center, I quickly headed to the exhibit hall waiting line. Yes, I got there a little before eight, and yes, the hall wasn’t opening until ten: such is the life of a fan. The surrounding fans were pleasant and clearly hyped about the first day of Celebration. Mingled snippets of conversations included everything from maquette collections to Prequel Trilogy debates. Once the doors were open, the lines for exclusive merchandise formed faster than Han Solo’s Kessel Run. I was able to hit up the Hasbro booth before the line was too long and snagged a limited edition comic pack action figure set – my first purchase from my first Celebration!

Hasbro had some awesome action figure dioramas set up: the carbon freezing chamber, the Battle of Ryloth and a breathtakingly detailed Battle of Hoth.

From there I made my way through the hall, taking in the myriad booths and overwhelming amounts of costumes, merchandise and Star Wars goodness. Disney had a booth set up, the R2-D2 Droid Builders were out in force, there was a life-size snowspeeder you could sit in, a life-size Jabba (complete with several Slave Leia’s), a LEGO diorama display, a massive AT-AT looming over one of the lobbies, with a giant balloon Death Star in another, a life-size TIE Interceptor (!), a life-size Cantina/Jabba’s palace diorama you could walk through, and a swanky “Echo Base Ice Bar.” Overwhelming indeed!

I went to my first panel in the afternoon: “Exploring the Star Wars Galaxy with the Essential Guides.” Authors and artists Jason Fry, Pablo Hidalgo, Helen Keier, Chris Reiff, Chris Trevas and Erich Schoeneweiss were there (unfortunately Dan Wallace, the king of the Essential Guides had travel delays and Ryder Windham was also absent). The panel was fun and insightful, especially getting to hear how each of the authors and artists came to work on Star Wars projects; they were all fans, first and foremost. It was inspiring to hear them talk about what they loved professionally, and how that transferred over to their love of Star Wars. There were a few more details about Jason Fry’s upcoming Essential Guide to Warfare (it will be more focused on the development of warfare over time, both philosophically and technologically – it will feature first hand “Soldier Story” narratives – will have specific sections dedicated to major battles and major characters, all featuring new artwork).

Each panel member also got to share some of their favorite Easter Eggs they had included in their work: Jason Fry’s son was able to name a planet for the Essential Atlas, and Helen Keier based the akul on her friends Pomeranian. Erich had a new announcement as well: a third edition of the Essential Guide to Characters is tentatively scheduled for a summer 2012 release! And Pablo Hidalgo talked a bit about his upcoming Essential Reader’s Companion, a listing of all Star Wars fiction in chronological order with special behind-the-scenes stories and original artwork – really looking forward to this one!

After the panel I headed to the “Echo Base Ice Bar,” which was hosted by G4. The atmosphere was cool (fog, glowing “ice” tables, ice sculptures and fake snow), and the drinks weren’t half bad either!

The day was winding down, so I walked around, snapped a few more pictures, browsed the Celebration Store then went to stand in line for my picture with…Carrie Fisher! She was running late, but once the line got moving, it went by fast. It was brief, but she was really nice, complementing me on my Chewbacca shirt, seeming very friendly. And considering the number of autographs she has to sign and pictures she has to take, she was a gracious Princess indeed.

The day was over – but the night had just begun! Heading back to my hotel, official after party was getting started. Picked up my exclusive pins, had my caricature done, had some delicious food, a few drinks, mingled a bit…and I was beat. End of day one!

Day 2
Didn’t quite get to the convention center as early as I had hoped, but made it in plenty of time to catch The Force Unleashed II panel. Matt Omernick and Brett Rector showed the previously released trailer for the game (which was WAY better on a big screen with booming speakers!) and talked a lot about the story and updated gameplay. They revealed that Yoda will be featured in the game, showing a cutscene of Starkiller speaking to Yoda on Dagobah. Starkiller then enters the Dark Side cave (the same one Luke did in Episode V) and has a vision of his lost love, Juno Eclipse. The gameplay looks awesome, with new moves and Force powers, including Jedi mind trick, Force Fury and even the ability to grab missiles out of the air and send them back towards your enemy! The jury is still out on whether or not Starkiller is actually a clone, but all clues so far lead me to believe he’s NOT – which means The Force Unleashed II has a lot of explaining to do!

Next, I rushed over to get in line for the Mark Hamill panel, “Return of the Jedi!” It was great to be able to experience Mark’s first and, so far, only U.S. Celebration appearance! Not only was he very charming, he was extremely funny, showing off his amazing impersonation abilities and sharp wit. He told never-before-heard stories about the filming and production of the Star Wars movies (He and Anthony Daniels became close friends after nearly being run off the road in Tunisia, he sprained his thumb filming a Hoth scene, making his Cloud City lightsaber fight scene a bit tricky). He really has so little knowledge of Star Wars, outside of his own experiences, and he made that clear when he said, “You all could beat me in a trivia contest, but I have the first hand stories, I was actually there!” Touché, Mark! They played clips of his Sesame Street appearance, something the crowd found delightful but Mark found rather embarrassing. It was too bad the hour flew by so fast – everyone groaned when he was ushered off stage; we all could have sat through an hour or two more!

After the panel, it was time for more Mark! Got in line for a picture with Luke Skywalker himself; he was so nice, every bit the charming and laid back man I’d just seen at the panel. He shook my hand and seemed genuinely happy to be there. A class act and a Jedi Master in my book!

After my picture, I had some time to check out the costumed attendees, get some more pictures, enter a raffle for the kick-ass looking new Jedi Path book, and get my copies of Outcast and Allies signed by Aaron Allston and Christie Golden! Then I ran into Steve Sansweet and the gorgeous Adrianne Curry!

But the day wasn’t over yet – I headed to “The Robot Chicken Empire” panel, with Seth Green, Matt Senreich, Tim Root and Joey Fatone! As expected, the guys were hilarious and previewed a new trailer and some new footage from the upcoming Star Wars Robot Chicken III, due out this December. Unfortunately, there was very little info divulged about the new animated TV series, but Seth was able to introduce everyone to the new director, Todd Grimes. A great panel and a great way to end day two!

Day 1 picture gallery

Day 2 picture gallery

I apologize in advance for the unorganized and label-less picture slideshows. I’m scrambling to get as much info to all of you as possible, but rest assured, once I get back Monday, I’ll have those picture galleries labeled and looking nice. Tomorrow is the Main Event with George Lucas and John Stewart, so I gotta get some rest – it’s gonna be an early morning and a long day! Wish me luck!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@DRJedi) and my hash tag #popgoestheculture for updates and pictures as they happen!

UPDATE: See what happened on days 3 & 4!

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