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Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2015 Recap

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If you’ve never been to Star Wars Celebration before, let me be the first to tell you that you absolutely must go at least once in your life. For Star Wars fans, it’s like a giant family reunion no matter how you look at it! By the end of preview night, it already felt like that for me.

Some people had been waiting in line since noon on Wednesday for the Thursday morning panel with JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy. Once we were let inside Hall E for overnight queuing, it was 16+ hours of mingling, attempting to sleep, and trying to contain our excitement at what the panel might bring.

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During the night, Abrams and Kennedy had heard how many people were already waiting and decided to make us homemade pizza with their own two hands. Okay, not really, but they did buy everyone in the hall pizza, which was most welcome by the fourth hour of sitting on that cold, hard floor. Even voice actor James Arnold Taylor came to say hi at one point!

Thursday morning came by rather quickly and by the time it was over at 11am everyone forgot about their exhaustion and was riding the high of seeing Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, new stormtroopers, and some very special droids (R2 and BB-8) all on the same stage at the same time. The past and the future had come together.

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Immediately after the panel, I hightailed it down to the exhibit hall to meet with author Christie Golden. I could have talked with her forever about her upcoming novel Dark Disciple and Star Wars in general, but I managed to keep it down to just a few questions for the interview you can read here.

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A couple hours later was one of the most anticipated panels of the weekend: The Untold Clone Wars with Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo. We got a look at the stories that could have been (and still might be, just in different formats), including another bounty hunter arc with more exploration of the relationship between Cad Bane and Boba Fett, a possible excursion to Tatooine to see more the Tusken Raiders (a concept art of a Tusken shaman was shown), a chase sequence involving Asajj Ventress, Quinlan Vos, and a hapless target (complete with Vos making the mistake of condescending to Ventress and getting punched out for it), and even another Ahsoka arc after the events of “The Wrong Jedi”!

On a personal note, that panel alone was one of the highlights of my weekend because of what happened during the discussion of the Ventress/Vos arc. Filoni mentioned how Katie Lucas was really determined to give Asajj a punk hairstyle when he noticed me in front of the stage and said how my hair reminded him of the style they gave the character. I said, “yeah, that’s because I’m cosplaying her tomorrow”. Fans in the back apparently wanted to see it, so Filoni called me up to the stage where I go to show off my Asajj ‘do in front of the camera! Not only that, but a little while later Filoni gave me a poster for the upcoming novel Dark Disciple a day before they were available at the Del Rey booth downstairs (“give it to Ventress” he said to Pablo while pointing at me, then taking it and handing it to me himself). It was such a surreal experience that I was on a cloud all weekend. I kept getting recognized by other congoers, too! “Weren’t you that girl Filoni called up on stage?” and even got pseudo-mentioned on StarWars.com! I was convention famous for three whole seconds!

that's me!

Friday morning for me started off rather unconventionally: with a wedding. I met a lovely couple the day before who had gotten engaged on the train ride to the convention and were going to be married by Steve Sansweet at the Rancho Obi-Wan booth Friday morning. Johnathan, the groom, had proposed to Melissa with a ring in a holocron box after dinner on the train from Chicago; “[the attendant] came and brought it instead of dessert; I was told “oh, there’s no dessert’. I was really disappointed because I thought we were getting a lot of cake.”

The ceremony was absolutely beautiful, complete with stormtroopers standing guard over the couple, cosplayers in the audience (I could see a Boba Fett, a Padme, and me as Asajj), and the most adorable little Padme as the ringbearer. They do plan on having a reception back home where they have a go-kart track at their house. Many blessings to the happy couple!

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Friday was another big day for Clone Wars fans, who were treated to the entire “Bad Batch” arc in animatic form. Even though the animation may not have been finished, that was a tiny detail that was easily overlooked once the story got going for a few minutes. Hopefully those episodes will be released on StarWars.com sometime in the next few weeks. They really are something to not to be missed! Dave Filoni was even honored by “Captain Rex” after the showing!

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Saturday started off with yet another big bang: a first look at season two of Star Wars Rebels. The entire cast was there to talk about their time on the show, their own family dynamic, and their individual Star Wars stories. All the laughter and good times culminated in an extended trailer for the next season of the show, featuring both new and returning characters (Ahsoka, Hondo, and the clones Rex, Wolffe, and Gregor), but especially the more prominent presence of Darth Vader, voiced once again by James Earl Jones. Theories abounded even before the trailer ended (the first time) about who the new Inquisitor could be, how the clones escaped Order 66, and if Ahsoka and Vader will face off at some point. We also learned that, according to Freddie Prinze, Jr., Dave Filoni is secretly a Sith Lord. Although he must not be a very good one since he’s so easily brought down by tiny adorable kids (two in the audience asked questions he wouldn’t tell us but he did tell them. Lucky kids!

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That afternoon I had the opportunity to try out the new Force Trainer II toy at the Uncle Milton booth in the exhibit hall. “You use the power of your mind […] to go fro Padawan to Jedi Knight to Jedi Master,” says Hillary Fine. “You can build a lightsaber, lift Luke’s X-wing out of the Dagobah swamp, battle Vader, and all these things with the power of our mind.” Using beta brain waves, the headset transmits them through Bluetooth to an iPad or compatible tablet to make the holographic images move. “A two-and-a-half-year old boy […] was able to lift the X-wing right out of the water.” Through further play and training, even those who have trouble moving past the Padawan stage can advance to higher levels. To make it even better, as more content is revealed with the books and the movies and TV show, more content will be made available for download. The Force Trainer II doesn’t come out until later this year, but it certainly promises to be a lot of fun for every Star Wars fan. (I think I might secretly be a Jedi Master because I shot through the first two challenges no problem. Where’s my lightsaber?!)

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By the time I made it back to the convention center after grabbing some much needed food, the line for the season premiere of Rebels had already been full for over an hour. While that means I’ll have to wait until September like everyone else to see the episodes, it did give me the opportunity to eat attend the Del Rey panel discussing the book side of Star Wars.

Discussions about the new books (A New Dawn, Tarkin, Heir to the Jedi) and upcoming ones (Dark Disciple, Battlefront: Twilight Company, The Force Awakens) provided insightful context for the behind-the-scenes workings of the publishing aspect, including how to maintain secrecy between projects and keeping the timeline in order.

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Of course, questions and concerns about the “new canon” are still coming, but editor-at-large Shelley Shapiro said she hopes that fans will take a chance on this new direction and simply enjoy the ride. The biggest surprise, however, was the announcement of the return of Alan Dean Foster, who wrote the original novelization of A New Hope as well as Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Foster will be penning the novelization for The Force Awakens. The novel will be released as an e-book the same day as the movie, then in hardcover sometime in January.

And of course, what convention is complete with some incredible cosplays?

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Unfortunately, I had to leave early Sunday morning so I missed a few more panels I was dying to see, but overall the entire weekend was nothing but a blur or excitement and a feeling of magic one can only get in the company of thousands of other Star Wars fans. It truly was one giant family reunion that I hope I can attend many more times in the years to come.

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Someone bury me with this picture when my tie comes, please.

About Michelle Lawhorn

Hailing from some kind of void beyond the stars, Stormraven indulges in costuming, writing, and flailing excessively over her favorite geeky things; Star Wars is at the top of the list and will remain there for quite some time.

  • What an amazing adventure for you! I am so happy an jealous!!