I was eight years old the first time that I saw Star Wars and I can honestly say that it changed my life. It created in me a love of adventure films, but more importantly it shaped my love of movies that do more that entertain, they teach. In an interview, years ago, Lucas said,
"Star Wars has always struck a cord with people. There are issues of loyalty, of friendship of good and evil...I mean, there'a a reason this film is so popular. It's not that I'm giving out propaganda nobody wants to hear." He goes on to say, "I'm the son of a small-town business man. He was conservative, and I'm very conservative, always have been...Knowing that the film was made for a young audience, I was trying to say, in a simple way, that there is a God, and that there is both a good side and a bad side. You have a choice between them, but the world works better if you're on the good side." .
It has been forty years this year and what better way for fans to celebrate this effervescent franchise than to gather together in Orlando, Florida at Star Wars Celebration. For my this is my very first Celebration and so in these next few days I will be chronicling for you my experience.
I actually arrived on Wednesday after a long trip across the country from Portland, Oregon. The best part about coming to Celebration for me though was not just all the panels and incredible merchandise, it's the coming together of friends that I have made through Star Wars. It was great to meet up with my good friend Bruce Gibson for dinner and then ran into more friends later on for a late night snack.
Now one of the things about Celebration is the wristband system which you cue up for and these wristbands guarantee you a seat in panels. Now with the ravenous nature of Star Wars fans and the recent injection of new life with The Force Awakens, Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels, this is not your daddy's Celebration (or so I have been told by my friends who are all veterans). The lines have been intensely long this year. People camped out for the first panel of the convention, the 40th Anniversary panel and it was so crowded that even those there all night were not guaranteed a spot in the main hall.
So my first catch of the day was the 40th Anniversary panel in one of the overflow rooms. What a panel! Everything that fans had been speculating might happen, in this panel came true. The Maker himself, George Lucas was there. He talked about the origins of the Saga, even referencing much of the same sentiments in the quote above, talking about the why of making this series. Star Wars is for kids you see, it's there to help shepherd the next generation, to help instill in them the morals and values we hold dear through story and mythology. It's a beautiful thing to think that his driving motivation was to pick up the slack of the 70s generation who he saw as rudderless. Interestingly the need for this kind of work has become all the more paramount and I think, is the key reason that Star Wars is as vibrant now, 40 years later, as it has ever been.
Lucas was then joined by Dave Filoni who George had hired as the supervising director of The Clone Wars all the way back in 2005. George poured into Dave, a kindred spirit in the Force, all he knew about film making, story telling and of course Star Wars, which has lead to Dave now being over the Lucasfilm animation department, It was great to see these two, master and the apprentice back together again.
They then brought out Hayden Christensen and Ian McDiarmid who reminisced about their characters and time working with George. Then the originals came out, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams and Peter Mayhew all came out together to talk about their characters and working with George. You'd think that would be the end of the surprises but you'd be wrong. Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford made the place erupt into thunderous applause. It was magical to see all of them together again, yet the set was incomplete as we've just recently lost Carrie Fisher.
This lead to a moving tribute to the lost princess. Both Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas both spoke eloquently and poignantly about their time with Carrie, her vitality and her legacy. They played a moving video that left every room in tears. And just when you though it could not get any sweeter, John Williams conducts the Orlando Symphony Orchestra in "Leia's Theme", the "Star Wars Medley" and the "Imperial March". It was the perfect panel to celebrate 40 years of the saga, Lucas and the people who helped us all fall in love with it, so many years ago.
The next panel of the day for me was the Animated Origins and Unexpected Fates with Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo. I adore these panels they do as they dive into The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels to explore the stories, characters and things that might have been lost along the way. They discussed Maul, bringing him back, which Dave was quick to point out would have never happened if it had not been an idea straight from George himself. Dave mentioned that something this big had to come from Lucas for it to happen. They talked about his final end with Kenobi in season 3 of Rebels. It was nice to hear from Dave the specific reasons behind the creative choices there and just how much thought and care went into it.
The next group they talked about were the clones that have come back in Rebels, Rex, Gregor and Wolffe. It was very welcome news to learn that Gregor and Wolffe have not been forgotten look to be coming back in season 4 of Rebels.
Dave really wiped the crowd into a frenzy as he had Pablo display his new t-shirt which read, "Ahsoka Lives?". He says Ashley Eckstein has "Her Universe" and he has "His Universe". It was heavily implied that Ahsoka's fate could be revealed in season 4! Hopefully the Rebels panel on Saturday helps answer that!
The last thing that we got was a wonderful clip from an unfinished Clone Wars story about Cad Bane and Boba Fett. We were treated to a clip from one of the story reels where the two have a standoff and the answer as to how Boba's helmet got it's famous blast mark was finally revealed.
My last panel of the day was the Music of Rogue One with David Collins. Great panel. David broke down the story telling elements in the new music by Giacchino, the ways it builds on William's legacy and the beauty of where he inserts his own "voice" into the Star Wars saga.
It was a good first day and as tired as I am, I'll be going to get in line soon for The Last Jedi panel tomorrow. Hope to have lots to report and till then, may the force be with you.