Star Wars Celebration Olrando was my first Celebration. Ever since I heard about Celebration Anaheim in 2015, I couldn’t wait for the day I would get to attend a Celebration myself. I purchased tickets for Orlando the day they went on sale. Then came the hard part - waiting. The wait for Celebration this year seemed eternally long, but it finally ended and this is my rookie Star Wars Celebration Orlando report.
The Eve of Celebration
Like many other Celebration attendees, I travelled to Orlando on Wednesday. It was a good thing too. The party seemingly started before I got on the plane. It was obvious who was headed to Orlando for Disney World and who was headed there for Celebration. The Disney travelers had mouse ears. The Star Wars fans, at least some of them, wore Star Wars t-shirts and carried lightsabers.
Once I arrived in Orlando, the Star Wars presence continued to increase. The number of travelers wearing Star Wars gear steadily escalated the farther I got from my plane. Star Wars t-shirts, jackets, and accessories were everywhere.
Then I arrived at my hotel. Within an hour, I started meeting Star Wars fans I had only talked to online. It was great seeing people that I previously recognized only as a tiny Twitter images. The 501st was also staying at my hotel. Those guys were the life of the party. They congregated in groups around the lobby talking Star Wars at all hours. The environment was perfect.
Day One - Wristbands
I decided against sleeping over at the convention center. Although it would have been cool to get into the live stage for the 40th anniversary panel, I just couldn’t sleep on a concrete floor overnight. Therefore, I got up early and headed over a few hours before the exhibit hall opened. The wrist band system for the premiere panels of the day confused me at first. A wristband was required to attend one of the half-dozen or so premiere panels of the day. Celebration permitted attendees two wristbands per person per day. One obtained a wristband for their panel of choice by waiting in line. Once you obtained one wristband, you could line up for another.
I took one look at the lines for wristbands and made a strategy. I checked social media in the morning, and I knew the wristbands for the live stage for the 40th anniversary panel were already gone. The lines for the overflow rooms were lengthy. Therefore, I went for a wristband for another panel first. I selected Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo’s panel on Animated Origins and Unexpected Fates. Then I lined up for the 40th Anniversary panel. The result was that I got into the Animated Origins panel and an overflow room for the 40th Anniversary.
The 40th Anniversary & Animated Origins Panel
My preference for the 40th Anniversary panel was the live room. However, the Behind the Scenes Stage was incredibly fun. Even though the Star Wars celebrities were in another room, that didn’t stop the excitement. Watching that panel online in my office would have been fun. Watching that panel with a couple thousand other people...well, that was something else entirely. The atmosphere was electric. Three was a minor glitch with the feed in our room at the beginning. The staff soon corrected it. The audience gasped and cheered when Kathleen Kennedy introduced George Lucas. If you saw the panel, then you know the rest. It was historic. If you haven’t seen it, check it out online as soon as possible. In short, attendance at the live stage is not required to enjoy the marquee panels.
There was no option for the Animated Origins panel. Either you saw it in person, or you didn’t see it at Celebration. For those that enjoy Star Wars animation, it was well worth it. Filoni and Hidalgo reminisced on the origins and fates of many characters including Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex, and Cade Bane. The highlight of the panel was a previously unreleased and unfinished animatic of a duel between a young Boba Fett and Cade Bane. I won’t spoil the scene. I recommend you find it on the day one live stream on YouTube if it is available.
Day Two – Autographs
Before Celebration, I pre-ordered several autographs from Topps Authentics. There was no shortage of celebrities to choose from. I settled on the cast of Rebels. I already met Steve Blum (Zeb) last year in Dallas. Therefore, I ordered autograph tickets for Tiya Sircar (Sabine), Vanessa Marshall (Hera), Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Kanan), and Taylor Gray (Ezra). I suspected that the autograph process was likely time consuming. So, I made the tough decision to skip The Last Jedi panel. My thought was I could watch the panel online on my phone while waiting for autographs.
My plan failed. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi on the floor was unreliable. In addition, cell coverage was mediocre at best. This was disappointing. I heard numerous stories from Celebration Anaheim where attendees watched The Force Awakens panel on their phone. It just didn’t work in Orlando. Despite that, I entertained myself by chatting with others waiting for autographs. The advantage of Celebration is that everyone is a Star Wars fan. You always have that in common with those around you.
My pre-order tickets for Friday included Tiya, Vanessa, and Freddie. I started in line just before 11 a.m. for Tiya, and finished with Freddie just before 3 p.m. I had assumed the autograph lines at that time would be shorter with many people attending The Last Jedi panel. That assumption was just wrong. However, with the comradery of my fellow fans, the wait didn’t seem that lengthy. The bigger issue was the line. There just wasn’t enough room. Lines began to overlap and it was confusing.
Despite the line issues, the autograph experience was enjoyable. Tiya Sircar and Taylor Gray were my favorite autograph experiences. Both were extremely personable. They took the time to chat with the fans and truly made the experience worth it.
Day Three – Rebels
I devoted the first half of day three to Rebels. I spent the previous night attending Star Wars Galactic Nights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After dropping off friends at their hotels, I didn’t get back to my room and settled in until after 1 a.m. I still wanted to get into the live stage for the presentation of the Rebels panel, so I got up at 5 a.m. and finished a podcast episode. Then I cleaned up and headed to the convention center. Unfortunately, I missed getting a wristband for the live stage by mere minutes.
However, not all was lost. After waiting to get into the overflow room, I learned my media credentials would get me into the room for the live panel. I was glad I made it. Dave Filoni and the cast of Rebels provided an excellent presentation. Of course, the big news was that season four of Rebels will be the last. That was hard to take, but we had the chance to see a trailer for the upcoming season as well as the first episode. I won’t say more about it, but it was good.
The rest of my day was spent on the exhibition floor. I did some shopping. I toured the Rancho Obi-Wan exhibit. I ran into friends from social media and made some new ones. Plus, I took in all the cosplay that was around me. There are some seriously creative cosplayers in Star Wars fandom.
Day Four – Winding Down
By day four of Celebration, I was exhausted. It was a good kind of tired though. I only had one thing on my agenda, and that was to get my final autograph, which was Taylor Gray. After that, I spent my remaining time at Celebration exploring the merchant booths and the art show, hanging out at the Star Wars Live! stage, and catching up with friends before we all headed our separate ways. Sunday was relaxing in that way. I elected against attending any panels. There was no pressure to get anything done.
I heard a lot of advice before attending Celebration. Many people suggested bringing snacks. Although simple, it is excellent advice. It is very easy to get caught up in “the next thing” at Celebration. There is a lot to do, and I found myself constantly putting off meals to make it to the next panel, the next autograph line, or a meet up with friends. Having a snack in my backpack helped curb hunger until I could finally sit down and eat.
Another lesson is that you can’t do it all. This is also often repeated by Celebration veterans. With that in mind, I revised my Celebration schedule several times prior to getting to Orlando. By the time I got there, I had a third of the activities on my itinerary that I started with. Even then, I still couldn’t do it all. You must consider the lines, the crowds, and the unexpected. A positive and flexible attitude is a must.
Finally, sleep is a valuable commodity. With after convention meet ups and parties, bedtime keeps falling back on the schedule. Resisting the allure of late activities is difficult. Therefore, skipping some of the earliest panels isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Those are usually available online later.
Merchandise and “Swag”
I’m not the biggest collector out there. I have limited space for my collection, so I exercise restraint when shopping at conventions. That is hard to accomplish at Celebration. Convention exclusives are everywhere. The line for the Celebration store scared me away. However, I still managed to acquire a few choice pieces.
First, I pre-ordered Jerry Vanderstelt’s print Arrival. It is gorgeous. This print features Darth Vader’s arrival at Cloud City. Jerry was incredibly gracious when I met him to pick up my print. I resisted purchasing any additional art. Again, space is at a premium, and I didn’t want to stress out my wallet.
I made several purchases from the Disney store on the Celebration floor. Disney recently debuted new additions to the Droid factory series. I acquired many of these droids. They are small, fun, and they don’t take up much space.
Swag is the key to many of the best conventions. Celebration had plenty. Lucasfilm offered a free Princess Leia print after the 40th anniversary panel. Since I didn’t attend The Last Jedi panel, I missed out on the movie poster giveaway. However, I obtained a copy of the Del Rey sampler and countless pins, patches, and cards from podcasts and websites.
Celebration wasn’t without its difficulties. News of long lines just to get into the convention on Thursday morning made the news. Indeed, it took some attendees three hours or more to get into the convention center. That issue improved over the weekend with additional entrances opened and added security. The autograph and photo op area of the convention center was challenged by overlapping lines and poor visibility. That situation improved drastically by Sunday as well. The organizers apparently learned quite a bit over the weekend.
Despite the challenges, Celebration was an incredible experience. The fan community was amazing. I didn’t even discuss the podcast stage shows I watched or the after convention meet-ups I attended. The props on the floor and the exhibits were impressive, and the panels delighted fans. It was a busy and exhausting four days. Fans know the next Celebration is not until 2019. However, we don’t know where. Here is hoping it isn’t a long trip, because I can’t wait to go back.
By Scott Murray
I don't need to tell you that movies can generate emotional responses. Films that make you laugh and cry are nice, but the ones that generate an epic geek-out can be even better. With geek movies now hitting theaters every year, we get plenty of geek-out opportunities, but not all of them will last. In other words, you may geek-out the first time you see it, but after that, as B.B. King would say - the thrill is gone.
That's why I wanted to highlight three of my classic geek-out moments that continue to generate a geek-out response every time I see them. They just never get old.
"General...would you like to step outside?"
I was 7 years old when Superman II hit theaters, but that was old enough to be really mad at General Zod for causing havoc all over the country. It was really tough to sit there and watch all of that happen while powerless Clark Kent could only stand by and watch. That is what made his re-emergence at the Daily Planet so epic.
Once Superman asked Zod to step outside, I had a geek-out moment that internally said, "YEAH! Party's over, bitch." Okay, maybe not those exact words at age 7, but you get the idea. This scene still generates a response today.
"Here it comes."
I've said it for years - I'm a Kirk guy. I love his swagger, cockiness, and confidence - especially when it comes to sticking it to the bad guy. There was arguably no better time to witness that then in Star Trek II when Khan thought he had beaten the Enterprise crew. Unfortunately for him, Kirk doesn't believe in a no-win situation.
I remember seeing this movie in theaters. As Kirk, Spock and Saavik pull up the prefix code, the fantastic music of James Horner began to swell. An over-confident Khan thought he was going to get a transmission of Genesis information, but when Kirk says, "Here it comes"...it drops Reliant's shields and allows the Enterprise to counter attack.
When this happened, the crowd in the theater burst into applause. I still feel like doing that every time I watch this scene.
"Jabba...this is your last chance. "
Speaking of over-confidence...Jabba the Hutt exuded plenty of that, especially when he had Luke, Han and Chewie standing over the Sarlacc Pit. Luke was my hero growing up, and nobody wanted to see him master The Force more than me. Watching him enter Jabba's Palace and making quick work of two Gamorrean Guards was a pretty good indicator.
Yet, watching him stand on that plank as Jabba scoffed at his threats to free them or die...I have to admit I was a little panicked. There seemed to be no way out. Then suddenly...
and whoa, GREEN LIGHTSABER!
Then opening a can of Jedi Whoopass on Jabba's cronies!
It was just so awesome. It remains my favorite Star Wars moment. The best part about seeing this scene today is that I not only geek-out a bit, but I still feel some of that child-like emotion from the first viewing (though I like experiencing it better without the EXTRA Sarlacc mouth in it).
I guess you could say there's a common thread here. All of these scenes involve the good guys turning the table on the bad guys. So, yeah, I guess I'm all about the heroes. Don't get me wrong - I think Zod, Khan and Jabba are cool too. They're just not supposed to win.
Back in September, when we were all buying up new Star Wars stuff, I said on the podcast that I hoped we were all going to like the new movie. After all, it would kind of suck to spend money on things attached to a movie we didn't like.
Well, now we've seen The Force Awakens (many of us have seen it more than once), and the reactions have been mostly positive. What does that mean? It means we're all waiting for the next stuff to come out!
For me, I'm ready to add some Rey figures that include the lightsaber, and I want a Maz Kanata figure asap. However, I am all about the geek tees, and I love some of the Funko Pop shirts I've seen (and acquired) in recent weeks.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I realized new The Force Awakens Funko Pop tees are going to be coming out this month!
You've probably seen Funko Pop tees appear in stores like Hot Topic, and I've already spotted a few that are tied to the original trilogy. As with other merchandise waves to come, I hope we'll see Rey and Finn shirts as well. I think a Rey on her speeder and Finn in his stormtrooper armor would look quite cool.
I love the Marvel themed Funko Tees I've received from the Collector Corps boxes, so a couple of Star wars shirts would be welcome additions. That's it! I don't have any Star Wars FUNKO shirts. That's a perfectly legit reason to add them to my t-shirt stock.
Scott Murray is the creator the Assembly of Geeks, Comic Book Noob, The Peggy Carter Podcast and The Gamer's Dominion podcasts. He is a writer, host and producer whose passion for geek merchandise and gear earned him the name "Merchman"!
by Jeremiah Stewart
Well, 2015 is coming to a close, and it has been quite a year for us geeks with huge blockbusters such as Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and a little Star Wars film. It was a year that also brought us Kingsman, Ant Man, Fantastic Four, Terminator: Genisys and more.
We had several of the DC animated films such as Throne of Atlantis, Batman vs Robin, and Bruce Timm’s return to animation with Gods and Monsters. On TV we’ve had Arrow, Flash, Gotham, Supergirl, Agents of Shield, Star Wars Rebels, and all of the Marvel shows Disney has running on Disney XD.
While there was a lot to be excited about, these are my top 10 geek outs of 2015.
10) The new costume and team look in Arrow
While Arrow was fine last season, it's been a breath of fresh air this season to watch this new-look/new attitude hero team take shape. Dameon Darke is possibly the best villain the show has ever had, and it's been fun watching Thea, Laurel, Diggle, Felicity and Ollie (of course) fight against him. Finally, seeing more green in Arrow as he became the Green Arrow led to one big geek out.
9) Court of Owls in Gotham
Some hated and some loved the first season of Gotham. I loved it. So far Season 2 has been focused on a very strong group of villains. The biggest surprise turned out to be that this was The Court of Owls. They are perhaps the most famous or strongest element added to the Batman mythos in the New 52, and their inclusion in Gotham led to a lot of brutal moments. It showed just really how far Gotham has fallen.
We know it will fall even further before the caped crusader dons his cape and cowl.
8) Trickster in Flash
What a year for Mark Hamill! Yes, we knew we'd see him in The Force Awakens, but he also made appearances in The Kingsman (he was in the comic too), a Batman game and The Flash. The Trickster was a role he owned in the 90s when John Wesley Shipp played the Flash. On the CW, Mark returned as his character with a new look and new attitude that still paid homage to the original version. It’s just really good seeing Mark on the screens again and most importantly...having a blast.
7) Darth Vader the flying Ace in Star Wars Rebels
Throughout the prequels and the original trilogy, we’re told that Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) is a great pilot. We get to see some of that in A New Hope via the trench run, and a little bit in the prequels. However, the biggest and best moment for him to shine was in the “movie of the week” kick-off of Star Wars Rebels Season 2. There we got to see Darth Vader flying his signature ship against an entire Rebel fleet.
Oh and did I say he was doing this alone and basically won single-handedly? If that is not geek out awesome, what is?
6) Batman busting in and tearing up the place at the end of Batman vs. Robin
There is something about seeing Batman in action that is just awesome. The animated DC film Batman vs Robin continues to show us the tumultuous relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son Damien. At the same time, it also gives us a villain voiced by Weird Al and the Court of Owls (twice in one year). Yet the biggest geek out moment came in the final act when Damien is on the rocks (due to choices) and Batman bursts in wearing an armored suit and just trashes the place.
5) Bruce Timm returning to DC
Bruce Timm made DC animation what it is, giving us Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and even Freakazoid! The DC Animated Universe has changed over the years, especially with the New 52 . That's where we got a new look and a new team of creators behind the films.
Last year, Warner Bros announced that Bruce Timm would return to the directors chair. Would he be directing a show we know and love? In a way, yes, but an all new story titled Gods and Monsters. We'll also get a web series to go with it. So, a TV show and a movie from one of the biggest and best animation directors ever? What's not to love? The movie ended up being DC’s best of the year!
4) Han Solo returning to Star Wars
Now before someone destroys me, threatens to take my geek card for making this number 4, let me explain why it's not number 1. First of all...he isn’t my favorite Star Wars character. My favorite is Luke Skywalker, and he’s not the star of Episode VII. Second, while The Force Awakens is my favorite film with Harrison Ford as Han Solo, it didn't mean that I screamed and clapped in delight after seeing him. Regardless of that, seeing him return to the franchise felt like watching him return “home” and it was really a welcome sight. Even better - he actually looked like he was having fun and enjoying himself for the first time in years.
3) Vision Appearing in Age of Ultron
I am not a Marvel fan, and I am not really knowledgeable in the Avengers. However, even I was excited in the trailers for Age of Ultron when we finally saw Vision open his eyes. Sure enough, the character seen in the film as played by Paul Bettany did not disappoint. Whether it was in his humorous moments or action scenes, Vision was awesome to see on the big screen.
2) Returning to Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park is my favorite film of all time, and this year, the franchise returned to some form with Jurassic World. Not everyone liked the film, but people like me experienced a real emotional response within the opening minutes. We watched a child (who could be any of us) enter the park and explore it all in great detail. The vision of Mr. John Hammond came true in all its glory. It was quite an emotional experience.
1) Martian Manhunter on Supergirl
This is an unexpected number one. Supergirl is not the best superhero show on television, but it is good enough for me to continue watching. Nonetheless, this show did have the biggest geek out moment of the year for me and it involved a character I never would have thought we’d see in a live action setting.
Martian Manhunter, the character many of us LOVED from Bruce Timm’s Justice League series, appeared as a regular in the show as a human. Then came the moment they showed us his true form. This wasn't film, this was TV! How could one not geek out? Who’d have thought we’d not only get him and see him done RIGHT?
Assembly of Geeks has said that sometimes we have those uncontrollable geek outs, and this fan got a big one when the Martian Manhunter, aka J’onn J’onzz, revealed himself!
Jeremiah Stewart is a podcaster and runs the Bombad Radio Podcast where he interviews authors, voice actors, as well as writes and directs Star Wars radio dramas.
By Scott Murray
I remember the excitement leading up to seeing a new Star Wars film in 1999. I remember going into a theater full of rowdy Star Wars Fans that were anxiously awaiting the 20th Century Fox fanfare to play and the glowing Lucasfilm logo to appear.
Before all of that happened, I remember taking a moment to clear my head of expectations, memories of the original trilogy and just be excited to see a new Star Wars movie. After all, I knew I wasn't going to see Han, Luke, Leia, Vader, the Millennium Falcon, X-Wings, Tie-Fighters and ther familiar things.
This was not only a new Star Wars movie, but the first in 16 years. I had to be ready for things to be different. Unfortunately, I don't think everyone in Star Wars Fandom was ready for that.
The result was the beginning of the Star Wars fan rage fad that we have today. Looking back on it all 15 years later, I have come to some conclusions of why it went so right for me, why it went so wrong for others and where things stand today.
Unreasonable and unfair expectations
I am quite certain some fans set themselves up for disappointment by simply not realizing what they were going to see the first time they watched Episode I. Most of us were kids when we went to see IV, V, VI in 1977, 1980 and 1983. It never occurred to some fans that watching a film made in 1999 in your 30s, 40s or older might not feel like the exact same experience.
Think about it. What were our expectations (as children) for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi? The biggest expectation was probably that it would be super cool. A lot of times, that's all you want as a kid (along with good popcorn, candy and soda).
If you realized that after seeing the movie, you probably didn't like it. Though the trailers should've been a signal that this was a very different kind of Star Wars movie.
The Phantom Menace was not only our first return to the theater to see a new Star Wars movie, but it was also Lucasfilm's first attempt at producing one in some time. When you leave that story and come back to it again after that long... it's going to be different. For one thing, it's different today how we shoot, produce, edit movies and tell stories. There was very little chance this was going to feel like the 70s and 80s.
I also think there was an element of storytelling that was overlooked when it came to the angry knee-jerk reactions to the film. This was the first episode. It wasn't the fourth, fifth or sixth. . . it was the FIRST.
So, the story wasn't in a place where everything was instantly about a galactic war, big dogfights in space and a galaxy ravaged by tyranny. It was a calmer, more tranquil time in the galaxy (hence the brighter colors and settings) and something had to trigger the events to come. In this case, THAT was The Phantom Menace.
So, there's another reason why some might have not been ready for this movie. We were used to being dropped into the middle of the big action and now we had to start from the beginning. It was a new experience.
I think I read a quote from George Lucas one time where he pointed out that fans wanted Episode I to be Episode III, and that just wasn't possible. He's right. It wasn't.
Complaining has turned into raging fad
Now there's nothing wrong with not liking a movie. Heck, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing with people who liked it. However, as with anything, there are extremes and that's where dislike for a movie gets out of hand.
The more amusing complaints come from fans who think just because they saw the original trilogy hundreds of times, that it made them experts on how the prequel stories should have been told. Sorry, it's still not your story. It's George's. And by the way, it's not just for us (and fans in our age group).
I am more than happy to discuss the weaker aspects of The Phantom Menace. I can understand and even agree with some of those points. What I don't understand is the fan that says The Phantom Menace completely ruined Star Wars or fans that continue to rage about it 15 years later. In an age of internet trolls and forum flaming, Star Wars rage has become a fad.
Ever since The Phantom Menace, some people go out of there way to complain about every single thing Star Wars does. It has carried on from the prequels, all the way to rage about how Star Wars: Rebels is proof that the franchise has been Disney-fied and destroyed.
I honestly feel sorry for those fans. I'm not saying you have to love everything that's done with the franchise or that it's a fan's obligation to even support everything it produces.
Just remember - it all could be dead. It could've ended in 1983. If it did, all we would have is a set of epic movies that we could only talk about. We would also have future generations that had no chance to experience Star Wars the way we did.
However, Star Wars is bringing us more events, collectibles, toys, movies, TV shows, comics, video games, books and much more. It saddens me that some fans have allowed their fan rage to get so out of control that they can't find anything to genuinely like anymore (or perhaps not secretly enjoy).
Yoda might not have been talking about angry fans, but that whole, "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering" thing is speakin' some truth.
Defending the movie
I'm glad I was able to enjoy The Phantom Menace. Granted, I don't rank it ahead of Episodes IV-VI, but it is a part of Star Wars that I like.. I remembered debating all kinds of things with people after seeing the movie for the first time. I remember even calling in a movie critic radio show and defending the film
Despite understanding some of the complaints about Jar Jar, I've defended him as well. Just like other characters and story elements in the Star Wars Saga, his character has roots in mythology (The Fool) and I believe his part is key to the larger theme. - even a clumsy, silly alien has a role and a purpose in the galaxy.
These days, I have found others that enjoyed the movie, as well as people that grew to like it over time. I find love for The Phantom Menace in all walks of the fandom.
It's good to know that the tired complaining, 15 year-old jokes and constant fanraging fads have not slowed down the chance to enjoy the movies and get more Star Wars.
This is a re-post of a blog written in May of 2014. Check out our recent discussion about the state of Star Wars fandom HERE.
Geek topics from AoG hosts and contributors.