“Why do people love ‘Star Wars’ so much? Its just a movie!” – overheard in the hotel lobby across the street from the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando this past weekend.
The thing is, Star Wars isn’t just a movie. It’s eight movies, going on nine. Well, ten if you include the extended “Clone Wars” pilot that was released in theaters. Actually, make that twelve with “The Ewok Adventure” and “The Battle for Endor” TV movies. Do we want to count the Holiday Special?
And it’s not just those, either. Star Wars has had innumerable tie-in comic books and novels published, both canon and non-canon, over the forty years of the franchise’s existence. There are dozens upon dozens of Star Wars video games, at least five animated television series, and more Star Wars toys and merchandise than even Steve Sansweet can keep track of.
And you know what? There’s more than that too. Like Luke Skywalker says in that new “The Last Jedi” trailer, “It’s so much bigger.” Star Wars is both a modern myth and an entire fictional alternate universe. It’s also a cultural touchstone, an amalgam of every genre of popular storytelling put together, and a guiding moral compass. But even more importantly than any of that, Star Wars is a community. And there’s no better place to be a part of that community than Star Wars Celebration.
The third day of this year’s Celebration was spent exploring several of those ancillary Star Wars offshoots mentioned above: the TV show “Star Wars Rebels,” the video game “Star Wars Battlefront II,” the new Star Wars expansions coming to Disney theme parks on both American coasts, and a subset of that larger fan community that makes a point to utilize its love of Star Wars to give back to the world around it.
At the “Rebels” panel and subsequent press conference, we learned that the series would not continue past the upcoming fourth season, a decision made by showrunner Dave Filoni for purely creative reasons. The cast appeared alongside Filoni for a discussion of the process of putting together “Rebels,” and the group presented the first trailer for season four.
WATCH “STAR WARS REBELS” SEASON FOUR TRAILER:
At the “Star Wars Battlefront II” panel, fans were promised a more story-based gaming experience, plus an array of characters and vehicles from across all eras of the Star Wars timeline. And, of course, developer Electronic Arts debuted a trailer for this highly-anticipated title as well.
WATCH “STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II” TRAILER:
The final big panel on Saturday was the Disney Parks presentation, which first touched on the history of Star Wars at Disneyland and Walt Disney World by inviting actor Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Walt Disney Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald to the stage to discuss the making of the now-classic simulator ride Star Tours. They also took the time to announce which planet from “The Last Jedi” would be added this fall in conjunction with the movie’s release.
WATCH STAR TOURS PANEL:
Then the creative team behind the forthcoming Star Wars Disney theme parks expansions came out at talked at length about what fans can expect from the new experiences, with emphases on immersion and interactivity with dazzling state-of-the-art technology on an entirely new (but at the same time very old) Star Wars planet.
WATCH STAR WARS LAND PANEL:
Along the way during the day out in the convention hall, some of the most daring attendees kept up the tradition of the Slave Leia cosplay gathering, marching between the two giant Jabba the Hutt replicas on the exhibit hall floor.
WATCH SLAVE LEIA GATHERING:
And finally, Saturday wrapped up with the 501st Legion Bash featuring special guest “Weird Al” Yankovic: a benefit highlighting the amazing work that the 501st organization does to help charities around the world via their passion for Imperial uniforms and Stormtrooper armor.
(See more photos from the party here.)
Having gotten my fill of information and humorous celebrity anecdotes from panels from over the first three days, Sunday (the fourth and final day of Star Wars Celebration) was spent exploring the exhibit hall floor and checking out some of the amazing cosplay on display courtesy of the many very skilled attendees.
WATCH COSPLAY HIGHLIGHTS:
WATCH SHOW FLOOR HIGHLIGHTS:
Now, to the person who asked why people love Star Wars so much, I submit Star Wars Celebration as Exhibit A.
The phenomenon is rewarding in and of itself, but the bottom line is that Star Wars means something to people. A lot of people. And those people are willing to spend a lot of their spare time and money to express that connection in the company of those who feel the same way.
Star Wars, like the Force, binds the galaxy of its own fans together. And I can’t wait to be there for the next time that happens again.
The next Star Wars Celebration will be held in the Spring of 2019.