Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Star Wars Celebration AAR

This is my Star Wars Celebration After Action Review. It was good, but I wanted it to be great. And it really could have been. I had to take some time to consider what I would say, because I know many people had an amazing time at Star Wars Celebration. If not for spending a lot of time in lines, mostly waiting for autographs, I might have had a better time. The core problem was space. Celebration really needed to be hosted in a place like the San Diego Convention Center. I can understand why Anaheim was chosen, being so close to Disney Land. It makes it easier to cross promote with Lucasfilm's parent company, Disney. But there was no cross promotion. I kind of expected to see dome Star Wars dressed Disney characters roaming about but it didn't happen. But that wasn't a big deal. Just a surprise. The big deal was the lines.

Firstly, the line management was questionable. Particularly for the first panels of the day. Instead of allowing people to sit attendees were lined up until it was almost time for the panels to start. This is after being in line, rammed into a vacant convention hall for hours. Basically, you stand in line just to stand in another line when there is a perfectly good seat to sit in, that you are not allowed to sit in yet, for no apparent reason. This is compounded by the fact that the Anaheim Convention Center is too small to host a convention of this size. I know, I said that already. Maybe lining up outside ballrooms for panes would not be so bad if there was more room to line up. As far as the autograph lines go, probably too many autograph tickets were sold, and there should have been a limit to the amount of tickets that were sold to individuals. Some people had 20 to 30+ items to be autographed. Not only does this make other people in line annoyed, but it does not make things easy in the guests doing the signings. Without dropping names, word was that one big name guest did not enjoy signing 20 something different posters for one person who was pulling around a portfolio case so large it required wheels. I'm not even going to get into the mess that was the lines for the Celebration Store.

One of the most surprising things about Celebration was the number of panels. I’m not sure if it was a lack of space or just a lack of foresight beyond the main stage. There was not much variety when it came to panel. There was to be expected panels about costuming, behind the scenes, technical aspects, and for fan organizations like the 501st Legion, but then it kind of dropped off from there. It seemed like nothing from the many books, comics, or even the prequel trilogies was represented. Of course the original films were represented. It’s hard to not recognize where everything started and the original cast members who are appearing in the new film. But no one from the Prequel Trilogy was present. Granted, some fans, especially among those who grew up before the prequels, have mixed feelings about the past three films. But there are huge names in those ranks of the prequel cast. Samuel L. Jackson, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Jimmy Smits… Not a single one was available? It seemed the con was organized to push only the new film, cartoon series, and new game.

On a personal note, I would have tried to have some sort of representation of the many fan films that exist. I'd also have tried to book the stars of the Star Wars nerd comedy Fanboys, which was about the love of the trilogy and the anticipation of the premier of The Phantom Menace. But that's just me.

Now that my complaining is out of the way,  let’s get to what they got right. The Celebration kicked off with the Director of The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams and Lucas Film CEO and Episode VII Executive Producer Kathleen Kennedy. The three new additions to the Star Wars Family were brought out, John Boyega as Finn, Daisy Ridley as Rey, and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron.

Not much information was given about their characters. All that was revealed was that Finn and Rey encounter each other on a planet that is not Tatooine. The desert planet in the first teaser is Jakku and Peo is a pilot who has been tasked with a secret mission. The original cast was also brought out. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer, Peter Mayhew, and Anthony Daniels were brought on stage to greet everyone.

Harrison Ford was not there and I think we can agree he had a more then reasonable excuse. There was also the reveal of the new look for the Stormtroopers.

Another big moment was the ball droid BB-88 who roll onto stage and revealed to be an actual working machine, not just a cgi trick.

The big moment at the end of the panel, that nearly broke the internet and got over 80 million views in twenty four hours, was the premier of the new teaser trailer.

People literally cried. You can watch the full panel here:

And on one of the best moves any convention has pulled, Celebration panels were also live streamed. Of course this is not the same as being there in person, but it gives people unable to experience the event in person the opportunity to experience the panels. Another smart move is having warm up acts between panels in the main arena to keep the crowd entertained. As cosplay is a huge part of conventions, all manner of Imperial and Rebel cosplayers were in attendance.



And Celebration did a very good job of stating its position on harassment. Huge “COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT” signs were in every hall and every floor.

In front of the convention center was not only a gathering area, but two rows of food trucks giving an easy alternative to what can be found in every convention center. And at night this area lends itself to things like this.

It was also the scene of the Fan Party.

Now for all the things that could have been, Star Wars celebration Anaheim was still a great experience. I was expecting more, but it is obvious a lot of people had the time of their lives. I certainly don't regret going. The next Celebration is set for London, England July 15-17, 2016. Tickets are on sale now.

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