I was nine when I saw Star Wars on opening day in 1977. Ever since then, I’ve been a major fan of the Lucas-created universe. So when I heard that Celebration, the big Star Wars fan convention, was going to be held this year in Orlando, I knew I had to be there.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the second film, The Empire Strikes Back, so of course, Celebration V was dedicated to everything ESB.
I was first excited at the opportunity to see Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), along with George Lucas, himself. The reality? After standing in line for over an hour to see Hamill, I was three people from the door when they declared the theater full. Fisher didn’t even do her scheduled panel, so I ended up staying in line to see the next guest Ray Park (who is a super nice and funny guy). And since people were lining up at 11pm the night before to see Lucas, I decided not to even try. Kudos to those diehard fans, but I won’t wait twelve hours in line for anyone.
Out of six actor panels I wanted to see, I only got into two. The lines were so big for each one, that with only a 30 min break between panels, it was just too hard to get out of one and go all the way to the end of the next line waiting to get in.
The first panel I saw was on Friday, August 13. It was a panel with the creators of the animated TV comedy show Robot Chicken, which has two DVDs full of Star Wars skits – Robot Chicken: Star Wars and Robot Chicken: Star Wars – Episode II.
I’m not only a fan of the show, but of co-creator Seth Green, whom I first knew as “Oz” the werewolf on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Imagine my surprise when Joey Fatone joined them onstage! I first met Joey when NSync was first starting out here in Orlando. Of course since then, he’s branched out into acting and TV hosting.
During the panel, the guys talked about what it was like to get that phone call from Lucas about their show spoofing the Star Wars universe, and just being mega-fans of Star Wars themselves. They also showed some hilarious clips of past and future spoofs, then took questions from the audience. It was a great panel with lots of humor and info.
The second panel I saw was the Ray Park panel on Sunday. Besides playing Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Park has appeared in films like Mortal Kombat, X2 – X-Men United and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, as well as the last season of Heroes.
Park showed off some of his martial arts moves, talked about training for various roles, including Darth Maul (accompanied by video clips) and discussed how he’s still such a fanboy, despite his impressive resume. It was a lively panel, even though it was a bit rushed.
The rest of the weekend, I just wandered the convention center. The exhibit hall was full of vendors with lots of great Star Wars merchandise to buy.
There were also life-sized replicas of everything from Jabba the Hut to an AT-AT and a Wampa. Lots of places for great photo-ops. There was even a commitment chapel, for fans to renew their vows. A Lucasfilm employee took advantage of the opportunity to make an honest droid out of R2-D2, and I was witness to a renewal ceremony with Darth Vader officiating.
Probably the best part of the event, though, was meeting all the fans who dressed up as characters. Yes, there were plenty of Vaders, Stormtroopers, Leias and Jedi, but there were also some really creative costumes, too. I saw bounty hunter Boba Fett in a 70s leisure suit, complete with gold chains. I saw a guy with a backpack, and inside the bag was a little pug puppy dressed as Obi-Wan.
It was truly glorious to see all these people showing their devotion to Star Wars.
There’s no real set schedule to these Celebration conventions, but the 30th anniversary for Return of the Jedi is only three years off. Most likely, that’s when the Powers that Be will decide to reunite the Star Wars universe once again…and I will be there, too.
[Photos by Michelle Snow – see more at my Flickr acct.]