And now for something completely different… Sort of. Disney owns Star Wars so I suppose this counts. This post is about Star Wars Celebration.
If you’ve read any more than one of my posts you might have figured out that I really love Star Wars. So much, that we went to the mecca of Star Wars in Orlando in April of this year. Held at the Orange County Convention Center (this year, some years its in California, some in Europe), Star Wars Celebration is a 4-day convention of, you guessed it, Star Wars.
Lets talk about what you can do at Star Wars Celebration. There are so many options… Walk the floor, go shopping, go to panels and events, visit the tattoo area, visit artists alley, get celebrity autographs and pictures…
There was so much going on that this would be an incredibly long blog post if I were to talk about everything. One day we were on out feet for roughly 16 hours straight. I’m going to touch on a few things that were particularly fun and have particularly interesting pictures to share. Essentially, let this be a guide for if you’re ever at a Con and come across any of these things.
These guys and gals are so cool. They build screen accurate, and not-so-screen accurate working R2-D2s and Mouse Droids. They were all on display in their own room so you could see everyones creations. They also host races, panels on droid building and droid building history, and are all around awesome. While we didn’t make it to any of the panels this time around, we strolled through the Droid Builders Room with over 100 droids on display. Really makes you want to try your hand at it (you know, if you didn’t live in a 2 bedroom apartment and had more room).
The 501st Legion is an all-volunteer costuming organization that performs costumed charity and volunteer work. The costumes are ridiculous. At Celebration they had an area with some displays of costumes, helmets, photo-opportunity areas, and where a lot of the 501st hung out in costume. It was so fun to see everyone in their costumes and to see the hard work everyone put in!
We went to a bunch of panels. Some better than others, but none of them disappointed. While we couldn’t get into the larger panels, like the 40th Anniversary Panel (hosted by Warwick Davis, featuring Kathleen Kennedy), or The Last Jedi Panel (which had surprise guest Harrison Ford), we still went to as many as we could. Well… We may have been able to get into those panels, but you had to wait overnight, sleeping on the conference center floor. Warwick Davis (the guy who played Wicket the Ewok) was a fantastic and funny host. The panels that particularly shined were Anthony Daniels: 40 Years with Theepio, where Warwick Davis and Anthony Daniels displayed a special type of chemistry.
The Music of Rogue One: Analysis with David Collins was one of the absolute coolest panels I have ever been to, David Collins completely broke down the score of Rogue One, talked about the themes of the score, its ties to John Williams original score – I learned so much.
Finally, the Heroines of Star Wars Panel, which featured Carrie Beck, Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka), and Tiya Sircar (Sabine) who spoke about the importance of female role models in Star Wars. The best part of this was the sudden and surprise appearance by Daisy Ridley! You never know whats going to happen!
Actually, at Celebration 2012, we had a surprise George Lucas appearance at the Star Wars Detours Panel – awesome! Except no Star Wars Detours…
Alright, that all being said, lets talk logistics.
I will fully admit, day one logistics were all around poor. So poor that the company that was running the con, ReedPop, issued an apology. We waited in a 2 hour, 2 mile long line outside in Florida in the sun to get into the building. We assume this was because of security bringing everyone through one entrance, but by the time we got to the front they just waved us through metal detectors that didn’t even seem to be on. Every single thing was a line. There was a constant 2 hour line to get into the Official Celebration Store, lines for panels (even overnight lines), lines to get food… LINES EVERYWHERE. While this is my main complaint, the convention was around 70,000 people, so I would have expected some lines, but would have preferred to not wait in the sun for 2 hours to get in the building. The following days were better, while we still waited in line we were inside, and got on the floor much faster.
There were fast passes available to get into the Celebration Store, allowing you to skip the line, but you had to run over to the store as soon as you got in when the Con opened to get one.
For the large and medium sized panels, a wristband system was in place. As soon as you enter the building you can choose 2 wristbands, allowing you entry into a given panel. Once you get your wristband, you’re guaranteed a seat. If you want a great seat you still need to get there early and queue. If you’re okay with a mediocre seat, you can show up 5 minutes before the panel starts because you cant bear another minute of waiting in line, and walk right in. This was done in an effort to mitigate giant lines for every single panel at all times of the day. We got into a lot of panels, but also learned very quickly not to be picky. For instance, we really wanted to go to Mark Hamill’s panel or the Carrie Fisher Tribute panel, but the wristbands were gone pretty fast, so we planned second and third choices. I cant comment on the overnight campout lines because we didn’t participate, however, the 40th Anniversary Panel and the Last Jedi Panel were streamed on the convention center floor (… with some technical issues and some sound issues, but still).
While I would have loved to have attended the Last Jedi Panel, watching the trailer with thousands of other fans standing on the convention center floor, in my Rey cosplay, was a moment that is pretty special to me as a Star Wars fan. The excitement was palpable.
Finally, I highly recommend leaving the convention for lunch instead of waiting at the food stands in the convention center. There are 5734957430 hotels and restaurants near by, all of which will be less crowded.
Overall, I definitely recommend going to Star Wars Celebration if it comes back to Orlando. But, you have to be willing to go with the flow. No more panel wristbands? Thats okay, you get to see surprise Daisy Ridley at a different panel. Wait in a two hour line? Look at the awesome costumes! You’re going to have fun, regardless of the hiccups you may encounter. Just enjoy it.