There’s something special about a four day long convention that focuses on just one fandom and there’s something special about Star Wars. Put the two together and you get the fantastic spectacle that was Celebration 2015.
The weekend began with the worldwide broadcast of The Force Awakens trailer. Which you should all watch again right now.
It’s difficult to describe the energy and enthusiasm that comes from experiencing something like this not just with thousands of fans in the room but also with those across the world as thousands upon thousands more watch the trailer simultaneously. How many of us wanted nothing more than to sit down and watch it a hundred times more right then and there and then grabbed the nearest friend and cried a little at Han’s line? (All of us. The answer is all of us.)
This was truly a convention about shared experiences. From The Force Awakens trailer to the Battlefront III trailer to Season 2 of Rebels to our first hints about Rogue One, everyone was there to learn more about this galaxy that we all love and to happily discuss it for hours on end with their fellow fans. One merely had to walk by the convention center in the wee hours of the morning and see the queues already formed for day’s big panel or wander through the nearby hotel bars to see Star Wars fans coming together.
Celebration was more then just the news though. It was getting the first chance to see costumes from The Force Awakens in person. It was squeeing loudly when BB-8 rolled on to the stage. It was sitting in on discussion panels about Princess Leia or how the story group now works or diverse opinions across the fandom. It was making friends with whoever happened to be next to you in line. It was chatting with the Del Rey folks about all the awesome books they have out now and those that are forthcoming. It was watching all the trailers that premiered together yet again.
The exhibition hall certainly wasn’t slacking either. Fans were more then excited to get their hands on things like the new Her Universe pieces or show exclusives. The line to get into the Celebration store was unbelievably long at times due to excitement. (I heard the Hera Syndulla shirt sold out which should, y’know, tell merchandisers something.) It’s pretty cool when you can wander between booths that alternate between being shops where you can hunt for that missing action figure for your collection to one of the larger officially licensed groups like Hasbro or Lego or ANOVOS and see what they currently have to offer and maybe even some prototypes of their future products. You could even get your picture taken on some of the replica sets such as that of the bacta tank on Hoth or by Rey’s speeder or with the famous Roxy the Rancor. It’s tough to beat that sort of experience.
Of course, there were a few things that could’ve been handled better. Lines were a bit messy and confusing at times and I would’ve liked to see a wider range of panels available. Overall though? This was probably the best convention I’ve ever attended. Mary Franklin and all of the staff and volunteers deserve a round of applause for all of the hard work they put in. The Star Wars.com folks who manned the Cantina and ran the livestream during the entire con also deserve a ton of kudos. We the fanbase are a lucky group to have them.
It’d be impossible to mention everything that was so great about the convention and to be honest, I know this is sounding like I’m just exaggerating. If you ever have a chance to attend Celebration, I highly recommend it. There’s no experience quite like it. Just… just go watch the Closing Ceremonies to get a taste of the experience.
Or just watch The Force Awakens trailer again. Don’t worry: the fandom will be here to scream and cry right along with you.
Geek fashion is in its prime now and nowhere was it more apparent then at Celebration last weekend. The Her Universe booth was mobbed every day of the con and other retailers who keep their female customers in mind such as WeLoveFine were also consistently busy throughout the weekend. It was genuinely heartwarming to see how many women were so excited to get their hands on the latest collections from both companies.
Luckily for those unable to make the convention, all the new items are for sale now over on Her Universe’s website with the exception of the convention exclusive ‘Ahsoka Lives’ shirt. I myself snagged the Imperial and X-Wings cardigans along with the Lightsaber skirt and am really impressed that the quality of these items rose along with the prices. These cardigans are made from a thicker sweater material and have nicer buttons than the previous cardigan offerings by the company. (You can expect to see some outfit posts featuring each of these in the coming weeks.)
I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a small press conference with Ashley Eckstein, the founder of Her Universe and the voice of Ahsoka Tano. Many of the questions dealt with Ahsoka’s much publicized return to the Star Wars universe in Rebels and it was clear that Ashley was thrilled to be back and to no longer have to keep that secret. We did, however, get a few minutes to discuss Her Universe. I asked about the Rebels related products that Her Universe as release so far as the only character to get a spotlight so far is Sabine while we’re still waiting for Hera (for more companies than just Her Universe.) Ashley was very honest with her answer: it’s coming. She’d had a ‘Captain of the Ghost’ design in the works but wasn’t happy enough to release it yet. More Rebels products are coming though as are more designs for younger girls as they are working through some production issues.
Speaking of production, it takes a fairly long time to get a design through the entire process from its inception to reaching the hands of fangirls. There’s a small team of mostly women that collaborate to create these items and they are constantly listening to ideas from the fans via social media. It’s important to remember how much Her Universe has accomplished it not even quite five years and they’re still making strides forward. Expect to see Her Universe products in expanded retail locations this fall and if you can, support the product in these physical stores because, to put it frankly, money talks.
You can also expect to see mostly the same products from Celebration at Star Wars Weekends but there will be more items towards Episode VII. Her Universe will also be making its way into the Disney Parks soon on a permanent basis and not just in Darth’s Mall. Her Universe is also working on creating one sizing system to use for all of their items regardless of who carries them. This will hopefully help fangirls when deciding what sizes to purchase in the future. When discussing sizing, Ashley did mention that the new Bespin and Hoth dresses and the lightsaber skirt are made of a fabric they haven’t worked with before that doesn’t have any stretch. She acknowledged it as something they likely won’t do in the future. That said, it’s clear that Her Universe is listening to their fans as this collection was a definite branch out from many of their previous offerings.
Finally, while I will always adore Her Universe, I want to highlight some of the amazing Star Wars inspired fashion that I saw around the convention although it was hardly limited to this. There’s little more awesome then getting to see so many people express their love for Star Wars via their own custom designed outfits. Star Wars and Fashion; what’s not to love?
It wasn’t just the glamor of Hollywood at Celebration Anaheim despite the films, TV show, and Battlefront getting the big opening panel slots. Saturday featured back-to-back panels from first the folks at Marvel Comics and then Del Rey publishing with long lines of fans waiting to get in to both. As expected, there were announcements. Obviously.
Marvel had a few announcements but they had all already made their way to the general public long before the actual panel. The creative team for Shattered Empire (part of the Journey to The Force Awakens) was announced and Greg Rucka will write the book with Marco Checchetto on art duties (as opposed to Phil Noto as some had speculated due to the teaser art.) The big announcement was the Lando limited series that will start in July after Mark Waid’s Princess Leia book wraps up. It will be written by Charles Soule and drawn by Alex Maleev and takes place after Lando loses the Falcon to Han Solo. In the anti-announcement realm, an adaptation of The Force Awakens will likely happen but not right away for security reasons.
During the panel comprised of CB Cebulski, Jordan White, Jen Heddle, and Leland Chee, it was mentioned that Princess Leia #1 had been the best selling comic book of March and there was definitely a lot of love for both Leia and the recently started Kanan book in the room. Speaking of Kanan, Greg Weisman will remain on the book for the second arc. We also learned that Jen Heddle will be moving off Marvel and Frank Parisi (a former editor over at Del Rey) will be taking over.
Then it was Del Rey’s turn. Jen Heddle took the stage again along with editor Shelly Shapiro and authors John Jackson Miller, James Luceno, and Christie Golden. The panel started with a recap of sorts of all the published novels so far (A New Dawn, Tarkin, and Heir to the Jedi) and then moved to the forthcoming (Lords of the Sith on Tuesday and Dark Disciple in July.) Those authors present got a moment to discuss their book and let listeners in on some of the behind the scenes from the books’ creations. Although Chuck Wendig was sadly not present, his book, Aftermath, was the next mentioned although we didn’t learn much else new. Good luck getting any spoilers though as it’ll be under heavy embargo until September 4, 2015 when all of the Journey to The Force Awakens tie-ins are released.
And then announcements! First, A New Dawn and Tarkin will be released together in a combined format titled Star Wars: Rise of the Empire on October 7, 2015 and will also include three brand new short stories to supplement the novels. The authors of the short stories will be announced at a later date. The much-discussed Battlefront addition to the timeline now included in books is indeed a novel. Battlefront: Twilight Company will be written by Alexander Freed and released on November 3, 2015 prior to the release of the Battlefront III game. The book will be able to stand on its own and enjoyed by both those who play the games and those who just want a good read. Finally, Alan Dean Foster was announced as returning to the Star Wars universe to novelize The Force Awakens in a cute little set-up where Foster pretended to be an audience member asking if he could write it. Rumors about the book being released prior to the film were proven firmly false as Shapiro announced that the ebook will be available on December 18th (the day the film premieres) and that the hardcover will be available sometime later in January 2016 for security reasons.
During both panels, questions were asked regarding the Legends book and characters. The answers to these are not going to change regardless of how many times people ask. The material from those books is there and available for authors to use (see references to Rise of the Dark Lord in Tarkin and Shatterpoint in Kanan) and characters could potentially make the jump to canon status but there are no current plans to continue the Legends universe. Question and Answer sessions at fantastic panels such as these are precious time and it would be great to see them filled with more questions which might give us new answers and revelations instead of retreading old ground when the answer won’t change any time soon.
As we still don’t have any official book announcements for 2016, expect to hear more on that front at either San Diego this summer or New York in the fall. The Marvel panel said that there are series they haven’t announced yet but those are a year away. I am still hopeful that sales of the Leia book will be strong enough to warrant an ongoing once the limited series wraps up.
If you’re interested in more tidbits from the panels, I’ve compiled all my live tweets from both panels below.