A convention to celebrate all things Star Wars did not fail to disappoint. Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2015 (California) had it all: big stars, costumes, cosplayers, set dioramas, sneak peeks of the upcoming movie and various other Star Wars related TV shows and video games. Anything you could think of to buy that is Star Wars related was available too.
I have been immersed in that galaxy far, far away ever since I a kid and saw Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in the cinema in 1977 (no other movie has captured my imagination as much as Star Wars), so I was very happy to get to an event like this (previously I have only attended Star Wars exhibitions in Australia, the United States and Canada such as Star Wars Identities in 2013). The dark side of the celebration was the huge crowd and long lines (the event was sold out).
I attended the Sunday of the 4 day event. Seeing the huge queue to get in, I can only imagine the crush of people the day before! Anyway I gave up trying to see any of the main events, panels and special exhibitions such as the new Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens props (there was apparently a 4 hour wait in the queue and it was capped at midday! I tried to jump on the end of the queue at about 4pm but I was told the last 100 people or so were probably not going to get in before the convention closed at 5pm). I went in to the official merchandise store area but it had virtually been picked clean! Despite all that it was still a lot of fun being a big kid again!
You could pose for photos in many of the dioramas and cosplayers were happy to pose for a photo too. Jabba the Hutt and Roxy the Rancor were pretty cool!
Some of the set dioramas had come all the way from Belgium. The medical room as seen in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) with replica medical droids and the bacta healing tank was fun.
There were literally R2 astromech droids all over the place (static and remote control) as the R2-D2 Builders Club were in attendance. Kenny Baker (R2-D2) was about somewhere but unfortunately I never saw him.
From Star Wars action figures (old and new) to Lego, hand crafted sculpted figurines, life-size statues, video games, costumes and t-shirts, you name and you could buy it at the celebration. Infamous bounty hunter Boba Fett is always a fan favourite and mine too (note the t-shirt I am wearing in some of these photos).
Speaking of the famous bounty hunter, the Mandalorian Mercs were very active at the celebration. Lots of cosplayers were about in very creative Mandalorian armour. One guy had real metal armour that weighed 54 kg / 120 pounds!
There were even Star Wars inspired cars (carfighters) near the main entrance. My favourite was the Boba Fett themed Hyundai.
Hot Wheels also had a Darth Vader car on display the main exhibition hall. I got the chance to speak with one of the guys who built the Hot Wheels car and got all the details including that it was based on the chassis and engine of a 1995/1996 Chevrolet Corvette and really does drive. Hot Wheels fantasy comes to life and it even has lightsaber side exhausts!
The 501st Legion Imperial cosplayers (Vader’s Fist) were out in force from around the world too (I even met some Aussie members). Actually in general from all the accents and foreign languages I heard during the day, the popularity of Star Wars just keeps getting stronger across the world.
The Imperial legion was no better displayed than in an incredible diorama by Kotobukiya of 1,000 Stormtrooper figurines standing behind Darth Vader and two Imperial Royal Guards (the Emperor’s Royal Guard). This was really impressive to see and an absolute crowd favourite!
The Jedi Training Academy lightsaber sessions were fun. Little kids got to face up to Darth Vader in a lightsaber battle. Some were terrified and others took on the dark lord with gusto!
It was especially cool to see all the famous and not so famous faces (i.e. actors who played a role behind a mask or inside a costume) of the Star Wars universe in the autograph booths (a pricey exercise! Prices ranged from $30 to $100+ depending on the importance of the actor/character). Some significant familiar faces included John Ratzenberger (Empire Strikes Back, Cheers, Toy Story), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) and Ian McDiarmid (Senator/Emperor Palpatine). I really wanted to get the autograph of Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) but tickets to this were all sold out (they were reasonably priced). A highlight was seeing Ray Park (Darth Maul – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) and the legendary Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) wandering amongst the crowd and dioramas. Anthony Daniels was not in costume, but they way he walks you could picture C-3PO wandering about (someone else was in costume on the day).
So that was my first Star Wars Celebration. Quite an experience and definitely a celebration of one of the most memorable movie franchises there has ever been. Next year it is in London, UK and no doubt this event will be just as popular as the one in 2015. May the Force be with you (be it the way of the Jedi or the Dark Lords of the Sith).