“You’ve taken your first step into a larger world…”
In April of 2015, my wife and I went to our first “Star Wars Celebration”; an every-four-years event that reaches Star Wars fans worldwide in places such as England, Japan, Germany, etc. Usually it’s held in locales beyond my immediate fiscal/practical reach. Luckily, in 2015, Star Wars Celebration finally came to Anaheim, California (home of Disneyland), which is roughly 35-40 minutes away from us. At that time, we only bought tickets for one day of the four-day long convention, since my educator wife wasn’t on spring break, and couldn’t get the remaining three days off. For the long-delayed Star Wars Celebration 2022, we managed to work it out schedule-wise, and we’ll be attending all four days of the convention later this month (May 26th-May 29th).
In the meantime, I’d like to take a look back at Star Wars Celebration (SWC) 2015, when we took our “first step into a larger world…”
My wife and I have done other events at the Anaheim Convention Center–right across the road from Disneyland–so it’s very familiar to us, thanks to conventions like WonderCon, or NostalgiaCon80s. There was a sense of great anticipation among Star Wars fans in the year 2015, as it marked the year that Disney Studios would be unveiling its first live-action Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens”, that December. At the time, the only proofs of Disney’s new stewardship with the Star Wars franchise were a pair of animated series;“The Clone Wars” which began in 2008, and “Rebels,” which debuted a year earlier, in 2014. No one knew exactly what Disney would do with Star Wars live-action then, but I was encouraged by rumors that producers Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams were turning to the Original Trilogy (1977-1983) for inspiration.
Disney’s live-action Star Wars since 2015 has been a mixed bag, but in truth, no more so than any other time in the franchise’s now 45-year history. The turn of the new millennium saw the deeply disappointing prequels, and even the original trilogy misfired a bit with “Return of the Jedi.” In fairness, Disney’s “The Mandalorian”has arguably been the best thing from the Star Wars universe since the Original Trilogy. Either way, once I sit in a darkened theater and enjoy that almost Pavlovian blast of John Williams’ opening fanfare, I’m up for it–no matter how rocky the ride. SWC 2015 seemed to get this feeling–that almost primal anticipation connected with Star Wars, and that’s what we (and many other fans) were there to celebrate on Saturday, April 18th, 2015…
“Tell uncle if he gets a translator, be sure it speaks Boche…”
Of course, as you make your way into the convention center, the main attraction would be the Dealer Hall; where a cavernous space is filled with aisles of merchandise, books, games, collectibles, costumes, and celebrities signing autographs. My wife and I only had that one day at SWC 2015, so we didn’t get as much time as we’d like to peruse everything in-depth. Hopefully at SWC 2022, we will be able to take a deeper look at all the exoticStar Wars-wares on display…
“As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure which planet we’re on…”
In addition to the flood of merchandising, there were also dioramas of Star Wars scenes–many with full-scale props–where cosplaying fans could take pictures posing in or near. Mind you, this was a few years before Star Wars’ “Galaxy’s Edge” and “Rise of the Resistance” opened across the street at Disneyland, and fans had to settle for slightly less-than-immersive interactive experiences. Nevertheless, the exhibits at SWC 2015 were certainly novelty enough for a day of Star Wars fun. If my then ten-year old self had seen anything like these exhibits back in 1977, my little head would’ve exploded…
“Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed…”
Since my wife and I were only at SWC 2015 for one day, I didn’t attend too many panels, since I wanted to get my fill of the entire experience before settling down in one spot. However, I did take in one–a panel for longtime “Industrial Light & Magic” visual FX artist, producer and writerJohn Knoll, whose rough-draft treatment became the basis for arguably the single best Star Wars film of the Disney era to date; 2016’s “Rogue One.” During the panel, Knoll discussed how movies like Star Wars and “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) set him on his career trajectory in visual effects production…
“A person of some importance, I believe…”
There were celebrities signing autographs at the convention, of course. Some of the stars on-hand included Billy Dee Williams (“Lando Calrissian”), Anthony Daniels (“C3PO”), and John Ratzenberger (“Cheers,” “Outland” and Major Derlin from “The Empire Strikes Back”). Actor Kenny Baker (“R2-D2” as well as roles in “Amadeus,” “The Elephant Man”) also made one of his last convention appearances there as well, before his unfortunate passing the following year in 2016 (I met Baker years earlier at San Diego Comic Con). My wife and I didn’t have a huge expense budget for SWC 2015, so I didn’t plan on getting many signatures. However, being a fan of his work in other films, such as “Mahogany,” “Brian’s Song,” and 1989’s “Batman”, I decided to get Billy Dee Williams’ autograph…
“Now, I’m going to put these on you…”
One of my favorite aspects of sci-fi/fantasy/horror conventions is the cosplay, and the cosplay we saw at SWC 2015 was easily on a par with the top-of-the-line cosplay we’d see at San Diego Comic Con. I’m looking particularly forward to SWC 2022, where my wife and I will be cosplaying as “Uncle Owen” and “Aunt Beru” from “A New Hope.” Joining us will be two friends, who are bringing their 10 year-old son (and fellow Star Wars fan) Joshua. Joshua recently did a convincing young Luke Skywalker at Comic Con Revolution 2021 in Ontario, California.
Anyway, here are a few cosplay highlights from SWC 2015:
“The Force can have a strong influence on the weak mind…”
Well, back in those days (not so much at the last few conventions I’ve attended), you could almost always count on groups of far-right, fundamentalist religious protesters who would break out their yellow signs and megaphones in order to berate us conventioneers for our sinful ‘idolatry’ (i.e., enjoying a day of Star Wars fun). I won’t go into the many reasons I loathe such hypocritical zealots as these (who only seem to be happy when others are as miserable as they are) but their angry tirades were met by a group of mocking cosplaying fans, who carried clever, Star Wars-themed counterprotest signs as well…
“What’s so important? What’s he carrying?”
To those readers with the patience and stamina to see more from Star Wars Celebration 2015? All122 of my photos from the event are available in the link below:
I hope you’ve enjoyed my little photo-essay reminiscence of Star Wars Celebration 2015, and I promise an even more in-depth look at Star Wars Celebration 2022, which is less than three weeks away at the time of this column’s publishing. My wife and I have already pre-ordered autographs with Anthony Daniels (“C3PO”), Ian McDiarmid (“Emperor Palpatine”), Giancarlo Esposito (“Moff Gideon” from “The Mandalorian”, Gus Fring from “Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul”), and Carl Weathers (“Greef Karga” from “The Mandalorian,” as well as “Apollo Creed” from the “Rocky” movies). I also plan on attending more panels, taking more cosplayer photos, and perhaps even sneaking in a few celebrity photos as well, if possible. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to sharing more with you soon.