Tour de Force; the long-delayed Star Wars Celebration 2022 returned to Anaheim with a vengeance…

Return of the Jedi.

Twice delayed, understandably, due to the COVID pandemic, the Star Wars Celebration finally arrived at Anaheim, California, for the first time since 2015. When my wife Julia and I attended the 2015 show, we were only able to get tickets for one day (Saturday) of the four-day event, which felt like little more than a preview. We knew we’d missed a great deal. In 2019, when tickets originally went on sale for this latest Celebration, we were able to get tickets for all four days. We were very grateful that those tickets we’d originally purchased nearly three years ago rolled over–without refunding–so that we didn’t lose our chance to attend when the Celebration finally arrived this year, in 2022.

Rescheduling the Celebration from its original month of August, 2019 to May of 2022 was a logistical challenge for my teacher wife, but we managed to work it out. We were even more grateful that three one-day tickets we’d purchased as Christmas presents for friends of ours also rolled over, so that their son (a ten-year old Star Wars devotee) was able to attend as well. Despite the horror of the pandemic, this was one instance where luck and careful planning were ultimately on our side; in other words, the Force was with us.

Return of the Jedi…and the Sith…and the Mandalorians…and everyone else.
The Anaheim Convention Center, right across the street from Disneyland, is dressed up for the twice-delayed “Star Wars Celebration 2022.” There was a crossover event between the Celebration and Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge, which my wife wanted to attend. She even had tickets for the crossover, but ultimately she opted for the refund. There was simply too much to do and see at the Anaheim Convention Center side of the Celebration.
Panoramic view of the main Dealer Hall.
A cross-section of the cavernous Dealer Hall, which housed merchandise booths, exhibits, attractions, food courts, autograph areas, a Live Event stage and soooo much more. There are also many opportunities to pose with cosplayers, and even the occasional R2 unit that headed your way…

Lucasfilm Studio Showcase.

Part of our strategy for this convention was ‘divide-and-conquer’; I’d pre-paid for several ticketed celebrity autographs, while my wife won a lottery for a very fortunate ticket for the Lucasfilm Studio Showcase; a live event held in the venue’s massive Arena auditorium, renamed the “Celebration Stage” for the week. This ticket also gave her access to a premiere screening of DisneyPlus’ “Obi-Wan Kenobi” miniseries and access to “The Mandalorian Experience” exhibit (more on those later).

The Showcase featured upcoming trailers for several new Star Wars series, as well as appearances from many top-tier Star Wars actors, including “Han Solo” himself, Harrison Ford! There was even a live concert given my film composer and legend John Williams, conducting the Pacific Symphony Orchestra! My wife clearly got the better end of the deal, but I didn’t mind. She spent a great deal of time hurriedly preparing both of our costumes for the Celebration (we cosplayed as Luke Skywalker’s “Uncle Owen” and “Aunt Beru”) so no one deserved to enjoy the full riches this event had to offer more than she did.

Video recap of the Lucasfilm Studio Showcase.
The Celebration Stage, where the ginormous Lucasfilm Studio Showcase Event took place, including screening of trailers, sneak peeks, and stars, producers and Star Wars’ composer/legend John Williams giving a live impromptu concert! There were trailers for upcoming new series, such as “Andor” (a series based on the Rogue One character), “The Mandalorian” Season 3, “Ahsoka” (the new Ahsoka Tano spinoff) and “Skeleton Crew.” Various cast members for those series were also in attendance as well.
Top: Composer-musical legend/god John Williams who’d just turned 90 years old (!). Williams produced the soundtracks of my youth, including “Star Wars”, “JAWS,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Superman: The Movie”, “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List”, and so many others. Williams conducted an impromptu concert for the attendees with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. Williams will forever be one of my all-time favorite composers. The very first album I ever owned, at age ten, was his soundtrack to the original 1977 “Star Wars” (a double LP).

Bottom: Megastar Harrison Ford also made an appearance as well! Yes, Han Solo/Indiana Jones himself! The concert at the venue also included the “Indiana Jones” theme, since both Ford and Williams were in attendance. In addition to the characters of Han Solo and Indiana Jones, star Ford is truly an actor’s actor, with roles in such films as “Witness,” “Blade Runner,” “The Fugitive” and many more.
Star Wars prequel stars Ewan McGregor (“Obi-Wan Kenobi”) and Hayden Christiansen (“Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader”) take to the “Celebration Stage” (aka the Arena auditorium) to promote their new Disney+ miniseries “Obi Wan Kenobi.”
Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christiansen also took time for a shorter appearance at the Live Event streaming stage in the Dealer Hall, to the thunderous roar of their cheering fans.

“Obi-Wan Kenobi” World Premiere.

My wife’s good luck continued, as her winning ticket to the Lucasfilm Studio Showcase also awarded her a pass to the World Premiere of DisneyPlus’ “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Parts 1 and 2. Once again, armed with her iPhone camera, my wife did her best to share the event with me, and I’m grateful. The cast also attended the premiere, along with producer/director Deborah Chow, who’d also directed episodes of “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett.” I caught “Kenobi” Parts 1 and 2 over breakfast at our hotel the following morning (via my trusty 15″ iPad), so I’d be up to speed when I went back to the Celebration the following day.

Back in the Celebration Stage for the world premiere screening of the DisneyPlus miniseries “Obi-Wan Kenobi” Parts 1 and 2. My lucky wife was invited to the event after paying for a ticket to see the Lucasfilm Studio Showcase Event in the same venue earlier in the day.
Ewan McGregor (“Obi-Wan Kenobi”) welcomes young cast-mate Vivien Lyra Blair (“Princess Leia Organa”) onto the stage with the rest of the cast, including Jimmy Smits (“Bail Organa”), director Deborah Chow, Moses Ingram (“Inquisitor Reva”), Rupert Friend (“Grand Inquisitor”), Rya Kihlstedt (“Sister Four”)and others, following the Premiere screening of DisneyPlus’ “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” parts 1 and 2 (of 6).

The Costumes of Kenobi.

Also on display at the convention were some of the screen-used costumes seen in “Obi-Wan Kenobi”, and I did get a chance to see those in person, since they were later moved to the main Dealer Hall of the convention, where I spent most of my time. The costumes were from the villainous “Inquisitors” as well as the hero costume of “Obi-Wan Kenobi”, as worn by Ewan McGregor.

Costumes of three Inquisitors, including “Fifth Brother” (as worn by actor Sung Kang), “Reva” aka “Third Sister,” (as worn by Moses Ingram) and the “Fourth Sister” (Rya Kihlstedt).
Left, Middle: The costume of the Grand Inquisitor (as worn by Rupert Friend).
I also took a look at the backs of the Inquisitor costumes to get a better look at their weapons as well as their craftsmanship; after seeing one of the collars up-close, my wife remarked “It’s attached with velcro.” Right: Details on the costume of “Fifth Brother” (Sung Kang).
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s desert robes, boots and belt are deceptively simple, yet very layered. My costume-making wife also remarked at the deliberate distressing made to the robes and boots to give them a weathered look; the pilling on the outer cloak’s fabric suggested that the costumers took sandpaper (or something similar) to wear down the fabric. The material also appears to have been carefully dyed as well.

The Stars of Star Wars.

What, may you ask, was so important that I missed going to the various events described above? Well, it was the celebrities. Star Wars Celebration 2022 had a number of actors doing autograph signings for the event, and I very much wanted to meet several of them. I purchased autograph tickets in advance to guarantee my autographs, but it meant I had to be there in person, as well. Ian McDiarmid, the infamous “Emperor Palpatine” from 1983 onward, was onboard for the event, as was actor Carl Weathers, who is more famously known for both the “Rocky” movies and 1987’s “Predator,” in addition to his newfound fame as recurring foe-turned-ally “Greef Garga” in “The Mandalorian.”

I also had the opportunity to meet-and-greet with Anthony Daniels, the actor who has inhabited and voiced the protocol droid “C3PO” from 1977 onward in more Star Wars productions than I can recall. Also on deck was Giancarlo Esposito, who appeared in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (1989), but more recently found tremendous TV fame as drug-dealing chicken restauranteur “Gus Fring” in both “Breaking Bad” and its prequel “Better Call Saul.” Esposito recently made his Star Wars debut as “Moff Gideon” in “The Mandalorian.” As a huge fan of the Breaking Bad universe, I just had to meet him.

Many more celebrities attended the event, including grotesquely maligned actress Kelly Marie Tran (who received a long overdue round of thunderous applause from grateful fans), but given the prices of autographs, I had to pick my autographs carefully.

Upper Left: Actor Ian McDiarmid, who first played the role of Emperor Palpatine in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi” when he was only 37 years old (he wore extensive age/deformation makeup), and later would play the role in the prequel trilogy and would even reprise the role for an added scene to the Special Edition of “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980/2004). His wonderfully evil cackle and theatricality added a “Macbeth”-like feel to the Star Wars universe.
It’s not everyday you meet the Emperor of the galaxy!
Upper Right: Actor Carl Weathers (“Rocky 1-4,” “Predator,” “The Mandalorian”) signing autographs. I gotta say, he is (in his own words), “aging like a fine wine.” He looks great, and he was very kind. As a big fan of the Rocky movies growing up, it was a bit like meeting a proxy Muhammed Ali, as his character of “Apollo Creed” was based loosely on the former heavyweight champion (whom I idolized as a kid). Weathers has a new career for Star Wars fans as “Greef Karga,” a former boss/nemesis and now ally to the title character.
Lower Left: Met actor Anthony Daniels, who’s played golden protocol droid “C3PO” in just about every Star Wars incarnation ever made, including the live-action films, several animated series (dating back to “Droids” in the 1980s) and even the NPR Star Wars radio plays. He’s lived this character for 45 years, and was part of a greater franchise that utterly changed my life. Nice bonus: he recognized my “Uncle Owen” cosplay.
Lower Right: Last but not least, I met the wonderful actor Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Moff Gideon in “The Mandalorian,” but most famously he plays drug kingpin (and one of the BEST villains on TV) Gus Fring on “Breaking Bad” and its prequel series “Better Call Saul.” He was delightful; a man who seems to genuinely love his life. I’m pleased to say that the jovial actor is nothing at all like Gus Fring…
Actress Kelly Marie Tran (“Rose Tico” from “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker”) takes to the Star Wars Live Event stage in the Dealer Hall (standing room only). The actress was given a bouquet of flowers and a thunderous round of applause from Star Wars fans after she’d faced a lot of ugly online hate from malicious gatekeeper fans. It was nice to see that she is appreciated! While I didn’t meet Tran personally (“The Last Jedi” is not really a favorite of mine), I was glad to see her receive some overdue fan appreciation.

The Mandalorian Experience.

My wife’s lucky streak with that golden Lucasfilm Studios Showcase ticket continued, as it also gave her early access to “The Mandalorian Experience”; an exhibit of props, costumes, miniatures, spaceships, makeup pieces and a treasure trove of other screen-used items from both “The Mandalorian,” and “The Book of Boba Fett”, including a full-scale N-1 Starfighter (“Return of The Mandalorian”), and a full-sized animatronic bantha. Once again, my wife had her iPhone handy, and documented the experience so well, that I didn’t feel as though I’d missed anything when we returned to our hotel room to share photos afterward. More of my wife’s Mandalorian Experience photos are in the Flickr album link near the bottom of this column. Enjoy!

The Mandalorian Experience Exhibit; a museum of screen-used props, costumes, animatronics and miniatures used in the production of DisneyPlus’ Star Wars: The Mandalorian streaming series.
Top: The costume of Din Djarin, aka “the Mandalorian” dresses a mannequin which sits in the screen-used cockpit set of his old spaceship, “The Razorcrest”, which was destroyed in the episode “The Tragedy.”
Bottom: The full-scale prop of Mando’s new customized Naboo starfighter ride, as seen in “The Book of Boba Fett” episode, “The Return of the Mandalorian.” The craft will also figure heavily in Season 3. The tiny animatronic Baby Yoda actually moved and waved to the crowd, but my wife didn’t see it doing so during her tour of the Experience.
Left: From The Book of Boba Fett; The costume and mask of “Cad Bane,” the famed gunslinging bounty hunter who made the transition to live-action in “The Book of Boba Fett” from the animated series, “The Clone Wars”.
Right: Screen-used costume, eggs, and floating crib of the ‘Frog Lady’ from the episodes “The Gunslinger” and “The Passenger.”
A six-second video of a screen-used animatronic “Bantha” prop as seen in “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett.” I’m old enough to remember the days when George Lucas created banthas back in 1977 using redressed elephants. Now they can build the damn things! It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan…
Top: A detailed miniature of Jabba’s palace, digitally scanned for visual effects use in “The Book of Boba Fett.” The entrance is based on the full-scale entrance to Jabba’s palace originally built for and seen in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.”
Bottom: Interior throne room set inside of Jabba’s palace; based upon the original (long-since stricken) set from “The Return of the Jedi” as well. All of the props and costumes are screen-used from “The Book of Boba Fett.”

The “Lars Family” & Friends.

At the top of the column, I mentioned that my wife and I had bought Saturday-only tickets for our friends Kathy and Adam, as well as their young son, Joshua, who is a major Star Wars fan. Well, we’d bought those tickets in 2019 when Joshua was barely eight, and luckily they rolled over as well, so that our friends could join us for a day at the Celebration. My wife and I were cosplaying as “Uncle Owen” and “Aunt Beru,” with Joshua cosplaying as a young “Luke Skywalker.” Fortuitously, Joshua still qualified for his child’s pass (whew!) and the five of us had a nice get together at the Celebration. Once my wife and I showed them the layout of the Dealer Hall, they were able to take Joshua on various adventures of his own, including additional photo ops at some of the exhibits, as well as a kids’ lightsaber training class! If you ever get the opportunity to enjoy a convention with friends? I highly recommend it.

“Aunt Beru” (my wife Julia), “Uncle Owen” (myself) and “Luke Skywalker” (Joshua) realize that summer vacation on the lava moon of Mustafar wasn’t everything the travel agent promised! This was taken at the LG (LIfe’s Good) Electronics booth, who were at the event promoting their next-gen TV sets. The photo also came with a QR code that allowed you to see the photo in 3D on their website.
Joshua and his mom Kathy make the jump into hyperspace aboard the Millennium Falcon! This was one of the many photo op booths throughout the massive Dealer Hall. The ‘hyperspace’ video behind the cockpit set repeated on a loop and allowed for multiple takes. While not as elaborate as the Millennium Falcon attraction at Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge, it was also free!
Another photo op attraction in the Dealer Hall was a full-scale Imperial TIE fighter (TIE: Twin Ion Engine) An Imperial officer stands watch as Adam, Julia, myself, Joshua and his mother Kathy pose underneath the massive spaceship. The TIE fighter’s cockpit had the same red lights seen in the filming set as well.

Cosmic Cosplay!

As I’ve said before in previous columns where I’ve covered conventions, one of my favorite aspects of sci-fi/fantasy/horror conventions is the cosplay. These everyday geniuses often spend weeks, months and even years perfecting their costumes, and the results are anywhere from deliberately silly to silver screen-worthy. Some are done with little more effort than your average Halloween costume, while others rival the best studio-made efforts. Even my wife and I got into the act with our Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru costumes. It’s an explosion of creativity, and there are times where I feel I could just pull up a chair and watch the parade of costumes go by all day long…

Left: A cute young cosplayer doing her interpretation of “Ahsoka Tano” from “The Clone Wars,” “Rebels” and (coming soon) her own Disney+ series. She was an adorable kid! Her proud dad gave us permission to take her photo.

Right: “UN-LIM-UH-TED POWWERRRR!!”
Excellent cosplay of Emperor Palpatine; I met him while in line to meet the real “Emperor”, actor Ian McDiarmid!
The thin translucent ‘force lightning’ attached to his hands lit up as well! The details that fans put into their homespun creations never ceases to amaze me. Many of the attendees spend months or even years preparing their costumes.
Left: “Greedo”, the ill-fated Rodian collector from “Star Wars” (1977). Love his hands! And no–he didn’t shoot first.
Right: Cosplayer dressed as Star Wars villain Kylo Ren, pretending to be “Matt” in the famed Saturday Night Live “Undercover Boss” spoof from a few years ago. This SNL sketch has spawned a cosplaying cult at conventions, and it’s still hilarious.
Left: A really good Jawa cosplayer, carrying the much-coveted (and tasty) “mud-horn egg” from The Mandalorian episode “The Child.” The cosplayer even ‘spoke’ the Jawa language!
Right: From “The Empire Strikes Back”; a pint-sized version of the lizard-like bounty hunter “Bossk.” Pro-tip when photographing cosplayers; always seek permission first, and if the cosplayer is underage, be sure to ask their parent or guardian.
Wonderful cosplay of blind force zealot “Chirrut Imwe” from 2016’s excellent Star Wars prequel “Rogue One.” The cosplayer was a dead ringer for actor/martial artist Donnie Yen–he even spoke with a similar accent! “Chirrut” also wore fine-mesh contact lenses which allowed him to see (clever). Every once in awhile, you see a cosplayer who makes you do a double-take!

The Secret Plans.

A gentleman I saw on Friday morning in an R2-D2-patterned suit gave me a cardboard replica of the Death Star plans disc from “Rogue One”/”New Hope”, and if you scanned the QR code on it with your smartphone, you saw the original 1977 digital animatic to the Death Star–which included little mistakes that didn’t make it onto the shooting model, such as the equatorially-mounted weapons dish. It was very cool. As a parting gift, I gave it to our own “Luke Skywalker,” Joshua.

“Look at the size of that thing!”

All 211 photos (and one six-second video) of our time at Star Wars Celebration 2022 can be found on my Flickr Album, which I’ll link here if you have the inclination and the curiosity:

Star Wars Celebration 2022, Anaheim, California May 26-29th/Flickr.

The album includes more detailed photos from some of the above events, as well as a closer look at some of the items for sale within the Dealer Hall. Enjoy!

The Tour de Force Continues.

The Star Wars Celebration comes to London next, in April of 2023. I’m grateful that this convention isn’t limited to one city or venue, so that fans around the world can have an opportunity to enjoy the the sights, the costumes, the props, the guests, and the many other talented unseen individuals who take the time to participate in this amazing emergence into all-things Star Wars.

Images/Videos: Author, Author’s Wife, StarWars.com/YouTube.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. scifimike70 says:

    It’s great when we can still find enjoyably special events for Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who and Stranger Things in these very difficult times. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My pleasure, Mike!

      Liked by 1 person

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