I may have been mistaken about yesterday. As you may recall, Star Wars Celebration Anaheim Day One started off with a bang, and that bang (though amazing) filled me with a sense of foreboding for the days to come. I feared that after the rush of pure adrenaline delivered by that morning’s Force Awakens panel and trailer premiere, the subsequent days of Star Wars Celebration could not possibly follow through on that rousing promise. I’m very happy to report that I was wrong. Because Day Two was when I really started to have fun.
I arrived at the convention center around 10:00 AM, a good four and a half hours later than the day prior. There were no early-morning panels scheduled for Friday that I felt were “must-see” and 10:00 was the earliest hour that guests could gain access to the main floor. Today I wanted to do some exploring.
In case you haven’t been to a convention of any kind before, the showroom floor is home to hundreds of small booths, most of which house exhibits and dealers related to the theme of the given convention. Star Wars Celebration is no exception. Booths at this con offer up everything from art galleries, to movie prop displays, to a virtually unending wealth of Star Wars merchandise for sale at a wide array of prices.
One particularly interesting display featured a number of sports cars souped up to resemble favorite ships, characters, and regalia from the Star Wars Universe. Another showed off the playable demo of a new strategic space battle Star Wars game from publisher Fantasy Flight. The floor is where many con-goers will end up spending a good deal of their time, and there is certainly no shortage of interesting things to look at.
The first panel I wanted to ensure my attendance at today was “A Date with the Princess,” this Celebration’s chat between Carrie Fisher and omnipresent master of ceremonies James Arnold Taylor, so I got in line almost an hour early. Carrie (who kept her tiny, friendly dog on-stage with her for the duration of the presentation) was her usual delightful self throughout, keeping the large crowd in stitches as she tried her hardest to navigate around revealing spoilers for The Force Awakens, and to avoid swearing in front of a family-heavy audience, for that matter. A montage of all the kisses Princess Leia gave to other characters throughout the original trilogy was a highlight, and the panel ended with her pretending to make out with an enthusiastic fan.
After grabbing a bite to eat I then attended the Star Wars Celebration Cosplay Contest, hosted once again by James Arnold Taylor, this time accompanied by affable co-emcee Dee Bradley Baker. The costumes, broken down into four categories, were all very impressive. Among a selection that was very strong across the board, I particularly liked a dark-side take on C-3PO and a Wolverine-style Boba Fett. The winning costume, an elderly Jedi Master character with whom who I was admittedly unfamiliar, became a running gag because of the cosplayer’s commitment to walking with an extremely slow, cane-assisted limp.
I had some time to kill after the contest ended before my next and final panel for the day, so I decided to check out a fun scavenger-hunt type activity called Bounty Hunt. Players team up to answer a series of increasingly-difficult riddles, track down characters around the convention center grounds, and collect points by doing so. I’m somewhat ashamed to say I abandoned the hunt early on, because as a fairly old-school Star Wars fan who hasn’t yet caught up on the recent animated series (though I hear they’re great) I was unable to make heads or tails of a lot of the clues. Bounty Hunt is being conducted every day of the con, and you should definitely check it out if you’re a little more up-to-date on Star Wars trivia than I am.
My final Friday panel was “Inside the Heart and Chaos of C-3PO,” a conversation with the always-wonderfully entertaining Anthony Daniels, moderated by (you guessed it) James Arnold Taylor. Daniels, like Fisher before him, also tried to avoid giving away anything about The Force Awakens, though he did present an encore screening of the new teaser trailer to thunderous applause. Other topics touched on were C-3PO commercials and merchandise through the years, bloopers, and favorite moments from his work on the series. I was a little surprised at how readily forthcoming he was about the return-to-filmmaking-form feeling that The Force Awakens has provided him, as opposed to the overly CGI and green-screen heavy prequel trilogy. Daniels got a lot of laughs and it was clear by the audience’s incredibly warm response, throughout the panel, how much he is truly admired.
Though the end of my day at Star Wars Celebration seemed near, I had one more terrific surprise in store me. I poked my head into a few of the surrounding hotels looking for after-hours events and found myself surprisingly fortunate enough to attend the incredible blow-out bash that was the 501st Stormtrooper Legion’s Friday night party. If you’re unfamiliar with the 501st, to put it simply: they’re good people who dress up as bad people to do good things. At this extravagant affair, troopers danced the night away (both in uniform and in their off-duty civilian clothes) while food and drinks were served and minor celebrities popped in and out throughout the evening. I even happened upon a podcast being recorded in the adjacent room, with a very special guest: Star Wars memorabilia archivist and Lucasfilm’s former head of fan relations, Steve Sansweet.
Even R2-D2 got into the party mood, and revelers took great delight in getting selfies with him. I’ll admit that I couldn’t resist the temptation either.
All told, Friday was a much later night than I had expected, but also a far more exhilarating continuation of Star Wars Celebration than I had anticipated. Can’t wait to head back again in a few hours.