On April 17, 2015, I took a research trip down to Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim. You can tell by my face below that this was an experience I wasn't looking forward to at all.
While I was aware that this was going to be a well-attended event, I was not prepared for just how crowded this place was going to be. I got there just around 10 o'clock, when the convention floor was supposed to open, and was met with this crush of humanity:
The good news is that everybody was unfailingly polite and nice – not what you'd expect given that we were being herded into pens. But the vibe was definitely upbeat and fun. Everybody was just excited to get inside. After half an hour, our particular pen was flushed into the convention hall, past a Hot Wheels display of customized cards. My personal favorite was this one.
There was a lot (as you might expect) of creative cosplay happening. Rather than produce a gallery for you, since there are a gazillion sites that do cosplay roundups, I'd like to share my personal favorites: Deadmaus Tusken Raider flanked by two Girl Scout Troopers, joined by a tiny X-Wing pilot. Good times.
Once on the exhibition floor, there were a number of fantastic photo opps for fans to pose in front of. Several of them were fan-made, and they were very, very impressive. People loved them, and queued for quite some time. The quality of the displays was extremely high – no papier mache Jabbas here.
Sideshow Collectibles had a large booth, with many, many items conspiring to steal all my money over the coming year. But the highlight for me was the R2-ME2 display, where they invited artists to customize R2-D2. And customize they did, in any number of culture-mashing ways.
Another big highlight was the Force Awakens exhibit, where they put a number of props and costumes on display from the upcoming film. Kudos to the organizers for allowing photographs! It shows a very fan-conscious and fan-friendly attitude. It was really impressive to see the costumes up-close, as the workmanship is fantastic. Many, many Star Wars costume enthusiasts were taking a ton of reference photos, so they can start making their own outfits – as well as lamenting how smooth and clean the new designs are, leaving next to no room for error. I bet you we'll see plenty of these new trooper outfits patrolling the theaters when the movie opens...
Another fantastic display (with a fantastically long queue) was the Star Wars Battlefront booth. They gave guests a helmet and a flight jacket and put them inside a full-scale X-Wing cockpit. They then filmed the guests with a projected background, and edited them into footage from the newly released trailer. This is smart on so many levels, but it plays especially on Star Wars fans' desire for role-play and immersion. What better hook than to put you in Star Wars? While this was undoubtedly a lot of work for the operators (they were literally live-editing the footage on the fly), I bet you this will pay off for them handsomely in goodwill and shares. Everybody getting out of the cockpit had a big smile on their face.
And finally, here is the tattoo portion of the convention floor. In a stroke of genius, Lucasfilm has decided to officially license selected tattoo artists to create Star Wars art. So over 40 artists were offering appointments right there on the floor, and every booth was humming with electric needles. If there is a living embodiment of the passion and commitment of Star Wars fans, this is it.
As I was walking around, I spotted a guy getting a tattoo of the melted Darth Vader helmet from the newly released trailer. The movie is not even close to coming out yet, but here it is, immortalized. That's kind of awesome. It does make me wonder if there's a pre-release Jar Jar Binks tattoo floating around somewhere. But at least Darth Vader is probably going to remain cool for quite some time. I doubt this guy's going to regret it.
And that's the story from Star Wars Celebration. I didn't have time to attend any panels (really the meat and potatoes of the convention programming), but what I saw was interesting and well put-together. Star Wars fandom is extremely social and it was great to see it in the wild, concentrated in one place. As a Star Wars fan myself, it definitely whet my appetite for December 18, 2015. Who wants to get in line with me right now?