The Force will be strong in Orlando April 13 through 16. “Star Wars” fans will unite at Star Wars Celebration, a convention for lovers of the stories from a galaxy far, far away. The itinerary is packed for this event so we got some crucial tips from the ultimate Star Wars insider, Steve Sansweet. If you could earn a Ph.D. in Star Wars, this guy would have it. Sansweet is the head of Rancho Obi Wan, non profit museum that houses the largest collection of Star Wars related memorabilia. He has written 17 Star Wars books, and has been the acting head of fan relations at LucasFilm for 17 years.
Sansweet has seen how the Star Wars phenomenon has evolved since Episode IV came out in 1977. “There are so many different points of impact with Star Wars,” he explains.”We see an age factor in terms of what people saw in theaters. There are a lot of people who saw the prequels on the big screen and that’s their point of entry. Then there are kids who see the animated series and they say ‘Dad, who’s Luke Skywalker?'”
Star Wars Celebration has something for all those fans, from the ones who had the “Return of the Jedi” bedsheets in the ’80s to the ones who carry the “Clone Wars” lunchboxes to school. Here are some of the highlights Sansweet says make this event worth activating the hyperdrive to get to Orlando for the weekend.
Can you believe its been 40 years since “Star Wars: A New Hope” came out in theaters. Star Wars Celebration kicks off with a tribute to the 40 years on April 13 with a panel featuring LucasFilm President Kathleen Kennedy and hosted by Warwick Davis. This event is going to be major says Sansweet. “Celebrities from all 40 years of Star Wars are going to be on stage with Kathleen Kennedy with clips, interviews, from Mark Hamill, Hayden Christensen. Some people we’ve seen and some people we haven’t seen.” This event is the hottest ticket so it’s going to be screened in all three of the largest auditoriums at Celebration. Expect nostalgia from the veteran characters, maybe a hint or two about upcoming Star Wars stories, info from the folks who worked on the animated series and more than a few surprises.
11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13 at the Celebration Stage – Chapin Theater, 3rd Floor, also Streamed from the Galaxy Stage
Star Wars fans are still lamenting the loss of Carrie Fisher, the actress/writer/Twitter pro who brought life to General Leia Organa, the badass warrior princess that ran circles around all the men in the universe. Mark Hamill, her brother from a galaxy far, far away, hosts a tribute to Carrie Fisher on Friday afternoon where the actor will remember Fisher’s talent, humor and legacy. “Carrie was a mainstay at Celebration,” says Sansweet. “The fans absolutely loved her, she will be sorely missed.”
Over at Rancho Obi Wan’s section, they will also have a tribute to Fisher as well as Kenny Baker, the actor who played R2-D2, who also died in 2016.
“Mark Hamill’s Tribute to Carrie Fisher”; 5:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, April 14 at the Celebration Stage – Chapin Theater, 3rd Floor
The countdown to Episode VIII is on: December 15, 2017 we get the next chapter in the Star Wars saga, “The Last Jedi.” We have so many questions. What is Rey’s deal? Why is she so The Force-y? What has Luke been doing all these years? What about Kylo Ren’s daddy issues? Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson will host a panel that probably won’t explore all those questions, but at least will give a hint or two at where the story is going. There will be plenty of surprises and special guests on the panel to keep the excitement brewing and speculation spinning throughout the rest of the weekend. Also, we hear filming for Episode IX is going to start this summer. Someone give us deets!
11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Friday, April 14 live at the Star Wars Galaxy Stage – Valencia ABC, 4th Floor
Star Wars cosplayers take their work just as seriously as the Comic Con cosplayers. “Some people work on these costumes for years,” says Sansweet.”We get kids and adults who have spent a year designing their costumes.” The Championship of Cosplay is on Saturday afternoon and will bring out a universe of creative Star Wars fashion, but even if you miss it, you are guaranteed to see fans wandering in costume every day.
3:30-5 p.m. Saturday, April 15 at the Celebration Stage – Chapin Theater, 3rd Floor
Star Wars Celebration is going to showcase so much merchandise inspired by the Star Wars universe, from toys to original works of art to even a replica of a child’s bedroom from the 1970s decorated top to bottom in Star Wars merch. Obviously Rancho Obi Wan will have the most complete display of Star Wars nostalgia, but throughout the event visitors can explore many vendors offering a variety of novelties.
Fans who want to take a deep dive into Disney’s merchandise celebrating the Star Wars saga can get a sneak peek into what new exclusives will be coming from the Disney Parks in 2017 and 2018 on Thursday. Fans can maybe try to get some insight from Disney’s creative development team about what to expect from Star Wars Land, slated to open in 2019.
Disney Merchandise 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13 at the Behind-The-Scenes Stage – W304, 3rd Floor
In case you didn’t know, there is an R2-D2 Builders Club and they are on a mission to show the world how to build their own droid. They host an introduction to building R2-D2 including a history of the club and what you need to get started. They will go over the various materials and tools required and answers to the top questions asked by potential builders.
8-9 p.m. Thursday, April 13 at the Star Wars Fan Stage – W308, 3rd Floor
Anybody who has had anything to do with Star Wars is going to be at the Hall of Autographs including Riz Ahmed, who played Bodhi Rook in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Hayden Christensen, Anakin Skywalker from the prequels, Anthony Daniels who did C-3PO in the original Star Wars saga. For those that fell in love with Felicity Jones, who played Jyn Erso in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” she will be on hand as well. Try not to geek out too hard with Mark Hamill and Peter Mayhew. Do I need to say who they played in the films? Probably not.
IF YOU GO:
What: Star Wars Celebration
When: April 13-16; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Orange County Convention Center, 9800 International Drive, Orlando
Cost: $35-$65 for single day tickets, $70-$170 four-day passes