As I write this, it’s exactly a year to the day that Star Wars Celebration came back to Europe at Messe Essen, Germany during the 26 – 28th July 2013. As with all Celebrations this was another fantastic event which saw 20,000 plus people from over 40 countries celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Return of the Jedi in style, and a rare chance to watch the film out in the open too.
Some of my favorite memories from that 3 day event include the events on the Main Stage, hosted by the one and only Warwick Davis, particularly an interview with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy (making her Star Wars Celebration debut); Ian McDiarmid who reenacted the fight between Sidious and Yoda; Anthony Daniels; Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. All guests wowed the crowd especially the five Fetts (one of whom was Jeremy Bulloch who came on stage dressed as Boba Fett in a replica costume), and Dave Filoni giving us our first glimpse at Star Wars Rebels.
Away from the Main Stage, the Digital Stage hosted by David Collins (who celebrated his birthday during the show) showed Attack of the Clones in 3D for the first time. The Behind the Scenes Stage, hosted by Pablo Hildago, is where we got to learn more about the release of The Clone Wars Season 5 and Box set from Dave Filoni, along with other exclusive talks such as the Sounds of Star Wars with Ben Burtt and some new figure reveals from Hasbro.
Guz Lopez brought the Collectors Track to Europe too, featuring a wide variety of talks with something to please every collector of Star Wars memorabilia from Toothpaste to LEGO and everything in between. Those attending the Collectors Track panels could collect 15 different Star Tots which proved very popular, with card backs inspired by the tri-logo packaging design available in most European countries in 1985. If collecting was your thing then there was plenty to buy, including the Boba Fett and Han Solo in Carbonite figures from Hasbro, Jumbo Kenner Yakface Action Figure from Gentle Giant available exclusively from Toy Palace, Death Star Football and the first ever Star Wars Rebels t-shirts among other things.
Steve Sansweet packed up a very small percentage of his 400,000 plus items from Rancho Obi-Wan and brought it over for everybody to see along with some exclusive items to buy – thousands of people queued to see this exhibit over the three days.
501st Garrisons from all over the world attended, as did the R2 Builders Club and even R2-KT flew over from the US and took part in the festivities. Artists from all over the world attended and offered some amazing art pieces that many people snapped up to adorn their walls at home. For those that preferred their art on their bodies 17 tattoo artists were on hand to ink a favorite character or scene.
Those who favored meeting celebrities and collecting autographs weren’t disappointed, there were many actors and behind the scenes personalities on hand throughout the show. Walking around the halls, there were plenty of photo opportunities in the life size Cantina, Hoth Medical Bay, Millennium Falcon, AT-AT, Jabba’s Palace and X1 TIE Fighter – all built and designed by fans from all over Europe.
If I was asked to pick just one favorite memory from Star Wars Celebration Europe though it would be our arrival in Messe Essen which was a little bit different from most, since we came as part of the Caravan of the Force. Caravan of the Force was a crazy idea that the Jedi News team came up with to raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation whilst at our apartment in Orlando, straight after Star Wars Celebration Europe was announced at the end of Star Wars Celebration VI. Naively, we thought it would be easy to achieve, and although it wasn’t and took quite a lot of time and a huge amount of effort, the end result was definitely worth it with all money raised.
Maureen and Jeremy Bulloch agreed to come on the Caravan in October 2012 and from there we got our sponsors – - Toys ‘R’ Us as our main sponsor along with Holiday Inn (accommodation), Hyundai (vehicles), P&O Ferries (crossing from UK to France) and Vodafone (communications).
Our journey began on the 19th July at the home of the first Star Wars Celebration Europe at ExCeL, then we moved on to the original ‘home’ of Star Wars at Elstree Studios and finally to Toys ‘R’ Us at Brent Cross in London for the launch of Hasbro’s new range of figures called The Black Series where, despite the heat, Jeremy put on his replica Boba Fett costume. We spent Saturday recovering and were up first thing on Sunday to make the crossing from Dover to Calais in France, in first class and drinking champagne of course! Our first stop was in Lille where we met the French Garrison and that’s where we stayed overnight.
Monday saw us crossing the border into Belgium and visiting the Caves of Han, where Boba would look for Han, and from there to meet the Belgium Garrison at the Atomium for some more great photos. After staying in Antwerp overnight we headed into Holland, and to Breda, to meet the Dutch Garrison at 11:38am and then again at 2pm in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam at the Neon Museum before a quick tour of the capital and heading to our hotel in Utrecht. We left Utrecht the following morning and made our way to Essen arriving exactly on time; at 5:01pm on Wednesday 24th July we were greeted by members of the German Garrison, the hosts of the event along with members of the Lucasfilm team and others (including many press).
Our fundraising as part of Caravan of the Force has resulted in a total of $20,000 being raised for Make-A-Wish and we want to thank everybody that donated money or helped us including all our sponsors, our friends at Lucasfilm, Chris Trevas (logo design), the Jedi News team and those that came along as part of the Caravan – Maureen and Jeremy Bulloch, Matt Booker, Mark Newbold and Dave Tree. We really couldn’t have done this without all your kind and generous help and support.
So what’s next? Well the Caravan of the Force will roll again for the next Star Wars Celebration in Europe, whenever that may be, but Star Wars Celebration returns to US soil next year in Anaheim, California between 16 – 19th April 2015 and we would be honored if you’d join us.