An Insider’s Guide to Celebration Orlando

Discover the hidden gems of Star Wars Celebration with this list of personal favorites from event director Mary Franklin.

As each Celebration comes around, I end up with a personal checklist of the events, stage shows, and presentations I very much want to see. It’s hard to break away from working on the show, but if I can, these are the places I’ll race off to, so I can catch even a glimpse of this great programming. If I were coming to Celebration Orlando as an attendee, these would be top priority on my list of things to do.

One of the best things Celebration offers is variety for Star Wars fans. We have huge and grand and sweeping, and we have special and in-depth and even a little off-beat. It’s all worth finding and enjoying, but there’s not enough time in the weekend to do it all. Here’s my personal list of favorites to help you prioritize and consider your options!

Droid SMASH Derby!
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday; Booth 3145, Celebration Exhibit Hall
Times vary each day. Check the free, printed Insider’s Guide and the Celebration Mobile App

For more than a decade I’ve been telling the R2-D2 Builders that what would be really, really cool would be a demolition derby with droids. For this Celebration, those very clever builders have made my dreams come true! Not only will there be a Droid Destruction Derby, but we fans get to operate the droids and do the destroying! SMASH!!! I’m queuing up! According to the builders, this is an opportunity to race the provided MSE droids in the best rock ‘em sock ‘em smash derby this side of the galaxy.

As a nod to my decade of nagging, the builders have nicknamed the event the Franklin-Bossk Classic MSE Derby. Here’s a picture of the awesome art that will go on one of the fighting MSE droids!


Every hour on the hour the R2-D2 Builders’ room (W205) will have a light and sound show with the more than 100 droids in the room, too. I’ve seen a video preview, and can’t wait to see it in person.

40 Years of Star Wars
Thursday, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Galaxy Stage (streamed to Celebration & Behind-The-Scenes Stages)

I’m just gonna’ say this much: I know the inside scoop on this show and who will be there. Add it to your Celebration calendar!

Doug Chiang Master Class
Sunday, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.; Star Wars University, W300

If I were an artist, I would absolutely not miss the chance for a Master Class with the executive creative director of Lucasfilm. Doug Chiang has been creating in Star Wars for more than 20 years. Currently, Doug oversees designs for all new Star Wars franchise developments including the films, theme parks, games, and new media. He was co-production designer on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The Star Wars University seats less than 200 in a classroom setting, creating a true workshop environment. Bring your sketchbook, pencils and pens. I plan to drop in so I can absorb some high-level creative energy!   

Smuggler’s Revenge
Saturday, 7-8 p.m.; Celebration Stage

Filmmaker Kyle Newman returns to Celebration with Smuggler’s Revenge, the third installment in his original audio drama series created exclusively for Star Wars Celebrations. Those of us who delighted in the first two — Smuggler’s Gambit (Celebration VI) and Smuggler’s Bounty (Celebration Anaheim) — know that the script and the all-star cast of voice talent make this a priority for our Saturday schedules.

I love the stories Kyle and his team create, and also love seeing some of my favorite voice actors performing together live on stage.

The Art of Japanese Star Wars Vegetable Carving
Saturday, 5-6 p.m.; Star Wars University, W300

Okitsugu Kado, a true culinary artist from Japan, returns to Celebration with what he calls “Episode III” of his instructional series in how to create Star Wars art from…yes…vegetables! Oki-san calls this “the meeting of the most advanced and creative movie universe Star Wars with the Japanese analog cooking technique Mukimono.” This image is of a Krayt Dragon that Oki-san created. He is a true artist.


The Star Wars University has an overhead camera over the work space, so we’ll be able to watch Oki-san’s work magnified on the screen, to catch all the details. In addition to this being an artists’ class, I also simply love that there is Japanese Star Wars vegetable carving in the galaxy.

Star Wars 365: Fact & Fiction
Thursday, 5:30-6:30 p.m.; Galaxy Stage

Before I went to work for Lucasfilm, way back in 2001, I was an avid fan (actually kind of a fangirl) of John Knoll and his contributions to Star Wars, as well as to other stunning effects and storytelling. The VFX supervisor from ILM (and executive producer of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) always comes to Celebration with new and little-known stories to share. He’ll be unearthing great stuff I want to hear and see, going all the way back to A New Hope, and up to The Force Awakens and Rogue One.

The Bounty Hunt
Puzzle races Thursday, Friday & Sunday; W303

There are many traditions at Celebrations that are well worth treasuring, and one of them is the Bounty Hunt, produced by James Floyd and Dan Hamman, the geniuses behind the great San Diego Rocket Race. The Bounty Hunt is a puzzle race for teams of up to four fans. I get mail from fans who look forward to sharing this with their team members — sometimes family, sometimes friends — every Celebration. I love watching the teams race around the Convention Center to their next challenge, then huddle together to solve the puzzles so they can move on to the next station.

Small Talk with Warwick Davis
Friday, 1:30-2:30 p.m.; Celebration Stage

Star Wars, Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Life’s Too Short, Leprechaun, crazy television game shows… The list of Warwick Davis’ pop culture credits goes on and on, but the main reason I want to see this show is the warm, generous spirit of this talented actor.

Few can improvise as well as Warwick can, so I expect when we get to the part of the program where members of the audience get to come up, take the host’s desk, and interview him, the results will be stellar!

Friday & Saturday Evening Game Shows
6-7 p.m.; Star Wars Rebels Theater; W312

Fan-produced entertainment makes Star Wars Celebrations what they are — the very best of “By the Fans; For the Fans.” Two very popular, fan-created game shows, which have brought the house down at past Celebrations, are returning. If I can, I’m going to check out the Star Wars Rebels Theater Friday night for the Star Wars Obscure Character Face-Off, and Saturday night for “This Deal Is Getting Worse All the Time” Game Show.

These Are the Droids You’re Looking For!
Sunday, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.; Celebration Stage

I’ve seen the run of show. I know what’s coming. I know who’s coming. I do NOT want to miss this! You should not miss it either.

Star Wars Trivia Schmoedown: Witwer vs. Napzok vs. Campea
Friday, 3-4 p.m.; Star Wars Fan Stage, W308


Sam Witwer (Darth Maul, Star Wars Rebels) is an undisputed Trivia Force to be reckoned with. Why Napzok and Campea from Collider Jedi Council think they can take him on, I have no idea. But I don’t want to miss the Schmoedown!

Free Play with Fantasy Flight Games
Thursday-Sunday; W309B

What would be swell at some point during Celebration would be to head in to the Fantasy Flight gaming room on the third floor, sit down, and play a little pick-up X-Wing. I love it that fans at Celebration can vary their day — be entertained, take pictures, shop, play games…etc. Not likely I’ll get to sit down for a spell and enjoy these games, complete with instruction by helpful people which I no doubt would need — but you can go play for me!

Screening: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: A New Hope
Friday, 7:30pm-12:30am; Galaxy Stage

I know it’s not just me. Who hasn’t wanted to see these two movies screened together? Can’t wait.

Star Wars Portfolio Reviews
Friday & Saturday; W309A

This is an “If I were…” kind of opportunity. If I were an aspiring, or even a very experienced artist, I would pack up my portfolio and take advantage of the Portfolio Reviews with Lucasfilm art directors Troy Alders and Hez Chorba. Troy and Hez share outstanding and individualized insights into original artwork. I’ve seen them take their time and really help artists over and over. I think it’s an extremely constructive experience. Check the mobile app for upcoming times Friday and Saturday.

The Running of the Willrow Hoods


I love, love, love the Willrow Hoods! Cosplayers who dress up as the famous, ice cream machine-toting runner from Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back will race through when you least expect it and take over your Celebration photos. It’s the most wonderful thing ever! I particularly love the post-run reports they send me, outlining how many ran, how many mustaches were lost, etc. This photo is from their group selfie and photo bomb on the Live Stage at Celebration Europe last summer. Your Ice Cream is Safe! The Hoods Are Here!

Star Wars Celebration Orlando will take place April 13-16 at the Orange County Convention Center. Visit for tickets and more info!