One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers discuss which Star Wars Celebration they enjoyed the most.
The first Star Wars Celebration was best, says Bryan.
I have a hard time saying which of my Star Wars movies is my favorite, as I love them all so much for different reasons. It’s the same with Star Wars Celebrations. The one I’m at is my favorite. But pressed to choose, I think I’d have to say the first Celebration was the best.
It’s important to understand the way things were back in 1999, though. This was the beginning of the new era in Star Wars fandom. Prior to that, Star Wars fans were a small part of the overall fandom landscape, and the overall fandom landscape was only a fraction of what it is now. So seeing and meeting other Star Wars fans was something heard of only in stories.
Arriving in Denver that cold and stormy April weekend was a challenge (and a long, different story), but that first Celebration was the first time I was completely surrounded by people who loved Star Wars as much as I did. It didn’t matter that it stormed and snowed at an event that was largely outdoors. It didn’t matter that everyone was cold and wet and our costumes got mud all over them. We were celebrating Star Wars in a way we’d never been able to before. For many of us, it was our first time meeting, seeing, or interacting with the stars of Star Wars. It was the first time I got to see people like Warwick Davis and Anthony Daniels in person. It was my first experience with producer Rick McCallum and nothing pumped me up for The Phantom Menace more than his pronouncement on stage that it was “So [expletive] good.” And it was!
You know that moment at Celebration Anaheim where you heard Han Solo tell Chewie, “We’re home…” for the first time? That’s exactly how I felt going to the first Celebration all those years ago. I was finally in the place I was supposed to be. And it was one of the first steps on the path that helped me forge some of my most lasting friendships and brought me here to StarWars.com, of all places. It had something for everyone, but most importantly, it planted the seeds for the community we are now.
Star Wars Celebration IV was best, says Cole.
Like Bryan, I too have a hard time just picking one Star Wars Celebration that is my favorite. I’ve been to eight of them now and have seen the show grow and change. Looking back, I think Celebration IV was the one convention that stands out as the time when the event really grew into the can’t-miss affair that it is today.
Much of what we now take for granted at Celebration was pioneered in Los Angeles at Celebration IV. An example that immediately comes to mind is the massive fan-built props you see on display. A staple at every Celebration since then, giant replica props were first brought over from Belgium for this show. I’ll never forget stumbling upon that massive, fan-built AT-AT in the lobby. While the sense of amazement never ceases, seeing these creations for the first time redefined what I thought fans could do. That day, I realized that fandom could rebuild the Star Wars galaxy, one giant prop at a time.
It wasn’t just the props either. Everything about Celebration IV was bigger than what had come before.
Thirty-five thousand fans showed up for the six-day event, more than the previous three Celebrations. In 2007, the art show and autograph hall grew by leaps and bounds. There were 47 artists displaying and selling exclusive prints. There were 57 cast and crew signing autographs at the show, making it infinitely bigger than Celebration I (which didn’t have an autograph hall) and 39% larger than Celebration III. In fact, it was the biggest autograph hall in Celebration history.
Celebration IV was the first time we saw Star Wars: The Clone Wars footage and the first of many Celebration appearances for Dave Filoni. We were all so excited to see just a snippet of the show, none of us could have imagined what the next 10 years of Star Wars animation had ahead of it. Looking back, that was the day that all of us took our first step into a larger, animated world.
And who could forget the stunning show that was the Celebration IV opening ceremonies? The USC marching band kicked off the spectacle, followed by Lucasfilm’s own Steve Sansweet taking the stage in an Ewok costume. The mayor of Los Angeles showed up and proclaimed May 25th “Star Wars Day.” The whole crazy affair ended with Boba Fett flying through the convention hall on a real life jet pack. They even served cake to everyone in the audience to celebrate Star Wars turning 30.
As we look ahead to the next Celebration, we once again mark a major anniversary milestone for Star Wars. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate Star Wars turning 40 than by being with so many fans and friends in Orlando. If Celebration 2017 is anything like Celebration IV, it’s going to be epic.
Which Celebration was your favorite? What are you most looking forward to at Celebration 2017? Let us know in the comments below!
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Cole Horton is a historian turned writer turned video games industry professional. His latest book, Star Wars Builders: Droids, is available now. You can find him on Twitter @ColeHorton.