This has been a historic year for Star Wars. Whether you saw Star Wars in theaters in 1977, grew up with the prequels, learned of Star Wars through The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels, or took your first steps into our larger world just last week, there was so much to enjoy. We’ve never had as much Star Wars as we did in 2015, and while this is only the beginning of a very bright future, StarWars.com is excited to look back at the highlights of an amazing year.
Star Wars Rebels at Star Wars Celebration
April’s Star Wars Celebration featured many great moments — the Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel (featuring BB-8’s first-ever public appearance), the premiere of a Rogue One teaser, the list goes on — but Star Wars Rebels was a standout. First came the Season Two panel, which included the debut of a trailer that shocked, delighted, and caused the audience to erupt in applause. (Revealing the return of Captain Rex and showcasing Darth Vader battling Ezra and Kanan will do that.) Then came the screening of the season premiere, which was a true you-had-to-be-there moment. There were thousands in attendance, and the room was electrified; Vader’s “The apprentice lives” drew gasps that turned into deafening cheers. By the end, it was clear that Star Wars Rebels was now some of the best Star Wars ever produced.
Outdoor Star Wars Concert at SDCC
While the Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel was a huge draw at San Diego Comic-Con on July 10, it was what followed immediately after that truly falls into the Star Wars Magic category. With the panel over, J.J. Abrams announced that there was one more surprise: a free, outdoor Star Wars concert, and all 6,500 fans at Hall H were invited. Everyone walked from the convention center to Embarcadero Marina Park, where the San Diego Symphony performed John Williams classics as the sun went down. There were lightsabers for everyone, and the show ended with a brilliant fireworks display — timed with the music — over the harbor. Beautiful, fun, unforgettable.
The Star Wars App Arrives
All Star Wars, all the time, anywhere. That’s what you get in the Star Wars app, which launched in early July to critical acclaim. The number of features is staggering: breaking news and trailers, soundboard, emojis and GIFs, countdowns to major Star Wars releases and events, a selfie feature (which puts you in Jedi robes and more; search Instagram with #StarWarsApp for some amazing examples), augmented reality that brings 3D characters to life, a lightsaber training experience, weather in Star Wars terms, and just tons more. There’s never been anything else like it, and the app regularly receives updates and new features. Impressive. Most impressive.
Star Wars-Themed Lands, Season of the Force at Disney Parks
Finally! On August 15 at the D23 EXPO 2015, The Walt Disney Company chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced to an audience of more than 7,500 fans that Star Wars-themed lands will be coming to Disneyland park in Anaheim, California, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The expansions will be over 14 acres each — the largest ever. And just in time for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney parks launched “Season of the Force,” featuring new Star Wars experiences. These included Launch Bay (a spectacular behind-the-scenes exhibit and more), Hyperspace Mountain (a Star Wars take on the iconic Space Mountain ride), a Star Wars: The Force Awakens update for Star Tours, and much more. In other words, there has definitely been an awakening at Disney parks.
Rogue One Details Emerge and Han Solo Movie Announced
Part of the plan for Star Wars films going forward is the telling of stories outside the core saga; Lucasfilm has finally pulled back the curtain on the first movie in the series, and it promises to tell a tale that fans could previously only dream about. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, from director Gareth Edwards, will tell the story of resistance fighters who have united to steal plans to the dreaded Death Star. A stirring teaser debuted at Star Wars Celebration in April, and full cast details were announced on August 15. The film will hit theaters on December 16, 2016, continuing the evolution of Star Wars, and it can’t get here soon enough. Additionally, Lucasfilm confirmed that another standalone film starring a young Han Solo is in the works, directed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, whose credits include the critically acclaimed The LEGO Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, as well as 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street. It’s written by Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan, and will tell how our favorite scoundrel-with-a-heart came to be the man Luke and Obi-Wan meet in the Mos Eisley cantina. If only we could buy our tickets now…
Marvel Launches New Star Wars Line
The circle is complete, and we couldn’t be happier. Star Wars comics returned home to Marvel, and the result has been a series of titles that have changed and deepened the heroes and villains of a galaxy far, far away like never before. Starting in January 2015, the flagship Star Wars title saw a blinded Luke Skywalker taking on Boba Fett in Ben Kenobi’s Tatooine home, just before finding his old Master’s journals; Darth Vader detailed Vader’s hunt and schemes in tracking the Rebel who destroyed the Death Star; Lando was a rip-roaring, delightfully fun take on the smooth-talking smuggler and made Lobot even more awesome. Now, the landmark Vader Down crossover finds the Sith Lord alone against the entire Rebel fleet. ‘Nuff said. Marvel has come out blasters blazing with their Star Wars books, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store next year.
Star Wars Returns to Consoles
Star Wars has a pretty huge legacy in video games, from arcades to PC to essentially every home system, with many classics released along the way. So the arrival of two major titles on next-gen consoles — Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition and Star Wars Battlefront — were greeted with much jubilation from fans. Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition, the brilliant toys-to-life games, saw two Play Sets released in late August: Twilight of the Republic and Rise of the Empire, focusing on the prequel and original trilogy, respectively. They’re vibrant and rewarding games featuring excellent lightsaber and blaster combat, and launched alongside a series of stunning figures (see StarWars.com’s in-depth piece on the making of the Star Wars Rebels line); maybe best of all, a Star Wars: The Force Awakens Play Set followed just last week. Star Wars Battlefront, with rich graphics and intense gameplay, came in November. From highly-detailed character models to immersive worlds (including the first appearance of Sullust), it has a “wow” factor like few other Star Wars games — and the just-released Battle of Jakku DLC has deepened the game and Star Wars history, throwing fans into an epic clash following Return of the Jedi. Passing the controller hasn’t been this much fun in a long time.
And, of course…
This is the biggest reason why 2015 will always matter to Star Wars fans. J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens officially kicked off an entirely new era of Star Wars filmmaking on December 18, and it did so with a thrilling story, exciting new heroes and villains, a welcome return of our favorite characters, and an overall sense of wonder. Fans will rightly tell you that Star Wars never went away. But thanks to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it feels more alive, bigger than possibly ever before — and full of possibility. Here’s to the story of Rey, Poe, and Finn, and to the future of a galaxy far, far away.
Honorable mention: Darth Vader (finally) wins This is Madness: The Star Wars Character Tournament
What were your favorite moments of the year? Let us know in the comments below!
StarWars.com. All Star Wars, all the time.