By Lucas Chang
This past weekend, April 16th-19th was Star Wars Celebration 7, and growing up on Star Wars, I had to attend this at least once. So far, most of my reviews have been about Anime conventions, and a couple for Wondercon. So this review will be a bit different than my previous reviews.
To give a brief overview, the Star Wars Celebrations do not take place every year, nor do they take place in the same location. Since the new Star Wars movie will be premiering this Christmas, they had the big convention held at the Anaheim Convention Center. I was only able to go for a day and a half, even though I purchased a 4-day pass. One of the biggest differences I noticed was the pricing. The price for a 4-day anime convention normally runs about 50-70 dollars, but rarely exceeding 100 for pre-reg. The 4-day pass for Celebration 7 was 140, almost double the price I’m used to paying. However, once I looked at the guest list, the price of the badge made a lot more sense.
I stayed over at my friend’s place on Thursday night, and we both headed over there about 8:30 in the morning. We had to park a little further away due to construction, but it was only about a 5-10 min walk. There was a bit of confusion when we went to pick up our badges as the staff lined everyone up in a massive hall. It turns out we had to pick up the badges at the front, which moved pretty quickly, and we were in the convention by around 9:30am.
There was a panel we wanted to see, but since it was full already, we decided to go to the Ray Park panel, which was held in the arena. It turns out that most of the major actors were there, and all of their panels were all held in the arena. The AX equivalent would be if the main panels were held in the Nokia Theatre. I got really excited when I heard that all the panels were hosted by James Arnold Taylor, as I have heard about him and recognize his name from several games. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he plays the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Clone Wars cartoon, Tidus from Final Fantasy X, Johnny Test from the Johnny Test cartoon, just to name a few.
The first panel with Ray Park was pretty cool. Even before the panel started, there was a DJ and MC who entertained the crowd when everyone was being seated. I felt it was a nice way to entertain the crowd as we were waiting. When the panel got underway, Ray Park, who plays Darth Maul, was amazing! He demonstrated a bit of his martial arts skills and explained that he was a fan of Bruce Lee and movies, and always wanted to do the stunts, and he figured out how to do those without using wires. He also mentioned some very funny moments and gave his input on Darth Maul’s character. All in all, it was very enjoyable and very interactive.
After the first panel, my friend and I took a look around the Exhibition Hall, and it was one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. There was an area for replica sets and props where people were allowed to take pictures, there was a Jedi Training Academy, a Medical Bay, a merchandise area, an Art Exhibition, a Lego play area and even a Tattoo section!
Almost everything I saw seemed to be top of the line. For example, the prop sets were the size of several booths, about 20’X20’, each one looked EXACTLY like the movies, they were roped off and both days I went, there were lines that wrapped around to be able to get pictures. Again, the only other convention that has sets for pictures is AX, but the Star Wars ones were much better.
One of the pros of having a convention like Celebration 7 is that it’s really easy to talk to other con-goers about the movies, the characters, and the shows. When we were lining up to buy exclusive merchandise, it would have been boring save a person we were talking to. At an anime convention, it feels like you have to keep up with a lot of different shows and memes, or else a lot of the little shenanigans will fall on deaf ears. If you were into an obscure or lesser known anime, you’re not guaranteed the person next to you in line also knows about it.
After we got merchandise, we lined up for the Anthony Daniels panel that evening. Whereas Ray Park was really awesome when he did the martial arts, Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) was really funny. He talked a lot some of the past stuff he’s done, his thoughts on the next movie and how he enjoyed making kids smile when he does the role.
Saturday, like almost every convention is the big day. Unfortunately, both my friend and I had personal matters to take care of that morning; I had a TouhouCon meeting and he had to attend a basketball tournament. By the time both us had finished, it was about 3:00 in the afternoon. I quickly did a run through the Exhibition Hall before we lined up for the big double-feature panel that evening.
When my friend and I looked at the schedule, this was the one we had to do. It was a two-part panel, with James Arnold Taylor doing a one-man show for the first part, and Mark Hamill for the second part. Ever since hearing Mark Hamill do the voice of the Joker, and Fire Lord Ozai, I knew I had to go see the panel.
There was only one big incident that came up that did put a dent in the overall mood. As we waited in line, instead of snaking the line around and forcing everyone to walk the whole length of the line, we were seated in groups. We sat in line for about 2 hours not doing much and talking, and naturally we cheered when we started being ushered in to be seated. When it came to be seated, the staff would bring up one group at a time. The only problem was when it came our group, I think the person in charge left, and another group that was brought in from the back of line essentially cut us off. I was watching the whole thing and it seemed we were loud enough that a crowd started to form. Several of us had to go up to the staff and tried to explain that the group that was allowed in was last in line, and we tried to get them to do something about it. Had it gotten any worse, there probably would have been a riot. What annoyed us was not the mistake itself, but the person who seemed to be coordinating all this seemed apathetic.
The first hour was James Arnold Taylor doing a one man show about voice acting. He talked a little bit about himself, what a day in his job is like, and how he got into voice acting. All the while, he would run through several characters, and not just like 2 or 3. He would run through almost 30-40 characters altering his voice, or even voice-matching and it was one of the most impressive if not THE most impressive VA I’ve seen to date.
As impressive as that segment was, it was still nothing compared to the second half where he brought out Mark Hamill. In the previous panels I’ve been to, when the guest was announced, we all remained sitting down. When he was brought up however, everyone gave him a standing ovation. He was a really cool guy especially when he started talking about how he got to play the role of Luke Skywalker again, and how the experience was for him working on the original Trilogy. One of the funnier moments was when he started talking about voice acting, he mentioned some of the differences about how a VA doesn’t need to worry about how they’re dressed, or what they’re expressions are, and he basically mentioned it was ‘lazy’ acting. Now this gets really funny because we had just heard JAT talk about his work, so naturally he seemed a bit offended and almost walked off the stage in mock offense. Of course, there was Q&A towards the end and final thoughts on the new Star Wars 7 movie. When my friend and I got out of the arena around 8:30pm, we looked at each other and both thought, “Best convention ever!”
Although I didn’t spend as much time at the convention as I would have liked, and didn’t get to see or do everything, just the fact I got to see the big name actors, hear them talk about their work and themselves a little bit, made this convention stand out more than any other convention in recent memory. The big events I can recall: the FLOW concerts of Fanime 2010 and 2011, the Miku Concert of 2011, and the Kill la Kill Special Event in 2014, those were all amazing in their own right, but it’s still not the same as the panels at Celebration 7.
Overall it was a very enjoyable and fun convention. Most of the staff seemed very helpful, polite and professional. The Exhibition Hall was great, the guests were awesome, and the cosplays were amazing! The one incident that put a dent in the overall mood was the line fiasco on Day 3, but that was quickly solved. I don’t know when or where the next Celebration will be taking place, but I’m glad that I was able to attend this year and feel like a kid again.