Our coverage of last weekend’s Star Wars Celebration Anaheim continues with a recap of Sunday; read Part 1 for a recap of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and Part 2 for a recap of Saturday.
Sunday: Day 4
As is typical of the last day of a con, the crowds still came – but a little later than usual. Early Sunday panels were certainly easier to get into (the very fun William Shakespeare’s Star Wars had walk-in space) and lines on the show floor were more manageable. The Rogue One panel on Sunday morning was popular, and the only one that explicitly prohibited photos and videos. Fans enjoyed Gareth Edwards discussion of the upcoming stand-alone film (they’re being dubbed “Anthology” films) despite Josh Trank’s no-show (he’s slated to direct another Anthology title, the details of which are still under wraps).
The one spot that still felt the crush? The Force Awakens exhibit. Long lines had obviously deterred many from visiting earlier in the weekend, but now they all rushed to see the display before the event closed. The wait was nearly three hours in the afternoon and the line stretched almost the entire length of the second floor and outside on to the balcony.
We took the opportunity to check out the Rancho Obi-Wan exhibit, which hosted all kinds of fan-made art and other tributes to the Star Wars universe. It’s truly incredible work – for example, the biggest piece on display was an incredibly detailed oil paining featuring every Star Wars character you can think of (plus some great hidden treats like a Stormtrooper Kermit!) worked into a massive tapestry-style piece. The artist spent over 2000 hours painting, and it shows in the details.
One fun and surprisingly popular panel we hit was the Vegetable Carving demonstration with Chef Okitsugu Kado. Chef Kado showed slides of his most impressive creations, then carved an R2-D2 out of a sweet potato live on stage. Chef Kado was hilarious, and after his carving demo popped the head off R2-D2 and stuck it on a round piece of sweet potato – “and now it’s BB-8!” (Another sure way to win audience goodwill this weekend: mention BB-8.) He also finished the face and hands of an Emperor Palpatine out of eggplant. Also on hand for the panel were memebers of Jedi Order Japan, many of whom are very talented artists in their own right. It was a full panel with a crowd left waiting outside.
By the afternoon, the show floor was again quite crowded – but the promise of an exiting “future announcement” at the closing ceremoies drew a big crowd that waited in line a minimum of an hour. While closing ceremonies are often big draws at cons, its usually because they’re the very last thing of the weekend – after the exhibit hall is closed, after all the panels are over. Here, they started 90 minutes before the end of the event – and while the floor was still open for business and panels still went on upstairs.
Nonetheless, it was another full room; Taylor brought out the other stage hosts to discuss their highlights from the weekend, re-run the Star Wars Rebels trailer, and deflect angry demands from the crowd to re-play the Rogue One footage (Taylor claimed it required a special projector). Kathleen Kennedy appeared in a pre-recorded video, mentioning that this was the biggest crowd Celebration has ever had. ReedPOP’s Mary Franklin took the stage to say some thank yous, then invited new Head of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm, Pete Vilmur, to announce the dates for the next Celebration (as is the tradition). (Franklin was with Lucasfilm herself for many years before moving to ReedPOP early this year. She will continue to run Celebration.) Rumors around the show had been that the next event would be in London, and Vilmur confirmed them.[pullquote]The move to July… puts it a week before SDCC[/pullquote]The 2016 dates and a comment in Kennedy’s video about “next year” imply that Celebration may become, at least for a while, an annual event. (Tickets for Celebration Europe III went on sale Monday and, with the help of the weekend’s hype, sold out VIP tickets in less than 10 minutes.) And of course, the move to July – which will put it just a week before San Diego Comic-Con, if the speculated dates are true – likely means there won’t be much of a Rogue One or Episode VIII presence at SDCC 2016.
When closing ceremonies released a full Arena of people back out into the world at 4:30, many of them headed straight for their cars: crowds in the exhibit hall had thinned considerably, and even the Lego Play Area, which had all weekend had lines wrapped around the booth twice over, was accessible.
And outside, the fans continued to gather even after the convention closed. Hip-Hop Trooper danced, cosplayers posed for photos, and plain-clothed attendees just wanted to hang around in the Celebration afterglow a little while longer.
Sadly, with Celebration doing 2016 in London (it is traditionally a traveling show) and WonderCon moving to LA next spring, it’s unclear when the next big comic or sci-fi event at the Anaheim Convention Center will be. (BlizzCon is scheduled for November 2015; after that, pop culture in Anaheim is uncertain.) And that’s a shame, because despite its flaws it is an execllent venue for these events: the outside space alone, with plenty of spots for photographers to set up camp, tiered steps in front of the fountain almost tailor-made for cosplay group meetups, and a great space for food trucks, it’s been a wonderful place to spend a weekend. Here’s hoping another con can fill the void soon.