by Anthony Herring The science-fiction based Star Wars franchise has been going strong since May 1977, and it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. In the years since Disney bought the franchise from its creator, George Lucas, we’ve seen the creation of a sequel trilogy–with its final installment being released this December–two new video games in the popular Star Wars Battlefront series, two new TV shows, and a slew of new novels and comic books. However, there is one aspect of the franchise that has been around since the pre-Disney days: Star Wars Celebration. This convention first began back in 1999, where it celebrated the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Approximately 12 celebrations have occurred since then, with this year’s Chicago-based one being the 13th. This year’s celebration was held from Thursday, April 11th to Monday, April 15th in McCormick Place, a convention center south of downtown Chicago. https://youtu.be/n8OwhmRaTNA?list=PL148kCvXk8pDbF6fs3PUYRcVaqx7Z2Z3r Since Thursday acted as a sort of introductory day for attendees to get acclimated to the convention, panels did not occur until Friday. On that day, the first panel was for Star Wars: Episode IX. The host of this panel was The Late Show host Stephen Colbert, and he asked questions to the cast and crew of Episode IX, which included director JJ Abrams, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, actress Daisy Ridley, actor John Boyega and more. At the end of the panel, the film’s teaser trailer was shown, revealing the title of the film to be The Rise of Skywalker. The two remaining panels that happened were the ones for Vader Immortal, a virtual reality game where you play at the famous Sith Lord. The other was Lucasfilm Publishing, which announced many new novels that will be releasing over the course of the year. Saturday also had three panels, beginning with one that discussed the upcoming theme park Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The panel was hosted by actor Josh Gad, who also hosted the panel for The Last Jedi at the 2017 celebration. It discussed how the park actually has a substantial place in Star Wars canon, as the park is set on the planet Batuu and connects to novels that will be released later this year. Later on that day, the next panel was held, with this one discussing the upcoming video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. At the panel, a trailer was shown, revealing that the game will follow young ex-Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis, who is trying to survive after the events of the Jedi Purge (which was depicted in the 2005 film Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith). The final panel was labeled as Rebels Remembered, which acted as a look-back on the show Star Wars Rebels, which ended last March. Sunday’s panels began with one about the upcoming The Mandalorian TV show, which will debut on Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+, this November. The panel saw the likes of creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, and cast members Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano and Carl Weathers, who revealed new details about the show, such as that it’ll be set five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and will be set on the outer fringes of the galaxy. Later on that day, there was a panel about the return of the popular show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, where its seventh and final season will also see its debut on Disney+ this November. Hosted by frequent Star Wars actor Warwick Davis, this panel saw Dave Filoni in attendance again, this time accompanied by cast members Ashley Eckstein, Sam Witwer, Dee Bradley Baker, James Arnold Taylor, Matt Lanter and more. Certain details were revealed about the season, including story arcs that involved a squad referred to as the “Bad Batch,” and the “Siege of Mandalore,” a very important part of Star Wars canon. Monday saw only two panels. The first one celebrated the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, with Warwick Davis once again hosting. Cast members Ian McDiarmid, Ray Park, Anthony Daniels, and Ahmed Best were in attendance, where they shared stories about their experiences while shooting the film. This panel was quite humorous, as Daniels and Davis joked around with each other quite a bit. The final panel of the day–and of the celebration itself–was one that shared a preview of the second season of the Star Wars Resistance TV show, with cast members such as Donald Faison and Bobby Moynihan in attendance. Now, despite the high coverage of panels at this year’s celebration, that wasn’t the only thing present at the convention. In between panels, the hosts of the popular The Star Wars Show, Andi Gutierrez and Anthony Carboni, held interviews with many famous Star Wars icons, such as Dave Filoni, Ian McDiarmid and Ahmed Best. Celebration also had booths where attendees were able to meet their favorite authors, such as Claudia Gray and Timothy Zahn, who wrote the new Star Wars books Master and Apprentice and Thrawn: Treason, respectively. Stores were present as well, where attendees could purchase memorabilia, such as posters, costumes and toy lightsabers. Last but certainly not least, attendees were more than welcome to actually dress up at their favorite characters, such as Luke Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Padmé Amidala and more. This Star Wars Celebration was a rousing success, having a variety of panels that covered many facets of the Star Wars franchise. It appears that 2019 is a great year to be a fan of this franchise.
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