Star Wars Celebration 2022 was from May 26th thru May 29th, 2022, in Anaheim, California. I had previously attended the 2015 event, and originally had planned for the 2020 event. As we all know, 2020 was a wild year and a lot of things got postponed, with Celebration being no exception! The additional waiting made the event that much more anticipated. I wanted to share some of my experiences from the event, for anyone that might have been unable to attend.
Kindergarten Graduation – I had originally planned to arrive in Anaheim on Wednesday evening, to be ready for the convention on Thursday morning. As fate would have it, Thursday morning ended up being one of our daughter’s Kindergarten graduation! Needless to say, graduation took priority and delayed my departure. However, I did leave directly from the graduation, to head to the airport!
Taxi vs Lyft – As a default, I tend to use ride-share services when traveling. Unfortunately, it let me down after arriving at SNA, I loaded up the Lyft app and it showed that it was a 20min wait, or 6min if I was willing to pay a surcharge. I was in a hurry to get to some friends panels, so I went for the 6min option… which estimated ~$35. Unfortunately, it then said it was going to be a 15min wait for the driver, and they were still dropping off the prior ride. I was walking by the taxi stand when this happened, so I quickly canceled the Lyft ride and jumped in a taxi. The taxi ended up being ~$50, so definitely quite a bit more expensive, but time was important in this case.
Arriving at the Anaheim Convention Center – Getting the health/safety bracelet was super quick and easy. Every time I walked past the tables, I never saw a wait to get a bracelet. One odd thing was that they had already ran out of the normal lanyards, and it wasn’t even the end of the first day!? They had resorted to handing out generic lanyards from the office supply store?! Security was a bit annoying with the metal detectors seeming to be very inconsistent and problematic for a lot of people. Another oddity was that no one asked to see my event badge for all of Thursday. I had been waiting to get a lanyard, and forgot that the badge was still in my pocket. I was able to get through security, into the exhibitor hall, and into the panel floors, all without ever displaying a badge.
When I go to a convention, I tend to spend 90% of my time going to the panels. I am not really one that collects autographs, photo ops, limited edition merchandise, etc. I also tend to lean toward the smaller panels, as the big panels are often going to be found available on YouTube within “minutes” of it finishing. I can watch those later and be able to experience the more hidden gems.
Kitbashing LIVE! with the Datapad Builders – Attempted to make it to this panel, but walked in just as they were wrapping it up! Hastin and friends were talking about how they’ve made custom cases to go with the “datapad” experience when in Galaxy’s Edge / Batuu. There is a whole group of people out there that work on this! If you are interested, some quick Google searches will help you find some like minded people.
Star Wars Location Hunters – Attempted to check out this panel too, but it was full by the time I got there. Although rumors are that there was plenty of space!? They had a “FULL” sign posted, and a person was standing guard to prevent further people inside.
This strategy wasn’t working… It seemed like a good time to check out the exhibitor hall!
My initial observation was that it felt like it was 20-30% smaller than the previous Celebration events. There seemed to be a lot of vendors missing, or with considerably smaller booths than the past. I expect that a lot of this is the continued hesitancy around the pandemic. Vendors likely wanted to have less hands-on product exhibits, or didn’t know how to predict staffing/preparing for the event, or possibly dealing with supply chain issues leading up to it.
On the plus side, the aisle ways seemed wider and less crowded. I suspect this was from the reduction of vendors, and an attempt to have more space under current conditions. It was also Thursday afternoon, and hardly the busiest day of the convention! Thursday tickets were still being advertised at the beginning of the week (if not the day before), so clearly not the high demand day.
I recall a lot more pushing, shoving, and elbows at past Celebrations on the exhibitor floor. So, it was nice to see things calm and friendly. We’ll have to see how the other days end up going.
It was time to leave for the day, so I headed over to DCA to grab some dinner and do some shopping that I needed to do! I grabbed the “Not so Little Chicken Sandwich” from Pym Test Kitchen. It took a bit to find a seat, but was otherwise a great way to unwind and enjoy the parks. I needed to grab some Star Wars related merchandise, so I closed out the night wandering around Disneyland and Batuu.
I decided to try to see the first “big” panel of “Light & Magic”. I had not received a reservation in the lottery, so went to the general entrance queue in Hall E around 9am. I ended up in the standby queue at the Galaxy Stage, where it would be “live streamed”. I was able to get a seat with no problem at all. There was a ton of available seating
Light & Magic – This was a panel of the people involved in the documentary series coming to Disney+, about the history of Industrial Light & Magic (aka ILM). We heard from Ron Howard and Lawrence Kasdan (Executive Producers), Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, Joe Johnston, Rose Duignan, and Lynwen Brennan. It was fascinating to hear the stories of the early years at ILM, and how they were blazing the trail for special effects. I look forward to hearing more stories once it is released on July 27th!
Lucasfilm Publishing : Behind the Page – Amy Ratcliffe hosted a panel with several authors, highlighting some new books from Lucasfilm
Star Wars Everyday by Ashley Eckstein – Crafts, mindful exercise, and much more that will help bring Star Wars influences to each day!
Be More Obi-Wan by Kelly Knox – Glide elegantly through anything life throws at you with pearls of wisdom from Obi-Wan Kenobi and fellow sages. Learn how to face your fears and perfect your witty comebacks.
Star Wars Timelines by Kristin Baver, Jason Fry, Cole Horton, Amy Richau, and Clayton Sandell – Ever get confused by when the different Star Wars movies, tv shows, and books fall in the overall timeline? This is the book for you, which helps piece all of it together and give you the overall context of what is happening in the Star Wars universe!
Star Wars: 100 Objects by Kristin Baver – A book focusing on 100 important objects from the Star Wars universe, in the style of a museum exhibit catalog.
Star Wars Merchandise Sneak Peek – Disney Parks & ShopDisney – Amy Ratcliffe was once again hosting, as we reviewed some of the stories about how the products are designed and what we can expect to be available in the future.
- They talked about visiting the archives to make a match for costumes, while also taking into consideration the Florida summers, so they made the fabric lightweight. There seemed to be a strong effort to make clothing items (robes, tunics, etc) as authentic as possible to the screen used versions.
- Some highlights:
- There had been several dolls that were made to look as if they had been made in the village, and being sold in the market. They will be expanding these, including a new Rey doll.
- Guests have come to enjoy the many animals and creatures. Some new creatures will be appearing, including Gorg (Star Wars Resistance) and Therii (Star Wars : Elee and Me)
- Savi’s Workshop sabers are being reimagined, as the scrap available on Batuu changes.
- Star Tours 35th Anniversary, means some special merchandise to celebrate
- A bunch of merchandise will be released to help celebrate the Vintage Action Figures, including shirts, spirit jerseys, and more
- A new Concept Series of clothing is also being released, to celebrate Star Wars 45th anniversary. This series includes clothing, pins, Funkos, posters, etc.
- One of the more exciting releases was the famed Camtono safe, which has been seen in prior films and in the Mandalorian.
Go beyond the spires in Virtual Reality: Making of ILMxLAB’s Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge – A fascinating discussion about the VR game and its sequel “Last Call”. If you have a Meta Oculus Quest gaming setup, I would highly recommend checking out this game. The games take place in and around the Blackspire Outpost, connecting Galaxy’s Edge to the broader Star Wars universe. It was interesting enough to me to consider investing in the platform!
Skywalking Through Neverland Variety Show – They weren’t joking when they called this a variety show! Sarah and Richard hosted the hour, introducing their network friends, and giving away Star Wars related book! It was a great opportunity for them to highlight the different podcasts in the Skywalking Through Neverland Network, mixed in with musical performances. Everyone had a fun time. Make sure to check out Richard’s new book : Today in Star Wars History – Part 1, which was released in April.
Behind the Audiobook : Making an Audio Original Star Wars Adventure – I had anticipated this was going to be about books that had been then published as a narration. When I think of audiobooks, that is my normal association. The reality is that these were actually more dramatized stories, much closer to the audio dramas of yore, such as the Lone Ranger. It was interesting to hear the original recordings, and the version with sound effects and vocal processing.
I started off the day by connecting with Jesse from Hawaii Star Wars Collectors Club and Eric from the 501st Legion – Old Line Garrison. It was fun to learn about the swag/trade culture among Star Wars fans, which I was woefully unprepared for this time! I’ll have to design some patches to trade with at the next Star Wars Celebration I attend!
Mando+ : A Conversation with Jon Favreau & Dave Filoni – Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos or videos during this presentation. However, they did show us a teaser for the upcoming Ashoka series, as well as a trailer for The Mandalorian Season 3. Needless to say, everyone was excited.
Celebrating the Ewok Adventures – Richard and Sarah from Skywalking Through Neverland hosted Eric Walker (Mace in The Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor), with Kevin (Ewok in Return of the Jedi, The Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor) and Tracey Thompson to discuss their experiences with Eworks and filming. Kevin and Tracey also discussed their book, My Journey to Endor, which highlights Kevin’s experiences working on the Star Wars : Return of the Jedi film.
Behind the Scenes of the Mandalorian & The Book of Boba Fett – Another panel where they didn’t want a lot of photos or video. They really emphasized that they were expected to make something of the quality and scale of a film, but with the fraction of the budget and a lot more aggregated screen time. To make this kind of effort plausible, they needed to make technological advancements. The main thing that has enabled all of this is the ILM StageCraft, which utilizes LED screens to create the environments. Much of the environment can be filmed “in camera” as opposed to adding later in post production. This also provides a better experience for the actors, and an overall better production value.
Tales of the Jedi – This is a project born out of Dave Filoni’s sketching on plane flights. It will be a series of animated shorts, highlighting aspects we haven’t seen before. Apparently 3 episodes will focus on Ashoka, and 3 will focus on a young Dooku and Qui-Gon Jinn. We were able to see one of the Ashoka episodes, and it was about Asoka as a baby and the adventure she had with her mom! Dave Filoni did warn people that some of the episodes will be a bit darker than people might expect. It will be interesting to see what that translates to on the screen.
Doug Chiang : Designing the Mandalorian – This was a pretty interesting panel, where Doug Chiang showed the progression of some of the designs of characters and backgrounds. They also had to deal with how to make some of the engineering work, in reality, when some of the older designs hadn’t worried about that. The specific example was Boba Fett’s ship (Slave One) and how things would work inside when it rotated.
WDW Radio – Lou Mongello was in town and did a live recording with Beci Mahnken from Mouse Fan Travel and Ryan Donoho from The Force Cast. The topic focused around the history of Star Wars in the parks. Definitely worth a listen!
Wonderful World of Wookiees – Another fantastic panel hosted by Amy Ratcliffe. Amy was initially joined by Angie Mayhew, to talk about the Peter Mayhew Foundation, and the great work they are doing to help families through different crises. Next, Amy was joined by Charles Soule (author of High Republic and wrote a wookie Jedi into the Star Wars Galaxy), Carey Jones ( plays the wookie bounty hunter Krrysantan in The Book of Boba Fett), and Joonas Suotamo (replaced Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca in the most recent trilogy of the Skywalker Saga and Solo). We learned about the challenges of being a Wookie and the effort to capture Peter Mayhew’s performance of Chewbacca.
The last Star Wars Celebration I attended was in 2015, so I am inclined to try to compare it to memories from many years ago. Admittedly, that could skew some of my opinions and thoughts! Regardless, I did appreciate that the exhibitors area seemed to be consistently less crowded, more manageable, and easier to navigate. I’m sure that wider aisle ways helped play a role in all of this, combined with less exhibitors in general. It also seemed as if the guests were generally more patient and pleasant with each other. I have bad memories of lots of pushing and shoving at the last one, and I didn’t hear about any of that this year.
There were definitely technical challenges with the lottery for panels, in advance of the show. Some people got lots of panels, while others got zero. It seems as if whatever algorithm was used, would somehow better spread out those panels to everyone. Similarly, there seemed to be a lot of issues with the daily 8:30am (Mandalorian Experience) and 9am (Lightning Lane) lotteries as well. Lots of people getting error messages, not being allowed in, etc. There were reports of VERY long (3+hrs) lines for the convention store, combined with poor inventory. The convention was far from perfect.
One of the other big issues for the convention was Health and Safety (…and Security). There was very poor mask enforcement, with exception of a few stages, until Sunday. In a similar vein, there was very poor security around the checking of valid tickets. On Thursday, I had been looking for the normal lanyard hand out (they had run out) and had managed to walk all the way on to the exhibitor floor before realizing my ticket was still in my pocket. This wasn’t any better until Sunday. I saw several people walking around on Saturday, with Friday tickets displayed (and no other ones hiding behind). It seems this was a general problem throughout the weekend. I suspect most of this was a staffing issue that is plaguing many industries. Unfortunately, this likely had an unintended consequence of making lines longer, limited editions going quicker, and panels being more full than they should have been.
Overall, I had a great time, and while the problems were slightly different than I would have expected… every convention ends up having issues. We always hope and expect it to be better at the next one, but that is often not the case. There was likely staffing and knowledge drain during the pandemic. I have no regrets for attending the convention and hope to attend the next time it is hosted nearby. I don’t currently plan to attend the London 2023 event, but it seems as if many people are already booking their travels! Hopefully, I’ll be attending in 2024 or 2025.