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Monday, 18 July 2016

CELEBRATION 2016: AFICIONADO's HIGHLIGHTS

Sagas old and new at CELEBRATION 2016. Image: STARWARS.COM

So much to see and do, and yet there still wasn't enough time to experience it all. Regardless, STAR WARS AFICIONADO's Scott Weller crammed in an exceptionally busy schedule at STAR WARS CELEBRATION, up daily with the pre-dawn chorus wristband queuing, to look back at so many favourite moments from 15th- 17th July, 2016. The year that truly belonged to ROGUE ONE.

Unless otherwise credited, photos by Scott Weller


FRIDAY

1. Always enjoying the first sights of promotional material across the event from the outside Docklands Light Railway platforms onwards, to what all the halls would look like across the weekend. Its that all-important, first senses-awakening aspect to participating in a STAR WARS CELEBRATION event.

Closing Ceremony Reel | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 - YouTube


Anakin and Ahsoka reunited for a never made THE CLONE WARS episode. Image: Dave Filoni.

2. Ashley Eckstein's joyous but emotional and tearful response to the planned but never-made-to- animated-reality adventures between the end of THE CLONE WARS and STAR WARS REBELS revealed in the Ahsoka's Untold Stories panel. And let's not forget the always amusing, hating direct questions from the all too sharp kids, Dave Filoni, who, along with Matthew Wood and John Knoll, is one of the few fan favourite people left within the public SW community arena with ties to the original and prequel universes, and the inheritance of George Lucas' franchise.

3. The incredible 3-D CGI panorama created by John Knoll of the original Death Star docking bay interior, using available reference material. I was blown away by how good it looked on the digital screen, during the ILM Presents: Star Wars Archeology panel. Special kudos to Doug Chiang for his enthusiastic look back to the Prequels and now to ROGUE ONE, with its own unique mix of old/new practical design alongside ground breaking new areas. Also good to see his confirmation that more practical model work was done for EPISODE I than most other SW movies.

Image: STARWARS.COM

5. Ben Mendelsohn truly returning to his inner fandom roots by dressing as Director Krennic and parading onto the Celebration Stage for the ROGUE ONE panel. An outstanding moment. I also enjoyed his later flirty banter with the always vivacious Gwendoline Christie, who made a fine CELEBRATION host. Also, a mention to genre favourite Alan Tudyk on stage, whose droll humour proved popular-clearly a perfect choice to play what will be very imperfect new former Imperial droid aiding our heroes. Kathleen Kennedy was clearly watching what the actors were saying about the film, but looked more relaxed as the presentation went on, whilst the "Sizzle Reel" for the film got several playings.

6. An hilarious three-way lightsaber duel, with bad accompanying singing of "Duel of the Fates", taking place in the car park between three clearly drunk British "Jedi" outside, below my hotel room window, at 12.30am, when I really needed sleep!


SATURDAY

1. A better than I expected panel linked to The Creatures, Droids and Aliens of TFA. It was lovely to see the dedication and responsibility to the saga held by Neal Scanlan and his clearly enthused team of practical engineers, and the items brought to show the audience. Great to find out more about the return of Chewbacca (played by three actors overall, with each having two suits created for them). And then there was another fantastic look at the alien seen briefly in the ROGUE ONE showreel: the team named "Space Monkey"- truly impressive up close and certainly giving stage compere Warwick Davis and his nearby Ewok memorabilia a hard time.

UPDATED: "Space Monkey"s name and species revealed:Star Wars: Rogue One creatures Pao, Bistan introduced | EW.com

2. Didn't see the panel except on outside screen, but Anthony Daniels red arm improvisation to his infamous golden coat was a fun touch, and tribute, to his appearance in TFA. I gather Daniels took control of, a.k.a. sabotaged, Warwick's control of the panel for a while.

3. Seeing Classic Trilogy producer Gary Kurtz at the event, there for a look around and to say "hi" to Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. Also about that day, TFA production designer Rick Carter.

5. Getting a better look at all the brilliant Cosplay work. Friday was Leia's day, Saturday was a tie between Leia and Rey (there in every age group conceivable, from infant to mature), whilst Sunday was clearly "Rey Day"! Special shout outs to the ROGUE ONE fan costumers, especially the little boy dressed up as Krennic, in a brilliant costume, and even parading about in the same manner, plus a singular Jyn Erso lookalike.



6. The ROGUE ONE costumes area- nicely done and likely better presented than THE FORCE AWAKENS presentation had been at the Anaheim CELEBRATION of a year ago. The new Stormtroopers (Death Troopers and Shoretroopers) looked incredible, as did the new Imperial shuttle.

Image: DISNEY XD/LUCASFILM.

7. STAR WARS REBELS day at CELEBRATION. The audience going absolutely insane with the reveal of the beloved book baddy Thrawn to the series, and the chants of happiness to Dave Filoni for his, and the Lucasfilm team's, creative decision and tribute to the work of Timothy Zahn and the now defunct, original version of the Expanded Universe. It was also great hearing Filoni talking about the always charismatic former DOCTOR WHO Tom Baker, voicing the mysterious new alien Bendu creature with charm and authority, and how besotted Filoni's wife was when they came to England and met up with him!

Didn't like the distracting security team on the aisles, let loose in looking out for the spoiler brigade during the episode screening, though, but it had to be done. The two Season Three launching episodes had some great new visual looks for Ezra and Sabine, but weren't in the same league story-wise as the striking and brutal opening Vader episodes of Season Two, with Thrawn's series arrival a little too subtle for my tastes. The Y-wing rescue plot line of the second half was enjoyable: the building links to ROGUE ONE starting here!

Image: via Doug Chiang FACEBOOK page.

8. The surprise appearance of Gareth Edwards, dressed as a Stormtrooper at The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel, asking a humorous question to a Brit teammate, watched by a thrilled audience.

Lucas visits Gareth Edwards and the ROGUE ONE filming. Image: LUCASFILM.

9. At the end of that panel, I asked the final audience question to the conceptual art team: whether any concept work had been done for the unused George Lucas story treatment for EPISODE VII. The controversial looks on David Collins and the panellists faces was interesting and they clearly didn't want to answer this one. It was left to LUCASFILM Story Group's very serious Rayne Roberts to firmly say that nothing was done. Sorry, but I don't believe that one, at all!

Art: Tsuneo Sanda.

10. Enjoying the CELEBRATION Art Show area, and always wishing I could be as good as these fabulous guys and gals. Love the work of Sanda, and it was Also great to separately catch up with Matt Busch and talk about his Holiday Special piece from Anaheim's CELEBRATION.

Art: Matt Busch.
Image: DISNEY EXPERIENCE.

11. Mark Hamill's impromptu, surprise solo talk near the end of the day to a mass of spellbound fans on the impressive Falcon interior Star Wars Show stage. We were all forced out for closing when we could have heard him for much longer.

Mark Hamill Randomly Takes Over And Tells Stories!! Very Funny! - Star Wars Celebration 2016 - YouTube

12. Watching the late evening Celebration Stage screening of THE FORCE AWAKENS with a die-hard audience, full of clapping, cheering, and waving coloured lightsabers. There was a small technical hitch with the opening crawl but that didn't dampen the viewing fun. The previous night's A NEW HOPE (2011 Blu-ray version) screening was also good, though its clear that the re-mastered background use of the amazing John Williams music is still too low in the mix in comparison to the original release sound design.


SUNDAY

1. A very worthy presentation looking at unused/restored music cues for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, hosted and worked on by David Collins. Its just a shame that so much noise and music from the outside merchandising stopped the more subtle restored cues from reaching the audiences ears.

Image: LUCASFILM.

2. The very interesting reveal of the new interactive Darth Vader Virtual Reality experience from the ILMxLab panel (written by BATMAN BEGINS' David Goyer, no less!), at the Lucasfilm: The Art of Storytelling Panel, featuring core talents from the various LUCASFILM departments, and how they've become more cohesive and bolder in ambition and storytelling for STAR WARS, and beyond.

SWCE 2016: David Goyer Working on ILMxLAB VR Project and Trials on Tatooine Comes Home | StarWars.com

Image: STARWARS.COM

3. Firmly sat on comfy seating for the final "event" of CELEBRATION: Future Filmmakers Discussion, and being impressed with Rian Johnson's subtle but intelligent approach to crafting EPISODE VIII, and the promise of some great camera work from him, as revealed by Kathleen Kennedy.

Image: STARWARS.COM

4. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill's oldster "bickering" on the Future Filmmakers panel, with John Boyega adding additional fun to this large assemblage of on stage talent, especially giving advice to the new Han Solo in Alden Ehrenreich, and its directors.

The Princess Leia medal ceremony dress from EPISODE IV, on display at the PROP STORE booth.

5. Taking a last half-hour look around the always busy two venue sections and photographing anything I missed!

Plenty of stands to visit before the final closing call!

Finally, a special "Hello!" to all the various stalls/publicity people, younger enthused event stewards, and fans from across the country, and the world, who were so friendly to meet and talk to across the three days. May the Force be with them all!

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