Star Wars Celebration 2019: News & Thoughts

It’s hard to believe but we’re already approaching a week since Star Wars Celebration came to an end. After a year off, it was back with a bang this year with 5 days of news and panels.

Now unfortunately, I had neither the funds or the time off to fly from the UK to Chicago, so I have spent the last week working my way through the live streams (BIG thank you to the Star Wars Show, who do a great job every time) and some other panels I really wanted to see. I’m going to go back through some of the news and my thoughts from an epic 5 days of Star Wars Celebration Chicago.


Episode IX

Ever since we passed the Super Bowl with no footage or title, I was certain that Celebration would be the moment that we got the big reveals. Lucasfilm didn’t disappoint though, as they ended Friday’s panel with a teaser trailer that revealed the title: The Rise of Skywalker

SW Episode IX Title Card

I won’t go too much into the trailer and title as I have already given my thoughts on those here, but I am very interested in what I saw and I’m looking forward to seeing how this will complete the saga. There are certainly things within the trailer that currently make me nervous (Kylo’s repaired helmet, the Death Star and Palpatine) but I’m confident that if things are done right, I will be completely sold on the decisions.

It was great seeing Lando in the trailer and hearing Billy Dee Williams on the panel say that Lando never left him was perfect! We got a little bit of news on Naomi Ackie’s character (we now know that she is called Jannah), but she was not clearly shown in the trailer – in fact none of the new actors were – and we did not get much more information about her, which I don’t mind this far out from the film’s release. Photos shown during the panel showed that Greg Grunberg is returning as Snap Wexley and I’m hoping that means we will get a number of returning Black Squadron pilots for a big space battle. It also wouldn’t be a new Star Wars film these days without a new droid and I am looking forward to seeing more from BB-8’s new friend D-0 and seeing what role he will have as he appears to be going on the mission along with the main group.


Vader Immortal

The latest VR experience from ILMxLAB is going to be set between Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One. Written by David S. Goyer, the experience has been said to comprise of 3 episodes, with the player taking on the role of a captain of a smuggling ship who has been captured by the Empire and taken to Mustafar as Dart Vader has chose us.

The first episode will focus on developing your lightsaber skills and the second your abilities with the Force. I imagine the third episode will be using these skills you’ve picked up in order to escape Vader’s castle.

Honestly, as great as this looks and sounds, I’m not that excited by this personally as due to its release being on Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S, which means that its something I’m not likely to experience anytime soon.


Galaxy’s Edge

We may not have actually seen much of Galaxy’s Edge but we got some great details in the Galaxy’s Edge panel. Hearing how involved Doug Chiang is gets me very excited as I love the work he has done throughout Star Wars and love how this will help give such an authentic feel to the park, as will the new music being scored by John Williams. Nien Nunb is set to feature and it was also announced that Yoda will be there in some form, voiced by none other than Frank Oz. If you ever wanted to feel like you were in Star Wars, then it looks like being in Galaxy’s Edge will do just that!

More details were given on the 2 main rides that will feature in the park: Rise of the Resistance will begin by you going to the ruins outside Black Spire Outpost to find the Resistance base, only to be captured by the First Order and taken to a Star Destroyer, from which you must escape. If that doesn’t sound good enough, I loved hearing that managing to successfully escape will see you regarded as a hero of the Resistance as you go around the park. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run will see you take the Falcon on a job for an animatronic Hondo Ohnaka (which looks incredibly life-like and is voiced once again by the amazing Jim Cummings). There will be 3 roles to perform on the Falcon: pilot, engineer and gunner, so to get the full experience you will need to go at least 3 times. Perhaps the craziest bit of news about this ride is that the look of the hallway you exit through will change depending on how well your group did, looking much more damaged if you struggled and looking more pristine (by Falcon standards) is you did well – I may have to ride 4 times so that I can do well in every role and also have one go where I do less well so that I can see the damage!

All of the merchandise around the park looks great and so much of it has a legitimate in-universe reason for being there too, including soft drinks that have been Star Wars-ified with bottles featuring branding in Aurebesh, which looked awesome! Dok-Ondar’s shop will be the place to go if you want to purchase your favourite character’s lightsaber, each one coming in a case with that character’s personal symbol, or if you go to Savi’s Workshop, you will be able to go through the process of creating your own custom lightsaber, while outfits you can buy in the park will have clips on the belt that allow you to wear your lightsaber with pride.

The parks will heavily use the Play Disney Parks app, specifically the Star Wars datapad, which sounds like it will have a number of roles:

  • Hack – where you can use your smartphone to interact with droids and panels 
  • Scan – allowing you to look inside crates
  • Translate – allowing you to translate Aurebesh writing and alien languages into your own language
  • Tune – where you can use your phone to pick up transmissions, some of which will allow you to get more of the characters’ backstories

While in the park, you can align yourself with the Resistance, First Order or the local scoundrels to a great a degree as you’d like. As well as taking on jobs for the factions, one of the tasks you can do around the park is called “Outpost Control”, where you hack surveillance panels for either the Resistance/First Order to take control of them all.

I’m so excited to get to experience this, but right now it is just the American parks getting Galaxy’s Edge, so I’m not sure how soon I will get to experience it. I really hope that this gets brought over to DLP soon, but if it does, I have a horrid feeling that it will be heavily scaled down and not to the same level as in the US.


Jedi: Fallen Order

I won’t go too much into the news from the Jedi: Fallen Order panel as again, I have already given the majority of my thoughts here.

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Set during the Dark Times between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, the game’s story will focus on a Jedi Padawan called Cal Kestis, played by Cameron Monahan (Gotham), with his nemesis apparently being the Second Sister, an Inquisitor introduced in the Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith comic.

The game has been confirmed as a single player story game, with no multiplayer or micro-transactions, with the combat being described as action-meleé and “thoughtful combat”, not just button-mashing but still easy enough to pick up and capable of being mastered with time.

I am so excited for this game and can’t wait to see more!


The Clone Wars Season 7

As a huge fan of the show, this was probably one of the panels that I was most excited for and it didn’t disappoint! Again, you can find my thoughts and the announcements and footage (including the trailer) here.

SW The Clone Wars S7 Poster

The animation has been revamped slightly and I think it does a great job of making characters like Anakin look closer to their live-action appearances and also allows for much more emotion to be shown on the characters’ faces.

The 12 episodes appear to be covering 3 story arcs: the Bad Batch (a re-tooled version of the story reels that have been available online), an arc featuring Ahsoka in the lower levels of Coruscant and the Siege of Mandalore.

What I am really excited about is the return of Maul, as Ray Park has been brought in for motion capture for the fight between him and Ahsoka… this could end up the best duel in the entire series!

I can’t wait for these episodes to come out!


The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian panel got me very excited for the series, but not as hyped as I was hoping and expecting.

feat SW The Mandalorian Logo

Hearing Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano and Carl Weathers talking about the show and the filming was amazing, with a lot of talk of Western and samurai influences (Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa being name-dropped and Pascal’s role being compared to Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name), which is a combination that gets me super excited.

The show really sounds like a labour of love, with members of the 501ˢᵗ Legion organisation being brought in when the creators realised they needed more stormtroopers and an increasing number of people offering their services to help recreate some of the techniques used with miniatures in the Original Trilogy.

In terms of reveals, this show has been announced as being set 5 years after Return of the Jedi. Carano will be playing a former rebel shock trooper called Cara Dune, a loner who is having issues reintegrating into society, while Weathers will play Greef Carga, head of a guild of bounty hunters who will hire Pascal’s character for a job. Both of these sound like very interesting characters and along with the Mandalorian, who Pascal described as a bounty hunter and lone gunman with questionable morals, I love the sound of these characters and can’t wait to see more.

Unfortunately, I was not left as excited as I hoped watching this panel on the live stream, as the decision was made to cut the stream for the behind the scenes sizzle reel shown midway through the panel and the footage shown at the end, which I have seen described as a scene and a trailer. Everything that I have heard from those who were in the panel has been very positive and I think that it was a very poor decision to deny people outside of the panel the chance to see this footage given that this is one of the flagship shows for Disney + and also that so many fans will have been unable to attend the panel, either due to not being able to attend Celebration due to lack of funds or time off (like myself) or due to not having any luck getting into the panel with the lottery. I have no problem with those in the room getting a little bonus, but I think it would have been a great move to release the sizzle reel and trailer, especially as it led to people in the room were posting low-quality recordings to YouTube in no time!


Cassian Andor Series

Not much information on this show yet, but it was announced that Alan Tudyk will be returning to play K-2SO. I love K-2 so I can’t wait to see more of his partnership with Cassian and look forward to hearing more about the show.


Resistance

featstar-wars-resistance-tall

Unfortunately, The Mandalorian wasn’t the only show to have its panel cut for those relying on the live stream as the Resistance panel was cut pretty much the moment conversation switched from season 1 to season 2. Hopefully we don’t have to wait too much longer to see something, but considering the first-look trailer for season 1 didn’t come out until summer I won’t hold out too much hope.


Alphabet Squadron

Probably the novel I’m most excited about that hasn’t released yet, I have really enjoyed Alexander Freed’s first 2 novels in the canon and think we are onto another hit here.

The first in a trilogy, Alphabet Squadron will follow a squad of pilots (each in a different ship) shortly after the Battle of Endor. A number of the pilots have been described as traumatised, with some being the only survivors of their squadrons, so I am really looking forward to this as it sounds like another grittier war story. I’m also really excited to see Hera Syndulla returning to canon in a story away from the rest of the Spectres and think that it will really help to expand the character.

I can’t wait for this novel to come out!


Thrawn: Treason

The third in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn series will see Thrawn interacting with both Tarkin and Krennic, which sounds great as Zahn talked about how the pair try to politically outmanoeuvre Thrawn. I loved the first book and also enjoyed Thrawn: Alliances (keep an eye out for my review, coming soon) and I’m really looking forward to seeing how this chemistry works.

Other big news from the Lucasfilm Publishing panel was Timothy Zahn’s confirmation that Eli Vanto will be returning from Thrawn, along with Ar’alani and a Chiss warship, while the Grysk will feature after their introduction in Thrawn: Alliances. My feelings towards the Thrawn series so far have been largely positive, and I look forward to picking up this novel.


Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire

The other novel that caught my attention was Delilah S. Dawson’s Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire. Vi Moradi from Phasma will be returning in this novel, with Leia sending her on a mission to set up a Resistance base on Batuu. Dawson also teased that the character of Cardinal will also be returning from Phasma

I’ve sadly not got round to reading Phasma yet (I will hopefully get there soon) but everything that I have heard about it makes me think that I will enjoy Dawson’s stories, while I am also looking forward to seeing how it ties in to the story being told at Galaxy’s Edge.


Project Luminous

One of the big teases at Celebration was of “Project Luminous”. Very little is known of this yet, other than it has a 2020 release date and is an initiative involving Cavan Scott, Claudia Gray, Justina Ireland, Daniel José Older and Charles Soule.

Now when I first heard of the project, I assumed that it was the first group of writers being confirmed for a From a Certain Point of View book of The Empire Strikes Back, which will be celebrating it’s 40ᵗʰ anniversary in 2020. The more I have heard about this though, I get the feeling that this is the full roster of people involved.

The reference to Yoda’s “My ally is the Force” speech and the symbol of the Jedi Order on the title card for the project, combined with the 2020 release makes me now think that this may actually be relating to filling in the gap in Luke’s timeline between the Original and Sequel Trilogies, showing him rebuilding the Jedi Order and the fall of Ben Solo. I could be completely wrong, though, so can’t wait to hear more about it!


The Movie Trivia Schmoedown

It was the Schmoedown at the last Star Wars Celebration that enticed me in to watching a regular match and I have never looked back since. That match was the first match in the Star Wars division and saw Ken Napzok win a Fatal Fiveway to become the first champion.

s6 Schmoedown Star Wars

The Schmoedown made a return at Celebration on Friday with a #1 Contender Fatal Fiveway. Veteran Joseph Scrimshaw (ForceCenter) may have an 0-2 record in the league but has put in 2 impressive performances, losing both his matches to future champions Sam Witwer (Maul himself) and Alex Damon (Star Wars Explained). This time he was taking on 4 debutants Mollie Damon (Star Wars Explained), patron Andrew Dimalanta, Andy Blanchard (Rooster Teeth) and Laura Kelly (Force Toast Podcast), with the winner taking on Alex Damon for the title in front of 1000 fans the next night.

Now I’m not going to give away any spoilers but there were great performances by all the competitors involved and if you’ve not watched the Schmoedown before but love Star Wars, I highly recommend giving this and the title match a watch and seeing how you do.

You can find the Celebration Fatal Fiveway here and Saturday’s Championship Match here.


What did you think of Celebration and the news? Thanks for reading and may the Force be with you…

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