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Star Wars Celebration Anaheim Recap
— A Guest Post by Paul Lindberg

ANAHEIM, Calif. – With three little words, the largest gathering in Star Wars Celebration history roared its approval and the beloved franchise’s premier fan event was launched into hyperspace at the Anaheim Convention Center on Thursday.

“Chewie, we’re home!” spoken by actor Harrison Ford playing his iconic character Han Chewbacca and Han Solo in a still from the Star Wars: The ForceSolo aboard the Millennium Falcon alongside his faithful Wookiee copilot Chewbacca was the final scene in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser, which was streamed simultaneously on StarWars.com during the world-wide release.

The capacity crowd at the Convention Center Arena, many of whom waited in line all night to guarantee a seat the event, exploded in fan-demonium, so much so that event officials immediately replayed the 110-second teaser to satisfy the lightsaber-wielding crowd chanting, “Again! Again! Again!”

The film’s Emmy-award winning director, J.J. Abrams, along with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, led a panel discussion that included Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, the new stars of the Star Wars universe moving forward who were cast in The Force Awakens.

“I’ve never had more fun in my life; working on anything,” said Abrams, who’s produced titles such as Star Trek Into Darkness and the hit-TV series Lost.

Ridley, who will portray Rey, a desert scavenger, is expected to be part of a new direction for the Star Wars universe that will include more female characters. She said has been overwhelmed with the fan’s response with a film that is still seven months away from being released. “Back stage we could just hear the swell of the crowd,” Ridley said. “It was amazing.”

Before revealing the film’s first teaser since giving Star Wars fans a sneak peek with a 90-second first glimpse last November, Abrams and Kennedy brought out stars from the original Star Wars films — Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), all of whom were cast in The Force Awakens.

Star Wars Celebration 2015

Next month, A New Hope — the first installment of the Star Wars films — will turn 37.

“You’re more than just fans, you’re family,” said Hamill, who then blew a kiss and waved to every corner of the arena.

Known as Lucasfilm’s “love letter” to its fans, Star Wars Celebration is the ultimate fan experience that brings Star Wars enthusiasts together from the around the world to celebrate the pop culture phenomenon. The franchise is swelling with new content soon to be released, including TV shows, video games, books and comics, along with a minimum of five new films.

The Force Awakens is scheduled for a December 2015 release. Star Wars’ renewed popularity was evident as an estimated 200,000 fans passed through the convention center’s doors during the four-day event.

“It’s the biggest crowd we’ve ever had,“ Kennedy said. “There’s more families here than celebration has ever seen.”

Along with long-awaited release of the new teaser, costumes, exhibits, screenings, exclusive merchandise, celebrity guests, panels, autograph and photo sessions kept fans busy all weekend. Saturday and Sunday tickets were sold out as the seams of the convention center facilities bulged and wait times for some events clocked in at more than four hours.

“What an amazing weekend this has been,“ Kennedy said during Sunday afternoon’s closing ceremonies. “I continue to be amazed at Star Wars fans but this weekend surpasses anything I ever imagined.”

Highlights of Star Wars Celebration Anaheim included additional reveals and releases that fans have been waiting excitedly for. Most of Friday focused on the trailer reveal for the video game Battlefront 3, which is scheduled to be released for the holiday shopping season.

Saturday was all about the Lucasfilm’s TV series Star Wars Rebels, which just wrapped up its first season on Disney XD. Fans were treated to panels that explained where the series is headed, including the addition of some of their favorite characters from Star Wars: The Clone Wars that was canceled in 2013.

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The big Star Wars Rebels reveal came in the form of an extended trailer for Season 2 of Rebels, which highlighted characters such as Darth Vader, Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex and Hondo joining the core group of characters developed in Season 1.

A limited number of fans were treated to a screening of the first two episodes of Season 2, which will contain 22 episodes but won’t air until this summer on Disney XD.

Rebels Executive Producer Simon Kinberg was asked at Saturday’s news conference about the burden to get things right when creating new content for a franchise with such devoted fans:

“There’s an automatic pressure with anything that has the words “Star Wars” in the title,” Kinberg said. “You always feel a responsibility. It’s like adding books to the Bible.”

Perhaps the biggest reveal came in the form of Lucasfilm’s venture into films outside of Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.

Earlier this year, it was announced standalone spinoff films were in the works, with the first movie titled Rogue One set for a December 2016 release.

As part of the Star Wars Anthology Series — as Lucasfilm is dubbing the side films — Rogue One will tell the story of a band of resistance fighters who unite for a daring mission to steal the Death Star plans. Fans also were treated to a short teaser for the film that was not made public but it ended up immediately being leaked online.

The next Star Wars Celebration is July 15-17, 2016 in London. Tickets went on sale at noon Monday. Officials made 200 VIP tickets available, which entitles the bearer to additional perks including meeting special guests and reserved seats to the main events. VIP tickets reportedly sold out in the first few minutes.

You can find Paul on Twitter @_dockingbay94_

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