Wrapping up Celebration Anaheim; the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Celebration Anaheim Convention Banner

Celebration Anaheim has been over for two weeks and with the exception of a video that’s still being worked on, our main coverage is over. I wanted to take a final look back at the convention and post some thoughts on the weekend.

I had a lot of fun at Celebration Anaheim, there were a lot of excellent things to do and see over the course of the weekend including panels, shopping, cosplay characters and the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. I worked with the Pennsylvania Star Wars Collecting Society to help sell a Darth Vader medallion for Castaway Critters, and we sold out (first time ever at Celebration) raising over $6,700 for the charity.

I traded for a lot of cool swag from other fans and friends, many of whom I only see during large events such as this. There were also some cool exclusives in the store and from the vendors, including a new Lego set and a set of ornaments from Hallmark based on Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

It’s never possible to make every panel that you may want to see, but a few I was able to sit in on were the Star Wars Collectibles Update with Anita Castellar, Hot Wheels & Star Wars Join Forces with the Mattel team and Secrets of the Mos Eisley Cantina with Tom Spina and Pablo Hidalgo. The Cantina panel, especially, was really fun and being there with several PSWCS friends made it more special.

The Force Awakens Prop Display Kylo RenThe Force Awakens prop display, which was a secret until we arrived in Anaheim, was the perfect compliment to the trailer we saw on Thursday morning. Being up close to new characters such as BB-8 and seeing the costume for Kylo Ren were well worth the wait.

As with any convention, there were some good things, some bad things, and some downright ugly things. I reached out to a few friends of the Holocron for their opinions on what they liked, and didn’t.

The Good

Celebration Anaheim was the largest Celebration to date, we’re hearing 60,000 attendees, and there were a lot of excellent things to cheer for this year. The J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kenneday panel to open the show on Thursday morning was excellent. Getting to hear from the director and the new stars of the Sequel Trilogy and meeting BB-8 was enjoyable but the new The Force Awakens trailer was the real show stopper. While we definitely haven’t had the movie spoiled, hearing Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker doing the voice over and getting new looks at Rey, Finn and Poe, along with BB-8, was exciting and really set the tone for the rest of the convention.

Hot Wheels Booth Darth Vader Character CarOver the years the companies producing Star Wars collectibles have changed and this year was no different, with Mattel attending their first Star Wars Celebration along with Underground Toys and American Tourister, to name a few. Lego had probably the largest footprint on the show floor with a video screen showing cartoons and commercials for upcoming product, new product reveals and a huge Darth Vader build all located in front of their store where they were selling the show exclusive Tatooine Min-build and other sets. Lego also had a second area with statues and a huge TIE Fighter that fans could take pictures with, building tables full of Lego bricks were on hand for kids and adults to build something fun while taking a break from the show floor and they offered Make and Take builds each day where you could build a Star Destroyer, X-Wing, TIE Fighter and Millennium Falcon.

Hasbro had a much smaller presence this year but they co-located with Diorama Workshop so that the final build of Cloud City was at their booth. The only new item they debuted was a 6″ Ahsoka Tano figure but we did get a peek at the upcoming packaging changes for the Black Series line. They handed out free posters during the weekend and even had signings with Dave Filoni and Ashley Eckstein.

Sideshow was back after being absent for the past couple of Celebrations. Their display mostly included previously announced statues but it was still nice to see the excellent 1:4 scale Boba Fett. The major announcement for the weekend was their upcoming line of 1:6 scale action figures based on Ralph McQuarrie’s concept artwork.

PSWCS Celebration AnaheimProbably the best part of the weekend was hanging out with friends, especially those I only see at this type of event. Partying Thursday night with the Swedes, Cheesecake Factory with PSWCS and OSWCC members and Disneyland with Jace M. from OutlandCantina.net were highlights but the biggest surprise was the appearance of PSWCS member Mike D., who managed to sneak in for two days of the convention after thinking he’d be unable to attend. His making Celebration Anaheim also keeps his streak alive, he’s been to all of the US Celebrations!

Bill G. from ObiWanKenobi.org – “My favorite thing of the show was getting to ‘fly’ an X-wing, even if it was just a simulator. I have a cool 12 or so second video for my hour plus time standing in line. They needed at least 2, if not 4 of them to let more people have this experience. I like the behind the scenes stuff of the movies, especially the Original Trilogy. Went to a panel about the Secrets of the Mos Eisley Cantina and saw amazing costume pieces and pics of the search for the actors that play the background characters. Also about the Cantina, there was a full scale model of the Mos Eisley cantina on the main exhibit floor. Costumed characters would visit the cantina throughout the show, so the scene was always changing.”

Jace M. from OutlandCantina.net – “I did like the layout of the convention though. That seemed well done.”

Holocron reporter and photographer, Joe K. – “I liked the Abrams/Kennedy panel and the excitement it generated. The crowds were good and bad, a lot of people were having fun but it was crowded. The Rancho-Obi-Wan exhibit was great and very well run.”

The Bad

As I said, any convention of this size is bound to have things that don’t go well and Celebration was no different. There were some line management issues especially on the second floor where most of the panels were held. The Force Awakens prop display was a surprise that wasn’t announced in advance of the show and once people found out about it, the lines grew quickly and spread, in multiple sections, across a large part of the floor. Still, for those that spent the time to wait, it was an excellent display and one of the highlights for me.

The Collecting Track panels which have always been very well run by Gus Lopez and his many volunteers have become somewhat a victim of their own success. While all the panels are packed with wonderful collecting information, the giveaways have created huge lines to get in and I actually skipped a few panels because the queue was so long, it wasn’t worth waiting to end up being turned away if the room filled up. That happened to me once, with the Disney Parks & Star Wars Merchandise panel, on Thursday.

Lines for some of the exclusives were a hassle to navigate, more so than at previous Celebrations, with the wait time for the Lego Make and Take area, Hot Wheels and Hallmark being some of the longest. Picking up the Lego and Hallmark exclusives weren’t bad as they only sold a certain amount each day, I managed to make it through both without too much of draw on my time. However, the Make & Take Lego line and the Hot Wheels booth both had long wait times nearly all day, all four days of the show.

Joe – “It would have been nice if the Revenge of the Sith 3D movie could have been shown more than once so more people could attend. Also, the Clone Wars unused footage could have been run more than once.” (Editor’s note: The Clone Wars footage is now on StarWars.com)

The Ugly

Celebration Anaheim Store WedThe bad list wasn’t a long one for most of us but there were a couple parts of the show that really got ugly with the Celebration Store being on the tops of many lists. I had access to the early shopping event on Wednesday night and while I made it into the checkout line in about a half hour, it took over 2 hours to get through the checkout line. I walked out just about 10:00, which is when the event was scheduled to end, and the line behind me to checkout was probably at least another hour. Fellow PSWCS member Jim R. spoke to one of the cashiers on Wednesday night and was told they only had about a half hour of training before the doors opened.

Bill – “The store was a FAIL. Line to get in took hours, so did the line to pay. This is the 7th one of these, they ought to know better. By Saturday evening there was no line, but most of the shelves were bare.”

Since I was able to finish shopping on Wednesday night, I never went back to the store for the rest of the weekend but heard through other people that the checkout lines never picked up and were a bottleneck for the whole event. The trading pins were a sticking point for a lot of people as the display was flocked each day at opening and picked bare. There didn’t appear to be any limits on Wednesday or Thursday but by Friday we got word that the pin sets, or at least the blind boxed packs, were limited to two per person. Still, they were a sellout and we found a lot of people looking for certain characters throughout the rest of the weekend.

Official Pix, which has been one of the better run attractions at previous Celebrations, seemed to have some issues this time around. Specifically the line for the Star Wars Rebels voice actors who were mostly limited to Sunday signing times. Leading into the event it was asked if they’d be signing in a “production line” with them all together so a person could move down the line and have each sign rather than waiting in multiple lines to have them sign one at a time. That question went unanswered in the days prior to the show so I decided to not even bother with it.

Jace ended up waiting for several hours in line for the Rebels actors. “I feel the Official pix lines, especially the Rebels voice actors line, was extremely disorganized and mismanaged.”

Joe, when asked if anything stuck out as being ‘bad’ about Celebration, had just two words, “line management.”

The Conclusion

The good far outweighed the bad and ugly for Celebration Anaheim. I saw a lot of cool things and took a little different approach than at the previous two Celebrations which gave me more free time to walk around the show and see the sights, sit through panels for fun and do some trading for fan swag rather than spending time, and money, chasing dealer exclusives. Being able to attend Disneyland was also a highlight, even if it was just for one evening.

Disneyland Mickey

Spending time with friends was the best part of the weekend and really what Celebration should be about. Even though I liked Anaheim better than L.A., where Celebration IV was held, I’m pretty certain I won’t go back for another Celebration. If the rumors pan out and the next US event is back in Orlando, however, I’ll definitely be there. No matter how many conventions I go to, New York Comic Con, Baltimore or even Wizard World Philadelphia, there’s no substitute for Star Wars Celebration; a singular event dedicated to all aspects of Star Wars. How can you beat that?