Thursday marks the start of the 2017 edition of Star Wars Celebration. The long-running fan convention draws Force acolytes and Sith devotees from around the world to catch sneak peeks of upcoming projects, meet cast members from movies and TV, show off their costuming prowess, attend deep-dive panels covering all sorts of Star Wars arcana, gorge themselves on rare collectibles, and log quality time with members of their tribe. With the 40th anniversary of the original installment, A New Hope, and a new chapter, The Last Jedi, on the horizon, there will be plenty to celebrate. Yahoo Movies is en route to Orlando to chronicle the festivities, and these are the droids panels we’re looking for. (Even if you can’t make Celebration, several will be streamed on the show’s home page and the Star Wars YouTube page.)
1. First glimpse at The Last Jedi
Director Rian Johnson and the cast — including returnees Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and presumably newbies Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro — will convene Friday at 11 a.m. ET for what is the most anticipated event of Celebration, The Last Jedi panel. We expect to hear behind-the-scenes anecdotes, be tantalized by concept art and plot clues, hear the cast’s fond memories of the late Carrie Fisher (more on that below), and, for the grand finale, get our first teaser trailer for December’s Episode VIII.
2. The big 4-0
Celebration kicks off with a big bang on Thursday courtesy of the 40 Years of Star Wars panel, which brings together some of the galaxy’s biggest heroes and villains. Among the guests: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), Dave Filoni (the producer of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels), and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok) emcees the affair. In addition to looking back at the past four decades, this could be the panel where we also learn some details about the franchise’s future, which brings us to…
3. Han’s solo outing
We might get a report — and perhaps footage… and perhaps a title — from the set of the Han Solo film, which is in production for a May 2018 release. This may also be the venue where we learn the subject of the next standalone feature (Obi-Wan? Boba Fett?), slated for 2020.
4. Carrie Fisher forever
Fisher, who died suddenly four months ago, is certain to loom large over Celebration. In addition to the many ad hoc Princess Leia fan tributes expected, Mark Hamill will spend an hour Friday evening remembering his screen sister in what is certain to deliver equal parts tears and laughter.
5. Tales from the stars
In addition to appearing on stage in the blockbuster panels, saga stars Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Warwick Davis, and Ray Park (Darth Maul) will each be holding more intimate affairs during the four-day event, sharing their recollections and fielding fan questions.
6. The Rebels connection
Disney XD’s animated series has become the connective tissue in the Star Wars universe, bringing together characters and story elements from the prequels, the original trilogy, The Clone Wars series, the old Expanded Universe, and, most recently, Rogue One. The season finale featured a rematch between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The show’s guiding creative force, Dave Filoni, is joined by his cast members on Saturday for a look ahead at Season 4; we can’t wait to see which big-screen characters are next to appear in CGI form.
7. Toy story
We won’t lie: one of the biggest draws to Celebration is the chance to stalk aisles and aisles of collectibles, merchandise, and — most of all — toys. From the original Kenner offerings to the latest from Lego, Hasbro, Funko, and Mattel, this convention makes our inner 10-year-old squee. In addition to the booths, which are staffed by both independent sellers and major manufacturers, most of the aforementioned toy makers will hold panels showcasing their wares, with the focus being on the 40th anniversary. (Alas, The Last Jedi merch won’t be revealed until Force Friday in September to prevent spoilers and maximize hype.)
8. Game on
Star Wars has a checkered legacy when it comes to video games, but lately things have been on the upswing with a strong suite of mobile offerings and 2015’s resurrected Battlefront, which puts gamers inside iconic saga battles. EA promises a first look at the sequel during its gaming panel on Saturday, aptly titled The Galaxywide Premiere of Star Wars Battlefront II. While it might not quite be the galaxywide premiere thanks to a leaked trailer, we can’t wait to see Yoda, Rey, Darth Maul, and Kylo Ren blasting through scenes on Starkiller Base and Hoth, and engaged in massive space dogfights.
9. May the food be with you…
From that first blue bantha milk smoothie served by Aunt Beru, food has been a weirdly important part of Star Wars. Celebration offers plenty of sustenance in that regard, with such panels as Food and Fandom: Star Wars Recipes, Star Wars Food Collectibles, and The Art of Japanese Star Wars Vegetable Carving. Yum.
10. Marathon movie binge
Over the course of the Celebration, there will be the first back-to-back screening of Rogue One and A New Hope on Friday night, followed by the trifecta of Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens on Saturday.
11. Cosplayers on parade
Star Wars fans take their cosplaying seriously, as you can see in the Celebration trailer above. From random background characters to the franchise’s icons — heck, you’ll even spot a Jar Jar or two — attendees take pride in carefully crafting their looks. The legendary 501st Legion, whose membership spans the world and is bound by a love of exacting detail, will host a DIY costuming panel, while Saturday afternoon will culminate with the Championships of Cosplay, hosted by Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Clone Wars and Rebels and all-around fangirl.
Come back to Yahoo Movies for complete coverage of Star Wars Celebration.
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