This year Weekend One of Star Wars Weekends brought much of the familiar from previous years, as well as marking the beginning of some of the changes to the event as the franchise moves forward into its expanding new future.
Across the board I noticed a distinct increased focus on the Original Trilogy characters and imagery – not surprising, of course, with the Sequel Trilogy on the horizon that builds directly from those films. The theme for this year’s event, “Join the Rebellion,” was matched by the constant presence of the Empire. Good-guy clonetroopers have been replaced with bad-guy stormtroopers; instead of Jedi Generals welcoming guests it’s Imperial commanders taking charge. A lot more of the “Imperial March” in the music than in the past too.
The lengthy opening-weekend lines at Darth’s Mall didn’t change, though, nor did the shopping venue’s name or fierce logo. Her Universe merchandise was selling fast right from the start, with some sizes of the Ewok hoodie and Han Solo dress already sold out, or nearly there, by the end of just the first three days. Fortunately I had good luck making it into line to have my new Han dress signed by Ashley Eckstein. And the attendants at the D-Tech Me generously allowed me to get scanned ahead of my appointment, which made my schedule easier later.
The stage shows return this year, too, and are delightful as always. In Weekend One, the Stars of the Saga show featured Peter Mayhew and Ahmed Best, with James Arnold Taylor hosting. Both men had attended Star Wars Weekends previously, and were again charming and funny. I happened to attend the Sunday show, which featured a surprise birthday cake and rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Mayhew in honor of his 70th the following day.
As great as the guests and interviews always are, though, it’s the stormtrooper preshow for Stars of the Saga that steals the afternoon every time. This year it included a lengthy rant by one of the stormtroopers, who explained that the Empire is its own worst enemy in fighting against the Rebels. For fans of the Original Trilogy, the send-up of the Emperor’s overconfidence is quite funny; for newer fans less familiar with those movies, the segment provided a convenient recap of the key moments in the storyline. But you haven’t experienced Star Wars and Disney mashups until you’ve seen stormtroopers signing the chorus to “Let It Go.”
The Behind the Force show has shifted gears from The Clone Wars to Star Wars Rebels. Ashley Eckstein returns as host, entering the stage as a Jedi sneaking past the hapless stormtroopers with help from a Mind Trick. She introduces two clips from Dave Filoni, the first providing a basic introduction to Rebels and its place in the saga, and the second giving a quick walking tour of the Rebels creative team offices in San Francisco. Another clip pops into a recoding session to deliver quick greetings from the five principal voice actors in Rebels. In Weekend One, the stage guest was Vanessa Marshall, the voice of Hera Syndulla. She talked about her epic fangirl flail upon learning that she’d been cast in a Star Wars series, her extensive background as a voice actor, and what makes Hera a great character to bring to life in the Star Wars saga. The show ends with Chopper delivering a flashdrive with an exclusive clip from the show. To suit Vanessa’s appearance, in Weekend One the clip highlighted Hera piloting the Ghost while Kanan in the gunnery turret tries to take out the TIE Fighters chasing them. The look, sound, and banter definitely evoked the Original Trilogy – right down to Chopper interrupting a little lean-in from Kanan as the scene ended, very much like Threepio’s ill-timed intrusions on Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back.
As a long day at Star Wars Weekends winds down, a new closing ceremony celebrates the saga. The irreverent, sometimes risqué, Hyperspace Hoopla has been replaced with a brief stage show hosted by James Arnold Taylor that brings the saga’s fan-favorite characters together. Inside the Magic has an awesome recap and perspective. Then the night sky lights up with the Symphony in the Stars, a fireworks display set to the music from the films. Thanks to VaderRx at SpartanSwag.com for posting the video.
I noted a lot of Disneybounding with a Star Wars flair. The script and cast at Jedi Training Academy were diverse and encouraged fanboys and fangirls to participate. The line for Ahsoka signings were long, and it was fantastic to see Ezra and Sabine as featured Star Wars Rebels characters. Vanessa Marshall and Ashley Eckstein certainly showcased their fangirl pride. The only area the event fell short for fangirls (as in fankids) was in merchandising. I’ll be discussing that in more detail in a future post.
Check back soon for my recap of Weekend Two, highlighted by the RebelForce Radio meet-up with listeners and a gathering of many of the fandom’s top podcasters.
Tricia Barr’s novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library’s successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena’s Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.
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