Star Wars Celebration IV: An Epic Blog

WARNING: The following post strictly focuses on Star Wars related news and a summary of my trip to Star Wars Celebration IV in Los Angeles. If you are not a Star Wars fan, but like Family Guy or Robot Chicken, you may want to keep reading to find out about the creators and their upcoming Star Wars specials. If you’ve already lost interest: “We don’t need to see your identification. Move along, move along.”

For those who have never been to a Star Wars Celebration or any other convention, let me start by giving you the gist of what one of these events entail. Basically a group of people who are all interested in one thing or a bunch of related things (movie franchises, games, comics, etc) all pay to go to a big event/show about a topic they like. During this convention, there are exhibits, panel discussions, presentations, exhibitors, manufacturers, and vendors. All of these offerings are meant to drawn in fans and generate a ton of revenue.

The first convention I ever attended was Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis. Over the next 2 years leading up to Star Wars Celebration IV, I attended GenCon Indy twice (gaming), Origins (gaming), and MARCON (science fiction/fantasy). So, I have some experience with the three basic sizes of conventions: mega, standard, and micro. The SW Celebrations fall under the mega category. CIII had an estimated attendance of 30,000 people and CIV is estimated at 40,000 people in attendance. As you can see, this is like the Super Bowl event for Star Wars geeks.

Planning for these events begins about a year before the event actually happens. Once the venue and dates are announced, people begin booking rooms, flights, requesting off work and saving money to go to these Celebrations and conventions. Once you get there, you never know what to expect. CIV definitely had a lot of interesting and sometimes surprising events. I’m just going to go through what I saw and not try to cover everything since this post is already behind. Please note that a lot of my pictures may seem to be of poor quality, but this is because I followed the rules and used no flash during the panels and many of my shots are actually shots of the huge projector screens so that you, the reader, can see what we were seeing. For more behind the scenes information and pictures, check out these links:

Thursday, May 24

Thursday was Fan Club Day at the convention. Anyone who bought a 4-day badge and was a member of Hyperspace (the official Star Wars Fan Club) could enter a day early and check out the convention. We used this day to stand in line for exclusives.

Let me tell all of you who aren’t big into collecting that the line races and lengths are amazing. One booth in particular, Gentle Giant Ltd., was an impossible line. Fire marshals were regulating the line length and people were getting very angry and confrontational after a few hours of trying to get in the line and being denied. Then GG announced that pre-order pick-ups would have to wait until the next day because they ran out of the one of the exclusives. Now these pre-orders were pre-paid, so they should not have run out under any circumstances. We were some of the lucky customers that had to come back the next day. Not that I minded because we never made it into the purchase line to get the one exclusive I got shut out of pre-ordering.

Some of the purchasing had special fan club deals. The official store allowed fan club members to buy 5 action figures instead of 4 like everyone else with 4-day badges was allotted if they purchased them on Thursday. Hasbro increased their figure limit from 5 to 6 on that day. There were tons of great exclusives, artwork, and deals and it was hard to stay on budget.

I ended up misplacing my backpack at the official store when the volunteers shamed me into trying on a shirt and I almost didn’t get it back from security. First they denied having it when it was in plain sight, and then they demanded that I had to know the brand of the bag even though I told them there were documents with my name and address all over them inside that would match my ID. Finally I told them it was a cheap Wal*mart bag, so I didn’t know the brand, and began to hastily list every item inside. They finally backed off and let me sign for it.

We also had to mail a bunch of packages home since I knew we’d never get them all of them on the plane. Due to some misunderstandings about mailing labels and the watchful eye of the postal workers, we were forced to ship everything Priority mail which meant that cost us a bundle. This was before I was able to retrieve my backpack, so I wasn’t in the mood to do the labeling over again.

Friday, May 25

This day was the official 30 year anniversary of the opening day of Star Wars. My friend Winch joined us for this day’s activities. He’d never been to a convention before so I think it took him a while to take it all in. We didn’t get to do the one thing he was hoping which was to take his picture with a Slave Leia, but we did get to do some other fun things. We got shut out of the GG line again, but were able to get our pre-orders. Then Winch showed up and we decided to show him around the exhibitor hall (which is where all the merchandising and sales take place). He grabbed a bite and then we got in line to see the free Carrie Fisher panel.

The host for this stage was Jay Laga’aia (Captain Typho). Basically they just talked about the fans and what it was like making the original movies. Seemed like Carrie’s answer for everything was, “Well, I was on drugs so it’s all a bit fuzzy”. Here are some pics of this panel:

Carrie and Jay


We tried to see the Fanboys special screening and panel, but due to going to the wrong line at first, we got shut out. Pregremlin was lucky enough to run into Kristen Bell (AKA Veronica Mars, who plays one of the leads in the movie) on his way out of the bathroom, so he tailed her and took a pic with his camera phone. (Sorry, but I don’t have that one).

The opening ceremonies for CIV were that night, so we decided to get in line about 2 hours before they started. (This is the last minute for something like this). I was afraid we would get shut out again, but we didn’t. We made it in and there were plenty of empty seats when the ceremonies began which I found strange since the line we were in was 4 abreast and strung out around most of the convention center outside. We settled in and enjoyed the show. Here’s a pictorial rundown of the opening ceremonies:

The L.A. mayor welcoming us and proclaiming 5/25 as Star Wars Day in L.A. He also asked us to spend a lot of money, which was answered with a lot of laughing from the crowd.

Another random person raving about how big Star Wars is in pop culture – as if we had no clue.

USC marching band

Stormtrooper color guard

A random ewok appears

Indiana Jones whips the ewok

Wait! That ewok was Steve Sansweet, head of Fan Relations (or some such) at Lucasfilm and our MC

Video of Uncle George welcoming us and apologizing for dissing us at this celebration

The supposedly live feed of Uncle George from London. Glad to see that even Lucasfilm realized his lack of being there was a little shady.

Treats during the ceremonies were these pieces of cake that were passed out to everyone in attendance. Sure they’re small, but it was a nice 7,000-piece gesture.

Lucasfilm head of licensing talking about how fun it is to decide which toys we get.

The Post Office talking about the new Star Wars stamps. I find it hard to take speakers seriously when someone is signing right beside them.

Unveiling and dedicating the stamp sheet

Unveiling the winning stamp – Jedi Master Yoda.

Steve sans ewok suit

Charles Ross, writer/performer of the One Man Star Wars Trilogy. This guy is hilarious, and you can see a clip at his site.

Jay singing “Celebration” and asking the crowd to get up and dance with him.

Scott Chernoff talks about his events. This is where we left.

You can see another fan’s blow-by-blow account of the ceremonies here: Beat-by-beat.

After the ceremonies we visited the CIV store again so Winch could see if he wanted a keepsake. When we tried to return to our car through the convention center, we were informed that we had to exit that door as everything else was being shut down. Security was very closed-mouth about it, and we were forced onto the dark streets of L.A. to walk back and hope we could get into the garage to retrieve the car. The next day I had my first hint of why the ceremonies weren’t as packed as I had thought they would be and why we had to take our night hike. Rumors of a bomb scare were being passed among the crowd and security seemed extra tight.

When I got back from the trip, I found out what had happened that night from several sites (links below) and found out why many fans weren’t able to join the fun. Someone had left a suitcase of clothing on a sidewalk next to the convention center. Obviously terrorists or Trekkies would target 40,000 Star Wars fans, so the L.A. bomb squad was called in to secure the area. Many fans were shut out of the ceremonies or forced to watch wistfully through the doors until they were ejected for crowd control and safety reasons. Those of us enjoying the show never had an inkling that this was going on outside. No one said anything and no one tried to get us out. Nice to know that if it hadn’t been a harmless bag of clothes a bunch of celebrities and us would have been toast.

Bomb scare links:

Are you still reading this? Great! Now onto the BIG day…

Saturday, May 26

Saturday was a HUGE pop culture day for Star Wars fans. This was lucky for us as our other friends Warren and Rocks were joining us for that day’s fun. Neither of them had ever been to a convention either, so I’m not sure what they expected. We were running just about on time when we got there, so we immediately searched and found the Star Wars Robot Chicken panel line. After waiting about an hour, we were in and ready to hear what Seth Green had to say.

Robot Chicken decided to do a Star Wars special when Lucasfilm called to ask them if they could host the clip of Vader calling the Emperor about the destruction of the first Death Star on their site. Seth and crew said “yes” and asked them if they could do a half hour Star Wars special. Lucasfilm agreed, and the next thing you know, Seth is getting a tour of Skywalker Ranch from Uncle George. The special airs 6/17/07. Here are my pics from the panel and a trailer for the upcoming special:

Panel ID picture

Scene from the special

Seth Green

Supposedly Seth as a Stormtrooper at a previous Celebration

Matthew Senreich and Keith Crofford: co-creator and exec. prod.

Breckin Meyer who also worked on the special

Link: adult swim SWRC trailer

Seth, Matt, and Breckin are HUGE Star Wars geeks. Seth said he knows all of the characters because he bought all of the action figures when he was young. He also said that he remembers really obscure characters like Elan Sleazebaggano (the guy who tries to sell Obi-wan death sticks in AoTC) if there was a mail-in figure offer. Matt used to be the editor of Toy Fare magazine (the premiere magazine for toy collectors), so he knows his Star Wars figures. The whole panel was very funny and liked sharing stories about making RC and about trying out for parts in movies, like X-men.

After this panel, we did a circuit of the exhibitor’s hall so W&R could get a taste of the other side of CIV. While touring the hall, we captured these photos:

Next up was the Fanboys panel. This movie is about 5 friends who go to steal Phantom Menace before it’s released. The panel included director Kyle Newman, two of the writers, three of the producers, and three of the actors: Sam Huntington, Jay Baruchel, and of course, Pregremlin favorite, Kristen Bell. They basically talked about how so many people had agreed to do the script and then dropped it, what it was like making the movie, and what kind of Star Wars fans they were. Here are a couple of pics I took:

The Panel

Kristen Bell as Slave Leia

The next event was Star Wars Family Guy. Seth Macfarlane was there to answer questions and show us some clips form the upcoming special. He walked out onto the stage carrying a beer and a mint Dagobah playset from around 1980 sealed in a glass case. Here’s a pic of him with the fig:

Seth and the playset

The playset was awarded to a kid who answered a Family Guy trivia question (with help from the audience). Of course as soon as the kid got it shouts of “don’t open it” and “open it” broke out in the crowd. The special will air as the season premiere and will be a full hour. Here’s the rest of the panel in pics:

Peter as Han

Chris as Luke and Lois as Leia

Peter as Stormtrooper Han

Peter as Han and Brian as Chewbacca

Stewie as Vader

Seth enjoying the panel

Seth signing autographs

This was definitely my favorite panel of the trip. Seth was obviously a big Star Wars fan and he seemed really down to earth and funny. He made fun of a guy who got up to ask a question and stumbled all over the word "unceremoniously”. He said, "How come you’re the one slurring when I’m the one drinking… Diet Pepsi?”

Well, I’m going to end this blog here. I know I left things out – either to cut down on the length of this post or because I simply forgot. I have to say that this entry is definitely the biggest post I’ve made, and with all of the hand-coding for syndication, it’s been one of the most difficult pieces to write. I hope anyone reading enjoys it, and please feel free to ask me questions.


“If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.” – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents