July 26-28, 2013 marked an awesome time for many Star Wars fans in Europe. It happened right in the center of Europe, in Germany’s Ruhr valley, in Essen, the European Cultural Capital of 2010. Fans from around the globe gathered to celebrate a unifying cultural and intergalactic phenomenon: Star Wars.
Three days after the con and I am still on adrenaline. Surely many convention attendees know this feeling, the mix of exhilaration and exhaustion that follows you around for days after an amazing con. I was lucky to be there as a fan, a stormtrooper and a crew volunteer. My ‘work’ started on Thursday: before any visitors had the chance to even see the exhibition halls, I was able to take a first look, and I was speechless, blown away, stunned. This was going to be awesome. Apart from loads of merchandise, the Celebration Stage, the Autograph hall, and other show and exhibition locations, there were many fan-built props and sets, like Jabba’s Palace, Vader’s TIE fighter, a part of the Millennium Falcon, a huge AT-AT, the Endor Bunker with a Speeder Biker to climb on, and the part of the Cantina where Han shot first (yes, I know). I spent my first day just walking around, gazing in awe at all the amazing things I was going to see.
I guess a lot of people, celebrities and exhibitors included, hadn’t had the slightest idea how much the people of Europe, and Germany in particular, love Star Wars. I helped with line management for the main stage and it was amazing to see the vastly different people who attended. We were an international team, and we had international, and probably intergalactic, visitors to deal with. I was glad to be able to communicate in various languages and happy that my still-not-fluent Klingon wasn’t needed.
Most Main Stage events were hosted by Warwick Davis, and I had the chance to see him preparing for the shows. A perfectionist, he is smart, witty and nice. His ‘assistant’ was an R4 unit built by Dan Sczudlik, one of the R2 Builders.
All the panels had a lot of spectators but there were of course some highlights. The first one was Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, who announced that legendary composer John Williams will return to score the highly-anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII.
Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine/The Emperor) was surprisingly funny on stage. During the panel, which was more of a talk show, Warwick Davis – aka Wicket – and McDiarmid re-enacted the fight between Yoda and Sidious. Guess who played Yoda! It was hilarious, and could have been entitled “Sidious vs. Yoda and the vicious swivel chair”. McDiarmid even mentioned that Seth Green wasn’t exaggerating when he staged the swivel chair scene in Robot Chicken. The panel ended with a lot of, perhaps evil, laughter.
Anthony Daniels was great too, as was Carrie Fisher. Dave Filoni, the Executive Producer of Star Wars Rebels, talked about the genesis of the upcoming animated series and a lot of young German fans loved to see him, though there was no interpreter helping those who got lost in translation. Overall, I don’t think there was any panel that wasn’t worth visiting.
My personal favorite panel was Mark Hamill’s, who took the stage on Sunday. He was very relaxed and talkative and his imitation of Harrison Ford was really funny. He told a lot of stories from behind the scenes and enjoyed the cheering crowd in the almost packed hall of nearly 7,700 superfans.
In the end though, the Celebration Stage was just one part of the whole Celebration experience and I must admit that even though it was great to see and meet the celebrity Star Wars heroes, my true heroes were to be found among the fans, fan groups, staff and crew – all the people who made this happen and put a lot of energy and time into this event. It was great to see the 501st Legion in attendance, with garrisons from various countries, and so many ‘bad guys doing good’. It was also fun to see all the cosplayers and the kids admiring them. It was awesome to be a part of such a great event and meeting many wonderful and awesome people from all over the world.
If you want to have a look at more of what CEII offered, go to the official webpage (http://www.starwarscelebration.eu/Home/) or check out #starwarscelebration on Twitter.
Hope to see you at Star Wars Celebration VII in Anaheim, CA in 2015.
May the Force be with you, always!
Petra B. Schubert