It’s been less than a year since the last Star Wars Celebration unleashed itself upon London, but the semi-annual event is now poised to descend on Orlando for four more days of wall-to-wall “Star Wars” action and announcements. This year’s event will likely be even more celebratory than usual, focused on the 40th anniversary of the release of “Star Wars: A New Hope” and the ever-expanding franchise, now kitted out with a brand new trilogy and the promise of still more anthology films.
For fans of the saga, Celebration consistently provides a ton of news (from trailers and other footage to casting announcements and teases about new projects to come) and serves as a harbinger of things to come for a franchise still going through major changes. Ahead, we scope out five big ways that Celebration will impact both the “Star Wars” franchise and its very dedicated fanbase.
1. Getting Emotional About Carrie Fisher
This year’s Celebration is slated to open with what will likely be a news-packed, star-studded event, thanks to Thursday morning’s “40 Years of Star Wars” panel, which will kick off as the first major marquee event on the very first day of festivities. While SWC tends to stay tight-lipped about most panel attendees until they come out on stage, there’s little doubt that the anniversary event will packed with big names.
Hosted by Warwick Davis and likely shepherded by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, other “Star Wars” standouts, including Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, Billy Dee Williams, Hayden Christensen and Anthony Daniels, are confirmed to appear. Gather that many original talent in one place, likely for the first time since Fisher’s death, and there’s no question that talk will inevitably turn to their dearly departed princess.
Anniversaries tend to make people nostalgic anyway, and with Celebration taking place mere months after Fisher’s passing, fans are no doubt in store for some kind of very special remembrance of the star. Basically, break out the tissues, this is one Celebration that will likely be just as joyous as it is reflective.
And that’s not all — on Friday evening, Hamill will host an hour-long tribute to Fisher, one that will likely smack of both his usual humor (on Sunday, Hamill will host his usual “Hamill Himself” panel, which is always…well, free-ranging is a way of describing it) and his obvious affection for his on-screen sister.
2. Our First Real Look at “The Last Jedi”
Friday at Celebration is all about “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” thanks to a morning panel featuring Kennedy and director Rian Johnson, along with the ever-tantalizing promise of “surprises” and “special guests.” The latest episode in the ever-growing original franchise has yet to release a single trailer, and with its release date looming in December, fans are antsy. Think of it this way: If we don’t get a trailer for “The Last Jedi” during this panel, something has gone very wrong in the AV room.
At last year’s Celebration, the then-upcoming “Rogue One” got a similar slot, offering up a panel of the film’s biggest stars, a brand new trailer and more behind the scenes footage. Expect something very similar on Friday morning, but with a major twist: When we first saw “Rogue One” at Celebration, there’d already been footage released, but that’s not the case with “The Last Jedi,” which has been kept so tightly under a lid we nearly keep forgetting about it.
Johnson and Kennedy don’t really have to show much to excite fans and build buzz, but what a bonanza for the franchise if they come out swinging with a first trailer, extra footage and a star-packed panel. With every new feature, the saga grows, and it’s to show off what we can expect from the next chapter.
3. Expanding the Franchise With More Anthology Films
While the new Han Solo anthology film doesn’t have its own panel at this year’s Celebration — directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller did appear last year on the aptly titled Future Filmmakers panel, where they took the chance to formally introduce new star Alden Ehrenreich — the duo might pop up during that “40 Years” panel, ostensibly to stump for the next big, bold leap into the world of franchise filmmaking. Should they make an appearance, it’s possible they’ll unveil a little bit of footage and perhaps an official title for their 2018 film, though it seems unlikely.
One expansion that is expected: The announcement of at least one more anthology film. That side of the “Star Wars” universe has been weirdly on hold since director Josh Trank exited the fold after initially signing on for his own anthology film (rumored to have centered around Boba Fett). Lucasfilm made a big deal about unspooling their standalone, anthology adventures, and with one of them in production right this minute, it’s time for another one to get teed up.
Turns out, you can’t expand a world without actually expanding it.
4. Offering Up Original Cuts of the First Trilogy for Home Video Release
But why not look back when you have the chance? As /Film explains, “it’s been rumored that the original cuts of the ‘Star Wars’ trilogy have been remastered in 4K by Disney,” freeing them from the intrusive edits offered up by the so-called Special Editions, and presumably prepping them for home video release.
The unaltered trilogy has never been available in high-definition before, thanks to George Lucas, who remained resolute that the Special Editions released in the ’90s were the true version of the films, at least as he imagined them. Who’s to argue with Lucas, except pretty much everyone who saw the original versions and is eager to own them?
While there have been previous attempts to deliver the originals to fans, those have been disappointing, too — a DVD set released in 2006 included discs that promised the original theatrical cut, but they were sourced from the 1993 LaserDisc release, which was lackluster, to see the very least. The original cuts exist, and fans have waited long enough to see them again.
5. Changing the Current Television Series Landscape
One persistent rumor: That Disney XD’s “Rebels” animated series is coming to an end soon, and this year’s Celebration may offer up some sort of finale announcement. The series just concluded its third season, and while Saturday’s “Rebels” panel teases a special first look at Season 4, it’s possible that part of that early look could include a more wide-ranging look at what’s in store for the future of the series.
Set between “Episode III” and “Episode IV,” “Rebels” faces similar mythological issues as “Rogue One,” with an exciting group of characters who bravely battle the Empire — and most of whom are totally unknown and unmentioned in the second trilogy. Though there are theories that at least a few “Rebels” characters will eventually became other, known characters in the universe (here’s an entirely terrifying Google search, filled with potential spoilers), not everyone will be able to continue onward. And neither will “Rebels.”
Even if “Rebels” announces its end date, there’s also the possibility that Celebration will play home to the announcement of a new animated series. “Rebels” and “Clone Wars” luminary Dave Filoni — who, as ever, will be all over this year’s event — was recently promoted to overseeing all Lucasfilm Animation properties, a gig that all but guarantees he’s busy cooking up new TV series for fans.
This year’s Star Wars Celebration runs April 13 – 17 in Orlando, Florida.