Celebration Anaheim Con Report: Sat. Apr. 18

Of all of the days at Celebration, Saturday was by far the least pleasant.

I got up a little later on Saturday morning. I had no plans to see any panels so I had no agenda aside from seeing the Rancho Obi-Wan exhibit and trying to get into the TFA costume exhibit. Debbie was a ROW member so she got a fast pass for 11:40 a.m.. So there was no real reason to be there super early to sit on the concrete floor for three hours.

I was aware the convention had sold out, a first for the Celebration cons. The TFA trailer on Thursday received a massive amount of media attention and all of a sudden the world was back on the Star Wars bandwagon. I had never seen as much media at this Celebration as I did at this one. I saw news crews everywhere, from everywhere. My mom saw coverage from The Blaze and from the NBC affiliate in San Diego. While looking at some items in one booth on Friday, a Japanese news crew showed up. It reminded me of how all of a sudden I was bumping into cameramen and guys holding boom mikes everywhere I went at SDCC 2008 and how attendance exploded after that.

My theory is the media attention on Thursday inspired every Angeleno with a Star Wars tee in his sock drawer to tromp on down (Anaheim is less than an hour from L.A.) and be a part of the excitement.

Faced with this crush of people, what did the geniuses at the convention center decide to do? Force everyone into a single line into the convention center, even at 10 a.m. when all of the doors are supposed to be open. In fact, I’d timed my arrival at the convention center so that I’d just walk right in when the doors opened. After all at SDCC, that’s what they do when they open.

Greatly irritated, I waited until 10:30, when all of the doors opened anyway. One hour wasn’t going to be enough time to line up for the TFA exhibit, so I just went in the main exhibition hall instead until it was time for the Rancho Obi-Wan visit. While there I broke down and ordered some shoes from Irregular Choice that won’t be out until October and bought a bracelet at a booth doing brisk business selling Star Wars jewelry. It was a moebius-style bracelet with “I love you/I know” engraved on it. At 11:40 I met up with Debbie and Marie in front of the Rancho Obi-Wan exhibit. The line wasn’t too bad–it was actually longer on Thursday—but it didn’t matter because we could just walk right in. This exhibit wasn’t very big. It featured fan-made handcrafts, including artwork, customized dolls, crochet, pinatas and a whole Mexican-style altar, custom and bootleg action figures (including some of Steve Sansweet), game boards, and whatever the heck else somebody dreams up of doing. The world’s largest Star Wars oil painting was up on display. This is the one that got some press recently and it costs like $200,000. In person, it’s pretty impressive. Some characters were easy to find while others were practically Easter eggs that you had to be up close to see, like a Lobot or a Mace Windu peering up over something. Of course one can buy a few ROW souvenir goodies while there. Debbie picked up the exhibit book and had Sansweet sign it. You could also get free Little Debbie Cosmic Cakes, since Little Debbie is a sponsor of ROW.

With that out of the way, we split up (Debbie and Marie were going to a collectors’ panel in search of more Star Tots) and I went off in search of lunch. God, what a nightmare. Everywhere I looked inside the convention center and outside had giant crowds and HUGE lines. It was worse than anything I’d seen at Comic Con. Hangry once more, I marched past the monster lines for the Hilton’s food court and went in search of the sitdown restaurant. If I know anything about fans/geeks, they are would rather not spend money and time on a sitdown lunch. Sure enough I was able to get a seat in the restaurant immediately and got grilled salmon with roasted veggies. The restaurant was still fairly busy but it beat standing in a long line or baking out in the sun. It was a hot day.

After lunch, I went back into the convention center and steeled myself for a hellacious wait to see the TFA exhibit. Maybe it wasn’t the brightest idea to see it on Saturday, the most crowded day, but I had nothing I’d planned to see and I worried that if I waited until Sunday, the lines would still be long and I was planning on driving home Sunday afternoon. On the way there, I walked past Dennis Muren in the hallway and was kind of surprised nobody recognized him. When I finally reached the end of the very long line on the second floor (it went out into a back patio area), the End of the Line said the estimated wait was 180 minutes. It was about 1:30 p.m.. At first the line moved fairly quickly. I thought that maybe I’d be inside the exhibit within two and a half hours the way it was whipping along. The whole time I saw how insane it was in the convention center. The hallways were so jammed with people trying to get into the collectors’ panel room and other rooms, plus just con goers moving around, there was almost no space to walk. How did this turn into SDCC Junior?

The line moved fast until I got to the part that snaked in front of the room where the exhibit was. Then it was S-L-O-W. Worse yet, once I could see inside the dark entrance to the exhibit, I saw ANOTHER line! It was like waiting to get on Pirates of the Caribbean! Worse worse yet, every time press or some v.i.p. like a con guest felt like dropping by the exhibit, they went in the back door and entrance to the rest of us stopped until they left!! By the time Sam Witwer and some Rebels voice actors decided to drop by, I’d been waiting over three and a half hours. I don’t care if it was the Pope…folks like that should be given access to the exhibit before or after the con closes. It’s kind of crappy to fans who had been waiting hours, especially people behind me who had no chance of getting in that day after waiting the whole afternoon. By the time I got in to see the exhibit it was 5:30. Four freakin’ hours. It was ridiculous. Sure it was cool seeing the costumes up close but there had to be a better way to do this. By the way, the Celebration II costume exhibit was the same situation. I only avoided waiting for hours on end for that one because I went in with someone with a press pass.

What is interesting is that the costume descriptions give a little more info about the movie. If you’re avoiding any and all spoilers, flee now.

The new stormtroopers include a “flametrooper” whose job is to shoot flames at targets and an updated snowtrooper. The stormies serve something called The First Order, which sounds to me like a neo-Empire. The X-Wing was a “Resistance X-Wing,” and I assume the Resistance is a neo-Rebel Alliance. In other words, they kind of dredged up the same conflict from Eps IV-VI. Whoever Kylo Ren is, he’s really tall. And yes, I think it’s basically “Gee, what do we do without a Darth Vader? I know, let’s create a new one!” Ren’s lightsaber was there too. Rey’s costume from the trailers is there and Finn’s costume is on display as well. In the concept art you can see that Finn is carrying a lightsaber but it’s not necessarily his. Other costumes include “junkyard thug” and “desert nomad.” Was it worth waiting four hours to see? I don’t know. But it’s probably going to be years before I’d have the opportunity to see any costumes from TFA again.

After that I went back to the hotel, dropped off my stuff and went off in search of something to eat. Saturday’s crowds seem to have picked over everything, even the food trucks. I was worried about a lunch time crush on Sunday, so I got a sandwich from Submarina to save in the fridge for the next day. They very nicely helped me even though they were about to close. I ended up getting a grilled chicken sandwich from again the Barcelona Café truck. It was pretty tasty.

That night was the “mixer” on the plaza between the Marriott and the Hilton. More bars were set up. One of the funny things about Celebration is that it’s still the only con I’ve been to where you can get alcohol any time of the day. Around eight, I decided to go check out the party in full swing, while Debbie and Marie were busy packing up. I didn’t expect much since parties with a geeky crowd can be super awkward. Well, this was totally different. That DJ Elliott guy was playing music while people were actually dancing. Not all of them were bad either. There was even a dance off with Darth Vader, a stormtrooper, and Iron Man. The sponsors of the event was doing a bean bag toss to win prizes nearby. I didn’t stick around too long but it was fun.

Again, the lobby was packed with cocktail and beer drinkin’ 501st guys.

Debbie and Marie lit out early while I sat up watching Coachella acts on AXS TV because there wasn’t a heck of a lot on. I sat through Alt-J, who were pretty good, Father John Misty, who was all right if you’re into that ballady type stuff, and Robert Pattinson’s alleged fiancée FKA Twigs, who was kind of bad.

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2 Responses to Celebration Anaheim Con Report: Sat. Apr. 18

  1. Pingback: Fourth Day Con Report |

  2. Nic says:

    I walked past Dennis Muren in the hallway and was kind of surprised nobody recognized him.

    I saw him too! I thought about stopping to chat with him but he looked like he was heading somewhere.

    Reading about your experience makes me even more glad I gave up on TFA exhibit.


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