Ben: Welcome to the Eleven-ThirtyEight roundtable/Not a Committee/podcast thing, whatever you want to call it. It’s myself, Ben Wahrman, along with David, Sarah, and Jay. We’re gonna be talking about our experiences here at Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017, different panels, and just general experiences with the con. To start with I just want to ask everybody real quick, how has the experience been for everybody? Above expectations, below expectations?
Jay: Our intrepid editor has informed us that we’re calling these Aggressive Negotiations, so here we are, aggressively negotiating the convention. This Star Wars Celebration has been sort of interesting; this is my fifth Celebration, and it’s the third one I’ve been to that’s been operated by ReedPOP, and it seemed to be the most disorganized of all the conventions I’ve been to, with maybe the exception of Celebration IV. But I think a lot of that is due to factors that could have been predicted, such as better signage, organization, better estimates of crowd sizes, crowd flow.
The problem with these little difficulties is they had a lot of knock-on effects on people’s enjoyment of Celebration. It really changed the nature of Celebration itself; instead of people going to the show floor at the time the convention opened and going through the list of activities, people had to pre-plan, get their selected wristbands in advance, and start lining up at pretty much 4am every morning regardless of whether or not there was an official line-up or not. And that’s what changed the whole nature of the convention, at least for me.
Ben: Okay. This is the first one I’ve been to—this is my first experience at a Celebration. This is not the normal for a Celebration?
Jay: This is definitely not normal. I mean, I don’t think we’ll ever encounter a pre-Disney feel for Celebrations ever again. The first two Celebrations were sort of disorganized, ad-hoc events, Celebration III was when it started getting organized, they hired GenCon to run the convention—but it was the year of Episode III. After that everything went on a downturn in the fandom. But Anaheim and Orlando have been on a scale much larger than previous Celebrations and I think it’s only gonna get bigger from here on out.
Ben: Makes sense.
Sarah: Yeah, I would agree with that. There’s a lot more…the only Celebration I had been to was Celebration Anaheim, which was the first one of the Disney era, leading up to Force Awakens. This one feels even bigger in terms of anticipation, news, and stuff coming out. It felt like every which way there was some announcement, some new trailer, et cetera. So like Jay said, it’s gonna keep getting bigger as it goes on.
I was also taken aback just by how poorly run, especially the first day, everything seemed to be. With stuff not around, not knowing how to answer things—there seemed to be a very minimal level of very basic training, and signage, and logistics. And you know, it got better as the weekend wore on, but I hope as it keeps growing in size and growing in intensity as years go on down the road, that this is a fluke and not a new era.
David: I think I might be the one who feels the most cheated. This is my second Celebration too; my first one was Celebration VI, that I believe was ReedPOP as well. And that was great, I had no trouble with it. But I was very, very sour after the first night, to the point where you could almost say that I gave up. Not completely, because I have come over every day, but I had a very busy schedule of panels and I ripped it to pieces. I started walking around and not really caring—I was really, really angry after the first night.
Jay: For the sake of the audience, what exactly happened the first night?
David: I’m preparing a long article, hopefully with interviews and things like that because I’m that angry—but it was a complete mess. Jay and I spent the whole night here and we were told we were going to be able to watch the 40th Anniversary panel, and…we did not. I guess I don’t think I’m ready to talk about it.
Jay: That’s fair enough.
David: Eventually I will be able to talk about it. But there’s always a positive side of every single Celebration, and that’s seeing people that you haven’t seen in a long time, and getting to meet new fans, people that have the same interests and passions as you do. That’s something that bad organization can’t take from us. So in that sense, I’m happy. I would have loved to meet way more people, but some personal reasons made that something very hard to do. I guess you take what you can get.
Jay: That makes sense.
Ben: Okay. So, David, I know you said you’ve been in and out a lot on the show floor; Sarah, I know you were working and assisting at a couple of panels—was there any particular panel that stood out to somebody as a really positive experience, or like, “oh, this is exactly what I was hoping for with this convention”, “this is exactly what I wanted”?
Jay: For me, I think the best panel that I went to—in terms of what Celebration has to offer—was the Heroines of Star Wars panel. And the reason is that the best panels at Celebration aren’t just full of announcements and news. You can have that in the form of a press release, there’s no reason to have this dramatic ceremony around it. But the Heroines of Star Wars panel was great, because first, it’s an important subject that we need to talk about, second, the panelists themselves were very important. We had Dave Filoni, we had Tiya Sircar, we had Ashley Eckstein, and we had even Daisy Ridley show up as a surprise panelist.
And I think the value of that panel, and those particular guests—moderated by the wonderful Amy Ratcliffe—was that they each offered their own perspective on the topic based on their experiences, their own points of view, and their role in the Star Wars universe. And the audience themselves was really engaged, I think people came away with a much better experience of a subject that maybe they already know about sort of, but maybe haven’t had to talk about or develop as much, and I think that’s the best of what a Celebration official programming panel has to offer.
Sarah: So I ended up not getting to see nearly as many panels as I wanted to, just in terms of whether I was waiting in line, or had to miss something, or I just wasn’t feeling it at the moment and would rather go do something else with the people I was hanging out with, but I did manage to attend the Podcasting for Jedi Masters panel, which was all about several different podcasters in the Star Wars community, and just a roundtable discussion on how to get started with your own podcast—everything from what technology to use, to how to approach the conception of a podcast idea. And that was really fun because it was getting a chance to peek into other content creators and seeing how they work in the fandom and how they share their knowledge to make the fandom a more creative place and help other people get to where they were. That was, I think, a really good essence of fandom right there.
David: Despite what I just said, or maybe to give a positive slant to it—I really, really enjoyed the 40th Anniversary panel. I think it wasn’t what anyone expected; everyone was talking about big announcements, a lot of different fan theories, and it turned out to be simply a celebration of both George Lucas and of Star Wars—and of course a tribute to Carrie Fisher. It was really touching, and I was crying like a baby for the last half of it. I’d still have loved to be there in person, of course, but the experience of living through something like that, surrounded by a lot of fans that I knew really cared about it as much as I did, was really unique. And I’m really, really happy about it.
Other than that, I really enjoyed the Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo Animated Origins panel, but that’s mostly because any time Dave Filoni talks I listen. I love watching that guy talk. I could easily go to a panel that was him reciting food recipes, and I’d probably love it all the same.
Ben: Well I think personally speaking, my favorite panel was the Rebels panel, that was the one that I actually did get up early to go and see. I had a feeling, because Mike and I actually had been discussing this—just how much further we thought Rebels could go as a series. And he kept saying it was going to retool, like, they would rebrand it and the next couple of seasons they would do it under a different name. But for Dave Filoni to get up in front of everybody and say yes, this is going to be the last season of Rebels, I think just the fact that I was there in the room for that kind of announcement made it that much more…final, I guess. It’s one of those things—it feels different having been there, to hear it said, as opposed to just reading about it later on. But that’s something that stood out to me personally.
So we’ve talked about some of the panels that we saw, we talked about some of the interactions that we’ve had with people—is there anything else that stood out to anybody this weekend? I know it’s been a long weekend for everybody, it’s been very tiring, but is there anything else that happened that you want to talk about?
Sarah: For me, I always like looking at all the costumes, and all the creativity that people bring. As a costumer myself I’m always interested to see what characters tend to be the most popular, what spins people put on them, mashups, fun little interesting groups. Earlier today I saw a Moulin Rouge One group, so it was all Star Wars can-can dresses—because if you’re gonna keep misspelling a movie title, might as well make a costume out of it. So that’s something I like to tweet out at the end of every day, some of my favorite costumes that I saw that day. That’s the thing I always look forward to most.
David: In my case, probably a couple of firsts—this was the first time in my whole life that I cosplayed, that I’ve been in costume. That was yesterday, and it was really fun. I went with a group, and it was really exciting getting people to look at the costumes and laugh, because we took the comedy angle; we don’t have the talent to do anything good so we tried to make people laugh. And people asking for pictures with you—it was really nice, and it was something I wouldn’t mind repeating on future occasions.
Other than this, I really liked the social angle of Celebration. I mentioned this already, but I really enjoy meeting new people, and getting swag from people is always nice.
Sarah: That is the other thing too; so many of my Star Wars friends, this is the only time I get to see them so it’s kind of like a big family reunion.
David: Yeah, there were some people that I hadn’t seen in years, and some that I feel so close to that they were actually guests in my own wedding. I ended up spending way more time with the people that I really love from the fandom, than with the con itself. And I’m totally okay with that.
Ben: That’s absolutely fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s something…that’s been interesting for me as coming from the outside looking in because this is my first Celebration. It’s the first time I’m meeting basically everybody here in person. The first day here was kind of awkward for me because I got here late, I didn’t meet up with anybody, I just came to the convention. I ran into Jay and the guys from the Rogue Podron cast and some other people later in the day and kind of filtered around there. I hung out with Eric Geller yesterday, Brian Novicki and a couple of other people. But it’s been fun just to get to hang out with people.
I think that in and of itself, the people here at the convention—this is one of those Meccas that you have with so many groups, so many diverse people. This is a Star Wars that everyone can enjoy. For all of the [problems] with the accommodations, they are making an effort so that anyone can come in and enjoy the convention. You know, there are people here who are in wheelchairs, people who have other disabilities, they have signing here for deaf people at every panel as far as I’ve seen…it’s just great to see a huge diversity in the fandom. It’s very easy to lose sight of how many people really like Star Wars when you’re just interacting with your own little social group, but then when you come to a place like this, there are people here from all over the world, all different social stratas, all different groups, that love Star Wars. And we’re all coming together because we all love Star Wars. There are people who dress up, people who come in a t-shirt and jeans and that’s all their costume is. And it’s just fascinating to see just a huge diversity of humanity in a place like this.
The one thing I could liken it to is a sporting event—like, you go to see your favorite team, and everybody there has the same favorite team, but they like it for all different reasons, you never can really tell. That’s something that’s really stood out for me.
David: This is a place where you can easily spend, as happened to me two days ago, one hour chatting with someone you just met about whether Dash Rendar was a good thing or a bad thing. And that’s amazing.
Sarah: You know that you have something in common with every single person here, and it’s a love of Star Wars.