By George Bate, Josh Reilly B., and Julie Catherine
Star Wars Celebration Anaheim is nearly here, with the highly anticipated fan convention just two months away. Celebration is just that, a commemoration of the iconic franchise and everything from a galaxy far, far away. It’s been nearly two years since the last Star Wars Celebration, which took place in Chicago as fans got first looks at Star Wars: Episode IX, where the official title The Rise of Skywalker was revealed, as well as The Mandalorian. Cast and crew from both titles assembled in Chicago to promote their projects, as did some of the group that worked on The Phantom Menace for the 20th anniversary panel. Overall, it was an event to remember for Star Wars fans, and this year’s Celebration will surely be no different.
Star Wars Celebration Chicago, dubbed SWCC, is far from the only gathering of fans of the franchise in recent years. The first Celebration took place in 1999, just a few weeks before the release of The Phantom Menace, and has become a recurring gathering ever since. With the next event just around the corner, bow’s a great time to look back at every Star Wars Celebration so far.
Star Wars Celebration I
The very first Celebration was not the first Star Wars fan convention, as these events and gatherings took place in the 1980’s as well, as the last prior to this came in 1987. The event was located in Denver, Colorado, also the home of the official Star Wars fan club At the event, behind the scenes footage from The Phantom Menace was released, as was the official music video for Duel of the Fates, which has since become one of the most iconic music pieces in the franchise’s history. Actor and creator panels were also held, and it was all topped off by an exhibition consisting of props from the Lucasfilm archives.
Star Wars Celebration II
The second Celebration was held in 2002, from May 3-5, right before the release of Attack of the Clones. The event took place in Indiana, where it was held in a much larger venue. Around 75,000 people made their way to the convention center over the course of the three day event, and many Star Wars icons also appeared to meet and greet fans, including Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher.
Star Wars Celebration III
From April 21-24, 2005, the third Celebration was again aligned with another prequel film, this time Revenge of the Sith. There were actor panels, fan contests, meet and greets and more, all of which have become hallmarks of Celebration today. One of the most notable aspects of this 2005 Celebration was George Lucas’ panel, in which he spoke for over an hour about the franchise he created, something he hadn’t done in decades, as well as answering fan questions.
Star Wars Celebration IV
After Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas declared the Skywalker saga closed, but that didn’t stop Star Wars fans from coming together to celebrate the franchise. In 2007, Celebration IV was held to mark the anniversary of A New Hope, the first film in the saga that was released in 1977.
The event moved abroad for the first time in its history in 2007, where Celebration Europe took place at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London.
Star Wars Celebration Japan took place in 2008, where many fans were given the chance to gather and celebrate in an event that included many contests, entertainment, and more.
Celebration returned to the U.S. as the next con was held in Orlando in 2010, marking the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. In attendance was Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, making it his first appearance at Celebration. George Lucas was also there and interviewed by Jon Stewart for an hour long panel.
In 2011, the Star Wars fandom reconvened in Orlando, with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Ian McDiarmid, and even George Lucas in an unexpected appearance all in attendance.
Celebration Europe II
In 2013, the event returned to Europe as Celebration was held in Germany. Highlights of Celebration Europe II include the first look at Star Wars Rebels, the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi, and Kathleen Kennedy’s first of many appearances at the event.
In the buildup to 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Celebration returned to Anaheim with over 50,000 fans in attendance. The second trailer for Episode VII was shown as the cast and crew of the film, including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, all turned up to celebrate the franchise. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, along with many other Star Wars mainstays, were in attendance and spoke at length at their own panels. News on the Star Wars Battlefront video game and Rebels were also announced, and fans were shown an exclusive first look trailer at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which premiered the following year.
Celebration Europe III
This event was focused on Rogue One, with many of the film’s cast appearing in London to talk about the upcoming title. Alden Ehrenreich was also officially announced as Han Solo at the event, with then-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller revealing the young actor on stage. This event tragically marked the last time Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker would appear at Celebration, as the two legends passed away later that year.
2017’s event was one of the biggest yet, with iconic stars coming out to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars. George Lucas, Hayden Christensen, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, and countless others were in attendance to celebrate this anniversary, as was Billie Lourd, daughter of Carrie Fisher. George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, and Lourd led a tribute to the Princess, with John Williams conducting a live symphony of Leia’s iconic theme in a truly unforgettable panel. The first look at The Last Jedi was also shown here.
After a two year long hiatus, Celebration returned with a huge event in Chicago. The first trailer and title were revealed for The Rise of Skywalker, as was Palpatine’s monumental return. The Mandalorian cast also assembled to talk about the series, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was revealed to have Cameron Monaghan starring in the game.
Speculation is rampant as to what could be revealed at this year’s Celebration, especially due to its close proximity to the first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the sheer amount of Star Wars Disney+ titles in development, including the highly anticipated The Mandalorian season 3. Recently, the first slew of guests were announced, including Ashley Eckstein, Anthony Daniels, and Ian McDiarmid.
Images courtesy of ReedPop, Lucasfilm, and Disney