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Star Wars Celebration 2017: 40th Year Anniversary Panel

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For months now, Star Wars fans across the globe have been wildly anticipating one of this year’s biggest events yet—Star Wars Celebration. The convention takes place all weekend long in Orlando, Florida, and is expected to attract thousands of fans, both Imperial and Rebel alike. This morning, the convention kicked off with a Star Wars 40th Year anniversary panel, featuring a slew of legendary Star Wars guests. Hosted by the lovable Warwick Davis, who played Wicket the Ewok from Return of the Jedi, the panel included a stirring tribute to Carrie Fisher and reflections from major stars. Warning, you’ll need tissues for this one!

George Lucas arrives

First off the bat, Davis introduced Kathleen Kennedy on stage, who gave fans a warm welcome to the convention. The real highlight here was when Kennedy introduced none other than George Lucas on stage, who was not previously announced as a guest. With a wild eruption of cheers from the crowd, Lucas received a standing ovation from fans. “When I hired you, you were eleven years old, and now you have gray hair,” Lucas told Davis with a laugh. Dave Filoni was also introduced, who reminisced about some of his younger years and learning from George. Lucas once gave him the advice, “Don’t be afraid. Make no decision out of fear”. Filoni is best known as the showrunner of the animated Star Wars series, The Clone Wars and the more recent show, Star Wars Rebels. Fans are eagerly awaiting the arrival of season four, which will be released on Disney XD in the fall.

Mace Windu may be back

The panel also included some special guests who weren't quite able to make the celebration in person. Appearing as a Force Ghost, actor Liam Neeson sent his regards in the form of a streamed video. Neeson joked that he was currently hard at work filming another upcoming Star Wars film, this time with the focus being heavily on Jar Jar Binks. Spoiler alert! Neeson said with a wry smile, "He's gone to the dark side." Actor Samuel L. Jackson also made a brief video appearance. He's been blatantly vocal about wanting to return to the Star Wars universe, and after greeting fans, he excitedly said, "Mace Windu is awaiting his return!". We'll have to see what's in store regarding the fate of the Jedi Master.

A wonderfully sinister reunion

Next up, Davis introduced a delightfully sinister pair of guests, Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine) and Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker). For years, the prequels have received a ton of flack, but fans seemed genuinely excited to see the actors on stage. The pair were asked questions about their experience filming Star Wars, and McDiarmid recalled filming the opera scene. Fans are probably already creating new memes of, “Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise?” with the appearance of the pair. Christensen expressed his gratitude for the overall experience, citing McDiarmid as an inspiration for his acting. Hayden also shared a quick aside about how hard it was for him to stop making lightsaber noises on set. "Still to this day, I pick up a lightsaber and I can't help it. *makes lightsaber noises* It just happens!" Christensen said with a laugh.

“i know i say a lot of things are my favorite but hayden christensen making lightsaber noises REALLY IS MY FAVORITE THING” - @loganshowletts tweeted, including a video of Christensen.

Luke and Han reunite

The panel continued with British actor Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) joining the stage. Mark Hamill is certainly no stranger to Star Wars related events, and it seemed only natural that he’d appear at Star Wars Celebration. “I can never get over the fans. They’re more supportive than my actual family.” Hamill said with a laugh. Fans were definitely elated to see Harrison Ford arrive on stage, as this marks his first appearance ever at a Star Wars Celebration event. “I can’t believe we kept it a secret, considering you landed your plane on I4,” Davis joked about his landing skills as a pilot.

In Honor of Carrie

The highlight of the panel by far included an emotionally packed tribute to Carrie Fisher. We were tuning in via live stream, but we’re sure there weren’t very many dry eyes in the building. The video included some excellent clips of Fisher, ranging from her younger years as Princess Leia, to her more recent clips promoting The Force Awakens. While folks had to deal with some frustrations with the live stream, it was well worth it in the end. Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, was introduced on stage as another surprise guest. Wearing a beautiful white dress reminiscent of Princess Leia’s original costume, Lourd introduced an emotionally powerful tribute to Carrie Fisher.

While the live stream cut out early for some, the ending included yet another surprise appearance—none other than composer John Williams and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. The acclaimed orchestra performed classic Star Wars pieces like “Princess Leia’s Theme”, the movie’s “Main Title” from the opening credits and the infamous “Imperial March”. Excuse us, while we go hunt for another box of tissues. Watch the live stream video of the 40th Year Anniversary panel here. Stay tuned for more updates from Star Wars Celebration and nerd news on our blog!

Written by Jade Nicolette

Twitter: @nicolette_style


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