Artwork courtesy of Joshua Stolte
Welcome back to the Star Wars HoloNet Digest, a weekly feature where I bring you a recap of the latest news from the world of Star Wars. Whether it’s an Episode VII rumor or a noteworthy author interview, you’ll find it here. Let’s check the HoloNet and see what happened in the past week.
The last seven days were pretty much all about Star Wars Celebration Europe II, which took place from July 26-28 in Essen, Germany. There were announcements, teases, and previews galore. Some announcements were predictable, but that didn’t make them any less exciting. Confirmation is just as important as surprise for Star Wars news. We fans like to know things for sure, even if we’ve suspected them for a while. For example, the biggest piece of news to come out of Celebration Europe II was the fact that legendary composer John Williams will be returning to score Episode VII, VIII, and IX. Again, while this had long been suspected, there was some doubt as to whether Williams, at 81, was interested in the commitment. Luckily for Star Wars fans, Williams seemed eager to return. Commenting on the “the galaxy far, far away,” Williams said, “I actually feel like I’m still in it –– that I never really left it.” The music of Star Wars has always been enormously important; it’s one of the earliest creative elements in trailers, and its sudden appearance along with images on a screen can instantly transport us back into that magical galaxy far, far away.
CEII also featured news about The Clone Wars box sets. Dave Filoni announced both the Season Five and complete series sets, although he made it clear that neither set would include the bonus content that Lucasfilm promised when the series was canceled. The complete series set features artwork of the clones, the droids, and the Jedi, while the Season Five set prominently features Obi-Wan Kenobi in his Death Watch armor, looking appropriately serious. I’ll never understand why the Season Five set features Obi-Wan and not Ahsoka, whose role in the series’ final story arc arguably solidified her monumental role in the Prequel era of the Star Wars galaxy. Even the complete series set has her relegated to the back of a quartet of major Jedi. Nonetheless, as an avid fan of the animated series, I’ll be pre-ordering both of these box sets as soon as they’re available. Some fans will be skipping the Season Five set in favor of the complete series, but I’m a completest and must have it all.
This Celebration was very clearly about a shifting of focus on the television front. While The Clone Wars got a well-received panel on Friday (where the box sets were announced), the true epicenter of the convention was the Star Wars Rebels panel the next day. Dave Filoni was back, and he brought concept art previews and a series logo with him. Filoni spoke at length about the way Ralph McQuarrie’s art and artist style permeate the visuals on Rebels, giving fans confidence that the series will feel as much like Star Wars as the movies did. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling good about Rebels. Lucasfilm knows what it has in Dave Filoni, who will be one of three executive producers on the series. After five seasons of studying Star Wars storytelling under The Clone Wars EP George Lucas, Filoni appears more than ready to assume that mantle from his mentor.
The last big reveal at Celebration Europe II was about the next Celebration. Pack your sunscreen and buy your Disneyland passes, because Celebration VII will take place in Anaheim, California, from April 15-19, 2015. Lucasfilm Events Lead Mary Franklin made the announcement at CEII’s Closing Ceremonies. The last Celebration on the West Coast was Celebration IV in May 2007. Fans are, of course, speculating about why Disney moved the convention from one of its theme park nerve centers to the other. While Disneyland is smaller than Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, Anaheim offers two major benefits, one definite and one speculative. The absolutely certain benefit is that Disney employees in Burbank, California (and Lucasfilm personnel in San Francisco) will have shorter travel times to attend, present at, and contribute to the convention. This would not only make the trip easier for event staff like Lucasfilm’s Mary Franklin; it would also simplify things for a certain Bad Robot Productions co-founder.
The speculative benefit relates not to Episode VII or Disney employees but to the possibility of a new Star Wars area at a Disney theme park. Remember the rumor that Disney’s massive Star Wars expansion is destined for Disneyland? If true, it would help clarify Disney’s decision to relocate Star Wars Celebration from its biggest theme park area to its smaller U.S. location. After all, why leave Celebration in Orlando if Anaheim is going to get all the Star Wars fun? That’s a marketing, merchandising, and ticketing tie-in opportunity just begging to be exploited. I for one would love to extend my Celebration trip to include a few days dedicated to breaking in a new “Star Wars land” at Disneyland.
That’s the news, but what about full coverage of Celebration Europe II’s panels? Over at TheForce.Net, I compiled tweets from people who were in the audience at these events, including a writer for our sister site Rebelscum.com. You’ll find reports on The Clone Wars panel, Kathleen Kennedy’s Celebration debut (where she announced Williams’ return), and the Star Wars Rebels panel. Make sure you scroll through all of the tweets, because some of them have great photos from the convention. If you enjoy reading about the new rebel ship called the Ghost that will appear in Star Wars Rebels, you might be interested in reading its schematics, courtesy of a hidden webpage that was revealed on pins given away at the panel.
Celebration Stage host Warwick Davis didn’t just interview celebrities like Kathleen Kennedy on his stage. He also chatted with them off-stage in a series of behind-the-scenes videos. On the official Star Wars YouTube channel, you’ll find Davis’ backstage chats with Dave Filoni, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, and Kathleen Kennedy. After watching these videos and seeing clips of the Celebration Stage interviews, I agree with Lucasfilm’s Matt Martin: somebody please give this man a talk show!
With the dust barely settled from Celebration Europe II, Lucasfilm announced that over twenty-thousand people attended the three-day show. Fans came forty countries to hear from Dave Filoni, Kathleen Kennedy, Mark Hamill, and others. Twenty thousand is a fine number for a European convention. Last year’s Celebration VI in Orlando drew a total crowd of 35,000, up slightly from Celebration V’s 32,000 in Orlando in 2010. If you ask me, Celebration VII will probably blow those numbers out of the water. With Episode VII likely just a month away at that point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 45,000 people in Anaheim when it’s all said and done.
There were a couple of non-CEII tidbits in this past week. The website StitchKingdom.com noticed that Lucasfilm and Disney recently went on a domain-registering spree, picking up URLs for the phrases “Disney Side” (including showmydisneyside.com and mydisneyside.net) and “Attack Squadrons” (including attacksquadron.org and starwarssquadrons.org). It’s unknown at this point how Lucasfilm will use “Star Wars Attack Squadrons,” but its last two high-profile registrations were for its Star Wars: 1313 game and Star Wars Rebels TV show.
Perhaps “Attack Squadrons” has to do with Disney’s rumored Star Wars theme park expansion? We know now that we will get a hint of what’s to come at this year’s D23 Expo. Disney’s Dave Fisher, who will coordinate the Parks and Resorts Pavilion at D23, promised “teasers for new attractions based on Avatar and Star Wars that we’re working on now for the Disney Parks.” Yes, this is essentially an announcement of a tease of a project. But this is Star Wars at a Disney theme park. Forgive me for being excited about the possibilities. Just imagine what Disney could do for Star Wars fans with an “Attack Squadrons” concept in a theme park environment.
Between this promised tease and all the news out of Celebration Europe II, the future of Star Wars has probably never been brighter.
Eric Geller is a college student majoring in political science whose interests include technology, journalism, and of course Star Wars. He reviews The Clone Wars TV series and manages social media for Star Wars fan site TheForce.Net. He also co-hosts The ForceCast podcast. He is originally from the Washington, D.C. area.