Monday, October 1, 2012

Remembering Celebration Europe

It was finally announced last August that in 2013, six years after the first Celebration Europe, an official Star Wars event will be hitting Germany. There are scant details about Celebration Europe II available yet, so looking back at 2007’s Celebration Europe seems like the perfect way to start getting excited…

The original Celebration Europe event took place in the Excel Centre in London from July 13th-15th 2007. Over the three days fans were treated to guests such as Ian McDiarmid and Mark Hamill, both making their first official Star Wars convention appearances. As if two such titans of the Star Wars cast were not enough, fans were also treated to Rick McCallum, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Robert Watts and Celebrity Stage host Warwick Davis amongst the huge guest line-up. 

The guest line-up was not all that made Celebration Europe a huge success. The programming was first rate, with all of the key guests taking live interviews on stage. The first ever public screening of Fanboys, the comedic road trip movie that’s a love letter to Star Wars fandom, took place at Celebration Europe (and fan reaction there saved the movie from development hell). Charles Ross performed The One Man Star Wars Trilogy and Empire magazine held a live Star Wars trivia quiz. The talent and cast behind The Force Unleashed turned up to preview the game, and Steve Sansweet introduced The Clone Wars. With fan talks and collecting panels available too, at just £65 for a three day pass Celebration Europe was great value in terms of programming alone.

The show floor was also a sight to behold. The Excel Centre provided a huge venue for the various displays to sprawl across. There were huge Star Wars replica vehicles dotted around the venue, such as the AT-AT and an X-Wing Fighter. Even the interior corridor of the Tantive IV was there, with a director and costumed extras re-creating the iconic scene throughout the day. Alternatively the Dejarik Holotable from the Millennium Falcon was available to have a photo taken at, as part of the UK Garrison’s huge display.
The various Star Wars licensees all had a presence too, with Hasbro, LEGO, LucasArts and many more showing off what they had coming up. The Artist Aleey showcased some stunning Star Wars art, with the artists themselves there to sign it for you if you wished to buy a print. Elsewhere the Official Shop had a range of souvenirs, at reasonable prices considering the kind of event it was.

Other notable elements of Celebration Europe were the Palitoy Archive, a fantastic Euro-centric walk down the memory lane of vintage action figures and the Darth Vader Project, in which dozens of artists had re-imagined Darth Vader’s helmet to create a unique and bizarre gallery. One more highlight was the impromptu lightsaber battle above the Thames, when during evening drinks the Jedi and the Sith were out in force to battle each other.

With the memory of that successful and enjoyable Celebration still vivid, there is plenty of promise and anticipation for the long-awaited follow up. The Excel Centre was a great venue and it seems strange to mess with a successful formula, but with the tenacity and passion of Star Wars fans Messe Essen will no doubt be descended upon in force. Nine and a half months to go…

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