While entering the Galaxy Stage at Star Wars Celebration 2017, you could feel everyone’s excitement and anticipation for the first presentation of the convention, ’40 Years of Star Wars.’ The most diehard Star Wars fans in the universe spent the night camping out in a cement queue on the first floor just for this, and Lucasfilm did not disappoint. In advance, we already knew some of the big names that would be in attendance: Mark Hamill, Hayden Christiansen, Kathleen Kennedy, and Dave Filoni all have enough clout in the Star Wars fandom to hold an audience this size individually, but together they made this a must-see event, which was live streamed on two additional stages and online for fans to see around the world.
The roof practically blew off the Orange County Convention Center when surprise guest George Lucas took the stage early on. Audiences were in disbelief, giving the creator of Star Wars a huge standing ovation, lightsabers held high in the air. Warwick Davis moderated the entire presentation, his quick wit adding a much needed dose of humor for the thousands who spent more than 12-hours waiting to see it.
While rumors of Lucas’ attendance had been running wild leading up to the event, the other surprises were completely unexpected. Harrison Ford, who has never attended a Star Wars Celebration event before, joined Mark Hamill to discuss some of the difficult dialogue in the original script, which didn’t end up in the final film. Warwick Davis cracked a joke that drew the biggest laughs: “I can’t believe we managed to keep you a secret considering you landed your plane on I-4.”
The tone of the entire event celebrated the fact that generations have grown up with Star Wars, including anecdotes from George Lucas about how these films and stories have inspired a whole new generation of filmmakers who are creating the newest Star Wars productions. The focus always remained on the original six films prior to Disney’s purchase, and also celebrated the animated series The Clone Wars, which was produced during Lucas’ era.
Kleenex should have sponsored the event because when they began a tribute to Carrie Fisher, eyes were definitely leaking. Kathleen Kennedy spoke about how important Leia and Fisher were to generations of women. “She will be remembered forever, even by those who are not yet old enough to say ‘May the force be with you,'” she said. Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, gave an emotional speech about growing up with Princess Leia, thanking fans for the love they showed her. “When she surrounded herself by fans at Celebrations like this, she never felt more at home.”
To end the Carrie Fisher tribute, a curtain parted on the side of the stage to reveal the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by legendary film composer John Williams. They began their performance with “Leia’s Theme,” giving Fisher a fitting farewell. To end the presentation, they rose audience’s spirits back up with the “Star Wars Theme” and “The Imperial March.” As a parting gift, attendees were given a very fitting, limited and numbered lithograph commemorating the life of Carrie Fisher.