Right, unless you’ve been living in exile on Dagaboh, you should know that Star Wars fever has been hotting up again - there are a slew of new films in the works don’t you know, and with the recent announcement that Star Wars Celebration (the world’s LARGEST Star Wars convention) will be heading back to London in 2016, what better time to reminisce on my experience of Star Wars Celebration Europe back in 2007 than now!
It’s the first time Celebration has come to Europe, and what better place to host this important event than London! London is where the Original Trilogy (and Episode I) was filmed (Elstree Studios and Leavesden Studios). London IS the spiritual home of Star Wars. So excitement levels for this one are at an all-time high. The Prequel Trilogy has been done and dusted so there are no big reveals in store as such, Celebration will simply be a chance for geeks everywhere to gather and literally celebrate the awesomeness that is Star Wars! The event is going to be absolutely massive, and London’s enormous ExCel Centre will be transformed into a wretched hive of scum and villainy for one weekend in July. We must be cautious! On show will be props, costumes, vehicles, panel talks, and much more!
I’ve opted to attend Sunday. When the big day finally arrives and I head down to the ExCel Centre faster than Han can do a Kessel run. As I approach the venue, the sheer scale and enormity of the event can be seen, and it’s impressive. Most impressive. The geeks are out in force – there are cosplayers with lightsabers and blasters as far as the eye can see. I feel right at home already!
I’ve barely gone through the main doors and I’m already hopping up and down with excitement – right there inside the ExCel Centre sits an X-wing! And by that I mean a full scale, full size X-wing! “Red 5 standing by!” I head through to Celebration’s entrance, which strangely resembles some sort of 80’s disco room, complete with Death Star disco ball. Guarding the entrance is the most villainous gangster in the entire galaxy – Jabba The Hutt! The slimy piece of worm-ridden filth sits on his throne watching the geeks file in as The Max Rebo Band (Max Rebo, Sy Snootles and Droopy McCool) play on nearby. No sign of Salacious Crumb anywhere. (If these names are complete gibberish to you then maybe you should leave now!).
And so into the ExCel’s main hall. WOW! It’s wall-to-wall Star Wars geek overload in here! I try not to lose my composure as I begin to navigate my way through the crowds like the Falcon negotiating an asteroid field. “Just fly casual!” There’s a rather cool looking Star Wars Formula 1 car from team Red Bull. Looks fast but not sure how it would do in a Boonta Eve pod race! And that’s not the only vehicle on display – I also spot a Snowspeeder, a Pod Racer, an AT-AT and a 74-Z Speeder Bike. Sweet!
I then stumble into the Star Wars Lego section which resembles a childhood’s dream come true – massive scale models and dioramas built using thousands and thousands of Lego pieces! Now that is seriously cool!
I then have a wander around the various merchandise stalls before arriving at a rather neat interactive show, where the opening scene of A New Hope is being recreated with audience members! The lucky geeks have been chosen to become rebel soldiers attempting to protect Blockade Runner Tantive IV (built as a rather impressive looking set) from Imperial boarding. As in the film, they are cut down by the invading stormtroopers. This is all rather fun!
Next up is the Droid Builders corner, an area dedicated to high-tech (and rich!) wiz-geeks who have built their own Astromech R2 units. Now that is some serious dedication! They’re all fully functioning models and look absolutely stunning.
Then I spot some non-Star Wars props and costume displays. Among the collection are Marty McFly’s ‘Clint Eastwood’ outfit from BTTF3, the menacing costume worn by Thomas Jane in The Punisher, Hellboy’s outfit as worn by Ron Perlman, Adam Baldwin’s t-shirt from Serenity, a sword prop from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, and a Sonny robot prop from I, Robot.
The props area then continues with some rather amazing Star Wars pieces. The model of Anakin’s charred headpiece from the end scene of Revenge Of The Sith is fascinating to see up close, as is the Vader helmet revealing the head of Luke Skywalker from The Empire Strikes Back’s ‘Dark Side Cave’ sequence. Also on display are C-3PO’s head with gouged out eye courtesy of Salacious Crumb, some lightsabers, and the melted remains of Vader’s helmet from Return Of The Jedi... Yes, the very same helmet that features in the new The Force Awakens trailer...
I then spot a rather curious sight – a stormtrooper covered in graffiti, sitting on a chair, and holding a can Guinness. Either this Imperial is having some severe issues or it’s a quirky display piece. Yes, it’s the latter. He sits by a staircase marked ‘The Vader Project’. This looks intriguing so I head on up...
...And I find myself in a very large room with what looks like hundreds of Darth Vader helmets stuck on poles! But these Darth Vader helmets look like nothing I’ve ever seen before! What’s going on here?
Luckily, there’s a wall plaque nearby that explains it all:
“The Vader Project is a reimagining of the iconic Darth Vader helmet curated by Dov Kelemer and Sarah Jo Marks of DKE Toys. Kelemer and Marks gathered close to 100 of the hottest underground and pop surrealist painters, artists, and designers to participate. For this unique project each artist was given a 1:1 scale authentic prop replica of the actual Darth Vader helmet used in the Star Wars films. The helmets served as a blank canvas for each artist to paint, design, mash up, and customize.”
And the resulting art pieces – and they are indeed art pieces – are strange, spectacular, and in many cases extremely bewildering, but well worth a look.
After exiting The Vader Project, I make my way to the panel talk stage where Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok) is about to host ‘Producing the Original Trilogy’ with Star Wars producer Robert Watts. Warwick is his usual witty self, appearing from behind the audience as Tina Turner’s Simply The Best blasts out the PA, running down and high-fiving the audience as he makes his way on stage. What a joker! After the panel talk, I catch the end of another live show involving some cosplaying Jedi and a very scary looking Emperor Palpatine against a Dagobah backdrop. Not sure what was going on there. As the day draws to a close I have one last wander around the main hall. And who do I come across? Why it’s C-3PO himself Anthony Daniels, who is also having a wander around! And he’s not alone – he’s accompanied by Darth Vader dressed as a chef holding the head of Jar Jar Binks on a platter! I kid you not! Didn’t realise the Dark Lord of the Sith was moonlighting as the Death Star’s Michelin-starred chef!
I finally and reluctantly exit the ExCel Centre as Europe’s first ever Star Wars Celebration comes to an end. Original Star Wars Trilogy and Indiana Jones Trilogy producer Robert Watts is outside signing autographs, so I hand him my Celebration lanyard pass which he happily signs for me. I also spot Kenny Baker (R2-D2) making a hasty getaway and he gives me a confused look as I whip my camera out to snap him.