The announcement that Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2020 had been canceled was met with resounding disappointment. Unfortunately, the threat posed by COVID-19 was too great to justify a large scale event with the crowds drawn by Celebration, making the cancelation understandable despite the upset.
For thousands of fans, Star Wars Celebration is an opportunity to gather with like-minded peers to commemorate the beloved franchise. Lucasfilm takes the opportunity to announce new projects and pull back the curtain on major upcoming releases, leaving the fandom buzzing with excitement as everyone heads home.
The decision by Lucasfilm and Disney to forego a virtual Celebration event is perplexing, as there's a hunger for Star Wars news in the midst of a large drought. The announcements planned for the event will be revealed in time, but with the initial Celebration weekend upon us, there's no better time than now to offer a prediction for what the convention might have been.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK 40TH ANNIVERSARY
As always, Celebration was bound to kick off in a big way. During the Orlando event in 2017, Lucasfilm celebrated the 40th Anniversary of A New Hope by inviting several special guests to appear during a panel that would set the tone for the weekend. In attendance were George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Hayden Christensen, and many other beloved cast members, and a large portion of the panel was dedicated to honoring the memory of the late Carrie Fisher, capped off with a surprise appearance by John Williams and a full orchestra, treating the audience to a live concert.
While the 40th Anniversary for Empire isn't quite as big as its predecessor, the film widely considered to be the best in the saga certainly would've made a splash at Celebration. Cast members like Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and Frank Oz may have been in attendance to commemorate the occasion and, while highly unlikely, Lucas and Ford may have appeared again as well. Audience members would be treated to behind the scenes stories new and old, along with a special video dedicated to the film and a giveaway poster.
STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH
With the festivities out of the way, the window would be wide open for the news cycle to begin. As was announced in July, Star Wars: The Bad Batch will be the next animated series, immediately following the events of The Clone Wars. With a release planned for 2021, Lucasfilm would undoubtedly take the opportunity to dive into the series at Celebration.
Much like the first day of 2017's event, Dave Filoni would take the stage, greeted by a sea of fans eager to see where things are headed in the animated world. After discussing the Bad Batch's involvement in Clone Wars, cast members would likely be introduced, with Dee Bradley Baker being the obvious star of the show. Lucasfilm Animation panels are always rich with new information and teases, and there's no question Filoni would continue the trend here. The panel would conclude with the first trailer for the series, and all fans in attendance would receive posters depicting the show's key art.
THE MANDALORIAN SEASON 2
While a certain degree of success was expected, nobody could've predicted that The Mandalorian would turn out to be such a hit. With the second season of the series set debut in October, Celebration was set to be the event that kicked off the marketing run as Lucasfilm would pull back the curtain on the continuation of Mando's story.
Much like the Celebration Chicago event in 2019, the panel would be self moderated by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, who would be able to discuss the story up the end of the first season's point. We would again see Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, and Carl Weathers in attendance, with Giancarlo Esposito being a realistic contender for an appearance as well. The panels for the Sequel Trilogy films each featured appearances of new droids, and there's a good chance The Child would drop by for the audience in Anaheim. A new trailer would of course debut at the end of the panel, with another poster going out to all in the seats.
STAR WARS DISNEY+ PRESENTATION
For all intents and purposes, Friday is Disney+ day. Not only would fans get a taste of The Mandalorian's upcoming season, but they would receive some significant updates and announcements on other streaming titles as well.
This massive panel would be similar to the presentation at last year's D23 Expo, with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy moderating the show as relevant actors and creators filter on and off stage. To start things off, Kennedy would give brief remarks on The Mandalorian, including confirmation that the third season of the series is in development. To follow this up, there would be reports on the other shows we already know of: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Cassian Andor. It's during this panel that official titles for each show would finally be revealed, along with casting announcements and production updates.
With the formalities out of the way, the fun would begin with the official announcements of the new series. Leslye Headland's project would be finally be revealed, with at minimum a title, time period, and basic premise. For fans of Solo, this would be a day long remembered, as this panel would see the announcements of the Darth Maul, Lando Calrissian, and Solo sequel series. The long-rumored Rebels sequel animated series would finally get an official reveal here, as could the alleged Ben Solo project.
What's especially fun to imagine is the possibility that there are other projects set to be announced that nobody has heard of. For all we know, junk dealer fans may have finally gotten their wish for Watto: A Star Wars Story to take streaming by storm. Would a Snoke origin story be out of the question, explaining the being's creation and the survival of Palpatine? Perhaps Lucasfilm would finally reveal The Rise of Scissorpunch, starring the Sabaac legend himself...
Having received a taste of Star Wars' future on Disney+ the day prior, naturally fans would be in store for some announcements regarding the forthcoming theatrical projects. Lucasfilm and Disney are preparing to enter a new phase of Star Wars in the wake of The Rise of Skywalker's release, and Celebration would've been the perfect place to share a map for the road ahead. A similar panel was done during Celebration Anaheim in 2015, providing fans with a first glimpse of Rogue One and being the planned time to reveal a Boba Fett spinoff film, as well as in London's 2016 convention with Episode VIII and the then untitled Han Solo spinoff film.
Like the Disney+ presentation, this panel would be hosted by Kathleen Kennedy and feature the creative heads as their respective projects are announced, emulating Marvel Studios panels at SDCC. After giving a brief recap of the studio's work up to this point, the first film would be on the board. While plans have likely changed since COVID-19 hammered the industry, including the release years for the three scheduled Star Wars films, Taika Waititi's project is very much still happening, and we'd be in for some early details.
Beyond that, Kevin Feige's Star Wars film is due for some updates, as is J.D. Dillard's reported project. The latest word on the street is that Rian Johnson's trilogy is still in the works, and if that continued to be the case Celebration would be the place to confirm the project's continued development and share small tidbits. While Benioff and Weiss are no longer overseeing a series of films, someone else may have taken their place. It's still unknown how the upcoming films will connect in any way, if at all, but should they all serve a larger narrative, the Future Films panel would be the time to reveal the next saga for Star Wars on the silver screen.
STAR WARS: SQUADRONS
In recent years, Saturday has been EA day at Star Wars Celebration. The world premiere of the Battlefront II trailer took place in Orlando during the 2017 convention, accompanied by the reveal that novel Inferno Squad would tie-in with the game. Last year's Celebration in Chicago came with the debut of the Jedi: Fallen Order trailer as fans were joined by Respawn creative executives and actor Cameron Monaghan.
A panel for Star Wars: Squadrons was all but a guarantee, but because this year's Celebration was canceled the marketing ball started rolling early. Had the event occurred as planned, there's a good chance the game's trailer would've been saved for this panel, as well as some of the gameplay footage. In addition to members of the game development team, a Lucasfilm Story Group member likely would have joined the panel to discuss Squadrons' campaign as an entry in the canon. By the conclusion of the panel, fans in attendance would be walking out the door with a free poster in hand and an itch to jump in their cockpits and blow something up.
STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC
With the initial wave of Star Wars projects under Disney complete, Lucasfilm turned to their publishing division to begin a new era of storytelling as the franchise's visual future was determined. This came in the form of The High Republic, announced in February with a launch originally scheduled to coincide with Celebration. Like many things, the first phase of the publishing initiative's release was delayed to early 2021 as a result of coronavirus impacts on the industry.
Assuming that the coronavirus hadn't happened, the High Republic panel would certainly have featured all five authors working on the project, moderated by Lucasfilm Publishing creative director Michael Siglain. With the first set of books out in the world, the panelists would be free to discuss major plot points and neat ties to other Star Wars projects. Additionally, the panel would see the reveal of the second phase of The High Republic line, and the trajectory of the narrative would begin to become clearer. Audience members would undoubtedly walk out with a free poster depicting concept art for the project, and there would be various signings with the authors throughout the weekend.
LEGO STAR WARS: THE SKYWALKER SAGA
Celebration always wraps things up with a fun, family orientated panel before going into the Closing Ceremony, and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. The Lego Star Wars video game franchise has been a staple in households for fifteen years, as fans both old and new relive their favorite adventures in the galaxy far, far away with bricks. The marketing for The Skywalker Saga has been frustratingly nonexistent to this point, and it's conceivable that Warner Brothers and Lucasfilm were waiting until Anaheim to present new details.
As is the case with all video game panels, the creative leads would take the stage and offer fans in attendance a look at the behind the scenes process for bringing the game to life. With The Skywalker Saga being the largest Lego video game ever, there would've been plenty for the game designers to discuss in terms of playable levels, hub worlds, and characters. At some point, the long awaited gameplay footage (now coming during Gamescom) would finally debut, and a concrete release date would be announced for the recently-delayed game. Fans lucky enough to be in the crowd would go home with a poster featuring key art for the game, or maybe even an exclusive Lego minifigure.
THE FORCE WILL BE WITH YOU
Star Wars Celebration is the experience of a lifetime, and it's truly a shame that so many fans won't be able to experience this year's planned festivities. As fun as it is to watch live streams of the event, there's something indescribable about being present, in the room when a new trailer debuts, a major announcement is made, and even just walking around the show floor among a sea of Star Wars products.
The potential panels above are just a small sampling of what Celebration Anaheim could've had to offer. As has been the case with all other Celebration conventions, there would have been various panels featuring new toys and collectibles, novels and comics, and community hosted gatherings as well. The show floor always features interactive opportunities to test the latest Virtual Reality offerings, board game tournaments, and meet and greets with authors and artists. This year, attendees won't be able to get in line for exclusive Funko Pops!, Hasbro Black Series figures, or the massive offering of merchandise in the Celebration store.
But the biggest thing everyone will be missing this year is the fans. There's something so special about an atmosphere in which everyone comes together with their share love for Star Wars. People come from different places and backgrounds, but everyone arrives with the same level of passion and excitement. Celebration is the only place in the world where thousands of lightsabers, cosplayers, and even hairy guys in Slave Leia outfits would be considered awesome and normal. While it's disappointing that things couldn't go as planned this year, COVID-19 is only a small setback in the grand scheme of things. Star Wars will live on, and Celebration will return.
May the Force be with you. Always.