While Star Wars Celebration may have ended, the galaxy's biggest convention provided memories that will last a lifetime. Attendees were treated to a special premiere for Obi-Wan Kenobi, exclusive looks at multiple animated projects on the way, and a teaser for the next live-action series, Andor, among many other things. But no Star Wars entity turned up bigger than The Mandalorian.
Having debuted in late 2019, this year's Celebration marked the first time Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni could speak to fans directly about the smash-hit show. The duo took the Celebration Stage twice over the weekend to provide updates on the MandoVerse, sharing two versions of a trailer for The Mandalorian Season 3 and the announcement of the Jude Law-led series Skeleton Crew. Accompanied by Grogu and the cast, an early look at Ahsoka was given as well, along with the introduction of Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Sabine Wren.
Normally, the special footage and countless celebrities on hand would steal the show... but Favreau and Filoni had something special up their sleeves. As a way of thanking the fans for making The Mandalorian and its wider narrative such a success for Lucasfilm and Disney+, the pair decided to bring the MandoVerse to Celebration - literally.
From the sets of the show and the secret Mando storage vaults, as many costumes, props, and display pieces were loaded up and brought to a secret location at Celebration, where they were set up for fans to see first-hand. With the exception of Luke Skywalker's Jedi outfit and lightsaber, everything imaginable from The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett was present, "The Mandalorian Experience" made for one of the coolest things a Star Wars fan could ask for.
Below is just a small sampling of images taken personally from the exhibit, none of which can ever truly do justice to how special the experience was.
A Hunter and His Ship
It's best to start off with where Mando himself began, alone aboard the Razor Crest. The entire cockpit was fully assembled, illuminated, and filled with life. Though he only donned his older armor for three episodes, Mando is represented in this display with the beskar that was ultimately damaged by the Mudhorn in "Chapter 2."
Weapons Are Part of My Religion
A Mandalorian is no good without an arsenal of weapons, and "The Mandalorian Experience" brought every item Din Djarin has used to slay his enemies. Clearly prominent are the pulse rifle and blaster pistol, but Mando's bombs and whistling birds were also on display. Though it belongs to him now, the Darksaber was presented in a different case, residing with a selection of Imperial weapons instead.
Relics of the Past
One of the first shots fans saw in The Mandalorian Season 1's trailer was of the above Stormtrooper helmets on spikes in Tatooine, immediately setting the gritty tone for the series. The resentment for the Empire is evident on screen, and the chilling scenery gives off the same effect in person. There's a story to be told about what happened to these soldiers, one that could bring more of the harsh realities of being an Imperial loyalist following Return of the Jedi to life.
Cobb's Speeder... or Anakin's?
Many fans immediately noted the similarity to Anakin Skywalker's podracer when Cobb Vanth sped across the sands of Tatooine in The Mandalorian "Chapter 9." Whether the speeder is truly an Easter egg or just an homage to The Chosen One's pod will likely never be known, but there's certainly a strong argument to be made for the vehicles being one and the same. The weathering on the speeder gives that lived-in feel that George Lucas' films excelled at establishing, something the MandoVerse has likewise put into play.
The Sandy Menace
In addition to the Boba Fett reveal, "Chapter 9" was just plain fun. Seeing a Krayt dragon wreak havoc on the town of Mos Pelgo was an unexpected surprise, and this maquette shows how much work was put into nailing down the finer details of the beast before its CG creation. No sand people were incinerated by vomit at the exhibit, but the way the dragon works certainly makes sense when its menacing features can be studied on a smaller-scale representation.
Hiding Grogu's Snacks
Frog Lady proved to be one of the series standouts, appropriately earning a place in the exhibit that would allow spectators to marvel at the amphibian. The costume was occupied by Misty Rosas, who did similar work for Kuiil in Season 1, with the voice delivered by the talented Dee Bradley Baker. The derpy Frog Lady face appears to be operated through cutting edge animatronics, which were successful in helping the character emote her concern for the eggs seen besides her... many of which ended up in Grogu's belly.
A Failed Leader
As the first character to make the jump from animation to live-action in the MandoVerse, Bo-Katan Kryze was translated perfectly. Her armor remains consistent with its animated appearances but has a place in the live-action world, and fans will be seeing much more of it in The Mandalorian Season 3. They won't be seeing the wig used for the character, however, as Katee Sackhoff's natural hair was grown out for the next chapter in Mando's journey.
Karga's Happy Town
Nevarro has come a long way in a short amount of time, thanks in large part to Carl Weathers' Greef Karga. The former magistrate's uniform was on full display at the exhibit, a classy style that would give Lando Calrissian a run for his money. Several background costumes and set pieces were put on the floor as well to complete the scenery, including a Kowakian Monkey-Lizard. Fittingly in the center is the partially constructed puppet for the hero of the town, IG-11.
I'm No Jedi
Ahsoka Tano's live-action debut was essentially an open secret by the time "Chapter 13" dropped, and her appearance still managed to take away the collective breath of the audience. So much is happening with Ahsoka's costume, which manages to tell its own story about her past. Rosario Dawson is donning the head tails and robes once again for 2023's Ahsoka, which has already seen some slight adjustments to the look and will bring back the crew from Star Wars: Rebels.
The Darktroopers just look mean. Season 2 did a fantastic job of building up the droids as a legitimate threat to our heroes - they were responsible for kidnapping Grogu and delivering him to Moff Gideon, after all. Mando struggled to take out one, but they didn't stand a chance in hell against Luke Skywalker. In moments, the fearsome battalion became a joke for a Jedi Master and his lightsaber. Many of the droids were undoubtedly recreated with CG, yet the production team still dedicated resources to creating the incredible physical prop for reference.
The Book of Boba Fett launched a new storyline in the MandoVerse, putting the titular character in the position of crime lord. Temuera Morrison's Boba Fett armor for the show is as good as the character has ever looked, and Fennec Shand fits right in at his side. The entire throne piece was somehow reassembled for Celebration, and along with several companion characters seen in the background, it perfectly set the tone for what the series became.
Not Just the Men... But the Women, and the Children Too
It didn't seem possible, but Boba Fett managed to provide even more appreciation for the Tusken Raiders than The Mandalorian did. The show offered a look at Tusken tribe unlike any fans had ever seen before, with elaborate new costumes serving as a way into their culture. All the key sand people Boba connected with were on display, and that particular part of the exhibit demonstrated most how the MandoVerse has expanded worlds we thought we knew.
Like A Bantha!
Banthas have become popular meme material thanks to Boba's enthusiasm (and Temuera Morrison's improvising), but the creatures used on set have come a long way. For A New Hope, the Bantha seen being ridden by a Tusken Raider was actually an elephant dressed in costume. Thanks to the technological advancements of the 21st century, Lucasfilm's creature department was able to build a life-sized Bantha for sequences in the MandoVerse, and the piece on display felt as real as the ones in the shows.
Hammerhead Runs the Show
The Mayor's complex practical effects were documented in Disney Gallery: The Book of Boba Fett, but it's an entirely different thing to see a masterpiece in person. Like everything on display in the exhibit, what's so striking about the hammerhead is how real he looks. The pose and placement on his throne certainly helps with the majestic appearance, yet it can't be overstated how exceptional the costume and creature effects are from top to bottom.
Animation Brought to Life
Though they technically made their live-action debut in Solo, it was The Book of Boba Fett that marked the first time the Pykes' faces were shown beyond The Clone Wars. Proving to be the group responsible for Boba Fett's struggles, the practical Pykes needed to be emotive enough to convincingly deceive the new crime lord. Beneath the impressive faces are highly detailed animatronics that were controlled behind the scenes to pull off the effects.
The Butchers Get Butchered
These suckers chose to go in cold, but they still look cool. The Klatooinians slayed by Mando with the Darksaber were performed by actors in full costume, and hats must go off to the creatures department for once again putting together such fantastic aliens. Behind the butchers are panels from the walls seen on the dark world at the beginning of The Mandalorian Season 2's premiere, painted by graffiti artist David Choe.
Unlike the Razor Crest, which was only featured via the cockpit, "The Mandalorian Experience" brought Din's entire N-1 starfighter to the exhibit floor. The Naboo fighter was front and center on display, taking up a significant amount of room and giving fans a personal look at their hero's new ride. The costume for Peli Motto and R5-D4 can be seen beside the ship, and Mando was seated in the cockpit as Grogu waved to the crowd from his little seat in the back.
Scum and Villainy
"Chapter 6" of Boba Fett was already feeling like every Star Wars fan's dream before Cad Bane waltzed into Freetown to put a blaster bolt into Cobb Vanth. Fett's nemesis went on to play a large role in the series finale, ultimately meeting his uncertain end in Mos Espa. Like Bo-Katan and Ahsoka, Bane's appearance in the MandoVerse made for his live-action debut, and the costume created remains incredibly faithful to the character's animated appearances while allowing for a slim performer to work behind a complex face piece.
There was absolutely no chance Max Rebo was going to avoid being featured in this presentation. Though the piano-playing blue elephant may be a meme, he's one that fans have grown to care deeply for over the decades, and his talent of being absent during explosions hasn't gone unnoticed. Rebo looked amazing in all his glory, surrounded by a few droids that made up the band present at Garsa's Sanctuary.
Rip 'Em to Shreds
Seeing the Rancor in action during The Book of Boba Fett's finale was a thrill, and the performers interacting with the beast clearly had a lot to work with. The detailing on the constructed Rancor head is astonishing, something images alone can't convey. Temuera Morrison was able to ride this piece for close-up shots during the Battle of Mos Espa, and Grogu later put the big guy down for a nap in a sequence mastered entirely by puppeteers.
A Hint of What's to Come
A staff member working the exhibit teased that there was one item on display that hasn't been filmed yet. Residing with the rest of the ship models was Ahsoka Tano's T-6 shuttle, which some fans may recognize from the epilogue of Star Wars Rebels. The vehicle's interior seemed to be shown briefly in the Ahsoka footage revealed during the "Mando+" panel, and the model will likely be filmed with motion control by ILM as work progresses on the 2023 release.
To end the exhibit, the costumes for the two men responsible for the whole experience were put side by side. Paz Vizsla and Trapper Wolf, portrayed by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, respectively, both bring interesting perspectives to the MandoVerse, but their existence is a testament to the hard work of their creators.
This is the Way
Star Wars Celebration Anaheim was packed with highlights, but "The Mandalorian Experience" was by far the coolest thing the convention had to offer. Money spent on T-shirts commemorating the exhibit was well worth it, as fans in attendance saw key pieces of Star Wars history. All of this was made possible by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, who have shown their gratitude to the fans in enormous ways.
There were likely younger attendees walking through the exhibit who will be telling Star Wars stories of their own some day. The magic of bringing something like "The Mandalorian Experience" to Celebration is that the next generation of filmmakers will be inspired to do similar work in the galaxy far, far away. In time, those tales will come. Now, it's time to rewatch the shows.
The Mandalorian Season 3 debuts on Disney+ in February 2023. Ahsoka will begin streaming on Disney+ later in 2023.