Full disclosure – I’ve never been to a Star Wars Celebration. Oh, and I’ve also never been to any kind of con (unless you count the ones for my job…and trust me, there’s no cosplay going on at those). Because I have no idea what to expect, I decided to reach out to some Jedi Masters and Sith Lords who are Celebration or con vets for some of their best tips. Some are resident experts on the MakingStarWars team, some are guests from other galaxies. Over the next couple of weeks leading up to Celebration Anaheim, I’ll be featuring a few of our esteemed guests and their best advice on how to have a great Celebration experience.
Also, please leave a comment with your own best tips or tweet them to me (@CPThrio) and I’ll retweet the best!
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at this Celebration?
Brian: Friends that I’ve made online but never had the opportunity to meet in person. I’m much more excited about the social aspects of Celebration than the official things this year.
Becca: Honestly? I’m looking forward to connecting with those I’ve only communicated with online. It has been the most funtastic and memorable experience of each Celebration that I have attended.
Which panel or event is at the top of your list for Celebration and why?
Brian: The J.J. Abrams/Kathleen Kennedy panel. If there’s a new trailer for The Force Awakens shown during Celebration, it’s going to be there, and even if there isn’t one (for some strange reason) this panel is where TFA is going to get talked up big time. My other top pick is the Del Rey panel. Star Wars novels have always been my primary Star Wars, so their panel is always a must for me.
Becca: As of now, J.J. and Kathleen. Hoping to learn a bit about where the next generation of Star Wars is heading and maybe get a glimpse or a few snippets of a new trailer for TFA.
List 3 items that every fan must pack for Celebration.
Brian: YOUR BADGE (unless you’re picking it up at the convention center, then make sure you have your ID), an empty bag to pack any souvenirs, and snacks since lunch isn’t always an option.
Becca: Trick question. 😉 Depends on the fan, as in, what type of fan you are…what’s your niche? For me, personally, three things that I must pack are:
1) Air and water tight sealed blueprint or poster tube. I am an avid SW art collector and always purchase LE SWC prints.
2) Plenty of SW attire i.e. Hoodies. Why, you ask? The convention itself is always well air conditioned and it’s almost always too cold for the average person. Word to the wise; dress in layers.
3) Phone charger and/or batteries for camera. If possible, bring chargeable batteries with the charger and an extra phone charger to keep on you at all times, especially if you’re like me and use your camera via your phone.
What is something a fan should definitely not do at Celebration?
Brian: Harass anyone for any reason. Please be respectful of other fans, cosplayers, and professionals.
Becca: Complain about wait times or cut in line. Everyone’s time is valuable and we all spent hard earned money to get to this awesome event, so please, respect each other. We are all family for the duration of the Celebration …maybe even afterwards too.
What kind of clothes/shoes should I wear?
Brian: Comfortable shoes that you can do a lot of walking in. Close-toed since you’re likely to be stepped on. If you get cold easily, bring layers to wear since convention centers are often kept pretty cool, but it’ll be warm outside.
Becca: Comfortable! As I said above, wear layers.
What factors should fans consider when budgeting for Celebration?
Brian: Travel, lodging, and food (food at the convention center is expensive!) are the big three almost everyone will need. After that, social activities and souvenirs/autographs.
Becca: The necessities come first: hotel, transportation, and food. Always pack a safety net i.e. an extra credit card for emergency use only or an extra amount of cash, just in case.
What will I eat at Celebration?
Brian: That depends on your schedule and budget. I’m way too cheap and busy to eat lunch at the convention center, so I’ll go to a grocery store the day before the convention starts and stock up on cheap sandwich materials. Dinner is often at a nearby restaurant or hotel. Convention center food is generally way overpriced for the less than awesome quality of the food.
Becca: Cheaply! Seriously, I’ll pack power bars for the trip and eat one good meal per day. Piece of advice, don’t buy the food at the con. It’s ridiculously expensive and unhealthy for you.
Do you have any advice regarding Celebration exclusive collectibles?
Brian: If there’s something you’re dying to have, make sure you line up to get into the convention center early. Doors open at 10 AM, but people are there waiting to get in before then. Know where the booth for the collectible you’re after is, and hurry straight there. When doors open there’s ALWAYS a rush onto the floor of people hoping to get exclusives and freebies. Pre-order anything that is pre-orderable.
Becca: Yes. Try and get there ahead of time so you have a good chance of getting your hands on the goodies. So pay attention to the locations and times.
Ron: Pre-orders for Celebration exclusive art are up on DarkInkArt now! Note that some artists, like Randy Martinez, are handling pre-orders directly.
Do you have any advice regarding autographs?
Brian: If you’re going for one of the bigger stars, expect it to cost a lot, have a long line, and be scheduled for limited time frames. Getting autographs from the less high profile stars can be cheaper, less stressful, and more rewarding. At Celebration V, I got autographs from Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Jeremy Bulloch (OT Boba Fett) and they had no line so I was able to chat with them a bit.
Becca: The lines will be long and it will be costly. Plan your time accordingly so you don’t miss out on any panels. If you meet anyone, meet Carrie Fisher. IMO she is the most personable and most fun to talk with.
Ron: Pre-orders for autographs from Official Pix are up now!
How do I get into the most popular panels?
Brian: Some of the biggest panels, like JJ/KK, will give out wristbands ahead of time, so check to see what panels are banding and how to get a band. For other big panels without banding, plan to line up at least an hour ahead of time if you definitely want to secure a spot. At CV I did a lot of walking right into panels, but even smaller panels at CVI had lines half an hour or so ahead of time. I’d expect lines for most panels at Anaheim.
Becca: Well, if you don’t have a VIP or Jedi Knight pass, get in line early.
How do you spend your time between big events/panels?
Brian: If I only have a short time before my next event/panel, I spend it running to the next thing to line up. When I have bigger gaps, that’s time to wander the show floor or hang out with friends. There’s lots to do on the show floor. You can meet artists and authors, see awesome exhibits of Star Wars props and collectibles, get autographs, and see lots of great cosplay.
Becca: Talking to other fans! One of the best experiences of the con.
How much time will I spend waiting in line at Celebration?
Brian: That all depends on what your priorities are. I spend a fair amount of time in line because I pack my panel schedule pretty full, but if you aren’t dying to get into the big panels or get exclusive merch or Mark Hamill’s autograph, you can have a great time just wandering around and never end up in a line at all.
Becca: That depends on the panel. Anywhere from 30 minutes to an overnight stay outside the convention.
What is an underrated part of Celebrations (or cons in general) that fans should take advantage of?
Brian: I wouldn’t say this is an underrated aspect, but make sure to talk to people. We’re all there to celebrate Star Wars, so even when you’re in line with total strangers, it’s SO easy to start a conversation. Don’t be shy, make new friends!
Becca: I’d have to say always keep your eyes open for an unexpected celebrity to be among the average fan. Seriously, that happened to me and my son at SWC V. It was 20 minutes until the con closed on the 1st day and the main hall was empty, almost. I noticed a small group of 4 walking in front of us and the gentleman had a black Indy hat on…instinctively I thought out-loud, “That looks like Dave Filoni.” Sure enough, it was! He heard me and spent some time with my son and I, even allowed for me to snap a picture of him with my son.
I want to hang out with you at Celebration – where will you be spending your time?
Brian: During the day I’ll be running around to as many panels as I can get to. I’m definitely planning on being at the Rebels Season 2 premiere and Revenge of the Sith 3D. There’s a get-together of lots of Star Wars Twitter fandom people at the Hilton at 10 PM on Saturday that I’m looking forward to.
Becca: OMGosh! I’ll be everywhere and anywhere lol! I’d love to meet as many fellow fans as possible, so look for me to connect on the celebration app or add me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter: @urangelb
Also, if I’m not hanging with Coffee with Kenobi, look for me to be with The Cantina Cast guys: Mike and Joao. Yes, I’m their official Ambassador a.k.a. Administrative Consultant.
What is your best tip to have an enjoyable Celebration experience?
Brian: Be flexible. There is so much to do and see that there’s no way you can do it all. There will be panels that conflict with other things you want to do, things you get turned away from because they’re already full, etc. Try to have backup plans, and don’t get upset when things don’t go exactly as you hope. Even if your first choice doesn’t work out, something else awesome is also happening that you can do instead.
Becca: Come free of expectations and have an open mind to all things, especially within the GFFA. Be willing to try new things and say hello to the person next to you in line. I can’t express that enough, trust me, you won’t regret it. MTFBWY!
Thanks to Brian and Becca for their sage advice. Again, leave your best advice in the comments below or tweet me! More to come!