Star Wars Celebration 2017 Recap

Out of all the amazing things that J and I have been able to do over these few years, going to Star Wars Celebration wasn’t even on the list of probable things at least until J was a bit older. Last year, we watched Celebration from the comfort of our home just waiting for the day that we would be able to be amongst the crowd. This last weekend however, J and I boarded a plane to our very first of hopefully many Star Wars Celebrations. We left Salt Lake City at 2:30pm on Wednesday April 12 and landed in Orlando at 1:30am on Thursday, we had a 3 hour layover in Las Vegas, we went to sleep around 2am and woke up around 5:30am for our first day. Even though Star Wars Celebration didn’t really begin until Thursday morning, it kicked off for J in Vegas as he was recognized by quite a few people in Vegas and that continued into Thursday as we were walking the line that wrapped around the Orange County Convention Center.

J on the plane

When we found out that we would be attending Star Wars Celebration 2017, I initially got nervous. I get really nervous around large groups of people and I was worried that my nerves wouldn’t allow me to have a great time. Usually if I feel overwhelmed at Salt Lake Comic Con, I can either step in a quiet room or I am just a 5 minute train ride from home. But this seemed like an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up and especially with J. I am really happy we made the trip, we had a blast on the exhibit floor and in the panel rooms.

Star Wars Celebration, like many conventions around the world, had some kinks in the chain. That is expected and forgivable, and without those kinks, some of our favorite moments wouldn’t have happened. We, along with Dr. Sarah from Geek Parenting Podcast, arrived at the Orange County Convention Center around 9 am on that first day. The line was already starting to wrap around the convention center. As mentioned before, J was getting recognized by people in line and I could hear people asking their friends if it would be weird to ask for a picture with him. Before we move on, I want to say that, no it is not weird. Just ask, he is usually more than happy to take pictures with people. We stood in line behind some fun people and we talked with them for about an hour before we saw someone we recognized in line. We told him to hop in line with us and talked with him for another 30 minutes before we made it into the convention center. Once we hit the exhibit hall, our minds were blown. A snowspeeder greeted guests to the wonders of Star Wars Celebration. As we ventured further into the hall, we saw these amazing cars that were modified to resemble ships from the Star Wars universe. When we were approaching these cars, J noticed that one looked especially familiar and from about 30 – 40 yards out he ran screaming “POE’S X-WING”. The owner of the car peeked his head out looking for the excited fan and he greeted us at the amazingly modified vehicle. The owner asked me how old J was and I responded. He was in shock that a fan so young would recognize which X-Wing when all of the older fans just thought it was some “random X-Wing”. He told us that J “made his con” on the first day and that he was so appreciative of how much J loved his car.

We didn’t make it into any of the big panels, mainly because I like sleeping in a nice comfy bed and a nice shower to wake me up in the morning, but we were able to watch them from “The Star Wars Show” stage or on my phone. While the panels were going on though, we took advantage of the little to no lines at all the vendors’ booths to see what goodies we could bring home from our adventure. There were quite a few big name vendors on the floor at Celebration. LEGO, Hasbro, Walt Disney World, Nissan, Funko, UNICEF, and others had interactive booths that fans of all ages would enjoy.

LEGO set up building stations for kids to help the Master Builders build an enormous LEGO Millennium Falcon, Hasbro was showing off their new “Forces of Destiny” toys, Walt Disney World brought Jedi Training to Celebration, Nissan had their Nissan Rogue present with the VR experience, Funko had some exclusive POPs, but our favorite booth had to be the UNICEF Kid Power booth. Not only did they have special edition 40th Anniversary “Force for Change” Kid Power Bands, but they had the one and only Ashely Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano) at the booth doing some Star Wars themed exercises with the kids.

There was so much going on panel wise that I would need at least 20 of me to experience everything Star Wars Celebration had to offer. They had the “Celebration Stage” where all the main panels took place, the “Galaxy Stage”, “Fan Stage”, and “Behind-the-Scenes Stage” all had their own panels as well as streams of the bigger panels. There was a “Family Stage” where activities for the younglings took place. Kids could do “Padawan Training” along side the Saber Guild of New York, they could draw with artists, and had little cosplay contests every afternoon. Across from the “Family Stage” was the “Rebel Theater” where they were showing episodes of Star Wars Rebels every day from open to close. There was also a “Podcast Stage” where Star Wars themed podcasts met with fans to record a “Live from Celebration” episode. We stopped by to watch our friends from the Full of Sith Podcast record their episode. If you have some time, you should go check out their Celebration episode. Every day at Star Wars Celebration was packed with so many amazing activities and I am glad we got to experience as much as we did.

Now that we got the formalities out of the way, let’s go into some of the big things that happened at Celebration. If you watched the 40th anniversary panel, you saw the return of Hayden Christensen to Star Wars Celebration, and that George Lucas and Harrison Ford made an appearance on stage. What you didn’t see was the reaction on the exhibit floor. As I mentioned earlier, we on the exhibit floor had the ability to watch the big panels courtesy of The Star Wars Show’s giant screen, so we were able to see everything happening in real time as well. We were right next to the stage screen when George Lucas was announced, and I have never seen an area get so cramped so fast. People ran from all corners of the floor just to catch a glimpse of the man who created this wonderfully vast universe on the big screen. Tears were streaming down fans faces around the entire convention center as John Williams took to the stage to play Leia’s Theme at the end of the 40th anniversary panel.

We caught a glimpse of The Last Jedi during The Last Jedi panel and it was as glorious as I was wanting it to be. It filled me with hope and excitement and I’ve watched it at least 30 times since it was released. I want to discuss the trailer in more detail, but that could be it’s own post and maybe even a future episode of Geek Parenting Podcast. The one thing I will say right now, is that I am excited to see what Luke’s statement at the end of the trailer means for the future of the franchise.

Another exciting thing we got to be a part of was the Star Wars Rebels press conference. Dr. Sarah was chosen from Geek Parenting Podcast to catch a sneak peek at the fourth and final season of Rebels, while J and I watched the panel from outside of the room on my phone. Since we were not in the panel room, J and I were able to get some good seats for the press conference for the three of us. One of my favorite things about the press conference, that others may find annoying, was Dave Filoni’s ability to troll the members of the press. Almost every question was met with misdirection and I was loving it. Press members would address questions to the voice actors and they would all look to Filoni for what they could say, which was usually “not much”. After the press conference, J got to meet and get a picture with Taylor Gray (the voice of Ezra Bridger) and we got to catch up with Salt Lake Comic Con alumnus Steve Blum.

The rest of our Celebration weekend was spent meeting friends we’ve made through social media and getting pictures with cosplayers from around the world. It was amazing finally meeting and hanging out with people that we’ve known via Instagram/Twitter/Facebook for a year or more. Every single one of those friends have been very supportive of the blog and social media accounts, and they all made J feel like a celebrity. They all helped make Star Wars Celebration 2017 one of the best memories he will have for the rest of his life, and I want to thank everyone who made it possible for us to be there. If you read my posts, if you follow us on social media, if you donated to the GoFundMe that Dr. Sarah started, you hold a special place in our hearts. Thank you all for your love and support, and we hope that we can keep putting a smile on your face with our posts. You can see some of our photos from Star Wars Celebration by following us on Instagram.

In This Fight Since He Was Six Years Old

By now, I’m pretty sure that most people who have found their way to our blog have watched Rogue One. If not, you may want to stop reading this post until you’ve watched it. I’ll wait. Have you started watching it yet? It was pretty great, right? Well, everyone has a right to their own opinion.

As most of you probably know or guessed we loved Rogue One. We’ve seen it quite a few times, and yes it still is as emotionally charged as the first time we saw it. The characters were amazing, the writing was fantastic, the cinematography was spot on, the directing was great, and the actors were spot on. Before we continue, this is not another review of Rogue One, this is a deeper look into what one line of the movie means for Star Wars fans of all ages. 

During a heated conversation between Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Cassian says, “I’ve been in this fight since I was six years old.” In this day and age, a statement like this is both exciting and terrifying. Terrifying in the sense that child soldiers are a reality, yet exciting for younger fans who may feel like they are too small to make a difference. 

As a youngling, I remember wishing I could be like Luke Skywalker. Fighting the evils of the Empire in my X-Wing along side all my rebellious friends, all the while thinking, “how can I make a difference?” This feeling followed me throughout my youth. If I didn’t like the way someone was being treated on the playground, I would feel the courage starting to build and yet that one thought would creep it’s ugly head and I would end up shirking back into my shell. Star Wars taught me to be courageous, but how could I be courageous at a young age?

When J started going to school, I worried that he would end up like me and that he would be a victim of bullies and would sit back while others were bullied around him all because that one thought would find it’s way into his mind. When J found himself a victim of a school yard bully, he turned to his favorite comic book dealing with school yard bullying, “Avengers: No More Bullying”. He found comfort in the words written between those pages and found courage in the story of Captain America, Luke Skywalker, and Ezra Bridger. All characters in favorites comics, movies, and cartoons that were courageous in their youth.

While Ezra showed courage at such a young age, it was still quite a few years ahead of J and I was worried that he might let that fact stop him from reaching into his courage when he really needed it. I know what you are thinking, what about all the younglings who became Jedi? Yes, younglings show great courage, but they also can rely on the force to aid their courage and while that is great, I think something closer to the realm of reality can have a bigger impact. Before you say, “but Ezra is a Jedi!!”, you have to remember that we first see Ezra before he discovers that he is Force sensitive. Cassian is just a regular human from the planet Fest. He has no Force sensitivity and no cybernetics to enhance his person, so when he says those eleven words, he fills those younger fans with hope. A hope that they too can make a difference and be courageous too.

 Who were some characters that you pulled inspiration from as a kid? Which characters do you pull inspiration from these days? 

Mario Sports Superstars Review

Mario Sports Superstars is the latest title in the amazing Mario Sports series that gives players five sports to choose from to play solo or with friends near and far. If you’ve played and loved previous Mario Sports titles such as Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, or Mario Strikers, then you will love Mario Sports Superstars. Mario Sports Superstars allows gamers to play Golf, Tennis, Soccer, Baseball and for the first time in Mario history, Horse Racing. Gamers can choose between 16 Mushroom Kingdom characters to play as from Mario, Luigi, Yoshi to Peach, Daisy, Rosalina and more. Mario Sports Superstars also features amiibo integration, along with some new Mario Sports Superstars collectible amiibo cards. Physical copies of Mario Sports Superstars will come with a collectible amiibo card for a limited time. Mario Sports Superstars is available now for the Nintendo 3DS systems.

We absolutely love Mario Sports Superstars. I’ve been a fan of Mario Sports titles since I first took to the links with Yoshi in Mario Golf back in 1999. Mario Sports Superstars transported me back to 1999, but instead of one game on a console, I had five games in the palms of my hands. The graphics are what you expect out of a Mario title, amazing and seamless. The audio is fun and upbeat from the music to the voicing of the characters. The game mechanics are easy enough that J (age 5) could easily learn how to play the games without getting frustrated. One of the things that I really love about the game is that it is secretly teaching your kids things while they are playing. Baseball and tennis teach young players how to better their hand to eye coordination, soccer and golf teach young gamers about angles, and horse racing teaches the younglings that speed isn’t everything.

J playing Mario Sports Superstars

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We highly recommend Mario Sports Superstars. Fans old and young will love this game. If you (or your kids) own a 3DS or are thinking about getting one, make sure you put Mario Sports Superstars at the top of your “must have games” list. I am waiting for some friends to pick up the game so we can try out the online play, but i am sure it is amazing. Pick up your copy from your favorite shop for $39.99 today!

**Disclaimer- We received a digital copy of Mario Sports Superstars in exchange for our thoughts on the game. All thoughts are our own***

Cirque du Soleil OVO

We had the opportunity to see Cirque du Soleil’s OVO on opening night in SLC. At 7:30pm, the announcer welcomed us to OVO and we were immediately transported into the world of bugs. The performers seemed to be communicating with a mixture of jibberish, French and Italian to which J commented, “I don’t think they’re saying real words. I guess everyone knows that.” 

The music was beautiful and the performers were awe inspiring. The costumes and make up were magical. Each performance was enhanced by the sheer awesomeness of the performers’ outfits. As a novice costume maker myself, I was trying to think of ways that I could incorporate what I was seeing on stage into future costumes for my son. 

From start to finish the audience was mesmerized by the amazing acrobatics and stunts done by the performers. The show was perfect for kids. J was at the edge of his seat during each performance shouting, “that’s IMPRESSIVE, awesome, whoa, cool!” The main storyline was cute, funny, and seemed easy enough for the kids understand. 

Cirque Du Soleil is fun for the whole family. The show’s runtime is about 1 hour 45 minutes with a 20 minute intermission. Tickets range from $25-$135 with parking at the Maverick Center costing an extra $10, so make sure you have cash. There is a Green Line UTA Trax stop near the Maverick Center if you would like to plan ahead so you can avoid traffic and parking. You can check out attendee’s pictures of the OVO by searching #ovocirque on Twitter and Instagram.

**Disclaimer – We were compensated tickets to the show in exchange for the review. I was not told what to say, the thoughts in this review are my own.** 

The LEGO Batman Review

If you are a fan of Batman, or The LEGO Movie then you will absolutely love The LEGO Batman Movie!! The LEGO Batman Movie is definitely a movie that entire families will enjoy together. The jokes are solid, the main storyline tugs at the heart strings, and the voice acting was on point. Be prepared to get your geek on because there are so many non-Batman LEGO cameos that you might feel like you are watching a LEGO Dimensions movie.  The one thing I will say is that I think The LEGO Batman Movie could have been a little shorter. It is 1hr 45min but they could have taken out a few jokes to get it down to the 1hr 30min mark. I am going to leave this review short and sweet so I don’t spoil anything for you readers. We give the LEGO Batman movie 4 1/2 LEGO figures and recommend that everyone with or without children go see this movie. You will not regret seeing it!!

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“Rouge One: A Star Wars Story” Review

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Directed by Gareth Edwards; Written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy; Story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta; Based on Characters and Situations created by George Lucas; Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn ; Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi action and violence; Running time 133 minutes

Rogue One was the first Star Wars movie that I had to skip out on opening night because I made a scheduling error and told my wife that she could plan her work Christmas party on the same night. However, I was lucky enough to see it twice, for free, the next day with the first screening being with my wife and her amazing coworkers and without J. It was kind of nice not seeing my first screening of Rogue One without J because I’m usually checking on him to see how he’s taking in the movie and I usually end up missing some things. It also gave me the chance to catch as many Easter Eggs as I could so I could share those with him when we saw it together, which was an hour after my first screening.

If I had to choose one word to describe Rogue One it would be superb. The story was amazing, the actors were fantastic, and K2SO almost took the top spot for my favorite droid. Rogue One had something for everyone. I believe that even if you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie, that you would enjoy Rogue One. The action sequences were on par with any other Star Wars film (minus the lightsabers), the comedic timing of K2SO was mesmerizing (Thank you Alan Tudyk), and the drama was pulling away at my heart strings the entire time.

There have been a few articles telling parents not to take their younger kids to see Rogue One. While I get that this is one of the franchise’s “darker” films, it is still a Star Wars movie. If your kids know the difference between fantasy and reality, and have seen all of the other Star Wars movies, then they should be able to sit through Rogue One. J (5) saw it with me last night and he absolutely loved the movie. He was catching Easter Eggs like a pro, and was squeezing my hand in excitement throughout most of the movie.  That being said, you know your kids better than I or any other person writing about Rogue One would, so the final say is up to you.

Something that I would recommend that fans of the Saga do, that was recommended to me by Bryan Young from the Full of Sith Podcast, is watch A New Hope one more time before seeing Rogue One. You will never be able to watch it again without having Rogue One on your mind. As a matter of fact, I am watching it right now as I write this and all I am thinking about is Rogue One. I am really looking forward to the next time I watch A New Hope with J.

If you can’t tell, we absolutely loved Rogue One and would recommend that every man, woman, child, droid, and Jawa see it. You will leave the theater forever changed, and it is worth it. I have some spoilery things to say, but I will leave that for private messages and Facebook groups. If you’ve seen the movie and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on our Facebook page or Instagram. I’d love to hear what you thought and if you caught the same Easter Eggs as I did.

We hope you have a great holiday season and May the Force be With You. 

The Leonardo: A Pinnacle of Edutainment

About The Leonardo

The Leonardo opened it’s doors on October 8th of 2011. It is located on Library Square at 209 East 500 South in Salt Lake City. With The Leonardo being on Library Square, it is near two UTA TRAX stops (Courthouse & Library). If you would rather drive to The Leonardo, there is metered parking along the street. The metered parking is $2/hour with a 2 hour maximum. The metered parking is free on the weekends, with the same 2 hour limit. You can pre purchase your admission tickets online, or at the front desk. Tickets for children 2 and under are free, children 3-12 are $8.95, students (with ID)/military/seniors are $9.95, and adults (13-64) are $12.95. Your admission gets you access to exhibits, hands on labs and studios, and allows you to interact with installations. Special traveling exhibits, such as Mummies of the World, will have a charge separate to The Leonardo’s general admission.

Inside The Leonardo

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Inside the Lobby of The Leonardo

Now that the numbers are out of the way, let’s talk about the inner workings of the Leonardo. The Leonardo is a wonderful facility that stimulates the minds of all those who enter their doors. The Leonardo is the pinnacle of edutainment in the Salt Lake Valley. The hands on labs and studios encompass all aspects of STEM learning, and the best part is that it will leave your kids wanting to learn more. From LEGOs in the lobby to building simple machines and even simple circuits in Leonardo’s Workshop, your kids will have so much fun learning that they may never want to leave. But there is more to the Leonardo than the Lobby and Leonardo’s Workshop. Just behind the lobby is Leonardo’s Studio. There kids can learn about animation, green screen technology, and even a little about shadow puppets. The first floor is also home to the massive and amazing Flight exhibit. There, kids can climb into a C-131 aircraft and use their imaginations to pilot the C-131 from the plane’s cockpit. Guests will also be able to pilot one of two amazingly accurate, and original to The Leonardo, flight simulators that are similar to ones that real pilots train on. Guest will also be able to learn about animal flight, and the future of manned flight included future space exploration. Once you have finished learning about flight, stop by the sculpture of one of Leonardo DaVinci’s designs for a quick photo op. Share the picture on social media and tag The Leonardo so they can see all the fun you and your family are having. Now it’s time to move to the second floor.

 

As of this posting, the second floor is home to the eye opening exhibit, Where Children Sleep: Photographs by James Mollison. This exhibit takes you through the sleeping arrangements of children of all different economic background throughout the world. After you leave the exhibit, you will head into the Science Lab. There, you can check out the Science Fact or Fiction Wall, see some amazing experience, and test your reflexes. After spending time in the Science Lab, make sure you take your smaller kids to Pixel Playland. At Pixel Playland, your younger kids will learn all bout pixelation and pixilation by creating their own patterns on the pixel wall and by building with pixel blocks.

Just across from Pixel Playland is the already mentioned Leonardo’s Workshop. Kids can really feel like Leonardo DaVinci by building and problem solving. There guests can also learn about electricity with Jacobs ladder, learn about static electricity, and even play on one of the first electronic musical instruments, the theremin.

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J Dancing at Pixle Playland

As you finish in Leonardo’s workshop, guests will be whisked away to a land of Perception. Guests learn how amazing the mind really is as it manipulates your senses to make you see, feel, and do things you are not expecting to see, feel or do. One of our favorite things to do in this exhibit is get a Virtual Haircut. You sit in a chair, put on some headphones, and the sound of a barber shop fill your ears making your brain think that you might actually be getting a haircut.

After you explore perception, you can check out the brand new cardboard exhibit. Check out the cardboard sculptures, go inside a cardboard fort, build your own fort with some boxes, look at the cardboard chess set and ping pong table, sit behind the wheel of a cardboard train/plane, or just sit back and watch a documentary about a kid who made a neighborhood arcade with some cardboard. This one was a really fun exhibit to go through and I recommend taking some extra time in this exhibit.

When you are done with the cardboard exhibit, you will be walking directly into the Think Math room. In this room, you will experience the magic of the Infinity room, solve some math riddles, use your visual logic, and cross the math bridge. Math was never one of my favorite subjects, but I do love going to the Think Math room whenever we go to The Leonardo.

When you have finished in the Think Math room, head on down to the main floor and stop in the Leo Store to pick up some educational merchandise for guests of all ages. The Leo Store also shares a space with the amazing and delicious Salt Bistro. Choose from starters, sandwiches, salads, drinks, and even a kids menu to make sure that everyone in your group gets nourished physically after being nourished mentally.

Becoming a Member

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Our Leonardo Membership Cards

Memberships to The Leonardo are very reasonably priced and come with some pretty amazing benefits. Members get free general admission, discounts to the Salt Bistro and the Leo Store, discounts on event packages, discounts to traveling exhibits, ASTC reciprocal membership, and more. Memberships start at $45 and go all the way up to $1000. You can click here to see more details about the pricing and benefits of memberships. Also, as a bonus for following J and I, if you buy a membership from now until January 31, 2017, you can use the code JE1910 to get an extra month added to your year membership.

Take it from us, once you go to The Leonardo once, you will want to go back again and again. That year membership (13 months with the special code) will pay for itself within the first month, if you use it as much as we do. On a personal note, we have had memberships to other facilities around the Salt Lake Valley, and I feel like you get the most “bang for your buck” with a membership to The Leonardo.

**This post is sponsored by The Leonardo. We were provided with a family membership (which I upgraded to a family plus with my own money) to share my thoughts about the Leonardo. All thoughts are my own and my opinion was not swayed by the membership. We loved going to The Leonardo before becoming part of this campaign.**