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? 

Driving Me to Drink

I remember my mom joking, “you boys are going to drive me to drink!” My brothers and I were three rambunctious boys who tore through the house like an F5 tornado on a daily basis. In high school, we were inviting friends over during our lunch hour and free periods for Tekken Tag tournaments. My mom would always have the house clean, and food and sodas would be waiting for all who came over. I never fully understood how stressful that could be, that is until my wife gave birth to our son.

The stresses of parenthood seemed to have shifted. While parents still have the stresses of wanting a clean home, and making sure your kids are happy and healthy, it seems more and more that society keeps adding more stress.  Parents seem to be held under microscopes when they are out in public with kids. Grandparents and people without kids seem to have opinions about everything, from what your child is wearing into the store to how to react when your child has a meltdown in the toy section.

Here is where I say that unless you are family, my kid’s teacher, or someone who deals with my kid on the daily, keep your mouth shut. Just because something worked for your kids who are now in their 40s, or because you are taking classes in child development, that doesn’t give you insight into how my kid’s brain. I have been with my kid everyday for the past 5 years (minus a couple weeks when we sent him to CO with his grandparents) and I know how to deal with him. I’m pretty sure we’ve come across the same articles, so I don’t need you throwing your shade along with “helpful” quotes. There is a time and a place for this kind of help, and mid tantrum in public is not the time nor place to share your opinions.

Not only are we getting unsolicited advice from strangers, but we are getting flack from our own! Parents seem to be judging other parents more and more each day on playgrounds throughout the country. Right now, you are all probably judging my parenting (and writing) techniques. Why are we turning on each other? We are in the exact same damn boat! Let’s cut each other some slack and just let our kids play on the playground while we relax and talk about our favorite shows, movies, comics, and memes.

Unlike my mom, my kid will not be driving me to drink. If things keep going the way they are, it will be adults. It will be those judging my parenting from the 5 minute interaction they will have with me and my kid on the playground, or at the store. It will be those complaining when I take my kid to the movies, even though he’s usually quieter than most teenagers at the movies. It will be keyboard warriors who spend most of their time critiquing parents when they have no kids of their own.

Disneyland or Bust!!

Hello! My name is James. I am 30 years old, and I have never been to Disneyland. I’ve always wanted to go, but life would always have a way of seeing me not being able to make the trip. My wife has also never been to Disneyland, and neither has our 5 year old son J. That will end soon. We’ve decided that we don’t want our son to live the Disneyland-less childhood that we had.

We (along with a group of friends) will be carpooling down from SLC, and we will be staying at an AirBnB near the park. We also will be celebrating my 31st birthday at Disneyland (insert childlike squeaks of joy). I have been talking with friends, who have been to Disneyland, pretty much non-stop and I still have no plan for how we are really going to spend our time at Disneyland.

One of my friends and Geek Parenting Podcast co-hosts, Dr. Sarah, gave me a book to read with J and my wife so we can try to make a plan but all looking through that book has done is leave me with more questions about how we are going to fit it all into a few days!

My level of excitement is off the charts right now. I have been wanting to go to a Disney park for about 25 years, and J has been asking to go since Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. You only go to Disneyland for the first time once in your life. Thinking about the fact that the first time we go to Disneyland as a family will also be the first time any of us get to go to Disneyland, almost brings a tears to my eyes.

It reminds me of when J and I got to see Mark Hamill at Salt Lake Comic Con. Mark Hamill was almost finished with his 45 minute panel, and tears started rolling down my cheeks. J loves Star Wars just as much as I do, and we got to experience Mark Hamill at Salt Lake Comic Con together. If that made me cry, then Day 1 at Disneyland is going to be mostly tears (I hope tissues aren’t too expensive).

So now that I’ve told you all how easy it is to make me cry, I need your help. Those of you who’ve been to Disneyland, what should be on our “must see” list? What are some of the things you do to prepare for such an amazing trip? What costumes should J wear? Let me know by commenting here, or you can tell me on Facebook or Twitter. Also make sure you are watching the Facebook page, we will probably live stream J’s reaction to the news. 

Keeping Your Kids Safe at the Con

With Salt Lake Comic Con’s Fan X ’16 coming up next Thursday (March 24th), I thought it would be important to share some tips to help keep your kids safe at Fan X and other conventions.

  1. Have a meeting place:
    The Salt Palace is a big place. Download the FanX app to see a map of the Salt Palace, and then choose a spot that you can meet as a family if you get separated. I suggest meeting around Kid Con.
  2. Point out the volunteers:
    Show your kids what shirts the volunteers are wearing, you could even introduce           them to some of the volunteers. Make sure your kids know that they can feel                 comfortable asking the volunteers for help.
  3. Arrive early on the 1st day so you and your kids can walk around and learn where everything is:
    This one is pretty self explanatory, but walking the exhibit hall on the 1st day                 guarantees that you will be able to get a feel for the full layout of the exhibit          floor.
  4. Have a picture of your kids in your wallet/purse:
    In the event that you and your children get separated it’s best to have a picture on       hand just in case. It also might help to give your kids a picture of you so they can           have volunteers help them find you.
  5. Write your name and phone number on your kid’s wristband:
    This will be the easiest way for volunteers/police security to get a hold of you if you     and your kids get separated.
  6. Have extra power packs on hand:
    Cell phones use a lot of power during conventions. You you are taking pictures, you     might leave the wifi and/or bluetooth on, or your phone might be trying to keep a         signal. Either way it’s always good to make sure that you will be able to keep your         phone charged and ready in case of emergency.

No matter how hard you try to keep track of your kids, distractions happen and kids wander. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make a plan and stick to it. The volunteers at Salt Lake Comic Con are amazing and will do everything they can to help you if you were to get separated from your kids.

The Future of Comic Book Movies

With the success of Deadpool and with the announcement of an R-rated cut of Batman V Superman, there are many parents out there who are worried that all movies based on comic books will bear the R rating. I personally don’t think that this is something that will happen. Comic book movies make so much of their money from parents taking their younger kids, that it would likely be financially irresponsible for studios to only make R-rated movies.

Something else to think about is that Batman V Superman is not the first Comic Book movie to get an alternate rated dvd/blu-ray release. If you go back three years to The Wolverine (I know it was terrible, but it was the last comic book movie to get an unrated cut after it’s PG-13 theatrical release), you will see that it really doesn’t take much to get an R rating. The theatrical release of the Wolverine had one “F-Bomb”, quite a bit of action, a little blood here and there, while the Unrated release had three “F-Bombs” (more than one is an automatic R), more action, and blood EVERYWHERE!

According to the Motion Picture Association of America, “An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually oriented nudity, drug abuse…” Before we continue, I want to break down a few of these guidelines just a little more:

Language: Movies are getting pretty lax these days, and it seems like they can pretty much get away with saying pretty much whatever they want. But as I mentioned before, more than one “F-bomb” can get you an R rating, unless there is a two-thirds majority of the board who believe the language is justified by context or use.

Violence: Movies based on comic books will usually have some kind of violence, but when it is intense or persistent, you are tiptoeing the line between PG-13 and R.

Nudity: Along with the guidelines about sexually oriented nudity, in 2010 the MPAA added that “male nudity” will likely get you an R rating.

Back to the issue at hand. Everyone behind Deadpool was doing everything in their power to push the R boundary as close as possible to the NC-17 line. With 84 “F-bombs”, violence and blood out the wazoo, a multiple minute sex montage, and a view of Deadpool’s penis, Deadpool was lucky to premiere with their R rating.

The news that Batman V Superman is getting an R-rated cut shouldn’t scare anyone, it should excite people. Where Deadpool can be seen as a model for future characters who don’t have established storylines in a cinematic universe, Batman V Superman can be seen as the new model for the PG-13 theatrical/dual rated dvd/blu-ray release. I’m not saying every comic book movie should follow either model just for the sake of following the model, but that the studios should just be focusing on who the character is via the source material.

The future of comic book movies is not going to be based on the success of Deadpool, Marvel will keep doing what they are doing with the MCU with their PG-13 films, their ABC crime style dramas, and their mature Netflix content, and DC will continue to play catch up with their cinematic universe while dominating in the animation department. The only change that we will most likely see from Deadpool’s success will hopefully be more movies/online series starring more of the anti-heroes of the comic book world.   

The bottom line is that no matter what a movie is rated, it is our job as parents to view questionable content before letting our kids watch it. If I am wrong and all comic book movies go the way of Deadpool, then you can always wait for the FX release.

Marvel Universe Live! Is Coming to Salt Lake City

On July 10, 2014 Feld Entertainment premiered a live action arena show featuring characters from the Marvel Comics Universe at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa to rave reviews. The show has since been on an 85-city national tour leaving audiences everywhere stunned and wanting more. Next week Feld Entertainment is bringing this amazing looking live action arena show to the Vivint Smart Home Arena for 7 shows starting Thursday, February 11th, going through Sunday, February 14th.

 

Marvel Universe Live! is an original story, so there will be no connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or current Marvel Comics story lines, so don’t go in expecting any tie-ins other than the 25 characters, their names and costumes. It is an all ages show, but take into consideration that there will be high-energy stunts with the use of pyrotechnics, loud special effects, and brief periods of black outs with the possibility of strobe-lights. I would recommend some type of ear protection if you plan on taking really small children.

MUL_cast

©Feld Entertainment/Marvel

Tickets are now available and start at $25-$35 for lower bowl, $55 for VIP, and $70 for Gold Circle via the Smith Tix website. Get your tickets before the shows all sell out. If you purchase tickets for opening night, you get a $5 discount.

On Wednesday, February 10th, at 6:00pm the first 300 people to show up to the Grand Hall at the Gateway Mall in Downtown Salt Lake City (in a Marvel costume) will get a free ticket to the show. So dust off those Salt Lake Comic Con costumes and join the fun.

MLU FB

Check out what some of our dad blogger friends had to say about Marvel Universe Live!:

…we got a moment where the make believe and imaginary came to life for the kids to enjoy. The story immersed them and my son and my niece didn’t see the wire work or the costumes, they saw Captain America in peril and Iron Man blasting the bad guys.” – NotAnotherDadBlog.com

…our family had an amazing time at this event and we all recommend checking it out. The girls were talking about the show all night and even this morning. When they would say one character was their favorite they would then list off another that was even cooler.” – StLouisDad.com