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.

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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. 

Finding Dory Review

J and I were lucky enough to go to an early screening of Finding Dory thanks to our friends at X96. We were so excited that we watched Finding Nemo before we went to the theater.

Just like all other Disney/Pixar features, Finding Dory starts with a short. Piper is the short that kicks off Finding Dory. Piper is a story about overcoming fear and never giving up. Piper is a little sandpiper bird who must learn how to fend for herself now that she is too big for her mama to feed her.

Finding Dory takes us on an adventure. We get to see Dory’s origin story up to her meeting Marlin in Finding Nemo. From there we are taken to a year later where Dory is living right next to Nemo and Marlin. Throughout the movie, things are happening to unlock memories of Dory’s family. Dory, Marlin, and Nemo set out on a journey to reconnect Dory with the family that she lost and forgot. Finding Dory introduces a lot of fun and helpful characters, J’s favorite is Hank the octopus. Like Piper, Finding Dory shares a message that “you can do anything you put your mind to,” and gives you a new way to solve problems by asking yourself “What Would Dory Do?”

Parents beware, there are some loud suspenseful parts of the movie that may frighten younger children. So, sit close and be prepared for arm squeezing throughout the movie. Other than that, this is a perfect movie to take the kids, grandkids, nephews, and nieces to. The IMAX 3D is pretty interesting if you get a good center seat. If you can’t get a good center seat, standard 2D will be more than enough for Finding Dory.

Do yourself a favor this weekend and go see Piper and Finding Dory.

Captain America: Civil War Review

Captain America: Civil War is probably going to go down as my favorite movie of the Summer. It was everything that I have been dreaming about since I first read the Civil War comic books. Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and the Russo brothers did an amazing job working around the characters that they were not able to use (thanks to 20th Century Fox) and still come out with an amazing story.

With the cast list was large enough to rival the previous Avengers films, the Russo brothers did a great job pushing Cap’s storyline to the forefront of the movie. The Russo brothers also excelled in their challenge of introducing two huge characters into the MCU. Spider-Man and Black Panther were fantastic additions to cast and Tom Holland and Chadwick Boseman were great casting choices. It seems like a lot of people were skeptical about going with a younger Spidey, but in my opinion, Tom Holland is the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man to date.

I took J to see Captain America: Civil War, we were going to do a video review, but there were some technical difficulties. So, here is a transcript of J’s thoughts on Civil War:

Me: What did you think about Captain America: Civil War?

J: IT WAS AMAZING!!!

Me: What do you think made it AMAZING?

J: The story was really good, I also really liked the fighting scenes.

Me: Which character were you most excited to see in the movie?

J: Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Ant Man!!

Me: What about Cap and Iron Man.

J: They were great too, daddy. But Black Panther was so cool, and Spider-Man and Ant Man made me laugh a lot. They were just really funny.

Me: Ok, what do you want other young kids to know about Civil War?

J: It’s just a really good movie, there are some parts that might be scary and some parts that might be too sad. The other kids should just snuggle with their mommies and daddies if they get scared or sad.

Captain America: Civil War is rated PG-13 for language, violence and some adult humor. The language isn’t too bad, there is probably just as much swearing in all the other Disney/Marvel movies. The violence is a little heavier than that of Winter Solider. If your kids were able to sit through Winter Soldier, then they should be fine with Civil War. The adult humor is basically a few jokes that are going to go straight over your kids heads, so I wouldn’t be too worried about it.

Are you Team Cap or Team Iron Man? Choose your side and go see the movie! And after you see the movie, click here to join in a discussion group about Captain America: Civil War. The group has spoilers, so please join after you see the movie.

Star Wars Rebels: Shroud of Darkness

Since the time when Vader and Ahsoka first showed up on Rebels, we have been waiting for that moment when they would face each other. This is not that episode, but the wheels are in motion.

Shroud of Darkness starts off with an amazing Lightsaber duel with Ezra and Kanan taking on the inquisitors. Ezra’s powers and lightsaber skills are growing and he and Kanan are able to fight the inquisitors and escape with their lives. Kanan and Ezra meet back with the Ghost crew with news that they have yet to find the perfect planet for the Rebellion to make a base.

When they return to the Ghost, Ezra finds Ahsoka watching an old Holocron of Anakin teaching some lightsaber techniques. After a brief discussion, Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka decide it’s time to take the fight to the inquisitors, but to do so they must speak with Yoda through the force. What happens next? You will just have to watch and find out.

This episode has so much going for it and viewers young and old will go through so many emotions watching it. You may want to keep a box of tissue next to you, as tears may flow. Shrouds of Darkness has raised my level of excitement for the remainder of the season and I can’t wait to see what our Rebels will do next.

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.

Star Wars Rebels: Homecoming

Meeting your significant other’s parents can be somewhat of a challenge. A good impression can lead to happy interactions throughout the rest of the relationships, one bad impression will lead to a life of awkward dinners and holidays. How will Kanan do when he meets Hera’s father in this weeks episode of Rebels.

The Rebels are in need of a carrier so the Rebellion can house it’s fighters while they are in search for a new planet to make their base. Commander Jun Sato tells the Ghost crew about a rebel cell that is in need of help taking down an Imperial Carrier that is stationed in orbit around the planet of Ryloth, Hera’s home world. Hera contacts the rebel cell leader Cham Syndulla, Hera’s father, and thus beings one amazing episode.

Frustrated with the Empire, Cham Syndulla wants Hera and the Rebels to help him destroy the carrier, in hopes that the Twi’lek people on Ryloth would be inspired to fight by seeing the destruction. Who’s plan will succeed? Will the Rebels get their carrier or will Cham inspire his people to fight the Empire?

We really enjoyed this episode (I feel like I say that a lot). The script was inspiring, and the action was spectacular. If you are a father of a daughter, or a daughter of a father you will love a lot of what you see in Homecoming. The relationship between Cham and Hera felt real, and we loved everything about it. Great job Lucasfilms Animation on another spectacular episode.

Catch new episodes of Star Wars Rebels every Wednesday night at 9/8c