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.

J’s Top 10 Netflix Downloads

Netflix has changed holiday road trips forever! Recently Netflix added a certain feature that allows subscribers to download some of it’s vast library to their devices. J has gone through all of the kids movies to help me create a top 10 list of the best downloadable movies on Netflix (for kids under the age of 8, probably).

10) Thomas & Friends: Santa’s Little Engine & Merry Christmas Thomas 

 

These have been  J’s favorites to watch on PBS Kids. In Santa’s little Engine, Thomas helps guide Santa’s sleigh, gets trimmed like a Christmas Tree, and learns about being safe on the snow. Merry Christmas Thomas has Thomas searching for the best tree in Sodor, helping one of his friends out of a snowy jam, and a few other fun stories. J wanted to put both on his list, but didn’t want them to take two spots. So if you’re kids love trains and especially love Thomas, make sure you are a useful engine and download these one for your kids today! Santa’s Little Engine has a 58 minute runtime and Merry Christmas Thomas clocks in at 1 hour.

9) The Cat in the Hat Knows a lot About Christmas ©Random House Children's Entertainment

Another one of J’s PBS Kids favorites has made the list. In the Cat in the Hat Knows a lot About Christmas, Jake, Sally, the Cat, and Fish must help a reindeer find his family after being separated at a Christmas Party. If you grew up loving Dr. Seuss, this is the perfect download for you and you kids. Cat in the Hat Knows a lot About Christmas comes in at 58 minutes.

8) DreamWorks Holiday Classics ©DreamWorks

Do your kids like Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, and of course The Penguins of Madagascar? If yes, they will love DreamWorks Holiday classics. In one story, Donkey creates his own Christmas caroling stage show, in another one Santa crashes his sleigh on the island of Madagascar leaving Alex, Melman, Gloria, and Marty to save Christmas. You can download all 4 shorts for 1 hour and 9 minutes of silence in the car, or your kids can pick and choose which stories they want to download.

7) DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda Holiday ©DreamWorks

This is a fun short for those who are fans of the Kung Fu Panda movies. We see Po struggling to balance his duties as the Dragon Warrior and the holiday traditions of his family as the town prepares for their annual Winter Feast. This short has a runtime of 26 minutes.

6) Puffin Rock: Sliky’s New Friend/The First Snow/Oona’s Cave (Season 2 Episode 7) ©Penguin Random House

J absolutely loves Puffin Rock. Around this time of year, he especially loves shows that have a “Christmasy” feel, meaning anything with some snow. Which is one of the reasons that Puffin Rock made his list. This Episode has a runtime of 19 minutes.

5) The Magic School Bus Holiday Special (Season 3 Episode 10) & The Magic School Bus In the Arctic (Season 3 Episode 1) ©Scholastic

In the Holiday Special, we join Ms. Frizzle and her first cousin as they teach the class all about recycling. In The Magic School Bus In the Arctic, Ms. Frizzle takes the class to the Arctic for a magical field trip to learn about why it gets cold. I love the idea of this episode because on past road trips J has asked why it’s cold, and he never seems to understand when I say it, so maybe Ms. Frizzle can finally teach him what I seem to not be able to. Both episodes have a runtime of 25 minutes, totaling 50 minutes of car silence.

4) Super Why: Twas the Night Before Christmas & Other Stories (Season 1 Episode 17) ©PBS Kids

Another fantastic PBS Kids show has made J’s top 10 list. In this episode, Whyatt wants to know why Santa visits on Christmas. Join Super Why and the Super Readers as they read Twas the Night Before Christmas in hopes of answering Whyatt’s question. This episode has a 26 minute runtime.

3) Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas ©Universal Animation Studios

If you can’t tell, J really likes the PBS Kids shows. Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas has been one of J’s favorites since he was but an infant. In this Curious Christmas special, George and the Man in the Yellow Hat are having a hard time trying to decide what to get each other for christmas. J has always enjoyed Curious George’s methods for solving his problems, and his methods in this special made him smile. This is a great download for the little ones. This special has a 58 minute runtime.

We have made it to J’s top 2 downloads, and as you will see these are not Christmasy movies. These are movies that J loves to watch and would watch all day if given a chance. So far we’ve given about 7 or 8 hours of car silence for your big upcoming road trip. These last two movies may put you in the 11-12 hour range, so lets get to the reveal!

2) The Angry Birds Movie ©Rovio ©Columbia Pictures

That’s right, the app that took the world by storm a few years ago is now one of J’s favorite movies. He knows all the birds’ names and will sing the song at the top of his lungs. I know what you are thinking, “could a movie based off an app be that good?” Well, it definitely has it’s moments. I found myself laughing at some of the jokes and the movie got me playing the game again. So download the movie and let your kids join Red and the other birds as they fight the evil pigs and try to get their eggs back! This movie has a runtime of 1 hour and 37 minutes.

1) YO KAI WATCH: THE MOVIE ©LMYWP2014

This has to be the TV Movie of the Year in J’s eyes. J has loved following Nate on his journey to discover all the Yo Kai (invisible beings that cause all of life’s little mishaps), so of course he would love a movie expanding that story leading into Season 2. I never really watched the show with J all that much, but I thought the movie was funny while also tugging at the heart strings. If your kids are anything like J, you will want to download YO KAI WATCH: THE MOVIE before your road trip for 1 hour and 35 minutes of silence with the occasional whoop and holler. If you need any more convincing, check out this trailer for YO KAI WATCH: THE MOVIE.

There you have it, J’s (and a little bit of mine) Top 10 (or 12) Netflix Downloads for your upcoming holiday road trip. While silence is nice sometimes when you are on the road, make sure you engage with your kids. Don’t just let them stare at the screen for 8-12 hours, have them take breaks in between each show/movie so you can sing a road trip song or two. You could even talk with them about what they watched. Take an interest in what your kids are watching. You might enjoy some of it. Travel safe, and travel smart this holiday season. If you made it this far, thank you for joining J and I on this wonderful journey. Merry Holidays everyone!!

Geek Bullying

Two words that I never thought I would see next to each other were geek and bullying. These days it’s easy to find some type of geek bullying going on. I for one am done. I’m done seeing all the geek shaming that happens online and at conventions.

I am tired of seeing people posting things across social media, saying things like “You’re not a real fan. You only know who these people are because of the movies/tv shows/Netflix/etc.” Who cares how people know the characters. Are they paying to see movies? Are they giving our favorite shows ratings? Are they buying geeky merchandise? Are they talking about geeky movies and tv shows online? If the answer is yes, then CALM DOWN!!

As a community we need to be welcoming to new geeks. These new fans are spending money at the comicbook store. They are taking their friends to see movies with our favorite characters. It truly has never been a better time to be a geek. Well, the late 70s was probably pretty cool to, I would have loved to see Star Wars opening night on the big screen.

To the new fans out there, welcome. I am happy that you found your way into our world. If you ever need help navigating this amazing world of geek, I will help as best as I can. If you ever feel the sting of geek bullying, I will stand by you. A majority of geeks are good people and we apologize for the bad eggs.

To those who are geek shaming, knock it off. Do you not realize what the state of geek would be if it wasn’t for new fans? Look back to the 90s when Marvel was on the verge of bankruptcy. It took 20th century Fox bringing in new fans with the X-Men franchise to pave the way for us to have the Marvel Cinematic Universe we all know and love, which lead to Disney wanting to by Marvel.

So let’s come together, stop the shaming cycle. Don’t tell people they aren’t real fans because they don’t know the mythology as well as you do. Help these new fans, embrace their new found geekdom. Remember,  the state of geek could be a lot worse without the new fans.