Star Wars Celebration Chicago

McCormick Place in Chicago, the largest convention center in North America, recently hosted Star Wars Celebration Chicago (SWCC), a five-day convention that celebrated the long running space opera franchise.

Taking place between April 11 and April 15 of this year, SWCC saw fans flock from around the world to meet their favorite “Star Wars” celebrities, purchase memorabilia and other items and attend panels concerning upcoming “Star Wars” properties and those celebrating anniversaries.

Guests at SWCC included Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks from “The Phantom Menace”), Erin Kellyman (Enfys Nest from “Solo”), Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”) and Tiya Sircar (Sabine Wren from “Star Wars: Rebels”).

That Thursday, an 88-foot long mural showcasing the characters and action of the series was unveiled near the exhibit hall, designed by artist Jason Palmer and executive creative director at LucasFilm, Doug Chiang.

The creation of the mural took only six weeks and covered the episodic and anthology films, as well as “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” television series.  However, one particular portion hadn’t been revealed yet.

The most anticipated panel at the convention was Friday’s discussion on “Star Wars: Episode IX,” which featured director J.J Abrams, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and actors Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, among others. Here, the group discussed the upcoming blockbuster and revealed the film’s trailer and episode title, “The Rise Of Skywalker.”

The trailer, which included the maniacal laughter of Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine, was followed by a surprise appearance by McDiarmid, who simply stated “roll it again” to a roar of approval from fans.

After the panel, the “Rise of Skywalker” portion of the aforementioned mural was uncovered.

Saturday’s festivities included a new look at “Galaxy’s Edge,” a “Star Wars”-themed area of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Both will open later this year; the Disneyland location is scheduled to open next month, while the Walt Disney World location opens in August.  

Also included in the day’s events were a first look at “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” a highly-anticipated video game set shortly after the execution of Order 66 and most of the galaxy’s Jedi, and a costume competition for professional and amateur cosplayers alike.

Sunday’s event schedule included a panel covering “The Mandalorian,” a new live-action series set in the “Star Wars” universe, behind-the-scenes tales on the iconic Mos Eisley cantina from “A New Hope” and a sneak peek at the new season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”

During the final day of Celebration, a panel was held to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “The Phantom Menace,” which saw the attendance of Best, McDiarmid, Darth Maul portrayer Ray Park and various crew members.

Franchise creator George Lucas also had a video message included during the panel, where he thanked the fans for their continued support and proclaimed the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks as his favorite character.

LucasFilm disclosed the location and year of the next Star Wars Celebration during the closing ceremony that Monday afternoon. Next year, 2020, will see the convention heading back to Anaheim, Calif., where it was held five years prior.

Maxwell Patton

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