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Sunday, April 16, 2017

An Overview of Celebration Orlando's Biggest Announcements and Reveals

Star Wars Celebration Orlando is now over, and unlike last year, it did not disappoint. Aside from the ominous, epic teaser trailer and poster for The Last Jedi – the weekend's biggest reveal, as far as the Internet is concerned – we got major announcements from every side of the Star Wars universe and (as usual) tons of fun moments with the Star Wars creators and stars that any fan can enjoy. 

The 40th anniversary panel that kicked off the festivities wholly delivered on its promise of special guests. George Lucas was invited onstage fairly early in the panel and stayed for most of its duration. Hayden Christensen and Ian McDiarmid joined him for a Revenge of the Sith mini-reunion; for Christensen (whose performance as Anakin Skywalker has been widely criticized), this was his first Celebration in 15 years, and the excitement surrounding his appearance indicates just how much the Prequels have risen in popularity in recent years. 
Mark Hamill and Hayden Christensen unite in this instantly iconic, father/son photo
Additionally, Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson both greeted the audience in pre-recorded videos, with Jackson insisting that Mace Windu is still alive and offering to return as the badass Jedi master. Harrison Ford was met with thunderous applause as he joined Lucas, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and host Warwick Davis for an Original Trilogy reunion. And Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher's daughter, took the stage alone to remember her late and great mother.
Indeed, Fisher's death was felt throughout the weekend. The 40th anniversary panel ended with a terrific and moving tribute video that highlights both her passion and ceaseless wit, followed by John Williams himself conducting Princess Leia's iconic theme. During The Last Jedi's panel, director Rian Johnson and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy assured us that her last film role would not disappoint. And Mark Hamill led a panel dedicated to Fisher's memory on Friday night, exploring his own relationship with her and the legacy that she leaves on both the creators and fans of the Star Wars universe.
The Star Wars Rebels panel on Saturday morning saw executive producer Dave Filoni confirm that Season 4 will be the series' last. However, as the new trailer shows us, it's going out with a bang. Saw Gerrera and Mon Mothma will be returning from Season 3; frequent Celebration host Warwick Davis will voice Rukh, Grand Admiral Thrawn's bodyguard/assassin; and Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), a fan favorite from The Clone Wars, will return in an episode arc centered on Mandalore. 
Strangely enough, the panel didn't give us the anticipated, applause-worthy confirmation that Ahsoka Tano would reappear in the final season, even though Filoni hinted it during his own panel on Thursday and with a subtle T-shirt change during the Rebels panel. The trailer did show us multiple characters interacting with a very large wolf, something that's been associated with Ahsoka in an unused Clone Wars sketch. Fans are theorizing that this wolf is actually Ahsoka in a new form, having suffered both emotionally and physically from her duel with Darth Vader.
In video game news, the full Battlefront II trailer boasts a single-player campaign with a canon story that focuses on female Imperial soldier Iden Versio's attempt to avenge the Emperor's death and the Death Star II's destruction after Return of the Jedi. The multiplayer function will also span all eras of the canon Star Wars universe – the Prequels, the Original Trilogy, and the Sequel Trilogy – with Darth Maul, Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Rey, and Kylo Ren already confirmed as playable characters.
Many new Star Wars books were announced, all of which are detailed on StarWars.com. The "Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi" series will include the novels Leia: Princess of Alderaan and The Legends of Luke Skywalker. Perhaps the biggest news to come from Star Wars literature is about Captain Phasma; the chrome-clad commander will receive her own novel and a Marvel Comics miniseries detailing her time in-between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. We'll finally learn how she earned her rank and reputation. 
A new Star Wars animated series was also announced by EW on Thursday, ahead of its own panel on Friday. Star Wars: Forces of Destiny will be composed of animated shorts released on YouTube that focus on the saga's heroines. Daisy Ridley (Rey), Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), and Lupita Nyong'o (Maz Kanata) will be returning to voice their live-action characters; Ahsoka, Anakin, Hera Syndulla, and Sabine Wren will be voiced by the same actors from The Clone Wars and Rebels; and Leia and Padmé, the original Star Wars heroines, will also get the spotlight.
Although this isn't exactly the new cartoon that fans expected, it's a great opportunity to tell standalone, canon stories that can't be easily included in the rest of the franchise. Between Forces of Destiny, The Last Jedi, RebelsBattlefront II, and the new Leia and Phasma novels/comics, the importance of female characters in Star Wars has never been clearer. 

More Celebration panels and coverage can be viewed on the Star Wars YouTube channel. What was your favorite Celebration Orlando moment? Which announcement/reveal are you most excited about? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

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