London Calling: Star Wars Celebration 2023

Thomas Martin

Star Wars is a timeless franchise, one which has impacted pop culture immeasurably. In 1999, due to the strong anticipation for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Lucasfilm held the first Star Wars Celebration (SWC) in Denver, Colorado. With a starting attendance of 20,000, a SWC convention has taken place every year or other year, with the SWC 2019 in Chicago garnering 65,000 attendees. Thomas Martin looks at the film and TV announcements made at the Star Wars Celebration 2023 event.

Following the Covid-19 Pandemic, the 2020 and 2021 SWCs were cancelled, with SWC 2022 in Anaheim, California – whilst widely anticipated – was lacklustre in content, with the Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ series the only main, upcoming production. Fast-forward to last week, the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London was packed out, with three upcoming Star Wars films announced, trailers for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Ahsoka, and The Acolyte, and a promotion for Star Wars: Skeleton Crew and Andor Season 2 all taking place.

Moving onto the first day of the Celebration, and despite three new Star Wars movies directed by James Mangold, Dave Filoni, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy being announced, it was the Ahsoka trailer, featuring Rosario Dawson’s Ahsoka Tano, which had the most attraction. Kathleen Kennedy, stated that these three films are ‘pretty far along’ in development.

Friday provided commentary from Andor showrunner Tony Gilroy, who stated that shooting is moving along swiftly, and a short clip was shown to attendees only, which received a positive reaction. Then, The Acolyte showrunner, Leslye Headland introduced the main character, ‘Kelnacca,’ a Wookie jedi master. Plus, the showrunner described that the story is set during the era of the High Republic, and that the story will be from ‘the perspective of the villains’.

On the same day, highly popular executive producers Jon Favreau and David Filoni discussed Star Wars content generally on the main platform. Interestingly, Ahmed Best – who played Jar Jar Binks in the prequel movies – returned as Jedi Kelleran Beq during an Order 66 scene in The Mandalorian Season 3 and received praise from the executive producers. Ahmed Best received such backlash for his portrayal of the now-loved character that he considered suicide, but his love within the community is now immense, with George Lucas in 2015 even stating that, if he could choose any character, he’d be Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars Universe. A Skeleton Crew panel also took place, but Ahsoka was the main feature, with a teaser trailer and poster revealed ahead of the August 2023 release.

Regarding the three new movies, they will be spread out through the Star Wars timeline. Mangold’s film will explore the dawn of the Jedi 25,000 years before The Phantom Menace, Filoni’s will combine the events from the Disney+ series, such as The Mandalorian, Andor, Obi-Wan, The Book of Boba Fett, and Ahsoka, focusing on the New Republic and Chinoy’s is set 15 year after Episode IX, and will feature Rey (Daisy Ridley) rebuilding the Jedi Order.

Regarding Indiana Jones, the cast joined Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy on the stage (bar Harrison Ford) to talk about the final adventure of Jones, which arrives in cinemas on June 30th.

Moving onto Saturday, and, once again, Ahsoka dominated the Star Wars Celebration agenda. The cast and crew panel took to the stage, discussing the series, and how Ahsoka developed though The Clone Wars and Rebels’ TV shows, and in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.

Additionally, a popular Star Wars villain, who featured as a main character in the animated Rebels series, Grand Admiral Thrawn of the Empire is making his live action debut, played by Lars Mikkelsen. Other announcements on Saturday included Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi being renewed by Dave Filoni, which had a successful season 1 after exploring jedi Dooku before his turn to the dark side.

With streaming platforms competing viciously for viewers, it is unlikely any franchise or film will remain sequel-less or untouched for long

On Sunday, written publications got some attention, with Dark Horse Comics revealing the continuation for The High Republic Adventures comic book series, alongside Lucasfilm Publishing announcing 10 new titles.

Finally, on Monday, The Bad Batch – the successor animated TV series to The Clone Wars – was officially renewed for season 3 to air in 2024, as well as the trailer for Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 being revealed.

Star Wars is over 45 years old, and even the other Lucasfilm baby, Indiana Jones, will see its final movie this year. With streaming platforms competing viciously for viewers, it is unlikely any franchise or film will remain sequel-less or untouched for long. Star Wars will always bring in a profit, and for that reason Disney will not stop squeezing it, until it is unrecognizable from George Lucas’ original creation. This inevitability means we should just enjoy the ride. Is this the way? Probably not, though I could likely be wrong, but if the fans who attend SWCs do so with a smile on their face, let the content flow.

Thomas Martin

Featured image courtesy of Agnieszka Kowalczyk via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In article trailer 1 courtesy of Star Wars via YouTube. No changes were made to this video. 

In article trailer 2 courtesy of Lucasfilm via YouTube. No changes were made to this video. 

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