To celebrate this milestone, a Star Wars fan panel was simulcast at 10 am PST (1 am PHT) to over 20,000 fans in 23 countries, including the Philippines. Scores of fans, along with members of the Philippine Garrison of the 501st Legion and the Bagong Pag-asa Outpost of the Rebel Legion, gathered at the SM Mall of Asia to watch Abrams and LucasFilms president Kathleen Kennedy deliver the latest updates on Episode 7.
Full disclosure: without any sort of editorial direction, this would be just one long SQUEEEEE, but since we deliver news in pieces of eight, here are the 8 best moments from the fan panel.
Sometime during the countdown to the panel, Twitter released three new Star Wars-related emojis, which appear when the following hashtags are used: #Stormtrooper #C3PO #BB8 #SWCA #StarWarsCelebration #TheForceAwakens. Expect more emojis to be rolled out in the lead-up to the movie premiere.
Kennedy showed off her Kid Power wristband, the new UNICEF project championed by Star Wars: Force for Change; its previous fundraiser raised over 6 million USD for UNICEF’s innovation labs. The wearable pedometer converts physical activity to philanthropic initiative, with wearers automatically donating food packets to severely malnourished children whenever an activity milestone is reached.
With Tataouine now serving as an ISIL waypoint, globetrotting Star Wars fans can cross this off their bucket list and go to Abu Dhabi instead. Abrams confirmed that Abu Dhabi served as a filming location for a new desert planet, Jakku (not Tatooine, as initially speculated).
Star Wars Celebration draws costumers and builders from across globe, and showcases their film-ready props and costumes. Kennedy attended the Essen convention in 2013, and was so impressed by the quality of the R2-D2s on display, that she asked LucasFilm to hire two fan builders, Oliver Steeples and Lee Towersey, for Episode 7. Steeples and Towersey designed the new R2 dome heads for the X-wings.
Abrams said that he wanted to maintain the authentic, lived-in look of the original trilogy, and built as many sets and props as allowed, including BB-8, the ball droid introduced in the first teaser trailer. BB-8 rolled out onstage to the delight of fans (and, possibly, to the consternation of R2-D2).
A fighter pilot, a scavenger, and a stormtrooper walk onto the stage—this sounds like the setup for a joke, but the first public appearance of Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, and John Boyega were met with cheers. Isaac states that he’s the best frickin pilot in the galaxy, Ridley shares that she’s a scavenger on a desert planet, and Boyega will neither confirm nor deny that he’s a stormtrooper, but will readily admit to having Harrison Ford sign his Han Solo collectible at the wrap party.
It was #ThrowbackThursday, Star Wars-style, when members of the original cast turned up to greet the crowd. Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) loved up the fans—“You’re more than just fans, you’re family,” remarked Hamill.
Meanwhile, Anthony Edwards—who, as C3PO, is the only original cast member to star in all the films—jokingly remarked on the CP30 typo previously flashed onscreen.
Harrison Ford’s aviation accident kept him from attending Celebration Anaheim, but his presence was keenly felt. The panel ended with the world premiere of the second trailer, with Han Solo delivering what promises to be another iconic phrase.
“Chewie, we’re home,” he says. Fans all over the world respond, so are we.