Sunday, July 24, 2016

An Inside Look at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016

Star Wars has been a part of my life for as long as I remember. We'd play it in the backyard pretending our clubhouse was the Millennium Falcon, saving princesses and the world from the oppressive control of Imperial forces. My younger brother and I started a toy collection together, combing every flea market, garage sale, and toy convention we could attend trying to find rare figures and setting goals trying to find rare pieces of the collection we had to have.

We squirreled them away for our own kids but I'll be honest, there are just some figures that have had a lasting impact on me. This is why Boba Fett's complete Slave I spaceship sits on a shelf in my office.

The Force is strong in my family. I've indoctrinated my kids into this culture. My five year old knows all the characters though she has never seen any of the movies yet. We've played with Star Wars toys, made a cosplay movie, and I've even invented a crafty way to bring Star Wars home with you.

That's why when Verizon asked me to attend the Star Wars Celebration in London this year, I almost hyperventilated. This was going to truly be a dream come true for this longtime fanatic of Star Wars.

I'll be honest with you though, I'm not the best traveler. In fact, the last time I left the country on a plane was my honeymoon over thirteen years ago. The last time I flew out of the country before that, was in 1998 to Ireland. I'm not what you call a world traveler and I while I was simultaneously excited, I had lots of anxiety about travelling there by myself.  I knew that once I was there, I would meet up with C.C. Chapman and Gina Stark but the unknown was freaking me out.

One thing that alleviated my fears was knowing that I would be covered and that I could stay connected with my Verizon phone while over there. Verizon has a program called TravelPass which allows continuation of coverage no matter where you are travelling abroad. I knew I would be covered and assumed that I was until I got to London and couldn't connect with my friends.

You see, in the excitement for the trip, I forgot to enroll in the program and assumed it was already take care of by Verizon. So when I got to London and tried to text, I received a text from them saying I had incurred charges in excess of $50 for using my data while abroad. I was panicked but the text message told me what to do.  I immediately called the number, which was toll free from a VZW device and spoke to customer service. As you can see from the text, it was 3:52 am back in The States. Verizon took care of it in less than twenty minutes and I was immediately able to call, text, and share my pictures from London with no issues. Verizon had just given me unprecedented access to London!

My first day at Star Wars Celebration was one to remember. That morning, I was thanks to Verizon getting a sneak peek at the Costumes and Props of Rogue One with a personal tour from Allison Shearmur (producer) and John Swartz (co-producer) of Rogue One! They told us about the characters in the movie and gave us some insight into their stories. Allison and John are extremely excited to show us fans just exactly how the Death Star plans were stolen and how they got to Princess Leia in the process.

There are no Jedi in Rogue One but Chirrut Imwe who is a blind monk is a spiritual person who believes in the ways of The Force. It will be interesting to see the contrast between his character and his friend, Baze Malbus who believes in "big, big guns".

I was excited to ask Allison Shearmur about the emergence of another strong female role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. With Rey taking the lead in Star Wars: The Force Awakens she responded saying that all the films have strong female roles and Jyn Erso is no exception but that she is a different kind of character than what we are used to.  She did also reveal that the story of Rogue One is going to be a father-daughter story between Jyn, played by Felicity Jones and her father a scientist, Galen Erso played by Mads Mikkelsen who revealed at Star Wars Celebration that "he built something beautiful that he thought could save the universe". Speculation around that for me personally I think that maybe the Death Star was originally designed for something else but was weaponized by Director Krennic.

Speaking of Director Orson Krennic, he made a grand entrance into Star Wars Celebration Europe flanked by his ever present and formidable looking Imperial Death Troopers who were my favorite costumes yet. The last time we saw a black stormtrooper was in a TIE fighter with Darth Vader and their imposing look really does send a message. These guys are the elite stormtroopers and bodyguards of Krennic. Only time will tell if they go down with one shot or not.

In addition to the Imperial Death Troopers, we saw the emergence of the Imperial Shoretroopers. If you've seen the trailer, it seems that the bad guys had decided that life on a beach is a much better option. and as you can see from this still from the movie, Imperial Stormtroopers don't exactly blend in with this background.

The first panel that we attended was An Hour With Mark Hamill. I have to say at a fanboy, I was super stoked to be sitting in the front row thanks to Verizon, listening to my childhood hero talk about the love that he feels for the fans of Star Wars. " I feel like I am in a room with 4,000 of my closest friends" Mark said after he was introduced. He immediately launched into taking questions from the fans because he said that the movies and the reason why he was even up on the stage was because of us. It was true for me. I felt like I was surrounded by an extended family. You can't help but walk through SWCE and not have a smile on your face.

Then, there was this real special moment where a fan thanked Mark for being there and told him he was excited about The Killing Joke which is an animated movie where Hamill voices The Joker in legendary fashion. I was lucky enough to capture and upload his performance easily right from my phone with no issues. It's amazing how Verizon's TravelPass made that possible.

A video posted by Chris (@dadncharge) on

Next, I got a front row seat for the Rogue One : A Star Wars Story Panel. This was the moment we had all been waiting for. With panel host Gwendoline Christie, whipping us into a frenzy, the entire Rogue one cast came out to discuss their roles in the film and their characters.

Gareth Edwards explained to the crowd that growing up with Star Wars and idolizing George Lucas has lead to him trying to do Lucas proud with this film. What amazed me most was the realization that everyone involved with the film takes it personally. They are also fans of the film and want to create something that will make us all proud. Gareth revealed during the panel that this sometimes means thinking outside the box. He knew that Canary Wharf Underground station was a perfect place to film on location so one night, when the line shut down for the night, they transformed it into a set and shot part of Rogue One at the Canary Wharf Underground stop. How cool is that?

It was great to hear from Felicity Jones who plays Jyn Erso about her character. The difference is "She is not a character that is asking "Who am I and where do I come from? She very much, we know that about her, we know where she comes from and that fact is what propels the story and it's the beginning of Jyn's journey to find out what her reason is, and her cause."  It was also great to see that Hasbro will be releasing a Jyn Erso Black Series figure as the first toy to come out with the film. When so many fans were clambering for Rey figures but couldn't find them, we see an attempt to rectify that situation.  

Of course, the end of the panel is what everyone in the room was waiting for. They showed us the Celebration Reel which definitely can get any Star Wars fan's heart pumping.

Then, Kathleen Kennedy came out and announced "That's the footage we just showed the world, but now you will get to see the actual trailer!" My heart was beating so hard and I was in awe during the whole thing. I felt like a child again seeing Star Wars for the first time.

Leaving this panel, I explored the floor and took at look at all the exhibits and vendors at the show. It's incredible the amount of love and detail fans of Star Wars movies pay attention to their craft. I was drawn to the artwork of Erik Maell and all of the people dressed as their favorite characters.

On Day Two, I got to attend the Creatures, Droids, and Aliens Panel hosted by Warrick Davis (our beloved Wicket and so many other characters) and listened to the panel talk about the creative process on how a drawing becomes a reality. Neal Scanlan talked about how important it was to make these characters a reality for the fans. "Lucas created a galaxy far, far away but it is out job to make you feel like it is so real that you are a part of it and that you belong there"

Creature creators of Pinewood Studios develop characters and they "audition" for the director said Neal Scanlan. Once characters have been accepted, the creative process continues in stages from animatronics, to infrastruture, and soft body engineering, the character takes shape. Once the logistics are figured out, it is up to artists in hair and paint to make them come alive. Did you know that every hair on Chewbacca's costume is hand woven hair by hair into a lycra bodysuit? That is an incredible amount of detail to ensure that we as fans don't see it as fake.

The end of the panel was punctuated by the arrival of a character that they referred to as "Space Monkey" who we now know, according to Pablo Hidalgo, is Bistan. He is the laughing character in the Celebration Reel who is an Iakaru whose specialty is door gunner on a U-Wing fighter. He also is really great at scaring Warrick Davis.

The final panel I was lucky enough to see was Anthony Daniels : Protocol. Hosted by Warrick Davis, this was a highly entertaining panel that also revealed the origin story of C-3PO's red arm. Mr. Anthony Daniels read the crowd the story from the comic book to explain where the red arm came from. SPOILER ALERT : He received the arm from a counterpart who sacrificed himself for C-3PO's safety while on a mission.

I did have many fanboy moments as well. I happened to run into Mr. Anthony Daniels while walking the floor and took a selfie and got an autograph and selfie from Rogue One Director Gareth Edwards himself!  While on the trip, I had some Squad Goals. I wanted to get a selfie with Gareth and find a Chewbacca taller than me. Missions accomplished!

Star War Celebration is a magical place that proves that people of all backgrounds can come together and escape from the horrors of the world over something special that unites them. Being there made me feel like I was a part of something bigger, a global family. The people in our lives are what make everything real. Thanks to Verizon for making this trip to a galaxy far, far away one that was unforgettable for this Star Wars fan.

This post was written on behalf of Verizon who gave me this special experience at Star Wars Celebration in London. All opinions expressed are those of DadNCharge alone. 


  1. If this wasn't just behind your wedding day and birth of your children on your all time list, I don't believe you

  2. LOVE the pictures. These are some of the best shots of the new Rogue One stormtroopers that I've seen! Very, very cool!