Star Wars Celebration 20th Anniversary: A brief history


Star Wars Celebration is here. Take a look back at how Celebration began, as well as some of the most memorable moments in its 20 year history.

Star Wars Celebration has arrived. Excitement is rippling through millions of Star Wars fans around the world as a long weekend full of events, special guests, and likely surprises lie ahead. Since past Celebrations have been famous for unexpected trailers or title releases, all eyes remain focused on events like Friday morning’s Episode IX panel.

To those of you who won a golden ticket to actually attend a panel discussion, I offer you a hearty congratulations. While I find myself unable to attend, I’m happy to report I have my own Celebration game plan. Namely, watching the live-stream while sipping a batch of homemade bantha milk in my cramped, poorly ventilated London efficiency. I’ve informed my friends and family that I cannot be reached until Monday night.

More from Star Wars Celebration

They understand. It’s Star Wars Celebration.

With the 20th anniversary of Celebration upon us, let’s take a look back at some of the events most memorable moments, as well as how the world’s premier Star Wars nerd-fest all began.

In 1999, Lucasfilm decided to create an ultimate gathering of fans prior to the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Dan Madsen, then president of the Official Star Wars Fan Club, was tapped by George Lucas to lead the charge. Dan and his team worked with Lucasfilm to give fans three days worth of Star Wars excitement, including behind-the-scenes footage from The Phantom Menace, cast member interviews, and even a ¾ scale replica of Luke’s X-Wing.

Star Wars Celebration III in 2005 marked the first time George Lucas was in attendance. Fans waited in line overnight to witness his panel discussion. It was there that George set the tone for the future, discussing plans for the now beloved Clone Wars animated series as well as other smaller projects that hoped to keep the franchise alive. After the Skywalker prequels concluded with Episode III: Revenge of the Sith later that year, fans worried about the future of both the saga and Celebration.

It turns out the franchise was going to be okay.

Fast forward ten years and Star Wars Celebration headed to Anaheim, California in anticipation of the new trilogy. Fan excitement was through the roof thanks to the soon to be released Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

And that excitement grew with the announcement that there would be an Episode VII panel featuring the cast and director J.J. Abrams. At this point, all that had been known about the film was the title and the information scavenged from a brief teaser trailer. J.J. Abrams and crew did not disappoint during the panel, giving fans a full length trailer as well as the first look at Chewie and Han in The Force Awakens.

It’s still hard to watch without leaping up and hollering.

Perhaps the most epic of Celebrations came in 2017. In addition to the release of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, Celebration also commemorated the 40th anniversary of Star Wars. Fans from around the world gathered in Orlando, Florida to take part in the most star studded Celebration to date. Multiple heroes from sagas past came to celebrate 40 years of Star Wars, including Mark Hamill, Ian McDiarmid, Peter Mayhew and many others.

A full Episode VIII panel took place, as well as a 40th anniversary panel that featured surprise guest, Harrison Ford. Most fans in attendance still have not recovered.

Now, as the 20th anniversary of the event begins, fans around the world have another long weekend of fun to look forward to. Will there be a title reveal for Episode IX? Footage of some sort? Only time will tell. I am still staring at the countdown clock waiting for the first live-streamed panel.

And it’s starting to get hot in my wookiee costume.

Celebration (Main) Stage Schedule:

All times in Central time

Friday, April 12

11:00AM – 12:00PM: Star Wars: Episode IX

1:30PM – 2:30PM: Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series

4:00PM – 5:00PM: The Creatures, Droids & Aliens

Saturday, April 13

11:00AM – 12:00PM: Bringing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to Life at Disney Parks

1:30PM – 2:30PM: The Galaxy-Wide Premiere of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

4:00PM – 5:00PM: Sisters of the Force, A Celebration of Women and Star Wars

Sunday, April 14

11:00AM – 12:00PM: The Mandalorian

1:30PM – 2:30PM: In Conversation with Alan Tudyk

3:30PM – 4:30PM: The Clone Wars Sneak Peek

Monday, April 15

11:00AM – 12:00PM: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 20th Anniversary Celebration

1:30PM – 2:30PM: Short Stories with Warwick Davis

3:30PM – 4:30PM: Celebration Chicago Closing Ceremony