Star Wars Celebration Anaheim took place at the Anaheim Convention Center April 16-19, 2015. In this article, Violet talks about how our day went on Saturday at Celebration, including the James Arnold Taylor panel, “Talking to Myself”!. In Part 2 of our Saturday Report, Josh gives a recap of the Mark Hamill panel.
Super Crowded Saturday
On Saturday morning, we carpooled down to Star Wars Celebration with our friends Davey and Tamara, who only had Saturday badges. We again parked at Garden Walk, which was still surprisingly empty, with the signs directing convention goers to park at Angel Stadium. By the time we walked over to the Convention Center, it was right around 10:00am, which was when the Exhibit Hall was scheduled to open. But first, we perused the food trucks for their breakfast offerings, having heard there were breakfast burritos. It looked like there were 2 food trucks that had breakfast burritos, so we step up to the first one to place our order — but they’re out of eggs. Okay, so we go to the one right next to it. Davey and Tamara order theirs, then I step up to order mine — it turns out those were the last 2 breakfast burritos. So Josh and I had to wander around again, and there was one more place with breakfast food. We ended up getting an egg and cheese pita.
After sitting down by the fountain and eating, as well as people watching, it was about 10:20am by the time we decided to head in. This time, we were able to walk right in, unlike on Friday morning, when I had to go all the way down to Hall E and wait in the Queue Hall before being let in. We decided we were going to check out the Celebration Store first, just to see if they had restocked from the day before (when there was hardly anything left), and to see how the line was.
Upon entering, we were bombarded with crowds. From the moment we walked in the doors of the Exhibit Hall floor, there was just a sea of people that it would have been easy to get swept away in, and it almost happened to us once or twice. We got our bearings and headed over toward the store. The line was so long that it looped back and forth outside of the guardrails a couple of times. It was difficult just to walk past the store because there was just a huge crowd of people in the way, though walking the same direction you were. It looked like the store had been restocked, but obviously, it was going to be a long wait, so we decided to forget about trying to go to the store. Instead, we walked over to the Art area right next to the store and looked around. While there, we heard staff shouting something about the store line being capped for an hour, or something like that. We also saw a sign posted at the store that Celebration and The Force Awakens shirts would be available after 3:00 pm. We thought about coming back at that time, since those are the shirts that we really wanted, but figured that’s what everyone else was going to do too, and that it would be a long wait no matter what.
Anyway, so we walked around the Exhibit Hall floor with Davey and Tamara, who hadn’t gotten a chance to see it yet. Or at least, tried to walk around. There were just crowds, crowds everywhere you tried to go. It was definitely San Diego Comic-Con level. Whereas the day before had seemed somewhat crowded, this was 10 times worse.
One thing we did discover that we hadn’t realized the day before was that the larger than life-sized Lego Darth Vader that was being built at the Lego booth was actually being built with the help of attendees. There were bins of black legos, and a set of instructions on what to build. Then once that part was built, attendees were to place their creation in the crates that were in front of the large Darth Vader that two men were working hard to build. The men would take from those crates and use those pieces as part of the Darth Vader they were building. So that was pretty cool that attendees could feel like they had a part in building something! Another thing we did was watch the remote-controlled droid races, which were pretty funny to watch.
When we were done walking the floor, we headed upstairs to check out The Force Awakens exhibit. Well, there was actually a line just to go up the escalator! That’s how crowded it was. Security guards were regulating the number of people who rode the escalator at a time. We should have known that was a bad sign. Of course, when we got upstairs, the line was forever long. There was also a long line for the Droid Builders room.
We decided we were tired of the crowds, and walked over to Tilly’s at the other end of the block to get some lunch. Josh and I had eaten there for lunch one day during WonderCon, and it wasn’t busy at all, so we thought this would be a good place to escape the crowds. Sure it enough, it wasn’t too busy there, and we sat by the window at the front, people watching, and seeing all the various Star Wars cosplayers walk by on their way to the convention center.
After lunch, we walked back to the convention center and checked on the line for The Force Awakens exhibit. Still just as long as ever. Same for the Droid Builders room. There wasn’t really anything else we wanted to do, considering there were lines and crowds everywhere. So at that point, we decided to go ahead and get in line for the double feature James Arnold Taylor/Mark Hamill panel, which was scheduled to start at 6:00 pm. It was about 3:00 pm when we got in line. We had originally figured we’d get in line at 4:00 pm to ensure that we made it in, but getting in line an hour earlier so that we could sit down and escape the crowds sounded good to us.
When we got in line, there were 2 chutes filled, and a third one about halfway full. By the time they moved us into the next room where the chutes were taped on the floor, which was at 4:00pm, it looked like almost all of the chutes were filled. A little over an hour or so of waiting in that room, they starting letting us into the Arena. We snagged some seats on the first level of stadium seating so as to give us a good vantage point, then settled in and enjoyed the pre-show entertainment from Mark Daniel and DJ Elliott.
Talking to Myself, starring James Arnold Taylor
Before James Arnold Taylor officially started his show, he first came out and introduced a short film he had done called Summer ’78. We were told to look for some Easter eggs while watching it. In the short, a kid plays with his Star Wars toys, and in the end, that kid turns out to be J.J. Abrams. Upon watching the short a second time at the end of the panel, we were aware of what Easter eggs to watch for, and caught things such as a Super 8 camera, and a “secret hatch” (Lost).
Then a few minutes later, James Arnold Taylor came back out with his usual big, showy introduction. For those who aren’t aware, James Arnold Taylor is a voice actor, and hosted almost all of the Celebration Stage panels this weekend, as he has done at past Star Wars Celebrations.
Just as the title suggests, James spent the entire length of his panel alone on stage. His panel was mainly about how he got into voice acting, and gave us some voice acting tips, as well as let us know what a Day in the Life of a Voice Actor was like.
When he was a kid, he created a superhero that he named The Sound. While on stage, he had some props and costumes, and he dressed up as what he imagined The Sound would be like. As a child, he went on to mimic the voices of the Looney Tunes characters, and eventually he became like Tivo for his friends, recreating TV shows from the night before. At 16, he was a stand up comic, then a radio DJ at age 17, and at 21, he started his own home production studio. At that point, he became the voice of Moviefone, and from there he was hired to create the voice and footsteps of the T-Rex on Jurassic Park! He explained and showed us how he accomplished this, with a chip bag and film tape inside, making a multi-track, layered recording. After that, he got an agent and started auditioning, and that’s what he does on a daily basis now, often driving around to several different jobs within a day.
He also shared with us a tragic, yet inspirational story about how he got very sick and lost his voice, due to buying a house that ended up having black mold in it. This all started on February 13, 2005. He and his wife were about to adopt their daughter, Lydia, now 10, from China, but they had to put it off. However, he got past the sickness, and eventually got his voice back, and they were able to move forward with the adoption. They soon discovered that their daughter’s birthday was February 13, 2005. He went on to give a motivational speech about overcoming challenges.
Although throughout the panel, he gave us samplings of the various voices that he does, he ended with a big finale in which he went through and did the voices of probably a hundred celebrities one right after the other, in the course of a few minutes. It was pretty impressive.
After James Arnold Taylor’s panel ended, there was a brief intermission before the next panel — Mark Hamill! I’ll let Josh tell you all about that panel.