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Arts & Culture

Rants And Raves: May the Fourth Be With You

At Star Wars Celebration VII in Anaheim, the new droid BB-8 made an appearance at the J.J. Abrams panel about the latest edition in the "Star Wars" Franchise, "Episode VII: The Force Awakens."
Lucasfilm
At Star Wars Celebration VII in Anaheim, the new droid BB-8 made an appearance at the J.J. Abrams panel about the latest edition in the "Star Wars" Franchise, "Episode VII: The Force Awakens."

Monday is 'Star Wars' Day and this year fans have a new movie to look forward to

May the Fourth Be With You
KPBS arts reporter and long time Star Wars fan went to Star Wars Celebration last month and offers up this portrait of Star Wars geekdom in the wake of a new movie on May the Fourth Be With You (a.k.a. Star Wars Day).

ANCHOR INTRO: Although Star Wars opened on May 25th, the designated day of celebration for the films has become May 4 so you can have punny fun with May the Fourth be with you. KPBS arts reporter and long time Star Wars fan went to Star Wars Celebration last month and offers up this portrait of Star Wars geekdom in the wake of a new movie.   Anaheim’s not exactly known as a wretched hive of scum and villainy but for four days in April you could find all manner of bounty hunters, stormtroopers, and Jedi. JON BARNES: Today I’m dressed as Qui Gon Jin and I’m at Star Wars Celebration 7 in Anaheim California. Jon Barnes and his father Ronn, who was dressed as Obi Wan Kenobi, had a hard time moving through the crowd as people stopped them every couple feet for photos. Like many fans at the convention, Barnes is looking to the new Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens with some trepidation. JON BARNES: I’m excited about it but my taste has been somewhat put off by what happened with episodes one through three, so I look forward to what J.J. Abrams can do but until I see it, I don’t know. Call it the Jar Jar Binks factor. CHRIS DUARTE: I don’t want to get burned by another Jar Jar Binks. Chris Duarte opted to wait in line for the toy exclusives on Thursday rather than for the panel with Abrams. So too did Kevin Ramminger who was there with his wife and two kids. He addressed another change facing the franchise. KEVIN RAMMINGER: When I first heard that Disney bought Star Wars and was going to do Episode 7 I was hesitantly optimistic. But after seeing what they’ve done with the Marvel series and how those have taken off, I’m very excited about it now, I don’t think they can do anything wrong. As the release date for the film grows closer, fan anticipation is rising. Scott Lind is excited that instead of opting for all computer generated effects, Episode 7 is building a lot of real props. SCOTT LIND: I felt episodes 1, 2, and 3 were a little bit heavy on the CG, just because you have the technology doesn’t mean you have to use it and get overkill. LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy was at the convention’s opening panel. PANEL CLIP: I don’t think there’s anything more important in the Star Wars Universe than the fans, you guys talk to us all the time about everything and we take that seriously… So seriously that she recruited fans Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, members of the worldwide R2-D2 Builders Club, to work on Episode 7. But LucasFilm hasn’t always taken fan desires into account. Fan demand for a Bluray release of the original Han-shot-and-Greedo-didn’t version of Star Wars has still gone unanswered. But Star Wars fans have learned to put differences aside especially when there’s a new movie on the horizon. Andrew Graham spent the night before the convention in line for the Episode 7 panel with his brother. ANDREW GRAHAM: Mostly sleeping on concrete. The two still had their pillows with them when Abrams finally asked… PANEL CLIP: So who wants to see a teaser? Fans waved their light sabers and an ocean of cells phones were raised to record the epic moment for social media. CLIP TEASER music begins ANDREW GRAHAM: It was totally worth it, it was awesome. It was really great. His brother Jesse Graham agreed. JESSE GRAHAM: I wasn’t really the biggest fan of the prequels so I was skeptical but I think it’s going to be all right. I was kind of already excited now my head blew off. And as far as my favorite part of the trailer, that had to be the shot with all the X-wings flying down the water. There’s nothing cooler than that. The sound of those engines roaring made the whole arena rumble and gave goosebumps to people like Sarah Rhoades. SARAH RHOADES: Before I came in I was crazy, super excited and now I’m gonna explode excited. Ryan Bailey had packed snacks and bought a pillow to camp out almost 24 hours before the Abrams panel started. Like many people he formed new friendships waiting in line with fellow fans and sharing their excitement for the new movie. The trailer got him pumped. RYAN BAILEY: It wasn’t even a scene, it was hearing Mark Hamill say the Force is strong in my family and I immediately knew where he was going with that. It was like, Luke or Leia has kids now and they have the Force, it’s gonna be crazy… It was already uncontrollable before and now it’s even worse and Han Solo showing up at the end. CLIP from trailer Chewy, we’re home. But fans have another eight months until they find out if it’s truly going to be home sweet home. Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

Although the original "Star Wars" movie opened on May 25, 1977, the designated day of celebration for the films has become May 4 (over some fan objections) so there can have punny fun with May the Fourth be with you. I went to "Star Wars Celebration VII" last month to gauge fan excitement in the wake of a new movie.

Anaheim’s not exactly known as a wretched hive of scum and villainy but for four days in April you could find all manner of bounty hunters, stormtroopers, and Jedi.

"Today I’m dressed as Qui Gon Jin and I’m at Star Wars Celebration VII in Anaheim California," Jon Barnes told me with a smile as I entered the Star Wars Celebration registration hall last April 16 and was greeted by a pair of very authentic-looking Jedi.

Jon Barnes and his father Ronn (attending his first "Star Wars" convention) came to Star Wars Celebration VII dress as Quin Gon Jin and Obi Wan Kenobi.
Beth Accomando
Jon Barnes and his father Ronn (attending his first "Star Wars" convention) came to Star Wars Celebration VII dress as Quin Gon Jin and Obi Wan Kenobi.

Barnes and his father Ronn, who was dressed as Obi Wan Kenobi (the Alec Guinness version) had a hard time moving through the crowd as people stopped them every couple feet for photos. Like many fans at the convention, Barnes is looking to the new "Star Wars -- Episode 7: The Force Awakens" with some trepidation.

"I’m excited about it but my taste has been somewhat put off by what happened with episodes one through three, so I look forward to what J.J. Abrams can do but until I see it, I don’t know," Barnes said.

Call it the Jar Jar Binks factor.

As Chris Duarte explained, "I don’t want to get burned by another Jar Jar Binks."

Duarte opted to wait in line for the toy exclusives on Thursday rather than for the panel with Abrams. So too did Kevin Ramminger who was there with his wife and two kids. He addressed another change facing the franchise.

"When I first heard that Disney bought Star Wars and was going to do 'Episode VII' I was hesitantly optimistic. But after seeing what they’ve done with the Marvel series and how those have taken off, I’m very excited about it now, I don’t think they can do anything wrong," Ramminger stated.

As the release date (Dec. 18, 2015) for the film grows closer, fan anticipation is rising. Scott Lind is excited that instead of opting for all computer generated effects, "Episode VII" is building a lot of real props.

"I felt Episodes I, II, and III were a little bit heavy on the CG, just because you have the technology doesn’t mean you have to use it and get overkill," Ramminger said while waiting in line on April 16 to get into the exhibit hall to score some Celebration exclusives.

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was at the convention’s opening panel on April 16.

"I don’t think there’s anything more important in the Star Wars Universe than the fans, you guys talk to us all the time about everything and we take that seriously," she said onstage at the packed 5,000-seat arena.

So seriously that she recruited fans Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, members of the worldwide R2 D2 Builders Club to work on Episode VII. But Lucasfilm hasn’t always taken fan desires into account. Fan demand for a Blu-ray release of the original Han-shot-and-Greedo-didn’t version of "Star Wars" has still gone unanswered.

But "Star Wars" fans have learned to put differences aside especially when there’s a new movie on the horizon. Andrew Graham spent the night before the convention in line for the "Episode VII" panel with his brother mostly sleeping on concrete. The two still had their pillows with them when Abrams got on stage at the packed arena and finally asked "So who wants to see a teaser?"

Fans waved their light sabers and an ocean of cells phones were raised to record the epic moment for social media.

"The Force Awakens" Trailer

"It was totally worth it, it was awesome. It was really great," Graham beamed.

His brother Jesse Graham agreed: "I wasn’t really the biggest fan of the prequels so I was skeptical, but I think it’s going to be all right. I was kind of already excited, now my head blew off. And as far as my favorite part of the trailer, that had to be the shot with all the X-wings flying down the water. There’s nothing cooler than that."

The sound of those engines roaring made the whole arena rumble and gave goosebumps to people like Sarah Rhoades.

"Before I came in I was crazy, super excited and now I’m gonna explode excited," Rhoades said. She and her sister were dressed as the "Star Wars" princesses, Amidala and Leia..

Brothers Andrew and Jesse Graham at the "Episode VII" panel at Star Wars Celebration VII on Apr. 16, 2015.
Beth Accomando
Brothers Andrew and Jesse Graham at the "Episode VII" panel at Star Wars Celebration VII on Apr. 16, 2015.

Ryan Bailey had packed snacks and bought a pillow to camp out almost 24 hours before the Abrams panel started. Like many people he formed new friendships waiting in line with fellow fans and sharing their excitement for the new movie. The trailer got him pumped.

"It wasn’t even a scene, it was hearing Mark Hamill say 'the Force is strong in my family' and I immediately knew where he was going with that. It was like, Luke or Leia has kids now and they have the Force, it’s gonna be crazy. It was already uncontrollable before and now it’s even worse and Han Solo showing up at the end," Bailey said.

The trailer that debuted at Star Wars Celebration VII ended with Harrison Ford as Han Solo saying, "Chewy, we’re home."

But fans have another eight months until they find out if it’s truly going to be home sweet home.