By Steve Sansweet
It is way too crowded. It has become next to impossible to get tickets or hotel accommodations—and the rooms available are double or triple a legitimate rate.
But it just can’t be missed. I had been to every San Diego Comic-Con International since the late 1980s in various roles as Media (Wall Street Journal reporter and editor), Professional (Star Wars books) and then Exhibitor (doing Lucasfilm presentations since 1996 and then bringing a huge LFL Pavilion to the Exhibit hall). LFL Events Lead Mary Franklin has been doing an awesome job every year turning confusion into an exciting space for fans.
I didn’t go last year; somehow the “hassle” didn’t seem worth it, especially after I got a hotel room five miles out. This year, I didn’t get any hotel room in the insane lottery system—but I persevered.
And that’s because for anyone whose life is devoted to pop culture, or even one part of it, SDCC is like Mecca, even if you can go only once in your life. I had added reasons to go this year. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the upcoming Star Wars REBELS TV series on Disney XD. Star Wars Action News was kind enough to make Rancho Obi-Wan a beneficiary of it’s now always sold-out fan breakfast and I wanted to connect with fellow fans and Licensees about all the great stuff going on at Rancho Obi-Wan.
Oh yeah. There were a few exclusives I was hoping to buy….along with other cool stuff. But mostly it was a chance to reconnect with friends from across the world—the heart of an event like Star Wars Celebration, which is even more exciting because it’s all Star Wars all the time.
It was definitely mission accomplished in every respect! I was able to give our special Rancho Obi-Wan Lucite benefactor and sponsor stars to four great companies: DK Books, Sideshow Collectibles, Entertainment Earth, and eFX Collectibles. I handed out a prize membership to Rancho at the SWAN fan breakfast. I had conversations galore with Licensees, artists, and fans at booths and in the crowded aisles. And it was wonderful to again be able to attend the 501st dinner and take part in Saturday morning’s group photo.
I saw a screening of the first two episodes of REBELS in a theater—and it was wonderful. The new series has even more humor than I expected and a ton of heart. Plus the visuals—many inspired by the iconic Ralph McQuarrie’s creative work—really brought me back to an original trilogy frame of mind. I can’t wait until the series starts airing on Disney XD this fall.
I made some new friends—especially ace Star Wars fan-girl Vanessa Marshall, who plays the Twi’lek Hera Syndulla in REBELS. She is clearly going to be a fan favorite along with the rest of the amazing cast. It was great hooking up with my conventions posse: The Three Amigos, all Texas lads: Chris Gereke (Chief Sherpa), Scott Green and Tony DeBenedetto; and my longtime close friend Michael Wistock (attending with his lovely wife Lisa and daughter Leila), who drove down in his SUV and has the unenviable task of bringing my, um, few purchases back to me in Petaluma without the benefit of seeing through his back window.
Geek culture is bigger than ever. We know it. Hollywood knows it. Licensees know it. Conventions all over the U.S. and beyond are bulging at the seams. And even though there are some conventions that were around before the first one in San Diego in 1970, it is still the king and the heart of pop culture for five days every July.
(Thanks to Chris Gereke, John Schlosser, Michael and Lisa Marie Wistock, and others for the photos.)
Steve Sansweet, president of Rancho Obi-Wan, owns the world’s largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia, has written 16 Star Wars books, and worked as head of fan relations for Lucasfilm for 15 years after a 26-year career as a reporter and Los Angeles bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal.