On the eve of Star Wars Celebration, thousands of fans gathered outside the Anaheim Convention Center to take photos, exchange swag and chat about upcoming movies and shows.
Several fans told the Daily Press how they registered for speaker panels where many of the show’s producers are expected to share sneak peeks of the Disney+ series “Andor,” a prequel to the 2016 film “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
“I’m hoping for a trailer for the third season of The Mandalorian or one for the second season of The Bad Batch,” said Mike Seaton, 49, who traveled with his family from Utah to Anaheim.
Other fans said they came to the celebration, which runs from Thursday to Sunday, to buy Star Wars merchandise, watch cosplayers or look at displays.
“Some of the fan-made R2D2s are amazing,” said Rick Stewart, 37, a Star Wars memorabilia collector, who came to SWC to “buy more stuff that I don’t need.”
Some fans said they registered and paid for an autograph or selfie appointment with one of several actors, including Ewan McGregor, who plays the lead role in the series “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” which debuts Friday on Disney+.
Return of the celebration
For some fans, SWC Anaheim has been a long time coming. After SWC 2019 Chicago, fans began purchasing tickets and making hotel reservations for SWC 2020 Anaheim.
Soon after, Lucasfilm announced that SWC 2020 had been canceled due to COVID-19.
“When they canceled the celebration in 2020, our family’s world got turned upside down," said Peter Zuccaro, 51, an executive from Toronto, Canada, whose family purchased 4-day SWC tickets for this weekend. “We had to reschedule classes, appointments, time off and vacations.”
After the end of SWC Anaheim, Zuccaro and his family plan to visit Disneyland, where most of their time will be spent at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
This year, SWC requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry for all individuals.
Her Universe, his universe
Inside the convention center, an army of vendors was setting up booths, including those with LEGO, Disney Parks, Funko, Hasbro and Sideshow.
One team was placing the finishing touches on Star Wars movie costumes, while another worked on a Galactic Empire TIE fighter that stood nearly 20 feet high.
Actress, author and businesswoman Ashley Eckstein was at her clothing booth dubbed “Her Universe” along with her husband, David Eckstein, a former Major League Baseball player and World Series MVP.
Ashley Eckstein, the voice of the animated character Ahsoka Tano, shared with the Daily Press her excitement to meet Star War fans who are "united by a love" for the fictional galaxy far, far away.
“My first Star Wars Convention was in 2010, and since then I’ve had the chance to travel all over the world,” she said. “Being a part of Star Wars has been an amazing adventure.”
Part of that adventure includes her 2010 creation “Her Universe,” something she calls a groundbreaking fangirl fashion company and lifestyle brand.
Over a decade ago, Eckstein told her husband that she wanted to create a brand to make Star Wars “a safe space” for girls and women bullied because of their love of the franchise.
“Star Wars is for everyone and that is what the brand stands for,” she said. “Since Her Universe began in June of 2010, we have created a community where everyone feels welcomed, especially girls and women."
David Eckstein also shared a bit about his universe, which includes his introduction to the Star Wars family.
“When Ash auditioned (for Ahsoka} and got the role, it was so top secret that I told her not to tell me anything,” Eckstein, 47, said. “I told her I knew she was working for Star Wars but I didn’t know the name of her character.”
Meeting George Lucas and Ahsoka
After Eckstein led the St. Louis Cardinals to a 2006 World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers, he and his wife were invited to Skywalker Ranch, where he discovered the character of Ahsoka.
After meeting Star Wars creator George Lucas at the ranch, the couple went into his studio to watch the first episode where Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano would appear in 2008's “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
“I was always a Star Wars fan, but when I entered this universe I knew that just watching the movies didn’t make me a real fan at all,” said Eckstein. “This expanded universe is pretty big and I’m still learning. I’m probably at the Padawan level.”
SWC will also spotlight the Lucasfilm video series “Star Wars Kids,” which features Ashley Eckstein, who has written and directed “Star Wars Mindful Matters,” a new project designed to improve the emotional health of children and adults.
Ashley Eckstein also authored a book, “It’s Your Universe, You Have The Power to Make It Happen,” which she describes as an inspirational guide on how to make your dreams come true.
In the book, she shares her life lessons as well as lessons from iconic Disney characters, as a road map for how to “dream it and do it!”
David Eckstein said he’s not a great actor so he doesn’t expect to be cast in any Star Wars productions.
“I’m just here supporting Ash and Her Universe,” Eckstein said."The Force is strong with her."
Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz
This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: Star Wars Celebration begins Thursday at the Anaheim Convention Center