‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Panel Was Everything Fans Hoped For [Photos]

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel was the most highly anticipated event at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim on Wednesday, and it didn’t disappoint.

Director J.J. Abrams was impressed by the sheer number of fans attending the room in which the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer would be released to millions of fans all over the world, and he didn’t disappoint.

When Abrams was first introduced, you could tell he was overwhelmed, so much so that he couldn’t resist taking out his phone and recording some footage of all the media and hundreds of fans (showing he’s a nerd like they are). When a reluctant J.J. came on board as the man who would take Star Wars into its next phase, some were skeptical to say the least.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens celebration
Image via Youtube screencap

After all, we had the disaster that were the prequels. Even with creator George Lucas himself involved in their production, for fans of the original trilogy, the new films were a disappointment. Overly dark and violent, they seem to be a completely new animal, devoid of anything remotely close to what had mesmerized audiences in the 70s and 80s.

Abrams has a massive job. He had to convince fans that Disney is the right studio and he is the right director to lead Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and on Wednesday in Anaheim, he did. With what seemed to be a perfect balance of old and new, the director struck the right balance, was open and excited, and got fans pumped for the December 17 release with a trailer that many are still trying to process.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens set in Abu Dhabi
Image via Lucasfilm

During the Star Wars Celebration panel, Abrams openly shared details many people thought would not be revealed until much later. One of them was about the new planet, Jakku (Abu Dhabi), where newcomer Daisy Ridley (Rey) lives. It’s home to a shipyard, in which one can see what’s left of the old Star Destroyer and a lost X-Wing.

Fans love behind-the-scenes details, and since this is a new chapter in the saga — which according to Disney doesn’t follow cannon — everyone wants to find out as much as possible about the back story that will be introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. After all, it’s been 30 years since Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars Celebration Abu Dhabi
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Abu Dhabi set (Lucasfilm)

Rey, a scavenger, Finn (John Boyega), a renegade Stormtrooper, and Pom Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an X-Wing pilot, were introduced in their costumes and in person on stage. They all spoke enthusiastically about being part of the Star Wars franchise.

Boyega said that he didn’t even tell his parents when he first got the call because he didn’t know how they would react. Isaac described his character as “the best frigging pilot” in the galaxy, and Ridley talked about Rey with bright eyes.

Original cast members Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Anthony Daniels (C3PO), and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) also took the stage to loud cheers from the die-hard fans. We also saw the Stormtroopers in their new white armor, and droids R2D2 and the newest addition, BB8.

R2D2 and BB8 at the Star Wars Celebration (Image via Youtube screencap)

It was clear that Abrams and Kennedy were trying hard to reassure the Star Wars fan base that they had heard the concerns. The Lucasfilm president told the crowd that she’s a fan too, as is everyone in the production’s team.

“We’re fans, too. Everybody inside the Lucasfilm organization are fans. Many, many fans are inside the Walt Disney company. Everybody has a Star Wars story, and that generational experience is something that is really important, and it’s everything in terms of the future of Star Wars.”

Kennedy talked about breaching generations and making Star Wars: The Force Awakens a family affair. This, however, is hard to reconcile, considering the original cast members are coming back in this installment. This is why Abrams and company are in a difficult position.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens new cast members
Oscar Isaac (Pom Dameron), Daisy Ridley (Rey), and John Boyega (Finn) (Image via Lucasfilm)

On the one hand, they have to appeal to the legions of loyal fans who have followed the Star Wars saga from the beginning. At the same time, they aim at bringing the new generation on board, which explains the PR efforts at Disney and the release of new novels.

In the end, a mix of old and new convinced most fans that Abrams is on the right path with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and they loved what they saw in the first full-length trailer. Despite all of the reveals, the highlight — according to those present at the panel — was when Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca appeared at the end of the trailer and he muttered, “Chewy, we’re home.” The room erupted.

What did you think about the Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim?

[Image via Star Wars screenshot]