A blog about Star Wars autographs, celebrities and news from a galaxy far far away
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Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 (London) has many fans disappointed. We, the Signed Star Wars family are among those. Please read this piece of opinion on why the Star Wars Celebration event as we knew it no longer exists, and has instead turned into a chance for those in charge to squeeze us fans out of every penny we have. Please don't take this article as an attempt to dissuade you form attending SWCE or enjoying it. It is just the opinion of some disappointed fans that were looking forward to this event for more than a year now.
When Star Wars Celebration started, it was a fun event for fans. Probably the biggest difference with other similar conventions was the fact that fans were the ones that brought the most fun to the event. With costumes, props and set replicas, Star Wars related activities, etc. It was a ComicCon level event focused on the Star Wars universe. There was no room for being bored. But of course you don't go to a SWC just for that. As any regular fan boy or fan girl out there, you want to meet the celebrities that brought the franchise to life, get their autographs, a picture taken with them and cheer for them and with them at the multiple panels.
Star Wars Celebration was also special because they were two years apart from each other and it was presented not only in the US, but in Europe and Japan too. Being two years apart gave the fans time to save some money (we all know attending a con of this type requires large amounts of money) not only for paying for the admission tickets, autographs and photo ops, but also food, hotel, transportation, airfare, etc.
We had the chance to attend SWCE II in Germany, 2013. It was our first SWC, and it was fun, not only for me and my wife, but for our kids too. The autograph and photo ops prices were reasonable enough, the lines to get them weren't long at all, everything was well organized and communicated way in advance, and there were activities for all ages. Since it was our first SWC we decided not to go crazy, and save some money and experiences (meaning meeting celebrities and getting a picture taken with them) for future Celebrations, because we decided at that point that we were going to be back for a future one. If only I could go back in time, get more photo ops and more autographs, I would. Because this iteration of SWC is an insult to the fans. We, the Signed Star Wars family love Star Wars, but we have decided not to attend SWCE 2016, even though we bought our tickets a while ago. we are canceling our transcontinental trip because we decided that SWCE 2016 is not worth the effort or the expense.
There were omens of this celebration not being at the level of previous ones:
Some of the things that are wrong with SWCE 2016
None of the new celebrities from Episode VII, VIII or Rogue One are going to be at SWCE 2016 (even though the Celebration poster for this year is focused on those two movies). Granted, they might not have time for signing autographs or posing for photo ops, but seeing them in a panel is the minimum fans were expecting. But not one actor from the new movies is going to be attending in any category. This is far from normal. All the celebrities besides Hamill, Fisher, Baker, Daniels and Mayhew are small or medium characters from the original trilogy. Which is cool, they are legends (all of them), and we have had the chance to meet a few of them before. But why not invite those who portrayed small or medium characters from TFA or Rogue one? Many of them not only live in GB and other parts of Europe, but also have attended other conventions already. So it structs me as weird that none of them have been invited. Not even from the TV series Rebels, for what it matters. If you are not sure this is odd, then why invite Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ahsoka Tano), and Sam Witwer (Voice of Darth Maul) for a panel, but not for signing autographs and photo ops? They have done it in the past. They are both fan favorites and love doing it.
The prices for photo ops are ridiculously high, and charged per person. This just adds insult to the injury. To give you an example: if I wanted a picture taken with Mark Hamill, I would have to pay 146 British Pounds. The price itself is high. But, that's not all. If I wanted to pose with my wife and kids for the pic, each of them would have to pay 146 GBP. This means 584 GBP just for a picture with Mark Hamill (or rather 4 because each ticket entitles you to a picture. As the people from Eventbrite (who run the photo ops) explained to me in an email "you get to have four different pictures posing in four different ways!"). We have nothing against Mark, but there are better things we rather do with that kind of money, like paying for health insurance, putting it in our kids college fund, change it into one dollar bills and roll over it, etc. I think you get the idea. No one in their sane mind would pay that much money for a photo op. It is insulting to believe fans will do it, and even more insulting trying to take advantage of fans this way. I guess they think that since fans have already invested tons of money to attend the event, they would have no other option than to pay any price that the organizer imposes for photo ops and autographs.
Autograph prices haven't been announced yet. But you can expect them to be higher than normal (UPDATE: The prices were announced on 7/8/2016, less than a week before the event. And yes, most of them are higher than normal, with Mark Hamill on the top going for a ridiculous 135 GBP). But there is more, this autograph signing won't be like the past ones organized by Official Pix were you got a wide variety of pictures and lithographs to choose from to get autographed. This time around, only one image will be provided. If you don't like it and would like a different one, they will be available for a price, of course. To make it worse, most celebrities are going to be available one day only. So be ready for long, disorganized lines.
If you are familiar with ComicCons and previous Star Wars Celebrations, then you know this is not, by a long shot, either normal nor standard. Photo ops always allow at least two people per ticked and kids don't need to pay for it as long as they are accompanied by an adult. Celebrities have lots of options at the signing table for you to choose from, and they are usually available most of the convention days, not just one specific day.
Now you need a wristband to attend all the Celebration Main Stage panels and events. To make things more complicated for the fans, there will be separate Wristband Queues for each of the Celebration Stage (main stage) panels each day. This means you will have to be in line twice for each main stage event: 1st to get a wristband, and 2nd to get to the main stage. This is a waste of the fans time!
Only two wristbands are allowed per person per day, and only one wristband will be given per person per queue. Once again, this is neither normal nor standard for a Star wars Celebration or any Comic Con. , wristbands will be handed at 06:00 (am) everyday. So be ready to start lining up very, very early in the morning. This is the worst idea ever. Making fans wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning to make a line so they can access a panel that is their right to attend is borderline abusive. And some attendees are already planning on waiting in line the night before! Most likely, this is been done because the organizers oversold the event and now they need a way to control the big lines outside the main stage and the complaints of those who didn't get to enter. They also probably need to limit the number of main events you can attend so everyone can have a chance to attend at least one. For this reason, fans have started to call this Celebration Star Wars QueueCon in social media. #StarWarsQueueCon
Being the long time fans that we are, we are pissed. It feels like Disney, ReedPop and Eventbrite are trying to take advantage of the good nature of the fans. They know that most fans have had this planned for a long time now and will not, or are not able to change their plans. That is probably the reason why the celebrities line up and the prices were announced so late, so fans had little or no chance to change their minds. Many fans have already bought their plane tickets, reserved and paid for accommodations, etc. That was our case. The only reason we, in the beginning, decided to go ahead with our plans was because our hotel reservations (500 GBP worth) were not refundable. Lucky for us, we were able to get 85% of our money back. Good enough to cancel our trip with out losing that much money. But this is not the case for most fans that are TRAPPED in this bad situation. To quote Lando Calrissian "this deal is getting worse all the time."
For those who are going to SWCE, I wish you the best. I'm sure as the fans that you are, you are still going to enjoy the event. Because, in the end that is who we are: Star Wars fans that take any chance we have to show our love for the franchise. But I still think we fans deserve better. It is not like it is free or cheap to attend these kind of events, so why not give us something better than an event that seems to be put together at the last minute.
One piece of advice: If you are planning on getting autographs, print some 8x10 pictures in advance so you won't have to pay extra for the pictures at the autograph table. Also, it is going to be very disorganized, so don't trust the app or the info given before the event. Ask all you can to be sure you don't miss any chance to do something that you are after.
May the force be with you this Celebration.