The annual Star Wars Celebration is currently underway in Anaheim, and today was arguably the most-anticipated event of the entire festival: getting the chance to buy a Star Wars T-shirt. But also, a panel in which The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and cast members new and, most excitingly, old gathered to kick off the next eight months of obsessing over the next film in the relaunched franchise. StarWars.com offered a live stream; here’s an almost minute-by-minute breakdown of what I saw over here in Central Time—ending with what you really want, a brand-new trailer.
12 p.m. A DJ opens with an EDM remix medley of the ”Cantina Band” song and “Imperial March,” while the host demands the crowd wave its hands in the air. We’re off to a great start.
12:04 p.m. T-shirt cannon!
12:07 p.m. Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican takes the stage and says there’s “definitely a Cantina vibe in this room today.” The crowd cheers enthusiastically, not taking this as an insult.
12:09 p.m. Breznican reveals that, if you tweet out certain hashtags today, they automatically turn into custom Star Wars emojis—including the newly minted BB8 droid. His emoji kind of looks like a 1980s Winnebago.
12:12 p.m. J.J. Abrams takes the stage alongside Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, finally giving the audience some non emoji-related reasons to be excited. Abrams makes everyone wait while he supposedly tweets out a photo of the crowd. That photo has yet to show up on his Twitter feed, so clearly J.J. Abrams doesn’t care about Star Wars fans.
12:15 p.m. Just kidding. Last night, J.J. Abrams bought pizza for the 1,500 fans who waited overnight in line. “Thanks for the pizza!” some of them yell out. He’s already given Star Wars diehards the first thing they’re hoping for from the new franchise: free pizza.
12:20 p.m. The mere mention of “practical special effects” gets huge cheers.
12:21 p.m. A photo of Chewbacca bending over gets even bigger cheers.
12:22 p.m. Breznican asks a question about shooting in the desert and what he might have been shooting there, strongly hinting that Abrams should just go ahead and admit that—like just about every other Star Wars film—they’re going to Tatooine again. Abrams, who once pretended Khan wasn’t in his Star Trek movie for about a year, replies, “It’s a planet called Jakoo [sic?]. People thought it was Tatooine, but it’s a place called Jakoo.” Abrams promises that later we’ll all learn more about this desert planet with multiple suns that is Jakoo and definitely not Tatooine.
12:30 p.m. R2-D2 is in the house. He immediately begins spewing beeps and boops, really laying into that “Jakoo” bullshit.
12:32 p.m. BB8 takes the stage. Like R2-D2, he’s a real robot, whose head impressively balances on the beach ball of his body. He makes a beeline for R2-D2. The tension is palpable.
12:34 p.m. Kennedy addresses the grumpy elephant in the room: Harrison Ford, whose recent plane crash has posed a minor inconvenience to his grudging participation today. “Everyone give a shout out to Harrison Ford—I don’t know if he’s watching the live stream?” Breznican says, asking a question that definitely doesn’t need to be asked.
12:37 p.m. New cast members Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, and John Boyega are introduced to talk about their characters without revealing too much of anything—but this time in front of a live audience.
Ridley describes her character, Rey, as a “scavenger” who works in a salvage yard. There you go.
Boyega says his Finn is in “incredible danger,” and that the way he reacts to the danger “launches him into the Star Wars universe.” Boyega acknowledges that Finn is a Stormtrooper; Abrams mockingly chastises him. That’s it.
Isaac says his character, Poe Dameron, is “the best frickin’ pilot in the galaxy,” and that he’s “been sent on a mission by a certain princess.” [The crowd emits knowing “ooooohs.”] He meets up with Boyega and Ridley’s characters and their fates become intertwined in a way that we’re not going to learn too much about yet. Abrams also promises we’ll hear from all the other new actors in the months to come.
12:41 p.m. Fan Q&A time—always the highlight of any convention for people who want to know whether actors are excited about being in a movie. Boyega talks about how much he liked playing Star Wars games on Playstation, then shares an anecdote about Ford signing his Han Solo doll. It features a decent impression of Ford saying, “This is weird.” Boyega is very excited to be in the movie.
12:46 p.m. Abrams acknowledges the moments of “sheer horror” that come with trying to please all Star Wars fans, but insists, “We just will.” Everyone laughs. Oh how they laugh.
12:47 p.m. “You guys talk to us all the time about everything,” Kennedy says, not a little wearily.
12:48 p.m. It’s time for the requisite “What advice would you give to a young aspiring filmmaker?” question. I black out for several minutes.
12:50 p.m. Isaac, Boyega, and Ridley again confirm for yet another fan that they are very, very excited to be in Star Wars. Also, yes, they really like Star Wars.
12:52 p.m. Breznican teases the crowd by saying it’s been nice to meet the new faces, but maybe it’s time to bring out some “familiar faces.” The crowd freaks out, only to be greeted by some Stormtroopers. Hilarious.
12:54 p.m. It’s a fake out! The original cast takes the stage—Anthony Daniels, followed by Carrie Fisher, and then a frail-looking Peter Mayhew emerges, leaning on Mark Hamill.
12:56 p.m. As so often happens in the films, the rest of the cast waits patiently while C-3PO talks. Daniels openly brags about being one of the only characters to be in all six films.
12:58 p.m. “The buns are tired now,” Fisher says, denying that Princess Leia’s signature hairstyle will return. “We have a new thing you’ll all be very into, which is not the metal bikini.” The crowd cheers.
1:01 p.m. Fisher thanks the entire crowd for owning her as a doll and “playing with me.” There is lots of nervous, nervous laughter.
1:02 p.m. And finally, this is what we came for: an ensemble photo opp. The room goes quiet as thousands of blurry, faraway pictures are snapped. Here’s one:
1:03 p.m. Okay, here’s what we really came for: a new teaser for The Force Awakens. It opens with some soon-to-be-iconic shots—an Imperial Star Destroyer and X-Wing, crashed on a desert planet that Abrams insists is not Tatooine. A shot of Darth Vader’s mask, melted from his funeral pyre. A cloaked figure with a mechanical hand that is strongly suggested to be Luke Skywalker, placing that hand affectionately on R2-D2. A voice issuing a familiar monologue about how “the Force is strong in my family,” followed by a lightsaber solemnly being passed. Then, a barrage of all-new action shots of the new cast running from danger, a big introduction for new villain
Rylo Ken Kylo Ren, and the Millennium Falcon being pursued by TIE Fighters.
And then, The Moment: Han Solo, gray-haired and grinning alongside his faithful copilot. “Chewie, we’re home,” he says. And all of the cynicism in the galaxy instantly evaporates.