Star Wars Celebration: Naperville fan's home-built droid, plus Disney magic
"Excuse me, may I plug in my Artoo?"
That's the kind of question that doesn't feel out of place at Star Wars Celebration, a five-day convention that will entertain thousands of Force fanatics through Monday at McCormick Place in Chicago.
The query came from Colin Kaiser, a Naperville man who built the R2-D2 unit he brought to the convention this weekend. His Artoo is a little weathered, as if he had just escaped Tusken Raiders on Tatooine.
"I have two small kids at home, so I decided I'd make it kid-proof," he said. "If they or their friends decide to touch it, hit it, kick it, it can sorta withstand that."
Kaiser's Artoo has motors controlled with a PlayStation paddle, flashing lights, a restraining bolt just like the one Luke pulled off the droid in the original movie, and a sound system that, on Friday, was blasting Steve Goodman's "Go, Cubs, Go." (So that's why Artoo is blue and white!) Guests can see Artoo and dozens of home-built projects at the Droid Builders booth in the main exhibition hall.
That hall has all the trappings of a pop culture convention, but laser-focused on "Star Wars": the giant T-shirt tower, merch tables, artists at work, costumed guests and celebrity autographs.
One of the largest and most popular exhibits focuses on Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, the new theme park area coming this summer to both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida. Guests at McCormick Place can take a picture aboard a ride vehicle from the upcoming Rise of the Resistance attraction, talk about their emotional connection to "Star Wars" in a video message and, of course, book their Disney vacation.
Disney imagineers and actor Josh Gad gave fans at adjacent Wintrust Arena an extended preview of Galaxy's Edge in a Saturday morning presentation that showed off realistic audio-animatronics, small peeks at the land's two rides and custom Coca-Cola bottles emblazoned with Aurebesh labels. (That's the written language of the "Star Wars" universe.)
Like that Disney presentation, many of the show's panels will be streamed and archived on the official Star Wars YouTube channel, so fans who couldn't snag a ticket can follow along or catch up from home. Sunday will feature a look at "The Mandalorian," a live-action TV series debuting on the new Disney+ streaming platform, and Monday's finale includes an 11 a.m. panel at Wintrust Arena celebrating the 20th anniversary of "The Phantom Menace."