The Phantom Menace – 20th Anniversary Panel

By Bryan A Westfall

To whoever was my boss 20 years ago today: Sorry, not sorry.

If reserved seating at movie theaters was a thing back then, I wouldn’t have had to call in “sick” to be sure I had a decent seat. I’d direct you to aim any judgment to the theater I went to, but apparently it’s now just some random parking lot full of trucks.

Since there isn’t anywhere to re-direct your judgement, let me explain. It had been 16 years since “Return of the Jedi” had been released. Star Wars fans had put the idea of any new films behind us, only to have George Lucas drop a Darth Vader origin story in our laps out of the blue.

I can’t say I had to see it opening day to avoid spoilers, since social media wasn’t a thing then. I just had to. I’m glad I did. Sitting in that theater (with an aisle seat only half way back 🙌) with die-hard Star Wars fans who ROARED when that “Lucasfilm” logo came up will be a memory I cherish forever .

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If you’re still feeling sour, I’ll stop by sometime and clear out some fitting rooms for you. In the meantime, I’ll share with you (and only you 😉) some fun moments from “The Phantom Menace” 20th Anniversary panel at this years Star Wars Celebration. Hope this helps smooth things over a bit.

Hosted by Warwick Davis, the panel featured actors from both the light & dark side of the Star Wars universe. Starting with the DARK SIDE, Ray Park talks about the moment those doors opened revealing Darth Maul ready to throw down:

After Warwick gives some grief to Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) for his sock fashion (their multi-panel ‘rivalry’ was the stuff of legends), Ahmed Best gives some background on the casting/discovery process for Jar Jar:

Earlier in the convention, Ian McDiarmid‘s maniacal laugh was heard on the “Rise Of Skywalker” trailer just before he sauntered out on stage. Speculation was obviously rampant about how The Emperor could be alive. Here, Ian goes into how emphatic George Lucas was that he was truly dead while filming “Return of The Jedi“, and how he was introduced again in the prequels:

Thankfully, J.J. Abrams has decided otherwise, and we’ll be getting more if Ian…in some shape or form.

Getting this off my chest after all this time has certainly made me feel loads better 😉. If there is still any sort of sting from my workplace betrayal from “A long time ago”, I’ll leave you with this happy, peppy little ditty from Weird Al about some “small fry” named Anakin:

 

Your Mission…Please Choose To Accept It.

By Bryan A Westfall

If you’re reading this and are 17-99 years old, please go get a younger sibling or niece or nephew or kid or grandkid who is 16 and under to read this with as this is for them. I’ll wait:

KIDS! I have a top secret mission for you.

But first…name your favorite superhero or character from “Star Wars“/”Harry Potter“/”Transformers“/”Avengers“, or whatever fun thing you watch.

Yell it toward your parents or siblings or dog/cat/hamster so someone can hear you (if they’re sitting right next to you, feel free to just say it at a normal volume).

Don’t tell them WHY just yet…that comes later.

Now, tell the grown-up reading this with (or to) you that they can hang out…but you’ll need to initiate them with a “Shake of Secrecy“.

If you don’t already have one, you can invent one with them now. This will require they keep your mission a total secret…or else they have to buy you pizza every night for a month. Go ahead and do that now. I’ll wait:

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Cool! I asked some parents, aunts, & uncles who their fav kids favorite characters were (I’ll include those at the end), and just hearing the responses I have to say you guys definitely have WAY more fun than we older people do.

Sometimes us grown-ups take things a little tooooo seriously, and we need you to remind us to JUST HAVE FUN with these stories. Sometimes we’re thinking too much about the small details that really don’t matter.

You’ll hear us call it “trivia” or whether or not something is “canon” (don’t worry about what “canon” means, it’s not at all important). You might hear us complain about small errors in these films & shows that are just supposed to be FUN. Please stop us.

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THIS. IS. YOUR. MISSION.

Teach us old folks how to just have FUN with these awesome characters, shows, and movies again. How to be giant dorks like Chris Pratt (STAR LORD) here:

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Now, go tell some grown-ups WHY you love the character you shouted earlier. Tell them your favorite scene, if you can remember it. Better yet, ACT IT OUT WITH THEM. You’re the director, so you get to say “ACTION!” and “CUT!”. I’ll wait:

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NICE WORK! Every time one of these big new movies comes out, be on the lookout for the older folks in your life getting too stressed about the small stuff that doesn’t matter. If you see us looking too much like grumpy Dumbledore here:

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…make us act out another scene with you! You should also ask us who our favorite characters are, and make us tell you WHY. If it doesn’t put a smile on our face to tell you, we’re doing it wrong and we need you more than ever!

Thanks to all of the kids who contributed their favorite characters and ENTHUSIASM. You all are an inspiration! Here are the favorite characters our young correspondents submitted, and what they love about them!

(Grown-ups take note: We should be talking like this way more often 👇)

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