So, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is coming to San Diego Comic-Con and fans could not be happier! And not just showing up for a smile and a wave, either – the film is going to be the spotlight attraction in Hall H, Friday 10th July. After months and months of anticipation and speculation, after years of teasing and heartbreak, it’s actually going to happen! Wow!
Exciting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. But wait one second: this whole affair does open up a couple of very important questions.
First things first: when is this highly anticipated – and what will be an incredibly early queued-up for – Hall H panel actually going to take place, during the Friday? A couple of things to take into consideration here: at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, it was decided to run that epic Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel literally first thing. Not just the first panel of the first day but of the entire convention. This allowed the excitement and buzz of the debut of the trailer to permeate through the whole event – and also got the blasted thing out of the way.
For this SDCC 2015 panel, it’s not impossible that such a request might have been made by Lucasfilm, as well; it’s unlikely that the other divisions of the company hadn’t been consulted on the programming and they would be very disappointed if SW fans, beyond The Force Awakens, would be held ransom in Hall H for an entire day, missing out on the rest of the content. Conclusion: I’m putting good money on the panel being run sooner, rather than later.
Consider: if the panel is held later on in the day, plenty of incredible content is going to be left by the wayside – content which includes: the debut of Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition, featuring a raft of Star Wars characters which includes some from the newly established canon Expanded Universe; two back-to-back panels on the publishing arm of that Expanded Universe, covering worlds and characters yet to be explored; and, most excitingly, a celebration of 40 years of the work of Industrial Light & Magic, the effects house borne from the making of Star Wars and which has gone on to become the benchmark by which all movie effects production is measured by, defining generations of movie-going experience. To be stuck in a dark and oppressing Hall, sitting through panels of which they have no interest, missing out on the rest of this amazing SW content is going to leave fans fearing they’ve missed out on some pretty magical stuff. And we all know what the path of fear leads to, right?
And that leads me on to some other major issues: 1) what about the rest of that Hall H content, scheduled for the remainder of the day? Star Wars is going to cast a mammoth shadow over anything else programmed on the Friday and, whatever time they program it at, possibly shut out any fans of that other content. Rumours abound of Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead being scheduled for Friday which is going to make for some incredibly long – and hard-fought for – lines which may lead to hundreds of fans being left out in the cold.
I recall the amazing and emotional Firefly 10th Anniversary panel, held in Ballroom 20 in 2012: thousands of die-hard fans, queuing up from the day before, leading to a nearly 5,000 capacity room, hours in advance of the panel beginning, with at least three thousand still stranded outside. Before the panel got started, there were panels for Community, Family Guy/American Dad, and The Legend Of Korra, shows which each have a rabid fanbase of their own. I was incredibly sympathetic towards the invited panel guests on stage and the small percentage of fans that had managed to make it into the room, trying to enjoy their panel but know that the majority in the room were not there to see them and with many disappointed fans still outside.
Take that experience and multiply it by a factor of ten. That’s Star Wars – and I’m probably being optimistic with that calculation.
And that’s another thing: when is this Star Wars Hall H line going to even form? Comic-Con International‘s official stance on camping lines is that they are not allowed to form, prior to the tents being erected. But, frankly, that hasn’t stopped the hardcore and the resilient before. In 2012, Twilight had its hardcore fanbase staking their claim on the grass outside Hall H before the tents even went up – hell, even before they got delivered on the Wednesday, Twi-Hards were loitering the scene from the Sunday before.
The City of San Diego has had previous run-ins with CCI over this situation, especially since it is the City that has to effectively police the stragglers, loitering around and protecting them, not only from others but, often, themselves. We all remember that this was the situation in 2012 that lead to a foreign visitor to the city, extremely tired and unfamiliar with the rules of the U.S. road, stepping out into the path of an oncoming vehicle while crossing the street from the line to use the bathroom. And, on the early Monday morning that it happened, this incident came under the purview of the San Diego Police Department, not Comic-Con International.
And that was Twilight, for heaven sake. This is Star Wars and, I think we can all agree, a whole different pile of poo-doo. We could be seeing people forming unofficial lines from even prior to the weekend – after all, we are talking about the phenomenon whose fanbase prides itself on epic camping lines for opening days. This could cause a situation which could easily spiral out of control – and see a backlash from local authorities and residents which could jeopardise any goodwill Comic-Con has with the city. CCI‘s Director of Marketing & Public Relations David Glanzer has said to this site personally that Comic-Con and the City Of San Diego has a ‘strong working relationship’ – let’s see how long that lasts when lightsaber-wielding fans start littering up the picturesque Bayfront and Marina on the weekend of the Fourth Of July.
I haven’t even begun to speculate what this could mean for the rest of Hall H programming for the rest of the convention: before this announcement, no doubt Warner Bros./DC Comics had thought that they had gotten this whole Hall H thing sewn up. But now, fans may have to make the big decision to choose between seeing a glimpse of Batman kicking Superman’s arse across Metropolis, along with a vague chance of the debut appearance of Jared Leto’s Joker and his Suicide Squad pals, or the real possibility of seeing Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker et al in the flesh for the first time in years. Indeed, if many decide to have a punt at two titanic days in Hall H, this whole situation could really stretch any wristband plans CCI has in mind, along with where on earth to put the multiple lines. On a sheer logistical level, this could be CCI’s biggest test to date.
And can you imagine the smell??
End of the day, this is ultimately a situation where Lucasfilm are ‘damned if they do, damned if they don’t’: they’ve not been to SDCC for years, representing the Star Wars films at this scale, and their absence was starting to become a little conspicuous. The new films are just around the corner, fans were clamouring for this panel to take place. But, up to now, SDCC attendees were becoming resigned to the fact that the Disney paymasters could keep Star Wars to themselves and pull the property away to their own event, D23, and showcase it there. If this all goes bombad, CCI may well just wished that they had.