Having had a presence at every Star Wars Celebration since 1999, LEGO is one of the core licensees and backbone exhibitors of the ongoing official event, and this year’s effort was just as popular as those of previous conventions.
Exhibitor Hall Display
Tucked at the back of Hall C – and strategically next to the dump-and-run activity area that allowed parents to leave their children under supervised care – was the primary LEGO footprint. Made easy to spot by the giant red LEGO brick suspended over the display, it was an enjoyable and impressive experience.
As always, LEGO was keen to remind those who visited the booth that interactivity was the key to the brand’s success. With four sides, each featuring different aspects of the Star Wars license’s appeal, the booth was always bustling.
The two largest areas were devoted to the hyperspace tunnel which housed a number of recent sets – and space for several more that would be revealed during the course of the convention – and the mosaic build that promised to be expanded and enhanced over the four-day event.
Right from the start, the soon-to-be-released 75325 The Mandalorian’s N-1 Starfighter and the recently announced 75333 Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Jedi Starfighter and 75336 Inquisitor Transport Scythe were big draws, and speculation about what would fill in the two empty display cases was rife.
The mosaic build was a big draw for children who wanted to contribute to the progress of the background that would have a volleyball net – over which a LEGO volleyball was suspended – and a full-sized, brick-built Darth Vader (constructed by master model builder Erike Varzegi) wearing a summer tank top added to it on the second day.
Teenage fans were drawn to the two custom-decorated Xbox consoles where they could take turns playing LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga game, and strategically placed display stands showed off some of the more advanced LEGO Star Wars sets – all of which were tactically available at the pop-up retail store on the booth’s fourth side.
Exclusive Merchandise & Swag
Following the surprise announcement that an exclusive LEGO Star Wars set wouldn’t be lotteried off this year, attendees were pleased to discover that a specially wrapped 40457 BrickHeadz Obi-Wan Kenobi & Darth Vader set was available early, ahead of its August 1st release date.
With three pallets, each with an estimated 875 sets, delivered at the start of the convention there were 2625 copies of the debut set from the Obi-Wan Kenobi live-action series available during the four-day event, so its no surprise that daily allotments ran out around noon on each day.
That wasn’t the only limited edition offering to be had at Star Wars Celebration, and those who visited the booth stood a chance of getting hold of a 30495 AT-ST Polybag polybag (which was available in their thousands), a multi-colored beachball (limited to 4000), a special Star Wars sampler for the LEGO Life Magazine (available at the Star Wars Kids play area), and – for a very lucky few – a staff shirt.
As well as the event staff in their highly-sought-after shirts, a key Disney license manager, LEGO brand managers and their technical team from the US office, and those brought in to work at the pop-up retail footprint, surprise appearances were made by four staff members who have helped to shape the LEGO Star Wars theme over the last two decades.
Having attended the very first one, Erik Varzegi is no stranger to Star Wars Celebration. Though most LEGO Star Wars fans wouldn’t be able to pick Varzegi out in a crowd, his efforts have meant that the LEGO booth has had eye-catching life-size and large-scale builds since 1999. The three-dimensional Luke Skywalker theatrical promotional poster that he, as lead designer on the model team in Connecticut, built for Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 was on display from day one, and his latest piece of work – the volleyball-playing mega-scale Darth Vader minifigure – was unveiled on day two.
Flying in from the LEGO HQ in Billund, Denmark was team lead Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, who was accompanied by two senior designers Michael Lee Stockwell and César Soares, both of whom have had a significant impact on the LEGO Star Wars line in recent years.
All four builders took part in presentations and Q&A sessions on the small stage at the LEGO booth, enlightening audiences on how the display models are constructed, as well as insights into the design and approvals process of Star Wars sets.
Summer of LEGO Star Wars Panel
It should be noted that the panel’s attendance was largely made up of an inordinately large amount adults, a factor that seemed to have not been predicted by whichever team came up with the panel’s content, which was aimed at a younger audience.
There’s no denying that those in attendance enjoyed themselves. The cheers that the short discussion on LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga video game received drowned out most of the groans of those who didn’t appreciate the delayed release or missed out on the exclusive Luke Skywalker with Blue Milk minifigure, the golden ticket giveaway of nine custom-made Xbox consoles earned vast amounts of excitement, the reveal of 75335 BD-1 and 75338 Ambush on Ferrix went down well, and the announcement that a Darth Vader in tank top minifigure would be part of the new LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar absolutely stole the show.
The final reveal – that there would be a LEGO Star Wars summer special this August – came as the biggest surprise and one that Brown took great joy in sharing that she was reprising her role as Lt Valerisa.
Unfortunately, unlike the panel at the previous Star Wars Celebration which concentrated on the achievements of the LEGO Star Wars franchise over its 20-year history, this outing had a sticky, corporate feel that was more about self-congratulation, back-patting and – unsurprisingly – product placement.
Still, it was more of a marketing event than anything, and ardent fans could be heard asking where the meat of the presentation – like insights into how the LEGO Star Wars team has been working with Lucasfilm and Disney to develop new sets for upcoming content, what the broad-stroke future of the recently extended license holds, as well as how LEGO plans to cater for their aging Star Wars fan base and encourage younger fans into the LEGO Star Wars community – was.
While the exhibitor hall booth was a fun place for kids to hang out and held enough treats for adults to enjoy, the overall impression – particularly from the Summer of LEGO Star Wars panel – was that their content was aimed at LEGO fans rather than Star Wars fans.
It’s time for LEGO to consider that their Star Wars license is just as equally in the Star Wars community as it is the LEGO one, and should start to take a leaf out of other licensee’s – like Hasbro and Funko – playbooks when it comes to communicating with fans, and reflect that the bulk of those who buy LEGO Star Wars sets are adult collectors and are feeling left behind.
Fervent documentarian, effusive AFOL and founding partner, Jeremy manages the daily news content and set reviews.
Having enjoyed playing with LEGO from his earliest years, Jeremy started collecting LEGO Star Wars in 1999 when the theme was first released. He has shared his thoughts and opinions on LEGO via a number of websites – including starwars.com, rebelscum.com and brickset.com – contributed to the LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary series and served the LEGO Ambassador Network as a Recognised LEGO Fan Media representative.