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A long time ago (just over a week) in a galaxy far, far away (Walt Disney Studios, Burbank)...

Just over a week ago on Friday, December 15th, D23

hosted an event they called “A Force-Filled Evening on the Lot” held at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA. This event was in celebration of the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in theaters opening weekend, and included a viewing of the film in an exclusive production screening theater never before opened to the public called the Frank G. Wells theater. This provided attendees the opportunity to watch the blockbuster in an amazingly intimate setting - the theater seating a mere 122 people and the event having sold out with a number just shy of that.

The event began with a reception on the patio just outside of the studio commissary. The decor was amazing and made one feel very much a part of the First Order. There was an open bar where one could choose wine or the

evening’s signature specialty cocktail, the “Kylo Red,” really just a Cosmopolitan. They did offer non-alcoholic selections as well such as the Star Wars themed sparkling vitamin infused beverage called “Space Punch.” These canned drinks featured a different Star Wars character on each

one and proved to be quite popular as guests attempted to collect their favorite characters, as opposed to quenching their thirst. I managed to snag everyone’s favorite bounty hunter, Boba Fett. Due to the fact that alcohol was being served the event was limited to those who were 21 and over.

The evening then featured a three course dinner in a setting elaborately decorated as a First Order gathering. I was a little apprehensive about “flying solo” at the event as surprisingly there were mostly pairs and small groups that knew each other. I had thought going into it that the high price of a ticket would lend to there being more solo attendees which just wasn’t the case. Major kudos to D23 staff who took the reigns on seating everybody so no one felt ostracized and in fact I was seated at a table with a very kind gentleman named David who may have been the only other solo attendee besides myself. Being able to connect to fellow fans with shared interests certainly is one of the more remarkable aspects of any D23 event, and having met David was no exception. Below is the menu from the evening followed by some pictures of the decor and my entree choice, the salmon. Everything was delicious and expertly crafted.

For the dessert portion, special designer event cakes created by a local bakery were presented and to be featured as part of a Food Network show yet to air. The cakes were life-size replicas of none other than the famous droid BB-8 and his Last Jedi nemesis, BB-9e. Both cakes were quite elaborate and included light-up features as well. In being a part of this cake reveal ceremony, I was struck by two things. One, I have often wondered how these fancy cakes

from the network shows actually tasted under all that fondant - the answer: divine! Each of the cakes was absolutely delicious. The second thing that struck me was how complicated it was to cut the cake for serving. They actually had to have one of the cake’s creators cut it as they were the only person who knew the appropriate place to cut it around the support structure inside. Pretty interesting I must say.

While dessert was being served, a photo op with two iconic First Order baddies was going on. It was pretty awesome being able to meet and pose with these characters, Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren. Each character had a voice chip in their helmets that I am quite sure was the actor’s actual voices who portrayed them in the film: Gwendoline Christie and Adam Driver. The height and stature of the characters combined with the voice technology really added to the feeling of being immersed with the characters at that moment. It was almost slightly intimidating, and the cast members did a fantastic job of never “breaking character.” Very well done and something I will never forget. In the following photos, keep in mind that I stand 6’4” and you’ll have more perspective on how tall these characters stand.

After dessert everyone was escorted to the Frank G. Wells theater to watch the film. Very much the icing on the cake to what had already been an amazing event. Upon entering the theater everyone was given a bottled water and signature D23 bucket filled with popcorn. But wait, there’s more! At any ticketed D23 event there is a parting gift sent home with those who attend. Given the price of a ticket and exclusivity of the event, many of us were quite curious as to what it may be. Prior to the start of the film, the D23 crew informed us all of what our gift(s), yes plural, would be - a pretty amazing goody bag to say the least that included:

  • Star Wars: the Last Jedi opening weekend “snowflake” ornament. I love how the edges of the snowflake are the rebel logo!

  • A limited edition Last Jedi pin packaged in a very nice tin.

  • A canvas print of a scene from the film never before released for commercial use: Luke Skywalker on the Millenium Falcon for the first time since, well the 80s I suppose. A very cool moment and great to see Mark Hamill a childhood icon for many of us back in action!

  • The final Cou de Grace surprise: Mark Hamill himself signed prints of the same image which D23 then had framed to give to all of us which was announced to thunderous applause. A keepsake that levels up to just about… priceless.

After the movie ended we were each handed a cinema-sized poster of the film - a very nice touch that concluded the evening.

Tickets for this event cost $350 per individual. At this price, I had no inclination of being able to go quite honestly, but when I casually mentioned it to my loving wife Amber, she didn’t hesitate in telling me I should go followed by “Merry Christmas.” Man am I a lucky husband or what? We couldn’t afford for both of us to attend so it was decided I would “fly solo.” When splurging this amount of money on an event, the ultimate question is, will it be worth it? In my opinion, D23 did an exceptional job with this event and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Well worth the cost for such an exclusive, memorable event and amazing parting gifts. On the day tickets were sold, they didn’t exactly sell out too quickly especially compared to other events of the past, however, once word gets out on how amazing of an event this was, I am willing to bet tickets will disappear much faster next time, so be forewarned and may the force be with you!

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