The Star Wars Celebration has gotten underway in Orlando, and the 40th Anniversary celebration panel has already started in style, welcoming George Lucas to the stage in a surprise guest appearance. The panel, hosted by Warwick Davis, first welcomed LucasFilm President, Kathleen Kennedy to the stage, with the audience giving a standing ovation. She then introduced Lucas to the stage, and it’s fair to say the place went nuts.

Lucas then sat down with Davis to talk about how the idea for Star Wars came about. Out of a job, Lucas had made one movie that became a cult hit (American Graffiti), and was toying with the idea of making “some kind of space opera.” Lucas went on to explain that his vague concept was to male “a high adventure film like I had enjoyed as a kid,” similar to the Saturday matinee adventures of old.

Lucas was lucky; Fox decided to back the project, and they saw it through to completion, even though Lucas was still rewriting the script as the movie was being filmed. Star Wars: A New Hope, went on to become a huge success, of course, spawning a multi-billion dollar franchise that is still going strong today. In fact, the Star Wars franchise is arguably stronger and more successful than it’s ever been, since fans who have been around since the beginning, in 1977, are now introducing a younger generation to the movies. As well as continuing the original movie line, the franchise is also spinning off in all directions, with Rogue One the first of the planed Star Wars cinematic spinoff releases. Then there’s Star Wars Rebels, Battlefront, and multiple other works.

George Lucas directs Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones George Lucas Attends Star Wars Celebration 2017

The passion of the fans is what’s continued to drive Star Wars’ success, and Lucas acknowledges that. In comments that made the audience holler and cheer, Lucas told them “I wasn’t supposed to say this, and I wasn’t supposed to say it then, but Star Wars is a film for 12 year-olds.” 

He went on to clarify his comments, explaining that Star Wars was made as a coming of age film, with the themes explored aimed at helping those on the cusp of adulthood. “It’s about friendships, honesty, trust, doing the right thing,” Lucas explained. “Living on the light side, avoiding the dark side” 

Lucas also added that the thrill for him in his work is when he sees the fans waiting. “This is what I do it for,” he said. “Nothing else makes any difference.” It is perhaps this outlook that has so endeared him to Star Wars fans over the last 40 years. His talent for storytelling is endless, his passion for Star Wars clear. It’s fair to say that Lucas’ appearance at the 40th anniversary panel has got the Star Wars celebration off to the best possible start.

NEXT: What Star Wars Celebration Panels To Watch

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