Help me Obi Wan I am Stuck in a Tractor Beam
Full disclosure: I am a Star Wars fan and Disney’s annual Star Wars Weekends attract me like a moth to the light. I can’t seem to get enough of the shows, celebrity appearances and especially the character sightings. I will forgo any thrill ride for the Legends of the Force Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade.
The parade starts at 11 a.m. and is not to be missed. My heart beats faster when the entire galactic council and Vader’s First, the 501st Legion, marches up Hollywood Boulevard. Make sure to claim a good viewing spot at least 30 minutes before the start of the parade and when I say at least 30 minutes before, I really mean it. I usually am much more relaxed about finding a perfect viewing spot and love my last minute hideouts behind a trash can (those are great spots with nobody in front of you) but the Star Wars Weekends have become so popular that attendance in the park is hugely increased and the fact that Disney has several VIP viewing areas cordoned off on an already relatively small parade route does not help the cause.
Some Star War fans will plan their visit in view to meet with as many of the celebrities as possible, others geek over the special merchandise available at these weekends Darth’s Mall.
I loved the new location of Darth’s Mall. The distinct shops for limited merchandise, regular Star Wars merchandise, the food and beverage section as well as the fact that a spacious area was available for check out made shopping a real nice experience. My favorite item was the selection of headphones. What saved me and my credit card was that I could not make up my mind as to which one I wanted.
The Frozen girls forced Disney to relocate the Celebrity Talk Shows from the Premiere Theater to the Theater of the Stars where Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage is usually performed. Here guests can enjoy shows with Star War Stars celebrities such as Ray Park (Darth Maul) performing martial arts techniques and my all-time favorite Warwick Davis of both Star Wars and Harry Potter fame.
However, Star Wars Weekends, for me, is all about meeting the characters. Some of the characters have their special designated meeting area, others such as Stormtroopers, Ewoks, Jawas and Tusken Raiders roam the park throughout the day. Trading a Disney pen for a necklace with one of the Jawas near Darth’s Mall was the highlight of my visit.
Among my favorite characters are Queen Amidala, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker, Darth Maul and Darth Vader. Jedi Mickey, Minnie Princess Leia, Stormtrooper Donald and Darth Vader Goofy also join the fun and celebrate the Saga clad in a Star Wars costume. There are also plenty of characters from the animated television show Star Wars: The Clone Wars present.
“I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father” – Luke Skywalker
If this is your child’s wish consider signing your kid up for the Jedi Training Academy. Held daily throughout the year, the show sees extra performances during Star Wars Weekends. However, space is limited and the show is popular. Sign up your child as soon as you enter the park. Ask a cast member where the signup for the day is held. Kids ages 4-12 can participate and must be present at signup. You will be given a time when to report for his training.
At the Jedi Training Academy, equipped with a Jedi robe and a lightsaber the younglings will learn the ways of the force. Eventually, creating a great disturbance in the Force, Darth Vader, Darth Maul and Stormtroopers make their entrance. In the end, using the force and their newly acquired lightsaber skills, the young Padawans and their Jedi Masters teach the evil lot a lesson and send them off to a galaxy far far away.
More fun for young Jedis is to be had at the Padawan Mind Challenge, a Star Wars trivia challenge for children ages 4-11. The event is held several times during the day at the main stage and space is very limited. Arrive early and ask a Cast Member to direct you to the signup location.
One more way to have your child be part of Star Wars Weekends is to be in the parade. You heard me yes–you can be part of the parade! Again, arrive early and and ask a cast member where to sign up. It helps if your child is clad in a Star Wars costume but the Legends of the Force Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade has a huge group of young padawans marching with the Jedi masters.
Star Wars Weekends themed dining back in full force
Dine on the Dark Side with Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Jawas, Greedo and Stormtroopers during the Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast held at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant from 8 – 11 a.m. For the occasion the Sci-Fi movie screens will show Star Wars clips. (Price tag: $49.99 for adults, $31.99 for kids or 2 dining plan credits)
The Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine is held 4:15 – 7 p.m. with special appearances of Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Darth Vader Goofy, Stormtrooper Donald, and Chip and Dale as the cutest Ewoks ever. Please note that Disney reserves the right to have all or only some of these characters stop by while you are dining. The price is galactic: $57.99 for adults and $34.99 for kids or 2 dining plan credits. If you want reserved seating at Fantasmic! that night you can book the Fantasmic! package for the extra terrestrial price of $63.99 for adults and $38.99 for the kids or 2 dining plan credits.
Note that these character meals are available all week — not just on weekends!
On the sweet and less expensive side are the Star Wars themed cupcakes. I also loved the Han Solo popcorn box but be forewarned it is very fragile and more a collectors item.
Want to feel special during Star Wars Weekend?
Disney thought about everything and several possibilities are offered to Star Wars enthusiasts. There is the Feel the Force Premium Package for example. It includes a reserved viewing area with soft drinks and water for the Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade, reserved seating for one of the Celebrity Talk Shows in Theater of the Stars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, reserved viewing location for the nightly Symphony in the Stars fireworks show, paired with A Star Wars-themed dessert party with specialty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The package costs $69 per adult and $39 for children ages 3 to 9 (tax and gratuity included). Guest check-in for Feel the Force Premium Package ticket holders starts at 10:00 AM at Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner, located on Echo Lake.
Next up is the Feel the Force Deluxe Premium Package, which is basically an upgrade from the Premium package and includes all of the above with a few add-ons. The reserved viewing area for Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade is at the front of the park at the parade start, with the opportunity to follow the motorcade down Hollywood Boulevard. Guests will have reserved seating for ALL of the Celebrity Talk Shows in Theater of the Stars and priority access to Darth’s Mall. The package is priced at $99 per adult and $64 for children ages 3 to 9 (tax and gratuity included) also comes with a commemorative lanyard.
The check-in for this package is next to the MyMagic+ service center located at the front of the park, starting at 10:00 AM.
Guest check-in for the fireworks and for the dessert party is located across from the Brown Derby entrance on Hollywood Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The fireworks viewing location and dessert party is at the hub of Disney’s Hollywood Studios—on the right side approaching the Great Movie ride.
Tickets for both packages went on sale a while ago and space is limited. Call (407) 939-3463 to make reservations and may the force be with you!
If you want to go all out consider the Ultimate Day at Star Wars Weekends VIP Tour. The tour includes premium seating for Star Wars Weekends shows at Theater of the Stars, expedited access to attractions like Star Tours, Toy Story Midway Mania and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, reserved viewing location during the Legends of the Force Motorcade, one opportunity to meet a character from the Dark Side and early access to Darth’s Mall. Also included is a private deluxe continental breakfast at The Hollywood Brown Derby and a table-service lunch. Your young Padawans will get post-tour access to the Jedi Training Academy and you end your day with VIP viewing of the Summon the Force finale show and the Symphony in the Stars fireworks spectacular. The Ultimate Day at Star Wars Weekends is available for $399 per Guest (tax not included) and takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through June 14. DVC Members, Annual Passholders and Disney Rewards Visa Cardholders receive a 15% discount. For booking call (407) WDW-TOUR or (407) 939-8687. Advanced reservations are highly recommended. Theme park admission is not included and is required. Entertainment and Character appearances are subject to change.
And then there is that – The Rebel Hangar: A Star Wars Lounge Experience
New for this year is the “Rebel Hangar: A Star Wars Lounge Experience.” And Rikki Niblett has all the cool details on that in her review. I visited the premises during the day. They are located at the Backlot Express counter service restaurant next to Star Tours and I loved the decoration and while it is not a dinner, the price is right, the food is inventive and the surprise visit of Star Wars characters adds to the charm. Best of all the experience is available all week — not just on weekends.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday during Star Wars Weekends the day ends with a small show (Summon the Force) and the Symphony in the Stars fireworks spectacular.
Meeting your favorite Star Wars Celebrity
It can be a challenge, to say the least. The demand is high and some fans are in front of the gates hours before the opening of the park. First you have to go stand in a line designated to the celebrity you want to meet. Once that line opens (usually around 6:30 a.m.) and you reach the front of your line you will get a wristband, which later will enable you to obtain a FASTPASS for your actual celebrity meet. Confused yet? Well, what can I say? The demand is high and you better make sure you stand in the right line the first time around.
The FASTPASS ticket has a designated return time, and when your time comes you better don’t miss your appointment, as this is your only chance really. When all passes are given out, a limited number of standby tickets are available, but be aware these do not guarantee an autograph. Choose carefully and be prepared to be there at the crack of dawn. If you think that staying on property will help you secure a celebrity meet and greet – think again. Been there and done that and sadly enough I have to report that it does not work. Buses to the park will leave one hour prior to opening but by the time you reach Disney Hollywood Studios all wristbands will be gone. If you do not have a car and if you do not want to stand in line for at least 2 hours prior to park opening you are out of luck. I really think that Disney should look into this and find a solution to this problem. The least I would expect is that everybody should enter the park – meaning pay for entering the park – prior to be issued a wristband.
Here are the names of the celebrities scheduled for the two 2015 Star Wars Weekends that are left:
June 5-7, 2015: The hottest ticket this weekend is “Darth Maul” Ray Park. He is joined by Jeremy Bulloch the actor playing Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Also making an appearance is Florida native Ashley Eckstein a.k.a. Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.
On the last weekend (June 12-14, 2015) Ray Park returns joined by Taylor Gray also known as Ezra Bridger from Star Wars Rebels. True Star War fans will make sure to meet the puppeteer behind Yoda: Frank Oz and Peter Mayhew the actor who played the most beloved wookie known in the galaxy: Chewbacca.
I have been to quite a few Star Wars Weekends over the years and while I am dead serious about seeing as many characters and celebrities as possible I mainly enjoy taking pictures of them and not necessary meet with them. Unless you have your own starship a.k.a. – a car you will not get to meet a celebrity as diehard fans are in line way before the first resort bus or boat reaches the park.
Most Star Wars Weekend events are included with regular park admission. The park will be crowded. If Star Wars is not your thing I suggest you visit another park in the Kingdom of the Mouse. If like me you can’t wait for the opening of a full fledged Star Wars Land, this is all we have for now. See you on Tatooine and May the Force be with You!
One more thing: Just like in Star Wars A New Hope there is room for improvement. Let’s make sure all fans can get a fair chance at meeting celebrities and please we need two Legends of the Force Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade parades.
Do you enjoy Star Wars Weekends? What’s your favorite part of the event?