Reader Scott sent us the following Trip Report from Star Wars Weekends 2014.
We had the privilege to go to Star Wars Weekends in 2007 and it was truly an amazing experience combining two of our loves, Disney and Star Wars.
With all of the rumors surrounding the future of the Studios park and the upcoming trilogy and spin-off movies, one would presume that Star Wars weekends will only grow in the years to come.
Thanks to Scott for sharing his adventure with us!!!
My family and I traveled to Orlando for a Disney vacation between May 28th and June 7th. Although we visited all 4 Disney parks, this review is only about the Star Wars Weekend (SWW) part of the trip. Maybe I’ll review the rest of the vacation separately!
For those who don’t know, Hollywood Studios runs Star Wars Weekends for 4 weekends in May and June every year. It doesn’t cost anything extra and everything else in the park operates as normal so non Star Wars fans can go to the park while these weekends are running and still have a great time. This definitely applied to us as I haven’t yet been able to convert my wife to the Jedi ways!
We went to the park on multiple days across two weekends because different stars of the franchise show up on different weekends and I wanted to see as many as possible. These stars take part in a parade, autograph sessions and various shows. It’s my understanding that some of the shows occur each year, but others will vary depending on the celebrities that are there and what is going on in the franchise. There are also additional character spots around the park where you can get photos and autographs from Star Wars characters.
But first, let’s start at the beginning - the entrance. If you get to the park before official opening time you will get through the gates but then stopped at Hollywood Boulevard by Stormtroopers searching for rebel spies. They chat to each other and make comments about the crowd, then let everyone into the park. It’s cute, it’s funny, but it’s by no means a must-see. Keep walking up the Boulevard and you’ll see the Star Wars stage in front of the giant Mickey hat. This is where multiple events occur throughout the day and where Han Solo can be seen encased in carbonite and guarded by Boba Fett at other times.
Stormtrooper guarding the entrance
Boba Fett patrols the Star Wars stage
Now you’ve seen the stage, what to do next depends on your priorities. There aren’t really any events running at the start of the day, characters aren’t out for the first hour or so and all of the Star Wars shows are in the afternoon (with the exception of the parade), so if you show up for opening then you need something else to do. We had the advantage of going on multiple days and so we did different things but you really want to run to Toy Story Midway Mania. Even during SWW, this ride is still insanely busy as with all other times of the year. Get there fast to avoid the line unless you’re going to book a fast pass for it (or maybe you already booked it online). If you’d rather do the Rock n Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror then head that way and ride those.
Then there’s Darth’s Maul! This was located next to Toy Story Midway Mania and contains Star Wars clothing, toys and other merchandise for the franchise. It gets very busy so you’ll want to get there early if you’re going to the park specifically for Star Wars.
You can grab something to eat or drink in Darth’s Maul at the Ackbar Snack Bar
You can even get a figurine with your likeness
It’s also the home of Jedi Mickey, Minnie (dressed as Princess Leia), Darth Goofy and Stormtrooper Donald. 2 characters will be in the character area at any one time and they rotate every 30 minutes. We showed up to the Mall later in the day on the first day and the line for the characters was crazy. We therefore made it the first place we went to on another day. We got on a very short line and saw Goofy and Donald first, then looped back around and got in line again. By the time we got to the front of the line the second time, Mickey and Minnie had taken their place. We probably ended up spending about 40 minutes standing in line and had then seen all 4 characters and could get on with the rest of our day.
Darth Goofy and Stormtrooper Donald
Jedi Mickey and Princess Minnie
On one day we did a Star Wars “Galactic breakfast” at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. This was actually a low point of our time at the park. They were running behind schedule, so we had to wait outside a long time. We were then rushed through the entrance where you meet Darth Vader and Boba Fett. We got a quick photo with them but neither of them signs autographs; they hand you a piece of paper with their autographs on that doesn’t fit into autograph book we bought. The characters in the restaurant are jawas, stormtroopers and Greedo. They aren’t bad but it’s not as good as any of the other character breakfasts we have done. The food is way worse though.
In fairness, it’s the first time they’ve done this breakfast at Hollywood Studios, but that didn’t really make us feel any better at the time! At $50 per person, we felt the money would have been better spent elsewhere.
Jack in a stare off with Greedo…Jack won!
The first big Star Wars event of the day is the parade. This starts at 11:30, but to get a good position you need to get in place early. The parade route starts at the park entrance and moves toward the Star Wars stage. It includes stormtroopers, imperial officers and rebel fighters as well as characters such as Chewbacca, R2-D2 and Darth Vader. It then ends with the celebrities riding on the back of cars. This is key: the star power of the celebrities determines how early you need to get in position for the parade. The first weekend we were there, the celebrities included James Arnold Taylor (voice of Obi-Wan in The Clone Wars), Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ahsoka Tano in The Clone Wars) and Ray Park (Darth Maul).
The parade route started getting busy at 11am. The following weekend included Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) who was also making his first ever appearance at SWW. It was so much busier. We noticed people sitting down on the parade route when we walked into the park at 8am! By 10:30 it was getting busy, so that’s when I got into position while my wife and son went elsewhere in the park. Waiting in place for an hour was worth it for how close I got and the photos I was able to take.
It’s not Jason Sudeikis, it’s Ray Park
James Arnold Taylor
Billy Dee Williams
(Just judging by this picture, it's obvious Luke Skywalker got the biggest reaction out of the crowd - Gregg)
The shows are also fantastic. They take place in the Premier Theater, located in the Streets of America area of the park and seating is limited to fast passes only. They get booked quickly but we were able to reserve them online in advance. I saw 2 shows on one weekend and another the following weekend. “Behind the Force” gave a sneak peak of the new Star Wars: Rebels show that begins on Disney XD later this year. Ashley Eckstein interviewed Taylor Gray who is the voice of Ezra Bridger in the new show. Several exclusive clips of the show were shown. “Obi-Wan & Beyond” is hosted by James Arnold Taylor.
He tells the story of how he became a voice actor and the work he does for movies, TV shows, video games, commercials and voicing Hollywood stars that aren’t available for projects. At one stage he moves through 200 different voices. Perfectly. It was absolutely incredible to watch (or should I say listen to) and I’d recommend anyone see it, not just Star Wars fans. Finally, “Stars of the Saga” sees James Arnold Taylor interview stars of the movies. I saw him interview Ray Park and Billy Dee Williams on my second weekend there. Before the show actually started there was a comedy bit by 4 stormtroopers (that included them singing a small part of “Let It Go”) and then the show begins and the stars are interviewed for about 15 minutes each.
Ashley Eckstein interviews Taylor Gray for Star Wars: Rebels
James Arnold Taylor proving that you really can read anything in the voice of Ian McKellen and have it sound awesome. These were instructions for a setting up a stereo.
Stormtroopers having fun before Stars of the Saga
Ray Park discussing his acting career in Stars of the Saga
Billy Dee Williams sharing a joke in Stars of the Saga
As well as taking part in the shows, the celebrities are available for photos and autographs at certain points of the day. They may do 1, 2 or 3 sessions but all require a special fastpass that you can get at the entrance to the park. The problem is that these are very exclusive and the die-hard fans get to the park very early to wait in line for them. I spoke to someone who comes to SWW every year. For the big stars (such as Billy Dee Williams) he has to get in line at midnight. Other stars like James Arnold Taylor (who has been there every year for the past 5 years) have lines that start around 6am. I didn’t get to the park that early on any day and therefore I didn’t get any celebrity autographs. We were able to get various character photos/autographs though. My wife actually got some of them while I did the shows, but the best was probably Chewbacca. It was towards the end of the day and the line to see him had actually closed. I played the cute baby card to try to get in line and was backed up by my 1 year old son flirting with the castmembers. We got in the line and got the photo!
Each day ends with fireworks set to Star Wars music. In my opinion they are the best fireworks at any of the parks.
Thanks so much to Scott for sharing his adventure with us!!! Please let Scott know how much we appreciated this and maybe he'll share more WDW pictures with us!!!