Hi, I’m Sue. I could never be a hipster because my superhero t-shirt aren’t ironic. And I am an Anomaly.
In addition to being a big sci-fi fan, I’m also a DisNerd (or “Disney Nerd”, for the uninitiated). I somehow seem to find myself at a Disney park several times throughout the year for different events or, you know, a random weekend. But, until recently, I had never attended Star Wars Weekends at Disney World. And now that I know several WDW cast members, I decided that had to change.
The event spans 4 weekends in late Spring, usually the last 2 weekends in May and the first 2 weekends in June, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park. I went down to Florida for the third weekend, June 1-3. The first thing I noticed was that the atmosphere in the park was different – and I’m not talking about the monsoon on Friday or the scorching heat on Saturday. People at Disney parks, both cast members and guests, are generally always nice, but tend to keep to themselves or their own group of friends in line and at attractions. This weekend had much more of a convention vibe. My little group made new line-friends several times, gave and received clothing and accessory compliments and purchasing tips, and veered off into geek chatter with complete strangers. Furthermore, Disney rarely allows adults to enter the parks in costume (because they don’t want kids mistaking you for a character, mostly), but those rules fly out the window during SWW (and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, FYI). I saw several Jedi and Sith Lords, and even a Slave Leia. It was like worlds were colliding… in a good way… without explosions.
There are always several celebrity guests – for this weekend, they were Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka, The Clone Wars) and James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Clone Wars), Catherine Taber (Amidala [among others], The Clone Wars), Silas Carson (Nute Gunray/Ki-Adi-Mundi, The Phantom Menace), and Jake Lloyd (Anakin, The Phantom Menace) – who all participate in the daily motorcade and parade with other Star Wars characters. The celebs have special seminars or panels, and will take you inside working as a voice actor or talk about some behind-the-scenes stuff on The Clone Wars, or really anything else they fancy…
As you’d likely expect, no merchandising opportunity is wasted at Walt Disney World. What is usually part of backstage was opened up to park guests and turned into the main Star Wars Weekends shopping area, called Darth’s Mall, of course. There were limited edition pins and figurines, vinylmation, a special Muppets Star Wars figure (my personal weakness), t-shirts, hats, Jedi robes, R2D2 churro buckets and steins, customizable Star Tours nametags printed in Aurebesh… You could even have a mini-fig of yourself cast in carbonite! After wading through all of the merch, you reached the art gallery, featuring both Star Wars art and Disney-Star Wars art.
Disney goes all out for events like this, with several special characters roaming the parks, including Star Wars characters like R2D2, C3PO, Dark Vader, Boba Fett, and more… Not to mention the Star Wars-ified Disney characters such as Jedi Mickey, Princess Minnie, Stormtrooper Donald, and Darth Goofy. And the Cantina Band even roams the groups from time to time, entertaining guests on line for Star Tours.
Oh, my! I nearly forgot about Star Tours, the actual Star Wars-themed attraction at DHS (and Tatooine Traders, the permanent Star Wars store)! The attraction was completely renovated and updated in 2011. It’s a motion simulator with a hi-def 3D screen, and it’s some of the best 3D I’ve ever seen. You enter the attraction, and board your StarSpeeder for a normal trip… but things go wrong right away, when R2D2 begins your trip without the captain on board, and 3PO has to take the controls. The rest of the ride sequence is randomized, with a total of 54 different possible journeys. But, somehow, the rebel spy on board your StarSpeeder is always delivered to safety.
And, of course, each evening ends with the special show, Snig and Oopla’s Hyperspace Hoopla, a dance-off with the Star Wars Stars. It sounds ridiculous and silly, and it is – in the best possible way. I’ve heard some people say that they just don’t like the idea of the Star Wars characters dancing… but I think this is worth the watch, at least one time.
After just one experience, this is an event that I know I’m going to have to get back to in future years. Just remind me to go as early as possible, because Florida in June is crazy hot! And keep an eye on the Anomaly feed early next week for a video slideshow of the photos I took during Star Wars Weekends, including character greetings, the motorcade, and the art show (super-dooper extra special thanks to Rick Moyer for making that happen).
May the Force be with you always.