Red 5 Standing By, Star Wars Weekends Are Almost Here!

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Probably the highlight of my time spent at Disney’s MGM Studios as a Cast Member was working Star Wars Weekends, 2001.  Imagine showing up to your work and there is Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Jeremy Bulloch you know just signing autographs as you walk past like it’s the most normal everyday thing in the entire World.  Stormtroopers were everywhere and even we Castmembers thought, “The park has been invaded by the Empire!” It was also the first and only time that Carrie Fisher attended Star Wars Weekends and being able to see the q and a panel with that amount of star power that year made me as a Star Wars Fan for lack of a better term, Geek Out!

We’ve gone to Star Wars Weekends 3 times since then and each time it packs an emotional geek filled resonance for me personally.  I have been fortunate to have taken my kids as well, we even were there on the opening Star Wars Weekends for Star Tours 2.0 back in 2011.  It is safe to say that if you have even a small, minute interest in a galaxy far far away you will love this event!

Here is the run down of events and what to expect for Star Wars Weekends 2014!

Stars and Autograph Sessions!

First there are the celebrities and just like my experience in 2001, you will not be disappointed at all in this years lineup of Star Wars stars and backstage artists who brought the films to life:

May 16-18, 2014

  • Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks)
  • Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)
  • Vanessa Marshall (Hera Syndulla – Star Wars Rebels)

May 23-25, 2014

  • Warwick Davis (Ewok, Wicket W. Warrick)
  • Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett, Capt. Jeremoch Colton)
  • Tiya Sircar (Sabine Wren – Star Wars Rebels)

May 30 – June 1, 2014

  • Ray Park (Darth Maul)
  • John Ratzenberger (Major Bren Derlin)
  • Taylor Gray (Ezra Bridger – Star Wars Rebels)

June 6-8, 2014

  • Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker, Darth Bane – The Clone Wars) (will not be signing autographs)
  • Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian)
  • Ray Park (Darth Maul)
  • Taylor Gray (Ezra Bridger – Star Wars Rebels)

June 13-15, 2014

  • Dee Bradley Baker (Captain Rex/the Clones, Bossk and more – The Clone Wars)
  • Cat Taber (Padme Amidala and more – The Clone Wars)
  • Tom Kane (Yoda  – The Clone Wars and more)
  • Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker and more – The Clone Wars)
  • Steve Blum (Zeb Orrelios – Star Wars Rebels)

The great thing about these weekends is that during the autograph sessions there are a number of Fastpasses you can get though limited to help with your wait!

 

Daily Schedule of Events

Each Weekend has a similar rundown of events in order so that no matter which weekend you choose you are sure to experience the fullness offered.  believe me you won’t be able to take it all in in one go!

  • Stormtrooper Welcome – 7:30am on Hollywood Boulevard
  • Autograph Sessions throughout the day (check Times Guide)
  • Legends of the Force Motorcade and Welcome at 11:30am
  • Stars of the Saga Talk Show and Q&A Session (Premier Theater) – 3:15pm
  • Jedi Training Academy – Check Times Guide
  • Behind the Force (Premier Theatre) – 1:45pm
  • Obi-Wan and Beyond (Premier Theater) – 7:00pm
  • Padawan Mind Challenge at 1:00pm, 2:15pm, 4:15pm, 6:30pm
  • Star Wars Character Encounters – 8:00am – 7:30pm (Check Times Guide for locations)
  • DJ Lobot Dance Party – 7:00pm
  • Symphony in the Stars Fireworks – 9:30pm

Character Dining for Star Wars Weekends

New this year are Star Wars Weekends Character Dining Experiences at both Hollywood and Vine and Sci Fi Dine In Theater!

These include your favorite Disney characters dressed as some of your favorite Star Wars Characters like: Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Vader Goofy, Ewok Chip & Dale, and Stormtrooper Donald!

  • Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast! at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant (8:00am-noon, cost is $47.99 for adults and $29.99 for kids (ages 3-9)
  • Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine (4:15pm-park closing, cost is $55.99 for adults and $33.99 for kids (ages 3-9)
  • Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine withFantasmic! Dinner Package (you can add the Fantasmic Dinner Package on for a slight uptick in price which will also guarantee priority seating at Fantasmic! later in the evening)

You will also be able to meet LOADS of characters from every spectrum of the Force throughout the parks throughout your days in addition to your standard Disney characters!

V.I.P. Experience

Disney has released an exclusive V.I.P. experience for those amongst us who might want a full package that has some exclusivity to it.  If you are an uber fan and convention costs aren’t that big of a concern this may be the droid you’re looking for:

  • Premium seating for Star Wars Weekends shows at the Premiere Theater, such as Stars of the Saga—a Star Wars-themed talk show that’s as entertaining as it is surprising
  • Expedited access to attractions like Star Tours – The Adventures ContinueToy Story Midway Mania! and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Private continental breakfast  at The Hollywood Brown Derby
  • Reserved viewing location during the Legends of the Force Motorcade
  • Table-service lunch at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The cost for this package is $499 and does not include park admission.  It is available May 16 to June 15, 2014 and can be reserved by calling: (407) 934-7973.  According to Disney advance reservations are HIGHLY recommended for this experience.

 

Merchandise and Goodies!

Like all things Star Wars (believe me I’m a parent to a Star Wars fan on top of being one myself I can’t see the walls in some rooms because of our lightsaber collections) what would the experience be without the merchandise?  “Merchandising, Merchandising, Merchandising!”

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Yes, that’s Yogurt from Space Balls, but it’s an apt description of the BEVY of buying opportunities you will have throughout the weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Weekend exclusive merchandise, to your own likeness frozen in carbonite ala Han and shipped to you, to Lightsabers, and yes even a Vader Cupcake!

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The possibilities for purchases are endless so be prepared for a steady stream of “I WANT!” and that’s not just the kids!

 

Jedi Training Academy

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The JTA is in full “force” over these weekends and as you would imagine it is CRAZY difficult to score a coveted spot.  I recommend though if you want to give it your best go arrive WAY before rope drop, like more than an hour and be prepared for a line to sign up.  You may have to be flexible in your plans and take the most available spot though if you want your Youngling to train on a Star Wars Weekend.  It takes on a special nature to do JTA on these weekends at Disney so be prepared with cameras!  For our Review Read Here, and For A Video Click Here!

 

As with all special events my advice on this one is no different, be prepared for crowd levels to spike.  The area near Star Tours especially will feel crazy congested throughout the day.  So if Star Wars isn’t your thing I would avoid that area of the park.  Also something to think about is there will be special shows, fireworks, characters mingling so if you have a child who is used to the standard park experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios you had better prepare them for the changes.  We took our youngest aside as we were walking in to let him know Star Wars had invaded the park so it would look a bit different and had to keep re-iterating throughout the day, that all was fine this was okay.

For more details visit the official home of Star Wars Weekends online:
Disney’s Official Page 

Official Facebook Page for SWW

Have you ever been to Star Wars Weekends?  What did you think?

 

Room Only Discounts for Fall 2014!

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Disney released Free Dining and a Room Only Discount to Disney Visa cardholders earlier today.  Which I am still on hold helping clients make those all important changes (hundreds if not over a thousand dollars in savings)!  But wanted to share the details we are seeing for the Room Only Discount coming later in 2014.  All of the offers being released today must be booked by August 8th, 2014.

Contact us at http://www.upanduptravel.com/new/contact or via phone at 1-877-WDW-WISH (939-9474) to get a no obligation quote as this offer is limited!

Deluxe & Deluxe Villas:

Save 30% on the following:

  • Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
  • Disneys Old Key West Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Standard Viewor Pool View Rooms)
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Save 20% on these Deluxe and Deluxe Villas:

  • Disney Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House & Kidani Village
  • The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Beach Club
  • Disney’s Contemporary
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Savanna or Club Level)

It gets a little different when we look at Moderate and Value Resorts:

Save 20% August 16-28th or Save 25% August 29th-Oct 3rd, 2014 on Moderate Resorts

  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach
  • Disney’s Cornado Springs
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Cabins
  • Save 20% August 29th-Oct 3rd, 2014 on Port Orleans French Quarter

Save 15% August 16-28th or Save 20% August 29th-Oct 3rd, 2014 on Value Resorts

  • Disney’s All Star Sports & Music Resorts
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Save 10% August 16-28th  or Save 20% August 29th-Oct 3rd, 2014 on Disney Art of Animation (Family Suites Only)
  • Save 15% August 29th-Oct 3rd, 2014 on Disney’s All Star Movies Resort & the Campsites at Ft. Wilderness

Contact us at http://www.upanduptravel.com/new/contact or via phone at 1-877-WDW-WISH (939-9474) to get a no obligation quote as this offer is limited!

 

New Nighttime Show Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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A new nighttime show is coming to Animal Kingdom.  As you may know in the past Disney has stayed away from a lot of nighttime activities at Animal Kingdom in order to give the animals a bit of respite.  I believe some of this change is now due to the impending Avatar land that will be coming soon to this park.  According to Disney’s blog today, the new nighttime show will be called “Rivers of Light” and appears at first blush to follow in a similar show pattern as Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or World of Color in Disney’s California Adventure.  Though I am sure they will put a new twist on the show to not only fit with the park overall but add in new technologies.

Per the Disney site: “Rivers of Light” promises to be an innovative show unlike anything ever seen in Disney Parks, combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. The show will magically come to life on the broad, natural stage of the Discovery River, between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest, delighting our guests and truly capping off a full day of adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

We’ll of course follow any news as it develops and be sure to share here anything we hear!

image copyright Disney

DisneySide At Home Celebration Menu Addition

Hello all!  Well by now we have a great deal of our ideas in granite and are moving forward every day tying up loose ends and getting those check boxes ticked off!  But, I didn’t want to forget our readers at home.  And in order to help you all join in from wherever you may be I thought it best to start sharing some of the food stuffs we are getting ready to prepare so that you can make them yourself for your own Disney Side Parties!

First up this week, we start with the Main Man: Walt!  We wanted to be sure to incorporate touches of Walt throughout the party.  We will have quotes, photos, and even videos, but one thing that was Walt’s absolute favorite food? Chili.   A lot of people don’t know this but Walt was a man of simple tastes when it came to food. So here is his actual recipe provided by the Disney family during the 100 years celebration and as well in 1965 by Walt himself, enjoy!

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We’ll be posting more recipes throughout this week so that you can get that shopping list together!

A word to the wise

"Where are you going?" "Forward" -Ratatouille

“Where are you going?”
“Forward”
-Ratatouille

I wanted to say something today that’s been on my mind recently.  This time last week I posted an article on the fly, about Disney doing away with Re-Ads in conjunction with their DAS Cards.  The response was shocking to me.  I received over 4,000 page views in 48 hours.  We’ve never had that much traffic on our site, and I thank you for visiting.  I truly do.  I think that Disney taking this away does warrant a polite advocacy to alert them to issues their Guests might face while touring.  I would tell the same to Guests who tour in standard ways if their reasonable needs weren’t met, and have.  They can only know if you tell them, and you will get more response by being professional in your communications.  But then this past saturday I posted a solution to a great many problems faced with the changes to the DAS, a Disneybility Day.  You could have heard crickets on our site.

And while I understand, the disheartening quality of what I wrote, only a handful of people who responded to the initial Re-Ad article responded in kind to the Disneybility article with the solution.  And this gave me some pause as I have mulled it over.  Are we really going to be defined by what we can’t do?  Do we wake our children every morning and tell them over and over what is out of their reach with having a disability?  No, we don’t and if we did we really wouldn’t be any kind of parent at all.  We wake up our children telling them what they CAN do.  We tell them what is on their agenda, to prepare them but also to help them plan for hitting that next level.  I tell Thomas every morning he, like his brother, is my rock star.  He does things that surprise me, he says things that make me laugh and yes he illuminates me every day as to what it is like to live with a cognitive disability.  That he isn’t defined by it, but he has set out everyday to change the definition of Autism and what that diagnosis means.

So around here, we will probably post news as it effects our guests since you all need to know.  But really I’ve been re-focused and have been for some time on finding solutions, not mourning for too long the changing of accommodations that yes allowed for more spontaneity in our days.  As parents and caregivers we have all been down this road before.  We consistently advocate for our children and family.  Why do we think all of a sudden we can just hang our skills of working with our children on a hook because we are on vacation?  It’s work, constant work, but from that work comes such an ultimate reward it overpowers us and in some ways that reward can make us feel humbled.

Look, I’m not saying don’t advocate.  I’m not saying that upset feelings are unjustified.  It’s in how we choose to let those feelings and actions DEFINE our advocacy that sets how we move forward from this in our children’s eyes.  We have always been the greatest teachers, advocates, therapists and counselors for our children.  What makes us think in some way that touring with these new accommodations is somehow unattainable especially if solutions are out there?  Why do we let the World intercede and tell us over and over we can’t and that things WON’T work, when we haven’t given it a shot or allowed time to work.  Would you give up on a therapy you loved after one go with no positive progress in your child?  Heck no you wouldn’t.  So let’s get together, find solutions, instead of ripping apart and focusing on the negatives.  We are only as strong as the weakest amongst us, and really the only way we all can inspire change is by working with each other.

That’s all I want to say.  I hope I have not offended anyone, but for me and my family and my clients and anyone I help I have to look at what we CAN do in this world, and yes that includes Disney.  Because it is so weary, and needs kindness and humility.  It needs people to start looking up once more and reaching out.  That can’t be done if all we do is tear it apart.

Disneybility Days at the Disney Parks

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Was having a thought, and I’ve touched on this idea before, but I would love to see a day (or several) dedicated to Disabilities at the Disney Parks in North America. I mean there are groups from every background, interest and passion that plan events at the Disney Parks, but to my knowledge there is not a set event each year for guests with disabilities.

What I would love to see is all of us, young and adult, cognitive and mobility; vision and hearing impaired, families and individuals of every kind vacationing together to celebrate our love of the parks. Families who only know each other online from forums, social media or support groups could tour together and yes, learn from one another.  Further say you have two single parents with children with disabilities who have been unable to go because of the recent changes be able to team up and tour successfully?  Alone, we can only do so much, but together we can really help one another.  As well, if this becomes successful enough, there is the possibility of group rates through Disney to help everyone out.  I know the costs of therapies for our kids, and if your family is like ours, the therapies come before a trip to Disney on the financial side of things.  But with the possibility of working together, I love that idea of people teaming up, maybe sharing rooms to offset costs and yes touring together in order to provide a support for one another.

Overall the emphasis I feel should be positive.  It’s not a sit-in, not a protest, it’s to celebrate the diversity in our community, to help one another and yes to be in the Happiest Place on Earth in a healthy constructive way.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this idea and if you are interested in making it more than an idea feel free to Like and participate in our planning page https://www.facebook.com/DisneybilityDays

Also a HUGE Mega Thank you to Rob Stevens a/k/a @SuperRob for tying our Event Name together today!

Share your thoughts on this idea in the comments below!