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?

 

Star Wars Weekends, chock full of AWESOME!

I’ve made no secret of my sincere love and adoration of all things Star Wars.  When you combine Star Wars and Disney something happens on a chemical level in my brain to where I simply get uber-geeked (same thing happens with the Muppets).  My husband would say that my “geek is showing”.  It is with this said, that I report on Star Wars Weekends.  We went last year, and the feeling of being amongst people who not only get it, embrace it was so well AWESOME!

Schedule for 2012 

Celebrity Line Ups

Weekend I (May 18 – 20)

Weekend II (May 25 – 27)

  • Andy Secombe (Watto — Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
  • Ray Park (Darth Maul — Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
  • Tom Kane (voice of Yoda — Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Weekend III (June 1 – 3)

  • Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker — Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
  • Silas Carson (Nute Gunray/Ki-Adi-Mundi — Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
  • (Star Wars: The Clone Wars voice talent — currently TBD)

Weekend IV (June 8- 10)

  • Michonne Bourriague (Aurra Sing — Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
  • Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett — Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi)
  • Daniel Logan (Boba Fett — Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones)
  • Nika Futterman (voice of Asajj Ventress — Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Yes, you can get photos, autographs, and attend Q & A sessions with these celebrities.  There are usually Fast Passes available to get in the autograph line and I would caution to you that I would grab the one celeb you really want.  Also every person who wants to get an autograph not only needs a Fastpass but will have to be physically present to receive one.  I was fortunate to work at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends in 2001 and there was something so cool about walking into work and seeing Kenny Baker and Warwick Davis meeting Guests.  Something surreal, but so cool!

The Guest Experience

As you arrive in the morning there will be sprinklings of the Star Wars Universe all around you.  From Storm Troopers monitoring the crowds pouring into the park, to Star Wars Music coming from the ambient music, to yes sighting Star Wars characters being walked to and from their meet and greet positions.  You get the feeling that “there’s something special goin’ on!”  And oh my is there ever.  All of the Disney blogs, radio hosts and social media gurus are on hand, both Disney and Disney Fan driven.  In true Disney style though you will feel immersed completely.

Star Tours, The Adventure Continues

One of the highlights of being at last year’s event was being not only at Star Wars Weekends on the opening weekend, but also riding the new and revamped Star Tours attraction.  It is a video/motion type of attraction, so if you get motion sick you may need to avoid it or request to sit in the back.  This attraction has 50+ different outcomes and it will be different each time you ride.  My oldest has to ride this at least 2 or 3 times each trip just to see if he can get all of the different experiences.

For the Kids

Check out our video on Jedi Training Academy here: http://youtu.be/dWt9YHWQCLA

Kids under 12 can hone their lightsaber skills and prepare to do battle with Darth Vader himself at the Jedi Training Academy. And in the Padawan Mind Challenge, they can test their wits before the Jedi Council.  We were not able to get any of the spots for last year’s JTA, and we arrived at Rope Drop 8:30-9:00.  So if you really want your kiddo to be in either of these I would recommend getting there VERY early.  Also, they have updated JTA to take in more Younglings, making it 30 versus 15.  With an added adversary (Darth Maul) and a Padawan instructor to help the additional recruits.  This will help with the push to get your child involved in some of the shows available during the weekend.  As always every child who wants to participate MUST BE PRESENT with you in order to sign up.

When The Stars Come Out

The “Hyperspace Hoopla” begins! This high-energy, one-of-a-kind show is a chance to see some of the famed Star Wars characters performing like never before. It will take place on a stage in front of the Sorcerer Mickey hat on Hollywood Blvd., and is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. each event evening.  We were there to see it last year and it was a great show!  A true must see for Star Wars fans and Disney fans alike!

Summary

If you are even a teensy bit interested in Star Wars, it is worth checking out Disney Hollywood Studios during the month of May if you will be there.  We purchased event specific merchandise, rode Star Tours, The Adventure Continues, and yes were amongst other fans all weekend who love Star Wars as we do.  If you go, note the crowds will be increased, particularly near Star Tours/Ewok Village.  But it is SO MUCH FUN!  Check it out.

Disney For Boys!

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Up until a few years ago there wasn’t much for school aged & tween boys to enjoy at WDW. Disney listened to it’s guests & in the last decade has stepped up it’s offerings for boys.  I have compiled a list below of special attractions that my boys and other boys love.  I realize that just as many girls can like Pirates, Star Wars, Lego, Shootin’ and Gaming (I’m living proof of that!).  But, for the sake of the list this is aimed more towards boys as hey, they sometimes feel like they get the short end of the stick on property!  I’m still waiting for that Pirate or Pixar Pals character meal versus a Princess one.

Pirate’s LeagueMK Much like it’s predecessor and girl counterpart (The BBB-Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique) Pirate’s League offers lads the chance to be made up as their favorite swashbuckling buccaneers. Prices start at $35 and can range upward if you add costumes or photography to the base package.

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom – MK Incredible. Awesome. Amazing.  Rocking. These were just a few of the adjectives my oldest son attributed to Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  It really is an immersive experience perfect if you have a gamer in your family that loves interactive attractions!  We loved it so much we even wrote a complete blog entry about it here: http://wdwdreamin.com/tag/sorcerers-of-the-magic-kingdom/

Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial-MK Jack is back. And he wants to recruit as many mates as possible for his next voyage. Children are encouraged to participate as Jack recruits from the denizens of Adventureland and leads them to recite the Pirate Code.  In order to be selected it takes a bit of luck to be chosen to actually be instructed one on one with Captain Jack, but eventually all of the kids get invited up to the stage and are presented with a certificate showing they are official pirates!

Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade– MK Step right up and take your best shot. The Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade has been around since the park opened and is one of those attractions that never loses it’s flavor.  Both my husband and my boys could spend hours, and countless quarters, at the Shootin’ Arcade and it is also a good spot for some down time between Fast Passes and just enjoying items at WDW that usually don’t require you to stand in line.

Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure– Epcot Join Agent P and help solve clues to thwart some of Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s most daringly evil plots. In case you couldn’t see through his disguise, Agent P is the wily secret-agent alter ego of Perry the Platypus, Phineas & Ferb’s faithful pet in the animated Disney series. And he needs your help!

Jedi Training AcademyDHS What boy has never wanted to duel lightsabers with none other than Darth Vader himself, sign up (quickly in the am) for Jedi Training Academy at DHS. Slots will fill up fast. For a review of our experience click here: http://wdwdreamin.com/2012/01/07/disney-review-jedi-training-academy/

Disney Quest-Downtown Disney The ultimate in arcade experiences. Disney Quest is 4 floors of gaming action that can range from the simple to the virtual.  If your husband or boys are into arcades or gaming this should go on your MUST DO list.

Lego Store– Downtown Disney.  To say that my son almost fainted upon seeing the giant LEGO Maleficant dragon would be an understatement.  This is boy Heaven, and yes I was assured by both Dad and Son “We’ll only be a FEW minutes.”  Yeah right!  Halloween day and I’m waiting for an hour as they meticulously blew a hole in our budget a mile wide and walked out on cloud nine.  This is of course said tongue in cheek as I love that my kids love Lego and it is a seriously cool store!

Star Wars Weekends– DHS.  This awesomesauce Star Wars event is only select weekends in May and early June.  Trust me we’ll be blogging more on this as further updates are released for 2012.  But it features Star Wars characters for photos and autographs, way cool celebrity cameos (Kenny Baker, respect), Q & A sessions with talent from the Star Wars Universe, Contests and literally it feels like Star Wars has taken over DHS for these weekends.  One of our favorite memories is having Storm Troopers point to our party as we entered DHS that initial Friday morning and state we looked suspicious and that we needed to provide further identification.  I replied back I was just going to Tashi Station for some power converters and they let me by.  Parker’s Jedi Mind Trick didn’t hurt.  Ahem.  Sorry, was my geek showing again?

Pirate Cruises– 4 Pirate Cruises are available at various resorts throughout property for children ages 4-12.  Supervised by their Pirate Crew, and outfitted with red and white striped bandana Mickey Ears, your little buccaneers will visit many ports of call and plunder for treasure.  Pirate cruises are limited to those children who are fully potty trained, and can easily separate for a period of 2 hours from their parents.  A lunch is also provided, and according to our eldest it was Peanut Butter and Jelly, Goldfish, Juice and a Rice Krispie Treat.

Cost is $31.95 per child, and guests must provide a  credit card number at the time of booking.  Also parents must sign a waver upon arrival. There is a cancellation policy for these reservations and need to be cancelled 24 hours in advance.  Reservations may be made 180 days in advance.

For more information on these activities contact Amy Hughes at ay@upanduptravel.net or 877-WDW-WISH!