Quick Observations From Star Wars Weekends 2014

Star Wars Weekends officially kicked off at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios this weekend. Considering that my son and I are local Annual Passholders and consider our Star Wars Weekends visits to be a mandatory matter, we have learned a few things. One of our “rules” (so to speak) is that we don’t go during the first weekend. Though each weekend draws large crowds, the first tend to bring in the biggest wave… those that simply couldn’t wait… after all, there’s something appealing about being there when it begins. I get it, but I don’t particularly need that. After looking over this year’s event schedule, we decided that we’d be going on week two. Warwick Davis will be attending that week, and as embarrassed as I am to admit this… we’ve never seen his much-heralded performance. We may try to pop in for a quick glimpse of Mark Hamill on week four, but with the expectations of capacity crowds, I’m not banking on it. 

Last night, we decided to be spontaneous and run up to Studios after all. We had only one real mission – to see Symphony in the Stars, the fireworks show that is a new fixture to this year’s event. Previewed at the park previously, the current Symphony in the Stars is an abbreviated version of its former self, but it was worth it nonetheless. Following a fun, rousing pre-show on the Sorcerer Hat stage, Symphony in the Stars combines Star Wars anthems and Disney imagination to blast the sky with brilliant flare and vibrant color. 

Viewing for Symphony in the Stars is a wee bit tricky. I saw a couple of reports from people who had chosen to view the show from outside of the Hollywood Studios entrance gates. Brilliant viewing location, and I almost went with that. This would give you a nice wide view, practically unobstructed. Downside – no music out there. Of course, prime viewing is located directly in front of the Sorcerer Hat, but that means that there will be a crowd of about 5 billion people there three hours in advance. Okay, a slight exaggeration there, but you get the point – unless you are REALLY die-hard and not at all claustrophobic, you shouldn’t plan on being there. We ended up to the side of the Sorcerer Hat – just before the animation courtyard area. It was a lot less crowded in that area, and we arrived only 15 minutes prior to the show’s start. Pay close attention to that masking tape all over the ground, though! If your toe touches it, a Cast Member will suddenly emerge acting with the brute force of a raging Vader! Hollywood Studios is not very firework friendly when it comes to viewing. Be selective and stake out a spot in advance. The outer areas of the park will offer views, but most will also offer obstruction and muffled sound. Much of the park was roped off and closed down by show start as well. 

Of course, since we were there with some time to spare, we did wander around a bit to see who or what else we could catch a glimpse of. Call it a “dry run” I suppose. A few things I took note of during our exploration…

Darth’s Mall is always crowded, but this year, we may be skipping past it altogether. I wanted to just cruise through and preview the Mall, but there was an extensive line just to get inside. I know there is some sort of line usually, but this was nearing the level of the Elsa and Anna character greets… just to get inside! I asked the cast member maintaining the queue if it’s been consistently that bad. Her response? “Oh, this is the shortest I’ve seen it!” You’ve been warned!! Darth’s Mall contains event merchandise, interactive game-ish fun, character greetings, memorabilia, and more… consider it “event headquarters”, but really…? Wow!

Some photos from our previous visits to Darth’s Mall…

The specialty drinks are always a treat. I opted for The Dark Side this time around. Next visit, I’ll report on The Force. The Dark Side was perfect… not so boozy that it was undrinkable, but it was sweet. The lemonade flavor is the dominant, so it’s really a pretty refreshing beverage. $13.75 is a wee bit steep, but I did get a glowing lightsaber stirrer for my investment!

Don’t miss this year’s fun photo spots!! This is one thing that Disney does SO well for this event. Aside from just character greetings, there are plenty of places set up for unique souvenir photos that don’t involve waiting in extensive lines. My son posed for a picture in a blister pack last year, and there was also the giant standee where you can place your head in the middle of the Stormtrooper trio. This year, I found something quite cool…. and i walked right up to do it – NO wait at all. These were on my Photopass, and all that was there was me, the background, and a lightsaber. Vader and the Stormtroopers were added in with “Disney magic”. Shh… our secret. I’m telling everyone else I endured a fierce battle to defend Disney World!

Some of our previous photo spot adventures…

The characters, the characters, the characters…. they are SOOOO worth it, people! I don’t usually encourage waiting in lines when avoidable, especially to be rushed through a character greeting as they do them nowadays. (Sigh, I miss old Disney ways… but I digress!) At Star Wars Weekends, it is worth it! I don’t know if the Cast Members vie for these roles because they are such die-hard fans themselves, or if Disney really urges them to learn the role and do it up, but I love, love, LOVE the Star Wars Weekends characters! By the way… am I just slow and unobservant, or is this the first year that the Stormtroopers are talking?? Even if you just can’t handle waiting in line for 90 minutes or more to meet Darth Vader or Chewbacca at their dedicated posts, you must take pause for the strolling characters such as the Stormtroopers – my favorite. Even if you don’t need your own pictures, just watching them with other guests can be a riot. I found an adorable little girl taking notice of the Stormtroopers, and they in turn, took notice of her. Nothing like a younglings reaction to that, eh? Be prepared, the characters are very much in their roles, and they expect you to be too! If they come pushing your buttons, don’t be a defective R2 unit! Sound off!!

Much more to report after my full day’s visit this weekend! On the agenda (if all goes according to plan): Legends of the Force Motorcade, Warwick Davis, Stars of the Saga Talk Show & the Yoda Cupcake! The Darth Vader cupcake is glorious, and I love peanut butter, but I found it to be a little too heavy and rich for a hot day in the park. I also hope to check out the DJ Lobot Dance Party. I made an attempt to wiggle my way over there yesterday, but when I couldn’t resist the urge to start boogeying to Rednex “Cotton Eyed Joe”, my family abandoned me. I suppose I should stick to observing… I’m better at that, apparently! Until next time, folks… may the force be with you!

For my full report on the Star Wars Weekends events at Walt Disney World, please visit my Yahoo general event guide.

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