Star Wars Weekends
This past Friday, June 3rd, I had a chance to check out Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. This was actually the third time I have been to a Weekends, but the first time in maybe five years.
Stormtroopers meet you at the main gate and make jokes as they point at unsuspecting visitors. Very funny stuff! I quickly made my way back to the Star Wars themed area of the park. For anyone who has never been to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there is a small area in the back of the park that is all Star Wars, including the Jedi Training Academy, which is a stage show allowing young Padawans to face off against their favorite villains like Darth Maul and Darth Vader. Then, of course, there is the main attraction Star Tours. This is a 3D simulator ride that has recently been given a facelift and new ride mechanics. Right next to Star Tours is the store Tatooine Traders, which is packed with all kinds of Star Wars merchandise. Everything from t-shirts to Lego sets, action figures to build your own lightsabers.
One reason many people visited Star Wars Weekends this year was to ride the brand new version of Star Tours. Disney had recently closed the original Star Tours ride and anticipation had been building for what the new version of the ride would be like. Unlike the original ride, which only had one storyline, this new version had various different combinations of story pieces that allow for 54 different experiences.
The outside of the ride looked the same from what I remember. There is a giant AT-AT walker which is the coolest thing to see at the park, in my opinion. There is also a small Ewok village that you make your way through while waiting in line for the ride. Once inside you begin to see some of the differences. Everything is more clean and polished and there is a new droid (G2-4T) that talks to you while you are waiting, voiced by the always funny Patrick Warburton. Once you make it to the front of the line and are queued up to get into your spacecraft, a video is shown as an intro to your flight. The production quality of this video is very high, and it looks like something that could have been lifted from one of the Prequels.
The ride itself was great! It is very similar to the original ride as far as what the ride does. You buckle in and the shuttle shifts up and down and jerks around as you watch the screen. The major difference is the quality of what you are watching. The different video segments were high quality and entertaining; the 3D was done very well and was not distracting. Being prone to motion sickness, I only rode the ride 3 times. I think there are 11 different video segments you can encounter. I was able to see 7 of them, my favorite one being Kashyyyk. [SPOILER ALERT: At one point a Wookiee is shot off his speeder bike in front of you and hits your windshield. He claws at the windshield trying to stay up and slowly slides out of view leaving hand smudges. This made me laugh!] The good thing about not seeing every section is that I have something to look forward to the next time I visit the park (Celebration VI!!!).
Another new thing they have added since the last time I was there was Jabba’s Tent. This was a giant shopping area that was literally in a tent. There was tons of official merchandise, and this was also the only place you could buy Her Universe paraphernalia. In the back of the tent there were also Star Wars props set up for photo ops.
Beyond the ride and shopping there was also the chance to see and meet Star Wars celebrities. The day I was there James Arnold Taylor and Ashley Eckstein were the celebrity hosts, and Ray Park, Matt Lanter, and Jeremy Bulloch were the guests. I was able to make it to three of the shows featuring the celebrities.
Behind The Force
This show was specifically about the Clone Wars. James Arnold Taylor opened the show talking to people in the crowd and doing some of his voices. He then passed the show to Ashely Eckstein who interviewed Matt Lanter. Matt has a great sense of humor, and there were a number of funny interactions with members of the crowd. There were actually a couple girls who came all the way from the Philippines to see Matt! Matt called them up to take a picture with him, and the girls were obviously star-struck. They were even too nervous to talk when asked if they had any questions for Matt! We were also treated to a demonstration of voice over work by Matt, Ashley, and James. They even pulled a kid out of the crowd to do the voice of C3P0. The highlight of the show was the Season 4 trailer, which featured some never before seen footage from the upcoming season. It was all quite exciting! Hopefully, they will be posting this on starwars.com soon for all to see.
Stars of the Saga
This show was in the format of a talk show with James Arnold Taylor as the host. It was a huge improvement from similar shows they have had at Star Wars Weekends in the past. James is a natural host, and asked the guests many interesting questions. The guests he interviewed were Ray Park and Jeremy Bulloch. Jeremy was obviously still very proud of his time as Boba Fett, and is very attached to the character. There was a point where they played a clip from Robot Chicken of their version of Boba Fett. It was a very funny clip, but you could see that Jeremy was visibly annoyed with it. I think he takes Fett a little more seriously than that. Ray Park ( who was wearing an X-men shirt) was great! He did a couple of martial arts moves, and talked about his time during Episode I. He even poked fun at the younger version of himself in one of the video clips.
Obi-Wan and Beyond
This show was all James Arnold Taylor. Literally. He showcased his unbelievable voice talent, while telling his own story of how he got into voice over work. I can’t even count the number of voices he did. They even showed a montage of many of the voices he has done in The Clone Wars, and a number of them I didn’t even know were him until I saw the video! The show was humorous and inspiring, and I would recommend watching this one on YouTube if you can. James Arnold Taylor is an amazing, talented person, and we are lucky to have him on The Clone Wars.
I had a day packed with Star Wars goodness and it was awesome! Beyond the stuff I have already mentioned, I was also able to watch the Star Wars parade, and take pictures at some of the Star Wars photo ops scattered throughout the park. If you have never been to Star Wars Weekends, I would highly recommend it. I have been four times now, and it gets better every time. This may be the closest we ever get to having a Star Wars theme park, so the next time you are planning a trip to Disney World think about doing it in May or June, and check out Star Wars Weekends.