The Force Awakens – But I Still Have Questions

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD – TURN BACK NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED EPISODE VII YET!

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So, I took some mental notes while watching The Force Awakens that I wanted to share while it is still relevant.  AGAIN, do not read if you have not seen the movie yet!  It is spoiler rich!

 

  1. The music seems 90% recycled or refurbished to fit the new film.  We played a lot of Star Wars music in my middle school band, so, it’s ingrained in my brain to notice that.
  2. About a week ago I posted on the Is Luke Evil Now theory, where it was suspected that he was Kylo Ren.  The theory was very, very good and well argued, but, alas, it did not happen.   It seems like we fell for the trap that the director wanted us to fall for with his classic misdirection!
  3. I like that the film shook up some gender/diversity roles by having Fin (the black dude) and Rey (the young white woman in all the previews).
  4. Rey is clearly the person the Force Awakens in, so I expect her to be the daughter of someone important (since her family’s identity was never revealed).
  5. Rey was totally great, but Fin felt like he was borderline retarded and overly loyal for no logical reason.  Now, Fin was a Storm Trooper who just decided to bail on his job, so maybe he was just clinging to whoever said a kind word to him, but he seemed ready to jump into danger over people he had known for only a few hours (at best).  So perhaps that accounts for why he seemed kind of slow too, but I couldn’t help but repeatedly think to myself “is he this dumb because he’s a Trooper or because he’s black?  WHAT are they trying to say?!”
  6. Jakku is clearly a discount Tatooine so why bother to make a new planet that feels exactly the same instead of just setting the beginning on the familiar planet to begin with?
  7. Is Rey a slave that works for food, or did she work off her slave debt and now she works for food to survive?  I mean, if this was going to be a Watto situation, and we have no timeline for the lifespan of most aliens in Star Wars, then, again, why not just use Tatooine and Watto and let all the prequel haters groan a little?
  8. Why does Rey care about BB-8?  She immediately befriends the machine for no good reason.
  9. Fin gaining his own identity and rebelling against his Storm Trooper training made no sense.  If they are trained and conditioned, why did he appear to regain his personal ability to think for himself after seeing one fallen comrade?
  10. The New Order lost the one Storm Trooper in history who can actually hit his target.
  11. Why does Fin assume Poe died when no body was present?
  12. When Poe reappears, why do we hear Fin’s side of what happened at the crash, which we already saw, but we hear nothing about how Poe escaped or got back to the Alliance?
  13. When Fin ejects from the Tie Fighter he wakes up sweaty. You actually can’t sweat in a desert like that, the moisture is so low that the sun evaporates it before you ever had a clue you were sweating.  The Storm Trooper helmets, though, should have caused very sweaty heads. Ever have a Halloween costume with a plastic face mask on a string?  You were ready to throw it away half way through the night because you were so sweaty, now imagine your whole face stuck like that.
  14. How in the heck did Han Solo get his ship stolen from him, and he could track it so quickly after it was in space, yet he couldn’t find it for anywhere from 1-30 years while it was parked in a pretty desolate desert?  Didn’t they have to turn the thing on to get it to the junker’s place?
  15. How is the Falcon still running?  The thing looks half ripped apart and rusted when Rey takes it.
  16. Why does Rey keep calling Luke and Han myths?  The Empire collapsed 30 years ago, not 500 – how is this old enough to be mythology already?  Kids these days… *sigh*
  17. So, anyone can use lightsabers?  Not just Jedis?  A close range weapon seems like a really poor choice in an age where blasters can hit people from across the room.  So, since Fin can wield a lightsaber does that mean that we should stop assuming that anyone with a lightsaber is a Jedi?  I guess so…
  18. I’d love more information on how this new Storm Trooper recruitment policy.  The hinted at thing was that kids are abducted and raised to be soldiers, but, wouldn’t that have hugely negative side effects and cause people everywhere to revolt more and more against the First Order?  They don’t say they take orphans or accept recruits like an Army, but they are no longer clones and are “taken from families.”  It’s confusing as to why anyone thought this was a good plan when they purchased/custom made the last batch of Troopers.
  19. Our big baddy, Kylo Ren, is quickly revealed to be Ben Solo, Han and Leia’s son who went Jedi training and went to the Sith side.  But the kid looks nothing like either parent – more like Anakin cloned himself through his daughter somehow.
  20. Kylo Ren removes his helmet way too much – is the point not to help hide his identity (which I’m sure would be tarnished if his lineage were well known in the First Order)?  Ren doesn’t need the helmet to breath, and it seems very heavy (symbolic for carrying on Vader’s legacy), so if he doesn’t want to keep it on, why the heck does he even have it?
  21. For that matter, why does the First Order want a moody kid as their frontman again?  He seems to not be fully converted, and is repeatedly chastised by Snoke, yet, Ren is the face of this new Empire.
  22. Is there no couple’s counseling in space?  It seems like Han and Leia should have really been working their crap out instead of doing their default jobs from Episode IV.
  23. Is Leia not a Jedi too at this stage?  I get she may not have done the training, but if she is Luke’s twin, it stands to reason that she should also have at least minimal force powers without going into full Jedi training.
  24. When Rey touches Luke’s old lightsaber, she gets a vision of his robot hand transmitting information to R2-D2, yet she doesn’t get the actual information, nor does she see where Luke went (that would be too useful, I guess?).
  25. Right before that scene – how does BB-8 get down those stairs?  I was ready to see him do some awesome twirl/climb with his wire-thingys, but alas, he goes from top-of-stairs to bottom-of-stairs with zero gratification…
  26. All of these planets get blown up, quickly, and yet the audience is left with no emotional feeling towards it.  That action doesn’t even really push the plot forward, it’s just a nice visual effect to show the Empire’s power levels needlessly.  We don’t even know what planets just exploded – anything we happen to be familiar with?  Fans would like to know!
  27. Rey has an obscene amount of Jedi powers that she learns to work very quickly and without training.  Luke couldn’t do anything until Obi Wan told him that he could, but Rey seems to break all the rules and master everything on her own – which means she’s either got all the midichlorians (sp?) left in the universe coursing through her veins, or every other Jedi who went through training courses completely wasted their time.
  28. Harrison Ford either agreed to return for only “one more Star Wars movie,” or else Han Solo is not dead.  I did not get enough visual or emotional closure to feel anything when that scene happened, so I am skeptical that it’s all that meets the eye.
  29. Was Kylo Ren really conflicted, or was that just a ruse to get Han Solo close?  If Ren is wavering, again, seems like a weird person to have in such a powerful position.
  30. Did Rey chop off Kylo Ren’s hand?  It wasn’t highlighted enough to tell for certain. I thought I saw his head come off too, but I was mistaken.
  31. Why are the baddies still using Tie Fighters and the goodies still flying X-Wings?  These are iconic vehicles, and I assume the marketing people thought that the kids don’t care what toys they buy, but adults will be very likely to purchase nostalgia – so, profits are my only reasonable assumption for why 30+ year old vehicle designs haven’t become improved or replaced for the new movie.
  32. Since Luke is not Kylo Ren or part of the Dark Side, why in the heck is he on this hidden journey?  They say it’s to find a Jedi temple over his guilt of Ben Solo turning evil, but that seems like a very poor judgement call to just vanish with such a convoluted way of finding him.  I have to assume that Luke was afraid of being converted to the Dark Side (which he heavily favors by the end of Return of the Jedi).
  33. The film mentions that Luke was training the next generation of Jedi’s, so where are they?  If Ben was his only student, that is more of a dying hope than a training camp.  If he had others he was working with, what, did he just up and abandon them too because one student turned Dark?
  34. Does Luke not realize that people need him?  Obi Wan talks about feeling Alderaan get blow up, but here we see multiple planets get decimated, his close friend gets murdered, and Luke just stays where he’s at?
  35. If Leia became a General specifically to find Luke again, why does Rey go to fetch him without Leia?
  36. I would also like to know the circumstances by which Leia remained a Princess after Alderaan was destroyed, but she no longer has a royal title now.
  37. What has Luke been doing all this time?  Just standing on this tiny island’s mountaintop?  There’s no sign of food, shelter, or a Jedi temple anywhere in sight.
  38. Clearly, Luke is being shown/referenced as the new Obi Wan Kenobi as they look as identical as two non-related people can.
  39. Now, if Jedi are basically monks who cannot marry/love/reproduce, where do baby Jedi’s come from?  This film has again confirmed that the Force is essentially in your DNA and is passed down from parent to child, so if Jedi’s aren’t supposed to have mates – where do Padawans come from?  I guess Force-using parents aren’t a prerequisite for being a Jedi/Sith, but with this film’s muddy clarification on what “the next generation of Jedi” means, number wise, it stands to reason that the best way to promote the Jedi order would be for said living Jedi to have children.
  40. There is no hint or reference to Jar Jar Binks as an evil Sith Lord, which, after seeing that fan theory, I am very disappointed over…
  41. There is no end-of-credits scene.  In this day and age, everyone expects that from a live-action Disney-associated movie.

Star Wars and Luke’s Role

It’s been awhile since my last post, but I have to admit, after never really being a hardcore Star Wars fan (I’ve seen the movies in full once each, dating as far back to 1998 when the re-releases of the first trilogy came out) I am getting very excited for The Force Awakens.

I went to college for Film Studies in college (which, yes, it’s less useful than a degree in basket weaving) and watching this video made me realize all the things that I looked over as a 13-year-old watching Star Wars for the first time.

For example, while I wasn’t obsessed over the movies, I did have an extensive collection of toys (mainly the action figures).  And I’ve always noticed that Luke’s clothing told a story that the films seemed to gloss over.  Luke enters the film being iconically dressed in white – film symbolism for goodness, purity, hope, etc – in A New Hope.  Really, try to remember his clothing – the first thing that you will recall is likely that white robe thing with the light colored pants.  And, throughout this film, Luke gets little exposure to the Force and what it means.  Quite literally, he’s a hick kid who’s never had an opportunity to be corrupted, so he is completely good.

I now, it seems so simple, but, really, film directors will use the color of clothing to tell you who is good and bad (ie Leia = white dress, Darth Vader = all in black, Han Solo = black and white mixed together because he’s our anti-hero who isn’t good or bad, just out for his own interests initially).

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke ends up wearing a lot of grey, which is the color of change, choices, or a shift in morality.  When Luke is riding the Tauntaun at the start of the movie, his pants and cuffs are grey.  As the movie progresses, more of his outfits are grey or other neutral colors – and this is happening long before Luke has any idea of his paternity.  This is also a point in time where Luke is going from learning about the Force to really training to learn how to use the Force with Yoda, which is highly suggestive of whether Luke will be a Jedi or a Sith when all is said and done.  After all, he is a teenager who has been through great emotional turmoil since the start of this film (starting with the death of his aunt and uncle and NOT getting any better as his story progresses).

By the time we see Luke in Return of the Jedi, his clothing is completely black.  Lets see, Yoda dies, the girl he’s interested in turns out to be his sister, his father is the ultimate evil of the galaxy, and, oh yeah, he’s lost a hand – eeeyup, I’d say this young man has a lot to be emotional over these days that might push him towards the Dark Side.  As the Film Theorist points out, Luke makes several grabs for the Dark Side despite being constantly warned (oh, those petulant youths!), including an attempt to murder Emperor Palpatine and going into an extreme emotional frenzy when Vader threatens Leia.  So, the actual ending of Jedi is a real let down that never made a lot of sense to me.

Well, apparently, Georgia Lucas scrapped the original ending of Star Wars where Luke walked off ominously into the sunset, Han Solo dies in battle, and Princess Leia is adapting to her role as queen.  Which – wait a second – if her planet was blown up she would have either become queen on the spot (in which case, it seems a little silly that we refer to her as a princess for three movies), or, as her planet is gone, she would have no people to rule.  Any surviving Alderanians would now be refugees on other planets, under other governments, and Leia would have no ruling power or authority what-so-ever.  Since that ending didn’t happen, I supposed that is a moot point, but, I still demand consistency!

Also, a lot of people openly proclaim their hatred of Episodes I, II, and III.  I wholeheartedly disagree with the sentiment that they are terrible and/or useless to the franchise, because, truly, this is the only way we have to compare what Jedi’s were supposed to be versus who Luke was turning into.  The Jedi’s live by a high standard and moral code, in which they essentially deprive themselves of all human emotions and feelings to act as perfect diplomats.  Now, the original trilogy talks about this – but the words of two old men (or an old man and a muppet..?) don’t hold a candle to getting to see the order and what a thriving Jedi society looked like way back when.

Now, to finally touch on The Force Awakens.  Assuming you’ve watched the video I posted above, there is evidence to suggest that Luke Skywalker is now acting as Kylo Ren (the new Vader-esx villain).  The Film Theorist really makes a great case for this, especially since Mark Hamill has his name on the posters, but has been visually absentee throughout the advertising.

Personally, I would love to see Luke on the Dark Side, because I think the original films shorted us from that experience.  However, with a director like J.J. Abrams, I think Luke become Kylo Ren may be too obvious.  Abrams took a number of measures to keep secrets about Into the Darkness hidden, including making up fake things to leak, just to keep the internet at bay.  So, it seems to me that if Kylo Ren’s identity were to be a big, surprise reveal, and the one that’s been guessed at, then Abrams would have released trailers with fake footage of Luke Skywalker as a Jedi – or at least throw him on the posters with a green light saber – to throw the world off of the scent.

 

We have a bit longer than a week to find out, and, I have to say, if the absence of Luke’s image was just to get people stirred up and in line for the movie – it has worked for me at least!

The Hopeful Worlds of Kingdom Hearts III

I don’t do a lot of game blogging, but I have to admit that I am a fairly avid gamer, and I am getting tired of waiting for Kingdom Hearts III to be given a release date…

If you’re visiting my blog today because you are vacation planning, let me just say that Kingdom Hearts is a really cool video game that combines a role playing game with Disney fun.  It’s not like other Disney games (Epic Mickey, Brave, Infinity, etc) it is actually well above the quality of those, and it is friendly for all ages to boot.  And, like other games produced by Square Enix, it offers a very rich story with addicting, simple-to-master game play.  The game also doesn’t throw a bunch of random Disney characters at you, similar to how Disney Infinity works.  Instead, they have different levels where the main character transforms to fit into that world (ex:  Sora turns into a merman in Atlantica, a lion in Pride Lands, etc), so it keeps the game play and story very unique.  In short, if you have kids, or you like to game yourself, I highly recommend picking up the currently released Kingdom Heart titles for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP, DS, and the Gameboy Advance.

Even though the handheld consoles have seen a lot of activity in the Kingdom Hearts releases, the meat of the franchise is Kingdom Hearts (released PS2 in 2002) and Kingdom Hearts 2 (released PS3 in 2006).  Several years ago Square Enix announced that Kingdom Hearts 3 would be coming out to the PS4 and XBox One.  However, to date there has been no word on an official release timeframe – even though we know it is not on the list of titles to be released in 2014.  Everyone wants to know what is taking so long, and will the game be worth the wait.  Simply put, I don’t know, but I’m rarely disappointed in Square titles, so I remain hopeful.

What I would like to do is play a little guessing game as to which Disney films will have their own worlds (levels) in Kingdom Hearts 3.  Here are my thoughts, and I’d love to hear yours:

  • Olympus.  According to the official production trailer, there is a boss battle with a Titan from Hercules. The trailer can be seen at:  http://www.kingdomhearts.com/khiii/ .  With that in mind, I’d say Olympus is going to have it’s own world without a doubt.  Maybe this will just be another battle arena area, but my hopes are high that it will offer more of a playable level.
  • Arendelle.  This one is a gimme, there’s no doubt in my mind that a snow-covered land will appear in the game.  Unlike so many other Disney video games, Kingdom Hearts tends to spend equal time on “girly” levels as they do for “boy” levels.  We’ve already seen most of the kingdom’s of the other princesses as playable levels, and the popularity of Frozen makes it an undeniably great marketing tool for the game.  Just showing Frozen characters will probably boost sales in America by a large margin.
  • World of Wheels.  It’s time we get a Cars themed world!  Not only have Pixar worlds never appeared in Kingdom Hearts, but a racing mini-game would be awesome!  I would also take a Planes level, but I think Cars would be a lot more fun.
  • Up.  You could either chase down Kevin or travel with the floating house.  Either way, I love up, and I hope they don’t forget about it!
  • Land of the Scotts.  Merida needs some exposure, as one of the only Princesses not in Kingdom Hearts already.  I also think an archery competition would be a fun mini-game addition and roaming around ancient ruins for a bear seems like it would fit right in with the plots shown in other worlds.
  • San Fransokyo.  Somehow, I can’t imagine a Japanese game developer not taking the opportunity to use a Japanese character’s home world as a game level.  Plus, there’s giant robots.
  • The Rescuers.  This almost forgotten pair of films would give us an excuse to get Kingdom Hearts characters in super kawaii mouse form.  That’s really all the logic I’ve got for this world.
  • The Muppets.  Okay, I know Disney bought the Muppets, and has recently been releasing new movies, but the Muppets in general is becoming a stagnant franchise that could use some new levels of exposure.  They’re fun, quirky, and teach about the greatness of acceptance and being different, which are the kinds of characters we dream about our children listening to.  Plus, it would give the game developers an awesome excuse to explore some mix-media game programing (sort of like how characters in The Amazing World of Gumball are 2D, 3D, puppets, live-action, stop-motion, etc, all at the same time in the same world).
  • New Orleans.  Frog characters trying to defeat the evil Shadow man.  If that doesn’t fit, I don’t know what possibly could.  I only wish the land of Corona (Rapunzel’s home) had a plot that could be equally translated into a video game.
  • Live-Action Marvel World.  Be it Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers, I feel like a super hero world would make an awesome addition, and maybe give the game an excuse to do some hero-training.
  • Hoth/Tatooine/Nabu/etc.  Now that Disney has acquired Star Wars, it would be crazy not to have an awesome Jedi-based level!
  • It’s a Small World.  This isn’t a film, but it would make a cool level that showcased tons of different nationalities across the world.  Much like the Rescuers level, I don’t have a lot of logic for it, but I’d love to see it all the same.
  • Deep Space.  Stitch is a huge favorite in the Disney line up of characters, and his spaceship already appeared in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep.  I think it’s a no-brainer to introduce this level, reworked, and/or have the Kingdom Hearts characters enter Hawaii to surf with Lilo.  This could be an opportunity to showcase an obscure character, like Yuna, the little girl who replaces Lilo in the anime Stitch! (set after the Leroy and Stitch movie).
    I’m sure some of you are totally shocked to hear about this, and you probably didn’t catch the one time run the series had on the Disney Channel, but it’s true!  When Lilo goes to college and does not return for Stitch, he goes to Okinawa.  And Lilo even shows up once to visit Stitch with her daughter/clone, Ani.  Seriously, here’s the episode!

Now, if you’re done crying over that really sad episode of Stitch!, I also wouldn’t mind if Disney and Square Enix worked out a way to use the Disney Infinity figures in Kingdom Hearts III, possibly as a way to interchange your supporting characters during battles.  I mean, those little figures are super expensive when you think about their very limited functionality, so it would be nice if they could find uses for them in other games as well.

Whatever worlds they end up using, the fact remains that a new Kingdom Hearts title has been absent from console gaming for a very long time (we may be at the 9 or 10 year mark by the time 3 is released), which means that there will be a lot of people who have never heard of it, and a lot of older fans who have moved on from gaming.  In my mind, the best marketing strategy in this scenario is to cast a wide net and try to draw in crowds from every fandom.  Not using franchises like Frozen, Marvel, The Muppets, and Star Wars is really not allowing the game to reach it’s full marketing potential, while also missing a great opportunity to cross-expose fans to different franchises (ie, maybe a little girl who buys the game to play the Frozen level finds out she loves Iron Man for the first time, or vice versa).

So, what do you think?  Are you anxiously awaiting the day that you can play Kingdom Hearts III?  Do you have any additions or subtractions for my list?  My daughter’s name is legally Kairi, so I think I may be biased to this game myself. 🙂

Jedi Training Academy Review

Recommended:  Yes, but be sure to sign up early!

If you’ve been to Hollywoody Studios then it’s no doubt that you’ve seen the giant At-At Walker that decorates the Star Tours ride.  Right next to that is a small show platform for the Jedi Training Academy, an experience were kids between the ages of 4 and 12 can learn basic Jedi moves as new Padawans.

We first did this experience in Disneyland in June 2011.  They were desperate at that time to get kids participating and took them straight out of the audience.  They actually had to beg to get even fill half of their capacity, and the stage was in the middle of a food court.
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Today, at Disney World, it is much more of a to-do to get involved.  To participate in Disney World these days you have to be in Hollywood Studios at close to rope drop and go into a tiny, easy to miss room in the park.  You’ll pass the American Idol Experience theatre and see a small, outdoor-ish shop.  Next to that shop is a set of doors, sometimes they have people with podiums standing out there, and inside that location is where you sign up for Jedi Training Academy.  Some of the Hollywood Studios maps have the location marked under the ABC Sound Studio logo.

BE AWARE:  You may NOT sign up if the participating child isn’t with you.  They will also make you leave the line if you are waiting for a child to arrive, because it’s not fair to all the others who are waiting.  The children have to speak with the Cast Member who puts them into the roster, and if the child acts like they do not want to do it, they will not sign them up.  Parents, as a side note, you cannot do this with you child, they have to be able to do this on their own and behave properly on their own.  You can’t stand with them or help them, you HAVE to stay on the other side of the rope.

Remember to go early, because the academy fills up quickly, and the wait list is extremely limited.  My daughter tried to sign up 40 minutes after my son and no spaces were left for her.  Although, I will note that I watched other kids walk in and get on up to 5 minutes prior to the event due to no-shows, but when I asked to get my daughter on the wait list for that very show an hour prior, they said no.  Since my daughter was already off with her father when they were allowing other kids in at the last second, I asked to wait list her for the following show was told no again by the Cast Members.  I don’t know if there’s a secret trick or sob story to get your child into the academy at the last second, but there are clearly sign up rules that are not equal to every guest.

Okay, so you go into the almost-secret room, sign up with your child next to you, then you get assigned a time to return.  You have to come back to the sign up area to sign in and get Jedi briefings approximately 30 minutes before your scheduled show time.  This is when the staff will go over the general rules and give the kids Jedi robes.  You do not get to keep the robes, and if you want an official Jedi Training Academy Robe (with Mickey Mouse ears in the hood) those run about $50.

Once it’s time for the show to start, the Cast Members pull out a parade banner and have some of the kids hold it as they have a procession of Padawans march down the street to the outdoor theatre.  Each child has a blue spot to stand on so they don’t start hitting each other with their practice light sabers (also not something you get to keep, they run about $20-25 in the shops).  There are two levels to stand on – a platform and a ground level – and that dictates who the child will battle against. What level they go to depends on which line they are in.  They back line went to the top in our experience.

They also have two PhotoPass photographers in the arena, which is good because you will be placed pretty far away from the action as a parent.

After a few practice moves, Darth Vader comes out and challenges the kids to come to the Dark Side.  During Star Wars Weekends, they also had Ahsoka help the kids train and Asajj Ventress comes out with Vader (I’ll update on another visit if these characters remain year-round).  The villains fight every single child there, with the direction of their Jedi Master trainers.  In our most recent experience, Vader fights the kids on the platform and Asajj battles with the kids on the ground floor.

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After Vader flees in defeat, they take a group photo and pass out Jedi Training Academy Diplomas.  I have to say this experience has grown a lot over the past three years, and I can only imagine that it will get bigger in time.

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Overall, even though I was very aggravated with the sign up and wait list situation for my daughter, my son loved it and I highly recommend everyone who is able to try this experience out!

Just a final forewarning, the Photo Pass card you get for this will contain about a thousand photos of kids you don’t know, so it can be tough to find your child hiding in there, but everyone seemed to get pretty equal camera time, and the photographers are right there in the action, making this probably the best Photo Pass in all of Disney World.

UPDATE:  Both of my kids got a space in the Jedi Training Academy in another trip.  Ahsoka does not appear outside of Star Wars Weekends and is replaced with a generic Jedi who was the former Padawan of the Master running the class.  Asajj Ventress is also replaced on the lower level with Darth Maul.
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Star Wars Weekends Exclusive Merchandise

I wanted to share a few items from the Star Wars Weekends exclusive merchandise that I saw at Disney World.  It’s too late to get most of it now, but you may find some things online or in Disney Store outlets in a few months if anything was in major overstock.  I haven’t really paid that close attention before, so I’m not sure where things could end up.

 

First up, the Passholder Exclusives (things you can only buy after showing proof of owning an Disney World Annual Pass):

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These coins are silver and gold plated.  The silver coins are limited to 2014 pieces, and the gold ones, which appeared during the final week of Star Wars Weekends, are limited to 3000.  Both coins have the same image of Mickey in an X-Wing suit, and R2-D2 with Mickey Ears on.
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The Passholder Shirt.  It’s a brown mono-toned images of the 2014 Star Wars Weekends logo.  They also offered these in full color, without the Passholder remark, and there is an app you can download to make the shirt move on your smartphone.  I hate to say it, but I think I liked the color, non-passholder shirt more, but I knew these were more limited, and I’m all about my special edition swag.

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Star Tours name tags were my favorite Passholder exclusive.  They apparently make these every year, but they change up the color scheme.  This year the Passholders could order dark blue badges with orange accents, whereas the non-Passholders could get flashier orange badges (so YES you can still get these if you are not a Passholder, just in different colors).  They write your name in the intergalactic alphabet, which you can notice all over the Star Tours ride, and you may pick a job title or planet that you are from.  What I like best about these is that they say Star Tours on them, so it’s as if they’re official employee name tags in the Star Wars universe.

There were also Passholder exclusive pins or pin, but they were all gone by the 2nd week of Star Wars Weekends, so we missed out there.

 

Merchandise any Darth’s Mall guest could purchase:

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Limited Edition pins that were so heavy they required two backers.  I didn’t purchase all of the pins available, but these town caught my eye.  I did not see any notation for what these sets are limited to.

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Disney Star Wars towel was a last minute must for me.  They seemed to appear at the 5th and final Star Wars Weekend, and I had to snatch it up.  I’m glad that I waited to finish my Star Wars Darth’s Mall shopping or else I would have missed a number of last minute adds (mostly Star Wars Rebels goods).

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The best iPhone case in the world!  I grew up on Goof Troop, and Max is a character rarely seen or remembered these days – especially the younger Max (not the 19 year old Max from the movies).  I have a lowly iPhone 4, but if I had an iPhone 5, I would have shelled out the big bucks to bring this baby home with me.

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Princess Leia and Queen Amidala girly playset.  How often do you see Star Wars anything geared completely at girls?  My daughter loved this, it came with a figure of both characters, two outfit changes for each one, two extra heads for each, and some little extras like R2-D2 and Wicket.  I’m not sure that I love the idea of ripping off the figures heads to change their hairstyle (action figure enthusiasts will tell you that these pull apart, plastic toys will eventually warp and heads won’t stay on) I’m impressed at how well my daughter had taken care of this set.

There were some other items I believe were exclusives, like Disney characters dressed at Star Wars characters in the form of action figures and mutated Cars characters.  Other items, like the make-your-own-light saber kiosk were present, but that item, and many others, are available year-round at the shop near the Star Tours ride.

Star Wars Character Breakfast – Sci-Fi Dine In Review

Recommended:  NO!

Alright, big review here for the Star Wars Character Breakfast at the Sci-Fi Dine In at Hollywood Studios.  Even though this is part of the Star Wars weekends, we attending this event on a Monday.  And if you’ve never seen the Sci-Fi Dine In, it’s themed out to look like a bunch of old cards at a drive in theatre, and, yes, they have a screen playing movies in there, so it’s a really cute set up.

But, first and foremost, character meals are quite expensive.  For this one, it was roughly $50 per adult and $30 per child.  Probably a little more after tax and suggested tip (18%).  The Star Wars character dinner and Hollywood and Vine is even more expensive.

Now, to the meat of the event – the characters.  When you initially walk into the building, they have Darth Vader and Boba Fett waiting there for photos.  They will not sign your autograph books, but they will give you an over-sized card stock page with both signatures on it.  Personally, I don’t see why you can’t get a “live” autograph, as they trickle guests in one party at a time, but I wish the page was at least the size of the autograph books so that the signatures could be stored without being damaged.

Inside the restaurant they had two Stormtroopers, two Jawas, and Greedo wandering around.  I haven’t seen Greedo in the park elsewhere, so it’s possible that this breakfast is the only way to meet him.  But, be aware, you’ll need a camera with a flash.  Photo Pass photographers do not leave the Darth Vader station, and the interior of the restaurant is pretty dark.

If you haven’t done a character meal before, essentially, the characters walk around from table to table, they’ll sign your autograph books, and you can snap a few photos.  Some people swear by this method of “saving time,” but to me, a lot of the interaction seems rushed, because the characters have to hit every table before a party leaves, then go around and do it all over again.  But, rushed or not, this was the best part of the experience.

I will say that the Jawas definitely were the best characters though.  They had all the mannerisms down, and they carried little baskets to trade items with people.  I’ll warn you all though, trading with Jawas is a bit nutty, and you have no idea what you’ll get back, but it won’t be your original item.  I would not recommend trading pins or things that cost a lot, because you may get a few crayons back for it
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On the screen, the hostess told us that they were playing a Star Wars marathon, which wasn’t quite accurate.  They showed an old Star Wars cartoon that was only aired “once” on television, but everything else was like a highlights reel of the six Star Wars movies.  I wouldn’t say I hated it, but I would have strongly preferred the entire movies to be played.  I find clip shows annoying, and it threw out endless spoilers for my daughter, who hasn’t watched all the films yet.  But, that’s a small detail to complain about.

I did come to the decision that I would email Disney and complain about this experience, though, and it had nothing to do with the issues mentioned here previously.  We actually ended up having a lot of problems with all of the staff.  For anyone interested, this is the email that I sent to Disney, with some details removed for privacy reasons:

“Hello,

My family and I had a reservation for the Sci-Fi Dine In for the Star Wars character breakfast on ___, and it was the most negative experience of our trip.

The reservation was at ____, and we checked in early, around ____.  The person at the desk said to expect a wait close to our reservation time.  No problem, but within a few minutes someone called us, my party of five came up, and the man handed us a ticket, saying it would just be a little longer of a wait.  Hearing that, I turned to my party and said “it’s a few more minutes, so I guess we go sit back down.”

20-30 minutes later, when it was very close to our actual reservation time, the man came over to us and said very irately, “I would like to know why I handed you that ticket ages ago and you went and sat back down.”  He just stared at me after that, and he was so serious and seemed so angry I asked if he was joking around with me, because he told me it was going to be a few more minutes when he handed me the ticket.  He said, “no!  That was for the short two minute wait for the photo line, not to go sit back down!  A dozen other people have gone in ahead of you!”

Now, when I told my party to go sit back down, we were all standing inches from that employee and he didn’t say a word to us and he didn’t direct us to the photo line that he was blocking us from entering in the first place.  But then he was one step shy of flat out yelling at us for not doing the correct thing when we’re the guests that have never been there before and had no idea of what we were supposed to do.  I did not see his name tag because I was so flustered with making him upset, but he had what I believe to be an English accent.

Then we get to the photo with Darth Vader and Boba Fett, they took several group photos then I asked if the two children could get a photo alone.  They said sure, but when I went onto the Photo Pass site later, only the photo with the kids appeared, the group photo with five people never appeared.  Normally I have my personal camera with me, but since my mom had purchased the Memory Maker package, I was relying solely on that service to handle our photos, and I’m extremely disappointed that I did now.  ******side note – I later emailed Photo Pass seperately and they recovered the missing photos.******

Of course I didn’t know the Photo Pass was going to short us at that time, so we were seated after that, and we were put in a car with three, two-person seats.  I thought that was odd since we were an odd number of diners and they had multiple 6 person tables that were empty.  So, I sat alone, which wasn’t a big deal until the server came out and handed the first two tables their breakfast pastries, and gave me nothing.  I assumed he was going to bring me some on his next trip over, but around 10 minutes later the server returned and I had to ask him if I could have my pastries too.  He brought some over and said “sorry, I thought they were going to share with you,” but according to the menu, everyone was supposed to get all three of the pastries to try.

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At the price of over $50 per adult after taxes and tips, I don’t think the waiter should assume that anyone wants to be shorted on what they’re paying for.  Even if I just want them to look at and not eat, I paid to get them.  The waiter corrected the issue, but it shouldn’t have been an issue to begin with.
With my food order, I asked for the Greek yogurt, which I am very used to eating on a regular basis.  The yogurt I got was like a soup and the consistency was not what I’ve ever experienced before with Greek yogurt.  Now, it may have just been prepared in a way I’ve not experienced previously, but I’ve never had Greek yogurt that was a complete liquid before.  My eggs were also very wet and runny, like they weren’t cooked right, and they didn’t taste right to me.  At that point I was just sick to death of this miserable experience and wanted to get a manager out, but my family insisted that their food, except for the yogurt, was okay, and it would just make the experience worse to waste more of our time complaining.  I really wish I had complained though, because I was sick for the next day and a half and hadn’t eaten anything else.  After sitting with this issue for almost a week, I’m still very upset with this experience and wanted Disney to know that several of their employees really dropped the ball in unison.”

I got a response back about a week later, and they essentially just apologized and asked me to call them.  I really don’t like calling in with complaints.  I like to write everything down where I can proof read it and make sure it’s all in clear, proper order.  It’s too easy to get emotional, forget an important detail, or get bullied around by the people you’re complaining too (I had a horrible experience calling It Works with a complaint about getting sick).  I have not called in yet, and it’s a coin flip as to whether or not I will.  My complaint was written down, it was acknowledged, but since I didn’t complain in the restaurant I know they likely won’t do anything to make the situation up to us.  After all, we’re back home and Star Wars Weekends are over, so it’s not like they can re-book us to have the experience again.

For the record, the food was mostly bland and tasteless.  We did come in towards the end of breakfast hours, so maybe that had something to do with it.  And I cannot say if the eggs or yogurt actually made me sick, but those two items seemed very off, and I was very ill and not up to eating again until our dining reservations at Rainforest Cafe the next day.  Somehow, I had also gotten the impression that it was an all-you-can-eat breakfast, which also wasn’t accurate (a good thing in hindsight, if the meal was the culprit that made me sick).  It’s safe to say I’ve been spoiled by Ohana’s great-tasting, all-you-can-eat breakfast!

The pastries were amazing though, and I loved how themed out they were.  The yogurt also came out with a melon shaped like Yoda’s head, which was really cute, even though the Greek yogurt itself didn’t seem right to me.
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I really tried to turn my attitude around and enjoy the little things in this experience, but I was very disappointed overall.  Even though we enjoyed the characters, for the price of admission I was expecting at least a few hard-to-meet characters walking around, some A-list names like Luke, Leia, C-3PO, etc.  I should have done more research, so that falls on my shoulders, but the restaurant staff was something outside of my control.  So, if you decide to go for this experience/meal, please be diligent to speak up if something isn’t going right or doesn’t taste right.  I feel like we threw away a lot of money to leave unhappy, and even my Star Wars-crazed son walked away wishing we had eaten at Ohana’s instead.

Character Meetings – Star Wars Weekends

So, I had the privilege of getting to attend three different Star Wars weekends (weekends 2, 4, and 5).  Overall, the event seemed very well put together, with each weekend having different guests, but meeting characters was often tricky.

We did the Star Wars Sci-Fi Dine In breakfast, which had Stormtroopers, Jawas, and Greedo walking around inside (the only place to meet Greedo, I do believe).  Darth Vader and Boba Fett stayed exclusively at the entrance for Photo Pass pictures.  I’ll review that experience more in depth in another post, but the breakfast was a way to scratch some characters off of our to-do list.

Aside from the breakfast, I do want to warn everyone about meeting the Star Wars characters, because it can be a huge confusion if you aren’t paying close attention.  Some characters will leave and come right back – Chewbaca, for example, leaves every so often, then Chewbaca comes right back.  Same with the Chip & Dale Ewoks and several other Star Wars themed characters.

Other character stations, however, will have Character A standing there, then Character B will walk up, and Character A goes away.  They cycle out.  For instance, we got in line for Mace Windu, and a few minutes later, without warning, there was a different character standing there, and Mace was gone.  We experienced the same thing with Princess Leia walking over, then Luke Skywalker leaving, and again with Darth Vader Goofy and Storm Trooper Donald switching out for Luke Mickey and Minnie Leia.

Now, at least with the Star Wars MOVIE characters, I noticed a trend.  When the new character arrived, the leaving character would stick around for 2-4 photo sessions before taking off.  That means, if you time it just perfectly, you can get multiple characters at one time.

We had this happen twice due to our luck of the draw.  The first time was while waiting for Anakin Skywalker from Clone Wars.  The second time, I saw the second character walk up, and I actually almost got into a fight with a woman who cut the line, then proceeded to take her sweet time letting her toddler interact with Princess Leia (who was leaving for the day and the only character my daughter wanted to see, and had been in line for 45 minutes waiting to see).  I think Leia saw that the other family cut the line, or that my daughter was going to cry, because she showed us mercy and hung around a little bit longer than she was scheduled to.

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If you would like a multiple character meet to happen for your party, and you want to be more diligent about making SURE it happens, I did notice several people get to the front of the line, then let one party at a time go ahead of them until multiple characters were on the set.  If that sounds unclear, you wait in line, when it’s your turn, you just keep telling the group behind you that they can go ahead, you’re waiting for _____ character to return.  Then, once that character arrives, and is there with the other characters, you’re at the front of the line.  If you have a large group, the handler may push for you to get through the line, but I did witness a number of parties who had 4 or less people with them successfully get group character photos that way.

 

And, just a long-winded public service announcement for everyone out there – people come from all over the country and even the world to get photos with the Star Wars characters, you can’t FastPass+ them, many of them they don’t all stay out very late, they can be switched out with no notice, and Florida is known for sudden flash storms that close character meet and greet stations down for hours/days at a time, PLEASE be respectful of others when you get your turn with the characters.  Enjoy yourself and get some good photos and hugs in, but don’t hold the characters hostage.
What I mean is, if you are meeting a Star Wars character who is able to speak, please don’t start quizzing them about every detail of every film to see if you can trip them up.  That takes up so much time and is very rude and self-centered.  Likewise, if you have a group going up, don’t act like each child is an individual party and tell them to go up one at a time take 10+ minutes each with the characters.  Kids can all go up together and get autographs and photos done, and if there’s one kid who loves the characters more than the other children, let them get a solo picture, sure, but I have a huge pet peeve about people who want a group photo, then a kids only photo, then an adults only photo, now just the girls, now just the boys, then everyone individually, then another group with “serious face,” then another group with “silly face,” now everyone stand on one leg for no reason, then do it all over again with dad’s camera, then one more time with mom’s iPhone.  Seriously, if you’re doing that at a rotating character station, you’re a huge jerk!  Get your photo plans organized in your head before you get to the front, keep it simple, and make it as smooth and considerate of others as possible.  The actions you take on your vacation may ruin a vacation for someone else (what if it’s about to storm for the entire weekend, Luke’s about to leave, and the people two parties behind you came from Mongolia just to get a photo with that character?),  so a little bit of thought outside of yourself goes a long way.  Thank you.

Star Wars Weekend – Week 5 Recap

Star Wars Weekends run from Friday to Sunday for five consecutive weeks.  On week five, there was a big shift in the guest list, and everyone present was a voice actor from the Star Wars animated shows (Clone Wars or Rebels).  They had James Arnold Taylor, the host of Star Wars Weekends, Dee Bradley Baker, Cat Taber, Tom Gane, Matt Lanter, and Steve Blum.

First, I want to make a note, prior to Weekend 5 officially starting, we had a character breakfast for Star Wars at the Sci-Fi Dine In.  It’s one of the few Star Wars Weekend events that are running Monday through Thursday during the five week stretch.  The breakfast was not worth the money, in my opinion, and the food was not good to me, but I will make a review for that experience later.  I do not recommend going to it though.  The dinner at Hollywood and Vine may be a better option, but I have not been there to say either way.

Alright, so my son got himself signed up for Jedi Training Academy.  Oddly, he had walked right into the program in 2011 at Disneyland, but now it’s a big to-do to be able to sign up for it in Disney World.  You have to go sign up at the ABC Sound Studio, wait in line, sign up (and the child must be present), show up to the ABC Sound Studio a half an hour early, and then go do the show next to Star Tours.  You can’t FastPass+ this experience, and spaces fill up in a heartbeat.  This created some drama later, because my daughter also wanted to sign up for this event very badly, but, because she was at the Disney Girl Scout event with me, they wouldn’t let her sign up and were out of space by the time we got there.  I’ll do a better review of this experience, with pictures, at another time.

When my daughter and I get to the park, we went back to Darth’s Mall to pick up all of our last minute wants from Star Wars Weekends.  It was the start of the last Star Wars Weekend, and our last day in Disney World too.  I was actually surprised by how many new items were in Darth’s Mall.  There was a slew of Star Wars Rebels items that had not appeared in previous weeks – pins, shirts, mugs, vinylmations, etc.  A new Darth Goofy phone cover appeared.  They even had a new Passholder exclusive item, a limited edition gold plated coin.

They also had the free Lego station open that day.  I had seen it previously, but it was closed down.  My kids were allowed to go in and build a mini Lego X-Wing though, which was identical to the one Toys R Us put out for May the 4th Be With You.

And, if you haven’t noted it in my previous reviews, Darth’s Mall is also where you can get exclusive Star Wars themed snacks at Admiral Snackbar, as well as the place to wait in line to meet Mickey and Minnie, or Donald and Goofy, dressed as Star Wars characters.

For this visit, we had Behind the Force:  Star Wars Rebels as our FastPass+ show.  It was hosted by Ashley Eckstein and highlighted Steve Blum and his work.  I had no idea who Blum was until the moment he spoke into the microphone.  Suddenly, I was shocked that I was listening to Spike Speigel.  I know that’s probably a very outdated reference, but I spent much of my Senior year in High School unable to sleep and watching Cowboy Bebop on Adult Swim.  Heck, that show is the reason I have Corgis today.  So, needless to say, I had a very pleasant fan girl experience.

I have never watched Clone Wars, I didn’t find an interest in it before, but after seeing the clips from Star Wars Rebels and getting more exposure to Star Wars animation at Disney World, I think I will finally sit down and Netflix the Clone Wars series.

We finally got the photo of the Chip and Dale Ewoks, but, alas, Chewbaca alluded us again (this time more because of the size of the line than the rain).
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Again, we ultimately missed the Symphony of the Stars show, which I very much regret, but I had to be up so early for the Girl Scout event, and had so many blisters from a week at Disney World, that I was out of steam.  If you have the chance to see any part of a Star Wars Weekend, though, do it!  Fanboys and Fangirls are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet (as long as you aren’t a line cutting swine!) and the atmosphere is so upbeat and wonderful.  You can’t help but enjoy yourself!

Star Wars Weekend – Week 4 Recap

We caught the tail end of Star Wars Weekend number 4.  We literally arrived at the park right as A Conversation with Mark Hamill was ending.  That broke my heart a little, because, while we didn’t get FastPass+ entry for the show, it was being broadcasted around the park simultaneously.  Oh, the joys of bad Florida traffic that threw us hours off track!

Billy Dee Williams (Lando) was also there, but he must have been part of the Stars of the Saga show, I didn’t see an individual show for him on the list.  In addition, Ashley Eckstein, Ray Park, and Taylor Gray were all there and doing autographs in the park.  Mark Hamill was not involved in autographs, and the guide marked him as a “special appearance” only, I’m not sure why.

We did have Fast Passes for Visit to the Maul starring Ray Park.  If you don’t know, he’s the martial arts expert who played Darth Mall in Episode One.  He put on a very talented display of his talents, and even the Darth Mall character came on stage and got Ray Park to sign his Tinkerbell autograph book.

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Ray Park also brought up a fairly large amount of pre-selected kids to learn staff techniques with light sabers.  My daughter almost ran up to the stage herself, desperate to volunteer, but she had to curb her enthusiasm.  I don’t know how children were selected to participate in the show, all I know is that they had special bands and were allowed to enter the building early, while we stood outside forever in the pouring rain.

After the show we visited Darth’s Mall – the venue to get the exclusive Star Wars Weekend goodies, as well as the only place to get photos with Leia Minnie and Luke Mickey OR Darth Goofy and Stormtrooper Donald.  Admiral Snackbar is also in there, where you can get Star Wars Weekend food goodies, like a Darth Vader popcorn bucket, Stormtrooper mug, or, the most magical, rich, delicious cupcakes in the world.

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I have not gone very deep into the world of Disney bakery items, but these were magical.  One was chocolate and peanut butter, the other chocolate and nutella.  I’m not sure which was which now, but I think Vader had the nutella.  The figures on top were milk chocolate (Vader) or white chocolate (yoda).  They were $6 a piece, which is very steep, but, again, they are so rich that it could take two people to take down a single cupcake.  Seriously, they recommend the Mickey’s Kitchen Sink for 4 people, and I could take down the bulk of one by myself if I’m hungry, but I couldn’t eat half of this cupcake (thank you for coming in containers!  Good call Disney merchandising!).

Because of the on-again-off-again rain situation, that’s really about all we did for weekend number 4.  We had tried to meet with characters, but most of them were stationed outdoors, so they weren’t coming out, and we were told the fireworks would be rained out for the night, so we threw in the towel just before 9pm.  I’m still glad to have gotten to experience even a part of a Star Wars Weekend though, and I recommend it to all!

Star Wars Weekend – Week 2 Recap

We had the luxury of catching (at least partially) three out of the five Star Wars Weekends at Disney World this year.  This is my recap of Week 2.

We arrived to Disney World late in the afternoon on Saturday, having just driven in from out of town.  We had already Fast Passed the Stars of the Saga show, which was in the Premiere Theatre (a building not used daily in the park, so no shows were taken out of the schedule to make room for Star Wars Weekends), as most of the Star Wars shows are.

We kind of went into this blindly.  I’m sorry to admit that I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, I know all the characters and plot lines, and was a big action figure collector for a while, but it’s not something I have big fan girl moments over, especially not compared to my husband and son, BUT, I was the one doing all the FastPass+ bookings.  Naturally, when I was some Premium FastPasses listed for Star Wars, I dumped our Toy Story Mania reservation and re-booked for the themed shows.  Warning to all, the Star Wars shows did not appear on the My Disney Experience app, only the actual website.

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Anyhow, for Saturday and Sunday, I just picked the Star Wars shows that sounded the most interesting to me, “Stars of the Saga,” and “An Ewok’s Tale:  My Short Story.”  I was quite surprised that my husband knew off the top of his head who Warwick Davis and Jeremy Bulloch were (Wicket the Ewok and Boba Fett, respectively).  I just really liked Ewoks and talk shows.

For Saturday, we had passes for Stars of the Saga, which had James Arnold Taylor (the voice of Obi Wan Kenobi in Clone Wars) interviewing Warwick Davis and Jeremy Bulloch.  The voice actresses Ashley Eckstein and Tiya Sircar were also there that weekend, but did not attend the show, as if it were “original cast only!”

I have to say, both Davis and Bulloch are incredibly entertaining to listen to.  Both men are English and have a fantastic sense of humor.

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But, my favorite moments of the Stars of the Saga show would have to be all about the Stormtroopers (who did a really funny intro show) and the photos/clips that Taylor showed off to the audience, including a clip from the show Robot Chicken.

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On Sunday, we had the show An Ewok’s Tale:  My Short Story, which starred Warwick Davis and told the story of how he got the role of Wicket when he was 11 years old.  Davis is insanely funny on his own, but he pulled out a fairly large cast from the audience to help him relive his story, which, if you’ve ever seen a live show, people who have no idea what they’re doing or saying is very entertaining in it’s own right.  But I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed listening to Davis.  I also didn’t realize that he was the star of Willow and was every little person in the Harry Potter saga, from teacher to goblin.  I left the show downloading his app, Pocket Warwick (go look it up, it’s adorably silly and your kids will love it!).

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Note that we were really this close to Davis when he was wearing a fake nose and glasses, pretending to be a director who was casting for the show last minute.  If you get the chance to see this show in 2015, do it!

 

Moving on, those were the only two shows we saw.  I wanted to see James Arnold Taylor do his show, where he throws out 200+ voices, but everyone was so burnt out from the long drive that we didn’t manage to stay very late on either day.  We had a lot of fun visiting characters (over 30 at various stations and walking around the park), shopping at Darth’s Mall, the exclusive event store, and riding Star Tours (my son’s favorite in all of Disney World) a million times, but I just didn’t have the stamina to survive for the fireworks show, or other events that were later in the evening.

You are also able to sign up in advance for limited space for the Jedi Training Academy (which is year round) and to get autographs from the visiting celebrities.  But, you have to be there before rope drop if you want a shot at a spot in either.

Overall, though, I would recommend Star Wars Weekends 110% – just look ahead when planning, stars tend to change out every weekend and many events fill up quickly.