Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Disney Special Events: Star Wars Weekends, Episode I

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.........

Ha, you see what I did there?  Yes, I am a certified Star Wars geek.  That's one of the reasons why Star Wars Weekends is one of my favorite times of year at Walt Disney World.  For the last two weekends of May and the first two weekends of June, Disney's Hollywood Studios becomes a Star Wars fan's paradise.  From exclusive merchandise, to exclusive character meet and greets, to the opportunity to meet people who have actually worked on either Star Wars films or The Clone Wars tv series, it's a unique experience that you probably won't find outside of a Star Wars Celebration convention, but with the added bonus of it being at Walt Disney World!  So, let's get started exploring this little event shall we?

The Basics

Star Wars Weekends truly is for Star Wars fans.  If you are planning on going to Walt Disney World during Star Wars Weekends and are not a Star Wars fan, there's a simple solution to your problem.  Go to Hollywood Studios anytime Monday-Thursday, and hit the other parks on the weekends.  You'll forget Star Wars Weekend is even happening.

Now, for you Star Wars fans, a few basic suggestions.  One is get there early, preferably right around park opening.  The Stormtroopers do a great little show outside the gates if you get there early enough, and it's a lot of fun to watch.  Also, grab a special Star Wars Weekends park guide when you walk through the gates.  This guide provides all of the show times for the special Star Wars Weekends shows, as well as the locations of Star Wars meet-and-greets and the Star Wars Weekends merchandise location.

The Specifics

  • Celebrity Autographs

    • For celebrity autographs, it is extremely important that you get to the park well before opening to get a pass.  Similar to a fastpass, these passes tell you a certain time to make your way to your celebrity's autograph area and guarantees that you will get an autograph.  If you don't get one of these passes, there is a standby line for autographs, but you are not guaranteed an autograph.
    • Everyone in your group wishing to meet the Star Wars celebrity must be present to recieve an autograph pass.  One pass = one person's admission.  Additionally, each person is limited to one autograph pass per day.
    • Typically, there are 4 celebrity guests per week, plus the two event hosts (who are at each weekend's events).  Notable past guests have included Anthony Daniels (C-3PO in all six Star Wars films), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker in Episode I), and Ray Park (Darth Maul in Episode I).
Ashley Eckstein (Ashoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and creator of the Her Universe clothing line for women) meets a young fan during Star Wars Weekends

  •  The Star Wars Weekend Celebrity Motorcade

    • Another way to see the Star Wars Weekends celebrity guests (no autographs though) is in the motorcade, a special parade that features a plethora of Star Wars characters and the visiting celebrities.  This parade features dedicated members of the The 501st Legion's Florida Garrison, a group of Star Wars fans who faithfully recreate the costumes and uniforms of many members of the Star Wars universe, especially the Empire.
      Members of the 501st Legion proudly march in the motorcade
    • If you want to get a good spot for the motorcade, arrive at least an hour early.  It is extremely popular and curbside spots fill up fast.  Since there are no tall floats in the motorcade, it can be difficult to see if there are people in front of you.

Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett in Episode II, and all clones in Episodes II and III, as well as The Clone Wars series) rides in the Motorcade (and even videotapes his unique viewpoint) 

  • Meet and Greets

    • Special character meet and greets are generally divided into several areas (the groupings can change from year to year).  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy meet by the Sorecerer's Hat in their special Star Wars Weekends outfits.  (A special note for autograph collectors:  these characters sign the same as any other costumed variant.  The only exception is that Mickey Mouse will also sign for his droid, R2-MK)

Darth Goofy and Princess Leia Minnie

    • Characters from The Clone Wars usually meet in the area behind the exit to Muppetvision 3D.  This includes Ashoka Tano, Commander Cody, Captian Rex, and Asajj Ventress at one location and Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu, Kit Fisto, and Shaak Ti at another.  Additionally, jawas and clone troopers roam the area freely.

A few fans were lucky enough to converse with all four Jedi masters at one time

    • Characters from the Dark Side meet near the Backlot Tours attraction.  These characters include Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Boba Fett and Jango Fett.  Bounty hunters Zam Wessel and Aurra Sing, as well as Gamorrean Guards, Tusken Raiders and Stormtroopers roam the area freely.

Jango Fett signs my Star Wars Weekends Character Canvas Bag

    • Finally, the "Light Side" characters meet near the Star Tours attraction.  These characters include Queen Amidala (in full senatorial regala from Episode I) at one location, Chewbacca and/or Wicket or Logray (ewoks) at another, and Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2 and C-3PO at a third (last year, however, these characters were meeting inside the Jabba's Palace merchandise hut.  Their location  this year is currently unknown).  Members of Figrin Dan and the Modalnodes (also known as the cantina band from A New Hope) roam the area freely.

Getting up close and personal with a member of the Modalnodes while waiting in a charater line

  • A few special character notes
    • It is extremely rare (and in some cases, impossible) to meet all of the characters at a particular location at one time.  If you really want to see all of the characters, you will need to wait in line multiple times.  If you are looking for a certain character, the best thing to do is ask the character attendant at the location if they know when that character will be coming out next.  Most Star Wars Weekends character attendants will be more than happy to help.
    • The roaming characters in each area are unable to have lines form to take photos with them.  Therefore, it can be frustrating and unorganized when trying to meet with them.  My best advice is to be persistent, but always polite.  Follow the character that you are interested in as he or she moves through the area.  Try to keep up with them as close behind as possible.  When they notice you have been following them, they will make sure you get your picture.  In my personal experience, the most difficult characters to get pictures and autographs from are Aurra Sing and Zam Wessel.
    • All characters sign autographs except for certain members of the Modalnodes (only Figrin Dan can sign.  He's the one with the instrument that looks sort of like a clarinet) and R2-D2 and C-3PO (but, if you ask Luke or Leia nicely, they may sign for them).
Stay tuned for Episode II of my Star Wars Weekends guide, in which I'll be telling you all about the special shows and entertainment the weekends have to offer.   Until then...

 May the force be with you

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