Thursday, May 3, 2012

Disney Special Events: Star Wars Weekends, Episode II

In my last Star Wars Weekends post, I discussed the Celebrity Motorcade, autograph sessions, and character meet and greets.  In this post, I'll be focusing on the other special shows that take place during Star Wars Weekends.

Stars of the Saga

Stars of the Saga happens every day during all four Star Wars Weekends.  During the event, which takes place in the Theater of the Stars (for those of you who remember, it is the theater where the Pocahontas and Hunchback of Notre Dame stage shows used to be.  For those of you who don't, it is near the exit of Muppetvision 3D).  The show starts off each year with a cute skit done by the Stormtroopers, and usually revolves around the year's theme.  Last year, for example, the show was based around the newly reopened Star Tours: The Adventure Continues attraction.  The year before, the show featured Boba Fett for the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. 

May I be excused?  I seem to have....had my arms ripped off....

One of the hosts of Star Wars Weekends will then introduce two of the celebrity guests for the weekend, and they will discuss their work on the Star Wars series and some of their other work.  Sometimes, the host will go into the audience to allow audience members to ask questions.  If you want to have the chance to do this, sit near the end of a row. 

James Arnold Taylor, who will be returning as a SWW host this year.  As you can see, he really got into character.
 During my first Star Wars Weekends, I happened upon this show.  My second Star Wars Weekends, I saw it both weekends I was there.  If you are a big Star Wars fan, the show is definately worth seeing at least once.  This is especially true if any of the celebrities worked on the original trilogy.  Those men and women have so much history with Star Wars and are a joy to listen to. 

Legends of the Force

I saw Legends of the Force for the first time this year at Sar Wars Weekends.  It made me regret ignoring it for the past two years.  This show was awesome.  Hosted by Ashley Eckstein with some help from James Arnold Taylor, the show puts the audience in the sound booth with the incredible voice talents from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series.  The show includes quite a bit of audience participation, including the opportunity for two members of the audience to get up on stage with Ashley, James, and the week's visiting Clone Wars voice artist.  Even if you aren't a fan of the series, check out this show!  You will have a much greater appreciation for what voice actors do when it's over.  And the hosts work well together to keep the show light and entertaining.  Ashley and James have such a great energy when they work together, and I sincerely hope that they will return as event hosts again next year, as I love them both dearly.

James Arnold Taylor, Nika Futterman (Asajj Ventress) and Ashley Eckstein at Legends of the Force

Jedi Training Academy

During Star Wars Weekends, the Jedi Training Academy is extremely busy and difficult to get into.  If you want your child to have a chance to battle a famous Star Wars villian, sign them up first thing in the morning.  Sign up locations change from year to year, so ask a cast member when you arrive.

Come to the Dark Side....We have cookies.  Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper crash the Jedi Training Academy
Because of the overwhelming popularity of this show during Star Wars Weekends, the show accepts more children per show by adding an extra area on the ground near the stage.  Children who are on the ground will fight either Darth Maul or Assajj Ventress from the Clone Wars series.  If they fight Ventress, the Jedi knight character will be replaced by Ashoka Tano.  Children who are on stage will fight Darth Vader.  Please make sure you tell your children that they may not fight Vader, or you may find yourself with an extremely disappointed child afterwards.

If your child really wants to fight Vader, I would suggest going to Hollywood Studios on a weekday during your trip and arriving at the Training Academy stage 60-90 minutes before showtime.  This will give them the best chance of being chosen, and the show goes back to its normal, Darth Vader-only format during the week.

Special Celebrity Guest Shows

Both years that I have been to SWW, at least one celebrity guests has had a special show that they have done.  James Arnold Taylor's show, Obi-Wan and Beyond, is not only funny and heart-warming, but it will really give you an appreciation for what voice actors do.  Taylor is incredibly talented and has done work on more tv shows, video games, and movies than I could possibly list here (but that he will gladly run through in the course of about a minute and a half during his show).  I will be perfectly honest, his story nearly brought tears to my eyes.  He's truly inspirational.  (Full disclosure:  My love for James Arnold Taylor stems not from Star Wars, but from his work as Tidus in Final Fantasy X, and I've loved him more since he signed my SWW bag when I ran into him in the park.)

On weeks that Ray Park (Darth Maul) is in town, he will be doing his show "Visit to the Maul."  I've never actually seen this particular show, but my understanding is that it is a martial arts demonstration show which includes some audience participation (if you want to participate, line up early).

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