In the blog post sharing my Star Wars-themed family travel adventure earlier this month, I noted that my only requirement for blocked out-dates had been Star Wars Weekends running from the end of May and into early June. I’ve attended regularly for several years now, and every year it’s guaranteed good times. Here are my highlights from the first week.
Opening day on Friday became all about the shopping. Like last year, Darth’s Mall had a two-hour line to get inside – then another line to get to see the exclusive and limited-edition merchandise, with a third line to check out. (Yet another queue in the building led to the photo area for pictures with Star Wars characters and Roxy the Rancor.) I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more line-waiting at the mall than in the rest of the park, probably due to the fact that the D-Tech imaging took up space that had been previously dedicated to checkout and merchandise counters. Luckily everyone in line was a good sport, new friends were made, and merchandise was purchased. What did I end up with? On Friday, I made sure to get my must-have Her Universe Limited Edition Return of the Jedi necklace, the Rogue Squadron dress, an R2-D2 hoodie, and lots of Disney pins. Later, I also had a chance to discuss traffic signals with David Eckstein while he was manning the Her Universe booth. I gave him a thumbs up for his YouTube appearance on behalf of Team Ahsoka during March’s This is Madness bracket challenge.
Late night in the park, when the Hyperspace Hoopla and Fantasmic shows are underway, is a great time to get on the rides. Early morning right after the park opens is the other best time, because the crowds don’t really start filling the park until mid-morning. For Star Wars Weekends I always recommend that people come to the opening ceremonies, which start around 7:30. After that you can rush to get early FastPasses for Toy Story – if you don’t, you’ll most likely be stuck in a 90+ minute line – or hurry to sign up the kids into an early morning slot for the Jedi Training Academy, when the temperature will be much cooler for their clash with Darth Vader. By the time the line was forming for the first stage show in the Premiere Theater at noon on Saturday, I already had whizzed through Star Tours (twice!), Rockin’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and of course Toy Story, where I actually managed to hit some targets this time!
The first stage show of the day was Behind the Force: The Voices of Star Wars. In addition to Star Wars Weekends hosts James Arnold Taylor and Ashley Eckstein, this week’s special guest was The Clone Wars voice actor Dee Bradley Baker. They shared their excitement with the fans, interacted with the crowd, and goofed off to much hilarity. Similar to last year, they brought three fans up on stage for a mock studio recording session. With Anakin conveniently preoccupied reviewing intelligence reports with Senator Amidala, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan ventured to Jabba’s palace, where they encountered the gruff sentry droid, a Gamorrean guard, Bib Fortuna, a Jawa, and a hapless translator droid. As always, the scene was imaginative and fun, and the participants did a great job. On video, Dave Filoni introduced an exclusive teaser clip from a still-unseen episode of The Clone Wars, featuring a hilarious scene in which Yoda relies on Anakin’s expertise at evading the Jedi Council’s mandates to help the aged Jedi Master abscond from his doctor’s-orders bedrest. The show ended with Dee leading the crowd in a cheer of “The best of Star Wars is yet to come!”
Mid-afternoon brought the Stars of the Saga stage show. Hosted by James, this week’s guests were Jeremy Bulloch and Ray Park. I lined up early to be sure to get a seat. With some help from Twitter, I was able to meet fellow Year of the Fangirl contributor Lillian Skye in the queue. We had a great time catching up about Her Universe, The Clone Wars, and the fun of Star Wars Weekends. Once the line moved into the theater, I hurried to our pre-arranged spot to sit with the Lady Rogues for the show. We didn’t have long to chat, though, before the always-hilarious Stormtrooper squad pre-show began. You haven’t experienced Star Wars until you’ve seen one Stormtrooper correct another on the proper diction for a Taylor Swift song. The show itself continued the hysterics. The repartee between James and Jeremy had the audience in stitches. Once Ray joined them, James lost any semblance of control over the interview. I never thought I’d see Darth Maul and Boba Fett dueling each other with toilet plungers and feather dusters. It just goes to show, though, how much Star Wars can bring people together for fun and mayhem.
Then it was right back in line for A Visit to the Maul with James and Ray. After last year’s show, I knew I couldn’t miss this year’s either – and Ray delivered. After talking about his background in martial arts and breaking into film acting, Ray demonstrated a couple of styles of unarmed martial arts as well as several awesome weapons, including an especially deadly-looking katana. Then they brought the younglings up on a stage for a short course from the master. Everything was going smoothly until Ray’s headset mic stopped working, and the lesson had to continue with a handheld microphone. The mic stand resulted in a very unexpected – and very funny – Elvis impression. Ray’s enthusiasm and humor is infectious, and the audience couldn’t stop laughing.
After Ray Park’s show, I took a chance to see if I could at least wave hello to Ashley at her autograph signing table over at Echo Lake. Even better than a wave, Ashley stopped on the promenade and we got to do the twin pose in our matching Rogue Squadron dresses, which are the perfect mix of geek chic and cool – as in temperature – apparel for a steamy Florida day.
Then it was time to scoot back over for James Arnold Taylor’s one-man show Obi-Wan & Beyond. Two years ago, when I had first started work on my novel Wynde, I had hit the wall of dread. Self-doubts racing almost made it impossible to continue. With a full-time job and many commitments, plus an affliction of being possessed by an overeager internal obsessive editor, my dream of creating a work of fiction entirely of my own imagination seemed an unreachable dream. Then I heard James share the challenges he had faced and overcome in his first iteration of Obi-Wan & Beyond, and the drive for the goal had winds once more. Writing is still a challenge, and not necessarily for the same reasons, but each time the process seems daunting Star Wars Weekends or Celebration rolls around, I get a good dose of positive mojo from Obi-Wan & Beyond, and I’m ready to keep on reaching for my dream. So if there is one show that’s a must-see, it’s this one – which, at least every time I’ve experienced it, ends with a standing ovation. Bravo!
The last scheduled event of the day is the Hyperspace Hoopla at the Sorcerer’s Hat stage. Once again Snig and Oopla continued their longstanding rivalry with Emperor Palpatine for control of the event. Some of the more memorable dance numbers included Vader and Padme slinging Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” and Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” to each other, respectively – and of course the inevitable Star Wars versions of “Gangnam Style” and the Harlem Shake. Either you love the sacrilege that is Hyperspace Hoopla or your fan skin crawls at the thought. I’ll leave it to io9’s Rob Bricken to summarize further, with video highlights included.
Sunday ended up as a slow day at the park. I managed to catch another trip on Star Tours and visit the newest addition to Hollywood Studios, The Legend of Jack Sparrow. (The disembodied talking skull, the tour guide of sorts through the pirate adventure, is voiced by James Arnold Taylor.) In the afternoon quite a heavy downpour arrived, so I plopped myself in line for Ashley’s signing at the Her Universe booth after buying a Ventress hoodie. As lightsaber umbrellas flew off the shelf, I chatted with a young fangirl in line about the Padmé shirt she had chosen to get signed. It’s amazing how Star Wars can inspire the most interesting conversations. If I had to choose my favorite conversation of the weekend, it had to be the one I had with the Lady Rogues, which ranged from Tahiri’s bare feet to the origin of the Fel white-hair streak in the Legacy comics.
Good times! For pictures of the weekend’s festivities check out my album at FANgirl Zone.
Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and strong female characters. She also writes about Star Wars for Random House’s science fiction and fantasy blog Suvudu.com and Star Wars Insider magazine and is a contributor for Her Universe’s Year of the Fangirl.
In her spare time, Tricia puts the finishing touches on her first novel, Wynde. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.
Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.
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