Saturday, September 24, 2011

May 2011 Walt Disney World Trip Report - Day 2

Day 2 - 5/22 - Star Wars Weekend

About a year before our trip, DD started getting into Star Wars. I don’t remember how it started, but over that period of time we watched the original trilogy together, she watched most of the first season of Clone Wars, as well as the Clone Wars movie, and I found some old Star Wars toys on ebay that she enjoyed playing with. Santa even brought her a lightsaber and some Star Wars books.

When I told her that Star Wars Weekends would be happening when we were at Walt Disney World, she had no idea what I was talking about. After I explained what Star Wars Weekends were, she got crazy excited.  If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a fantastic site that will have all the details:

In preparation for our trip, we made a couple of Star Wars-themed shirts for DD.

And so, appropriately dressed, we made our way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We got there about 7:15, 45 minutes before parks were scheduled to open, anticipating huge lines. Not only was this the opening weekend for SWW, it was the opening weekend for the refurbished Star Tours ride.

We were confused when they let us through the turnstiles – apparently they had made the decision to open the park early. DW took DD into the long line for Jedi Training Academy sign ups, while I got Fast Passes for Star Tours. Because of the especially large demand for JTA during SWW, they do signups in the Indiana Jones theater, and run JTAs about every 30 minutes, using the normal stage, where participants battle Darth Vader, as well as the space in front of the stage, where participants battle either Darth Maul or Ventress.

DD was really excited to do JTA, but as we got closer to the front of the sign up line, she started to explain that she only wanted to do it if she could fight Darth Vader. She said Darth Maul would be too hard to defeat because he has a double-sided light saber. We explained that there wasn’t any way to guarantee who she’d fight, and that if she didn’t want to do it, she didn’t have to. And that even if she changed her mind at the last second and didn’t want to do it, it would be OK and we wouldn’t be upset.

So with that anxiety behind us, we headed over to the new Star Tours. The standby line was posted as only 5 minutes long, so we got right on, and when we were done, we rode it a second time. They did a fantastic job with it. Not only are the effects and sound better than ever, they have a randomized experience. Each ride, there are three separate segments, separated by two mini segments. When you calculate all of the possible combinations, there are 54 unique rides you can experience.

The loading area is basically the same as the old one.

After a couple of rides on Star Tours, it was time to line up for one of the most popular characters, Chewbacca. He’s DD’s favorite Star Wars character as well. We explained that we’d be waiting 30-45 minutes to see him, and she said she was OK with that.

After getting in line, I noticed this banner across the sidewalk with Ahsoka and Anakin, so we grabbed a quick picture. 30-seconds down, 29 minutes and 30 seconds to go…

The line didn’t move fast, but it was moving pretty consistently, so soon it was our turn, and we got a family picture with Chewie.

After that we went in search of other characters. Most appear at a specific place listed on a schedule, while others roamed the streets.

Anakin spent a lot of time chatting…

 Here is what DD thinks an “action figure pose” looks like. Reminds me of the Karate Kid…

DW made the mistake of calling this guy a Storm Trooper. “Moooooom, he’s a CLONE Trooper. Sheesh!”

You can trade with the Jawas. Offer them something worthless, like a bottlecap, and they’ll trade you something else useless, like a paperclip. Don’t bother trading anything good, like a pin, because they don’t have anything good to trade.  Pootinee!

After that it was time to queue up for JTA. They asked us to gather near the “Sounds Dangerous” stage at 10:15. While we were waiting, DD expressed her fear about facing Darth Maul again. And we told her once more that if she didn’t want to do it, she could  back out at any time and it would be OK. It was clearly concerning her a great deal.

Once we were all assembled, they lined the kids up and marched them across the sidewalk to the JTA Stage. Once we got there, they explained that one parent could watch from the front of the stage, and another could watch from the side of the stage. I got the closest spot at the front of the stage area. I asked one of the CMs if there was any way to get DD into the Darth Vader group, and she said it’s all random.

As luck would have it, she ended up in the Darth Maul group. She realized this well before he ever came out, because we told her that Vader was up top, and it would be either Darth Maul or Ventress if you were in front of the stage.

As the training started, DW and I exchanged concerned looks across the large group of people that had gathered to watch. DD didn’t show any signs of wanting to bolt, so we crossed our fingers and watched to see what happened.

First the kids are instructed on the ways of the Jedi, and how to use their lightsaber. It’s possible that there have been less enthused Jedi trainees, but I’m not positive about that.

Finally, Darths Vader and Maul came out, and still DD seemed to be holding it together quite well. There were 15 kids in her group, and she got to see about 10 of them go before her. When it was her turn, she stepped right up, performed the moves she was taught, and fought off Darth Maul.

 After JTA it was about 11am. Since we had arrived so early, we were hungry, so we grabbed lunch at Backlot Express next door. We were about the only people in there, so we got seats where we could see the JTA stage. The next show started almost right away, and this time it was Ventress who fought the kids down below.

We had to hurry through lunch a little bit because the 12:00 parade would be starting soon, and it is extremely popular. Lucky for us, a friend we had made through an online Disney forum had offered to save some spaces on the curb for us. Thanks Brenda!

The curb had been in the shade when we got there, but it got progressively sunnier. Stupid Earth!

DD cheered loudest for her favorites, Chewie…

…and Ahsoka.

It was so hot during the parade that we decided to go back to the hotel to rest and cool off before returning to the park for Dinner at 50’s Prime Time Café and the Hyperspace Hoopla show.

We really like 50’s PT Café. The food is great, the PB&J milkshakes are awesome, and the antics can be pretty funny.  It looks like Grandma’s house! Don’t worry, it doesn’t smell like Grandma.

After dinner we walked around a bit to see what characters we could find. This cut out was kind of funny. Kind of short for a Storm Trooper…

 Captain Rex, from Clone Wars, did a great job of posing each kid in a different pose, before taking the picture. 
Mace Windu was heading backstage but was kind enough to stop for another picture.

We headed out to the main stage, in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat, where Hyperspace Hoopla would be held. It’s basically a 45 minute dance off between the different groups of characters. There’s the Rebels, the Empire, the Bounty Hunters, the Ladies usually get a song of their own, and Chewie and Darth Vader each rock out separately.

It was hard for DD to see, so she spent most of the time sliding down my back…

Hyperspace Hoopla was a blast. It’s a little surprising to me that an officially licensed event like SWW is allowed to use the characters like this. But it’s well worth the waiting and the crowds.

After the show ended, we made our way back to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I got this picture of the lobby all lit up at night.

Coming up next, a late morning and mushrooms, mushrooms, mushrooms.

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