I love all things Disney. My husband is a huge fan of Star Wars. It’s a match made in heaven. (Or at least in a galaxy far far away.) And while many Star Wars purists are still decrying the sale of the franchise to the Disney company it has had the effect of giving Star Wars fans many new opportunities to enjoy Star Wars themed attractions while at the parks.
Unfortunately, my husband was unable to join us for the parks portion of our latest Disney trip, but our Star Wars loving son was eager to see what the parks had to offer. At four years of age he’s already surpassing my (admittedly scant) knowledge on the subject. In Florida the Star Wars theming is mainly in the Hollywood Studios park. The area around the Star Tours ride is very elaborately themed with a model of an AT-AT walker and an Ewok village. At least that’s what I was told they were. The kids loved looking around as we walked in and out from the ride.
The Star Tours ride is a very immersive 3D experience with an elaborate queue and several different ride experiences. I’ve been on five or six times and I don’t think I’ve had the same experience twice. Unfortunately it’s also extremely nauseating, at least to anyone over the age of 30. My kids seem completely oblivious but I usually have to take the glasses off a few minutes into the ride and focus on something other than the screen.
The ride and ride area where great, but I think our favourite Star Wars experience on this trip was the Jedi training academy. These run about two times an hour all day long and unlike the Disneyland version you have to sign your kids up for a certain time in order to participate. My kids really wanted to do it so we headed there as soon as the park opened in order to secure a spot. It wasn’t terribly busy on the day we were there so we probably didn’t need to rush, but if you want to be sure of a spot it’s best to make it your first stop of the day. When we were signing in at our allotted time in the afternoon we saw several families come by and ask about openings only to be turned away.
The Jedi training academy is for boys and girls aged 4-12. Kids are expected to be able to follow directions and they ask each child a few simple questions when they sign up. You come back to the sign in location about 30 minutes before your slot and each child is given a Jedi robe to wear on stage. They had some videos on to entertain the kids while they waited and one of the leaders asked the kids some Star Wars trivia questions. There were about 12 kids in our group and my kids were amongst the youngest at age four and six. Most of the kids seemed to be in the six to ten year old age group and all but two of them were boys.
At their allotted time the kids were lead to the stage in a procession with the “Jedi trainers” at the front and back. I think my kids loved the feeling of having the park traffic stopped as the trainer called out to make way for the little procession of Padawans coming through! When they got to the stage area they were assigned a spot on stage while the trainer talked very seriously about the responsibilities of being a Jedi and keeping the universe safe. The kids picked up on this tone and behaved very seriously as well; there was no silliness or goofing off, even amongst the older kids.
The kids were then each assigned a light saber and the trainer went through a basic routine with them. Then they were ushered to the side and the main event began. A portal opened up at the back of the stage and Darth Vader himself came out in a cloud of stage fog, accompanied by a pair of Storm Troopers. He came over to the group of Padawans and invited them to join him on the dark side. The trainer confronted him and told him that his young Padawans were ready to defeat the dark side and one by one the kids got a chance to battle Darth Vader in a light saber battle.
The results were predictably adorable and hilarious, especially with the youngest kids. They had done a great job preparing the kids and none of them seemed to be scared or intimidated, although I suppose it could be an issue with very shy or timid children. After each child had their turn against Darth Vader he had one final confrontation with the Jedi trainer and stormed off back into the portal. The Storm Troopers, who had mainly just stood in the background during the show, suddenly found themselves locked out and stuck on the stage. The trainer then had the kids “open” the door using the force for them. For some reason, this was my kids’ favourite part of the whole show and they still talk about it.
Disney also has some great special Star Wars events. The biggest of these is Star Wars Weekends, which is held four weekends in May and June at Hollywood Studios. This event features Star Wars parades, character breakfasts and the chance to meet various actors from the movies. It’s definitely on our bucket list, probably when our youngest is a few years older and more able to wait in lines and brave the crowds.
Another more recent event is Star Wars Days at sea on Disney Cruise Lines. This event was recently announced for select sailings in early 2016. We love Disney cruises already and the chance to have the Star Wars characters on board would be amazing. We probably won’t be able to get in another Disney cruise by those dates, but I’m really hoping that they continue and there will be a date available in the future.
With a new Star Wars movie coming out at the end of this year, it looks like there will be plenty of opportunities for fans to get their Star Wars fix at Disney in the near future. And I’m sure my husband is looking forward to sharing one of his favourite things with the kids in the years ahead.