Get your lightsabers ready and start pumping that John Williams score in your car, because Star Wars Weekends are here! This Friday kicks off one of the greatest times of the year at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as George Lucas’ characters from the Star Wars films, the Clone Wars TV show and books, comics and more show up to take over the park. It is one of the most enjoyable times of my Disney year, and I am about to attend for the fourth time. So what do you need to know for Star Wars Weekends 2012?
Characters and Parades - One of the biggest thrills of Star Wars Weekends is seeing all the characters together in one place. After all, how often can you get a picture with Darth Vader, Jedi Mickey and Ahsoka Tano on the same day? During Star Wars Weekends, it’s practically a guarantee.
The best way to see all the characters are the parades. Although this year’s schedule has not been announced, there is typically a processional of all the characters in the afternoon, where all the Star Wars characters proceed through the parade route. This is the time to see everyone all at once, so make sure to catch it at least once.
For pictures, you will definitely see characters all around the routes to and from Star Tours and close to the Premiere Theatre. They will be everywhere, and lines will start forming consistently, especially for the more popular characters. You could spend your whole day getting pictures, so pick out a few characters you want to get pictures with and focus on those.
Shows – Throughout the weekend, there will be special shows in the Premiere Theatre, near Muppet Vision 3D. These can range from the super geeky trivia shows to panel discussions about the Clone Wars cartoon show to comedy shows by some of the more talented celebrities on hand. And honestly, they can range in quality just about as widely.
The show schedule will leak out later this week, but plan on attending the show that appeals to you the most based on the description. Don’t feel like you have to go to every single show in the Premiere Theatre. It’s probably not worth your time or energy to wait in line. If you do want to go, arrive at the theatre about 30 minutes prior to the show you want to attend. There will be lines.
Autographs– One of the key draws of Star Wars weekends is the various celebrities from the Star Wars universe who come down each weekend to take part in shows and autograph signings. If you want an autograph from people like Ray Park (Darth Maul from Episode I), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) or Jake Lloyd (young Anakin Skywalker), then you better show up early. REALLY early.
Fans start lining up overnight for FASTPASSes to get autographs. If you arrive between 5 and 6 a.m. to get yours, you will likely get a guaranteed FASTPASS for an autograph. Later than that, and you risk getting a standby FASTPASS where the celebrity is not obligated to sign something for you. They usually will, but there is no guarantee. See the full list of celebrities at StarWars.com. For more autograph seeking tips, check out our buddy Matt Hochberg’s article at StudiosCentral.com.
Merchandise – For geeky Star Wars fans, the opportunity to get great Star Wars/Disney mash up merchandise is too good to pass up. Each year at Star Wars Weekends, there is a special shop created that will have a plethora of items for you to buy. There are Mickey figurines with lightsabers, exclusive Annual Passholder only pins, posters, t-shirts, action figures and much, much more. This year, the store is called Darth’s Mall, and you can see a preview of the bevy of items for sale at the Disney Parks Blog. My advice? Go check it out early in the day if you want any of the limited edition items, but otherwise you can use the store as a way to cool off and spend some time in the afternoon. Regardless, save some money because you will want something from this store.
Streetmosphere – The single best thing about Star Wars Weekends in my mind is the added characters and the way they interact with guests. With the John Williams score blasting through the speakers and characters roaming the streets, you feel immersed in Star Wars.
The best thing of all, though is the Stormtroopers. Especially at the beginning of the day, the Stormtroppers on top of the entrance marquee are hysterical. They will interact with guests waiting in line, make hilarious statements and easily be the highlight of your morning. Make sure you get there before park opening (typically at 9 a.m., but check the calendar) to see their show.
Hyperspace Hoopla – The 2nd best part of Star Wars Weekends is the final show of the day. On the giant stage in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat, you will see a show starring Star Wars characters like you have never seen them before. This show was so popular that Disney had to move it from the Jedi Training Academy stage over to the big stage in front of the hat.
It’s a very popular show. Typically the show begins around dusk, and the times will be out later this week with the rest of the schedule. Make sure you line up for a good viewing spot about an hour to 45 minutes beforehand if you want to see well or shoot video. If not, then about 30 minutes prior should be okay. But don’t miss this show if you are even a marginal fan of Star Wars.
Touring – Finally, if you are heading to the park for touring in addition to the Star Wars activities, you should be fine. Yes, the park will be crowded, but lines at attractions that are not Star Wars related will be similar to how they are on normal weekend days in May. Check the Crowd Calendar for details on the attractions and check the Lines app while you are in the park to get the latest information.
Also, you should definitely follow a touring plan if you are looking to get the most out of your day in the Studios during Star Wars Weekends. We have two touring plans specifically focused on Star Wars activities, or you can follow the regular Studios plans and mix in some parades or shows from Star Wars Weekends.
Regardless of how you choose to enjoy Star Wars Weekends, you should definitely go and check it out. The main focus of the entire event is fun, celebrating these characters and films in a way that never forgets that it is entertainment. Everything is well done and worth your time and money. Hopefully I’ll see you there!