This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at STAR WARS in Walt Disney World. While those of us in Florida may be mourning the loss of the annual Star Wars Weekends event at DHS, fans of Star Wars have a lot to be thankful for at Walt Disney World. Not only do we have Star Wars Land coming, but while we’re waiting for that to open a whole bunch of great attractions, events, and stores have opened to help satisfy our craving for anything and everything Star Wars. It’s a good thing too, because The Force Awakens has washed away the bad taste of the prequels and has the entire world back in the grip of Star Wars mania. Today we’re going to set our sights on our favorite Star Wars offerings in Orlando just like Luke used to bullseye womp rats back on Tatooine. So sit back, never tell us the odds, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – runDisney: The Dark Side
The folks at runDisney have done the impossible, they have made exercise fun. The popularity of the events continue to grow and lately Disney has started to outdo themselves with great concepts and spectacular looking medals for the runners (we’re looking in your direction Princess Half Marathon). Last year they introduced Star Wars events out in Disneyland with The Light Side series of races. This year the fun continues at Walt Disney World with The Dark Side.
The Dark Side fun started off at the Health & Fitness Expo held at ESPN Wide World of Sports, where runners got an opportunity to take pictures with Star Wars characters including Jabba the Hutt and BB-8. There was also a side array of unique merchandise available including t-shirts, hats, magnets, and even Dooney & Bourke handbags. However what makes runDisney events truly special is being able to run through the actual theme parks, along with meeting characters along the way. As a theme park fan, it is hard to beat running through EPCOT and seeing stormtroopers along with being able to take a picture with Captain Phasma after completing the run. The Dark Side may just be runDisney’s best even ever, and has us looking forward to more Star Wars races in the future!
runDisney Star Wars: The Dark Side. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Star Wars Half Marathon shirt. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Jabba the Hutt and Salacious B. Crumb meet their type of scum, the fearless and inventive runDisney fanatic @baztastic.
Celebrate Star Wars at Disneyland with new Season of the Force videos and photos.
With the latest Star Wars movie breaking the all-time domestic box office record less than a month of its release, it’s pretty clear that the Force is wide awake all over America, but nowhere has the film’s impact been more evident than inside the Disney parks. I’ve already covered the newly added Star Wars attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, and recently I had the chance to fly west and compare Orlando’s offerings to their Anaheim analogues. While in California, I captured this gallery of Season of the Force videos and photo gallery to give our Disneyland-deprived readers a taste of the Happiest Place on Earth’s take on a galaxy far, far away…
Season of the Force Crowds
The first thing to know about Season of the Force is that the crowds are strong with this one! Even though the days of my Disneyland visit were predicted to have moderate attendance, Tomorrowland was packed from open to close, only becoming busier as the afternoon and evening continued. If you want to experience all the popular attractions that are part of Disneyland’s Season of the Force, get there at rope drop or be prepared to wait in line!
New Force Awakens footage is featured in Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Star Wars Episode VII doesn’t open until next month, but the Force is already awake inside the Star Tours ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Unlike Disneyland, Walt Disney World won’t debut the Seasons of the Force special event (which replaces the long-running Star Wars Weekends) until January 5 (Launch Bay with displays and character greetings opens December 1), but one element of the event is already having its “soft opening” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As of November 16, new Force Awakens footage has been added to DHS’s Star Tours attraction, and we were there on the first day to experience the changes.
Today, Disney made some major announcements regarding Star Wars in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
First, let’s start with the sad news. Due to construction at the park, Star Wars Weekends will no longer be taking place. Boo….
Ok, now that we have the bad stuff out of the way, let’s get to the good news. Starting on December 1, Guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be able to enjoy more Star Wars experiences. The first will be the additional Star Wars: The Force Awakens scene for Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, which was announced at this year’s D23. During the opening months, everyone who rides Star Tours will get to experience the new adventure. After that, it will be random once again.
Here’s a glimpse at what you can expect to see with the additional scene:
Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort share a number of the same attractions, such as Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, “it’s a small world,” and many others. But if you think that these attractions are the same on both coasts, you would be mistaken.
One of the many things I love about Disney is that they never do the same thing twice; and while the attractions that can be found on both coasts may share the same names and themes, they do have differences too. Hey, who doesn’t like variety, right? But you have to wonder, which resort has the best version of a popular attraction? Which Disney Park has the bragging rights? Well, that’s what I’m going to find out beginning with an attraction that’s sure to bring out your competitive side in Disneyland vs. Disney World Attractions: Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
What is Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin?
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin are dark rides where guests shoot at targets scattered throughout the attraction for points and to compete for high scores. The Magic Kingdom was the first to gain this type of Buzz Lightyear attraction back in 1998. There, it is known as Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Disneyland didn’t gain its version until quite some time later in 2005 and under a different name, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
Disneyland’s Astro Blasters is just across from Star Tours – The Adventure Continues
Location: Tomorrowland is where both versions of this interactive Buzz Lightyear attraction can be found. At Disneyland, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters is towards the front of Tomorrowland and on the left side, right across from Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. At Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is tucked a bit deeper into the land and has a bit more space around it than at Disneyland. The attraction can be found at the end of the main path from the hub into Tomorrowland and on the right, across the way from the Astro Orbiter attraction. Oftentimes, Buzz Lightyear is meeting and greeting with guests nearby, so keep an eye open!
One of my favorite annual events at Walt Disney World is Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Star Wars Weekends takes place Fridays through Sundays from mid-May to mid-June and has only expanded over the years.
Today fellow fans of the force can get autographs and photos with Star Wars characters and celebrities, watch the Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade and the Symphony in the Stars fireworks display, take in the Stars of the Saga Star Wars Celebrity Talk Show, and, for the kids, participate in the Padawan Mind Challenge and Jedi Training Academy.
There’s also Star Wars themed dining and shopping and even more events for the major fans! Clearly, Star Wars Weekends is true to its name as you need weekends to do it all; but what if, like me, you really don’t want to spend hours in line or have to live by your times guide. What if you just want to check out the event? Sure there are touring plans that work great, but is it actually possible to enjoy a day at Star Wars Weekends by flying casual? Last week, I decided to find out and went to the event on a whim with no plan, no FastPass+, and absolutely no agenda. As it turns out, I was still able to see and do quite a bit. So for today, I’m going to share with you Padawans how I had A Star Wars Weekends Experience Without a Plan.
I Visited on a Friday – I decided to check out the event on a Friday; and as Friday is still a work day, I found that the crowds and wait times weren’t quite as bad as what I could have experienced on a Saturday or Sunday. For example, The Great Movie Ride had only a 30 minute wait time on Friday while on Sunday, the posted wait time on My Disney Experience was 60 minutes.
Did you know that Disney World has a hit album of its own? The year 1989 was a big year for Disney World as guests enjoyed a number of new attractions, restaurants, and even new parks! In fact, a number of new sights and experiences that made their first appearance in 1989 are just as popular today as they were then. So let’s take a look at 1989: A Disney World Album to see what hits debuted at Disney World twenty-five years ago.
This Disney World water park opened on June 1, 1989 and has charmed guests for years with its scattered, windblown theme. The story behind the park is that a typhoon swept through and turned a tropical paradise upside down as evidenced by the leaning buildings, shipwrecks, and other odds and ends strewn about in a rather amusing fashion. The icon of the park is a shrimp boat, the “Miss Tilly,” which the storm left perched atop Mount Mayday. The centerpiece of the park, and probably its biggest claim to fame, is the Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool. It is one of the largest wave pools in the world releasing 6 foot waves every 90 seconds! In my opinion, this pool is worth a visit to Typhoon Lagoon alone. Believe me, once you’ve spent some time here, you will be ruined on any other wave pool anywhere else for life. Although, there is more to be enjoyed at Typhoon Lagoon, such as the thrilling Humunga Cowabunga slides, the relaxing Castaway Creek, the Crush n’ Gusher water coasters, and so much more. Typhoon Lagoon also is famous for Shark Reef, where guests have the opportunity to snorkel around a shipwreck with bonnethead and leopard sharks, stingrays, and schools of fish. What makes this experience even better? Your snorkeling equipment is free with the price of admission! While some guests prefer the incredible wintry theme and thrills of Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon’s laid back, tropical atmosphere and incredible surf pool makes it my favorite of Disney’s water parks.
Welcome back to Disney Parks Potential, where I take a look at some of Disney’s more underrepresented franchises and characters while coming up with interesting ways to integrate them into Walt Disney World or Disneyland. If you missed the first entry, which covered The Incredibles, you can check that out here. Today I’ll be taking a look at an all-time Disney animated classic, The Jungle Book.
When you hear that Jungle Book has no attraction presence at Disney World, you probably think, “Wait, that can’t be right.” I mean, with a park entirely dedicated to animals, it’s hard to believe that Disney doesn’t have at least one attraction based on The Jungle Book. That wasn’t always the case, however. When Animal Kingdom first opened, there was a show called Journey into the Jungle Book but it only lasted a year before being replaced by Tarzan Rocks! in the theater which now currently houses Finding Nemo – The Musical. Besides that short lived show, there haven’t been any further attractions based on The Jungle Book.
Ever feel like some of your favorite Disney characters are underrepresented at Walt Disney World or Disneyland? Me, too! That’s why I’m starting a new series of articles here at TouringPlans Blog called “Disney Parks Potential,” where I’ll take a look at one Disney character or franchise that I feel isn’t being used to its Disney Parks potential (That’s where the name comes from!). From there, I’ll share my ideas on how I think Disney can best integrate these characters into one or more of the parks, which will then probably secure me a sweet job as a Walt Disney Imagineer if all goes according to plan. But enough about my unlikely career goals. Let’s get into my first Disney Parks Potential selection, which is The Incredibles.
Outside of merchandise, character meet and greets and a dance party in Tomorrowland, The Incredibles really don’t have much of a presence in Walt Disney World. For a Pixar film that many would argue is the best of the bunch, this seems like a huge missed opportunity. The need for more of The Incredibles in Disney World is even greater considering that Disney isn’t allowed to utilize Marvel superheroes within the park due to the previous licensing agreement with Universal before Disney acquired Marvel in 2009. Hopefully we’ll get new attractions sooner rather than later now that a much requested sequel to the original film has been announced, but for now my ideas will have to suffice.
Staying on property during your next Walt Disney World vacation? Then you should absolutely be taking advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, which offer resort guests the opportunity to get to a park early or stay late. Simply show that you’re staying in a Walt Disney World resort and you can have fun in the parks beyond the normal operating hours. And if you’re using our Personalized Touring Plans, you can also extend your plan hours for both morning and evening Extra Magic Hours. As stated, Extra Magic Hours are offered both in the morning and the evening but for now we’re going to concentrate on some of my favorite Evening Extra Magic Hours attractions. While not every attraction is operating for Extra Magic Hours, some of the best and most popular attractions across Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are open to resort guests. Unfortunately, as of this writing, Disney’s Animal Kingdom does not offer evening extra magic hours. Perhaps that could change with the eventual opening of the park’s new Avatar Land but for now, park guests will have to get their Extra Magic Hours fill at the first three Walt Disney World theme parks. So without further ado, here are my top Evening Extra Magic Hours attractions for each park.