In yet another post to honor the 20th anniversary of Disney's Hollywood Studios, I thought I'd give a few tips related to the upcoming Star Wars Weekend taking place in May and June at the Studios.
Each year, Star Wars Weekends (SWW) brings thousands of Star Wars fans to Disney's Hollywood Studios to meet stars from the films, pose with Star Wars characters and buy exclusive Star Wars-related merchandise.
This year, SWW will take place May 22-24, May 29-31, June 5-7 and June 12-14. You can see the full list of celebrities at StudiosCentral.com. Highlights include Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Warwick Davis (Wickett the Ewok).
The good news: SWW is a lot of fun and runs for four weekends in a row, so there's plenty of time to do what you want, provided you are prepared because ...
The bad news: There are thousands of fans, which means lines can get REALLY long.
As I said, you can really enjoy Star Wars Weekends if you're prepared and have a game plan.
The first thing you should do is determine your priorities. Which is the most important: meeting (and getting photos and autographs) with celebrities, purchasing merchandise or meeting (and getting photos and autographs) with Star Wars characters. Depending on the crowds, which will likely be heavier on Friday and Saturday than Sunday, you may only get to one or two of the items on your list.
No matter what your top priority is, you have to get to Hollywood Studios EARLY -- at least 45 minutes to an hour before park opening. If this year goes like years past, there will be separate queues for meeting celebrities, merchandise and other events. These aren't the actual queues - think of them as the line to get in the line (after entering the park).
While you're waiting, be sure to stand where you can see the two Stormtroopers that usually patrol on the roof by the main entrance. They have a skit they do that is aboslutely hilarious. They will play with small kids who are dressed up - especially the little Jedi around.
Once the park opens, head straight to what you're interested in and be prepared to wait in a very long line, especially if you're trying to meet celebrities.
When we went to SWW in 2007, we weren't all that interested in meeting celebrities and getting those autographs - we focused on meeting characters and getting exclusive merchandise. So when we got to the park early Saturday morning, we went straight to the merchandise location. Look on your park map for the location. In 2007, it was in the area that now is just to the left of Toy Story Mania. It moves from year to year, so check your map.
Speaking of merchandise, when you do decide to purchase the exclusive merchandise, and by "exclusive merchandise," I mean merchandise directly related to SWW, plan to do your shopping all at once. Regular Star Wars merchandise can be found in Tattoine Traders next to Star Tours (and that's year-round). It may take a while to get into the merchandise area. If you see something you're interested in, you may want to get it, because there's no promise it will be there later in the day or even during a later weekend. The exclusive merchandise has been known to sell out fast, especially the big figs. See my previous post for more on the big figs.
One final tip about merchandise, especially for guests that are using airline transportation -- Disney can ship your purchases to your home - and it might just be cheaper than the baggage fees. Ask a cast member about shipping - especially for bigger items.
When it comes to meeting characters, many of the same tips from regular Disney characters applies -- have your autograph book open and ready, have your pen ready (sharpie is best) and have your camera ready. Sometimes Disney will have PhotoPass photographers on-hand, but not always. If you do happen to get PhotoPass pictures, be sure to add the special Star Wars enhancements once you view your photos (see the shot above - the enhancements may change each year). And just like meeting the regular Disney characters, the lines can get very long, so be patient.
Parents be ready, because the characters, especially the no-so-nice ones (I'm talking to you Lord Vader!) may play with you and start to act all evil. We experience this very thing while meeting the Dark Lord of the Sith. He was very impatient at having to sign autographs, like it was beneath someone of such importance in the Empire, and started giving my wife (yes, that's the DisneyMommy there) some grief. It was fun to see an annoyed Vader.
Earlier I mentioned kids dressed like Jedi -- this is one of those events where it's fine for kids AND parents to dress in their Star Wars finest. Some of the costumes you will see are homemade and incredibly accurate.
Star Wars Weekends has plenty for kids as well, but, just like the events listed above, you have to be prepared. If your child (or children) want to participate in the Jedi Training Academy (which is year-round now), make sure your children are at the rope (not under it!) and are as energetic as possible. It's a good idea to get to the rope area at least 30-45 minutes before the next show.
Finally, enjoy it. If you get tired of standing in lines, take a break and head to the rest of the park to catch some of the regular attractions. Odds are, the lines may be shorter than usual. The only, obvious, exception to this is Star Tours, which is home base (or maybe Echo Base) for all things Star Wars, so it's going to be packed all day.
Just be careful who you run into or you could end up like I did while standing in one line back in 2007:
That's me in the white shirt. I'm amazed he let me go!