Star Wars Weekends*, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, are a lot of fun, even for the casual fan.
There are some things that you should be prepared for if you are planning to go and have a good time. Before I go into anything else… It’s always hot! How hot? Hot Hot Hot! Very Hot. What makes it so hot? The lines are long and MOST are not inside, covered, or in the shade. It makes it seem 100 times hotter than it really is (and it’s pretty hot to begin with). It can be unbearable at times. I’ve seen Mickey and Minnie nearly pass out from the heat. Really! Be prepared!
One of the draws of Star Wars Weekends are the meet and greets with the actual actors or creative personalities from the movies.
All meet and greets are guaranteed with fast passes and standby fast passes. Each actor/personality signs for three sessions. They only give out so many fast passes and standby fast passes for each session.
The number of fast passes they give out for Celebrity A is probably not the same amount of fast passes they give out for Celebrity B. It depends on how fast each actor/personality can work the crowd. For instance… some celebrities are very personable and take the time to speak to the fans and schmooze. Other celebrities are less gabby and just sign your autograph, take a picture and move you along quickly.
A regular fast pass guarantees that you will get to meet the celebrity. A standby fast pass is used when all of the regular fast passes are gone and the actor still has time to sign. You have a 50-50 chance of getting to see a celebrity with a standby pass. If you want to get a fast pass to meet a celebrity you should/must show up early! How early? Well…
It depends on the celebrity. If the celebrity has been a regular at Star Wars Weekends (SWW’s), then their line won’t be as long as the celebrity who hasn’t been in many years. On top of that, it’s obvious… The more popular the actor/character, the longer the line.
You might be able to show up at six in the morning and nab a fast pass for the first session with Celebrity A, but not even be able to get a standby for Celebrity B.
If you want to get more than one individual’s autograph, you need to be at the very front of the line for one celebrity, so as soon as you receive your fast pass, you can run and get in line for another celebrity, and hopefully grab a third session or standby. And one line might be really long on Friday, but really short on Sunday. Are you following me?
If it is a popular celebrity and you want more than one person’s autograph, I recommend arriving between one and three in the morning. Really? For real? Yes! Should they ever announce that someone like George Lucas, or Harrison Ford was going to be available for a meet and greet… All bets are off. I would start camping out at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the day before… or earlier.
Remember… you are dealing with Die Hard Star Wars Fans and as far as I know, SWW’s is the only place to obtain these types of autographs for free. At all other conventions and events they charge big bucks.
Another thing: One fast pass… One autograph. If you are a family of three, and have three fast passes, you can get three autographs. You can bring a picture or piece of memorabilia from home to have signed, or they will provide you with a black and white 5×7, which in my opinion looks pretty cheap. Take the time to find something in advance.
They also sell tons of merchandise in the parks such as photos and posters. And… even more important… Every person must be present in order to obtain a fast pass. One person cannot act as a runner and get a fast pass for the rest of his party like you normally could. This is done out of fairness to the people who have camped out there for hours. And don’t think you’re going to go get in line at 2am with the plan that your wife and kids will join you in line when the park opens. This isn’t allowed at Star Wars Weekends. They are VERY strict about that.
So, show up early! Bring your chairs, blankets, coolers, books, iPods or whatever you want or need to pass the time. At a certain point in the morning, probably around six/six-thirty, they will condense the line and move everyone forward. Before that happens, they will give you a chance to return everything to your car. If you have been in line all evening, people will gladly let you back in your spot, so no worries there.
Also worth mentioning… If you decide to go early, you’ll find all of the lanes at the entry gate closed except one. They won’t have attendants there until closer to opening, so just proceed to follow the blue line to park your car. There won’t be parking lot staff there either, so just park your car in the Music Lot. I guess Disney figures that if your crazy enough to get there that early, they’ll let you park for free.
They will start handing out the fast passes exactly at nine o’clock. If you want more than one celebrity’s autograph, after receiving your first fast pass, quickly…Very quickly, but orderly, get into another line. You can get into as many lines as there are fast passes left. There are no limits. Please know that they do and will change the way they distribute the fast passes from year. Just go with the flow.
They usually don’t announce a confirmed celebrity guest list until right before the event.
The Storm Troopers Open The Park
If you aren’t interested in celebrity autographs, I still recommend getting there 45 minutes to an hour before opening, so you can enjoy the storm troopers who come out to help open the park.
If limited/special edition merchandise is important to you… go straight to the designated area upon opening. Things like pins, and limited editions sell out extremely early in the day. They also have a line you can get in, like the celebrity autographs, to be first at the store. The special edition/event merchandise isn’t sold at Tatooine Traders which is the regular store, next to the ride. They create separate areas just for the event. There are also a few carts set up.
There are tons of regular costumed Star Wars characters available for meet and greets. You don’t need fast passes to see them, just line up. The only character that is available to meet all day is Darth Vader.
Some characters have designated areas and lines. Other characters wander and you have to practically beg them, or tackle them if you want them to pose for a picture.
Some characters are only out in the morning, and others only in the afternoon. It can be difficult to find them all because the maps are vague, and don’t even list all the characters available. If you are looking for someone specific, ask a Cast member. Sometimes they don’t know, or have the wrong information. Keep asking.
All characters are, well, “in character,” so expect problems from the Dark Side.
Also, for those of you who don’t know… Disney has a rule that each character is only allowed to be out for 15 or 20 minutes max. After that, they need a break, so you will need to continue to wait in line until they return.
Remember, the character you got in line to see, might be swapped out for a different character, as most of the lines rotate. You may get in line for Jedi Mickey, but by the time you get to the front of the line, Darth Goofy might be there.
If you’ re lucky, you’ll hit the swap and get to have both in the picture. I think the only line that doesn’t rotate is Darth Vader and maybe Darth Maul.
Last year, the park was divided into four sections: The Dark Side, The Light Side, The Clone Wars, and The VIPS. That was helpful in finding the characters.
Star Wars Motorcade
I love this parade. If you are a fan, you’ll get goosebumps!
The Motorcade/Parade is only once a day, so find a spot at least an hour in advance. It usually starts at 11:40. It’s the usual route, starting at the beginning of Hollywood Blvd, left at the Hat, and ending at the Star Wars Jedi Training Stage.
Once the parade reaches the stage, the celebrities and more popular characters gather on the stage for “The Welcome.” If you want to see this, I suggest you grab a seat by the stage about an hour and a half prior to the start of the parade.
If your child is participating in the parade, they don’t march the entire way, and exit shortly past the Hat. Keep that in mind when you are choosing a place to sit.
You can sign your kids up for the parade at the information booth which is usually in front of the Sounds Dangerous attraction.
The number of spots is very limited so do this right away. Make sure your kids are there when you sign them up because they will be given a wristband.
Jedi Training Academy
Kids learn how to use a light saber and then test their skills against??? You can sign up in front of the Sound Stage.
Padawan Mind Challenge
A trivia contest/show for kids 12 and younger. If your kids have seen the movies once, or one of the movies once, go ahead and sign them up. They don’t need to know much more than who Darth Vader is. It’s very cute! Sign them up at the information booth ASAP.
Behind the Force
Is a show that highlights a particular aspect in the Star Wars Saga. It’s different every year. The best part… Air conditioning!!!! There are several shows per day.
Stars of the Saga (Star Wars Talk Show)
The celebrity host of SWW’s interviews some of the other celebrity guests.
At the end, they take questions from the audience. I believe this is only once a day, so get on line early for a good seat. It’s usually very funny! Another air conditioned event.
The Hyperspace Hoopla ends the SWW’s festivities for the day with a not to be missed “Dance Off” between the Dark Side, usually Darth Vader…, and the Light Side… It’s a riot!
It usually takes place at 7 on the Jedi Training Stage.
Star Tours : The Adventure Continues
Normally, the ride is very busy during the day, when the Star Wars activities are taking place. After the Hoopla, the crowds disperse and you can walk right on. This year, with the refurbishment, I’m getting fast passes!
Not only are they allowed, they are encouraged! Entire families dress up. It’s a hoot! Just don’t try to pass yourself off as “the real thing.” Don’t pose for pictures or sign any autographs. Other than that, remember it’s hot! Bring a change of clothes in case your costume gets to be too much.
Let your little ones bring their light sabers so they can duel with other little padawans and younglings. It will help keep them occupied while you’re waiting on all those long lines.
The dates for 2011 have just been announced:
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 20-June 12!
* Just remember, things can be different every year!