After my last trip to Walt Disney World I did a report on what was great and what needed work on the last trip. This time I was able to experience the first day of Star Wars Weekends and I thought that we could give it some kudos and some constructive criticism in the same vein of the last report from the field for this massive event that takes place annually at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The Good – Hyperspace Hoopla
If you’ve never experienced a Hyperspace Hoopla from Snig and Oopla, you have not truly seen all that Star Wars and Walt Disney World entertainment can do together. Suspend your dyed-in-the-wool beliefs of what a character can and can’t do, and let the continuity fly out the window. This is pure, unadulterated fun! A host of Star Wars characters dancing to Gangnam Style? Check. A dance off between the Empire and Rebel Alliance? Done. The best pyrotechnics in a stage production? Absolutely. And don’t even get me started on the amazing costumes and accessories! The Hyperspace Hoopla is a massive investment in time in order to get a good spot, but it is incredibly worth it.
The Bad – Character availability
Once upon a time, I remember a cavalcade of characters wandering the park and meeting with guests as if it were a populated spaceport. Now they are roped off in lines the stretch through switchbacks for ridiculous amounts of time, and then after all that waiting, you may not even get to meet the character you got in line for.
I understand the logistical nightmare of allowing characters to roam freely, and how it helps to give them a specific location. I also recognize that the costumes can get hot and Cast Members need time to cool off regularly. However, it can be excruciating to explain to a child why they saw hordes of other kids get their picture with Jedi Mickey and why they were the one stopped in the line to watch him leave and see Stormtrooper Donald come back in his place, or to the girl who looks up to Ashoka only to find the bait and switch has put her in the clutches of Ventress. I watched both of these situations take place during the day, and it was heartbreaking to watch.
I don’t have all the answers, but maybe it would be better to put in a ton of photo-op lines all over the open spaces of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Then have one character solely occupy one location. It may not be as free spirited as characters moving about of their own accord, and the wait between when a character leaves and comes back could be longer than you’d want as a guest, but at least it brings the event back to its core audience, children.
The Ugly – Autograph Fastpass Distribution
Here was the situation on Friday morning. There were five celebrities available for autographs that had Fastpasses being distributed in order to meet them, but there were only two lines to get those Fastpasses. The lines stretched from the ticket windows back to Crescent Lake. At one point a Cast Member came through and gave everyone a wristband which guests were told would allow them a Fastpass to meet their celebrity. Once the line began to move we were told we were all getting Fastpasses for Jeremy Bulloch, the original Boba Fett . Luckily this was the participant I had my heart set on meeting. My wife and the girl in front of us, on the other hand, had wanted to meet Ashley Eckstein, and were told by Cast Members that their wristband would only allow for this meet and greet, that they could not exchange it for another wristband, but that they were welcome to come back in two hours to retrieve another Fastpass for another meet and greet. Two hours later and, surprise surprise, all the Fastpasses had been distributed for the day.
I’m not entirely sure why there wasn’t a Cast Member explaining where the correct lines were at the back of the two lines. And I’m certainly not sure where the other three line were. I don’t know why guests weren’t told that the wristband that was being affixed to us was only for one celebrity participant. And I’m befuddled as to why a child, or any other guest, couldn’t switch wristbands before they had accepted the Fastpass and while the other line was empty. The system absolutely needs to be reworked before one guest too many has had enough and causes a scene at what should otherwise be a festive event.
The Magical – Obi-Wan and Beyond
There are a lot of special shows that take place during the weekend. From a Clone Wars panel to the tales of what it is like to work in the Star Wars universe by special guests, but the one show that takes the cake is James Arnold Taylor’s one man show. Billed as Obi-Wan and Beyond for Star Wars Weekends, the show is actually an abbreviated version of the deeply personal 80-minute exploration written by Taylor and titled Talking to Myself.
Sure, as the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in video games and the Clone Wars cartoons, Taylor shows his range in a five-minute finale that boasts somewhere around two hundred voices, but that’s not what makes this show hit home. Audiences are given insight into the life and times of a vocal actor, everywhere they are utilized, and everything they have to be able to do. Yet, still, that isn’t what makes the show. When you get to the heart of the story, it is the journey of one man. From his childhood fascinations the show springboards into heart-wrenching personal moments of strife, struggle and, ultimately, success. Taylor gives you reasons, if not the tools, to push through your personal complications, no matter how dire the situation may seem.
Sure, I do voices at home (my wife was stunned to hear Taylor explain the way to change voices in the same way I have described my switch between Grover and Yoda), but I’m not actively seeking to be a voice actor (at least not today). My struggles come from trying to find a way to make writing and talking about Walt Disney World my day job. I’m not there yet, nowhere near there yet, but it’s nice to have a reminder that I can get there.