Friday, June 19, 2015

Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios Day 1

Some years the stars align and the timing of a Disney trip coincides with one of their Star Wars Weekends. This ultimately means spending too much time in Disney's Hollywood Studios Park.

Star Wars Weekends occur over several weekends in May and June. The event includes a parade, special shows, character meet and greets, celebrity autograph sessions, and fireworks. Events are included with park admission, but there are several add-on experiences. For the Friday of our visit we purchased the Feel the Force Deluxe Package and had breakfast at the Sci-Fi Galactic Dine-In.
Our Deluxe Package came with a scary $99/pp price tag. Surprisingly enough this was a relatively decent value with these inclusions:

- Reserved Parade spot with unlimited bottled water, soda, popcorn, and frozen treats for 45 minutes before the parade, plus escort to the front of the stage for the show.

- Reserved spots at all the talk shows for the day.

- No-wait access to get into Darth's Mall exclusive store.

- Reserved space for part of the DJ Party and Fireworks with a dessert party and select alcoholic beverages.

After watching the opening show with the Stormtroopers we hauled it over to Star Tours for the Chewbacca/Ewok photo opportunity. We usually skip most of these opps since we spent HOURS doing this back in 2010, but Holly wanted to get this one again and we had the time. Chewbacca can sometimes have a 2 hour wait. Afterwards we took in Tatooine Traders (the year-round Star Wars store), which was a perfect time to visit since no one was in there yet.

Next it was time for our Sci-Fi Galactic Dine-In meal. This was a pricey character breakfast setup in the Sci-Fi Drive-In restaurant where you sit in a car-shaped table and watch clips on the drive-in style movie screen. Upon entry you get a photo opp with Darth Vader AND Boba Fett at the same time. We made sure we had the right outfits for this: Dave a Boba Fett Assassin's Creed mashup and Holly a Vader/Fett Selfie T-shirt. The photo the cast member took with our camera wasn't great and our free photo on Photopass (Disney's photo service) is not coming up free in the system.

Here's what was good about our experience: The cast members serving food were great and willing to bring whatever we wanted from the menu. The costumed characters were playful and fun to watch. The clips and drive-in style Star Wars themed ad cards were fun.
One-eyed Jawa
Here's what was bad about our experience: The food. Other than the pastry basket items, everything else was a flop. Bland mushy shrimp, way too salty steak, over-cheesed grits. Nothing was good except for the Vader Waffle. The drive-in tables were not designed for 40somethings to get in-and-out every so often for character photos. We know others really enjoyed this meal, but our experience was not good.

The first use of our Feel the Force Package came at the Legends of the Force Motorcade Parade. We were given our VIP pass lanyards and allowed into a small roped-off area at the corner of Hollywood Blvd by the main store and across from Sid's. For the 45 minutes before the parade we had access to bottled sodas, waters, popcorn, and Mickey Bars. We probably consumed/walked away with six waters, a soda, some popcorn, and ice cream. We were allowed to sit on the curb, which made viewing the parade comfortable. It was super hot in our space but they offered a couple umbrellas to stand under. The only bad thing about the space was the parade was backlit from this spot. Dave wasn't pleased with the pictures. But getting escorted behind the parade to the front of the stage for the opening show made up for this - Especially since Chopper from Rebels was standing right by us (Chopper is a droid for the new animated series Rebels and Holly loves him).

We worked some rides into our schedule throughout the morning via Fastpass. Since we had the Deluxe Package we did not have to use any Fastpasses for entry into any of the talk shows. The two shows we attended this year were Star Wars Rebels and Stars of the Saga. We skipped An Ewok's Tale and Obi-Wan and Beyond because we saw these shows in 2013. Rebels and Saga were talk shows hosted by James Arnold Taylor (voice actor) where he interviews other celebrities and plays clips from the shows and movies. Each show opened with a form of a skit involving Stormtroopers. Both shows were fun.

Celebrities this week included Rebels voice actress of the character Hera, the guy who played Nute Gunray in the Prequels, and Wicket the Ewok from Return of the Jedi

We visited Darth's Mall late in the day so our VIP access did not mean too much. Most of the merchandise had that "been there, done that" feel to us so we did not buy much.

We dined at The Brown Derby before heading into our Feel the Force Deluxe Package dessert party (Disney Tip: If any menu item has Zellwood corn, get it. We had the best corn chowder ever at The Brown Derby). We picked one of the back tables in the reserved zone and took turns grabbing items from the dessert bar. We had many items to choose from between cupcakes, panna cotta, and ice cream bars. We could get soda, bottled water, coffee, iced tea, or one of three punches either spiked or virgin. They were all too sweet. The bartenders were not allowed to mix the booze with anything but the specific punch and they did not offer beer or wine. Since the punches were awful we really did not drink during the event. The desserts were ok - they put theme before taste.

While in our paddock the DJ Lobot (DJ Elliot in real life) dance party was in full swing and very enjoyable. Before the fireworks James Arnold Taylor came onstage with another show. This time, we got a look at the new Stormtroopers from the upcoming movie The Force Awakens. The fireworks lasted over 6 minutes with a soundtrack taken from the movies. We hate to say it but the fireworks for last year's Frozen event were better.

After the fireworks we called it a night and headed back by foot to the Boardwalk. We ended up taking our drinks from Bellvue to go. It was a full and very fun day. The package saved us a lot of frustration and Fastpasses, plus gave back a few tangibles in food and drink. We'd likely buy the pass at this price-point with similar features.


DJ Elliot's mixes are available to stream or download from his site Check them out.

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