Star Wars has gotten me through the last month and a half in more ways than one. It gave me something to look forward to during finals week, and it was a constant as everything else in my life changed without warning. I connected to the characters in The Force Awakens as they struggled with some of the same emotions I was dealing with, and I grew more and more excited about the thought of once again getting a hug from my favorite Wookiee while in Florida.
Last June I was fortunate enough to experience what would ultimately be one of the last Star Wars Weekends as Disney Parks and Resorts prepare us for the addition of a whole new land at both Disneyland and Hollywood Studios in Florida focused on the franchise. However, in the seven months since I was last at Hollywood Studios things have changed more than a little bit, and where I once met Baymax I now met Chewie and Darth Vader. Chewie I met back in June, but Vader was a new experience for all of us...and while you can't say I didn't put up a fight, it was still pretty frightening.
The Star Wars Launch Bay, which took up the space left by the old Walt Disney Animation Pavilion, is certainly well themed for the short turn around from the old setup. Inside you have the chance to met either Chewbacca or Darth Vader (although it sounds like Darth will be moving out for his Grandson, Kylo Ren), visit the Cantina Bar, check out film props (including Rey's Speeder that's seen below), try your hand at Star Wars video games such as Disney Infinity, and shop around for select Star Wars merchandise.
Also included in Star Wars Launch Bay is a short film that celebrates the entire Star Wars Saga. I loved this behind-the-scenes production that looks into not only the original trilogy, but the other four films that now make up the franchise while also looking to the future films waiting for us in the upcoming years. There's another film, called Path of the Jedi, that shows in the theater next to Echo Lake, although I found this one a bit confusing even for the most avid Star Wars fan. It attempts to explain the Star Wars Saga in about 10 minutes and, if you have no prior knowledge of what Star Wars is all about, I'm sure you'd get a bit lost due to the fast pace and constant information overload that is all of Star Wars. Regardless, I still thought both films were a nice tribute to the characters and stories we've come to know and love.
The new additions to Hollywood Studios don't stop there though! Star Tours: The Adventures Continue has been updated once again to feature a new adventure on the planet of Jakku with some of your favorite characters from The Force Awakens. I knew going into it that we were headed to Jakku (why does everyone want to keep going back to Jakku?), but I was surprised and thrilled to find Finn and BB-8 a part of the new adventure. It's not my absolute favorite experience on Star Tours, but it's definitely a great addition to the attraction!
And finally, going into the entire experience I knew there was one piece of merchandise that just had to come home with me: the BB-8 Beverage Cup. I was never really a fan of the specialty cups until I found the Dinoco Oil Cans at Carsland, and now I can have my favorite droid as a part of my collection too! Frank got one for herself and we brought home one for Shovell as well, so we certainly continue to match in that portion of our Disney collections.
We also had another chance to see the beautiful Symphony in the Stars with the additional benefit of the Dessert Party, which we also attended in June. It's pricey, but you get a great view of the fireworks and can certainly eat and drink your weight of the specialty desserts, beverages, and other snacks. We were also given the Chewbacca Steins as a special gift, so we left with plenty of new additions to bring home.
Overall I do believe Hollywood Studios would be hardly more than an empty shell of a park without the Star Wars features currently holding guests over until construction is completed on the two new themed lands that will call the park home. That being said, I'm sure to return to Star Wars launch bay for many more visits with Sith Lords and Wookiees, but also eagerly look forward to the expansions taking place elsewhere...although you probably shouldn't get me started on the latest batch of closures that were announced.
What Star Wars character would you want to meet most if given the opportunity? Let me know in the comments below! My answer? Obviously Han Solo!
Have a magical day!
(Note: This blog post was written on January 22 due to travel).