Sith Lords, Wookies, and THE Mouse: Star Wars at Disney

As a child of the 70’s, Star Wars is pretty much in my DNA.   As a father to two young girls and an admirer of creativity, Disney is a Mecca.  I visited Disney World last week and wondered how I’d feel now that the Mouse owns the Jedi and Sith.

Upon arrival at our hotel (Port Orleans, French Quarter) we walked through the gift shop and I noticed the BB-8 rice cookies.  They held about as much shelf space as the Anna and Elsa ones, hinting that Disney is well away of its target demographics.  Trips to EPCOT that day and Magic Kingdom the next revealed plenty of Star Wars merchandise and hundreds of patrons wearing thematic t-shirts (yeah, I had 2 of my own…so I’m not capable of tossing stones here.)

To be honest, as an eternal fan of Star Wars, it was strange seeing so many soccer moms and dads in ‘Judge me by my size do you?” shirts.   There was a level of geekiness I’ve never seen in a public place like this.   Things like this have traditionally been only seen at conventions…not family vacations.

Day 3 was our trip to Hollywood Studios.   Star Wars has landed squarely, there.

Me at the entrance to the Launch Bay
Me at the entrance to the Launch Bay

We trekked (ha!) to our right as soon as we arrived and found the old animation area labeled clearly with Star Wars.   Ok, so, I was having a nerdgasm…I mean, I’m 43 and have been waiting…oh…38 years for something like this!!!

There were First Order troopers walking about.   We entered and saw replica props; lightsabers, Slave-1, the FALCON!!!   Full scale Rey’s speeder, costumes….a shrine to all that is awesome.

We walked into common area that branched off for whichever meet and greets were going on, only to see two Jawas mulling about.   One stole my daughter’s toy lightsaber and offered her a droid leg in return.  After a few minutes of play, and her saber back in hand, we got to see a Sabacc table where Han won the Falcon, the chess table where 3PO “let the Wookie win” and the Cantina bar with 3 glasses of blue milk.

Heaven for a geek.

Our first goal was the meet Darth Vader.   We waited in a short line and soon found ourselves with the surly, Sith Lord.   Look, I know it’s a tall guy in a suit, but between the cold attitude of the attendants/cast members, the James Earl Jones soundboard he was using, and the fact he was at least 7 feet tall….I was uncomfortable!   I could not wait to get out of that room…nor could my wife!   (note: she almost forgot her purse in her hurry to leave.  note 2: She’s never seen the movies!!!)

After that we hit the gift shop and checked out the rest of the park.  Star Tours has been updated to include a Jakku scene and there are a few new photo ops (speeder bike) in the area.

We went back later in the trip to meet Chewbacca.


Me and Chewbacca

Chewie was a 180 from Darth Vader.   He gave my wife a hug, put furry arms on my girls’ shoulders and grunted and growled happily.   I happen to have a killer Wookie growl in my bag o’tricks and unleashed my own howls and grunts.  He ate it up, pointing and showing open body language.  The cast members were laughing as we high-fived, fist bumped and posed.  It was so much fun!!!!

And yes, he’s also huge and could be intimidating…but, c’mon, it’s CHEWBACCA!!!!

As we walked around we saw more First Order troopers and heard that Greedo is also a roaming character.  Didn’t see him though.

Heidi, my lovely wife, determined we needed to meet Lord Vader again and redeem ourselves.  So into line we went once again.  Both of us were nervous, but this visit went much different.

Vader accused my oldest daughter of being a rebel spy, she giggled.  I got gutsy after the pics.   “Lord Vader, do you mind pretending to Force Choke me while I jump?   (turning to the photog) Get a shot of me in the air and it’ll look like he’s using the Force to lift me off the ground.  They all obliged.


Running afoul of a Sith Lord.

Running afoul of a Sith Lord.

So, how do I feel about Disney having Star Wars in its parks now?

At first it was weird to see the swag and merchandise there.   They paid 9 gazillion dollars for the licensing, so, I can’t blame them.  In reality, it’s not THAT much more than has been there for a few years…it’s just more people are wearing the shirts and hats.  I think that was more distracting to me than anything.

Once I saw what they’re doing in Hollywood Studios and that Star Wars has a clear home there with little creep into other parks (not a single character meet and greet or show in any of the other parks), any concerns and discomfort went away.   Star Wars is, first and foremost, a film franchise.  That belongs in Hollywood Studios, and it appears that’s where it will stay.

I entered with some concern for the ‘magic’ of Disney being overrun with the Force, and left confident that everything is right where it should be.

May the Force be with you, always.


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