Okay, so it isn’t the promised Star Wars Land, which was announced last year, but it is a great chance to enjoy many of the films’ epic moments in great style in a special year-long promotion at the park.
With a charging Stormtrooper on the front cover, even the park map brings a thrill to Star Wars fanatics’ hearts, so you’ll want to grab one as a souvenir before heading directly to the heart of the new Star Wars offerings, at Launch Bay.
The character interactions we’ve been longing to see for nearly 20 years have finally arrived, with Stormtroopers roaming the former Animation Gallery plaza telling guests to “move along”, “calm yourself down” and other commands made all the more hilarious by their classic ‘stoic Stormtrooper’ delivery.
Once inside Launch Bay, Celebration Gallery and Preview Gallery display replicas of models used in the movie, costumes, artifacts, and props, filling the building with enough superb photo ops for the even the most ardent Star Wars fan. But that’s just the beginning. Enter through the front door and immediately to your left is the Launch Bay Theater showing a 10 minute behind-the-scenes movie featuring interviews with the creative folks who brought The Force Awakens to the screen, including acclaimed producer J.J. Abrams. Hear the stories of the designers’ childhood remembrances of Star Wars: A New Hope (the first film, which came out in 1977), their thoughts about working on The Force Awakens, and their look ahead to the new Rogue One movie coming out at the end of 2016. And remember, as Cast Member Roberto from Naboo says: “There is no eating, drinking, or disintegration inside the theater.”
You don’t have to see the movie (though we highly recommend that you do!), but can enter through a side door (or pass by the theatre) and simply take the Celebration Hallway that leads to character meet-and-greets on a second level. Large-scale models along Celebration Hallway, and a re-imagining of the crawling text at the beginning of each Star Wars saga on the carpet, are additional fun photo spots.
Star Wars Launch Bay Meet-and-Greets: Choose to join the Dark Side by entering an immersive Star Destroyer for a one-on-one with Darth Vader, if you’re not too intimidated. Bear in mind he’s a bad guy and don’t expect him to bend down and hug the kiddies! Or enter the Rebel Base and join the heroes of the Light Side during a visit with Chewbacca. Can’t make up your mind? It’s okay to visit both and decide which path you prefer later. Queues do get long, so plan to spend a bit of time here.
The Cantina: This is the place to meet a Jawa, those swindling light-bulb-eyed traders from Tatooine who specialise in malfunctioning droids. And it’s the place where some of the most charming interactions occur. Bring along a small trinket to trade, and get your camera ready; their response is priceless. Neat props can be found here, too, and consoles with the Disney Infinity 3.0 version of Star Wars video games are nearby. Then, carry on to the gift shop.
Launch Bay Cargo: It’s the shop that has everything. Need a life-sized Stormtrooper? For $1,800, he’s yours (humanoid not included). Collect artwork or love model-making? Cargo has you covered. Only have $10? Pick up a Star Wars Launch Bay trading pin.
After Launch Bay, the next logical stop is the Echo Lake area of the park for Star Wars: Path of the Jedi: Housed in the former Sounds Dangerous theatre to the right of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, this 10-minute show is essentially a ‘bring-you-up-to-speed’ montage of clips from previous Star Wars films, with a few scenes from the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie to whet your appetite if you happen to be the only person on the planet who hasn’t seen it yet. Condensing 7 movies into 10 minutes, it’s a basic overview of the story, entirely missable if you’ve done a marathon viewing recently, but good fun if only for seeing the highlights again.
Star Tours—The Adventures Continue: You know it, you love it, and now the dynamic attraction has a new scene from The Force Awakens. The new scene takes place on Jakku and features former Stormtrooper, Finn, now a member of the Resistance. We won’t give the storyline away, so you have something to look forward to during your next visit. Fan favourite BB-8 plays a role, too, but we won’t spoil that one for you either. So what good are we if we’re keeping it a secret? Not much, but we will remind you to get a FastPass+ prior to arrival, as queues are averaging 30 minutes (more during busy seasons) with the renewed interest in Star Wars that has been generated by the movie.
Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple: The Jedi have been searching the galaxy for children with a strong tie to The Force, inviting them to join the Jedi Training academy and become a Jedi of the future. Younglings (ages 4-12) are taught to “face their fears” by taking on Darth Vader or the Seventh Sister in this massively popular 25-minute show, which takes place 15 times daily, and if the force is strong in your youngster, you’ll want to sign up as early in the day as possible, as spaces do fill up quickly.
Exclusive Merchandise: It simply would not be an Orlando theme park without vast numbers of gift shops, but the new offerings at Hollywood Studios are genuinely appealing, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to pick up something special. Mickey’s of Hollywood on Hollywood Boulevard and Tatooine Traders in Echo Lake carry a smaller range of merchandise than Launch Bay Cargo, but Watto’s Grotto on Streets of America was purpose-built for Star Wars shoppers, and is well worth a long browse. Themed popcorn buckets and drinks cups are also available, as are novelty menu items and wonderfully tempting themed cupcakes.
The new Star Wars land’s opening is still quite a way off, but the Awakening at Hollywood Studios is an exciting place filler until then, and when capped off with the Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular night time fireworks show, we “have a good feeling about this!”
Join us for more talk about the Star Wars events and displays on Attraction Tickets Direct’s discussion forums, here.
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