Monday, June 6, 2011

Star Wars Weekend

Between work, vacation and illness (all of which are overlapping terribly), I haven't had much time for the blog. Sorry about that- moreso for myself, since I have fun writing for it. But in any case, I'm here to report that a couple weekends ago I finally made it to a 'Star Wars Weekend' down at Disney Hollywood Studios theme park. Yes, that's right, all these years in Florida and I've never actually been to a Star Wars weekend. Sad, I know. I blame my overall sloth and general dislike of large crowds. But in any case- I went, and it was great- despite the fact I was still recovering from a fever the day before. The experience (of the park, not the fever) was made all the better by having a couple other Star Wars fans with me (my friends Sharon and Philip- and their little 'fan in training', Alex).

The whole 'Star Wars' theme began even as we entered the park, with a pair of stormtroopers positioned on the roof of the check-in kiosk, trash talking the crowds. Heh, nice. There were plenty more Star Wars characters to be found throughout the park, to say nothing of all the fans sporting their various T-Shirts, caps and other paraphernalia. It's sometimes easy to forget that Star Wars has so MANY fans- I mean, you don't run into them that often in 'every day life' (at least I don't). But here they were- and in force (no pun intended).

Of course the Star Tours ride was the main draw for this crowd, and the crowds around it were impressive. Most impressive. So while Sharon ran off to get our group 'fast passes' to the ride, I got my first in-person look at the Jedi training academy they have for kids. This is (as with all things Disney) really well done. The trainers are fun people able to ad-lib amusingly and keep things moving quickly for dozens and dozens of kids each day. All I can say about this is that if I were a kid, I would love it- a chance to duel Darth Vader (or Darth Maul for the 'overflow' class).

As it turns out, the 'Fast-Pass' for Star Tours was a bit of an oxymoron- at least on a Star Wars weekend. We still had a pretty good wait to get on the ride. But that was fine. Disney does an awesome job of making even the waiting line be interesting. There were all sorts of little scenes and gee-gaws along the way- from droids talking to you, to a little scene with Artoo and Threepio to something else I found quite amusing- a collection of crates with droids in them- labeled 'defective, return to factory'. Inside one of these was the pilot droid from the OLD Star Tours. Heh. Nice touch.

The ride itself was fun- a marked improvement over the Star Tours- with 3D and (I thought) a much better sensation of acceleration and movement. There were also some nice touches in the form of some 'audience interaction'. Seemed to me that one passenger on each 'flight' is randomly chosen to be a 'rebel spy' and is featured in the 'story' of the adventure. Also, the exact course of the flight changes with each ride. So in one flight, you can wind up on Geonosis, in the other, you might land on Naboo. In one you may be attacked by a probe droid, in another it may be Darth Vader. All in all, a fun ride.

But as fun as Star Tours was, the high-point of that particular day came in a very odd and unexpected manner. While waiting for a parade to start, my friend Sharon and I just happened to look up as someone passed by. This someone was accompanied by a couple Disney security guys and was wearing a bright, metallic golden vest. Sharon and I looked at eachother and said (almost in unison): "That was Anthony Daniels". And you know what? It was. C-3PO, walking right past me, just a couple feet away. For someone who doesn't normally have brushes with 'celebrities', it was a fun moment for me.

It wasn't long after C-3PO walked past me (wow!) that the parade of the 501st Legion began. This was pretty darn cool. Okay, so... a few of the Stormtroopers were a little on the heavy side, but the costumes were awesome. And funnily enough, the Sand People in the parade traveled in single file, to hide their numbers. Awesome.

So, yeah. I enjoyed the heck out of Star Wars weekend, and look forward to going again sometime. In fact, the next time Star Wars Celebrations is hosted in Florida I may just do that.

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