Hollywood Studios officially operates from 8am – 10pm on Star Wars Weekend dates. Despite the official 8am opening, the turnstiles will begin letting guests inside the Park between 7:15am and 7:30am. There are two sets of bag checks. The two on the far right are designated for those seeking celebrity autographs. However, anyone can use these bag check lines if they’re shorter. If you don’t want an autograph, you can simply duck under the ropes.
Each guest is allowed one autograph FASTPASS and each celebrity has an individual line. This is the scene at 7:42am on Friday May 17th. Celebrity autographs were available for every celebrity other than Ray Park. If you wanted an autograph for Mr. Park, you would have needed to arrive by 3:30am. For the others, an arrival around 7am is fine.
Your FASTPASS is good for a small window during one of the celebrity’s autograph sessions. You should be able to request a later time, but they distribute FASTPASSes for the earlier time first by default. For week two, the times are:
- James Arnold Taylor: 9:45 am
- Ashley Eckstein: 4:30 pm, 5:45pm
- Ray Park – 1:45pm
- Warwick Davis – 9:45am, 4:30pm
- Jim Cummings – 9:45 am, 3pm, 4:30pm
Note that Ray Park only has one autograph session, which is one of the reasons why his FASTPASSes run out first.
If the Star Wars Weekend events are a priority and you’re relying on Disney transportation, consider taking a cab to the Studios. There are few things more frustrating than waiting for a Disney bus to pick you up early in the morning as you envision all the people arriving in front of you. Buses begin picking up guests from their resorts around 6:45am, but it’s impossible to know when your bus will arrive. Buses likely will not get you to the Studios in time for a 7:15am rope drop. Have the concierge call a cab or call Mears transportation at 1-855-463-2776 to schedule a ride. Or visit http://www.mearstransportation.com/taxi-services/ to do so online. There is a taxi fare estimator and your ride should cost around $15 – $25 with tip. It’s well worth it for the peace of mind.
Plan to arrive by 6:45am at the latest.
Jedi Training Academy
Jedi Training Academy signups are at Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular during Star Wars Weekends. It’s located across the street from American Idol Experience.
If you would like your child to participate, it is imperative that you head straight here first thing in the morning. The participating child along with an adult must be present at signup. Above is the line at 8:06am. Yes, this is just six minutes after official open and you would be waiting 30 to 40 minutes to sign up if you got in line now. The line stretches back past Hollywood & Vine.
There are 19 shows during the day.
The show is similar to the one that’s scheduled every day of the year, only there are additional characters to fight in an attempt to increase capacity even further. Shows are a bit more crowded with more kids participating.
This is the end of the line at 8:38am back at the entrance to Hollywood & Vine. Guests lining up now are told by this manager that the wait is 30 minutes and all shows will most likely be full by the time they get to the front of the line. These people are waiting to add their child to the standby list. Star Wars Weekends are serious business and this should be the first indication.
Padawan Mind Challenge
Padawan Mind Challenge signups are located outside the old Sounds Dangerous Building across from Indiana Jones.
Like Jedi Training, a parent and child must sign up together. Because of the proximity to Jedi Training signups, it should be relatively easy to sign up one child for both if two adults are present. Despite far fewer slots, Padawan Mind Challenge fills up slower because fewer people are familiar with it. I would send one parent and the child(ren) that want to sign up straight for the Padawan signup and then have them join the other parent in line for Jedi Training right after. If you’re among the first people to arrive at Jedi Training or only have one adult in your party, then it’s safe to sign the kids up for Jedi Training first and then move to Padawan after.
Padawan shows are scheduled at 2:10pm and 4:30pm daily at the stage in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat. The show is basically a trivia challenge. Questions are asked and the kids hold up their blue or green lightsabers depending on what they think the answer is. Most questions are easy, but they do become more challenging as it goes on. By the end, all kids are invited back to the front of the stage and receive a small prize. The show is not particularly entertaining unless your child is participating and there’s no hurry to arrive for a spot as the show is sparsely attended.
Star Wars “Legends of the Force” Motorcade Parade and Celebrity Welcome
Seeing the Star Wars Parade is one of the two biggest hassles of Star Wars Weekends. The Parade is scheduled one time daily at 11am and runs from the main entrance to the Sorcerer’s Hat. This is what you can expect crowds to look like:
It’s not a coincidence that I’m on this side of the street – it’s much more shaded and “feels” much cooler. For front row spots on this side, you need to arrive by 9:30am for the 11am Parade. Waiting for the parade on the other side is hell on earth with the 90+ degree temperatures and humidity. By 10am, people are three to four rows back. And you can see the clusercuss that is 10:50am. The Parade is simulcast on the screen outside American Idol Experience. If you don’t want to deal with the crowds, but want to see the Parade as it happens, plan to watch the screen. Like other Parades, it is imperative that you find your spot and fortify it by standing firm, placing the kids down on the curb in front of you. People will try to slither around you or put their child in front of you on the curb as the Parade draws nearer.
Or you can watch the video I took.
Scheduled nightly at 8pm on the stage in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat, Hyperspace Hoopla has your favorite Star Wars characters “getting down” to popular music. This show is an even bigger hassle to see than the Star Wars Parade.
Watch the show in its entirety above to get an idea about what to expect. People begin securing spots as early as 4pm. I prefer to see it further back – behind the wait times board on Hollywood Boulevard. No matter how good you think your view is going to be, there will inevitably be parents that put their kids on their shoulders right before show time. Further back, you can see the full stage and over the kids’ heads. Also like the Parade, the show is simulcast on the screen outside American Idol Experience and you can see a bit of the stage off to the right from this location as well. Be prepared to arrive about 60 minutes early to secure a viewing location near the wait times board. Crowds will back up near the entrance by 8pm.
If you’re present outside the turnstiles around 7:15am, you’ll see stormtroopers take up position overhead and taunt incoming guests.
New this year, stormtroopers appear on Hollywood Boulevard.
Later in the morning, stormtroopers patrol on stage, reminding guests of the Star Wars Weekends hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.
And Boba Fett returns with his five to seven pre-recorded sayings.
Premier Theater Shows
The Premier Theater is located on the Streets of America near Mama Melrose, Muppet Vision, and the Phineas & Ferb Meet and Greet. The schedule is:
- Behind the Force with Ashley Eckstein and Celebrity Voice Actor: 12pm
- Celebrity Show (or potentially a second Behind the Force show): 1:45pm
- Stars of the Saga with James Arnold Taylor and Other Two Celebrities: 3:30pm with 3:15pm Stormtrooper pre-show
- Celebrity Show: 5pm
- Obi-Wan and Beyond with James Arnold Taylor: 6:30pm
People begin lining up for the Premier Theater shows 1+ hours early. I recommend arriving 20 to 30 minutes early, which should guarantee that you’ll be waiting in the cooler, covered waiting area pictured above. It also guarantees you’ll be seated in the lower section in a comfortable chair. The overflow seating is bleacher-style in the back and much less comfortable.
The line spills outside down the Streets of America in the sun, which is less than ideal.
I highly recommend the Premier Theater shows because they’re air-conditioned and seating is comfortable. Remember that highs in May and June are 90+ degrees and it stays hot and humid all day.
The stormtrooper pre-show before the Behind the Force show begins at 3:15pm. It’s hilarious and one of the highlights of Star Wars Weekends – not to be missed:
Otherwise, Behind the Force is hosted by James Arnold Taylor and features two or three of the invited celebrities discussing their involvement in the Star Wars universe. I enjoy Star Wars, but am not particularly rabid about it and I’ve enjoyed every Premier Theater show I’ve experienced, if for no other reason than the air-conditioning and darkness.
Characters (In Order of Priority)
For exact Meet and Greet times, visit http://kennythepirate.com/2012/08/08/star-wars-weekends-map-and-character-schedule/.
Location: Across from Star Tours.
Line: Chewie’s line backs up toward Sci-Fi Dine-in and around to the back side of American Idol Experience.
- 8:30am – 10:30am
- 11:50am – 1:50pm
- 3:15pm – 7:15pm
- All with intermittent breaks
Tips: Ideally, someone will head here first thing in the morning if you’re interested in the Meet and Greet. This is an easy line to save spots in because the entire queue is accessible. Otherwise, plan to arrive around 5:45pm to guarantee a picture.
Waits: You’ll be waiting at least an hour pretty much no matter what. Waits by 9:30am will be 100 to 120 minutes from then on. Seriously. In the blazing sun.
Location: Across from Studio Catering Company in the Streets of America. The Monsters Inc. Meet would be behind the blue wall on the right.
Line: Darth’s queue is at least covered and winds around in front of him His interactions with other guests are visible and usually very funny as Darth does not do hugs.
- 8am – 7:30pm with intermittent breaks
Tips: If possible, head here first thing in the morning. Since he arrives at 8am, you should be through and on your way by 8:15am. Otherwise, arrive around 6:15pm to guarantee a meet.
Waits: Waits hit 45 minutes by 8:30am and peak in the 90 minute range.
Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, R2MK
Location: Mickey and the Gang greet guests near ABC Commissary and the exit to Great Movie Ride to the left of Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat.
Line: Ugly. It’s completely uncovered in the blazing sun.
- 8am – 10:40am
- 11:30am – 7:30pm
- Mickey/Minnie meet together and Donald/Goofy/R2MK meet together
Tips: Another set of characters that you want to visit first or last if possible.
Waits: 45 to 60 minutes because characters meet continuously.
Boba and Jango Fett
Location: Across from the entrance to Studio Backlot Tour.
Line: The line is uncovered and wraps around the bank building off to their right.
- 8:30am – 10:20am with intermittent breaks
- 12:15pm – 7:45pm with intermittent breaks
- Boba and Jango meet separately so one character is out at a time
Tips: An arrival at 12pm is best and you’ll meet Boba, who is more popular.
Waits: 30 to 45 minutes. Possibly longer if you have to wait through a break.
Location: Maul meets to the right of the entrance to the Studio Backlot Tour
Line: Maul’s line will start out in front of him.
Later in the day, the line winds around behind him.
- 8am – 11:45am 30 minute sets on the hour with 30 minute breaks in between
- 1pm – 1:50pm
- 2:45pm – 3:15pm
- 4:30pm – 5pm
Tips: Line up around 4:15pm for a short wait.
Waits: Unless you meet him first thing in the morning, waits will be 30 to 60 minutes from 8:30am – 11:45am. It’s best to meet during one of the afternoon sets.
Chip & Dale
Location: Across from Chewbacca near Star Tours.
Line: The line wraps around behind them along the Streets of America.
- 9am – 10am
- 12:15pm – 12:35pm
- 1:30pm – 2pm
Tips: Chip and Dale greet only during three specific times. Because they’re new this year, waits tend to be short. Plan to arrive at 8:45am, 12pm, or 1:15pm. Because they only meet for a short time in the afternoon, the line is cut off quickly.
Waits: Typically 15 minutes.
C3PO, R2D2, Luke, Leia
Location: The good guys meet inside Darth’s Mall, which is located behind Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Line: Depending on the length of the line, it will be inside Darth’s Mall or potentially spill outside to the outdoor queue.
- 8:30am – 7pm with intermittent breaks. Luke begins meeting at 8:30am. R2D2 and C3PO meet together beginning at 9:15am and Leia arrives at 12pm.
Tips: The characters are best met in the afternoon or evening, ideally after 5pm. The building is nicely air-conditioned and Darth’s Mall is less busy in the afternoon after the majority of the merchandise collectors move through.
Waits: Generally 15 to 30 minutes.
Location: Queen Amidala meets to the left of the old Sounds Dangerous building. You’ll see her on the right before arriving at Star Tours.
Line: Wraps around the old Sounds Dangerous building in front of her.
- 9:15am – 10:30am
- 11:20am – 12:30pm
- 1:15pm – 3pm
- 4pm – 4:30pm
- 5:20pm – 7:10pm
Tips: She’s best met in the afternoon or evening. Plan to get in line about ten minutes before she’s scheduled to reappear after a break.
Waits: 15 to 20 minutes
Anakin, Kit Fisto, Shaak Ti, Mace Windu
Location: Streets of America. The entrance to Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show is to the left.
Line: The line wraps around to the right of the meet and greet.
- 9am – 7pm
- One or potentially two characters meet more or less continuously throughout the day
Tips: The characters are best met at your leisure, sometime after the priorities. Get in line around 11am, 1:45pm, or 4:30pm. Try to avoid 12:30pm – 1pm, 3:15pm – 4pm, and 6pm – 6:30pm because crowds from nearby Lights, Motors, Action increase waits.
Waits: Usually 15 minutes.
Ahsoka Tano, Asajj Ventress, Captain Rex, Commander Cody
Location: Streets of America in between the Premier Theater and Phineas and Ferb Meet and Greet. The Cars Meet and Greet is on the left.
Line: The usually short line winds around whatever character is currently appearing.
- 9:30am – 6:45pm more or less continuously. Ahsoka Tano first appears at 12:10pm and Asajj Ventress appears first at 12:40pm.
Tips: The characters here are best met in the afternoon or early evening after the priorities.
Waits: Typically 10 to 15 minutes, if that.
Aurra Sing, Gamorrean Guard, Greedo, Stormtroopers, Tusken Raiders, Zam Wessel
Location: Backlot area outside of Pixar Place on the Studio Backlot Tour side.
Line: None. These casual meet and greets are simply first come, first served.
- 8:30am – 7:30pm
- Stormtroopers appear beginning at 8:30am. Gamorrean Guards appear at 11:30am. Zam Wessel and Aurra Sing appear first at 12:20pm. Tusken Raiders begin appearing at 2:20pm. Greedo appears only from 6:20pm – 6:40pm and 7:20pm – 7:40pm.
Jawas, Cantina Band, Clone Troopers, etc.
More characters appear in the Streets of America near the Jedi Council Meet and Greet. The Jawas may attempt to trade you for something.
Darth’s Mall and Star Wars Weekends Merchandise
Located behind Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Darth’s Mall is shopping central at Star Wars Weekends. On the first day, there is typically a 5+ hour wait to get inside due to Disney offering artificially limited merchandise to the eBay resellers. Waits are much shorter to nonexistent after the first two days. Here’s the merchandise you can easily find throughout the event. It’s available throughout the Park at various carts along with the store outside American Idol Experience, in addition to Darth’s Mall:
Star Wars Weekends merchandise is only available on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday that comprise one of the Weekends. Remaining merchandise that’s dated is discounted on the last Weekend.
Other Star Wars Touches
Disney offers two Star Wars drinks for the event.
They’re available all over, including temporary bars outside Animation Courtyard, Sci-Fi Dine-in, 50′s Prime Time Cafe, and Mama Melrose Ristorante Italiano.
I recommend picking up your drinks from Studio Catering Company High Octane Refreshments across from the entrance to Studio Backlot Tour.
Otherwise, your booze has been sitting out in the 90 degree heat for who knows how long.
A $9.75 “The Force” with Wildberry Lemonade, Grey Goose, and Chambord – tres refreshing. The dropper comes with a taste of the other beverage. In this case, “Dark Side” is much sweeter and a little lighter on the alcohol. The drink was tasty, but at $12 with tax and tip, on the expensive side for what you receive. But you can say that about every drink on Disney property. I recommend The Force if you’re in the market.
The temporary bars and High Octane also serve other mixed drinks, beer, wine, and can concoct something to your specifications.
Last year’s Vader Cupcake returns to Pizza Planet, Backlot Express, ABC Commissary, Studio Catering Company, Sunset Ranch Market, and Darth’s Mall. Better, you can get them as a dessert or snack credit on the Dining Plan.
A face painting station is added near the Chip & Dale meet and greet with additional Star-Wars-inspired styles. It costs around $15.
Crowds and Attraction Wait Times
Studios’ crowds are among the largest of the year on Star Wars Weekend dates.
This not only affects wait times, but every other line as well. This is the line for ABC Commissary for lunch, which spills out the door and into Commissary Lane. Indoor seating is full, so you’d either be waiting to pounce on a table or sitting outside in the heat. I highly recommend making a dining reservation for lunch and dinner. Kenny and I had lunch at the Brown Derby at 1:15pm and it was just what we needed to re-energize ourselves.
This is an extended queue for Pizza Planet. You can’t even enter through the normal entrance.
Wait times are also significantly higher than recommended days. This is a two hour wait for Toy Story Mania. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror also hit triple digit waits throughout the day.
That’s a 30 minute wait for Voyage of the Little Mermaid, an attraction that you can usually walk right into.
With its healthy capacity and plentiful FASTPASS opportunities, Star Tours remains a low priority, even with the Star Wars contingent in full force.
With that said, you can do very well in the morning with the 7:30am open. Waits will be short at the major attractions through about 10am, with the exception of Toy Story Mania, which should hit 45 minutes by 9am.
Keep in mind that Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and other attractions most likely won’t begin operating until 8am. Toy Story should be operating at Park open.
The regular characters also tend to have shorter waits. The characters that ordinarily meet at Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat in the morning appear inside the Animation Building from 8:30am – 1pm and 2:10pm – 3:30pm. Characterpalooza is not scheduled on Weekend dates.
Star Wars Weekends can be a hot, frustrating experience with the long lines and waits. Armed with the knowledge above, you should be able to put together a plan that works for your group. Have sensible expectations and be prepared to show up early and you can have a great time.