Today we’ll take a look at the new Star Wars arrivals at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. There are several – most notably, probably, is Star Wars Launch Bay, which is located through the archway in the old Animation Building space.
First up is Jedi Training Academy signups – the location of which has changed since reopening under the Trials of the Temple banner on December 1st. Historically, the website’s advice has always been to sign up for Jedi Training Academy first thing. There are limited spots and once they’re gone, they’re gone, save for the waitlist that relies on padawans that couldn’t make it long enough after lunch skipping their designated show. Trials of the Temple looks to have at least doubled capacity for the show, but it remains to be seen how popular it is. Like FastPass+ distribution rates, participating in Jedi Training is the sort of thing that is only gaining in popularity as more and more people are aware of its existence. The opening show, which I will skewer in due time, announces the show and the signup location, which should increase visibility even more. On day one, spots were available into the afternoon, but the showtimes were not listed on the Times Guide and there was not yet any confirmation that the show would be taking place at all.
If you’re doing two rope drops at the Studios, it would make sense on your first day to start with the other priority attractions and then double back to check on Jedi Training signup availability later in the morning. There will likely be availability now after moving through Toy Story Mania and the Toy Story characters or after heading over to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror first. With 15 shows scheduled each day each taking 30 kids, that’s 450 slots. Should you find no availability on day one, you can always head there first on day two. With one day, you’ll need to decide whether it’s worth the risk to bypass signing up for Jedi Training first to potentially ride a headlining attraction with a short wait first thing. But you never know what’s going to happen. It could be 501st Legion day and 500 kids and their parents could be headed over to signups. You might get stuck in the boiler room at Tower of Terror with one elevator working and an unexpected 45 minute wait. So I just stress caution here. Toy Story Mania isn’t going anywhere but once Jedi Training fills, that’s pretty much it.
Getting to the signup location is easy. Head up Hollywood Boulevard and take the first left. There’s a cast member holding a sign and pointing toward it.
Continue straight past Hollywood & Vine and 50’s Prime Time Cafe.
Note that everybody in this picture is running.
The line for Jedi Training Academy signups is outside to the right of the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost store. I arrived at the main entrance before 8am, was about five people back in the line outside the entrance, and walked at a relatively brisk pace over here and I was at least 15 groups back already and cast were busy extending the queue down toward Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. In other words, you do have to hightail it over here to be among the first to sign up.
They were signing kids up prior to official opening, but it is a slow process. Remember that an adult and the participating child(ren) between the ages of 4 and 12 need to be present to sign up. It’s going to be at least a minute for each group. Most people will want to request an afternoon show so as to not interfere with (what’s left of) morning touring. Remember the kids need to show up 30 minutes before showtime to practice. Keep that in mind when you’re selecting a show.
Kids being signed up inside the store after initially waiting their turn outside.
As expected, the show returns to the same outdoor area to the left of Star Tours.
The stage has been re-themed and expanded.
It looks like 30 kids are participating, which is up from the previous 15.
Darth Vader returns alongside a villain from the Star Wars Rebels series, named something like The Ninth Brother or Sixteenth Princess or Tomás de Torquemada or something. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention.
To be honest, I don’t think she’d have to try very hard to get me to convert to the Dark Side.
Anyway, the show looked to be very similar to its predecessor. I think it’s perfectly skippable for those without participating kids, though the 20-minute runtime and the need to arrive just a minute or two before showtime may make it worthwhile for die hard fans. There are some funny jokes throughout. If your kids are participating, note that double the capacity means double the crowds. PhotoPass is on hand, but if you want a front row spot for your own pictures and video, head over here shortly after dropping the kids off to practice 30 minutes before the start of the show.
For most, Star Wars Launch Bay, located in the old Animation Building space in Animation Courtyard, will be the most notable addition to the lineup.
Star Wars Launch Bay is set up for FastPass+ with Mickey readers to the right, but FastPass+ is not yet available.
Currently, you have two options when you enter the building. The first is to head through the extended queue to the left and wait to enter the Launch Bay Theater, which is a 10-minute long video featuring prominent Star Wars producers and creatives like Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams. The second option is to bypass the video and head straight into the Launch Bay itself. On the first day, both had a line, though the wait to head straight in was shorter.
Assuming FastPass+ becomes available, I’d expect FP+ users to bypass the video and all standby users to first queue for the video.
The queue has some neat original artwork to enjoy while you wait.
I’ll dump the rest of the photos of the queue, along with all of the prop photos inside the Launch Bay, in a separate post so you don’t have to load 100 more images unnecessarily. That post is now available here: https://www.easywdw.com/uncategorized/star-wars-launch-bay-launch-bay-cargo-and-wattos-grotto-pictures/
The posted wait was 20 minutes at 2:30pm on opening day and I ended up waiting ten as I entered the theater as one of the last guests before it filled to capacity. The line only moves as the theater is loaded. If you’re headed here first thing, you obviously want to bypass the video and head inside to a character meet. Otherwise, those with even a passing interest in Star Wars should enjoy the montage, which introduces Star Wars cultural importance.
Once the video concludes, the theater is emptied out into this room, where a variety of replica props are located. This is the scene immediately after.
This is the scene seven minutes later. You might hang back for about five minutes and give people an opportunity to stroll through for a better opportunity at getting up close and personal.
Just keep in mind that in five more minutes, another theater full of people will arrive.
If you skip the video, the entrance is directly to the right of the previous room. You’ll have the opportunity to head left to where we just were or head right towards the meet and greets.
The next area is where you’ll find the two prominent meet and greets – this one for Chewbacca.
You’ll notice that it appears to be set up for FastPass+ as well with two Mickey readers currently covered up to the right. The posted wait was 25 minutes, which seems pretty reasonable. For Star Wars Weekends, you’d be waiting 2+ hours in the sun. Of course, now people have the opportunity to meet the characters for the foreseeable future, rather than just about 15 days out of the entire calendar year.
Direct link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXtkLA8TYgI
Chewie interacts with people in real time, which is pretty cool.
Darth Vader’s meet and greet is next door and also appears to be FP+ enabled. His wait time is 50 minutes. Note that there is a Disney Visa Card Meet and Greet in Star Wars Launch Bay, which is accessible through the next room in the Cantina area. Those with Disney Chase cards can visit the “Imperial Meet and Greet,” which is also expected to be Darth Vader – at least some or most of the time, though Disney does not commit to specific characters. The Disney Visa meet runs from 11am – 4pm. My point otherwise is that while Vader’s wait time was twice Chewbacca’s, everyone with a Disney Visa was being sent through FP+ at the regular meet and greet instead. So we don’t necessarily need to assume that Vader’s waits will be twice Chewbacca’s. If you do have a Disney Visa, you probably want to prioritize the Chewbacca meet otherwise as lines for the Disney Visa meet should be lower.
Direct link to the Vader meet video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xup9YEPuP10
Vader also talks to guests in real time.
It remains to be seen how FastPass+ works here – my assumption is that you will need separate FP+ to get inside Launch Bay initially, then an individual FastPass+ to meet Vader and another to meet Chewbacca. You’d expect the meet and greets would both be Tier 1 based on the limited availability for a meet and greet. FP+ would also obviously push up standby waits significantly.
The next area is the Cantina.
Here, you’ll find some “photo opportunities” and wandering characters. Note the Jawas in the center of the frame.
Most alien lifeforms should be up for a selfie.
The next area offers an “opportunity” to play Disney Infinity on Xbox and if you can believe it, Star Wars Angry Birds on tablets.
The next area is all about The Force Awakens with a few models and replica props.
Introducing The First Order.
Launch Bay Cargo is the name of the store in the old Art of Animation space. It has a separate entrance to the right with no wait. Note that unlike the old setup, there are cast members blocking entrance into the rest of the Launch Bay. Don’t go to the store portion until you’re ready to exit the building entirely as they won’t let you back in once you’re in the store.
Here, you can “personalize” a phone case for an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.
Personalized or not.
The Cargo Bay is home to some conspicuously pricey costumes, statues, and other items. Vader here will set you back $4,000.
The stormtrooper statue is $9,000.
Signed photos and whatnot.
Overall, Star Wars Launch Bay is more of a diversion than a main event. Those with no interest in meeting the characters will find a few interesting things to look at along with the initial video. I’d budget 45 to 60 minutes in the afternoon if you have no interest in the characters. 10 to 20 minutes to get in and then 25 to 35 to look around. I got in line at 2:30pm and was back out front at 3:20pm and basically took a picture of everything.
If you do want to do the meet and greets, I suggest visiting as late in the evening as possible and ideally 90 to 120 minutes before close. Star Wars Launch Bay is open from Park open to Park close and also operates during morning and evening Extra Magic Hours. The benefit of going late is that we know for a fact how morning touring goes, so we can stick to the tried and true strategy there and enjoy short waits at Toy Story, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and other Meet and Greets. Later in the evening, most guests will either be on their way elsewhere or at Fantasmic, which should empty out Launch Bay significantly. If you’re doing Jedi Training Academy signups first thing, putting off the Launch Bay also means you won’t be behind everyone in line headed straight there as well. I’d expect 30 to 60 minute waits to develop shortly after opening for both characters most days – longer if they become FastPass+ enabled.
Path of the Jedi is the film now showing in the old Sounds Dangerous space. I’m not really sure what else to call it, but Hyperion Theater where the Frozen Sing-Along plays is directly to the right and Star Tours would be ahead.
The show runs continuously every 15 minutes or so in a comfortable theater.
I thought it was a little strange. In about eight minutes, it basically ruins every single plot twist and reveal in all six original movies. Characters aren’t exactly introduced…you just find out what happens to them at the end. Then the trailer for The Force Awakens plays. If you have seen the movies, as most of us probably have, it’s neat to see the characters on “the big (medium)” screen again and the sound is fantastic. But the show doesn’t offer anything new and anyone that was planning to see the films for the first time will have pretty much everything spoiled. It’s otherwise not a big time commitment – maybe 25 minutes if you time it really really poorly and have to wait through a full show to enter the theater.
Speaking of Star Tours, a new scene during the ride debuted a couple of weeks ago that takes all riders to the planet of Jakku, in addition to a special message from BB-8 and some other easter eggs throughout. I thought it was really well done. With just five rides in the entire Park, most people are probably planning to do Star Tours anyway, but it’s worth experiencing again to see the new scene if you enjoyed the simulator even a little bit.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Backlot Express debuted a new menu with some tie-ins to the “Star Wars Universe.”
A variety of “specialty cupcakes” are available – now up to a whopping six bucks a pop. Making the Dining Plan look that much “better” no doubt, just in case you’re looking at tacking on one of these monstrosities to every single quick service meal.
More stuff to add.
The Tie Fighter bucket in particular is huge. I wouldn’t want to carry it around for any appreciable amount of time and you might have trouble fitting it in luggage.
The same items are available at nearly every popcorn stand around the Park. You’re almost obligated to pick up a BB-8 I think. It’s just too stinkin’ cute.
I wrestled with what to order. I was originally going to go with the “Chicken and Waffles” that were listed on the map, but when I saw this disgusting looking hamburger I knew what had to be done.
I feel like it looks kind of good if you ignore the color of the bun, but like most Disney quick service burgers, it was pretty bad. Disney burgers are reliably low quality, overcooked, and a little bit too wet. The “beef brisket,” which I feel like you would expect to be slices of beef, is just the bbq-pulled-variety that I don’t think anybody could differentiate from the standard pork. The “Pumpernickel Bun” was somehow too much bread, too dry, and somehow at the same time unable to stay together under the moisture from the hamburger slime, oozing beef glop, and pickles. It was not very good.
Six dollars is a stupid price to pay for a mass-produced cold cupcake served out of a refrigerator. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
It’s your standard boxed lemon cake – far too dense and somehow drier than the burger patty. The weird shaped topping things are kind of crunchy chocolate bits. The only thing that ties it into Star Wars is the chocolate topper, but even there the design isn’t printed onto the chocolate itself or anything – it’s sort of like this wet toilet paper sticker thing that peels right off if you’re dumb enough to pick it up and try to eat it like I was.You can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Oh good. We don’t have to end on that note.
Min & Bill’s is the other advertised location for Star-Wars-inspired food. This is on Echo Lake basically on the water in between Hollywood & Vine and the Frozen Sing-Along.
The menu is mostly the same with the addition of the “Hand Dipped BB-8 Droid Crisped Rice Treat” which is in no way too many words to introduce it. There’s also the “Blue Milk Milkshake,” which has been a no-brainer for like 45 years. They did drop the Orange Blossom Pilsner beer, which is too bad.That’s a pretty good look at the Star Wars additions.
I’ll be back with the rest of the Launch Bay/Cargo Bay photos and a look at how the cheat sheet morning touring plan works in practice.