First of all, let me briefly apologize because this post is going to have a decidedly few number of comments and pictures from the various media events surrounding the opening of Star Tours. I won’t be able to brag about how I mingled with Anthony Daniels while sipping mixed drinks or how I high-fived Bob Iger as we departed our Star Tours Starspeeder hand in hand. Your author has always considered himself to be a “blue collar” Disney World visitor. While that may be out of necessity since he is never invited to any neat events, one might also conclude that he is more concerned about the experience of the every-man.
I arrived at Hollywood Studios bright and early at 7am this morning. For the Disney World blogosphere, this was supposed to be a late arrival. Touringplans was on the scene at 3am to get in line for the opening ceremony at 10:15am and purportedly the WDW Radio groupies were out front at midnight with plans to ride the first Star Tours ride at noon. Unfortunately, there is only one of me and I need my beauty sleep. I was actually a little worried that all of the prime viewing locations for the big ceremony would be gobbled up or at the very least I would be far back in line. As it turned out, there weren’t a whole lot of people there at 7am.
This was supposed to be the busiest day in the history of Hollywood Studios, with the Park closing to capacity prior to the start of the Star Tours ceremony. As you’ll see below, Disney had erected a Star Tours queue that weaves its way throughout the Streets of America, complete with canopy to shield the poor soul at the end of the six-hour-long line. Disney also trotted out their portable bars outside table service restaurants and opened up every last kiosk . I don’t think you’ll ever see this many cast members at the Studios unless you’re visiting on December 31st and even then, you probably wouldn’t physically see them all, even if they were somewhere on site.
Okay. Enough rambling. Let’s get this show on the road.
Well, I guess we are not quite there yet. This is the Charter Bus Lot at the Transportation and Ticket Center at 6:30am. Disney bus drivers starts revving their engines around 6:30am and begin picking up guests shortly after 7am. They were actually a little late getting things going to the Studios this morning. The first bus at the Polynesian wasn’t scheduled to pick guests up until 7:22am. During a regular day, the Charter Bus Lot is where you would go to catch a bus to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, or Epcot if the monorail isn’t functioning. It’s also where guests staying at the Shades of Green and various other Downtown Disney resorts will get picked up and dropped off. For those of us who rock the Lynx (public transportation) bus, it’s also where we embark/disembark/get on the bus/get off the bus.
Star Tours queue part one. This is an extension of the queue attached to the “regular” Star Tours queue.
Star Tours queue part two. This runs along the Streets of America.
Star Tours queue part three. This is located on the Streets of America around the corner to the left.
This is the queue along the Streets of America photographed in the opposite direction. You can see the canopy above to help block out the sun. Disney seriously thought they were going to fill this thing today.
We have to give credit to Disney for an amazing disinformation campaign regarding the operation of Star Tours. Every internet outlet was reporting that Star Tours wouldn’t be operating until noon. It was running in the morning until about 9am and they were distributing FASTPASSes with a return time of 1pm onward.
This is the area immediately outside Star Tours at 7:40am. Not very busy yet.
The area outside Sounds Dangerous and American Idol Experience around the same time.
Incoming crowds at 8:30am.
Incoming crowds at 9:00am.
Incoming crowds at 9:30am.
Incoming crowds at 9:45am. By this time, Disney crowd control was sending all incoming people toward Sunset Boulevard. Apparently there was a mini-parade scheduled around 10am.
Disney had cleared Hollywood Boulevard around 10am.
Finally at about 10:15am they began the Parade.
This is the face “Leia” made when she got a whiff of the guy standing next to me that had been standing in line since 11pm the night before for limited edition vinylmation.
I tried to swing a date with her.
But her boyfriend shut me down.
Overall, it was a fun little Parade, minus the obligatory argument with people trying to cut in front of me on the sidewalk right before the Parade began.
There’s a lot of coverage of the Star Tours “Christening” and much better photos than I was able to take from the nosebleed section. I will say it was unheavenly hot in this unforesaken gaggle of onlookers. Other than that, it was a neat show featuring George Lucas, Bob Iger, Anthony Daniels, R2D2, C3PO, and others. I could also take a moment to go on a rant about Disney crowd control, but that will have to wait for another time.
This is some sort of volunteer squadron of Star Wars costumes. They are sort of like the Royal Guards at Buckingham Palace. If you see one you like, you can walk over and get a picture and they will pretend like nothing is going on.
I can only imagine they trotted out way too early since the Parade began about 20 minutes late. They had to leave at about the same time people started moving through.
Once the Star Tours ceremony was over, the voice on the intercom instructed everyone to follow them to Star Tours. The wait jumped by about ten minutes every minute for ten minutes or so. It jumped from 50 minutes, to 60 minutes, to 70 minutes, to 80 minutes… The highest wait I saw was 160 minutes. I’m not sure if that was ever accurate or not since I didn’t take the opportunity to get in line.
You know me. I ducked into Backlot Express for a quick meal. One nice thing about Backlot Express is that they have self-serve beverage machines meaning you can get unlimited refills.
Around 11:30am was the only time that there were people waiting for Star Tours along the Streets of America. The posted wait time was 100 minutes.
Still no need for this section though.
These are all photos from the Premier Theater during the 12pm “Behind the Force” show. There should be two shows per day moving forward, one at 11:00am and one at 1:45pm. The show is hosted by Ashley Eckstein, the voice behind the character “Ahsoka Tano” in the animated series, “The Clone Wars.” Each Weekend, the show will feature a different voice actor or Clone Wars celebrity and Ashley will walk the audience through a series of behind-the-scenes activities and clips. It was interesting to learn a little bit about how the lip-syncing for animated series works. I highly recommend attending the shows in the Premier Theater – it’s a posh venue with plentiful seating and wonderful air-conditioning. Honestly, I would have probably sat there for 30 minutes even if there wasn’t anything happening on stage. Unfortunately, guests have to line up across the way until about ten minutes before the show starts. However, if you arrive early enough, a lot of the queue area is covered. For more information about the Premier Theater and its location (across from the exit to Muppets 3D and Mama Melrose Ristorante Italiano), see yesterday’s Hollywood Studios Walkabout.
Character Meet and Greets are a big part of Star Wars Weekends. Unfortunately, they are a pretty big hassle and almost always require significant waits. Without ruining any of the magic, these Star Wars characters easily overheat and can only be out for a short period of time. Chalk it up to a lack of oxygen on this planet or something. They don’t always have an immediate replacement, even when several characters man a particular spot. The character may only come out for 15 minutes, then take a 15 minute break, and then come out for another 15 minutes.
Here’s a character rundown of who you can expect to see.
This is along San Francisco Street in the Streets of America. It’s located on the opposite side of the elongated Star Tours queue, on the way to Premier Theater. You’ll find a mixture of the Jedi Council, including Mace Windu, Anakin Skywalker, Shaak Tii, and Kit Fisto. Kit and Shaak are pictured above. As you can see, it’s a very precious moment when you do finally get to meet the characters. The ones that are able to sign autographs do so and they take great pictures. It really could be a memory that makes the whole trip.
You’ll also finding roaming Jawas and Stormtroopers in this area.
Queen Amidala is located in a nook near Sounds Dangerous.
A mixture of the Disney characters dressed up in their Star Wars’ best are located along the walkway down to the ABC Commissary. You may find Leia Minnie, Jedi Mickey, Darth Goofy, or Stormtrooper Donald. It’s very rare to see more than one or two at a time though, which is unfortunate. It would be really neat to get a picture with all four.
Chewbacca and an Ewok are located at the Speederbike across from Star Tours.
There will be various signs pointing in the general direction of the characters, but they aren’t particularly helpful.
Ruh roh, bad guys!
Darth Vader is located across from the Studio Catering Company, near the bathrooms.
I asked him who ran a moderately good Disney World website and he pointed right at me!!
Here’s Darth’s lair in context.
Jango Fett and Boba Fett meet across from the entrance to the Backlot Tour, only a little further up toward Pixar Place.
I guess this is more a picture of this fine looking couple rather than Darth Maul in the background. Darth Maul is located across the way from Boba and Jango Fett in the Backlot area.
You may also run into my future wife. She is roaming about the area.
Just in case it doesn’t work out with her, I may hedge my bets next week with Zam Wessel, pictured here. She’s also a roamer.
A variety of Clone Wars characters meet outside the Premier Theater in this oversized action figure box. They really play up their part, which is fun.
In a somewhat obvious play on words, Jabba’s “Hutt” is a huge palace of merchandise located behind Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. You simply walk to the Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster area at the end of Sunset Boulevard and proceed through an open gate.
There’s no shortage of stuff here. The line to meet Disney’s version of Luke, Leia, and R2D2 is also located inside. I must have accidentally deleted those pictures.
That about raps up the characters I think.
Back to the good stuff. I’m not sure if they’ll set up these bars in the future or not. They weren’t particularly popular. My favorite is attached to Studio Catering Company, on the Backlot side. It’s a separate window with a wall of liquor.
Still no use for the extended queue at 2:40pm. The posted wait for Star Tours was 50-75 minutes for most of the afternoon.
My favorite part of the day was the pre-show to the Star Wars Celebrity Talk Show. This is a hilarious 15 minute-or-so skit featuring several stormtroopers and some very special guests. I absolutely recommend it.
Honestly, I wasn’t that enthused with the Talk Show. It may very well be a running gag that Anthony Daniels’ ego is out of control, but it didn’t rub off well on me or a lot of the crowd. Daniel Logan didn’t have much of a personality, in my opinion. Nonetheless, the theater is so comfortable that I didn’t really care. Not that I usually ask questions, but the guide did indicate there would be audience participation. But there wasn’t a Q & A session.
I stuck around for Anthony Daniels’ one-man-show, Inside the Saga – Starring Anthony Daniels. Here he is coming out to an amusing over-the-top introduction. Again, I sort of got the feeling that the whole ego thing was supposed to be ironic, but it just wasn’t that funny. And I’m someone who generally understands and appreciates this sort of humor (in case you couldn’t tell?) I may be in the minority in that opinion though. Word has it that he won’t sign anything other than the black and white photos, but I haven’t personally verified that. I would still recommend attending this show or any other. They’re all worth your time.
Here’s the wait times board at about 5:40pm. As you can see, Toy Story Mania has a wait time that is much longer than Star Tours, even with the Star Tours fanfare for Star Wars Weekend. It looks like those long waits aren’t going anywhere.
All in all, it was a great day at the Studios, though I imagine Disney was hoping that more people would show up. On one hand, it was a ton of fun to be able to ride Star Tours over the last few days with minimal waits. On the other hand, it would have been a lot of fun had no one been able to ride until today. Had Disney not run any soft openings, that ridiculous queue likely would have been full. I certainly would have been in line.
Star Wars Weekends are a lot of fun, though the character meet and greets can be frustrating and the limited availability of autographs and shows is unfortunate. It would be nice if everyone could get an autograph and meet the characters, but it just isn’t logistically possible. They dispense FASTPASSes for “celebrity” autographs outside the Park before opening. There’s a limit of one per person, regardless of how many tickets you might have. You would likely need to arrive before 6am to get an autograph FASTPASS.
I’ll check out Hyperspace Hoopla and the Padawan Mind Challenge (the other two shows on the main stage) tomorrow and report back. I believe they are both certified as a lot of fun, so my report shouldn’t be earth shattering. Feel free to post a specific question and I’ll try to uncover an answer. I’ll be back tomorrow, Sunday, and at least one day of each Star Wars Weekend moving forward.