Star Wars Weekends started up this past week at Walt Disney World, and much of it feels like business as usual. There are no major new events or shows, the celebrity guest list feels both familiar and underwhelming, and in fact the decorations are far fewer than in years past, when they went all-out in creating “Rebel Base” and “Imperial Zone” sections of the park. Fewer walkaround characters, too.
But scratch a little deeper and you’ll see there’s a lot that’s new, and most of it has to do with merchandise. Let’s not be cynical. It’s OK for Disney to sell us stuff when the wares they’re peddling are things we actually want, and yes, there’s a fair amount this time around that I found myself actually wanting!
The first Saturday of SWW led to crushing crowds, and no more parking at midday.
Perhaps the best-publicized is the opportunity to freeze yourself in carbonite. What that means is that you report to the former Drew Carey audio show (it’s finally off the maps entirely, and won’t be back) to have your photo taken. Four weeks later, you get an eight-inch piece of plastic in the mail: it’s the Han Solo in carbonite figurine… but with YOUR face on it. Hopefully you struck a good pose. It costs $99, a little steep for me, though it’s intriguing. This appears to be run by an outside company, but Disney was right to from an alliance.
Grimace while in the Drew Carey attraction? Should be easy!
The special merchandise section has been in a tent behind Tower of Terror for some years now, since the former studio next to Tram Tour has been in use lately for NextGen testing. Dubbed Darth’s Mall (a pun that I enjoy), it’s usually a chance for Disney to hawk the “usual” Star Wars toys: action figures, light sabers, and the like. There’s always a special t-shirt for the Star Wars Weekends, but it’s usually just the one design, and my impression is that in some years, that was all that was new and different. The merchandise always struck me as boring.
This year, there’s still a lot of “external” stuff, like Fighter Pods -- micro Star Wars toys done in the exaggerated “chibi” style, that fit into clear spheres for battle like Bakugan. There’s even a nearby enclosed table to serve as an arena, but I never saw anyone using it. There are mashup toys like Star Wars Transformers (they didn’t just mimic the concept; they use the actual name so it appears to be a legit crossover). They’ve been around for a while now, but I’ve just never noticed them. This year’s tent also had an art show in the back; it’s always great fun to browse and dream.
I’m not that into the “Her Universe” line of clothing by Ashley Eckstein, a Clone Wars voice talent, but I support her for the simple fact that she grew up in Orlando, and she gamely shows up for these weekends every year. She was in the tent, meeting fans and providing signatures.
What really got my attention, though, was the volume of new stuff. They’ve long sold action figure sets related to Star Tours, but I never noticed until this weekend that there are new sets related to the altered Star Tours (probably this isn’t that new).
Lumpy! (Either you get this or you don’t)
Coming this August, there will be micro-sized Starspeeders, sold as a set of two (one will be the 1000 model, one will be the blue/white 2000 model). I also ran across oversized Starspeeders they’ve been selling for a while; these are scaled to be just right for your existing Star Wars action figures.
Also in August, we’ll see new Disney-Star Wars crossover action figures, with newly created molds. These will be hard to resist! At the same time, we’ll also see released Muppet Star Wars figures. Darned if they didn’t set my heart racing just a bit also!
Must get the Boba-Animal! And I especially like the Mickey-Anakin one.
Disney’s internal powerhouse toy line seems to be Vinylmation these days rather than pin trading, and there have been Star Wars Vinylmations for some time now. But this weekend saw the introduction of a few new designs. These were sold with the toy visible (not hidden) and cost $14.95 each. The designer Maria Clapsis was on hand in the tent, too.
New Vinyls. We bought the Mickey.
Perhaps these have been here in previous years (there are too many details to notice everything every year), but I liked seeing the professional-quality costumes for sale here. Chewbacca: $650. Darth Vader: $1,300. Stormtrooper: $1,700.
Form your own 501st parade!
Sure to be popular is the Build A Droid opportunity, new this year (and housed in Tatooine Traders, the shop at the exit to Star Tours). For $12 ($19 for a two-pack) you can assemble your own astromech (R2 droid), not too different from typical Mr. Potato Head concepts.
Everyone likes astromechs!
As exciting as all that was, it paled in comparison the nametags. I gotta admit, I geeked out big time about the nametags. These are Star Tours nametags, shaped essentially like Cast Member nametags. That alone would be cool enough, but they come with your name (up to 11 characters, spelled the way you want it) in Aurebesh, the Star Wars language. And for your home town below your name, you choose one of the Star Tours planets (Hoth, Endor, Death Star, etc). Extremely cool, and only $8.95 each.
Geeky, yes. But a must-own for me!
It’s rare that they sell nametags to the guests – long ago there were Guest of Honor name badges with a deep red. These blue ones remind me of the new Legacy Award nametags. What’s so cool about them is that they merge so perfectly both universes: Disney parks (not just “Disney”) and Star Tours. That’s what this event does that no other event even tries to mimic. It’s not just a crossover and mashup; it’s a full-scale simulation. Many visitors get into it with cosplay, dressing up like their favorite Star Wars character. It’s like Halloween at the start of summer!
On the whole, it feels like a theme park fan (who also happens to be a Star Wars fan) finally was put in charge of merchandising for the event. That’s a welcome change to us theme park geeks!
The One Man’s Dream exhibit in DHS has added a new model, and it’s huge. The Fantasyland expansion model lets you drool over it as long as you’d like (from the other side of the ropes), and there’s a lot to digest. The details are great, but what I like most of all is its mere existence. Having something to ogle builds anticipation, so I’m glad they’ve done this.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster.
Longtime readers will remember that I used to blog separately at UltimateOrlando.com, but announced some years ago that I was putting that on hold. It turns out that I did keep the blog running at a maintenance level for a while, posting mainly “other Orlando” news and press releases. But I’ve recently re-activated the blog and am now publishing there daily for the smaller stories, updates, and photos that don’t fit here. This week, I’ve got additional pictures of Star Wars Weekends and the Fantasyland Model over there.