I seldom feel it necessary to comment on a few of the seasonal events held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS) such as ESPN Weekend or, back when they had them, the Soap Opera Weekends. But I can’t seem to help myself with the Star Wars Weekends, which are a) bigger in scope, b) longer-lasting, and c) closer to my core interests anyway.
The event is a little more low-key this year than in previous years. They made a big deal of dividing the park into the “Rebel Zone” and “Empire Zone” in the past; there’s no sign of that now on the lampposts, though the maps still mention it. And while banners are up at the park entrance, there were no souvenir guides for the Weekend and its events anywhere to be found when we visited on Friday late afternoon (not on display, not in the stores, not in Guest Relations… how people were supposed to know where to find anything is a mystery to me). It almost felt like the park had stopped trying. On Sunday morning we finally realized that you had to get the maps at the Info Board or at the event locations, if you could happen to stumble upon them. So I felt a little let down at first.
Those were my feelings before I saw this year’s Hyperspace Hoopla, anyway. This dance/comedy routine is designed to be the capper to the day, and it’s meant as campy irreverent fun poked at Star Wars. This is a thematic fit, because let’s face it, even without the Star Wars Holiday Special (“Happy Life Day!”), the 70s were pretty loaded down with camp. I had mixed emotions the first time I saw the Hoopla some years ago, because it seemed almost too irreverent, but the very exuberance with which pop culture and Star Wars are skewered makes it all but impossible to hate. It’s cheesy greatness.
The gloved one… This is one of two MJ tributes in this year’s show.
This year’s Hoopla is as fresh as ever. The writers always manage to find ways to “nod” to prior years (we haven’t done the Hustle in the some time, but they still make brief mention of it) and still fold in new material. They don’t recycle the joke from year to year so much as “continue” it, as in the case of the Cantina Band. This time around, they make it part of the storyline that the band always misbehaves and Snig always becomes apoplectic about it, for instance.
I find it oddly comforting that the same core cast does this show year after year. The Snig actor (let’s just call him R.) works as Marlin in the Nemo show during the year, but my family simply could not place the Oopla actress (we’d seen her long ago as the Adventurer’s Club Maid, but nothing since then). The Leia and Amidala actresses were the same from previous years too, and judging by the dancing, Chewbacca was also a repeat. These people must work on property normally, and I’m glad they return each time. For reasons I can’t quite pin down, their presence increases the repeatability of the show.
Snig and Oopla.
It wasn’t just the writers hard at work this year; the designers folded in more pyrotechnics this time than in previous years as well. So it would be hard to say that they aren’t trying with Star Wars Weekends, even if some earlier elements were not so promising.
In fact, they seem to have spruced up the place. The AT-AT was spewing its water like usual, but there were also two places in its leg which spouted steam every so often, as if it had been hit by blaster fire. Was this effect new? Something turned off for years and only recently fixed?
The usual warehouse shop for the Weekend was in the unused space next to Toy Story Mania. That the merchandise had to be held elsewhere could be reflective of any number of things… but one of the things is the long-planned expansion of Pixar Place in this area. Was survey work already underway for the Crush Coaster that is planned for this space, imported from the French Disney Studios park? Active construction is definitely not yet occurring, but it was interesting nonetheless to see this area not put to use.
In the merch shop was a preview of an item from Celebration-V:
the StarSpeeder 1000, which awaits us with the updated Star Tours.
When I first saw the crossovers between the Disney and Star Wars universe, I found them cloying, annoying, and forced. Jedi Mickey (dressed as farmboy Luke) was mildly interesting as a “Big Fig” oversized figurine, and even though we are not a Stitch family, we have action figures of Stitch as Yoda and Emperor Palpatine (it struck my wife as cute). But a combination of time, familiarity, and other factors (me aging? The crossovers becoming funnier?) has led me to finally think they are both interesting and funny.
I liked all of the posters this year advertising the event: stuff like Yoda as a topiary gardener with his lightsaber, an AT-AT in line to park, Vader riding the parking lot tram, and Chewbacca stepping off Rock ‘n Roller Coaster with his mane permanently stuck backward as if by force of the wind. The addition of the Muppet characters into the fold also generates additional possibilities. As a result of all of the above, I’m less cynical than you might expect to see R2-MK introduced, a red R2 droid sporting Mickey ears. Sure, it’s commercial and meant to goose sales presumably for years to come, but I kind of like it. Who doesn’t like R2 droids?
An unrelated gripe I’ve noticed at ALL Disney fast food restaurants lately: the “boxers” almost always hang out away from guests, facing away from them, and doing all they can to avoid interacting. They will literally wait there for minutes on end without trying to talk to the waiting people. Um, fellas? This is not the way it’s supposed to be. If your food is not ready, then please interact with the customers!
The daytime parade shows off the movie stars, and in a weird twist of fate, on the Sunday I watched we had Jango Fett, Boba Fett, and young Boba Fett in the cavalcade. It was a Fett-a-thon! As always, the cavalcade was followed by the 501st, which is a “legion” of Imperial troops comprised of fans with fan-made costumes that really are Hollywood-quality. There’s nothing amateur about the 501st.
Surprisingly, the Star Wars Weekends are not the only news in this park. Recently, MuppetVision 3D came back from rehab with new queue video projections (man, those are BRIGHT) and a new digital projection system in the main movie. That was overdue. Just like the monorail beam, you don’t realize how far things have degraded until they show you then new, cleaned up version. The 3D images had looked fuzzy and indistinct, we recognize in retrospect, because the new images look like 1989 all over again: sparkling new, fresh, and realistic. It injects new life even into this older show.
And even then we’re not at the end of the list of changes for DHS! It’s perhaps no surprise that this is officially WDW’s fastest-growing park, attendance-wise, for the past year. Because the other main driver of attendance—Toy Story Mania—has had the temerity to update itself this weekend! The Bo Peep section (second in the ride) was updated to reflect the new characters in Toy Story 3, and we had three complete sets of FastPasses to go and capture the changes.
Here’s what it looks like when the parade ends, the Jedi Training Academy ends,
and the Indy Show ends all at once.
Alas, before we could make it to the new Toy Story Mania my older child injured himself twirling on the metal railings at Backlot Express (he won’t make THAT mistake again) and we had to leave the park instead. Rather than bring you a report on Toy Story Mania, I’ll have to leave you instead with kudos for the Central First Aid folks at DHS. They were competent, professional, and best of all, knew exactly how to calm down a seven year old boy who was hysterical for no good reason. For all their foibles, the Disney parks still have my heart, and often with good reason.
Lotso, from Toy Story 3, now greets guests at the Animation building.
Normally I wouldn’t make such a big deal out of this, but I’m dying of curiosity. Does anybody know exactly when the bathrooms in the Yak and Yeti fast food outdoor area got these new air dryers? They haven’t been there for years and I only now noticed them, have they??
I got to know these airblades on my trip to Japan in 2007—so it’s possible this area of DAK has had them since the restaurant was built (it is meant to represent Asia, after all), but I just never noticed before. The efficiency of the airblades always impressed me, even back then.
This weekend, I was delighted to watch a ten year old boy insert his hands and all but jump out of his skin when the air turned on in both directions. The blowers may be unconventional by Western standards, but they are hyper-efficient, and I’d just love it if they made a wider appearance around WDW.