Beginning May 19 and running through June 11, the favorite event of Star Wars aficionados, the sixth annual* "Star Wars Weekends" event runs for four weekends. All events are included with regular Disney-MGM Studios admission. The popular event is held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each week. [*The first event ran in 2000, but was not held in 2002.]
Here is a rundown on what's going on during Star Wars Weekends in 2006. Click on these links to go to the sections directly:
Star Wars fans from this and other galaxies, including "a galaxy far, far away" can again gather at the Disney-MGM Studios for a fan festival celebrating the six Star Wars films. Many fans dress in costumes to join in the fun. The family-friendly event features such activities as the Jedi Training Academy, special merchandise, autograph sessions with Star Wars notables and "Who Wants to be a Jedi?"Star Wars-themed editions of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire Play It attraction.
Last year, due to interest raised by the release of the sixth and likely final film in the series, Disney extended the event for two additional weekends. There's no guarantee that it will happen again, though, so don't count on additional weekends this year.
Special editions of the popular game show attraction Who Wants to be a Millionaire Play It features Star Wars-inspired questions and surprise appearances by film characters. Also, watch for the slightly modified lifeline, "Ask a Stormtrooper." Times for this special edition are expected to mirror the standard show times of 11:00 and 11:50 a.m., and 12:50, 1:40, 3:45, 4:35, 5:45 and 6:35 p.m.
Who Wants to be a Jedi? is a fun event during Star Wars Weekend. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Younger Star Wars fans have plenty to do, as well. The Padawan Mind Challenge is a trivia contest targeted at children under age 12, where they can compete for Star Wars prizes.
Perhaps the most popular event for kids is the Jedi Training Academy, where young Padawans can train in the art of dueling with light sabers. At the Rebel Base Stage in front of the Star Tours attraction, young "Obi-Wanna-Bes" are instructed by a Jedi Master or Jedi Knight before facing Darth Vader or Darth Maul to test their skills. It's become so popular that the Academy began running on March 27, almost two months before the beginning of Star Wars Weekends. It is rumored that it may become a permanent attraction at Disney-MGM Studios. The Jedi Training Academy is presented daily at 11:50 a.m., and 12:40, 1:30, 2:20, 3:10, 4:00, 6:00 and 6:50 p.m.
Darth Maul tests trainees at the Jedi Training Academy at Disney-MGM Studios. Photo by Brian Bennett.
One of the highlights of the event is the appearances of Star Wars notables. This year, an added feature is that Warwick Davis (best known for portraying Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi) will serve as celebrity host each week of the event. Celebrity guests will sign autographs, appear in motorcades and participate in Behind the Force, a backstage look at the making of the films via a talk show-type conversation inside the ABC Theater.
Please note: If you want to get autographs, be aware that Disney will be using the Fastpass system to give out spots in line for each of the celebrity guests. It's possible that you may be able to get an autograph without a Fastpass, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
Jake Lloyd, who will appear the second week of this year's event, is interviewed last year. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The list of guests is as follows:
As always, special guests are subject to change without notice. (In fact, Orli Shoshan was a late substitute for Bonnie Maree Peisse, who played young Beru.)
40-to-45 Star Wars characters will be appearing in parades and will be available for meet-and-greets and photo opportunities. It appears that the list of characters is as follows: Anakin Skywalker, Aura Sing, Bobba Fett, Cantina Band, Chewbacca, Clone Troopers, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Darth Sidious, Ewoks, Gammorrean Guards, Greedo, Jango Fett, Jawas, Jedi Mickey, Kit Fisto, Mace Windu, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Royal Guards, R2D2, Shaak Ti, Storm Troopers, Tuskan Raiders and Zam Wessel. We have also heard rumors of Don Solo (Donald Duck dressed as Han Solo) and PluBacca (Pluto dressed as Chewbacca) characters, though that has not been confirmed.
Characters will appear in a special Star Wars parade at 11:00 a.m. each day. Some of the characters will also appear in the Stars and Motor Cars Parade at 5:30 p.m. The morning parade is also expected to feature members of the Florida Garrison of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion (link), a group of Star Wars fans who create their own costumes, most commonly stormtrooper armor that looks amazingly like that in the films.
Characters also will appear at the Hyperspace Hoopla, a character-filled finale to each day, where Star Wars characters and guests gather for an entertaining conclusion to the day of events.
The evil Emperor Palpatine is out and about at last year's Star Wars Weekends. Photo by Lani Teshima.
Star Wars collectors will find a plenty of special-edition merchandise each weekend. Disney and Lucasfilm Ltd. have again created event-exclusive Star Wars memorabiliafrom trading pins and commemorative posters to apparel, medallions and other limited-edition itemsthat will be available in Tatooine Traders, the shop adjacent to the Ewok Village set at the Star Tours attraction. Lines to get into the location can get extremely long, at times exceeding four hours last year. It may be quicker to wait in line to ride Star Tours, which exits into the shop. Note that certain popular items can and will sell out, often in the first or second weekend.
Two special merchandise items will be on sale across the way at the Animation Gallery near the Art of Disney Animation attraction.
The Defend-Ears of the Kingdom cel went on sale at the Animation Gallery on May 6. Photo © Disney.
A limited edition hand-painted cel called "Defend-Ears of the Kingdom" was released on Saturday, May 6, with artists Costa Alavezos, James Bonserio, Theodora M. Delaney, Yamilet Aguayo-Hill, Erin Magill and Sharon K. Vincent on hand for a special meet and greet & signing. The cel is available with five different framing options. Options range from the unframed cel for $110 to a gold frame for $275. The cel can be purchased while supplies last either at the Studios or via phone order at 407-560-4079. Shipping and handling fees may apply.
Defend-Ears of the Kingdom Big Fig. Photo © Disney.
The other special item being sold at the Animation Gallery is a "Big Fig" figure of Jedi Mickey, which is also called "Defend-Ears of the Kingdom." Designer Brian Blackmore, of the Disney Design Group, will be on hand to meet, greet and sign when the Big Fig goes on sale during the event's opening weekend. The figure will sell for $150. Mickey's light saber glows blue, and there is a special bottom stamp on the first 600 pieces to be sold. In case the first 600 do not sell out during the first weekend, Disney will sell them to those on the waiting list for the piece. To get on that wait list, call the Animation Gallery directly at 407-560-4079.
For more information on Star Wars Weekends with children check out Brian Bennett's article on the event from last year (link). For more information on Star Wars Weekends in general, check out the special Star Wars Weekends mini-site ate mgmstudios.org (link).