My Disney Top 5 - Cool Things to See in the Star Wars Launch Bayby Chris Barry, contributing writer
I've written many times here on MousePlanet about my love of that galaxy far, far away. We go back a long time, Star Wars and me. I was the perfect age when the original film debuted in 1977. I'm sure many of you hovering around your mid- to late-forties can identify with that memory. Imagine being 9-years-old in 1977 and being taken to the local theater with your best friend. You have no idea what you're about to see. There were no trailers being screened online back then. I didn't know what was coming and then…WHAM. That title blasted onto the screen, that text scrolled upwards, and what seemed like an actual monstrous spaceship slowly roared across the screen. It was a life changing moment. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Star Wars quickly became everything to me and to the group of young space cadets I called my friends.
Forty years later, that passion hasn't waned one bit. Star Wars and the many tales it has spun are still an important part of my life. I've imparted my love of Star Wars to my children and we are all more than thrilled to be embarking on new adventures in that universe. Star Wars is alive and well and as important a force as it ever was. Episode 7 was a dream come true. It recaptured the magic that little wide-eyed 9-year-old experienced all those years ago. Not that I ever got off the bus, but with The Force Awakens, I was right back onboard and I'm psyched for more.
Star Wars has always had a place in my Disney consciousness with Star Tours at Hollywood Studios. Now with Disney outright owning the Star Wars universe and the announcement of a full-blown Star Wars Experience taking over a huge chunk of park real estate, I can happily say that two of my favorite worlds, Disney and Star Wars are truly uniting as one. The concept art for Star Wars Land is beyond promising. The potential is endless and opening day can't come soon enough.
This past summer my appetite was sufficiently whetted when I stood there like a thrilled 9-year-old boy as Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular literally exploded into the sky right there in front of me at Hollywood Studios. This show was an instant winner with my whole family. Even my wife was blown away by this new amazing show and she never made it past Episode 4 back in the 1970s. Of course, I sat her down for a Star Wars original trilogy marathon one rainy Sunday before our trip. Now she's a fan, not quite a fan like me, but a respectable fan nonetheless. Our entire party of 13 all loved the Galactic Spectacular.
As if the Spectacular wasn't enough, there was a whole other Star Wars area for us to check out for the first time; the Star Wars Launch Bay located just off the Animation Courtyard in the building that used to house The Magic of Disney Animation attraction. What did we find inside? Lots of fun, for sure, but let's take a closer look at the Top 5 cool things to see in the Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
5 – Luke Skywalker's Red Five Helmet
"Red Five standing by!" It might be a replica, but who cares? I was beside myself when I saw Luke's Red Five helmet in a display case inside the Launch Bay. I could just see Mark Hamill's face behind that visor as he "switches off his targeting computer" and instead uses the force to strike at the Death Star. It's a classic piece of costuming and it's great to see it up close.
4 – Costumes
Star Wars certainly has its fair share of iconic costumes, and there's an awesome selection in the Launch Bay. On one side of the room there's the bright orange rebel pilot uniform and on the opposing side the evil, black tie fighter pilot stares back at you. Rey's scavenger outfit is there next to her speeder as well as a few Stormtrooper outfits. My favorite was Han Solo's costume from The Force Awakens.
It's not quite the classic black vest and white shirt from Episode 4, but it's Han Solo, so it's still way cool. If you're so inclined, on your way out through the gift shop, you can purchase your own Darth Vader costume for a mere $4,000 or the Stormtrooper costume, a comparative bargain at $1,800.
3 – The Holochess Table
There's a lot to see in this exhibit, but the holochess table made me very happy. It's not the actual one from the film. If it was, it wouldn't be out there in the open for guests to play with, but it's a perfect photo-op. How I wish it actually worked and projected little holographic beasts that fought each other. Just remember this solid piece of advice, "Let the Wookiee win."
2 – Ship Models
If you're a Star Wars vehicle fan, there's a fantastic selection here. The coolest, of course, is the Millennium Falcon pictured here.
But that's just the beginning. There are actual models used in the films like Anakin Sywalkers pod racer from Episode 1. There are Y-Wing Fighters, B-Wing Fighters, Tie Fighters, Imperial Battle Cruisers, and perhaps coolest of all, Boba Fett's ship, Slave I.
1 - Meeting Kylo Ren and Chewbacca
We got to the Launch Bay towards the end of the day and were pretty psyched to find the lines for the character meet and greets empty; we were the only people on line to meet Kylo Ren and one of only two families waiting for Chewbacca. I'm not sure I would've gotten on line if there were long waits. If that were the case, I would have seriously been missing out. These were two of the most fun character meet and greets I've ever experienced in Walt Disney World.
Chewbacca was an absolute blast. Hearing those signature Wookiee growls and noises coming out of that "walking carpet" just made me grin from ear to ear. Someone in or group of 13 made me a Happy Birthday button and for some reason they put my name in quotes. Chewie seemed puzzled that my name was in quotes. Watching him tilt his head to the side, as he made the quotes gesture with his paws and make his Wookiee sound was just priceless.
Kylo Ren was certainly a different experience but no less entertaining. He slowly paced around the room and would suddenly come to an abrupt stop, seemingly staring at us through his mask. He would then slowly get right up into our faces and say something like, "You were unwise to come here." He was legitimately threatening. We had such a good time at both of these character experiences. I enthusiastically suggest venturing in and waiting for either one or both on your next visit.
The Launch Bay is just a precursor to the extraordinary amount of Star Wars that will soon be invading Disney's Hollywood Studios. Over the years I've minced no words when conveying my opinion on the third Walt Disney World theme park. I've had many, many good times, there but it's my least favorite of the four. Just a hunch, but it's a pretty safe bet that someday real soon—I'd say when it ceases to be the Studios to me and affectionately becomes known as Star Wars Land—all of that's going to change and I can't wait.
In the meantime, on my next trip to Walt Disney World I will definitely head back to the Star Wars Launch Bay and get lost in that galaxy far, far away again. Whether you're an age-old Star Wars fanatic like me or just a casual fan, try to check it out on your next trip to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Or, as Yoda might say, "Do. Or do not. There is no try."