So Long Star Wars Weekends

Yoda Yum! / Starring Rolls CafeI’ll admit I’ve got an emotional attachment to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I first visited as a newlywed when the park was new – how exciting and completely different the attractions and atmosphere were way back then!  The changes to the park over the years caused mixed reactions in our family – some of them very welcome, some not so much.  It’s been difficult here lately to watch this once very unique and interesting park lose much of its luster…and the losses keep on coming.

So Long Star Wars WeekendsRM-SWW-Parade

Yesterday, in this article from the Orlando Sentinel, it was confirmed that Star Wars Weekends have officially been discontinued.  I get that Star Wars will, at some future time, have a much greater presence in the Studios.  And that the additional Star Wars real estate will be made up of enough rides, attractions, shows, shops, restaurants, etc. to satisfy even the most avid Star Wars fan and make special weekends in the early summer unnecessary.  I’m still disappointed.Wookie in Star Wars Parade

Star Wars Weekends were fantastic!  The end of May has always been one of our favorite times of the year to visit Walt Disney World and the undeniably fantastic extra addition of Star Wars Weekend activities made our vacations that much more fun!  In 2014, we enjoyed what we now know was our last Star Wars Weekend – we made time to rope-drop the park one morning to soak up the fun – there was always extra excitement in the air as Star Wars fans showed their love for the franchise in a wide variety of ways.RM-SWW-Parade2

The motorcade was the highlight for us.  There’s normally no parade at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so this event was very special indeed.  Star Wars characters and celebrities made up this popular spectacle and it was worth finding a place along the route well in advance (and waiting in the hot Florida sun).  RM-Star-Wars-Motorcade-John-RatzenbergerIn 2014, John Ratzenberger was in the parade and I could not have been more thrilled to see him!  I suppose that’s the biggest disappointment about the demise of Star Wars Weekends – the end of the gathering of stars from across the Star Wars universe and the excitement of the crowds who gathered to see them.RM-SWW-Stormtrooper

“I do not like to repeat successes, I like to go on to other things.” – Walt Disney

Progress marches on, I suppose.  I know additions to the Studios as opposed to closures will be a most welcome change.  I’ll have to trust that the presence of Star Wars in the future will be better (or at least as good) as the Star Wars events and festivities of the past.  Let’s get going!

What are your thoughts on the loss of Star Wars Weekends?  Will more of an everyday Star Wars presence make up for it?

 

 

 

Disney at Home on the Weekend!

Louisiana Crepe MyrtlesI don’t know about at your house, but at ours the weekend goes by WAY too quickly!  Seems like the hours between Friday afternoon and Monday morning are shorter than those during the rest of the week.  Whoosh!  Weekend’s over!  This weekend was especially packed with fun and Disney!

Fall has arrived and with our next trip to Walt Disney World just two weeks away, I realized how much still needs to be done!  So I kicked it into high gear over the weekend and got a few things accomplished.

Saturday, Junior got his Halloween costume finalized.  I’m 100% sure he doesn’t care about dressing up for this holiday or any other, but I care, so he indulges me.  I went with Star Wars and am really happy with the cuteness level!  What do you think?  Doesn’t Junior make a cute Tauntaun?

Sunday, I ran 7 miles as my longest training run of the week.  It seems I’ve got to run a half Junior as a TaunTaunmarathon to run a half marathon.  Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  In order to NOT start at the very back of the pack for the Disney Princess Half in February, I’ve got to prove I can go the distance in less than 3.5 hours.  I’ve run several half marathons in the past, but not in a couple of years, so I need a recent qualifying time.  I’ve decided on the East Texas Half in Nacogdoches, Texas on November 16th.  Who doesn’t want to run 13.1 miles for their 50th birthday?  Should be fun, right?

I was really hungry after all that running and decided I could cook up something fattening and delicious while crossing another item off my Disney New Year’s Resolution List.  After our Tutto Italia dining experience in May was such a disappointment (very poor service, very mediocre food), I wanted to use a recipe from the Tutto Italia of the past – when they had both awesome service and delicious dishes!  I’m not giving up on them forever at Walt Disney World (Epcot’s World Showcase, Italy Pavilion), but I’m giving them some time to work out their current kinks before we go back.  In TaunTaun Canine!the mean time, I’ll keep whipping up some happy memories at home!  I decided on the Gnocchi with Spinach and Gorgonzola Cream Sauce.  I took a picture of the finished product to show you, but, well, it’s kind of ugly so I changed my mind.  Let’s just say that my first attempt at gnocchi from scratch was a little rough – they were not pretty, uniform little pieces of pasta.  Thankfully, they tasted absolutely divine (in spite of the dish’s humble appearance).  I used this recipe from Allears.net.

Finally, after waiting for what felt like forever, Season 4 of Once Upon a Time started Sunday night.  It was worth the wait!  I won’t go into detail since you either watch Once and you’re with me in my excitement OR you don’t watch it and don’t care.  I will say that I was not expecting Kristoff to be so perfect.  I thought Anna was spot on (Elsa not so much) and having Marshmallow make an appearance was a great (and fun) surprise.  I wasn’t expecting to like the Frozen takeover, but so far so good!

Did you add any Disney to your weekend? 

The Rumors Swirling around Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Darth Vader on Star Wars Weekend PosterI love a good Disney rumor, don’t you?  Some juicy tidbit of really-true, might-happen, or totally-fabricated gossip is FUN to think about – imagine if it actually happened!  I love to mentally weigh in on the possibilities –  Am I okay with it?  Horrified by the very idea!  Or jumping up and down with anticipation.  One of my favorite places to hear about all the possible happenings at Walt Disney World is on a podcast called The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill“.  Unlike all the other Disney podcasts I’m addicted to, the Disney Dish with Jim Hill doesn’t come out on a regular schedule.  An episode might come out once or twice a month…then skip a month….then magically reappear.

While I’ve been hearing a LOT of bits and pieces of what may or may not happen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Star Wars, ride closures, attraction removals, updates, refurbs, and so on.  One of the last Disney Dish episodes really made me sit up and take notice – it was “Episode 62: Disney World’s Next Five Years”.  Keeping in mind that it’s all “unofficial” – there was a lot to chew on in that 73 minutes of commentary.  Basically, the discussion is basedSorcerer's Hat on what may potentially happen at Disney World now that Universal has really upped their game.  Much of the discussion focused on Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

So – based on the information I gleaned from Mr. Hill’s revelations, there are some major changes headed to the studios while some long discussed rumors appear to be just that – rumors – and will not become reality.

Here are the one’s I was most interested in (listen to the show for all the rest of the details):

The Sorcerer’s Hat – Source of much debate between the hat lovers and haters, the big blue centerpiece of the Studios has long been rumored to be on the way out.  Seems like it’s actually staying.  I understand its purpose – a place to draw crowds away from other areas of the park, a centrally located performance venue, etc.  And if you believe the other rumors about the hat’s original purpose – it was put there to actually HIDE the Chinese Theater due to legal issues with Disney’s use of a replica of the California original.  I’m not necessarily offended by the hat – I would LOVE DHS Imperial Speeder, Jasonto see an updated version though.  It’s so 2001 – cartoonish and hardly designed to fit in with any of the existing park theme.  I imagine that its removal would be a bit of a headache considering it reportedly weighs 156 tons.

Star Wars Land is a GO – And I am ecstatic!  I’m not much of a Star Wars geek, but I appreciate the broad spectrum of potential, the plethora of possibilities, if you will.  Now, this exciting news means big changes to the landscape of Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Echo Lake will be no more allowing the new land to begin much closer to the park entrance than the Star Wars area is now.  Think about it though!  All those lands, worlds, creatures, vehicles, andWookie in Star Wars Parade characters that are wonderfully amazing and unique!  This is what Disney Imagineers do best and I can’t wait to see how they transform elements from the Force (and the Dark side) into rides, attractions, restaurants, and shops.  The epic battle between good and evil…in the Studios!  Wookies and Ewoks and Sand People, oh my!

Indiana Jones may STAY – Can you believe it?  I braced myself to tell Indy so long and I may not have to! (See that blog post here)  Personally, I’m confident that Indy’s presence in the Studios will be updated.  Disney’s ownership of the Indiana Jones franchise opens the door to a lot of possibility…it would be a shame to waste it.

The Great Movie Ride is on its way OUT – Take a deep breath and think about it for a minute.  The Great Movie RideIt’ll be okay!  Original to the park, this 25 year old tour through classic movie genres was fun and edgy in the beginning.  Over the years though, no updates were made, no new movies were added, no new scripting for those poor Cast Members was written, things that stopped working correctly weren’t repaired (just adjusted to try to hide the problems).  Have you been on this ride lately?  Tarzan makes me feel embarrassed – he’s just awful.  The good news, though, is that according to Mr. Hill, the ride won’t be leaving anytime soon, so you can go and say a proper farewell.  My favorite part has always been the final scene from Casablanca.  What’s yours?

Still hungry for more scoop?  Check out The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill!Star Wars Weeekend's Parade  Download from iTunes or Stitcher.  Every episode is interesting.  Most recently (#63), the discussion was based on the history and future of DVC with information about plans that never happened and what DVC options may be available in the years ahead.

How do you feel about the possible changes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?  What would you be most excited about?  Would you be disappointed by any of the proposed changes?

 

 

Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

DHS Imperial Speeder, JosephIn honor of May the 4th and 5th being Star Wars days – May the Forth Be With You and Revenge of the Fifth.  I’d like to take the opportunity to throw a little love toward the Star Wars area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, particularly the Star Tours attraction.

We really love the Star Wars section of the Studios, but I believe it’s kind of an underappreciated area of the park.  Yes, we first rush to Toy Story Midway Mania, then Rock’n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror – we may not make our way to Star Tours until much later in the day, but we WILL visit every time and, like many other places in Walt Disney World, I always notice something I’ve never noticed before.Megan in Star Wars Area

Before you even enter Star Tours, the Star Wars area has some pretty awesome photo props.  You don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wookie Star Wars fan to appreciate the coolness of the environment here.

Then there’s the queue.  I consider myself a bit of a standby line aficionado – while I’m the most impatient person you will ever meet in my everyday life – when at Walt Disney World, I’m one of the most willing-to-wait people!  I’ve been known to regularly wait 40-45 minutes and, on occasion, wait up to 60 minutes for an attraction I love.  YES!  I do know how the DHS, Waiting for Star ToursFastPass system works AND I’m a rope-drop fan, but while on vacation, I’m living in the moment and meet the most amazing people on occasion if I choose the standby line.  (Hello to that super interesting lady from Canada and her son from the queue for Toy Story Midway Mania!)  Okay, back to the queue, sorry for the tangent….the wait for Star Tours is full of fun and interesting things to see and hear…

One can’t help but appreciate all the gems hidden in the Star Tours waiting area.  Seriously, Star Tours Queue, Disney's Hollywood Studiosthere’s some cool stuff – even for those of us who do not count ourselves among the Star Wars geeks’ inner circles.  Watch the baggage screening area – too funny!  Listen to the public address system’s announcements – you may hear one looking for Egroeg Sacul or Tom Morrow.  Don’t get the joke?  Holler at me and I’ll explain.  Do not forget to look closely at the shelves for a Muppet-related surprise.  The list goes on and on.  Look up, look down, but look closely!

Now for the actual ride – if you’re prone to motion sickness even a tiny bit, this attraction could trigger an episode.  Guests must be 40″ to ride – Personally, I think this ride is best for kids 9 and older that are experienced or “street smart” riders.  It doesn’t hurt if you’ve taken the time to introduce them to the joy and excitement of the Star Wars movies prior to this experience.

Star Wars Shopping at Walt Disney WorldThe best part – there are more than 50 possible ride sequences/endings!  Ride everyday for your entire vacation and the chances of having the same experience twice are practically nonexistent.  Who will be the Rebel Spy?  It’s pretty funny when you see the shock of a random stranger, but absolutely priceless when it’s a member of your own party.  In our case, during the last visit, Megan was the Rebel Spy – and has the t-shirt to prove it!

What do you think?  Star Wars area of the Studios and Star Tours – a must-do?

Star Wars Shopping at Disney's Hollywood Studios