I have no idea why, but for some reason the opening day of Star Wars Weekends 2006 at MGM on Friday (5/19) didn’t seem to generate the excitement among the movies’ fans that I’ve seen in past years. The park wasn’t particularly crowded and we had no trouble at all walking through the usually clogged main Star Wars areas on Mickey Avenue and in front of Star Tours. Even when we stopped for a quick bite at the nearby counter-service Flatbread Grill (formerly Studio Catering Company), there wasn’t a line anywhere and empty tables were all over the place.
Some of the best entertainment at any Star Wars Weekend is provided by fans – young and old alike – who dress up in costume, but we didn’t see very many “characters” at all. Most were children, with the Princess Leia costume, complete with cinnamon-bun hairdo, seeming to be the most popular.
As for events, all of the old favorites appear to be back. There’s the Jedi Training Academy, where young Jedi hopefuls are selected at random to be schooled in the art of the lightsaber; character photo-ops, where you can have your picture taken with various Star Wars characters; celebrity guest appearances/autograph sessions with people like Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok) and Rick McCallum (producer of all three Star Wars prequels); and Hyperspace Hoopla, each day’s closing event where Star Wars characters participate on stage in zany antics.
Oh, and of course there’s still the main reason why Star Wars Weekends are so wildly popular and attract people from all over the country: the opportunity to buy limited-edition Star Wars merchandise.
This year, in an effort to ease the traffic jams, the LE merchandise has been moved from the Tatooine Traders shop to Soundstage 1 on Mickey Avenue. A much larger venue, but still very crowded, this is where all the people are. The building contains various displays of Star Wars collectibles – T-shirts, lightsabers, blasters, etc. – but the real reason people are here is for the limited-edition merchandise.
A Cast Member will direct you to the merchandise line and give you a printed sheet that lists all the LE items, their prices, and how many (one or two) of each item you’re allowed to buy. A sampling of items: A Star Wars Weekends framed set of pins (LE 100) for $275; a Darth Vader watch for $225; Darth Vader or Anakin lightsabers for $160; and a Jedi Mickey Big Figurine for $150. If you have a pen or pencil, you can fill in the quantity of each item you want.
Now the wait begins as the line slowly snakes through the building in the best Disney-queue tradition. Of course, your journey takes you past various racks of non-LE merchandise so you can load up before you get to the good stuff. When you reach the end of the line, there’s a row of order-fillers and a lightsaber-wielding Cast Member who directs you to the next-available opening. You then hand in your order sheet for processing, upon which the CM disappears into a tent/warehouse that contains boxes and boxes and boxes of merchandise.
But, finally with merchandise in hand, the experience isn’t over yet. You’re now directed to another line where you must wait to actually pay for your goodies. Again, there’s a lightsaber-toting CM who directs you to the next available cash register.
Many, many people in line had armloads of merchandise that no doubt soon will be appearing on eBay. Me, I’m nothing more than a casual fan of the movies but since I like Disney pins I try every year to pick up a few Star Wars Weekends pins. Well, it took us 35 minutes to get through the merchandise line and another 7 or 8 to make it to the cash registers. All for a few pins. Through it all, DW gave me her best indulgent smile. :glare: Sometimes the Force works in mysterious ways. :huh: