Star Wars Weekends 2013 Photo Tour

2013 marked our second year in a row visiting Walt Disney World specifically to catch Star Wars Weekends. We make several trips a year, and I think the annual Star Wars Weekends event will continue to be high on the list of must dos for the foreseeable future. The yearly schedule for this event seems to be the last two weekends of May and first two weekends of June. In 2012 we visited for the third weekend, and for 2013 we visited for weekend four. In recent years, weekend one has overlapped with the last weekend of the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, so that is my choice for next year. Each year brings different celebrity guests for each weekend and this year the guests for our weekend were Billy Dee Williams and Peter Mayhew. I am not a Star Wars Super Fan, but I still am disappointed with myself for not knowing that Peter Mayhew is the man behind Chewbacca. More on that in a bit…

A typical day at Star Wars weekends goes something like this…

First, I highly recommend getting to the gates of Disney’s Hollywood Studios a full hour before opening. For this most recent trip, the turnstiles, or whatever they now call those new RFID entry thingys,  opened at 7:30 each morning of Star Wars Weekends, a full half hour before scheduled park opening. In past years the Stormtroopers did a morning routine on the roof over the entry. This year the Stormtroopers were mounted on Mobile Imperial Sentry Units, or MISUs. Not sure if these are remotely controlled, they don’t seem to be under the control of the Stormtroopers. Regardless, they are pretty cool…

Stormtrooper aboard his Mobile Imperial Sentry Unit-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Stormtrooper aboard his Mobile Imperial Sentry Unit

If you have ever been to Star Wars Weekends, you may know what it feels like to be THAT GUY.

Stormtrooper pointing out THAT GUY!-Star Wars Weekends, Hollywood Studios

Yup, I’m THAT GUY…

I won’t give away any of the details of the skit they do, but the Stormtrooper pre-show is not to be missed. During this show, they hold you at the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset for a few minutes before allowing you to pass to the rest of the park. Once the park is officially open, they stick around for a while poking fun at people passing by.

Character Encounters run from opening till about 7:30PM each day and some, such as Jedi Mickey, are quite popular. The photo below was taken under the handrail of a fence from about 150 ft. away, the only angle I could possibly get since he, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy, and Stormtrooper Donald were so popular.

Jedi Mickey Signing autographs, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Jedi Mickey Signing Autographs

There are many other Character Encounters available, from both the Alliance and the Empire from the films and the Clone Wars series. A big fan favorite is Darth Maul.

Darth Maul, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

One of the many happy faces of Darth Maul

And a couple more of my favorites…

Padmé Amidala, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Padmé Amidala

That antenna must be painful…

Aurra Sing Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Aurra Sing

There are lots of guests that come dressed in their own favorite costumes too:

Guest Bounty Hunter posing with Stormtrooper, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

A “well dressed” guest poses for a photo with “official” Stormtroopers

In addition to regular meet and greets with characters, many of the characters just wander around an “mingle” with guests…

Cantina Band mingling with guests during Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Members of the Cantina Band having fun with guests

This Tusken Raider had some fun with a guest that was a bit to preoccupied with her cell phone:

Tusken Raider, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Yoohoo! Its Star Wars Weekends! Pay attention!!!

Tusken Raider, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Hey! I got your attention!!!

After having some fun with the trio for a few minutes, this gentle Tusken Raider offered a token of his appreciation:

Tusken Raider, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

A lucky guest gets flowers from a Tusken Raider.

The first big event of the day is the Legends of the Force Motorcade and Celebrity Welcome and is led by Jedi Mickey.

Jedi Mickey Leads the Legends of the force Motorcade at Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Jedi Mickey flys down Hollywood Boulevard in an X-Wing fighter

Ewok Dale with his acorn staff…

Dale as an Ewok, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Ewok Dale!

Darth Goofy in his Mickey boxers…

Darth Goofy, Star Wars Weekends, Disney's Hollywood Studios

Darth Goofy!

If your child is an appropriate age and they are interested, you can sign them up to be a part of the parade! Get there early as spaces fill up fast.

Jedi Academy students in the Parade for Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Jedi Training Academy Students get to join the Parade!

The 501st Florida Garrison is a local group that joins the “official” Disney Star Wars characters.

501st Florida Garrison, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

501st Florida Garrison

Emperor Palpatine, aka, The Emperor, aka, Darth Sidius…

Emperor Palpatine, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Was this guy born to be an Emperor Palpatine impressionist or what?

Tie Fighter Pilots. Those black suits must have been hot in the Florida sun!

Marching Tie Fighter Pilots, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Tie Fighter Pilots

Stormtroopers…

Marching Stormtroopers, Star Wars Wekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Marching Stormtroopers

…and Sandtroopers.

Marching Sandtroopers, Star Wars Wekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Marching Sandtroopers

The Bounty Hunter Dengar…

Bounty Hunter Dengar, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Dengar

I wasn’t the only photographer.

Ree-Yees and his camera at Star Wars Weekends, Disney's Hollywood Studios

Ree-Yees with his custom camera

The Jawas say hello…

Jawas, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Jawas

The Rebel Legion is another group of Star Wars enthusiasts that walk in the motorcade each year.

Rebel Legion, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

The Rebel Legion

Sometimes the characters get right in your face!

Ewok Closeup, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Ewok Closeup!

Shooting from a low angle makes the towering Chewbacca look even taller.

Chewbacca, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Chewbacca

Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca, was one of the celebrity guests.

Peter Mayhew, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Peter Mayhew, the Actor behind Chewbacca

 

Peter Mayhew, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Peter Mayhew

Billy Dee Williams was another Celebrity Guest.

Billy Dee Williams, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Billy Dee Williams

 

Billy Dee Williams, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Billy Dee Williams

Ashley Eckstein and James Arnold Taylor are the regulars at Star Wars Weekends.

Ashley Eckstein, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Ashley Eckstein, voice of Ahsoka Tano, Star Wars: The Clone Wars

 

James Arnold Taylor, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

James Arnold Taylor, Voice Actor

The Bad Guys like to show off their combat poses…

Darth Maul, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Darth Maul

 

Asajj Ventress, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Asajj Ventress

 

Jango Fett, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Jango Fett

 

Aurra Sing, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Aurra Sing

The Parade is anchored by Lord Vader himself.

Darth Vader, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Vader!

For Star Wars Weekends, there are several shows each day in Hollywood Studios’ Premiere Theater. This year we chose to see the Stars of the Saga, where James Arnold Taylor does talk show style interviews with the days Celebrity Guests. Lines start forming long in advance. We lined up 45 minutes before the show and were about half way along the length of the line, putting us about in the middle of the theater from front to back. Being closer to the front would definitely have been more desirable so I would recommend lining up at least an hour before the show. The Stormtroopers do a funny routine to introduce the show, but with the low light, quality photos are tough to get. Peter Mayhew was the first to be introduced and interviewed, then Billy Dee Williams joined him. My two favorite photos from the end of the show are below.

Billy Dee Williams, Stars of the Saga-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Billy Dee Williams, Premiere Theater

Peter Mayhew, Stars of the Saga-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Peter Mayhew, Premiere Theater

The biggest Star Wars Weekends event is Hyperspace Hoopla. It is held on the stage in front of the Sorcerers Hat and people start staking our positions hours in advance of the 8PM show. We got our spot around 7:10. I didn’t really want to stand around for almost an hour but the location we had was already pretty bad. If we waited until 7:45 we would have been back at Sunset Boulevard.

Since people start hanging out so far in advance, they have a DJ playing tunes, entertaining the crowd.

Star Wars Weekends DJ

Star Wars Weekends DJ

Once the show starts, people start to squeeze in to get closer to the stage. I did what I could to crop out people creeping into my photos. It was a constant battle to shoot around people.

The next few photos show Chewbacca and the gang dancing to Outkast’s “Hey Ya”.

Chewie dances to Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, Star Wars Weekends

Chewie dances to Outkast’s “Hey Ya”

 

Chewie dances to Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, Star Wars Weekends

Chewie dances to Outkast’s “Hey Ya”

As you can see, the lighting conditions are difficult for consistently good photos. In the photo above the angle makes the lighting acceptable. In the photo below, the back lighting makes things tough. Post processing to bring out detail in Chewbaccas fur also brought in a lot of noise. I have found that better photos can be captured from the sides of the stage, rather than dead center like we were this year.

Chewie and Padmé dance to Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, Star Wars Weekends

Padmé joins Chewbacca

 

Hyperspace Hoopla, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

Slave Leia and Ahsoka Tano join Padmé and Chewbacca

These next few photos come from a dance number done to Psy’s “Gangnam Style”:

Darth Maul, Hyperspace Hoopla-Hollywood Studios

Darth Maul

 

Tuskan Raider, Hyperspace Hoopla-Hollywood Studios

Tuskan Raider

 

Tuskan Raider, Hyperspace Hoopla-Hollywood Studios

Tuskan Raider

 

Slave Leia, Hyperspace Hoopla-Hollywood Studios

Slave Leia

And the Finale of the Dance Off!

Hyperspace Hoopla, Star Wars Weekends-Disney's Hollywood Studios

The End!

Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a must do for any Disney fan and especially so for Star Wars fans. The best advice for this special event is to get to Hollywood Studios an hour before park opening and arrive to all the events a minimum of an hour before they start. If you can dedicate more than one day it will make for a better experience. There are several shows each day in the Premiere Theater and they are all worth seeing but that would be nearly impossible to accomplish in one day. Next year we will be extending our Star Wars Weekends visit to at least five nights so we dedicate more time to all there is to at this event.

For full video coverage, check out Inside the Magic.

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