Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Star Wars Weekends 2011

Where to begin?!  This past visit to Florida was one of the best vacations our family has been on.  There was just enough rest and relaxation mixed in with the fun-filled attraction that was the highlight of our trip, Disney's Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios.  My family arrived at our apartment in Mississippi last Monday evening, and we began our 13 hour drive to Orlando early on Tuesday morning.  We stayed at the home of one of my uncle's old classmates from the Philippines (one of the great things about being Filipino is our hospitality!!) in Kissimmee, which is about 30 minutes away from Disneyworld.  We kicked back and relaxed after our long day of driving, and planned out our week.

Wednesday we slept in and woke up feeling refreshed.  We spent most of the day just swimming in the pool and watching Freaks and Geeks :)  We went grocery shopping and picked up some last minute vacation items for the week.  My dad grilled some tasty kebobs for dinner and we hit the hay to wake up bright and early for our beach day!

We drove a couple hours to Clearwater, located on the Gulf side of FL.  It wasn't busy at ALL, and not as commercial as the big ocean-side beaches (Daytona or Cocoa).  The sand was very fine and white, and the water was perfect!!  At one point, we were laying in the sun while my dad was swimming/fishing, and he called to us to come back in the water...we looked up and saw a FIN!  Then another!!  It was a pod of DOLPHINS swimming right near him!  We ran out into the water, but they had swam away by the time we got in.  Sadly I didn't think to grab the camera, though I doubt I would've caught a dolphin fin.

On our way back to Kissimmee, my dad stopped at a little frontage road off the highway which had some outcroppings for fishing or just relaxing by the water.  My dad did a little fishing and we were just relaxing, when my mom noticed a large shadow moving in the water.  It was a MANATEE!!  He would poke his head up every few minutes, and we were able to snap a few photos of his cute nose!  What a day for marine life sightings!

hallo mr. manatee!
Friday was the day I had been waiting for...a whole day at Disneyworld's Hollywood Studios for the Star Wars Weekends event!  Every year, Disney hosts 4 Star Wars Weekends at the beginning of the summer.  They invite special guests, have autograph signings, special shows, and of course, all kinds of awesome Star Wars characters roaming the park.  Upon entering the park, we were greeted by some stormtroopers patrolling the park entrance.  They would yell things such as "these aren't the tourists we're looking for!", comment on the Star Wars music blasting throughout the park, or make fun of people on their cell phones ("look at that guy, he's a tweeter!"...pointing to my brother...hahaha!)

"TK-421, why aren't you at your post?"
"Because I'm at Disneyworld!!"
The first thing we did was head over to the newly renovated Star Tours ride.  Most of the hype for this years Star Wars Weekends was for this ride.  And it did not disappoint!!  We hopped on right away with a short 30 minute wait in line.  This gave us plenty of time to soak in the travel station ambience, updated with new security droids who either complained or bragged about their "job".  The ride, now in 3D, boasts over 50 different combinations of travel destinations, so that each time you ride it, it is a different experience.  We were able to ride it 3 times, and we only had one repeating scene in our travel combinations, but it was different each time!  We traveled to Tatooine, Naboo, Hoth, Kashyyk, and of course, visited the Death Star!

We also rode on the other Hollywood Studios staples, Rockin' Roller Coaster (twice) and Tower of Terror.  Always good fun!  After Rockin' Roller Coaster the first time, we were able to catch the end of the Motorcade and Opening Ceremony of Star Wars Weekends.  They introduced this year's special guests:
Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ahsoka Tano on The Clone Wars)
James Arnold Taylor (voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi on The Clone Wars)
Dee Bradley Baker (voice of the Clones on The Clone Wars)
Bruce Spence (Tion Medon from Episode III)
Anthony Daniels (C3PO from the Star Wars saga)

SWW Guests and the 501st Legion welcoming us!
We attended 3 of the special shows featuring the SWW guests.  First up was Behind The Force, hosted by Ashley Eckstein and featuring Dee Bradley Baker and James Arnold Taylor.  They gave us a sneak peek of Season 4 of The Clone Wars, and talked about what it is like to be a voice actor.  They did a short sequence of voice acting, demonstrating how they work "behind the scenes."

DBB, JAT, and Ashley
In the afternoon we watched the Stars of the Saga Talk Show.  James Arnold Taylor served as host and interviewed acting legend Bruce Spence and the man who brought everyone's favorite protocol droid to life, Anthony Daniels.  Before the show, there was a super fun little act starring 4 stormtroopers.  Their banter poked fun at the Star Wars franchise, including dreaded reactions to photos of Ewoks and Jar-Jar, and some of the lame ways people die in the saga (i.e. delivering "bad news" to Vader, or Padme who "just lost the will to live").  Overall, a hilarious way to start the show.  JAT first interviewed Bruce Spence, who shared stories about becoming an actor and how he got involved with Star Wars Episode III.  Then Anthony Daniels came on and in his cute British manner talked about working on set with the Lucas Team.  He also admitted to his strong preference for the original trilogy over the prequels (right on, good man).  They ended the show by singing the Mickey Mouse Club song to the audience…hehehehe.

Spence, Daniels, JAT
Then we checked out "Jabba's Hutt", the giant tent full of Star Wars collectibles, special Disney/Star Wars merchandise, HerUniverse apparel (Ashley Eckstein's clothing line for geek girls), and more.  After being tempted to buy all the fun toys and posters, I settled on a blue dyed T-shirt featuring the Disney Star Wars Weekends 2011 Logo (Jedi Mickey fighting Vader), Matt got a Boba Fett T-shirt, and we bought a "Chipbacca" Mr. PotatoHead for our little nephew.

And of course, throughout the day, we were on the hunt for characters!!

One of the highlights of the day for me was watching James Arnold Taylor's one man show, Obi-Wan and Beyond - a look at JAT's amazing voice acting career.  First he outlined his beginnings as a voice actor, influenced by radio programs and cinema.  He demonstrated his audition for Obi-Wan by doing a voice over for Ewan McGregor in the emotional climax of Episode III where Obi-Wan defeats Anakin.  Then he did about 150 different voices in a stream of consciousness journey through the different voice types of famous actors/characters.  He closed his show with an inspirational message to all, that having faith and determination will help you overcome any obstacle you face in reaching your dream.  He shared how he lost his voice and thought he wouldn't work again.  It was very subtle, but JAT shared his testimony of faith by saying "if you give something up and it comes back to you" you will be rewarded and blessed.  While he didn't outright say it, as a Christian, it was very easy to see how his faith in God helped him throughout his career.  It was very cool to hear him share that with us!

voice acting is like being in a straight jacket,
can't act with your body to display emotions...
and you are in a padded room.
The closing event of SWW was the Hyperspace Hoopla.  It was an overly campy "hoopla" of fun starring various Star Wars characters in a series of silly skits and a Dancing with the Star Wars Stars dance-off to Rock hits. There was even a "forbidden love" moment as Luke and Leia danced and sang to one another (weird). It was REALLY loud, but entertaining nonetheless.

We always have such a great time at Disneyworld, and having all the Star Wars events made it even better!  I hope we can make SWW a yearly vacation event!  Saturday we slept in (very late) and had dinner with our house hosts.  Sunday was another beach day but this time we went to Lido Beach in Sarasota.  It was nice to relax in the sun and get some reading done in "A Clash of Kings" (second book in George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series).

Monday we began the drive back to Mississippi…home sweet home.  Luckily, my summer term schedule is very light, so it isn't too stressful to be back to class.  But I definitely can't wait until we are able to take time (and afford) for our next vacation!!



  1. wow i would love to go to a star wars weekend! that would be so awesome! and what a cool job that voice actor has :)

  2. Sounds like an amazing trip! :) Glad you guys had the opportunity to go! What is it about Star Wars, though, that you guys LOVE so much!!!? :)

  3. I am SUPER jealous. Lucky you!!

  4. From all those pictures, it looks like you had a ton of fun!

  5. So jealous! But I am also so glad you guys had such a great time. :)

  6. From all those pictures, it looks like you had a ton of fun!

  7. Sounds like an amazing trip! :) Glad you guys had the opportunity to go! What is it about Star Wars, though, that you guys LOVE so much!!!? :)