Remembering Star Wars Weekends

Star Wars Weekends logo

If you follow Disney Over 50 on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve probably seen me add pictures from Star Wars Weekend. There have been some questions from newer Walt Disney World fans about these glorious days. Others miss them as much as I do. I thought that today (June 14) would be the perfect day to talk about Star Wars Weekends a little bit. That’s because the final day of Star Wars Weekends was June 14, 2015.

Darth Vader on the stage at the end of the night

Star Wars Weekends was a special event that took place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The first time it ran was in 1997, and then it was held sporadically for the next few years. In 2003 it became an annual event, until it ended in 2015.

George Lucas in 2011, my first Star Wars Weekends experience!

In the time that I attended, (my first Star Wars Weekends experience was in 2011) it took place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, starting in mid-May and ending in mid-June. My first year it was four weekends, but eventually it expanded to five.

Mark Hamill in 2014

There were a lot of special activities during Star Wars Weekends, and they were included with your Disney’s Hollywood  Studios admission. There were celebrities from both the live action movies and The Clone Wars. Celebrity autographs were free, but you needed to arrive early to get a FastPass to meet the actor. Legends of the Force: A Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade was the parade. The procession featured characters, members of the 501st Legion, and the celebrity guests. Hyperspace Hoopla was a dance party with various characters.

Star Wars-themed fireworks

If you’ve ever seen a gif with Darth Vader dancing with Stormtroopers, it was probably from Hyperspace Hoopla. The night ended with a stage show in front of the Sorcerer Hat, followed by Star Wars-themed fireworks. Not everything was held each year.

Stars of the Saga preshow

During the years that I attended, James Arnold Taylor was the host of Star Wars Weekends. One of my favorite parts each year was Stars of the Saga, a live show where he would interview the celebrity guests. Taylor’s quick wit always made it a great experience. We’d have to arrive early, because the preshow for Stars of the Saga was hilarious. A group of inept Stormtroopers would come out to inspect the crowd, and each year something different would happen to them. It was hilarious.

The late Peter Mayhew (in the wheelchair in the middle) watching The Force Awakens trailer

Speaking of James Arnold Taylor, he also had a show called Obi-Wan and Beyond. He’s the voice of animated Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as many other characters. (You’ve heard him countless times, including as Lieutenant Bek on Rise of the Resistance.) Obi-Wan and Beyond allowed him to showcase his remarkable talents. He shared a glimpse into his personal life as well.

James Arnold Taylor during Obi-Wan and Beyond

There were characters galore during Star Wars Weekends! Many of them were in stationary spots with Star Wars backdrops. Others were roaming. There would always be jawas and Stormtroopers around, as well as Tusken Raiders and maybe a few members of the Cantina band. Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy, and Stormtrooper Donald also joined in. Chip ‘n’ Dale were adorable as Ewoks.

Jedi Mickey and Leia Minnie

There was a lot of merchandise for sale. Sometimes the longest line of the day would be for Darth’s Maul, as it was called some years. There were also extra Star Wars-themed food items.

Darth’s Maul merchandise location

Even though Star Wars Weekends were packed, it was fairly easy for other guests. The ride with the longest line tended to be Star Tours, because riding with a vehicle full of fans who also love the franchise is a great experience. The first time I ever got FastPass for Toy Story Mania was during Star Wars Weekends. The ride was incredibly popular at the time, and FastPass from the old legacy machines was usually gone not too long after Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened for the day. But we got one for that afternoon during Star Wars Weekends, because most of the people in the park weren’t there for the rides.

Boba Fett

When Star Wars Weekends came to a close on June 14, 2015, the Walt Disney World website claimed that it would be back in 2016. It wasn’t until January that Disney announced that they wouldn’t return. I still refer to it as the day that, “Disney ripped out my heart, tore it into pieces, and then ran over them with a truck.” A bit dramatic, but that’s how important Star Wars Weekends were to me. If they had let us know ahead of time that it would be the final year, it might have been a bit easier. The Star Wars Weekends page that said “coming in 2016” remained live on the Walt Disney World website months after the cancelation had been announced.

Star Wars Weekends billboard

Disney did later hold Star Wars Galactic Nights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There were three of them. They were held corresponding to the release of a new Star Wars movie. I went to two of the three. They were fun, but didn’t measure up to Star Wars Weekends. They also cost extra.

From Star Wars: Galactic Nights

The official reason that Disney gave for canceling Star Wars Weekends was that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was in the works, and that soon fans would be able to live their own Star Wars story. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that. I think it had more to do with the fact that so many fans prefer the original Star Wars movies over the ones since Disney bought Lucasfilm. The cancelation announcement wasn’t made until after The Force Awakens was released, and it was met with mixed reviews. Star Wars Weekends were based on the George Lucas version of Star Wars. Disney wants fans to look forward, not back.

Darth Vader signing autographs

I love Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The sights, the sounds, the little details that most people don’t notice, it’s exciting for a “from the beginning” Star Wars fan like me. That said, I’d give it all up without hesitation if it meant bringing back Star Wars Weekends. That’s how much I enjoyed them.

How I miss seeing Stormtroopers on top of the buildings!