It seems like every year Walt Disney World’s Star Wars Weekend seems to grow and grow. This year is of course no exception and with all of the press surrounding the currently shooting Star Wars sequel (Episode VII) it seems like a never-ending cycle of longer days to accommodate more people. In fairness to WDW, they certainly bring the excitement and make each weekend the show is on full of fan favourites, celebrity guests, shows and parades. In case you have not been paying attention over the last 5 months, here is the line-up for the year (schedule changes and conflicts may apply and alter this list on the day).
Weekend I: May 16-18
Ahmed Best: Jar Jar Binks (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace; Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones; Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith; Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Peter Mayhew: Chewbacca (Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith; Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope; Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi; Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Vanessa Marshall: Hera Syndulla (Star Wars Rebels)
Weekend II: May 23-25
Warwick Davis: Wicket W. Warrick (Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi); Wald (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
Jeremy Bulloch: Boba Fett (Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi); Capt. Jeremoch Colton (Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith)
Tiya Sircar: Sabine Wren (Star Wars Rebels)
Weekend III: May 30-June 1
Weekend IV: June 6-8
Mark Hamill: Luke Skywalker (Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope; Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi); Darth Bane (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Ray Park: Darth Maul (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
Billy Dee Williams: Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi)
Taylor Gray: Ezra Bridger (Star Wars Rebels)
Weekend V: June 13-15
Dee Bradley Baker: Captain Rex/the Clones, Bossk and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Cat Taber: Padmé Amidala and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Tom Kane: Yoda, the series’ narrator and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Matt Lanter: Anakin Skywalker and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Steve Blum: Zeb Orrelios (Star Wars Rebels)
As you can see some fan favourites will be returning and based on the guest list, no doubt Weekend IV will be the most popular with Mark Hamill making a surprise return to the delight of fans everywhere.
Last year’s Star Wars Weekend saw a multitude of shows, entertainment and show exclusive shopping that sent many fans rabidly collecting and flooding the online markets with sales well over the retail prices. It seems that for every fan there is also someone out to buy and sell. While this has been hailed by some as regretful, it does allow those who cannot attend to purchase the same date specific items, sadly at a much higher cost.
Last year’s Darth’s Mall was a huge success for both vendors and fans. With the typical Disney items available anywhere (backpacks, costumes, etc.) to true collector pieces and specially dated materials specifically for Star Wars Weekend 2013, it will be interesting to see what combination of items are pushed this year. In attendance as always will be the 501st with additional regiments and the obligatory talk shows venues, motorcades and fireworks each day/night. Fans will also be able to get autographs from their favourite stars as well as character autographs (in typical Disney fashion). In addition to autographs attendees will have the chance to interact with characters as well as be part of the Star Wars experience. This year the Rebel Rendezvous merchandise is the theme of the event. In previous weekends, attendees have had the chance to get scanned to purchase themselves encased in carbonite as well as to become storm trooper action figures. These are exclusive to Star Wars Weekend and the experiences often sell out/book out quickly, so if you are keen and attending sign up early for a slot. In addition to shopping, this year Disney has also introduced the chance for fans to dine with their favourite Star Wars characters in “Meet and Greet breakfast and dinner options.
With the new Star Wars films in the works, these weekends can only get bigger and potentially longer. Criticism has come because of this however. These special weekends do limit the use of the park (Hollywood Studios) to event attendees only, which puts a strain on casual tourists who happen to be vacationing during these sessions. Walt Disney World however has declined to comment to these complaints except to say they WDW is a large property and they offer a wide variety of attractions and events outside of Hollywood Studios during these events.
If you are a Star Wars fan, you would definitely do well to swing over to WDW and see what one of the weekends has to offer. If you are not a fan of the Saga or genre, our recommendation would be to stay shy of Hollywood Studios during this time as they are often full to the brim with obsessive fans and capacity is reached quickly. For everyone else, go have fun and May the Force be With You.