When your husband is a huge Star Wars Fan and your son is starting to become a mini Star Wars fan, and you just happen to be at Disney World the week Star Wars Launch Bay opened at Hollywood Studios, then you tend to spend a lot of time immersing yourself in all things Star Wars.
For those familiar with Hollywood Studios, Star Wars Launch Bay is located where the character meet and greet area, near the Disney Jr Show. Star Wars Launch Bay was bigger and better than we had anticipated. Honestly, I had not expected much, but if Star Wars Launch Bay is any signal, Disney is putting a lot of effort and thought into making these Star Wars experience as true to the movies as possible.
Choose Your Side
When we entered Star Wars Launch Bay we had the option of watching a behind the scenes Star Wars film that runs continuously throughout the day. The film is 10 minutes long but the wait was about 30 minutes to get into the theater. Had it just been John and I we likely would have waited but with Jackson it just wasn’t going to happen, so we skipped the film. Which meant we went right into the Launch Bay and then had to choose between the dark side or the light side. The dark side is a meet and great with Darth Vader, the light side is a meet and great with Chewbacca.
The Dark Side
On our first visit to the Launch Bay Jackson choose the Dark Side. The wait time was about 20 minutes but the line was well-organized and moved fast. What was really cool was that you couldn’t see Darth Vader while you waited to meet him, he was behind doors that according to John are similar to those on an imperial star destroyer. There was an attendant outside the door who was a representative of the Empire. Once you walked through the doors you were in the world of Star Wars, cameras were imaging devices, magic bands had another name, creating a really immersive experience. Each family gets to meet Darth Vader on their own, so that it’s just your family, the photo pass photographer and Lord Vader. I had told Jack that I didn’t think Darth Vader would speak but when we walked in he greeted us and then went on to talk to Jack asking if Jack was keeping secrets from the Empire. When Jackson said “no”, Darth Vader said the force told him that Jack was telling the truth. The voice was spot on and you really got the sense that you were meeting with Lord Vader himself. John and Jack were thrilled with the experience. John noticed while we were in line that every person came out looking happy and excited.
The Light Side
John and Jack went back to the Launch Bay on the last day of our trip to meet Chewbacca. There was no wait when the park opened. The set up for Chewbacca was identical to that of Darth Vader, same type of doors so that you couldn’t see him until you were inside. Chewbacca was huge and there was a moment when John thought that the experience wasn’t going to go well because Jack was wearing his Darth Vader sweatshirt and Chewie accused him of being a spy. Luckily Jack understood what was going on and unzipped his sweatshirt to reveal his Yoda T-shirt underneath. A quick note Darth Vader and Chewbacca do not sign autographs.
Launch Bay Attractions
While the movie and character meet and great are easily the highlights of the Launch Bay there are plenty of other things to see and do. There is an area set up to look like the Mos Eisley cantina, where you can take pictures of yourself standing at the bar. This is not an actual service bar but more of an elaborate photo prop, there is talk that the real thing will be coming with the Star Wars expansion.
Launch Bay is filled with memorabilia from the 6 films that have already been released along with new items and art work from all of the movies. A cast member had a “real” (not kids version) Kylo Ren light saber that she let fans hold and take pictures with.
My husband could have easily spent a lot longer looking at all the displays had I not reminded him that we had other things to do.
The gift shop at Star Wars Launch Bay is definitely a bit more adult oriented. Think $100 plus dollar lightsabers and other collector type merchandise. They do sell the Disney Infinity 3.0 Star Wars set and you can play a special version of the game while you are there. There were definitely some cute items like a BB-8 alarm clock.
If you are looking for a wider variety of merchandise or more kid friendly items, check out Tatooine Traders located at the exit of Star Tours, the store is large and has lots of great Star Wars items. New this year is Watto’s Grotto which was pretty much empty when we went in, which gave John and Jack time to browse and build a lightsaber. People may not realize that it is open as it is located between the Monster’s Inc meet and greet and the Lights, Motors, Action stunt show, in the location that was formerly home to Wandering Oaken’s Traders.
If you don’t see what you are looking for or miss one of these spots there is Star Wars merchandise in just about every store on Disney property. You can also shop Star Wars merchandise on the Shop Disney Parks app.
That was one of Jack’s questions when we went to the Star Wars Launch Bay because he remembered meeting Sorcerer Mickey there, along with Baymax, Hiro and The Incredibles. While Baymax, Hiro and the Incredibles are not currently on the list of characters in Hollywood Studios, Sorcerer Mickey can be found next door to Toy Story Mania in the former home of the Capt. Jack Sparrow Attraction.
Star Wars has definitely taken over Hollywood Studios. After we left the Launch Bay, we saw Storm Troopers walking around the area outside the Launch Bay. And fans of the franchise were out in full force, though I didn’t see wait times exceeding 30 minutes for the Launch Bay.
It’s an exciting time at Disney if you are a Star Wars fan and if you aren’t there is definitely some changes coming to Hollywood Studios and I think you need to give it a chance. The crowds at Hollywood Studios were larger than I’ve seen in a long time and I think it’s exciting that such a huge expansion is coming to a park that really needed some new life brought to it.