On Saturday, December 16, 2017, I attended Star Wars: Galactic Nights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with my adult daughter. Let me state two things right off. First, I’ve been a fan of the movies since the beginning, I clearly remember the night that I first saw Star Wars, back before it became Episode IV A New Hope. I’m not a casual fan, and my love of the franchise has been passed on to my daughter. Second, Star Wars Weekends were my favorite special event at Walt Disney World. Being local, we were able to go all the time. While I can understand why Star Wars Weekends aren’t practical with so many construction walls at the park, that doesn’t make it any easier when May and June roll around and I start thinking about what used to be. I didn’t expect Galactic Nights to replace Star Wars Weekends because there are many differences, so I tried to go into the evening thinking of it as a whole new experience.
Star Wars: Galactic Nights was a special ticketed event, so the park closed at 6:00pm. Those with tickets were allowed in at 5:00, even though the event didn’t officially begin until 7:00. We’re Passholders, so we showed up a bit earlier than that, around 4:15. We asked a couple of questions when we entered the park about where to scan our event tickets and about the schedule for the evening. We then walked around because we wanted to get a feel for everything. Disney’s Hollywood Studios was packed between 5:00 and 6:00. There were signs that said that tickets for the event were still available. There were several places inside the park where the event ticket could be scanned. We went right at 5:00, and there was almost no wait. We were each given a lanyard that had a large badge on it. Those were easy for the Cast Members to see, and they make nice souvenirs. We were also given a small booklet that had the information for the evening. That also makes a good souvenir, and the information was helpful. I referred to it repeatedly throughout the night.
There was plenty to do all evening long. It was officially hosted by Warwick Davis, who has played many roles in the films but is best known as Wicket W. Warrick (the Ewok) in Return of the Jedi. He was involved with the official welcome, as well as Galactic Nights Epilogue at the end of the evening. Most of the time he was out and about in the park, taking pictures with fans. We weren’t lucky enough to run into him.
One of the special parts of Galactic Nights was a panel called Inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. There were four showings, we attended the first one. Warwick Davis introduced the panel, but it was hosted by voice actor David Collins. The guests included Disney Imagineers Scott Trowbridge, Robin Reardon, and Chris Beatty, as well as Doug Chiang, who is the VP/Creative Director at Lucasfilm. There wasn’t much new information released during the panel, but it was great to hear that Galaxy’s Edge is progressing well on both coasts. We also learned that teams were sent to Morocco and Istanbul to study the small details in the street markets, since Batuu (the Galaxy’s Edge planet) will have that feel. There were renderings of the rides, including the one where you’ll be able to take the controls of the Millennium Falcon. It sounds like there will be multiple ride experiences, based on the choices that the riders make. Another thing that Doug Chiang mentioned in passing at the panel was that they are working on a fleet of X-wing fighters. That pleased a lot of fans.
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Another experience that was exclusive to Galactic Nights was Star Wars: Galactic Destinations. This was my favorite part of the night. It took place on Sunset Boulevard. There were screens that would show clips from the movies relating to a destination. Tower of Terror would then turn into that destination, with pictures that took place there. For example, there would be scenes from Tatooine, and then Tower of Terror would become Jabba’s Palace. Even though the loop was short (maybe five or ten minutes), I could have watched it for hours. I hope that this is something that they find use for again, it would be sad to think that more people won’t have a chance to see it.
One experience that was unique for Galactic Nights was the Seize the Saga Scavenger Hunt. There were several locations throughout the park where guests could pose for a picture in front of a destination backdrop. There were eight spots throughout the park. At each location, guests would receive a sticker to put on the back of the badge. When finished, it created a new picture. Guests weren’t required to take a picture in order to receive a sticker, which was good because there were lines. The scavenger hunt took guests across the park, and the locations were listed in the booklet.
There weren’t as many characters as I would have liked, since characters were always one of my favorite parts of Star Wars Weekends. There were extra troopers out and about, and the jawas had returned. Darth Vader was back, and the Seventh Sister was also there. The normal Launch Bay characters were of course there as well. A nice addition was the droids from Droidbuilders. There were several of them in Animation Courtyard, providing great picture opportunities.
Of course there was event merchandise for sale. There were also Star Wars related dishes served throughout the park. For an added fee guests could purchase Savor a Galaxy of Flavor, which included tickets for five different treats for one price. The booklet included pictures of the special food offerings. A wine seminar on Skywalker Vineyards took place in The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge.
The lines for the attractions were short for most of the night. At one point Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: Star Wars Edition had a posted Wait Time of 60 minutes, but that soon went down and stayed around 30-35 minutes for most of the evening. There was little or no wait for everything else, in fact we walked onto Toy Story Mania! twice. The Imperial March was held several times during the evening, as was Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple. There was a dance party with DJ Elliot.
The evening ended with the return of Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. The show has been updated with scenes from The Last Jedi. It was a great end to a fun evening. As we left, each attendee was given a poster and a pack of Batuu trading cards.
This was the second Star Wars: Galactic Nights held in 2017, the first was back in April and coincided with Star Wars Celebration at the Orange County Convention Center. There is no word on when the next one will be held, but with new movies coming out on a regular basis, it’s a safe bet that the event will be held again. Star Wars: Galactic Nights didn’t replace Star Wars Weekends for me, but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t have a fantastic time.
A special thanks to those Cast Members who worked hard to make the evening special. From the young lady at the toll plaza, to the woman who cheerfully answered my questions when we arrived, to the staff at Hollywood Scoops, to Taylor (I think that was her name) at the Epic theater, everyone was willing to go out of their way to help out. It’s the Cast Members who make an experience such as this one worth it.