News and Views around Walt Disney World-third week of May, 2014

News and Views around Walt Disney World-third week of May, 2014

By Cassie

If you were here, how would you spend your time this weekend? You may have already been thinking about it as Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is upon us. I was lucky enough to visit on the first weekend and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Even before coming through the front gate I see large Star Wars Weekends posters on the columns, welcoming us to the event!  Immediately inside there is a SWW information tent where we can pick up our special Star Wars Weekends Event Guide and Times Guide for the weekend.  These are custom made to each weekend featuring the celebrities that will be here on those days.  The theme for the SWW’s is “Join the Rebellion”. Our Host is James Arnold Taylor who is the voice behind Obi-Wan Kenobi and Plo Koon in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He has an autograph tent near Echo Lake and will sign autographs at 10AM. The SWW’s are every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from May 11 through June 15, 2014.

Some faithful Star Wars fans have beaten us here to enjoy a Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast at the Sci-Fi Dine-In. They were treated to classic scenes from the films and meeting characters such as Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Jawas, Greedo and Boba Fett.  This is a new character dining experience and they are also offered during the week through June 15th.  If you would like to be one of the lucky breakfasters, call (407)-WDW-DINE to make a reservation.  If you want to see classic Disney characters dressed up in their Star Wars costumes, you may want to make a dinner reservation for the Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dinner at Hollywood & Vine.

This is a buffet and the names of the dishes have been changed to a Star Wars theme and there will be special Star Wars desserts at the dessert station.  Sounds tasty! There are no discounts on either of these character experiences but if you are on the Disney Dining Plan you can use two table service credits for each of these dining options. Breakfast is $48.00 Adults/$30.00 Children. Dinner is $56.00 Adults/$37.00 Children, not counting tax and tip.  A digital photograph is included in each meal.  Each Friday and Saturday at 11:30AM is the Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade and today we have Peter Mayhew who played Chewbacca from Star Wars: Episodes III, IV, V, and VI; Ahmed Best, the voice of Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars: Episodes I, II and III; Vanessa Marshall, the voice of Hera Syndulla from Star Wars: Rebels.

This year is a FASTPASS ticket that is required for an autograph session. There are an extremely limited number of FASTPASS tickets that are given out on a first-come, first-served basis at the main entrance of the park, just to the right of the main entrance touch points. You will need to join the line of the celebrity you most want to meet and you cannot save spaces for anyone else, or pick up a ticket for anyone else.  You will receive a wristband and you may only pick one FASTPASS ticket.  The brochure says that “Distribution may begin prior to park opening based on demand.” That makes me wonder if the people who came in for that early character breakfast will be allowed to get in line prior to Park opening which could essentially block everyone else out? I was not here at opening to see how this works.

Walking around Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends is so much fun.  There are guests dressed up in various costumes and the character meet and greets are all over the park. There are cars with Star Wars themed decals on them that you won’t want to miss. While I was enjoying my first walk through the crowd I saw a long line forming outside the Tune-In Lounge so let’s see what is up over there. There is a drink tent set up and the sign shows two special drinks for Star Wars Weekends, first a red drink called The Force and a blue one called The Dark Side. It also says “Non-alcoholic options available upon request. Sales tax and gratuity not included.” The Force is Grey Goose Vodka, Chambord and Wildberry Lemonade with a Glow Light Saber $13.75. Sounds like that is one force you could definitely feel!  The Dark Side is made with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, Cointreau and Pomegranate Lemonade with a Glow Light Saber, $13.75. They are selling a lot of these as well as The Force.  Walking around the park you will see several locations to purchase these.

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For a no obligation, FREE Quote with new bookings contact our sponsor Magical Vacation Planner by calling: 1(407)442-0289 Or for a free no obligation quote with new bookings you can fill out the form by Clicking HERE!

I have my eye out for the Stormtrooper Stein! The Guide says “with fountain beverage. Sold at most quick service restaurants.” I was able to find one at Peevy’s, but nowhere else.  You can purchase a non-alcoholic icee drink that comes in a plastic cup that fits inside the Stormtrooper Stein $9.99, sales tax not included. The icees come in these flavors: Coca-Cola, Blue Raspberry, Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade, Wild Cherry or Strawberry.  I have to say that this frozen drink was much better than the last time I tried Peevy’s. It was flavorful, did not separate, and was enjoyable to the very end.

I just saw someone with a Darth Vader Popcorn Bucket and I know I have to get one of those! These are easier to find than the mugs.  It comes with caramel corn, $14.00 or regular popcorn $12.50, tax not included. This is great!!  If you want to try one of the special Star Wars Weekends cupcakes we better head over to Starring Rolls Bakery next to the Brown Derby.  They are sure to have them but they close at 3PM so go early. (They are also sold in Darth’s Mall)  Both cupcakes are here! The Darth Vader Cupcake is a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake $5.19. There is a chocolate 3D chocolate head of Darth Vader on top of a thick peanut butter icing covered with chocolate jimmies and a chocolate curl. He even has a little red light saber! The Yoda cupcake is Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream, $5.19. A pale green Yoda head in a chocolate sculpture sits upon a thick chocolate hazelnut buttercream and has a little green light saber of his own. You cannot go wrong with either of these cupcakes, they are delicious!

Now with belly’s full of frozen concoctions and cupcakes, let’s go check out Darth’s Mall.  There is a line out the door and one that winds around inside before entering the actual marketplace.  Along the way we are treated to photo props and tantalizing displays of some of what we will have the chance to purchase inside. There are collector pins, key chains, lanyard sets, figurines, racers, and, this is awesome, Lightsaber Umbrellas! Here is Obi Wan Kenobi’s, Darth Vader’s, and Anakin Skywalker’s. I can’t decide. There is a figurine of Chip and Dale as Ewoks that comes with a collector pin that is totally adorable, $95.00. How about Pluto Atat Medium Figurine with collector pin, also $95.00? Stitch is not left out; he is Sith Emporor, with a pin, also $95.00. Ok, we’re in! This place is big! There is a café for food and drinks, huge area of merchandise, photo ops, meet and greet areas, efficient check out system, and guess who is lurking on a balcony? Yep, Darth himself.  There is merchandise in here you won’t find anywhere else in the park. There is too much to list it all.  A big favorite in here is the apparel like the Ewoks or Boba Fett sleeveless hoodies, about $40. There are two dress styles also for about $50. There are a lot of t- shirts, two costumes for Duffy, hats, loads of Disney Star Wars Racer cars, a wall full of Star Wars Lego’s, Lunch sacks, Backpacks, gift cards, totes, even a special autograph book, all the items we saw in cases while waiting in line to get in. Ask to see the collectibles for Annual Passholders.  Now don’t forget to visit all of the Star Wars characters, and take in some of the great shows at the Premier Theater.  Figure out which things are the most important, and stay on target! Ok, that is my nerd report. For this week. I can’t wait to go back again next weekend!

We have been hearing a lot of guessing about soft openings for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but it has not happened.  There have been Magic Kingdom Cast Members riding, by invitation only, as they are in the testing/training phase for the CM’s for the ride.  They are working on the timing of the brakes, loading and unloading, running consecutive trains, all with bodies on them.  They have to stop often, do many repeated functions, practice evacuations, etc. all the things that have to function seamlessly before guests are riding.  There has been no scheduling of “soft openings” and the CM’s from the other parks have not been invited yet as they usually are.  Following CM’s has traditionally been an invitation to Annual Passholders, but we are only about a week away from opening, so it looks unlikely that AP’s will have a special invite.  There were many bags of mulch being spread the last couple of days and not very many trains running.  There were some recalculations being made perhaps as parts of the track were being re-measured. There is so much that comes down to timing on a ride like this.  There is the ride itself, the music, the audio-animatronics, the factors of people loading or unloading efficiently, etc.  and that is just with people who know how to get on and off a ride or deal with any situation that comes up.  They are making sure the ride is safe and presents the story of the ride without problems or inconsistencies.  The ride is now scheduled to open on May 28 and that is when I hope to ride.  Is anyone coming for the opening?

Downtown Disney is showing good progression on the parking garages and I am very happy to see that! There is another building going up behind Cirque de Solei, that does not have anything identifying what it is. It is a large two story concrete building with a 1 story side addition on it. Perhaps it is something for the Cast as Disney Springs will be adding thousands of cast members to operate it. Walking up past Cirque I see additional trailers and construction walls.  On the outside of Disney Quest I can see the new Wetzel’s Pretzels and Haagen-Dazs locations have been completed and they are open for business! This is exciting for me to have more quick service options in this end of Downtown Disney.  I plan to visit these locations often.  Walking down toward the old Pleasure Island we pass the new Starbuck’s location under construction that is getting a lot more attention today.  The Food Truck Park is located in this area too and it says it will open this summer.  There is a highliner structure that has begun that will add an elevated dining area, much needed shade below it and a great viewpoint.  When all of this is done it is going to be great.

We cannot walk through the old Pleasure Island area, it is walled off. When we get to the other end you can see scaffolding around all the existing buildings.  We then run up on more construction walls where two of the Disney Springs restaurants are being built here. There is a sign outside of Raglan Road announcing that they were voted Best Restaurant 2014 MWAH Orlando.  Congratulations! In front of Portobello there are two back hoes and we can’t see what they are up to behind those construction walls. On the other side of Fulton’s we can see clearly the causeway is progressing. The concrete circle, which is clearly seen in the concept art at the midway point, is complete. Now comes the connecting of the ends to the center.  It is going to be a great addition. I am hungry, let’s go to Earl’s.  There are four new items for a limited time, they are calling them the “Four Amigos”: Fajita Chicken Sandwich $6.49; Chicken Tortilla Soup, sm $3.49, Reg. $4.49; Cabo Chicken Citrus Salad $.49; Dulce de Leche Brownie $2.49.  I saw some other menu additions; at Planet Hollywood they are now serving Korean BBQ Short Ribs, Chargrilled Chili-Ginger Corn, and Lobster Tempura Eggrolls.  There is now a fully operating Starbucks at World of Disney, here in Downtown Disney Marketplace.  We are awaiting the opening of the Co Op Marketplace, which now has a sign but does not give an opening date or season.

Animal Kingdom has been busy preparing to offer their nighttime attractions. The Saturday night hard ticket event Harambe Nights has been selling out of the premier seating and it does look like an exceptional event.  There will be African and Indian food and beverages served, the celebrity narrated special edition of the Lion King in the brand new Lion King Theater and then a dance party in the streets of Harambe; it sounds like a great evening.  It begins on June 7 and goes through August 9.  Premium seats are sold out for all nights. Regular tickets are $119.00 For adults, $79.00 for children, tax not included. The event begins at 7PM and advance reservations are strongly encouraged.

The big “Rock Your Disney Side” 24-hour event is just day or two away and it looks exciting! The entertainment includes the Celebrate it parade with regular cast, the second one will be with the Disney Villains which should be priceless.  A special Villains pre-parade will take place prior to the Electrical Light Parade.  Costumes, 24 hours to play, so many attractions and restaurants open, rare Disney Villains appearances, Magic Kingdom where there is more space for people to move in, special entertainment, food, meet and greets, ah, what is it missing? You! Are you coming?

Thanks for coming along with me this week.  I hope you enjoy the photos and the report about what is happening around here.  Disney is growing and getting even better.

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.