Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Disney's Hollywood Studios unleashes new 'Star Wars' attractions

ORLANDO

Two new short film experiences, a menu of treats and a geek's dream museum of Star Wars artifacts are the highlights of Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios' new Star Wars experiences, which opened to the public this week.

Park officials touted the new additions as just the beginning — there are plans in the works for an entire Star Wars land to begin construction early next year. Disney bought the series from Lucasfilm and will release Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first film in a new trilogy, on Dec. 18.

"It's just one part of the world we're building as we begin to try to bring our guests further into the Star Wars experiences we've created," said Phil Holmes, vice president of Hollywood Studios.

Just outside the doors of the new Star Wars Launch Bay Theater, the excitement builds as you wind through the queue. Concept art and photos from aerial shots of Tatooine to TIE fighters zipping across the horizon get fans into the spirit before the doors even open.

The theater seats 150 people and shows a 10-minute clip filled with The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams and other high-level creatives in the franchise geeking out over progressing the narrative they grew up loving.

"I don't know what it's like to be a kid growing up in a world with this much awesome," gushed Dave Filoni, an executive producer of Disney's Star Wars Rebels.

Once guests leave the theater, they enter the Launch Bay, which is basically a Star Wars museum replete with to-scale artifacts from all seven movies — both Anakin's Podracer and Rey's Speeder vehicles have their own displays.

Chewbacca and Darth Vader meet fans and take photos in separate Launch Bay quarters and gamers can spend a few minutes playing Disney Infinity 3.0 on one of the 11 mounted flat screens attached to Xbox Ones in the Launch Bay gaming center. Also in the game room: iPads set up to play Star Wars Angry Birds.

On the day of the film premiere, Hollywood Studios will begin a new nightly fireworks show called Symphony in the Stars featuring a display set to John Williams music from all seven films, said Tony Giordano, Walt Disney's show director.

"This music was made for fireworks," Giordano said. "It's amazing."

Christine Weissman, executive chef for Disney Parks, displayed her favor for the Dark Side with her new Star Wars-themed menu that gives the Dark Lord of the Sith all the best items, including a burger topped with brisket and pepper jack on a pumpernickel bun, chicken and waffles, and a sinfully sweet peanut butter and chocolate cupcake with a chocolate Vader on top. On Jan. 5, park guests will be able to book separate Star Wars dessert tasting tours, Weissman said.

Hollywood Studios also slightly updated its long-running motion ride, Star Tours, adding some planets and characters only seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, such as John Boyega's Finn. Even the live show for children, Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple, got an update. Tiny knights in training can now face off against the Seventh Sister from the Star Wars Rebels cartoon franchise.

The inclusion of the new film in the details of the experience is capped off by the extended trailer tacked on to the end of the Path of the Jedi film that gives the history of the rebellion so far.

After a full morning of photo opportunities, even casual fans will appreciate the merchandise available, from BB-8 drink cups to full-size replicas of Master Yoda.

Hollywood Studios' growing Star Wars presence could one day rival other local nerd magnet Universal Studios Orlando's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Still, impossible to see, the future is.

 
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