Since we focused on Marvel last week for the release of Captain America: Civil War, it’s only fair that this week’s focus belatedly celebrates Star Wars Day (May the 4th Be With You!). So it’s time to head for the center of all things Star Wars at the Disneyland Resort right now – off to Tomorrowland!
Disneyland Park began its “Season of the Force” (or “Star Wars Awakens” as the promotion is now called) with multiple additions to Tomorrowland including a new Star Wars: The Force Awakens scene placed into Star Tours, a greatest-hits reel of the previous Star Wars films called “Path of the Jedi” airing in the Tomorrowland Theater (former home of Captain Eo), and an updated version of the Jedi Training Academy called Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple (to be spotlighted tomorrow!).
There were also some menu changes in Tomorrowland to add Star Wars-themed food offerings including the one I opted to try: Darth by Chocolate. They call it a parfait, but to me it seemed a mix of chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, red velvet cake and chocolate frosting topped by a dark chocolate (of course!) Darth Vader. It was overwhelmingly rich and despite it being in a reasonably small cup and my being a big chocolate lover, I actually couldn’t quite finish the whole thing myself! So I’d recommend it as a treat to share. It’s available at Pizza Port and at the Galactic Grill (aka Tomorrowland Terrace).
But my favorite part of this overall event is the addition of Star Wars Meet & Greet characters – mostly found inside the Star Wars Launch Bay (the building formerly known as Innoventions).
I say “mostly” as one of the best enhancements is the roaming First Order Stormtroopers. What makes these so different than the previous Imperial Stormtroopers that had also wandered around Tomorrowland? They talk!
Yes, the best update to these new characters – from the Stormtroopers to several others found in the Launch Bay – is their interactivity and vocals!
These current Stormtroopers don’t just stand around and pose – they deliberately make their way through the crowds and “arrest” random (lucky!) guests! It is SO much fun to watch – and I really hope they “arrest” me at some point, but no luck so far! Guess I just don’t look like an enemy of the First Order!
That’s the fun to be had outside the Launch Bay – but inside is where you’ll find the Meet & Greet characters – both announced and unannounced!
First up: the listed character Meet & Greets…
When the Launch Bay opened, it wasn’t clear (to me at least!) that the characters would periodically be changing out, so I’ll admit I took my time getting over there while I waited for the initial crowds to slow a bit.
But because I waited, I nearly missed seeing possibly my favorite character there – Darth Vader!
Though when it was announced that he would be leaving and Kylo Ren coming in, I hustled over there to make sure I got to see Lord Vader first.
And what an experience that was!
The character Meet & Greets in this location are very cleverly set up so that only the party actually taking their pictures can see into the character area. Everyone else waits behind a wall, which allowed Darth Vader (and later other characters) to suddenly appear from around the corner, generally making for a very spooky and atmospheric entrance! Really loved this – especially with the tall scary Vader!
The other resident Meet & Greet character (who has stayed from the beginning) is the awesome Chewbacca!
The first time I went to visit him (yes, I’ve gone back!), I think he must have seen the absolute love in my eyes when finally I saw him in person because he immediately grabbed me for a big Wookiee hug! And I didn’t want to let go! Loved this big guy!
The new resident Dark Side character that replaced Darth Vader at the Launch Bay is the nearly as nasty Kylo Ren – who I’ll admit was INCREDIBLY intimidating when I met him!
Maybe it’s because I have a fondness for Vader that he didn’t make me as nervous as the prowling Kylo Ren did! (Or maybe I was just waiting for Kylo Ren to throw a big ol’ temper tantrum! But he behaved himself.) Like Vader, Kylo Ren talks to the guests.
But there’s one more character to be found in the Launch Bay – if you’re patient or fortunate enough to walk through the Cantina area at the right time – Boba Fett!
Yes, the mega-popular bounty hunter himself is an unscheduled but frequently appearing guest of the Launch Bay. Cast Members stationed in the area will not tell you when he will appear, so you have to commit to waiting for what can be a considerable while to catch him there. But for such a cool character, I think the wait is worth it! (Note: it took multiple visits on multiple days before I finally did find him there, so be prepared to spend the time if seeing him is important to you.)
The rest of the Launch Bay features props and merchandise areas that are fun to look at if you’re a Star Wars fan (and really, who isn’t?). But I do wish the Cantina location had been themed out a bit more – it’s a bit lackluster to walk through there – at least until Boba Fett arrives!
All in all, the great character Meet & Greets make the Star Wars Launch Bay a must-do for all the fanboys and fangirls out there!
Mousertainment Memorandum: This Star Wars event is concurrently being held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort – future home of the East Coast version of Star Wars Land. At this park, the Star Wars Launch Bay can be found in the Animation Courtyard. It also currently features Meet & Greets with Chewbacca and Kylo Ren. I don’t know that Boba Fett can be found here, but I’ve heard rumors that you may encounter some Jawas, so be prepared to trade with them!
Have you been inside the Star Wars Launch Bay either at Disneyland or Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Who was your favorite character to see there?
Update 10/24/16: At the Disneyland Resort, Kylo Ren has gone back to his training and is no longer greeting guests. Instead Lord Vader has returned to this Meet & Greet location.
Update 10/14/17: And now it’s apparently a toss-up between encountering Darth Vader OR Kylo Ren on any given day at the Dark Side Meet & Greet at the Launch Bay. Check the Disneyland app or talk with a Cast Member at the Launch Bay for the daily schedule.