Recently, when Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl, a similar shop was installed adjacent to the Indiana Convention Center in Super Bowl Village. There, the construction of the shop was out of necessity, since the Super Bowl was a one and done deal. The NFL couldn’t very well build a permanent shop for merchandise, plus Super Bowl Village wasn’t really a themed experience.
Similarly, Star Wars Weekends are temporary, but unlike the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, they’re a recurring event (several weekends per year and every year) and they exist in a theme park. Given all of these things, we were both incredibly disappointed by the “pop-up” quality of the large temporary tent-like structure used to house Darth’s Mall. Now, I realize that the space may be needed for parking or for other purposes during the rest of the year, but I still think it would really behoove Disney to build something permanent (somewhere) that isn’t quite so tacky, and doesn’t offer such clear views backstage. Or, it seems that Disney could repurpose one of its existing unused facilities (assuming they’re not staging for a new attraction) and use that.
In any case, I don’t go to Walt Disney World and expect to be reminded of the place where I purchase fireworks in the far corner of Walmart’s parking lot before July 4th. This is another case where the merchandise is clearly doing gangbuster sales, so perhaps some of that revenue should be reinvested in infrastructure for these events.
As for the merchandise itself, there was a lot of really cool stuff, especially the cross-over Muppets and Star Wars merchandise. We didn’t end up buying anything, as the only things we really liked were unique limited edition items with high price points. We didn’t like them THAT much!
By this point it was naptime for one of our friends (or his son…tough to say which), so the rest of us continued on without him.
Our next stop was the Magic of Disney Animation, where new models from Brave were on display. At this point, I hadn’t really heard much about Brave, but these models piqued my curiosity. I doubt anyone cares what I ended up thinking of Brave, but I’ll share it anyway. I thought it was okay for a Pixar film, and very good by “normal” standards. I commented on Twitter after seeing it that it’s hard to imagine that the same studio made Wall-E and Brave. Wall-E is unique, edgy, and intelligent.
Brave is none of these things (in fairness, Pixar set the bar almost unattainably high with Wall-E; it’s a bit surprisingly that it ever was made). There were way too many cheap and juvenile jokes, which is a deviation from the normal sharp Pixar writing. The story, in broad terms, has been done before even if the specific wrinkles in the particular story are fairly unique. As far as its strengths, the setting was gorgeous, it offered plenty of darker moments, and it was a very fun story with an empowered female character. So in some ways Pixar did some new things with Brave, and it’s certainly better than Cars 2, but I worry that Pixar has lost its edge.
The always amazing MuppetVision 3D was next on the agenda, followed by Obi-Wan and Beyond. We got in line about 20 minutes in advance of this show, and it’s a good thing we did, as the line that gathered behind us was huge. I think everyone ended up getting in, but I would not have wanted to miss this show.
Obi-Wan and Beyond was a one man show by James Arnold Taylor during which he demonstrated his amazing vocal versatility. This presentation was absolutely enthralling right from the get-go, as Taylor demonstrated that the heavy “narrator” voice was actually him. He continued by sharing his beginnings and how he knew he wanted to be a voice actor from a young age, as well as some obstacles he faced in his life. The biography aspects were interesting, and balanced off the “wow” moments of the show well. Even though I wasn’t particularly interested in a James Arnold Taylor biography going in, it definitely humanized the presentation and hearing his personal story was fun.
The best part of the show, by far, was Taylor’s segment where he demonstrated how you could make tweaks to voices to differentiate them. He started with his own, and as he conversed with the audience, noting the changes he was making, quickly rolled through numerous celebrity voices. This wasn’t just amazing because it showcased Taylor’s acting range, but because it showed how quickly and seamlessly he could transition from one voice to another. He was doing it so flawlessly that at times it took me a moment to realize he had moved on to someone else. His ability to jump from voice to voice was nothing short of amazing, and had me wondering how he didn’t “confuse” two voices as we was speaking. I know sometimes (often) I trip over my tongue, say the wrong word, stutter, etc., just in the course of normal conversation. It was amazing to me that Taylor could manage all of these voices, his thoughts, and what he was saying simultaneously. All while speaking in front of a large audience.
There was just as much Star Wars here as there was anything else (Obi-Wan was highlighted, but the show didn’t center around him), so it might have been a bit disappointing for a fan looking for some Star Wars entertainment. That said, I don’t see how anyone could be disappointed by this, as it was easily one of the most impressive presentations I have seen in a long time. If it were a regular theme park attraction (and it could be), it would consistently draw huge crowds. The only less than glowing comment I have is that the end was a bit odd. Taylor tried to tie the show into some message about kids believing in themselves (or something like that–I don’t even really remember what now), which was really contrived and out of place. I’m all for positive messages, but not everything segues into one. It wasn’t necessarily the positive message itself that was odd, but how he tried to wrap the conclusion of the show into that message. It struck Sarah and me as really forced. (Did anyone else see the presentation? If so, care to comment on what you thought of this?) In any case, it only lasted a couple of minutes, and didn’t taint an otherwise amazing presentation.
As soon as we exited this presentation, we immediately got in line for a “Visit to the Maul.” (Apparently, someone at Disney really thought that Maul/Mall pun was witty!) The line for this was even longer, which is probably because Ray Park, who played Darth Maul, was the biggest film celebrity in attendance.
This presentation was okay. It probably would have been better if you’re interested in martial arts or the lost art of lightsaber fighting. It was also hosted by James Arnold Taylor, and the beginning was the best part, when Park faced off against Darth Maul. The rest of the show was a lot of twirling without much real action. It actually reminded me of the Star Wars lightsaber scene that George Michael films in the garage in Arrested Development.
The best part of the presentation was when kids came on stage and, of course, kids do the darn’dest things. The antics of the children added some comedic relief to the segment, and actually made it interesting. Much like the previous presentation, this one again concluded with a warm message. Unlike the previous presentation, I wouldn’t ‘visit the Maul’ again.
We had around an hour and a half until Hyperspace Hoopla, so we decided to kill some time on Great Movie Ride. If we had some sense, we would have poked our heads around the other side of the BAH to see what kind of crowds were gathering.
When we exited Great Movie Ride and did go on the other side of the BAH, we saw an enormous crowd. The last time we had experienced Hyperspace Hoopla was 2010 when it was on the Jedi Training Academy stage, and it didn’t seem like the crowd then was nearly as large as it was this time. The crowd gathered for Hyperspace Hoopla–45 minutes before the show–was HUGE. We found mediocre spots (since the ground slopes slightly downhill away from the BAH, pretty much every spot is mediocre once you get a bit away from the BAH) and camped out.
Hyperspace Hoopla confounds me a bit. George Lucas has this reputation about being very serious with the Star Wars universe (obviously some of the Star Wars specials over the years have diluted this). At the very least, a lot of Star Wars fans take the universe seriously, and hate seeing any kind of contradictions in it or characters acting contrary to their established personalities. Hyperspace Hoopla is about as lighthearted as it gets, and from this non-serious-fan guest’s perspective, it’s absolutely awesome. It’s high energy, entertaining, and has plenty of screwball comedic elements. It’s hard to describe why it works, but it just works…and works incredibly well.
It’s easily the highlight of Star Wars Weekends for us, and we’ve enjoyed both that we’ve seen. The best part is that both we’ve seen (in a 3 year period) have been dramatically different from one another! We thought this year’s Hyperspace Hoopla was VERY impressive, with the highlight being Slave Leia, Padme, Chewbacca, C-3PO and other Star Wars stars dancing to Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO.
I only wish that we would have shown up earlier to get better spots to see the show. We strongly considered moving around our dinner reservations for the following evening so that we could see it again. It was that much fun!
That concluded the Star Wars Weekends festivities for the evening, but the night was still young!
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