Star Wars Awakens is a Star Wars special event at Disneyland and Walt Disney World to hype up Star Wars, including Rogue One and The Force Awakens as a stop-gap until Star Wars Land is completed. This post features tips, my thoughts on the new offerings based on my experiences of the event at Disneyland. Note that this covers Disneyland–similar Star Wars Awakens/Season of the Force entertainment is also available at Walt Disney World, with the exception of Hyperspace Mountain.
In terms of popularity, Star Wars Awakens is a mixed bag. Hyperspace Mountain is incredibly popular (grab your FastPass for that first thing), but everything else is moderately popular at best. My biggest tip is grabbing a Hyperspace Mountain FastPass first thing in the morning, and saving all of the indoor Launch Bay entertainment for midday, when the park is hottest and most crowded. It’ll be a nice reprieve from both.
As far as the review goes…I have mixed feelings on Star Wars Awakens. The main component of Season of the Force is Star Wars Launch Bay, which, along with Marvel Super Hero HQ, is a replacement for Innoventions. Replacing the unequivocally worst attraction in Disneyland leaves incredibly low expectations that just about anything could surpass, and Launch Bay most certainly accomplishes that. In fairness, a cluster of tube televisions playing Pixar shorts alongside decaying couches found on the curb probably would have been a step up from Innoventions.
Fortunately, Star Wars Awakens, as a whole, is significantly better than nasty couches and Pixar shorts…
The main addition for Season of the Force is Star Wars Launch Bay, which is a replacement for Innoventions, consisting of exhibits, meet & greets, and games. A replacement for Innoventions. Right there, it has scored points in my book. The building has been redesigned to such a degree that it’s pretty clear that Innoventions is never returning. Thank The Maker!
It’s evident in walking through that effort went into repurposing the space and making it fit the context of Star Wars. As far as temporary entertainment offerings go, a surprising amount of work went into this area, and that’s apparent from the meet & greet spaces themselves and also the little exhibits, which make Launch Bay a fun diversion.
These exhibits effectively toe the line in offering physical items for hardcore fans to see, and a primer, of sorts, for those who aren’t as knowledgeable about the Star Wars universe (admittedly, I fall into the latter camp, and I found walking through, seeing and reading the placards to be fascinating). This makes the exhibits worthwhile for just about anyone.
Launch Bay by no means does justice to Star Wars from the perspective of an actual attraction, but that’s not what it’s meant to be. I think we all knew that going in. Since Star Wars is such compelling source material (not really the kind of source material that screams “exhibit”) and because so much time was spent repurposing the space from Innoventions to this, I was expecting a couple of “whoa” moments or effects, but you don’t really have that here.
At the end of the day, it feels very much like a one and done temporary exhibit, that works “for what it is,” but will leave guests wanting more. There is a certain polish to it by temporary special event standards, and I think most guests who venture in here will be satisfied with the experience. This is far more than could be said about Innoventions, which was like walking into a black hole that you couldn’t find your way out of soon enough.
Hyperspace Mountain, by contrast, is an excellent addition. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t ridden so I’ll speak it vague terms here. Hyperspace Mountain takes the foundation of Space Mountain, an excellent coaster on its own, and ups the ante by engaging your vehicle with elements of the Star Wars universe. While this is done mostly through the same screens that Ghost Galaxy, the Halloween incarnation of Space Mountain, uses, there are some added effects that are simple yet…effective.
However you feel about Ghost Galaxy is probably how you’ll feel about Hyperspace Mountain. For me both of these overlays are enjoyable because they make what the solid core concept of Space Mountain (a coaster in the dark) more engaging and exciting. There are elements of cheese to both (and the integration of the video screens is inherently troubling because it introduces light into what should be a dark place), but overall they work because, for lack of better words, there’s more “there” there.
Similarly, there are new scenes in Star Tours, one of which almost felt like a nod to the original attraction. There’s also a transmission of a new fan favorite, but I won’t spoil any of this with additional details. All in all, a solid plussing to Star Tours. Really nice to see the updates that have been discussed theoretically actually come to fruition.
Star Wars: Path of the Jedi is the new film in the Tomorrowland Theater, which is the normal spot for 3D movie previews. Rather than being a straightforward extended preview for The Force Awakens, this starts by looking back at Luke Skywalker’s “path” and concluding with a preview for the new film. I’m not keen on Disneyland having a movie trailer “attraction,” but at least it’s better than the norm.
Finally, there’s Galactic Grill, the counter service restaurant replacement for Tomorrowland Terrace. I don’t know if it was by design that Season of the Force replaced the worst attraction and one of the worst restaurants in the park, but it was a stroke of genius. This is another instance where the bar for the replacement isn’t high, as anything over “not disgusting” would make it a marked improvement over its predecessor.
The novelty food items here are fun, albeit mostly predictable and ordinary in taste. Aside from their fun appearances (The Pastry Menace is worth a purchase for both the novelty and the taste), most of the things we tried were palatable, and seemed to aspire for at least a bit more than ordinary theme park fare. Galactic Grill is far from becoming my Disneyland go-to restaurant, but it’s definitely an improvement.
A lot of people have wondered about the duration for Season of the Force. It’s dubbed Season of the Force, which has a certain connotation in terms of duration, but that’s most certainly a misnomer. I described it above as a stop-gap for Star Wars Land, which is almost certainly the case given that as of 2016, Disneyland is referring to these offerings as “Season of the Force” less and less, and using the marketing line “Star Wars Awakens” instead. Accordingly, we expect most of this Star Wars entertainment to last until sometime in 2018.
Given the money being dumped into Star Wars Land, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a wholesale redevelopment of Tomorrowland until that large project is completed. Given the demand for Star Wars anything right now–demand that is unlikely to die down in the near future if reviews and word of mouth are positive for The Force Awakens–it’s also reasonable for Disney to want as much of a Star Wars presence in the parks as possible until the “real” land can open.
At some point Season of the Force will probably receive a refresh, along with a different official name so it doesn’t go into the Guinness World Records as “longest season ever.” We expect this to occur before Star Wars: Rogue One is released in December 2016. This will be a nice reboot for the event and a chance to refresh it. With Star Wars Land expected to open in December 2018, we think it’s likely that Season of the Force will last in some capacity until then.
My statement that it comes across as a really well-done temporary event that guests will enjoy as something new & different is only complimentary if it is, in fact, short-lived. I was impressed with the Food & Wine booths at Epcot this year because I know the exact end date for those, and given their temporary status, a lot of effort goes into them. I wouldn’t feel that way if those same booths were to become semi-permanent fixtures in World Showcase. The same is true with Season of the Force.
The difference here is that the creative possibilities for integrating Star Wars into the parks are limitless, and I think that will be borne out with Star Wars Land, which should blow people away. The same caliber of offerings are not expected of a temporary event with a duration best measured in weeks, but it seems more likely that Season of the Force’s duration will be measured in years. At that point, I think it’s fair to expect more than exhibits and meet & greets–especially with this strong of source material–no matter how well done those are.
Overall, Star Wars Awakens is a decent temporary event that will succeed in its goal of getting people hyped up for Rogue One and The Force Awakens and offering more Star Wars to once in a lifetime guests who want to meet characters and see a bit more from the films. The exhibits are cool and Hyperspace Mountain is an incredibly fun overlay to Space Mountain. However, the main offering of Season of the Force–Launch Bay–offers little in the way of repeatability for most repeat guests; if it is to stick around for a few years, hopefully the Imagineers find a way to regularly inject new life into the attraction, or give it actual substance.
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Do you have any thoughts on Season of the Force at Disneyland? Is it a suitable temporary offering for a few months? What about a few years? If you have any questions or other tips about Season of the Force at Disneyland, please share them in the comments!