Star Wars Meet & Greets Coming to Genie+
Walt Disney World announced that two additions will be made to the Genie+ lineup at Hollywood Studios, as the Star Wars Launch Bay meet & greets will have Lightning Lanes once that venue reopens. This post covers details about the duo joining the paid FastPass ride roster in Summer 2022 and commentary about the change.
In case you’ve missed it, Walt Disney World has been making a ton of tweaks to Genie+ in an effort to balance supply & demand, while also attempting to improve dismal guest satisfaction scores. The first change occurred a few months ago, with Walt Disney World moving Individual Lightning Lane attractions in each park to Genie+ through August 7, 2022. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure was also added to that list with the opening of Cosmic Rewind.
A number of other changes have sought to serve the same end results, but have been less well-received. The most recent of these was that Genie+ Ticket Add-On is Being Eliminated at Walt Disney World. While that was met with a lot of doom and gloom initially, Genie+ has yet to sell out for any day in any park, despite summer peak season having arrived.
The goal of all of this is to increase capacity or supply of Lightning Lanes and/or reduce guest demand for the service to a slight degree, thereby improving the overall experience. Before rides were moved over to the Genie+ service, many readers complained of limited ride reservation availability. (Complaints still occur, but the overall Genie+ “dissatisfaction rates” seem to have dropped.)
Walt Disney World has also sought to lower expectations by adding a ‘warning’ that “on average, guests can enter 2 to 3 attractions or experiences per day using the Lightning Lane entrance if the first selection is made early in the day.” (Read more in Genie+ Really is Paid FastPass+ at Walt Disney World.)
Against that backdrop, Walt Disney World announced that Star Wars Launch Bay will be added to Genie+ on July 17, 2022.
Walt Disney World actually lists three Lightning Lane options being added. Here’s the full list for Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the additions highlighted:
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
- Disney Junior Play & Dance!
- For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
- Star Wars Launch Bay (Beginning July 17, 2022)
- Star Wars Launch Bay: Encounter Darth Vader (Beginning July 17, 2022)
- Star Wars Launch Bay: Meet Chewbacca (Beginning July 17, 2022)
- Meet Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway**
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Muppet*Vision 3D
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™
- Toy Story Mania!
Color me skeptical, but I don’t think entering the building will require a Lightning Lane reservation (if so, that would absolutely be a waste). Either there’s another meet & greet being added, or the top listing is a redundancy.
For those who forgot about Star Wars Launch Bay or have never experienced, here’s how Walt Disney World describes it: “Explore immersive exhibits of costumes, models, concept artwork and actual movie props—as well as authentic replicas created just for Star Wars Launch Bay.
Watch an exclusive short documentary on the creative team behind the ever-evolving story. Explore a Cantina and other settings inspired by the films, then share a furry embrace with Chewbacca, Han Solo’s trusty sidekick.”
I can’t remember the last time I even entered Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Probably sometime in mid-2019, as I think at one point I assumed it would be retired when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened.
Honestly, part of me is surprised it’s returning. While I’m happy about more things to do (that are also feature air-conditioning), I was also holding out hope that the entirety of Animation Courtyard would be replaced soon. Star Wars Launch Bay returning makes an announcement of that at the upcoming D23 Expo less likely.
Bringing back Darth Vader is a huge. While I appreciate that Imagineering and Lucasfilm are willing to “compromise” on the timeline of Batuu a bit, I’d like to see that taken a step further. Not to suggest the entire land should become a free-for-all, but it’s wild to me that Darth Vader isn’t there.
Also perplexing to me is that Chewbacca is going to be meeting at Launch Bay given that he has been roaming around Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge since that land opened. Again, my memory is fuzzy and I don’t recall whether this was the norm for Launch Bay after Galaxy’s Edge opened, but it would make more sense to rotate a character into the off-planet Launch Bay location who “can’t” appear on Batuu.
If Star Wars Launch Bay is going to exist, what I’d really love for it to become is a crossover venue. Take things in a totally different direction and justify this location’s existence as the intersection of Disney and Star Wars. Give us Darth Goofy, Jedi Mickey, Stormtrooper Donald Duck, etc.
But I digress.
Another thing that’s interesting about this move is that it’s another meet & greet being added to Genie+ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You might recall that they tested this with Mickey and Minnie’s Red Carpet Dreams back when that returned a few months ago.
Shortly after that converted from a physically-distanced sighting to an actual meet & greet, Red Carpet Dreams was removed from the Genie+ Lightning Lane lineup. Disney never gave a reason for that, but it was almost certainly the limited queue space.
Star Wars Launch Bay has a lot more space, so that presumably won’t be an issue.
From the perspective of making Genie+ more attractive and usable in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (the park where it has the most issues), this is a good move. Of course, that’s not the case if you don’t plan on purchasing Genie+ at DHS.
As a reminder, it is NOT necessary to buy Genie+ to beat the crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Our recent posts: DHS Early Entry: Triple-Digit Trio Triumph and Disney’s Hollywood Studios Afternoon Arrival Strategy cover how to approach morning and evening in the park.
You can accomplish pretty much everything in the first and last few hours of the day under a couple of conditions. That should remain true until Fantasmic returns. To that end, we (once again) recommend checking out Genie+ v. Savvy Strategy at Walt Disney World, which is the result of extensive ‘testing’ to determine the best and worst ways to beat the crowds in every park.
Beyond that, we’d recommend anyone visiting the parks during the busy summer season follow our Walt Disney World Itineraries. We’ve started updating these and will have them finished by next week.
In addition to that, consult our Disney’s Hollywood Studios Genie+ Priorities & Lightning Lane Ride Ranks. That list needs to be updated once Star Wars Launch Bay returns, but these meet & greets are unlikely to change the top priorities.
Ultimately, this will not change the equation for purchasing Genie+ when visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Summer 2022. While this will improve the value proposition of the paid FastPass service, neither of these additions are headliners that’ll command high wait times that will be difficult to bypass.
Essentially, the operative questions when determining whether to buy Genie+ at DHS is whether you’ll do Early Entry and be in the park during the middle of the day. If you won’t do Early Entry but will be in DHS during midday, then you might want or even need Genie+ in order to experience everything in a single day. If you’ll arrive early and stay late, you won’t need Genie+ at all. (In fact, it might be counterproductive and more headache-inducing than it’s worth.)
Adding more to the Genie+ lineup at DHS is another step in the right direction, but plenty of issues persist with the Genie system at Walt Disney World. If you have more unanswered questions, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ for all of the foundational need-to-know info about this replacement for free FastPass+. This whole system is confusing and convoluted, so you might have a question or two-dozen. That answers all of the most common ones we’ve been receiving from readers.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What are your thoughts on Walt Disney World adding the Star Wars Launch Bay meet & greets with Chewbacca and Darth Vader to the Genie+ service at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Do these additions tip the scales in favor of buying Genie+ at DHS? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Hi Tom – I’m in the midst of planning what will likely be a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland/DCA for my family in Jan 2023 (we’re from Australia!) I can only find references on Google/your site/anywhere to Star Wars character meet and greets etc at WDW – is there any chance at all this might happen in California before January? I have three sons who are HUGE Star Wars fans so anything SW is a priority! Thank you for all your tips they’re making my planning so easy!
It use to be so much fun just walking around the parks and spontaneously riding the rides, dining, character photos etc… now everything has to be planned out, and that’s the last thing it want to do on vacation….for me the magics gone, but for those novices this is their starting point and the new normal with all the magic to them…..
Tom, are ‘Genie+ v. Savvy Strategy at Walt Disney World’ and ‘Genie+ v. Standby Strategy at Disney World’ 2 separate posts? I can’t seem to find the former – the link for it above seems to take me to the latter? Would love to read the Savvy Strategy post ahead of our July trip. Thanks!
Is it confirmed that Little Mermaid’s Voyage is no more? It was a not so secret favorite of mine
Disney has not confirmed it, but I have heard from multiple credible sources that show components were removed in 2020. I don’t recall if “gutted” was the word used, but pretty clear there’s no intention to bring the show back–at least not in that form. I guess a reimagining is possible, but I wouldn’t expect it.
I like Star Wars Launch bay okay, but even as a Star Wars fan I would not be disappointed if it were gone. I’d much rather see cool characters and new set pieces in Batuu, so that I don’t have to trek to three places in HWS to accomplish all the Star Wars stuff. Plus, that courtyard really is the perfect place for a brand new ride, now that Little Mermaid’s Voyage doesn’t seem to be returning…
Chewie was definitely in the Launch Bay while GE was opened. In Dec 2019 we did GE that morning, saw Chewie at the Falcon with Rey and then saw Chewie at the Launch Bay around lunch for a M&G. They also had BB-8 there as well as Vader
Thanks for sharing–this is exactly what I wanted to know. For some reason, I didn’t remember and couldn’t find this info anywhere!
Wasn’t this previously a Disney visa exclusive meet? Is there a replacement for cardholders now?
I was thinking there was a Visa M&G with Kylo Ren in the Launch Bay. I guess it’s unlikely to return if there’s a 3rd LL M&G in the plans. 🙁 Hopefully the 3rd character M&G will be Mando & Grogu!
We met Star Lord in the Launch Bay in 2018, but I doubt they’d bring him back since he’s a face character and would now make more sense to appear in Epcot.
I really want Jedi Training back! I’d buy Genie+ just to ensure a spot in the Academy.
Apparently the Visa M&G at Launch Bay is no longer a M&G, but rather a Magic shot. This is from the Visa website:
“Pose for special photos at our private Cardmember location. Your complimentary photo downloads will be digitally enhanced with Star Wars Characters appearing right next to you.”
I saw that but thought it was just a “COVID change” and would eventually be back to normal :/
Chewbacca definitely was part of Galaxy’s Edge pre-closure; my husband does a pretty good Wookie noise and they had a whole back and forth when we visited in Feb 2020. It’s honestly a little disappointing that he is being moved to the Launch Bay as I felt the free-roaming characters were one of the highlights of Galaxy’s Edge and should really be maintained.
Also, I feel like the generic “Star Wars Launch Bay” entry might be for the BB-8 meet and greet? I know “he” used to meet guests there before closure and I can’t think of a compelling reason they wouldn’t bring it back.
I know Chewbacca was in SWGE as soon as it opened–was he also in Launch Bay? It seems odd that they’d have him in two locations as a meet & greet character. I really hope this doesn’t mean he’s leaving Galaxy’s Edge–he’s one of the best and most recognizable characters there!
“If Star Wars Launch Bay is going to exist, what I’d really love for it to become is a crossover venue. Take things in a totally different direction and justify this location’s existence as the intersection of Disney and Star Wars. Give us Darth Goofy, Jedi Mickey, Stormtrooper Donald Duck, etc”
this. the one time we went to star wars weekends back around 2008, we didn’t even get to see the star wars parade with these characters, we got a pixar parade instead. it was so disappointing.
somewhat related, any word on if the disney visa exclusive character meets are coming back to disneyland? i know they are back at wdw, but disneyland’s site still says “magic shots”.