How Disney Saved My Fandom

Mickey's Jedi Blend

Hi, I’m Aaron and I’m a Star Wars Addict. Yet it hasn’t always been so. Matter of fact, I have to thank Disney as well as my friend Robbie for saving my faltering fandom. This is that story.

Like many of you reading, my love for the Wars began at a young age. I remember flipping over the coffee table for cover to help the crew fight as the Stormtroopers stormed the Tantive IV at the beginning of A New Hope. I remember back in the mid 80’s while I was living in Costa Rica, playing Star Wars on the playground with my friends. Up to that point, none of us had seen Return of the Jedi yet, so we were making our own ending to the Saga. Boy, were we way off, but that’s another story, for another time. I remember being so excited and completely engulfed in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, Kevin J Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy. Growing up with parents who were (and still are) missionaries, I was limited with what novels I could get my hands on, not to mention the bloated prices an American has to pay trying to buy an English book in a Spanish-speaking, third world country. So with the lack of material available to me, my fandom faded and the Wars became just another movie I liked.

Those were the dark years.

Fast forward almost 18 years later to May of 2012 and according to some, I’m all grown up now. I’m a husband, a father, and working hard to support them. It was a normal Friday night and we had our best friends over for dinner. My friend Robbie told me he was heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios the next morning for Star Wars Weekends, and invited me to join him. He planned on getting an autograph from either James Arnold Taylor or Ashley Eckstein.

I’m gonna level with you: my first response was “who?”. As of the time he asked me to go, I have to admit that I had not watched a single episode of The Clone Wars, which by then had finished its 4th season. So I had no clue who Ahsoka Tano was or much less who performed any voices in the show.

Being a Disney Passholder and with only having visited Hollywood Studios once or twice before, I agreed to join him, not knowing what I was in for. I figured it would be fun to just hang out with a friend at Disney. No wives, no kids, just us guys. We left before the sun rose the next morning, making the 30 minute trek to Disney to get in line to snag a ticket to meet someone I never had heard of before. I will say I was impressed with the number of people in line that early in the morning and when I heard some had been there all night, I thought they were crazy. We stood in line for a while, eventually securing our fast pass reservation to meet Ashley Eckstein. It wasn’t long afterwards, the park opened and in we went.

Now if you have never been to Disney before, you are missing out. There is a magic in atmosphere unlike anywhere else. A magic that does not fade no matter how many times you visit. Yet this day, the magic was different. It started when I looked up and saw the white armor of Imperial Stormtroopers guarding the gates, then every light post had a Star Wars banner hanging from it. The main stage below the Fantasia hat was home to a life-size Han in carbonite guarded by Boba Fett. We visited Darth Mall’s, the memorabilia shop set up for the weekends. As we walked around the park, we checked out the many Star Wars character photo ops and, of course, we rode Star Tours as well as other rides.

Then there were the shows. That’s where I got my first glimpse at the extraordinary vocal talent of the great James Arnold Taylor, through his stage show Obi-Wan and Beyond, the show Stars of the Saga where he interviews the stars of the movies in attendance, and Behind The Force, the show that previewed the up coming season of The Clone Wars while exploring the magic of voice-over. Hearing from the stars of the movies and TV show  was mind-blowing. Hearing JAT’s love of the Wars come through each of the shows and interviews was incredible.

Then the main event: meeting Ashley Eckstein. You can tell when someone is a true fan of something by how they interact with other fans and it was obvious to me that Ashley was the fan’s fan. I was brutally honest when I met her, admitting I had never watched a single episode of The Clone Wars and that I had no clue who she was. She was definitely taken back a little, but we had a great discussion about the show and she gave me brief overview of Ahsoka was while she was signing a head-shot for me. I was quite impressed with how candid and kind she was. We ended the conversation by taking a picture together.

This was week 2 of 4 that year. That day did me in. I was so blown away by my experience that day that I followed it up by going back the next weekend and meeting James Arnold Taylor who, again, completely blew my mind with his passion for Star Wars, his incredible talent, his kindness and especially his faith in God. He told me a little more about The Clone Wars, as well as some of the other places I probably have heard his voice. We talked about his beliefs since I noticed the background music for his show was by a Christian group I listened to as well. He was impressed that Robbie and I caught that. Meeting JAT confirmed and reinforced what my friend Robbie and the meeting with Ashley Eckstein started the week before: the rebirth of my fandom. I was reminded of everything I loved as a child.

Since then, I have not missed a week of Star Wars Weekends, that includes hitting the park multiple days during each weekend in 2013 as well. I have since watched every single episode of The Clone Wars, re-watched the Saga multiple times, and have made some great friends through fan sites and podcasts. Thanks to the help of Robbie’s brother, Angelo, I’m working on completing my first costume in order to join the Rebel Legion. I have been blessed to have met several stars of the movies and The Clone Wars through Star Wars Weekends and with the blessing of my wife, turned my game room into my Star Wars room.

This year will be incredible! I will be at Star Wars Weekends all 5 weeks, not only having fun, but reporting for Dan and Cory live from Hollywood Studios. I’m excited to share the experience with all you as it happens. Be on the look out for posts live from the park, as well as detailed reviews each weekend, including coverage of the new night-time fireworks show. Hopefully it will grow your fandom as it has mine. If you plan on being at Hollywood Studios any of these weeks and you see me cruising the park in my Coffee With Kenobi shirt, say hi. I’m always looking to meet new friends!  Start now! Find me on Twitter @taharris121079 or email me at aharris@coffeewithkenobi.com.

So until next time…. May the Force be with you all.

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14 thoughts on “How Disney Saved My Fandom”

  1. I went through a similar waning of my fandom a few very short years ago, so I know where you’re coming from. To a large extent, Doctor Who took over the spot in my heart that used to be reserved for the Saga alone. I wasn’t watching The Clone Wars (although they were on my DVR), I stopped reading the EU, and toy buying came to a halt. It was a dark time…

    Like you, I was able to rekindle my first love. Not in the exciting way you were able to do it, though! I’m sure Star Wars Weekends is a BIG help when it comes to recalling what it was like as a kid, staring wide-eyed at the spectacle that is Star Wars! Kudos to your friend Robbie for gettin’ you back into the groove!

    Obviously (since I’m here) my fandom is back – perhaps not to where it used to be just a few years ago, but it’s getting there. It’s a process. Being part of the CWK family helps – and I’m sure your live reports from Disney will bring a huge smile to my fangirl face! Living vicariously is all I can do right now, but it’ll do for the time being. 😉

    Nice entry, Aaron!

    1. Thanks Lisa! I believe a lot of us have gone through those dark times at some point. Star Trek took over for the longest time. I have recently been convinced by a co-worker to watch Doctor Who and really enjoyed it, but its no Star Wars! Hopefully through these weekends we can grow our fandoms more!!!

  2. Welcome, welcome!

    This was such a great read. I always like to hear about the fandom journey of fellow Star Wars family members. We are all so very different, yet one special thing binds us, penetrates us, and…well, you know the rest…but I’m not talking about the Force. It’s the love for this saga.

    You certainly had a unique upbringing, and challenging for keeping up with your fandom. It’s understandable how you would “stray” from the Star Wars path.

    You are indeed very fortunate to have a friend like Robbie to encourage you to explore your love of Star Wars again! How wonderful that you got the chance to meet and converse with Ashley and James (yep, we’re on a first-name basis…lol). One thing I do think is so unique about The Clone Wars cast and crew is, as you point out, they are fans of fans. They LOVE Star Wars as we do. They live for the characters and the storylines. That passion comes through in their artistic expression, and through their integrity with the fans.

    It’s seriously SO great that you had the opportunity to be able to use your Disney experiences in this way! It sounds as though you have some very interesting and exciting things on the horizon as you continue your journey!

    Good luck with all of your endeavors with the Rebel Legion and with Star Wars Weekends!

    Great to have you aboard! 🙂
    ~Jay

    1. Thanks Jay! Great to be on board! We are lucky as fans to have other fans who know where our love comes from as the ones creating the future of Star Wars. If The Clone Wars cast set a standard of fan interaction that we as Star Wars fans have come to appreciate and expect. Looking at the cast list for SWW coming up, looks like Disney and Lucasfilm understand that! So exciting the future is!

  3. I visited Disneyland a few years back and I will never forget that experience. The magic was unbelievable. The only way it could be improved upon is by adding Star Wars to the mix. Star Wars weekends at a Disney park is on my list of things to do. I can’t imagine how good it would be. – Rob

    1. Star Wars Weekends is the perfect mesh of Star Wars and Disney! You would love it Rob! Hope to see you down here one day!!!

  4. Awesome entry, Aaron!

    Your story is so touching, “it brings warm feelings to my heart.” 🙂
    Seriously, so inspiring!

    It’s true, as we grow, our “life journey” leads us in so many different directions. Sometimes we hit some speed bumps, that, or even …. detours.

    Eventually, we find our back on track and down the correct path again.

    Totally envious of your experiences with the CW clan 😉 How incredibly Funtastic! That would have restored my faith too! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your adventure(s) with us, truly amazing stuff.
    Look forward to your next blog!

    1. Thanks Becca! Its amazing where we can end up through all of life’s twists and turns. I never dreamed that I would end up where I am today! Life is amazing!

  5. Welcome back, we missed you! I’m soooo jealous that you live close enough to go to every weekend, and I can’t wait to hear your reports. Which band was JAT playing as his background music??!?!?!

    1. It’s so good to be back in the fold! James Arnold Taylor was using Hands and Feet by Audio Adrenaline for the background music for the Obi-Wan And Beyond show. To this day, I can’t hear that song without thinking about that show.

      1. Supersweet! Fun fact about Jeff: I sang “If You’re Happy And You Know It” with the band at an in-store appearance in 1995. Their drummer wasn’t with them, so Mark was on drums, so I got to be front-man for about 2 minutes 🙂 Cool guys.

        1. Dude, thats an awesome story!!! What an experience!!! I have always heard they were cool, down to earth guys.

  6. Great story, Aaron! I’m hoping that SW Weekends will make it to Disneyland sometime soon.

    It’s cool that your fandom was restored!

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