A Day In The Life – Star Wars: The Force Awakens Opening Night Event at Walt Disney World
By Jason Brame
For the first time in forever, Walt Disney World partnered with AMC Theaters to give more than 2000 Star Wars and Disney fans alike the chance to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Opening Night, with a special after party at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is our journey…
7:45 AM – Having pulled into Disney Springs, I observed that the parking deck was fairly empty. It does not seem that checking in for this event will be too time consuming.
7:55 AM – Ok, so I was a bit wrong, but everyone was in good spirits and equally excited about the evening. Costumes were few but most everyone was sporting some sort of Star Wars shirt or accessory. Disney Springs was still playing their normal Christmas music. Best not to get us too excited too early by playing some John Williams.
8:48 AM – The end is in sight!
10:04 AM – By now I have gotten my packet and have returned home to examine the spoils of my journey. We got event credentials with awesome custom lanyards, two park tickets for the event, a BB-8 pin which seems unique to this experience, and queue cards. We are instructed to return by 3:00 PM if we want to retain our spot in line, which for us is 39 and 40. Pretty good odds of getting a decent seat, so we had to make sure we were back by then.
2:50 PM – After a short stent at the day job, my wife Sarah and I made it to Disney Springs in time to queue up for our theater. Our show time is 7:25 PM so we are curious to what the plan was from here.
Costumed guests were more plentiful here in the lines, with many younger guests dressed as Rey, Storm Troopers, Imperial Officers, and Jedi. There was even an appearance by George Lucas (or at least a poor imitation).
3:15 PM – It was time to move. We followed the Cast Member with the purple lightsaber all the way to the front entrance of AMC where we walked the red carpet into the theater.
3:25 PM – After a quick security check, we are now seated in theater 5. Along the way we were greeted by members of the 501st, as well as R2-D2 and other astromechs.
Once we claimed our seats we were free to do as we pleased until the movie began. We were a bit surprised no one came and talked to us, and we were unsure if food was being provided or we were to fend for ourselves. Disney’s Event team handled everything really well, being very organized throughout the event. AMC’s staff was a bit overwhelmed, and the hot food window at the concession stand struggled to keep up with the demand. We avoided that line by just grabbing some ready-made food (nachos, hot dog, and an oreo brownie).
We were prepared with extra charger for our phones so we tried to keep ourselves entertained. We wish we had known that nothing else was going to happen in advance or I would have brought an iPad with Return of the Jedi on it but alas, we sat in the theater passing the time till the movie began.
7:25 PM – We were introduced to the film by a couple Disney Cast members on the screen instructing us how to get to Studios after the film as well as what we were to expect.
7:40 PM – Previews are finally over and the movie begins.
10:00 PM – Movie is over and our minds are blown.
10:10 PM – We make it back to our car. We were expecting huge traffic delays, but once we got out of the immediate Disney Springs Area, we had no delays getting to the after party. We were both very surprised at this and were thankful… except we got the worst parking spot and had to walk quite a distance to the front of the park.
11:00 PM – The party began. We were greeted at the front entrance by cast members handing out light up BB-8 units. Lighting effects had the event logo everywhere, including the front entrance, by all open attractions, and on the Chinese Theater.
DJ Elliot and Mark Daniel were hosting the event and a Dance Party out at the center of the park. Starbucks was generously handing out miniature frappachinos to anyone who walked by.
Disney had three attractions open:
Star Tours: The Adventure Continues – with the journey to Jakku scene and BB-8’s message playing all the time (no randomization of the scenarios).
Tower of Terror – no modifications but you could practically walk on the ride.
Rockin’ Roller Coaster – All the audio was changed for this experience, featuring all the music of Star Wars throughout the ride. The story was modified, in that you were running late to the premier and this car was the fastest way there. Aside from the images you see here, there was no other visual modification, but it was still very exciting to ride the ride with a different audio track.
Also open was the Star Wars Launch Bay where you could meet Chewbacca and Darth Vader, and three showings of the Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple, where younglings can face either Darth Vader or the Seventh Sister, a show which ends with a fight between a padawan and Darth Maul.
For a frequent guest to the park, these experiences were not all that unique, which drove many guests to the event specific offerings:
Captain Phasma was patrolling the rooftop of Hyperion Theater
Four separate photo opportunities were available, including the downed TIE fighter on Jakku, inside the Star Destroyer, the Red Carpet Experience, and inside the Resistance Base, where R2-D2 and BB-8 joined in the photo with you. Additionally, all photopass photos were offered as a free download, so no need to worry about your own cameras!
The evening was capped off with the premier of a brand new fireworks show featuring audio from all seven films. For those who have seen Symphony in the Stars before, this is much more fun. Unlike the previous Star Wars firework show, dialogue from the films was used to give more substance to the overall show. The weather was a bit breezy which caused a lot of the smoke to waft forward, blocking some of the display.
To top it all off, we were all given a special gift, a souvenir ticket for the opening night event. This beautiful piece will make a fine addition to my collection (see what I did there?).
Final Thoughts – This was an amazing event for Star Wars fans and Disney fans alike. I think this was a win for Disney Parks and I hope that all Star Wars films get a similar treatment to this.
Let me know your thoughts by posting in the comments below. You can also drop me a line on Twitter @starwarstce. You can find our coverage of #starwarscanon stories at our YouTube channel Star Wars: The Canon Explained. Feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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