Legoland Florida Hints at New Star Wars Attraction

Legoland Florida plans to announce another expansion of the theme park this week, and judging by the teaser video sent out to media outlets yesterday, it’s going to have a Star Wars theme.

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The video shows a scrolling yellow type over a star-and-galaxy background, reminiscent of the scroll featured at the beginning of every Star Wars movie.

“In two days’ time in a galaxy 45 minutes away … the esteemed council of Legoland Florida will reveal a top-secret expansion taking place within the park in the year 2012,” the announcement states.

Legoland’s California theme park, by San Diego, already has a Star Wars display in its Miniland section, and it’s impressive. It includes scenes from the six-live action films and the animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” movie/TV series.

So my guess is that the Central Florida park will be getting its own Star Wars Miniland area.

Legoland Florida said it will announce the details of the expansion tomorrow (9/6) at 10:30am.

May the Force be With Us!

[Photo courtesy of Legoland California]

Star Wars Celebration Convention Returns to Orlando in August 2012

I admit it. I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I’ve seen every movie (including the first) on opening weekend. I own memorabilia ranging from posters to trading cards. Well, you get the idea.

So you can imagine my joy at hearing that the Star Wars Celebration convention would be returning to Orlando this year. The last one was also held here in 2010, and I had a great time covering it. This will be the sixth edition of this convention which attracts Star Wars fans worldwide.

Celebration VI is set to roll into the Orange County Convention Center August 23 through 26, and already has a great guest line-up.

Spotlight guests (which I believe will be holding panels) include:

  • Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia)
  • Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine)
  • Seth Green and Matthew Senreich (Robot Chicken, which does a lot of SW parodies)
  • Dave Filoni ( Star Wars: The Clone Wars director)
  • Joel Aron (SW: The Clone Wars Lighting & FX supervisor)

Other guests, who will be participating in autograph sessions, include:

  • Anthony Daniels (C-3PO)
  • Kenny Baker (R2-D2)
  • Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett)
  • Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)
  • Jake Lloyd (young Anakin Skywalker)
  • Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett)
  • Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar)

There’s also a huge merchandise room, where you’ll be able to buy just about anything Star Wars.

I have to be honest though. One of my favorite things about the last convention, Celebration V, was seeing the fans who took the time to dress up as their favorite Star Wars characters.

If you want to attend Celebration VI, ticket prices for individual day passes are $55 for Thursday, Friday and Sunday and $65 for Saturday for adults, and $27 for kids 12 and under. Save money by buying four-day passes, which are $135 for adults and $54 for kids.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.starwarscelebration.com

Walt Disney World Throws a Midnight Preview Party for Star Tours Fans

As mentioned previously, the renovated Star Tours attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios officially opened on Friday, May 20.

A few days prior, the Disney Parks blog gave notice there would be a sneak preview event at midnight for a select group of fans that would be determined by an online lottery of sorts. Unfortunately, I missed the cut-off, but my friend Angie made it and was kind enough to invite me along as her guest.

We arrived around 11pm on Thursday (5/19) at Blizzard Beach, got our wristbands and got on one of the shuttle busses that would take us all to DHS.

Since the park itself was closed, our bus caravan wound around backstage and deposited us right next to the Star Tours attraction at midnight. As soon as we got off the bus, Angie and her hubby went off to do the ride. I decided to go slower and photograph as much as I could.

The backstage area had a few Star Wars Imperial signage, as well as light globes that resembled multi-colored planets. Right before the entrance into the guest area of the park, a red carpet led us into a smoke filled tunnel where we exited into the Star Tours area. It was so smoky, I actually ran up upon a member of the Mos Eisley cantina band.

I was then accosted by a Jawa, who tried to trade me a space candy bar for my R2D2 phone. No trade, sorry. I tried to take a self-portrait of myself with the cantina band, but only succeeded in getting my head in at one corner of the shot.

I wandered around taking photos of other characters in attendance: Storm Troopers, Chewie, Ewoks and a Gamorrean Guard. I also watched a bit of a Q&A session with Disney Imagineeers about the newly enhanced Star Tours.

I did this for two reasons – I wanted to document the event for you readers, and I figured most people would race to get on Star Tours but once they got through, there’d be less of a crowd for the ride.

My strategy paid off. Not only was I able to walk straight on to the starspeeder, but I even was practically alone as I walked through the pre-show, taking photos. By the time I took my seat, I was the only person in the back row.

The starspeeder portion of the ride is where the biggest changes took place. The original version was a solid film from start to finish. This new version is now like a slot machine with four windows, allowing different portions of the film to come together in different combinations. I got different outcomes both times I rode.

During the two hour event, WDW served up complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and make-your-own ice cream sundaes. At the end, we danced along with the cantina band (backed by a pro-DJ) toward the exit, where we were given a parting gift of a Star Tours poster. I got Bespin; others reported Hoth, Coruscant and Naboo.

Walking to the bus, we were joined by Chewbacca, who escorted us onboard.

All in all, it was a fun event – especially being both a Star Wars and a Disney fan.

Here are some of the photos I took:

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Walt Disney World Announces Reopening Date for Star Tours Attraction

In a not too distant past, Walt Disney World closed down the popular Star Tours ride for rehab.

A huge closing party was held in conjunction with the world-wide Star Wars Celebration V festival that took place here in Orlando during the weekend of August 12-15, 2010. The attraction itself closed a few weeks later, after Labor Day.

At a press event yesterday at the Magic Kingdom, President Meg Crofton (flanked by the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader, and a few stormtroopers), announced that the re-imagined Star Tours attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be reopening on May 20, 2011. This will be just in time for the annual Star Wars Weekends that are held at DHS.

Not only has the storyline been reworked to include nods to the prequel trilogy (Eps I-III), but it will also feature more of C-3PO and it will be a 3D attraction. There are also rumors that it will have different destinations, as well.

Disney also released this concept art for the planet of Coruscant that may appear in the attraction.

I don’t know about you, but I am so excited to see all the new changes to the ride!

[Image © 2010 Lucasfilm Ltd.TM and Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved}

Star Tours at Walt Disney World Closes For Refurbishment

The first time I visited Walt Disney World, the first ride I went on was Star Tours at (what was then) Disney-MGM Studios.

Fast forward fifteen years, and though things have changed around the park – heck, it’s even got a new name: Disney Hollywood Studios – the ride is still the same as it was when I first rode it.

That’s soon about to change. Due to constant outcry from both Star Wars and Disney park fans, Star Tours is finally getting an update.

Star Wars creator George Lucas has filmed an entirely new adventure for riders to take. This new one takes place between the two Star Wars movie trilogies and still starts out with people boarding a shuttle to tour the galaxy. Shortly after launch, everyone becomes part of a “detour” that includes becoming part of a pod race (similar to the one shown in Star Wars: Episode 1 Phantom Menace).  The adventure is also rumored to be a 3D attraction.

Though the park, in conjunction with the Star Wars convention Celebration V, threw a “Last Tour to Endor” party at the theme park, the ride is still open for a few more days.

But if you want to enjoy the original adventure, you only have until this Tuesday, September 7.  As of September 8, Star Tours will be shut down for the renovations and will not be available to ride again until next year. No exact date has been given but I’m guessing they’ll be shooting for May 2011, just in time for next year’s annual Star Wars Weekends.

Thanks to Disney, I can share with you this teaser video for the new film that will run when Star Tours reopens. This video first aired at Celebration V.

Traveling to a Galaxy Far, Far Away – Celebration V in Orlando

I was nine when I saw Star Wars on opening day in 1977. Ever since then, I’ve been a major fan of the Lucas-created universe. So when I heard that Celebration, the big Star Wars fan convention, was going to be held this year in Orlando, I knew I had to be there.

Star Wars Celebration V :: Darth Vader & StormtrooperThis year marks the 30th anniversary of the second film, The Empire Strikes Back, so of course, Celebration V was dedicated to everything ESB.

I was first excited at the opportunity to see Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), along with George Lucas, himself. The reality? After standing in line for over an hour to see Hamill, I was three people from the door when they declared the theater full. Fisher didn’t even do her scheduled panel, so I ended up staying in line to see the next guest Ray Park (who is a super nice and funny guy). And since people were lining up at 11pm the night before to see Lucas, I decided not to even try. Kudos to those diehard fans, but I won’t wait twelve hours in line for anyone.

Out of six actor panels I wanted to see, I only got into two. The lines were so big for each one, that with only a 30 min break between panels, it was just too hard to get out of one and go all the way to the end of the next line waiting to get in.

Star Wars Celebration V :: Robot Chicken PanelThe first panel I saw was on Friday, August 13. It was a panel with the creators of the animated TV comedy show Robot Chicken, which has two DVDs full of Star Wars skits – Robot Chicken: Star Wars and Robot Chicken: Star Wars – Episode II.

I’m not only a fan of the show, but of co-creator Seth Green, whom I first knew as “Oz” the werewolf on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Imagine my surprise when Joey Fatone joined them onstage! I first met Joey when NSync was first starting out here in Orlando. Of course since then, he’s branched out into acting and TV hosting.

During the panel, the guys talked about what it was like to get that phone call from Lucas about their show spoofing the Star Wars universe, and just being mega-fans of Star Wars themselves. They also showed some hilarious clips of past and future spoofs, then took questions from the audience. It was a great panel with lots of humor and info.

Star Wars Celebration V :: Ray Park & Jay Laga'aiaThe second panel I saw was the Ray Park panel on Sunday. Besides playing Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Park has appeared in films like Mortal Kombat, X2 – X-Men United and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, as well as the last season of Heroes.

Park showed off some of his martial arts moves, talked about training for various roles, including Darth Maul (accompanied by video clips) and discussed how he’s still such a fanboy, despite his impressive resume. It was a lively panel, even though it was a bit rushed.

The rest of the weekend, I just wandered the convention center. The exhibit hall was full of vendors with lots of great Star Wars merchandise to buy.

Star Wars Celebration V :: WampaThere were also life-sized replicas of everything from Jabba the Hut to an AT-AT and a Wampa. Lots of places for great photo-ops. There was even a commitment chapel, for fans to renew their vows. A Lucasfilm employee took advantage of the opportunity to make an honest droid out of R2-D2, and I was witness to a renewal ceremony with Darth Vader officiating.

Probably the best part of the event, though, was meeting all the fans who dressed up as characters. Yes, there were plenty of Vaders, Stormtroopers, Leias and Jedi, but there were also some really creative costumes, too.  I saw bounty hunter Boba Fett in a 70s leisure suit, complete with gold chains. I saw a  guy with a backpack, and inside the bag was a little pug puppy dressed as Obi-Wan.

It was truly glorious to see all these people showing their devotion to Star Wars.

There’s no real set schedule to these Celebration conventions, but the 30th anniversary for Return of the Jedi is only three years off. Most likely, that’s when the Powers that Be will decide to reunite the Star Wars universe once again…and I will be there, too.

[Photos by Michelle Snow – see more at my Flickr acct.]

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