Each year Walt Disney World hosts Star Wars Weekends bringing together fans with celebrities and characters from across the galaxy. This year’s expanded event spans five weekends, making some big changes along the way.
The event’s popular annual Hyperspace Hoopla show has divided “Star Wars” fans over the many years it has concluded each day at Star Wars Weekends. Its Dance-Off with the Star Wars Stars has been pitting Good vs Evil in dance battles that have included everything from Boba Fett dancing to Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga to Slave Leia and Padme doing “Gangnam Style.”
Year after year the show became more outrageous, portraying “Star Wars” characters completely out of character, all in the name of fun and laughs. But many die-hard “Star Wars” fans found it to be offensive, rushing to comment online about how inappropriate Disney’s handling of the franchise has been at this event.
Now, with “Star Wars: Episode VII” currently in production, it seems Disney has finally decided to take the franchise a bit more seriously at Star Wars Weekends.
Instead of ending each Star Wars Weekends 2014 day with Hyperspace Hoopla, a new show has been developed called Symphony in the Stars. It’s a finale not only filled with fireworks but also a brand new stage show that features the “Star Wars” characters in a respectful, tasteful way.
Hosted by James Arnold Taylor, the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in “The Clone Wars,” this new character tribute praises both the “Star Wars” franchise as well as its fans without poking fun or parodying any of it. The show begins by displaying fan photos taken throughout the day and tagged #swwfinale.
Taylor then individually welcomes groups of characters to the stage – Jedi, Bounty Hunters, Ewoks, even new ones from the upcoming “Star Wars Rebels” TV show – letting them each have their moment in the spotlight. Luke, Leia, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and many more all show up. Add in some dazzling special effects and pyrotechnics and this show offers fans a chance to share the love of their favorite films.
Video: NEW Star Wars Weekends 2014 character finale
The show concludes by packing the stage with all the characters at once, striking a pose straight off of a “Star Wars” movie poster, and immediately launching into the Symphony in the Stars fireworks show.
Video: Symphony in the Stars fireworks at Star Wars Weekends 2014
The show is classy, perhaps a bit too much. It has lost its sense of humor in favor of playing the “Star Wars” game absolutely straight. Though it does capture some of the excitement of the films by having bounty hunters and Stormtroopers fire their weapons across the stage with explosive results, it’s lacking the punch necessary to really wow the crowd. A final battle between the Jedi and Sith would have pulled that off.
But it should quiet those who complained Disney is destroying the “Star Wars” universe with its annual dance-off. Those who enjoyed Hyperspace Hoopla, however, will likely find the new show to have a lot of visual impacts but come off as a bit too dry.
Disney hasn’t completely lost its sense of humor – or sense of rhythm – when it comes to “Star Wars.” This year’s moment most closely resembling the former dance-offs takes place within the Stormtroopers’ skit that precedes the Saga of the Stars talk show. After debating over which Stormtrooper is the most bumbling, the group decides to share what Earth songs are on their playlists while they’re in town for Star Wars Weekends. “What Does the Fox Say,” “Everything Is Awesome,” “Wrecking Ball,” and (of course) “Let It Go” are all included with a bit of singing and dancing.
Video: Stormtroopers sing “Let It Go” from Frozen in song medley at Star Wars Weekends 2014
It’s not quite the huge choreographed spectacular that Hyperspace Hoopla once was, but it is amusing.
Disney has also answered the burning question of what has become of Snig and Oopla, former hosts of Hyperspace Hoopla. That answer becomes known during the Padawan Mind Challenge that takes place multiple times each day during Star Wars Weekends.
Before the show, two characters pick out a family from the crowd to join the performance in trivia battle.
Attention is then fixed on host Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano in “The Clone Wars,” who also brings out C-3PO and R2-D2 for assistance.
But it’s the appearance of two new characters, Imperial officers, that begin to connect this show to Hyperspace Hoopla. One of the officers is definitely a familiar face, perhaps a close relative of Snig. And before beginning this trivia contest between the chosen family and the Empire, this officer makes a point of showing off the fate of those who cross him by making examples of Snig and Oopla, now trapped in an unfortunate state.
Video: Padawan Mind Challenge reveals Hyperspace Hoopla hosts’ fate
Yes, it appears Snig and Oopla have been frozen in carbonite. Of course, we know that Han Solo survived this fate so it’s conceivable that we will see them again someday.
As for the Padawan Mind Challenge, it’s a bit rough around the edges but the new Imperial officers really make the show worth seeing by way of their fantastic comedic timing and improv skills, particularly during the lightning round near the end. (Where else will you hear “Star Wars” jokes referencing Barbara Walters and “Schindler’s List”?)
It seems Disney is still trying to find the balance between taking “Star Wars” seriously and keeping it fun and upbeat. As director JJ Abrams begins to craft the seventh film in his own style while staying true to the original trilogy, Disney figures out how to handle the franchise in its theme parks.
The fireworks finale definitely ends each Star Wars Weekends evening with a bang, but lacks the complete satisfaction of watching characters cut loose and break it down. However, Hyperspace Hoopla simply outgrew the event as hundreds of guests crammed toward that center stage each night hours in advance to secure spots. That’s no longer necessary as the new stage show, while quite entertaining, is really an extended photo op followed by the real ending to the event high up in the sky, viewable from just about anywhere.
Now Star Wars Weekends attendees can casually show up near the stage just a little while before the finale begins at 9:30 pm and enjoy one last exciting trip through the world of “Star Wars” entertainment. It may be an unpopular move by Disney, but it is a smart one, likely setting the tone for future events to come.
There is much more than these shows at Star Wars Weekends 2014, including many character meet-and-greets, much merchandise, and plenty of celebrity appearances – all of which we’ll be featuring soon, so keep checking back.
More photos from Star Wars Weekends 2014: