In conjunction with Star Wars Celebration Orlando, Walt Disney World debuted a new hard-ticket event at Disney's Hollywood Studios. On Friday, April 14th, the park closed at 7:00 pm for day guests to play host to Star Wars: Galactic Nights, which ran until midnight. This is not the first time that Star Wars has taken over the park for a special after-hours event, nor will it be the last since Star Wars: Galactic Nights is expected to be repeated at to-be-determined dates in the future.
Upon entering the park, guests were given a substantially sized lanyard, featuring one of eight slices of the event's image completed. To finish the puzzle, guests would need to visit the seven photo opportunities set up throughout the park. Thankfully, they did not require you to take a picture at each one as this would have taken all night. The photo ops were Jabba the Hutt's Palace, Han Solo Frozen in Carbonite, Hoth Wampa Cave, Trash Compactor, Emperor's Throne Room, Rogue One, and Speeder Bike (the latter being a permanent photo op near Star Tours).
A red carpet lined Hollywood Boulevard and one of the earliest events of the night was "Stars in Cars," a motorcade event welcoming the visiting celebrities to the park. These guests included talent from the films like Alan Tudyk (K-2SO), Ray Park (Darth Maul), Daniel Logan (Young Boba Fett), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Warwick Davis (Wicket), and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO). In addition to this motorcade, there were also recurring marches by the bad guys ("Imperial March" for the original trilogy, "March of the First Order" for the new era of films).
The center of the park right in front of the Chinese Theater was converted into the Rebel Base where many of the events were held, including DJ Dance Parties and performances of "Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away," the character show that appears on this stage during normal operating hours. One of the exclusive events ran twice, "Celebrate the Saga," where hosts Mark and Elise interacted with fans to retell 40 years of Star Wars history. And just before "Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular" at the end of the night, there was the Galactic Nights Epilogue on this stage. During this preshow, guests who completed the image on their lanyard were able to reveal a secret hidden message when the entire area was flooded with blacklight.
One of the biggest draws of the event was "Inside the Saga: Celebrity Chat Show." On this evening, the focus was on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the host was Vanessa Marshall, voice of Hera Syndulla on Disney XD's Star Wars Rebels. Her guests were ILM effects wizard John Knoll and the comedic actor behind K-2SO, Alan Tudyk. She lead an engaging discussion and even asked Tudyk to perform some of his Disney animation voices. The presentation was held on an elevated stage at the Epic Stunt Theater where Indiana Jones is held during the day and there were plenty of seats. There was also an interactive preshow where Andi Gutierrez and Anthony Carboni from The Star Wars Show found guests who could do impersonations of Star Wars characters.
Character meet & greets were available throughout the event including BB-8, whose wait time was moderate at 20-minutes when I walked into the Star Wars Launch Bay. Other Star Wars characters included Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, Boba Fett, Jawas, Ewoks, Imperial Troopers, and AWR Troopers (aka Death Troopers). We also ran into a host of droids roaming around outside of Disney Junior Live and you could also meet a few Disney characters during park hours (Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Buzz and Woody, Olaf, and Moana).
All of the attractions remained open during the event, including some that probably shouldn't have like Voyage of the Little Mermaid. While the itinerary at Star Tours remained random, there was a special overlay at Rock 'n' Roller Coaster just for the event. This special Star Wars Edition featured John Williams music, a themed digital display before takeoff, and altered lighting where stars were projected instead of the usual Los Angeles icons.
One of the most impressive elements of the event was the themed food. We tried the Light Saber Sundae, which featured half a red and blue churro on either side and a Darth Vader chocolate icon on top. The churros could also be purchased separately and came with a paper sleeve that looked like a hilt. Pop-up bars throughout the park featured themed cocktails and Skywalker Vinyards wines were available (guests could also purchase bottles to take home). It seemed like every dining location had some form of Star Wars themed food, including a charcuterie plate to pair with the wine.
Overall, I felt like Disney's Hollywood Studios did a great job with making a whole evening out of celebrating Star Wars. In fact, they may have done too good a job as we found that five hours was simply not enough time to see and do everything the event had to offer. The quality of the limited-time offerings was so well done that it almost puts Magic Kingdom's Christmas and Halloween events to shame. I really hope to see Star Wars: Galactic Nights return in the future and highly recommend it to any Star Wars fan looking to linger in the universe longer than what a typical day at the park can offer.