Disney Extinct Attractions: Star Wars Weekends

Welcome to Disney Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole, and I’ll be your guide on today’s journey into the past of a galaxy far, far away.

It’s 2019, which means that it is finally the year that Star Wars officially takes over the Disney company, what with the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the debut of The Mandalorian on Disney+ and the long-awaited debut of the still untitled Episode IX. Even before Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, the Disney Parks and Lucasfilm had a healthy relationship, which gave us great attractions like Star Tours and the Indiana Jones Adventure.

In 1997, George Lucas released the Star Wars Special Editions in theaters, re-sparking a love for the franchise in a whole new generation of individuals. While they are not held in high esteem today, the Special Editions certainly did the trick at the time, getting this whole new audience engaged with Star Wars, just a few years before the prequel trilogy started arriving in theaters.

1997 also marked the first year that Star Wars Weekends were held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with great guests like Peter Mayhew and Jeremy Bulloch, who played Chewbacca and Boba Fett, respectively.

Via ebay

After the initial success of the event in 1997, it was another three years before the next sets of weekends that occurred in 2000 and 2001. Then, after a one-year hiatus, Star Wars Weekends became a yearly tradition at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2003. Held every May and June for four consecutive weekends each year, Star Wars Weekends were almost like a mini-convention for Star Wars nerds every year.

Included with the price of one’s park ticket, one perk that interested even regular park guests was the chance to meet some of the Fab Five in Star Wars garb. With Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy and Stormtrooper Donald, these classic characters got a fun new facelift for guests looking for a more unique experience than just typical Mickey. Personally, I love seeing all of these characters get dressed up and fancy because it shows why Disney is special with how they want to move beyond the simplified guest experience and really unique meet and greets for guests.

Outside of these meet and greets, there were also plenty of cast and crew members from the films who would come to the park and do panels about the movies and television shows. Most of the Star Wars Weekends occurred behind Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens, so the shows The Clone Wars and Rebels took up most of the attention during these panels, which were all hosted by actors from the shows.

A few of these panels managed to stick around for multiple years at Star Wars Weekends, so now let’s dive in a bit deeper to the first of those shows, Behind the Force.

Behind the Force was hosted by Ashley Eckstein, who voices Padawan Ahsoka Tano on The Clone Wars. In the particular panel included above, she is joined by Dee Bradley Baker, who voiced all of the clones (as well as hundreds of other characters), with a brief guest appearance from James Arnold Taylor, the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi. This panel was unique because it gave guests a chance to see how voice acting really worked, with Ashley and Dee acting out a scene from the show as their own respective characters. Plus, a lucky guest was chosen each show to be a part of the fun.

What I loved about the panel is that you could see how much fun the actors were having. Most of their time was spent joking around and doing various voices, all of which kept me and the audience chuckling throughout. They also did a good job of appealing to a more general audience because so much of the panel was focused on voice acting itself. In fact, I would argue that Behind the Force fits the ideals of Disney’s Hollywood Studios more than any show at the park today except for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (though to call that the most accurate representation of a film set is a bit radical). But if you have ever wanted to learn more about voice acting, the panel is well-worth watching as is the other primary panel, Obi-Wan & Beyond.

In Obi-Wan & Beyond, James Arnold Taylor condenses his one-man show, Talking to Myself, into a quick-moving, yet heart-warming show about his life as a voice actor, where everything was achieved through working towards his goals and having faith. Watching this video, I was touched quite a few times as some of the things that he was saying throughout were quite profound and really inspired me to want to do everything that I could with my life. The show really took its message of “beyond” seriously by going much further than just being a Star Wars story.

Don’t get me wrong, this show is also really witty and funny and again kept me laughing the whole time. Hearing him switch from voice to voice is truly something special because he does it with such grace and deftness that it’s difficult to tell that it’s a new person talking. His abilities perhaps come to a crescendo, though, with his finale where he goes through what must be close to a hundred different impressions in about 3 minutes. It’s truly a master-class of voice acting and left me feeling completely gob-stopped at the end.

As a whole, if you want to learn more about voice acting or just feel inspired, check out this panel because it is truly something special, much like the final show that we are going to discuss today, Hyperspace Hoopla.

The Hyperspace Hoopla was a dance show featuring all of your favorite Star Wars that appeared during Star Wars Weekends for years somehow. If you’ve never seen the show before, I recommend at least skimming through the video above because some of the things you are going to need to see to believe.

In the 2013 show above, the Emperor finally got his due and managed to take over the show from its previous hosts, who challenge him to a dance-off for control of the show. Based off of what Disney typically does, you would expect the show be primarily background dancers dressed in Jedi robes and Stormtrooper garb, but the show went far beyond that.

In what other show could you find something as amazing as Chewie wearing an afro, while jamming to “Hey Ya!”? Every single thing about the show screams “How did Disney let this show happen?” — and that’s what makes it so amazing and fun to watch.

Dance shows are already fun enough to watch, but seeing Darth Vader and the Emperor dance to some of the greatest hits from the 1980s to today is too great to miss. You could also tell the creators of the show knew their Star Wars because very few shows have appearances by Aurra Sing, Kit Fisto and Lobot, while also making mention of their being a part of the show.

It’s also important to note that the Hyperspace Hoopla continued through 2013, which means that Disney continued the show even after they owned Lucasfilm. Today, we say we would never see the Disney Company doing something like this, but the show was only five years ago, so who really knows?

Obviously, I know that my love of Star Wars is a big part of why I love the Hyperspace Hoopla, but even if you have only ever seen the movies once, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of the show because of its self-deprecating nature where it makes fun of both Star Wars and the Disney parks, but in a loving way.

Via Flickr

To replace Hyperspace Hoopla during Star Wars Weekends’ last few years, Symphony in the Stars began its run as the conclusion to a great night of Star Wars fun. The fireworks show actually managed to be plussed over the years and remains today as Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular (though it seems like it’ll be coming to an end in May with the new Disney Animation fireworks show coming to the park).

A couple other elements of the Weekends also managed to survive, namely the Jedi Training Academy and the stormtrooper parade. The Jedi Training Academy lets young guests learn how to become Jedi before having to face off against Sith such as Darth Vader and Darth Maul. The stormtrooper parade is now led by Captain Phasma, who takes her troops throughout the park (but really just leads to making it annoying to walk around the park).

In November 2015, Disney announced that the final Star Wars Weekend had been held earlier that year. Due to the construction of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as well as the overall prevalence of Star Wars in the park, the weekends were no longer a necessary addition. To be fair, nearly half of the activities from the weekends are still in the parks today, but I am sad that I never got a chance to be there and see some awesome panels with these guests. (I could still go to Star Wars Celebration today, but that’s a lot more expensive.)

Well, now it’s time to take a look at what’s coming next week and stop reminiscing about all that we’ve lost.

  1. The area that held the former attractions just opened up a new restaurant.
  2. One of these attractions dealt with a Lucasfilm addition, while another was original.
  3. The final attraction there dealt with a Disney animated classic.

Thanks for reading and have a magical day!

Cole Geryak
Cole Geryak is a childless millennial making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.