As Star Wars mania grips an unsuspecting nation, I was lucky enough to find myself in Orlando, Florida’s Walt Disney World just a few short days before The Force Awakens’ official release. The epicenter of Disney’s Skywalker stewardship is at the Hollywood Studios park, where in addition to the awesome, recently revamped Star Tours 3-D motion simulator ride, a new Star Wars Launch Bay attraction has opened to build excitement for the long awaited Episode VII.
Hilariously in-character First Order Troopers patrol the Launch Bay entrance (their response to my request for a picture: “move along”) occupying the considerable real estate on the south east side of the park formerly inhabited by the Animation Pavilion. We begin by either choosing to view a short film on the history of the franchise or continuing into the main walk-through area adorned with screen used props and models from each of the seven episodes. Highlights include scale models of Boba Fett’s Slave One and Poe Dameron’s new X-Wing Fighter, and the full size screen used prop of Anakin’s Pod Racer from Episode I.
Soon you find yourself in a life sized recreation of the Mos Eisley cantina, complete with a few real Jawas running around, perfect for photo opportunities. Leading from there is an interactive section with demo stations of several current Star Wars video games, and meet and greet area with Darth Vader and Chewbacca. Wait times were up to 70 minutes so needless to say I didn’t get any face time with the stalwart Wookiee or the Dark Lord.
And from there, you guessed it: a gift shop. This one was unique in that it seemed to cater to the high end collector, with several life sized prop replica type items, and Sideshow sixth and quarter scale statues and figures on display and for sale. More budget conscious visitors can always pick up one of the cups shaped like BB-8 on sale throughout the park, which are exclusive (a rarity these days) and are just as amusing, charming, practical and functional as BB-8 himself is in the film
Star Wars Launch Bay isn’t anything groundbreaking or innovative conceptually, but the force is strong in it’s execution, as is the case with most attractions in the Disney Parks, even smaller scale, temporary displays like this. Definitely check it out if you’re, like me, in the neighborhood and itching for more Force Awakens ephemera.