Celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Return of the Jedi,” this was a big year for Star Wars Weekends, an annual celebration of the movie franchise since 1997, featuring shows, presentations, celebrity guests, character appearances, and special merchandise (think theme-park-meets-convention.) We even saw a few themed food options.
This was my first visit to SWW, and unfortunately, most of the events were rained out. We did get to see Ashley Eckstein, voice of Ahsoka Tano from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” She appeared in the “Darth’s Mall” shopping location, promoting her clothing line, entitled “Her Universe.” I wound up purchasing an Asajj Ventress hoodie in an attempt to dry off after being caught in the storm. It seems to be made well and is really rather cute, if not excessively (wonderfully?) geeky.
Also in the Darth Maul, we saw the Angry Birds Star Wars Experience, in which guests attempted to shoot foam balls into pig-target holes. You got three shots and, if successful, won a pack of “Angry Birds Star Wars” mini figures. LEGO had some fabulous displays here, including a life-sized Darth Vader and movie posters for all six films (as well as the image for this year’s SWW event) made entirely out of the iconic little blocks. You could also build your own lightsaber or a droid. Art, toys, and apparel, as well as limited edition merchandise were available at this location.
One very cool feature: the D-Tech Me booth. Here, with the aid of a 3D face scanner, you can be made into your very own Stormtrooper figure, or perhaps you’d rather your mini-you cast in carbonite? Each option costs $99.95, and takes about seven to eight weeks to ship.You can also have custom nametags made, showcasing your name (in English and “intergalactic” languages) and home planet.
Darth Vader cup cakes were sold, as well as various foods (churros, popcorn, kids’ snacks) in a souvenir R2-D2 plastic bucket. Another tempting option: Star Wars themed adult beverages, complete with lightsaber umbrella.
In addition to photo ops with characters, visitors had the chance to take pictures with Roxy, the fan-made 17-foot-long rancor, and pet of Jabba the Hut. The event is extremely child-friendly; kids 12 and under could sign up for the Jedi Training Academy, where they could receive lightsaber training, and children ages 4-11 could participate in The Padawan Mind Challenge (trivia).
Sadly, the Hyperspace Hoopla show was cancelled due to inclimate weather, as were many guest appearances. We did not get to meet Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), nor Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian). But, there’s nothing to be done about a crazy Florida storm system (a disturbance in the Force, if you will). Perhaps next year we’ll have better luck.