Star Wars Weekends at Disney Hollywood Studios has been growing in popularity since its establishment in 2000. George Lucas’s saga set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away has become a part of popular culture, and with its good hearted fantasy and the promise of good triumphing over evil, it seems a natural fit at Disney.
Expanding beyond the Star Tours attraction, Star Wars Weekends introduce characters, celebrities, and entertainment featuring the familiar elements of the Star Wars universe. The entire event is conducted with Disney’s usual attention to detail, and it certainly provides a rich, magical experience for those who love the Star Wars saga.
But none of the events or characters or parades offers the real magic of Star Wars weekends. That magic comes from something far less tangible and yet equally intrinsic to the event.
At the start of the association between Lucasfilm and Disney, in the mid 1980s, imaginer Tony Baxter recognized that “Disneyland needs to have an attraction based on characters that children today are growing up with. We need a mythology that really touches people’s heart, like Walt used to do.” His answer to that need was Star Wars.
Star Wars is unique because it has touched more than one generation. Those of us who are older have a deep love of the original trilogy; those films are a part of our history and our culture. But Lucas’s new trilogy introduced the Star Wars universe to an entire new generation of fans, and the animated Clone Wars continues that engagement. Star Wars weekends celebrates all of those elements; characters from the two trilogies mingle and walk side by side. Because of that multi-generational connection, Star Wars weekends taps into Walt Disney’s dream of creating a place where parents and their children could have fun together. It provides an opportunity for adults and children to share the same fantasy and play in the same universe without any shame.
And, of course, Disney provides the perfect setting for that magical connection between young and old. Star Wars Weekends, although it features celebrities and “panel discussions,” is unlike any other Star Wars event. It does not engender the same reaction as events like Celebration V; it is not just for “hard core” Star Wars aficionados. It’s for everyone. Star Wars Weekends weaves a fantasy world within the safe, liberating environment of the Disney parks. It combines the fantasy of Star Wars with the unspoken Disney rule of being allowed to be a child at any age, and it lets adults and children play together without stigmatization or condemnation.
The real magic of Star Wars Weekends lies in the breaking down of divisions. Adults and children can share their enthusiasm for films that they love. Everyone can play at being a hero, no matter their age, and no one condemns anyone else for having fun. In spite of the crowds and the Florida heat, Star Wars Weekends creates its own magic. It creates a place where rebel scum win, evil galactic empires fall, and human beings learn to accept each other, no matter their age, clothing, or relationship. That’s magic at its finest, and it isn’t even long ago or far, far away.