Serious Star Wars

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Features, Walt Disney World

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Published on May 20, 2014 at 3:00 am with 15 Comments

Star Wars Weekends have begun, and the signature finale to the event is now the Symphony in the Stars fireworks show. The name is not new, and in fact using the show name with just Star Wars music has been done before (on a previous year’s May the Fourth celebration), but it is new to use the show as the cap to the Star Wars Weekend day of festivities. Previously that honor went to the Hyperspace Hoopla, a comedy variety/dance show that used (and ridiculed) Star Wars characters. The Symphony fireworks is a worthy successor.

First, let’s acknowledge that Hyperspace Hoopla had its backers. I was one of the big ones, actually. The show was cheesy and irreverent, but it was also fun, especially if you were a repeat viewer and knew to expect certain jokes. In that sense it’s like its creative ancestor, a Hoopla show apparently from the Adventurers Club (which I only visited once)–something that repeat/frequent visitors liked a lot, and may or may not have appealed to first-time visitors.

Actually, Kit Fisto *always* comes out.

Actually, Kit Fisto *always* comes out.

The Hoopla had viewing problems. It grew too popular for its first home on the jedi training stage, and the Hat stage suffered from a slope problem, and the ground sloped away the wrong way in the audience, so the further from the stage you were, the LOWER in elevation you were.

But let’s be honest: that’s not what caused the switch. Disney wanted to treat the Star Wars characters with dignity now that they own the property (and are making non-comedy movies of them). So there’s still a quick stage show with many of the same live-action performers, but the majority of the focus is now on the fireworks that follow rather than on the storyline of the show.

It’s worth pausing here for a moment and reflecting on that change. When Disney was merely licensing the Star Wars characters, they felt free to lampoon them – Luke and Leia dancing together to “We Are Family” is only one of several dozen examples. But once Disney took ownership of the characters, much of the silliness was gone, replaced with an earnestness that isn’t quite yet natural. The finale stage show merely introduces the characters in groupings and ends with the host goading the crowd into applause at the end by asking “Isn’t Star Wars cool?!” The line is a bit flat, as is the show.

Image courtesy of

On the one hand, it’s perfectly natural and certainly understandable for Disney to veer away from the satire, because they have those movies on the way. It’s just good business. But I think it says something about Disney that they didn’t do this years ago, when the characters were still Lucas’s property and not their own. There’s a hint of iron-fisted control lurking in the background here, and echoes of that time the company moved to force daycare centers to paint over the unauthorized Mickey images on their walls. There’s just a touch of hypocrisy here. Certainly it’s good business, too, no doubt about that, but there’s something to be said for public perception of your corporate stance as well.

I will miss Snig and Oopla as hosts of the Hoopla, though there is a cameo (kind of) by them in the Padawan Mind Challenge trivia game show (Imperial goons threaten this year’s show hosts by showing a picture of what happened to hosts that cross the Empire – and it’s a picture of Snig and Oopla encased in carbonite!)

The silliness is not COMPLETELY gone from Star Wars Weekends, You’ll still find stormtroopers singing Frozen songs, for instance, but I suspect this sort of crossover will be gone in future years as well. The trend is toward internal consistency, as if the Star Wars Universe does not acknowledge pop culture or indeed our world at all.

A hidden Millennium Falcon.

A hidden Millennium Falcon.

The elephant in the room, at least in my mind, is whether Disney intends to do more with its new Star Wars property than movies and a second animated TV series. When will the announcement come about a presence in the parks? Will we have to wait until Iger retires–might this be his swan song, intentionally held back until the end?

It would potentially be smart business to wait until Avatar has a chance to open and wow the Wall Street crowd – let’s not forget who Iger and the others really serve – before making any big Star Wars announcements. Just as Disney does not acknowledge DVC units being built (presently true of Polynesian) for fear of cannibalizing the existing units still on sale in other places, they don’t want to “steal the thunder” from Avatar before it has a chance to open… one assumes.

That timing might work well with a different kind of conservative approach: seeing how Episode VII does in the box office before committing to bring a big presence to the parks. It would be a big mistake to commit a lot of money to a project if it didn’t make money as a movie, right? So it might make sense to see how the movie does. If it succeeds, you have ready-made plans you’ve been sitting on for years, and can act quickly to capitalize on the success.

As an aside, the need to act quickly is a problem currently plaguing Disney with the Frozen success, which is an unstoppable juggernaut (really a cultural touchstone at this point) and could hardly have been predicted by anyone. I tend to believe the whispers that Maelstrom may be closed in favor of a Frozen boat ride. I know a boat ride doesn’t fit the theme of the movie very well, but if you’re Disney, you’ve got to be thinking that you’d generate a LOT of additional tourist traffic if you opened a Frozen attraction, and retrofitting one (even one that still draws lines sometimes) is orders of magnitude cheaper than building a new one from scratch. I could see it happening.

The Symphony in the Stars show and fireworks may take steps away from irreverence and back toward respecting its characters, and I will surely miss the cheesiness that was Hyperspace Hoopla, but on balance it’s a fair trade. Having any fireworks at all in this park is a bit of a treat (a bit disconcerting that it’s come to that!) and these are extra-good fireworks; not a phoned-in performance at all.


Because all the rubberhead actors from Hoopla still make an appearance on stage, Disney hasn’t made this replacement just to cut costs. They have to pay all the same performers AND add all those fireworks, and just as I want to call out Disney for being cheap when they’re being cheap, I like to recognize when they are spending money on initiatives that matter.

Ultimate Orlando Clicks #15 – Star Wars Weekends, SeaWorld 50th, More

SeaWorld’s 50th Anniversary has given the park new decorations and signage throughout the park. Star Wars Weekends kicked off its first event of the year with a parade by the 501st and Symphony in the Stars, which replaces Hyperspace Hoopla. We stop by Darth’s Mall for a look at the available merchandise (including Ackbar’s Snack Bar and Her Universe updates) as well. We stop by the Universal Studios CityWalk mini-golf briefly, and also look around the refreshed signage at Typhoon Lagoon – plus, we show you the full menus and prices at Typhoon Lagoon! Lastly, Haagen-Dasz and Wetzel’s Pretzels have reopened at Downtown Disney, now in brand new kiosks next to DisneyQuest. While we’re here, we look at current Vinylmation sets for sale and the upcoming United World Soccer store.

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Ultimate Orlando

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About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida.

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  • AaroniusPolonius

    I’d be super surprised if Disney went right to ride-as-attraction for Frozen. I think it’s more likely that they’d put together a live, costumed musical show. Their own history with their animated hits suggests that it will be awhile before we see a ride based attraction on Frozen. (We are still awaiting a Lion King ride, right? And that’s broke records as both an animated film AND a live stage musical, right?)

    As for Star Wars, the idea that Disney is waiting to see if the new Star Wars films will make money is patently absurd.

    The new Star Wars movies will make TONS of money.
    Boatloads. Bushels. Billions.

    The LAST set of three films made those very boatloads, bushels and billions, despite the first one being utterly horrible and the next two being less than good. Disney bought them because they’re Star Wars and basically guaranteed box office successes.

    (Incidentally, even supposed “flop” John Carter made money, with BO of $285 million on $250 million in cost, and that’s not counting DVD/streaming/Starz cash.)

    If anything, Disney MIGHT not want to give away storylines in attractions for the new movies. That I’d buy.

    I think more than that, they’re waiting to see what, if any, impact Potter 2.0 has on their bottom line in Florida. If attendance levels remain the same (or better/worse, grow,) they might invest in a measured, smaller suite of Star Wars attractions, like a walk-through or an FX showcase. If Universal starts to gobble up attendance, that might wake them up to a full on investment in the intellectual property.

    The same is true of Frozen: if guests are buying tickets to WDW so that the kids can go to the Princess Hug Zone and get their Frozen fix for minimal investment from the company, then that will be the “attraction.”

    If guests demonstrate willingness to go from park to park looking for Frozen experiences, then DHS will get a live stage show and Epcot might get Maelstrom rethemed (which would suck, at least from an Epcot brand standpoint.)

    If guests decide to forsake a Frozen Meet-And-Greet and spend over at Universal, that might wake them up to open the wallet for a significant investment in the Frozen property.

    It’s such a weird paradox at play right now: if you’re a Disney fan and you want Disney to spend on “Disney” level attractions and experiences, don’t go.

    (P.S. It’s insane that your articles come out on the same day as the Universal Orlando updates, where Potter 2.0 is wrapping up what looks to be a brilliant addition, and IOA is already under construction on another island to be unveiled in 2015.)

  • CaptainAction

    Walt leaves WDW with 43 square miles of land. This is a large enough area to hold all the ideas they can come up with.
    Apparently all of Iger’s ideas fit in DVC buildings.
    Iger should have done his homework. He labors under the false information that WDW is landlocked.
    Iger tears out the 20,000 Leagues for stores, restaurants, and to spend 3 years building Dwarf Mound on that former attraction. Is it open yet?
    Tears out Snow White for an inferior Mermaid attraction with a que better than the ride.
    Now he may tear out Maestrom for a Frozen attraction.
    I guess all Iger’s ideas and creativity reside in a thimble.
    Magic Handcuffs didn’t really take up much space either.
    When Iger’s finally gone from Disney his footprint in America will be DVC and his yearly bonus.

    Show Iger and WDW your Disney Side. It’s your Backside going somewhere else. That should be our Disney Side.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      Actually, the WDW property is more than just land: it’s basically a Corporate Vatican City for Disney. If they wanted to, they could build a power plant and an airport, on property.

    • WDWfanBoston


    • ConnorMcSp83

      What would a Micechat WDW article be without CaptainTroll spewing negative gibberish?! I just don’t know what I would do… :(

      • AaroniusPolonius

        His “gibberish” is routed in reality, alas.

    • danielz6

      “Show Iger and WDW your Disney Side. It’s your Backside going somewhere else.”

      Haha that made me laugh. I think that marketing campaign is rediculous as well. I go to Disney parks to be entertained. Period. I’m not going to go if half the park is covered with scrims and closed attractions and a 20 year outdated tomorrowland, despite rising admission. I’m not blindly loyal to a brand.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        The “Be Our Guest” WDW spot is almost insane, with the focus of the ad being on the Magic+ armbands and their ease of use.

        From a corporate side, MyMagic+ makes total sense, in that it’s the Holy Grail of data gathering and consumer targeting: talk about really knowing your audience and their real time behavior in a park situation!

        From a consumer side, I think as the program matures, and they start to use that data to actively court and direct their guests via microtargeting and “special, just for you” experiences, I think their might be something to it, as well.

        But as a different way to access the WDW experience, I think it’s very much like the Segway, which is to say that it’s something cool that you don’t really need or really want. Think about it: Segways don’t replace anything in your life. They’ve got none of the weather-proofing benefits of a golf cart nor none of the exercize benefits of a bike…in one machine! The armbands have a whiff of that.

        Plus, it’s an access program for rides and attractions that are a little long in the tooth, a little cart before horse, no?

      • billyjobobb

        That be our guest spot is driving me insane.

        Meanwhile I’m getting hit with Potter Commercials and now a minion commercial.

        Disney commercials seem to be “come to Disneyland” Universal commercials seem to be “look at all the shiny new stuff we have”

      • AaroniusPolonius

        …also interesting to note that the “Be Our Guest” spot basically buries the Dwarf Coaster (“Dwarf Mound” if ‘ya Captain,) into less than a second of footage.

    • OprylandUSA

      “So brave,” muttered fan Egroeg Sacul.

    • Marko50

      Cut and paste yet again, Captain?

  • doppio

    Big yawn.

  • BlahBlahson

    It makes some sense for Disney to wait on announcing Star Wars land at DHS.

    …Except they already did officially announce that it was coming…and that if they wait until 2018 or later to open it then that park will literally go a FULL decade with ZERO brand new attractions.

    That’s some serious stagnation.

  • BC_DisneyGeek

    Disney is definitely treating Star Wars a little more seriously, as evidenced by their shelving of the comedic animated series “Star Wars Detours”.

    Star Wars Detours, the planned Star Wars comedy spin-off series from Robot Chicken creators Seth Green, Matthew Senreich and Todd Grimes, which was announced last year, has also been canned, or at least pushed back.

    “Detours was conceived and produced before we decided to move forward with the new Star Wars trilogy, and in the wake of that decision, Lucasfilm has reconsidered whether launching an animated comedy prior to the launch of Episode VII makes sense. As a result, we’ve decided to postpone the release of Detours until a later date”, Lucasfilm said.