With the latest Star Wars movie breaking the all-time domestic box office record less than a month of its release, it’s pretty clear that the Force is wide awake all over America, but nowhere has the film’s impact been more evident than inside the Disney parks. I’ve already covered the newly added Star Wars attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, and recently I had the chance to fly west and compare Orlando’s offerings to their Anaheim analogues. While in California, I captured this gallery of Season of the Force videos and photo gallery to give our Disneyland-deprived readers a taste of the Happiest Place on Earth’s take on a galaxy far, far away…
Season of the Force Crowds
The first thing to know about Season of the Force is that the crowds are strong with this one! Even though the days of my Disneyland visit were predicted to have moderate attendance, Tomorrowland was packed from open to close, only becoming busier as the afternoon and evening continued. If you want to experience all the popular attractions that are part of Disneyland’s Season of the Force, get there at rope drop or be prepared to wait in line!
Season of the Force HyperSpace Mountain
Beyond a doubt, the (Death) star attraction of Disneyland’s Season of the Force is HyperSpace Mountain, which more than lives up to the hype. In my opinion, this is a much better seasonal overlay to Space Mountain than Halloween’s Ghost Galaxy, and for Star Wars fanatics like myself it’s perhaps the best attraction overlay Disney has ever created.
This sci-fantasy spin on the classic Tomorrowland E-Ticket recasts your space sleds as the Rebel Alliance’s X-Wing Fighters, facing off against a squadron of Imperial Tie Fighters. A customized soundtrack of ILM-approved sound effects and John Williams’ music is mated to explosive video projections and laser effects, creating the closest thing we’ll get to the Star Wars roller coaster Imagineering designed prior to Star Tours.
Here’s a fun Easter Egg for the serious Star Wars fans: while HyperSpace Mountain is set in the Classic Trilogy era, it ties into the new Force Awakens mythology in an interesting way. During the ride, you are fighting in the battle above the planet Jakku (the desert planet were the film’s first act is set) a year and a day after the Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi. The Star Destroyer you blow up could be the same wreckage Rey scavengers from, and later flies the Millennium Falcon through, in the new movie!
Always a hot ticket, Season of the Force has only made Space Mountain even more popular. As long as HyperSpace Mountain is running, make the attraction a higher priority than normal in your touring plans, as the standby queue builds quickly after rope drop, and FastPass tickets can disappear by early afternoon.
Season of the Force Star Tours Update
Apart from the temporary Space Mountain overlay, Star Tours has permanently added a new Jakku sequence to its simulators, with all guests getting to experience the new segment for the time being. Star Tours’ popularity seems to have received a bump from the Season of the Force promotion, though not as big a boost as Space Mountain is experiencing.
After your ride, you may find a couple First Order stormtroopers patrolling outside the gift shop. While the same characters in Florida are quite gruff and intimidating, their Anaheim counterparts seem quite willing to pose for photographs.
Disneyland’s Star Wars Launch Bay Photos
Much as Star Wars Launch Bay moved into the shuttered Disney Animation building at DHS, a duplicate display of Star Wars memorabilia has replaced Innoventions inside the circular building originally built for the Carousel of Progress. The venue will likely never revolve again, but thanks to Star Wars it is seeing higher attendance than it has in years.
The offerings inside both coasts’ Launch Bays are basically identical, but there are a few notable differences. First, in Florida you must queue to watch the introductory video; in California, you can enter the building freely, and will find the same film running on a loop on a room to the right. While the theater where it is projected in Orlando is more immersive, that’s outweighed by Anaheim’s ability to enter and exit the presentation at will.
Second, while Disneyland has its own versions of almost every replica prop and model displayed at Walt Disney World, it also has many additional items that aren’t found in Florida. The only notable exhibits exclusive to Orlando are the pod racer and speeder bike, both of which are the only actual screen-used movie props in the attraction.
One more advantage of the Anaheim version is that the exclusive Disney Chase Visa meet & greet with Darth Vader was virtually empty every time I stopped by, unlike the Orlando one where I waited about 30 minutes.
The two public meet and greets are as popular in Disneyland as in DHS, and neither offer FastPass. Count on at least 30 minutes each to meet Chewbacca or Darth Vader (to be replaced in February by Kylo Ren).
A small minor mark against Disneyland’s Star Wars Launch Bay: I found no glasses of fake blue milk on the cantina bar to photograph yourself with.
Lastly, I found this medal on display in the Launch Bay Cargo shop, but there were none available for sale. If they do come back in stock, I hope someone buys one and gives it to Chewbacca, to make up for the one he should have received after the Battle of Yavin!
Season of the Force Rocket Jets Platform Musical Display Video
Old-school Disneyland fans still mourn the removal of the Rocket Jets ride from the top of Tomorrowland’s central platform, and their replacement with the land’s entrance-clogging Astro Orbiter. During Season of the Force, the extinct ride’s remaining mechanism is being used at night as a sculptural stage for musical displays that synchronizes snippets of the Star Wars score to color-changing lights and fog blasts.
It certainly it isn’t much, but it is…something, as you can see from this video:
Season of the Force Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple Video
Just like the version found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Jedi Training Academy show at Disneyland has been rewritten and retitled as Jedi Training: Trails of the Temple. Both shows use the exact same script, but the stage design is somewhat different.
First, for a refresher, here is the Walt Disney World version of the show, recorded late in 2015 at DHS:
Next, here is the Disneyland version of Trials of the Temple, recorded last weekend in 4K video:
Lastly, this is the new Paris version of the Jedi Training show, which is clearly the most visually impressive, even if it lacks the new Star Wars Rebels character featured in the States:
One big difference between Disneyland’s former Jedi Training show and the new version is the method used to select participants. Previously, padawans were picked for each show shortly before each performance from the audience assembled at the stage. Now, children ages 4 to 12 who wish to become Jedi-for-a-day must report to the former Autopia FastPass distribution area at the exit to Star Wars Launch bay and sign up for an available slot. Sign ups begin at the official park opening time and are distributed on a first-come/first-served basis. Because availability is limited for each show, sign up as soon after park opening as you can, or you may get shut out.
Season of the Force Food
Last but not least, Star Wars food has taken over the Tomorrowland Terrace restaurant just as it did DHS’s Backlot Express. The menu at Anaheim’s Galactic Grill is similar but not identical to the one in Florida, with burgers on dark buns and blue milk desserts popping up in both places.
Here is the current Season of the Force breakfast menu:
And here is the Star Wars lunch fare:
Note that prices also vary between the resorts; a Chewbacca soda stein is 30 cents more expensive in California than Florida, as are all soft drinks.