The Star Wars Launch Bay at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios is a history museum, character interaction, and preview center all in one. Nostalgia is mixed with anticipation for what’s next in a Galaxy far, far, away….
Star Wars Launch Bay- Imagine a Galaxy Far Far Away
As the stormtroopers walked by on patrol, they stopped my teen, questioning him about his allegiance, suspicious he might be the rebel spy they were searching for. He assured them rather unconvincingly that he was not. They kept a close eye on him as we walked into the Star Wars Launch Bay, the latest addition to the Star Wars activities at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios.
You might think the Star Wars Launch Bay would be near the Star Tours ride, but in fact, it is on the other side of the park, through the Hollywood Studios gates. Since fast passes aren’t accepted at the Launch Bay, Star Wars fans may want to veer to the left at the end of Hollywood Boulevard and hit Star Wars Launch Bay early in the day before the crowds, then use a fast pass for the Star Tours ride on the other side of the park.
There are two lines entering the Launch Bay. One takes you to a 12-minute movie. The other goes directly to the Launch Bay area.
We waited for the movie with a mix of individuals. The gentleman in front of me was explaining something to his daughter in French. Most likely where and when he’d seen Star Wars for the first time. The bearded man behind me did the same, only in English. I noticed the shoes with spikes worn by a young Asian woman. They struck me as a poor choice for a day at a theme park. This scene could have been pod race on Tatoonie, just as easily as it was for a Star Wars behind the scenes movie at Hollywood Studios in Orlando.
Star Wars Past and Present
According to my son, the movie at Star Wars Launch Bay is a must. It’s short, 12 minutes, and in it, the professionals that are creating the next generation of the Star Wars franchise reminisce about their own introduction to Star Wars and how it influenced their current work.
My son liked seeing clips from the filming of space battles in front of a green screen. My husband was intrigued with the glimpse of a new movie about how those plans Leia uploaded to R2D2 in the original Star Wars movie were obtained.
There are many, many more stories to be told about adventures in the Galaxy. What you won’t find is a lot of information about the new Star Wars Land coming to the Studio, but as those plans progress, there is plenty of space in the Launch Bay to tease the eagerly anticipated new land.
Meet the Characters
If you’d rather skip the movie, enter through a different line directly to the Launch Bay area where you can meet either Kylo Ren or Chewbacca in person.
The day we went, the line was about 30 minutes long for each, and the process is similar to meeting with Mickey at the Magic Kingdom. A few guests are invited into a room with the characters, while other guests wait in a queue. The good news is that queue is inside, so you won’t melt on a hot Orlando day.
In the queue area, and around the Bay itself are museum cases with artifacts from the movies, including a series of light sabers, stormtrooper helmets, a speeder bike from the original series, as well as the one Rey rides in the latest movie, The Force Awakens.
Tips on Taking Great Character Photos
One of the most exciting aspects of Star Wars Launch Bay is the opportunity to see the characters. If you’ve waiting in line all that time, you want to be sure to get some good photos.
During our latest trip to Walt Disney World, we were given the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS60 to play around with and snap photos. The camera has some pretty cool features, like a 4K burst mode, making it easy to capture the best photo in series, so you don’t have to worry about missing Chewie goofing with you son or daughter. All you have to do after shooting is pick the frame you want to keep.
We didn’t have a lot of time to learn the manual settings proficiently, but thankfully the Panasonic has several automatic settings, including several portrait settings. When in doubt, I go automatic.
PRO TIP: Take a few shots of the person ahead of you in line to get your setting correct. That way you are ready when it’s your turn.
Spend Some Time in the Canteen
One of the most iconic scenes in the original Star Wars is the bar scene. In the Star Wars Launch Bay, they’ve recreated a galactic canteen, minus the wonderful band. I think they should at least pump in some of the music for a bit more festive atmosphere.
We took a picture at the bar and watched as Jawas traded with guests, inspecting flashlights and experimenting with cell phones by taking selfies. Off this room is an area where you can play Disney Infinity. There are at least six stations with two controllers each. Each station had two figures. Play with Han and Chewie, Rey and Kylo Ren, Darth Vadar and Luke Skywalker, or Obi Wan and Anakin. There is also an area to play Star Wars Angry Birds. This is a good break for a hot day, or if the kids aren’t interested in shopping.
Trade Like a Jawa
As with most Disney attractions, the only exit is through the gift shop. Although you will NOT find the “make your own light saber” that is so popular at the Star Tours gift shop on the other side of the park, you can trade your dollars for a Darth Vadar costume for a mere $5,000. Perhaps your budget is a little tighter; in that case you might want to go for the $1,800 Stormtrooper.
In addition to toys, light saber table lamps and collectibles, there are also customizable name tags in both English and a galactic language that are a bit more affordable than the costumes. There is also a printing press on-site that will customize phone cases or magic bands while you wait.
A Few Notable Galactic Outposts
If you didn’t manage to get the Star Wars item you wanted while at Hollywood Studios, don’t worry, you can visit the Star Wars Galactic Outpost at Disney Springs shopping village. This store will have most of the more common Star Wars items.
Disney Springs is within walking distance of the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort, a good option to save a little money so you can do more shopping on your Disney World vacation. Guests can choose between garden rooms and tower rooms.
You’ll find lots of the amenities at a Disney resort including character breakfast (although not Star Wars characters), pool, spa, and even tennis courts.
What I really liked was the kids programming. Jill Arnold is the official “fun director” at the resort, and she’s all about helping your kids have a good time. Initially a server at the hotel’s restaurant, Jill was promoted when the GM saw her making pyramids out of creamer cups in order to make the hotel’s smallest guests happy. I recommend a call to Jill before your visit, letting her know you have some Star Wars fanatics and she’ll come up with fun programs to keep the theme going.