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Star Wars Galactic Nights, April 2017 - A Review
DisneyDan  Tuesday, May 9, 2017 3:41:47 PM
Hello everyone,

Last month, on the 14th April, Disney's Hollywood Studios held its first ever Star Wars Galactic Nights; a premium ticketed event held after park closing.

When Disney first announced Galactic Nights, it was kind of bittersweet. 2015 saw the last ever Star Wars Weekends at the park, which at the time we didn't know would be the final event. Star Wars Weekends were held over four or five consecutive weekends in May and June since 1997. The weekends were insanely popular, and involved many fun character greetings, shows, celebrity appearances, special dining options, special merchandise and much, much more. They were quite simply the ultimate Star Wars fan event. Without warning, Disney announced, after the 2015 event, that they had decided to cancel them, and so anyone who missed 2015 - or had already made plans for 2016 - were left very disappointed, and honestly, as diehard fans we were left bitterly let down and a little stunned.

Disney have tried in the past year to increase the Star Wars presence at Hollywood Studios, including the Star Wars Launch Bay, the March of the First Order, the fireworks spectacular and other small offerings. When Galactic Nights was announced, with the celebrity appearances, cavalcade and special character greetings, it felt like they were trying to give the fans a little bit of Star Wars Weekends back, if only for one night, and at a high premium.

With all that in mind, I was a little skeptical, honestly. How could one night live up to the all-day activities that lasted for four weeks per year? And how could we possibly get everything done in one night? I imagined it being a little frustrating, and actually anticipated complaining to guest relations at the end of the night, based on our recent experiences at Disney events. I don't deliberately go into these things wanting or intending to complain, but I think I was so jaded by the loss of Star Wars Weekends, and now having to pay a lot of money to just even get a slither of that back for one night, that I just expected to dislike it.

Well, I was proved wrong. Was it the most amazing night of my life? Of course not. Did it far exceed my (admittedly very low) expectations - even to the point of me thinking I would actually do it again? Actually, yes it did!

The night started by having our bands scanned at the entrance to the park and collecting our "credentials" to prove that we were attending the event. In this instance, credentials was more than a wrist band, in fact, it was a lanyard with a specially designed collector card on it. And it was more that just that, too. The back of the card had (for want of a better description) a blank pie chart on it. The idea being that throughout the night, at select locations around the park you could collect special stickers that formed a complete image. When complete, at the end of the night, there were special black lights on Hollywood Blvd that revealed a hidden image! A lot of thought went into that, and it impressed me. Sadly, I don't think Disney made it clear enough as to the point of it (despite signs and it being on the back of the card itself...), and many people were on the street at the end of the night wondering where we got our stickers, and why they didn't have any on their card.

Before entering the park we got our photo at the special backdrop at the front entrance. I don't usually share photos of ourselves here on the blog, but the PhotoPass opportunities were very unique to this night, and of course were not really something I could show you all without us being in them, since they are special shots. Expect to see more special PhotoPass shots later in this post!

Upon entry to the park, we collected the event guide map, and inside were free tattoos. Some maps had Rebel Alliance tattoos, and others had Imperial logo tattoos.

Hollywood Blvd had a red carpet along it (which for some reason I didn't get a photo of), and we headed straight to buy some of the exclusive merchandise. We went to the Stage 1 Company Store, which was not at all busy. We managed to buy all that we wanted with no problem at all.

Throughout the evening, as I mentioned near the start, there was the promise of character greetings. Special appearances just for this evening were made by Darth Vader, the Ewoks, Boba Fett, Imperial Troopers, AWR Troopers and some Jawas. Most of those do appear daily in the regular park hours stage show, but they do not greet guests (although Darth Vader and Boba Fett do greet in Disneyland, CA). I'll be honest, we walked around all night trying to find characters, and we didn't see a single Imperial Trooper, but I assume they were the white ones from the classic trilogy rather than the newer "First Order" Troopers. I'll throw an older photo of them in below anyway. Other character appearances - that weren't so unique - were Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, BB-8 (who was actually new to Hollywood Studios that week himself!), Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Olaf, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Moana. Before anyone either asks or points it out - sadly Mickey and Minnie were not wearing their Star Wars costumes. Those days are long gone, unfortunately. The Ewoks were not really "meeting", but more "interacting" outside of the Star Tours attraction, amongst their Endor forest setting (which actually was a really fun place to see them). The Jawas were not so much greeting, as much as roaming and trying to trade items with guests. The AWR Troopers were also roaming, but they were stopping for photos (unlike the First Order Troopers who roam in the day time and never stop for photos).

Darth Vader

Meeting Kylo Ren

Meeting Chewbacca

Meeting Mickey and Minnie Mouse

Meeting Mickey and Minnie Mouse

Meeting Olaf

Meeting Buzz and Woody

Meeting Moana

Characters pass by

I mentioned before about the PhotoPass opportunities, and wow, what fun they were! Disney really went to a lot of effort to offer some fun shots. My favourite one is undoubtedly being stuck upside down in the wampa cave! I was also very pleased to get a photo on the Emperor's throne - it's just a shame the Emperor wasn't out greeting at the event.

Several times during the evening there was an Imperial March, led by Darth Vader and followed by his Stormtroopers and an Imperial Officer. This was a unique happening to this evening.

The regular daytime March of the First Order was also presented, which stars Captain Phasma and her First Order Troopers. While we didn't make a special effort to see this, we were at the stage waiting for the main stage show when it happened, so it was neat to get nighttime photos of it.

Just once during the evening there was a special Stars in Cars motorcade, which featured a good lineup of Star Wars celebrities, much like how the motorcade used to be at Star Wars Weekends. Unfortunately, unlike Star Wars Weekends, during this motorcade there were no characters or 501st - just the celebrities.

We took a moment to stop and get one of the special treats offered for the evening - the special lightsaber churros! They were coloured red and green, and came in a special cardboard lightsaber handle, with chocolate dip. Amazing!

While not official characters, droids from DroidBuilders (the 501st equivalent for droids), appeared throughout the evening. They were fun to see zooming around and we got pictures of some of them when passing through Animation Courtyard.

The highlight of the evening for me was the Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away show. While the show was virtually identical to the daytime version, at the end when BB-8 appears, Rey appeared, too! This marked her Disney Parks debut appearance, and it was awesome to be there to be a part of! Unfortunately, Disney didn't make it at all clear that there would be any changes to the show for the evening, and I believe a lot of people missed the opportunity to see Rey, which is really sad and frustrating. While I get that they want to surprise people, just indicating on the guide map that there might be something extra to look out for would have been nice.

Other experiences throughout the evening included Inside the Saga: Celebrity Chat show, hosted by Vanessa Marshall (the voice of Hera in Star Wars Rebels); Celebrate the Saga, which was a video montage celebrating 40 years of Star Wars; special projections on the Chinese Theatre; and a DJ Dance Party. Unfortunately we didn't get time to see the talk show, simply because of time constraints, but if it was anything like how the shows at Star Wars Weekends used to be, I imagine it was very interesting and entertaining.

Another thing we didn't get to see, which after the fact I did regret, was the Jedi Training Academy. There was no way of knowing - and again, Disney certainly didn't make it known - that there would be any changes to the show for the evening. The Seventh Sister appeared without her face mask during the show that evening, which would have been very cool to see. Luckily, her appearance wasn't unique to the show, so we have seen her before - it just would have been neat to see her face.

The Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith had special music for the evening, but I am not a fan of that attraction, and didn't really want to waste time in a long line for something that I don't like to ride. I understand that it featured Star Wars music, much like Hyperspace Mountain did/does at Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. In that regard, I don't feel as though I missed much, but it would have been neat to do if the lines were nonexistent and I mentally prepared myself for doing it! Perhaps if they run Galactic Nights again I'll do it, providing there isn't anything new to the next event that would take priority first.

At the end of the night, the fireworks were proceeded by a special Galactic Nights Epilogue, which featured photos from guests from throughout the evening. Then of course finally there was the fireworks finale. While we have seen Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular several times before, it is an awesome display, and was a worthy finale for the evening.

We had a really great night. The character lines were fairly short, and the PhotoPass opportunities were a lot of fun. Some of the PhotoPass lines were a little long, but they were really trying to get people in and out, and even the longest one we waited in was only about 15 minutes at most. The cool additions to the shows, such as Rey, and the exclusive merchandise was a great touch and a lot of effort just for one night. At the end of the night, on the way out, they were even giving out free Galactic Nights commemorative posters!

If the event returns I will know now to expect even the "regular" offerings to be different, and to expect the unexpected. The advantage that I have now of course, though, is that I had done all the PhotoPass opportunities and met the characters they had out. If any of those things are repeated (which seems likely), it gives me an edge for the next time. I definitely would recommend attending, despite the heavy cost attached, and while it will never compensate for the loss of Star Wars Weekends, it definitely had a lot of the same vibe and energy that made Star Wars Weekends so unique, and so much fun.

Have a great day everyone,

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