When our summer interns go on family vacation, we can’t send them off without an assignment. So our resident Star Wars buff, Kenneth, gave us a rundown of Star Wars Weekend at Disney World.
At the age when most children began watching Aladdin, Hercules and Beauty and the Beast, I was lost in a galaxy far, far away. From those days on, my obsession has only grown. So, as you can imagine, I went to Disney World’s Star Wars Weekends years ago before Disney bought the franchise. People have voiced their opinions, which range from: “They’re ruining the series!” to “They’ll make it too kid-ish!” The list goes on. Opinions on that aside, Disney has been doing Star Wars Weekends for a while, since 1997. From what I remembered as a kid, Disney did a great job — I know I had fun.
Coming back after all of these years, with knowledge and wisdom of the series I’d acquired over the years in mind, I walked into Hollywood Studios half asleep from getting to the park so early. Needless to say, it was far more than I could’ve ever imagined. Disney has always been known for its showmanship and they really came through for this year’s festivities.
Disney had an all-star lineup of characters from the films and animated series, and fans could get autographs and watch them in different shows throughout the day. Just to name a few: Ray Park (Darth Maul), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan in the animated series) Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Warwick Davis (Wicket) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano from the animated series). The park also had dozens of other characters guests could take pictures with during the day. It was almost guaranteed that around every corner, someone would run into a character from the universe. Whether it was Darth Vader shrouded in Storm Troopers or Tusken Raiders, it was always a treat.
The party carries on through four shows daily Friday-Sunday and change slightly each weekend (this year, the event runs every weekend May 17-June 9). There’s always a show with the special guest of the week like Warwick Davis or Jeremy Bulloch — the talks were just interesting to sit in on. The master of ceremonies and host of each show was James Arnold Taylor, voice actor extraordinaire. He even demonstrated 200 different voices he could do. Impressive, I know. Taylor hosted a talk show as well, where he interviewed the visiting star and Ray Park each day. This could range from being hilarious to quite inspiring depending on the guest. Trust me on that, hearing a story of how Boba Fett messed up his lines on his first day is something to behold.
If a taste for stunts and action are up your alley, Ray Park had his own martial arts show where he went through different fighting styles with an array of weapons. This was also where you learned to loathe the children who got the chance to go on stage and do move sets with the master himself. I’m still seething from that.
Special merchandise could be found at the one stop Star Wars shop near the back of the park: the Darth Mall (clever title if I don’t say so myself). Collectibles, helmets, toys, Disney characters in Star Wars outfits — it was all there. Guests could truly lose themselves in a place like that. If you’re an unabashed fan like myself, you can’t help but spend oodles of money there. I went in wanting something small and spent more than $90. Needless to say, it was neigh impossible to leave without some form of paraphernalia in hand.
Now, to deflect, again, the opinions I may have about Disney buying Star Wars. I have to say, Star Wars Weekends are on par with some conventions I’ve heard of. When Disney gets a hold of something, they’ll flaunt it and make it something everyone can enjoy. These weekends are comparable to a sacred gathering for fans of the series. To see people who enjoy these movies as much as I do having as much fun as me was sublime. The energy there was almost tangible, especially during Memorial Day weekend. The park’s population swelled so much, it almost reached capacity. This weekend was full of characters, big name actors, festivities, themes snacks, souvenirs and ways to immerse fans in the universe itself. Guests could make themselves Storm Troopers — it was awesome. I digress, these weekends were nothing less than magical for me and, from what I could tell, those around me. Where else at this time could you see Boba Fett dance with Princess Leia in her slave outfit?
For this Star Wars fan, Disney did a great job setting the atmosphere of my favorite series. The entire park was flooded with Star Wars music until the park closed. The employees where all nice, the characters excellent and actors incredible, I couldn’t have asked for a better time. The fireworks show was impressive, too — Disney literally ended the festivities with quite a bang.
This Sunday, the Golden Globes (aka the one show where TV and movie stars mingle while drunk) will be hosted by women for the first time ever! OK, the show has only had an official host since 2010, but it’s been Ricky Gervais every year since. This time around, dynamic duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler run the show. The pair have a long history, back to their improv days at Second City in the ‘90s. Over the past decade+ they’ve proven their comedic chemistry on Saturday Night Live and in Baby Mama, but they’re also awesome in their respective rights, as seen on 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation. Check out some of my unlikely-but-hopeful Golden Globes picks here.
The Chinese calendar may deem 2013 the Year of the Snake, but according to my diva calendar, this is definitely the Year of Beyonce. The musical maven, who just celebrated baby Blue Ivy’s first birthday with hubby and baby daddy Jay-Z, is set to sing the national anthem at President Obama’s inauguration Jan. 21. Next, she’ll fly down to New Orleans to headline the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 3. Bey is rumored to perform with a reunited Destiny’s Child (FINALLY) and the Hov. Just two weeks later, HBO will premiere Queen B’s full-length documentary on Feb. 16. The Bey-directed doc touts a personal, never-before-seen look at “Beyonce the person” (there’s no way she’s 100% human, but whatever) as opposed to Sasha Fierce the performer. A few things I’m really hoping to see: Jay-Z changing Blue’s Egyptian cotton diaper; Beyonce eating actual solid food; a baby bump shot to put those pesky rumors to rest; at least 13 different hairstyles/weaves.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC for the second half of Season Three on Feb. 10. We’ll pick up with the new Woodbury/prison storylines introduced in early December’s mid-season finale. Fan fave Daryl has been captured by the Governor, who places him in the demented fighting arena against his brother Merle (who was pretty much presumed dead by the group after leaving a trail of blood and sawed-off hand behind in Season One). Loyalties will certainly be tested when the Dixon bros meet for the first time and, according to this sneak peak, the Woodbury clan wants them to battle to the death. Back at the prison, Rick questions his leadership role and Tyreese (a character plucked from the comics) will step up as the group’s token black guy. On the other side of the camera, showrunner Glen Mazzara, who took over for Frank Darabont after a rather sluggish second season, will be stepping down. Some speculate the move may be due to a lackluster second half of this season, but Mazzara, AMC and comic creator/exec producer Robert Kirkman all claim the departure is on good terms. We’ll see for ourselves next month; meanwhile, check out this preview:
At first glance, Game of Thrones did not seem like my small screen cop o’ tea. I generally don’t read or watch anything too fantastical/mythical (but bring on the zombies and True Blood), plus the number of characters and settings almost make fictional family trees and note-taking a must. Regardless of TV preferences, though, GoT is an addictive epic. And on March 31, fans will return to Westeros for a third, slightly super-sized season. See, in the past, episodes were generally just more than 50 minutes long. This season promises several eps as long as 57 minutes, ultimately adding up to almost a whole extra episode. Way too nerdy and nitpicky? Well, that’s Thrones for you. But another fun addition to this season is that fans can now drink along with the show as New York’s Brewery Ommegang releases a series of Game of Thrones beer. The first, Iron Throne Blonde Ale, is set to debut in time for the season premiere.
And speaking of TV show beer tie-ins, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will also get its own brew with Aleman and Two Brothers Brewing Co.’s Dayman Coffee IPA, also slated to come out this March. Let’s just hope the gang hasn’t touched the stuff.
And since you can’t even read the word “Dayman” without singing:
Moving along to May, you better scratch those Star Wars Day and Cinco de Mayo plans. Cult hit Arrested Development is coming back with a new season, to be released on Netflix in its entirety on May 4. Of course, everyone is happy to have a little more Tobias Fünke in their lives, but this is a huge, possibly telling move for television in general. Plenty of failed shows gain a following after their demise on TV, but rarely do these shows actually get picked up again, and certainly not 7 years after cancellation. My only fear is super-fans’ high expectations will be hard to meet in just a single season. 'Til the release, catch up on the series and look out for these Easter eggs.
After being pushed from its original Christmas 2012 premiere date, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby will hit theaters May 10. The director is known for his visually exciting films, such at Romeo + Juliet (which starred Gatsby himself, Leonardo DiCaprio) and Moulin Rouge, and likes to blend contemporary music and themes in with those of the films’ eras. For example, in the following trailer, Kanye West's “No Church in the Wild” juxtaposes the 1922 setting.
If that's not enough for ya, stay tuned for more 2013 pop culture previews for summer and fall.
But, since we’re talking politics, this week we witnessed what can only be described as the best Rom-com of 2012. Here’s a sampling of the finest presidential gifs: