Inside the Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you have the opportunity to meet everyone’s favorite Wookie, Chewbacca, and Star War’s latest villain, Kylo Ren. The Star Wars Launch Bay is located in the former Magic of Disney Animation building in the Animation Courtyard and also features the Star Wars Launch Bay Theater with a continuously running 10-minute behind-the-scenes Star Wars video and special exhibits featuring replica props, costumes and artwork. You may even encounter some patrolling Stormtroopers or trading Jawas in the area…
Our trip to the Star Wars Launch Bay, however, was solely for character meet purposes.
Darth Vader used to have a meet and greet before he was replaced by Kylo Ren, so we made a special trip to see Vader on his final day. We had planned to meet him on a previous trip, but our plans got altered, and we didn’t want to disappoint Tater (or Mommy… or Daddy…) by missing our chance.
We had prepared Tater for meeting Chewbacca and Darth Vader by familiarizing him with the characters. He has a few pieces of clothes with the animated Star Wars characters, and he can identify them. He’s too young to watch the movies, but we did show him YouTube clips of Chewbacca, as well as the fight scene between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker after he got a lightsaber for Christmas and started pretending it was a vacuum (because we are awesome parents… and how in the world could that backfire?).
Back to the Launch Bay. The two meet and greets, the dark side and the light side, are located in the same area of the Star Wars Launch Bay and display the estimated wait time outside of their line entrances (both were 20 minutes when we were there). You weave through a chain-linked queue, and by each of the lines there are display cases with replica lightsabers. At the front of the line, there are huge stone slab-like doors that the cast members open, allowing only one or two groups of people in at a time. In both meets, there was only one group ahead of us interacting with the character after we were admitted through the doors.
Oh, and did I mention that they speak and interact with you (similar to Talking Mickey at the Magic Kingdom)?
Let’s start with Chewbacca. Chewbacca was awesome! We had a great interaction, and Tater was just in awe of him (he’s really, really tall!). Heck, even I felt like I was meeting THE Chewbacca. Tater had on a Star Wars shirt with a cartoon Chewbacca, and Chewbacca got all excited and started pointing to himself on the shirt.
But what happened when Darth Tater met Darth Vader?
Well, toddlers don’t like to be told what to do by anyone – and that includes a Sith Lord.
And we got a photo for the memory books.
Pros: Chewbacca was awesome! These characters are elaborate and the interactions are impressive.
Considerations: Tater was frightened by Darth Vader, and I expect Kylo Ren will be even creepier for little kids (and maybe even this Mommy). I think we will be skipping this character with a little one for the foreseeable future. Consider just going to the light side (sounds like there is a good life lesson in there).
Chewbacca may also be intimidating because he is so big (when watching the YouTube video, we made sure Tater seemed fine with him first… although he seemed fine with Vader too). Also, if your toddler has any issues with character meets, you may want to skip this as well. While Chewbacca is also furry, they aren’t anywhere near the cute and cuddly level of other Disney characters.
Tips: FastPass+ is not currently available for these character meets, and outside of a couple of display cases, there wasn’t much to entertain a toddler in the line. Check wait times on the MyDisneyExperience app (look under the “Entertainment” tab) and try to go during a less busy time. You also have the option to either view the behind-the-scenes video or go straight into the area with the character meets. We skipped the video due to Tater’s level of patience.
Chewbacca – out of 5. Smiling, Tater said “that’s a silly Wookie” at the end (we practiced what he would say).
Darth Vader – out of 5. Scared Tater, but he quickly recovered afterward… and he still talks about meeting Darth Vader.