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‘Star Wars’ awakens at Walt Disney World

A model of the Millennium Falcon is on display at the new Star Wars Launch Bay. Disney’s Hollywood Studios eventually will be home to a 14-acre land dedicated to the “Star Wars” franchise.
A model of the Millennium Falcon is on display at the new Star Wars Launch Bay. Disney’s Hollywood Studios eventually will be home to a 14-acre land dedicated to the “Star Wars” franchise. TNS

The “Star Wars” universe at Walt Disney World just got a little more expansive. Star Wars Launch Bay, a walk-through attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, opened Dec. 1.

The theme park is now home to dozens of pieces of movie memorabilia and props, a short film that looks at the franchise’s history and future plus meet-and-greet opportunities with characters, including Darth Vader and Chewbacca. You can also purchase a Vader costume for $4,000.

By mid-morning on opening day, the wait to meet the characters had stretched to about two hours.

“We realized when we got here that this might open, and we were so excited,” said Teresa Henderson, who was vacationing with her family from Westminster, Md. The group was drinking from cups that echo the design of BB-8, a droid introduced in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and popcorn from a container based on the classic Han Solo-trapped-in-carbonite scene. They gave high marks to Launch Bay’s first day.

“I liked the model of the Millennium Falcon. … I loved all the art work. That was great,” Henderson said.

The park also debuted a retooled version of its Jedi Training Academy to incorporate characters from the “Star Wars Rebels” animated series. The additions anticipated last Friday’s debut of “The Force Awakens.” Disney also has added scenes to its Star Tours ride, a merchandise store called Watto’s Grotto and a 10-minute sneak peek of footage called “Star Wars: Path of the Jedi.”

Disney’s Hollywood Studios eventually will be home to a land dedicated to the “Star Wars” franchise. The 14-acre area, announced in August, will be part of the park’s makeover, which also includes a “Toy Story” land. The Launch Bay film briefly shows “early concept art” for planned park attractions.

Launch Bay opened in the former home of the Magic of Disney Animation attraction, which closed in July. It is wedged between the Disney Junior and “Voyage of the Little Mermaid” shows.

“This is just the first step into Star Wars of the future,” said Dave Filoni, a director on “Star Wars Rebels” and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” TV series.

Meanwhile, visitors wandered the Launch Bay area sporting Yoda caps, Princess Leia-inspired “star buns” hairdos and light sabers.

They shopped in the attraction finale, a souvenir shop. They browsed through smartphone cases; a small, remote-control version of BB-8 ($199.95); Launch Bay T-shirts ($32.95) and a storm trooper statue ($9,000 and non-returnable). A 31-inch figure of new character Kylo Ren sells for $139.95.

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