I was lucky enough to be in Walt Disney World for their May the 4th Be With You celebration this year. This one-day party at Hollywood Studios was clearly intended to be a warm-up for the upcoming Star Wars Weekends. It was way bigger and more involved than I expected, and the crowd was awesome. I didn’t do a scientific sampling, but it seemed like roughly 75 percent of the people we saw were wearing Star Wars shirts or even costumes. It was like an awesome fan street festival.
There were loads more opportunities for photos with Star Wars characters than you usually find in the park. Darth Vader posed for pictures. Jedi Mickey and Leia Minnie had their own area set up for photo ops, and 1:1 scale clone figures emerged from their packaging to sign autographs and take photos with fans.
The Jedi Academy — an on-stage training experience normally reserved just for kids — opened its registration up to kids of all ages just for the day. It’s always fun to watch younglings learn the ways of the Force, but it was just as delightful to see grown-up Padawans caught up in the magic. And for adults with a passion for collecting, the art store in the Animation Courtyard area seemed to have more Star Wars items on display than usual, from small porcelain boxes to canvas art prints.
The line for Star Tours was longer than I’ve seen it in a long time because everyone wanted to ride it on Star Wars day. The Modal Nodes boarded several flights on the Starspeeder 1000; those guys ALWAYS seemed to have Fast Passes. Even with a slightly longer stand-by wait than usual, there was so much going on near the queue that time seemed to pass very quickly. You could always see an Imperial Officer or Chewie or even Luke Skywalker somewhere in the crowd.
Without a doubt, my favorite thing about the day was seeing so many characters just wandering around the park and mingling. Jango Fett swaggered through the back lot, and Imperial troops of all kinds were casually walking among the park visitors. Jawas were working the crowd all day long, trying to wheel and deal for trinkets. One of them tried (and failed) to trade me a pen for my Bespin Leia pin. No deal.
Even outside of Hollywood Studios, it was apparent that it was Star Wars Day. When I was checking out back at the hotel gift shop, the clerk saw my Princess Leia shirt and said “May the 4th be with you!” as she handed me my bag and receipt. And when we corralled up at the start line of the Expedition Everest Challenge 5k that was happening at Animal Kingdom late that night, we saw loads of Star Wars fans around us, including a gentleman with an awesome custom jersey with a silhouette of an Imperial probe droid on it. It was great to see the Star Wars love spill over into the rest of the weekend, and if this is any indication of what’s to come, Star Wars Weekends are going to be incredible this year.