Darth: Always With Us | Disney World


  • If you are older than 13 and reading this, you are probably a fan of “Star Wars.” This raises a question:

    Are you a real fan?

    Someone who would not let Halloween pass by without investing, say, $3,000 in your Star Wars costume…label it a somewhat outrageous investment for wearing something just one night of the year…and getting nothing more in return than a lot of candy kisses.

    Not to mention the rest of your family whose expensive outfits are also checked by you to ensure they are authentic…the real thing.

    But if that is you, stop a minute, please.

    Be honest….don’t you think…sometimes…you are a little old for this gig?

    After all, you are an adult. Or almost.

    Or maybe.

    But there’s no reason to be even the least little bit squeamish or defensive or even mildly ashamed about your fandom, really.

    It’s shared.

    By all.

    Or just about all.

    There are a lot of Star Wars fans out there.

    Star Wars has endured for more than three decades, just like Batman, Superman, James Bond, and yes, even longer…

    …Mickey Mouse.

    The Force comes in all ages

    Sure, this is an often-said statement about many areas of life.

    Who is not a fan of movies, for example?

    And “Star Wars?”

    Celebrity fans include Matt Damon, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and Anna Kendrick.

    We are headed here in two directions:

    1. What you have to look for when you buy Disney World Orlando tickets for Star Wars Land at Walt Disney World Resort (and ditto for Disney tickets for Disneyland in California).
    2. Why Star Wars is everywhere.

    For example, you know about star wars soup, tape dispensers and far more prevalent, toys. And more toys.

    But did you know about:

    ---Thousands of people during US census saying their religion was “Jedi?”

    ---The impact on simple baby names. There are children now who are called by newly popular names like Luke and Leia and many other movie characters (even Darth, believe it or not).

    ---And YouGov, a rather dull site that normally takes on opinions for such serious issues as the next US President, studies whether more men or women prefer Star Wars.

    ---The New York Times, by any accounts a serious newspaper with world-shaking important news, does some in-depth analysis of the various events associated with “Star Wars.”

    ---And there are comparisons to the classic work of Joseph Campbell’s definitely highbrow book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”

    This is a notion similar to placing a copy of Shakespeare’s classic “King Lear” next to a Superman comic book.

    All this started with a 1977 movie that no one predicted would be earth-shattering popular.

    What is going on here?

    Here’s one comment on its influence:

    “George Lucas' multi-film Star Wars saga has had a significant impact on modern American popular culture. Star Wars references are deeply embedded in popular culture; references to the main characters and themes of Star Wars are casually made in many English-speaking countries with the assumption that others will understand the reference. Darth Vader has become an iconic villain.”

    Or:

    Impact of Star Wars

    “Talking about the cultural impact of the Star Wars franchise is like talking about the effects of the sun on the planet. It’s that big and encompassing.”

    More on all that later but first, what are they doing these days to get you to buy Disney tickets?

    It will still be a while before the new land is open, (patience is paramount right now).

    Theme park officials have been typically tight-lipped about exactly when you can buy your Disney World tickets to actually see what they have created.

    So rumors are rampant…there will be new characters, but exactly who?…will the new land’s setting just be the earth or other planets?...will there be a special place where Yoda hangs out…or Dagobah, perhaps…will there be new boat rides (and who will pilot them, if anyone?...and will you get a chance to pilot the Millennium Falcon?

    Yes, to the last question.

    You should be able to drive the spaceship.

    But a boat? There aren’t any boat-driving characters in the films, are there?

    So who will be the driver? Unknown.

    Largest expansion ever

    At 14-acres in size, Star Wars Land will be the largest single-themed expansion ever added to a Disney theme park.

    Disney promises a “massive new land will transport you to a never-before-seen planet—a remote trading port that acts as one of the last stops before wild space—where Star Wars characters and stories come to life.”

    OK. We do know both the Florida and the California parks will be selling Disney World tickets to the new lands.

    And more details are promised on Feb. 21 during the “Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60” that will be shown on ABC television. None other than Harrison Ford will be on hand for (presumably) more details.

    But in the meantime, let’s look at what is there now at Walt Disney World Orlando:

    Photos, always big here. You can do your selfie under the towering and intimidating AT-AT walker. Or at other related backdrops at Hollywood Studios.

    One of the latest news happenings (not rumor but real) is that Kylo Ren is going to be here for photos, etc.

    If you have been there in the past couple of months, you’ve certainly seen the fireworks.

    They’re part of “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular.” A mixture of classic and new music by composer John Williams performed by the London Symphony.

    A “Symphony in the Stars Dessert Party” is available through March 19. Cost: $69 adults.

    Themed food

    Dark Side Chicken and Waffles and other dishes at the Backlot Express, Hollywood Studios. Also popcorn buckets and Star Wars cupcakes found everywhere (or almost). 

    The experience at both Disneyland and Disney World:

    “Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple.”

    This is for kids who be introduced to Star Wars for the first time, at least if they are only four years old. Designed also for kids who may have more experience up to age 12 (will older ones sneak in? Could be).

    Either way, a chance to experience it.

    Parents must pre-register with kids before your visit (recommended doing it as early as possible).

    Kiosks show you where to sign up.

    If you are personally too old for Jedi training, take heart.

    You can meet Darth Vader and Chewbacca. Available for photos at the Star Wars Launch Bays.

    Star Wars Launch Bay

    A walk-through experience with exhibits and artifacts from the films. Also, props and models of future things you’ll see in the movies.

    Also, a short, ten minute film to remind you of the half dozen movies. You might have missed some parts so it retells the story.

    Star Wars souvenirs and merchandise, of course, will not be flying around in outer space but readily found. Anything from cheap couple-of- dollar pins to $4,000 Darth Vader costumes.

    Star Wars themed food, too.

    Now let’s get back to those “Star Wars” baby names.

    No, Tom, Dick and Harry

    The movies have created hundreds of new ones to rival every “Tom, Dick and Harry. “

    An analysis of US government data found new Lukes, Leias, Hans, Landos and even Darths.

    Luke was already common, however.

    But its popularity has been driven by the movies (the name has been on an upward swing since 1977).

    As for Leia, just in 1978 alone, there were 156 new baby girls who started life that way.

    But obscure names also made a comeback. There’s some Obis as in Obi-Wan Kenobis’, for example.

    None of this is particularly unusual.

    Other Disney films have also produced popular names. Wendy in Peter Pan, for example. More recently: Elsa in Frozen.

    That survey we mentioned by YouGov?

    It found that men (74%) are more likely than women (just 51%) to say they like ”Star Wars.”

    But on the other hand, women are more likely than men to confess they have never watched a Star Wars movie.

    And not nearly everyone has watched at least one of the movies. But well over two thirds of the sample population, or 69%, have seen at least one version.

    Why Star Wars is so popular

    So what is behind all this attention?

    One answer: the opinion that creator George Lucas got the idea of the hero’s journey through Joseph Campbell’s classic: “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”

    That is a very basic (and in Campbell’s opinion, a very universal concept that goes way beyond the US and is worldwide) with the widest appeal possible.

    Some interpretations are that Luke Skywalker is on a quest but it is one that can help adults as well as children tell the difference between right and wrong.

    Not just our opinion. But so said the New York Times newspapers.

    Serious books have examined the idea.

    Kevin S. Decker in a book called “Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine” had a lot of high-brow theories.

    Essays tackled the philosophical questions from the films such as:
    “Was Anakin predestined to fall to the Dark Side? Are the Jedi truly role models of moral virtue? Why would the citizens and protectors of a democratic Republic allow it to descend into a tyrannical empire? Is Yoda a peaceful Zen master or a great warrior, or both? Why is there both a light and a dark side of the Force?”

    Another opinion on its enduring popularity:

    “The Star Wars films continue to revolutionize science fiction, creating new standards for cinematographic excellence, and permeating popular culture around the world. The films feature many complex themes ranging from good versus evil and moral development and corruption to religious faith and pragmatism, forgiveness and redemption, and many others.”

    Influence extends beyond the film world

    That may be really philosophical and vague.

    But the influence of the films alone helped buoy up Hollywood’s movie studios but also influenced it in many other (some say fundamental) ways.

    To cite just one example:

    Before Star Wars, special effects in films had not appreciably advanced since the 1950s.

    Star Wars created a new boom in state-of-the-art special effects….and companies created to provide them.

    The impact went beyond movies. It spread across the US’s political debates.

    A few years back, various groups were brawling over US President Ronald Reagan’s efforts to ring the country with missiles as part of the “Strategic Defense Initiative” program.

    Not surprisingly, both friends and foes picked up the nickname “Star Wars” (there were efforts by George Lucas and others to keep the trademark for themselves, but the efforts were turned down by various courts).

    When President Ronald Reagan proposed a space-based missile defense program in the 1980s, it was officially called the Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI—but the program was universally known, to friend and foe alike, as the “Star Wars” program.

    Reagan also made a famous speech at the height of the Cold War in which he identified the Soviet Union as “an Evil Empire.”

    Our cousins, the British also got into the political game. It came up in a UK parliament debate.

    Parliament member Harry Cohen related the familiar Star Wars joke: “May the 4th be with you.”

    Our very language has been influenced by “Star Wars.”

    You probably have heard them such as Yoda’s motto: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

    Gulp. Hard to beat.

    Princess Leia's line, "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope," has been endlessly imitated and parodied.

    And Darth Vader?

    Star Wars words become part of everyday language

    Another word for evil or bad.

    Not all of these references were totally correct but that did not matter.

    For instance, the famous line was supposed to be “Luke, I am your father.” Except the phrase was really “No. I am your father.”

    In that, Star Wars joined other misquoted lines.

    With perhaps the most previously famous one “Play it again, Sam.” It is a reference to another famous 1942 film of far less impact: “Casablanca.”

    We hear all the time that Humphrey said “Play it again, Sam.”

    Except that he didn’t say it.

    But back to those new names.

    The “Darth” may be around for a while, sure.

    But not so for a lot more Yodas or Chewbaccas…though you never know. ###

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