The Star Wars Jedi Academy is due to open in Disneyland Paris on July 11th, but this past Sunday there were previews for the press. The final attraction will be located in Videopolis, but this preview took place in the Star Tours after show area. I turned up early for the first preview and was let in, but was quickly told that this was not the preview I should be in. The very nice lady in charge made a phonecall and a few minutes later told me that in fact I could stay – the start of my lucky day it would seem. Surrounded by mainstream press and celebrities from all over Europe, I awaited the show, and as a huge Star Wars fan, this is one I had been waiting to see since it was first announced.
At the back of the show area were a few posters with Jedi Academy branding, and one which displayed the following information:
My photo of the poster had far too much glare to publish, so instead we have the DIY job I knocked together above! We can assume from this that people will have to put their names down at the start of the day, in hope of getting one of the 96 slots available daily. That’s not actually very many, when you consider the main park can get iin the region of 30,000 visitors a day. Getting their early is obviously going to be the key.
The training session started with two Jedis coming out to distribute lightsabers to all the young Padawans, before the Jedi Master himself came out. The guy I saw was great in his role – with an air of authority, but oozing charisma and charm, and brilliant with the kids. He had them all lined up and facing away in front of them he guided them through a number of lightsaber training exercises. Some kids were overly eager to light up their lightsabers, but were encouraged to turn them back off by the Jedi Master. This was done in a way that didn’t have the kids feeling like they were being told off, but was done in a fun way.
Lessons learned it was time for the big bad guy to come out, and in this case it was Darth Vader, complete with very realistic voice and menacing presence. As a Star Wars fan there is nothing quite like seeing The Dark Lord himself come out, as the kids were ushered to either side of the training area. After speaking of his intention to turn the Padawans to the Dark Side, the Jedi Knight assured him that wouldn’t happened and ushered each one in battle against Vader, one at a time. Swing left, then right, duck and strike to the head. Each child got to battle Vader with their lit lightsaber and come away unscathed – job well done. Then it was the turn of the Jedis to go against him, before Lord Vader fled, or at least retreated meaningfully.
I chatted to Ben Spalding, the technical direcctor of shows such as Disney Dreams, and now this. He mentioned that this was just one third of the eventual show, which will of course be in a properly themed area in Videopolois. For what it was, this preview worked really well, and showed that even as a spectator without a child involved, it’s a lot of fun to watch, and even more so if you are a Star Wars fan. The kids get to be a big part of this, in their Jedi cloaks and with lightsabers, both of which are available in the Star Traders store. Along with the Sith and Jedi charterers, it’s as entertaining to be involved in as it is to watch, and this is only the start, with the finished product being a much more polished and longer presentation.
We got Stormtroopers coming out for photo opportunities at the end, hence this really bad selfie of a very tried like yours truly, and a slightly better one with the female Jedi who skulked around behind us spectators.
It’s a shame it’s only for kids, maybe they could have one session a day for adults, given that a lot of us are big Star Wars fans too. Still, I’m really looking forward to seeing it in its final form. With the Frozen Sing-along that’s two new attractions in Disneyland Paris that involve interaction from guests, something which has been lacking in the resort for some time. While some eyes maybe on the looming 25th Anniversary, there’s actually a lot going on and coming to Disneyland Paris to get excited about right now.