Disney Announces Opening Season for Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

May 23, 2018 – The Disney Parks blog has released the following video, which announces the opening season for Disney’s 14-acre Star Wars themed land called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Disneyland’s version of Galaxy’s Edge will open first sometime in the summer of 2019. Disney World’s version, within Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, will open in late fall 2019.

Both versions of Galaxy’s Edge are nearly identical with some small differences. For example, Disneyland will offer three access points into Galaxy’s Edge (along with a longer tree-heavy main entry point) while Walt Disney World will have only two access points. Both parks will have the same two immersive attractions, a Millenium Falcon ride and a Battle Escape ride or rides in the massive hangar-style building. Both themed lands will also have a similar full-service Cantina-style restaurant, a quick-service dining area, a merchant’s row of exotic retail shops, and droids and aliens galore.

Some recent aerial shots at Disney’s Hollywood Studios show the current state of construction progress and how much more needs to be done:

Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on May 19, 2018 (Photo Credit: Bioreconstruct@Twitter)

Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on May 17, 2018. The large sections of dirt (upper left) are rumored to be the future site of a Star Wars-themed resort to open sometime after Galaxy’s Edge opens. (Photo Credit: WDWMagic.com)


Planning Tips for Attending Star Wars Celebration Chicago in 2019

May 21, 2018 – Five days ago, StarWars.com made a surprise announcement that the next Star Wars Celebration would be held in Chicago for five days, April 11-15th, 2019.

Selecting the Windy City, a first-time host for the convention, caught the vast majority of fans by surprise. Many had been speculating that Disney would steer the mega-event to either Anaheim (a previous host in 2015) or Orlando (three-time host in 2010, 2012 and 2017) in order to promote the opening of Disney’s new themed land, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 2019.

Chicago’s McCormick Place: How to Get There

Chicago will make a great host city for the five-day convention as it sits in the midsection of North America, and the city boasts it has the continent’s largest convention center, McCormick Place.

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McCormickPlace.com is the convention website, offering useful information on directions, parking options ($36 prepaid per day!), public transportation, food and other information.

Past visitors have complained that McCormick Place is a bit out of the way. But the new CTA station, Cermack-McCormick Place on the Green Line, is walkable if a bit inconvenient. (See map below. Esimated walk is about 8-9 minutes for the one mile walk.) A better option might be Uber or a taxi if you want to save some walking and if your budget allows:

Uber fare estimator
Taxi fare esimator

Be prepared to do a lot of walking, both to and within the convention center.

If you are flying to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the drive to McCormick Place is just under 18 miles (about an hour) via I-90 E and I-90/I-94. Alternatively, if coming via I-290 E, the drive is about 22 miles and about one hour.

For some flyers, Chicago’s Midway International Airport might offer lower fares when booking your airline tickets. The airport is located about 8 miles from the Loop (central area of the city). So be sure to enter both airport codes online when comparing airline prices. For most flyers, airport choice might not make that much of a difference.

Once you have selected your hotel, a Chicago friend’s couch, or I’m-sleeping-under-a-windy-bridge location, visit the CTA’s (Chicago Transit Authority) planning site to help navigate from point to point. The CTA site also lists current fare prices.

In short, a single-ride disposable “Ventra Ticket” (bus and rail) costs $3.00. A single-ride bus-only fare is $2.50. A 1-day unlimited ride (bus and rail) disposal Ventra Ticket is $10.00, good for 24 hours from time of activation. A 1-Day CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) Fun Pass costs $10.00 and a 3-Day CTA Pass is $20.00. There are many other fare options you can read about HERE.

Another option may be coach buses making direct trips between certain hotels and McCormick Place. Details are not yet available, but check back in the near future at StarWarsCelebration.com or ask your hotel.

And if you’re thinking of renting a car, good luck with finding parking in the city, road congestion and high parking fees. Public transportation might be easier on your nerves and wallet.

NOTE: Some of the prices in the above 2012 video have increased.

Chicago Weather in April

Of course it will be chilly. It’s Chicago in April! The average high is 56° F (13°C) and the average low is 43° (6°C). Bring your umbrella as the unpredictable weather averages 9 rainy days in April. Sunrise is 6:17 AM and sunset is 7:27 PM (April 11th).

Hotel Accommodations

Next year’s Celebration may be the most expensive yet. First, it will run for a record five days long (versus the 3 days held in London in 2016 and the 4 days in Orlando in 2017). Second, Chicago hotel room rates are on the high side. So if you want to secure lodging anywhere near McCormick Place or at least convenient to public transportation, reserve your room(s) as soon as possible. Some hotels are already sold out.

TIP: Split your hotel fee with a buddy. Flying solo and don’t know anyone? You can still find a potential hotel-roommate by joining one of several “Star Wars Celebration” Facebook groups, making friends and asking about. Just do your homework and your due-diligence first so you don’t end up with an unpleasant surprise.

Booking.com, Kayak.com and Trivago.com are some of the more popular booking sites. Fuel prices are ending their four-year low and surely creeping up, and inflationary pressure (with record low unemployment) will affect prices across the board. So book early if possible.

Another option is to reserve a room or apartment via AirBNB. Be wary of unscrupulous hosts, however, who might be tempted to “cancel” your reservation a month before – once they find out how much more they could have charged for the Celebration crowds. For trustworthiness, consider the number of star ratings the host has versus a newer host.

Celebration Ticket Prices

Whether you will be attending one day, just the weekend, all five days, or seek a VIP pass, ticket prices will be announced shortly.

Tickets for Star Wars Celebration Chicago will go on sale online on June 5th starting at 12:00 noon Central (US) time. So set your alarms. Purchase them exclusively at StarWarsCelebration.com.

Ticket prices at past Celebrations have been reasonable. For example, for a four-day Adult Pass, admission prices were:

● $150.00 (Celebration Orlando 2017)
● $140.00 (Celebration Anaheim 2015)
● $135.00 (Celebration VI in Orlando, 2012)
● $120.00 (Celebration V in Orlando, 2010)

If you had attended Celebration in Europe, prices for a three-day Adult Pass were:

● £70 /$102.28 (Celebration Europe in London, 2016)
● €95 /$124.02 (Celebration Europe II in Messe Essen, Germany, 2013)

If you are interested in obtaining a VIP Pass, keep in mind that they sell out within the first 15-30 minutes, and the StarWarsCelebration.com site will crash from heavy traffic. But keep trying. Past year’s prices have been:

● 2017 Orlando: $700 Jedi Master VIP, limted to _?_
● 2016 London: £350 ($517.03) Jedi Master VIP, ltd. 200
● 2015 Anaheim: $900 Jedi Master VIP, ltd. 50, and $450 Jedi Knight VIP, ltd. 250.
● 2013 Germany: 500€ Jedi Master VIP, ltd. 250.
● 2012 Orlando: $850 Jedi Master VIP, ltd. 50, and $400 Jedi Knight VIP, ltd. 250.
● 2010 Orlando: $750 Jedi Master Package, ltd. 50, and $350 Jedi Knight Package, ltd. 250.

You can read the full article comparing Celebration prices over the years HERE.

Autograph and Photo-Op Prices for 2019 TBD

It’s all too easy to spend hundreds, even a couple thousand dollars, for autographs and photo opportunities with your favorite Star Wars celebrities. The list of actors and other celebrities (and prices) have not yet been announced, and probably will not be until much closer to (think several months before) Celebration Chicago opening its doors. But if you wish to compare the Celebration Orlando 2017 autograph prices, click HERE.

Other Things to See and Do in Chicago (Besides Attending Star Wars Celebration)

So start planning now. Start saving funds. And dream of your adventure in Chicago in April, 2019.

Denny’s to Sell “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Trading Cards

April 4, 2018 – Fire up the grill, Denny’s, because we’re coming for your exclusive Topps trading cards!

Two days ago, Denny’s released a well-done ad promoting its new movie menu and collectible cards to benefit charity.

In the commercial ad, Chewbacca grabs a glass of blue milk while other exotic alien species are seated at various tables and at the bar consuming their meals. The camera then zooms in on tyke-sized versions of Han and Lando, who are seen playing a card game and engaged in a stare-down. The ad next flips to a Denny’s dining booth, where the two kids are seen trading the Topps collectible cards.

A lobster-like Therm Scissorpunch

Available only at Denny’s, each Solo: A Star Wars Story trading card pack includes two of 12 different character cards.

The packs include random assortments of young Han Solo, Chewbacca, Qi’ra, Lando Calrissian, Therm Scissorpunch and more, in addition to a Denny’s coupon for future use.

Net proceeds will benefit the “No Kid Hungry” charity, which seeks to end childhood hunger.

Twelve “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Topps trading cards are available at Denny’s.

Flip the cards over to create two mini-posters.

Denny’s new Star Wars menu includes dishes with names such as Blaster Fire Burger, Lightspeed Slam, Two Moons Skillet and Co-Reactor Pancakes. The restaurant is also selling collectible cups featuring characters from the film and topped with a Millennium Falcon lid.

Founded in 1953, Denny’s operates over 1,600 restaurants in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Curaçao, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Venezuela, Honduras, Japan, New Zealand, Qatar, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates.

Jabba’s Sail Barge to Begin Construction

April 4, 2018 – Hasbro’s 45-day crowdfunding campaign, via its HasLab project, came to a successful close last night just before midnight. The HasLab counter below shows that 8,810 units of the four-foot long Jabba’s Sail Barge were ordered, far surpassing the minimum-backing goal of 5,000 units.

The exact number of customers is unknown as each customer could place up to five (5) orders per transaction. Technically, you could order more than five Sail Barges, but in separate transactions.

An informal poll last week suggested that most collectors had ordered but one unit each while a small handful ordered many more in hopes of reselling them later.

Just two weeks ago, a certain amount of angst pervaded social media as to whether the campaign would fall short of the 5,000 goal. As of March 20th, for example, the 3,000-order barrier had not yet been breached, and sales were sluggish.

Yak Face

Sales accelerated dramatically on March 21st, when Hasbro announced it was adding a 3.75-inch Yak Face figure on a vintage-style Power of the Force cardback, complete with a Collector’s Coin, to sweeten the deal.

By March 30th, the backer goal of 5,000 units had been reached with four days to spare. Amazingly, approximately 1,000-unit orders were placed in the preceding 24 hours as potential backers climbed aboard to reach the 5,000-goal.

With nary a glance back, the numbers continued to climb rapidly in the final four days, sailing past 8,800. Hasbro’s “minimal backing goal” of 5,000 was exceeded by a margin of 3,810 orders, or 76.2% above its initial target.

In short, Hasbro’s first-ever crowdfunding venture appears to be a spectacular success. But are there clouds on the horizon?

Some Risk and Uncertainty Ahead

Despite all the euphoria for those collectors fortunate enough to have ordered a Sail Barge, there is still a certain measure of risk and uncertainty ahead:

First, Hasbro will now run every customer’s credit card or PayPal account, transferring funds to the Rhode Island-based toy company’s ledgers. Besides immediately losing the use of the $500 (plus tax) for other expenses or a potential loss of investment return (interest), customers will have to wait until late February or early March, 2019, for shipments to begin.

But recall that a year ago, another giant company – Toys R Us – appeared to be solvent, its CEO was promising to update their stores, and better days were promised to be around the corner. By Sept. 2017, however, Toys R Us had filed for bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and on March 14, 2018, it announced it was closing for good.

So there is no guarantee that Hasbro will keep its end of the Sail Barge bargain a year from now. On the other hand, Hasbro hasn’t been hobbled by the same financial woes that proved Toys R Us’ ruin, including TRU’s $5.3 billion debt which it had been carrying since 2005 and the fact that TRU’s last full year of profit was in 2012. Hasbro is in far better shape financially.

A second source of risk and uncertainty is a trade war ignited by President Trump, when he recently announced tariffs on steel and aluminum. In addition, the U.S. administration has released a list of $50 billion worth of Chinese products it will target with a 25% import tariff. They include 1,300 items mostly in electronics, aerospace, and machinery. For consumers, think trash compactors, electronic players, smart cards, video projectors and much more coming from China.

Beijing said yesterday that China will respond in equal measure to U.S. tariffs. China’s in-kind list of 106 products (and growing) includes U.S.-made airplanes, cars, and agricultural products.

The Trump Administration may be overlooking the fact that China can bypass U.S. manufacturers and agricultural suppliers altogether. For example, Chinese airlines can stop purchasing Boeing (U.S.) airplanes and switch to Airbus (Europe). In lieu of cars made by General Motors and Ford, China can opt for Japanese and European models. And there are many international exporters of wheat, soybeans, and pigs besides the farmers of Iowa. And so in a trade war, nearly everyone loses.

The vast bulk of Hasbro’s products are manufactured in China. What’s unclear for now is how the costs of raw material (plastic, dyes, textiles for the Sail Barge’s sails), tooling (huge factor) and shipping may be impacted. Nobody knows yet, but stay tuned.

If there are substantial unforeseen additional costs in the coming months, Hasbro could well cancel production and simply refund everyone’s money. Or it could offer to still go forward, but impose an additional payment requirement. As a matter of contract law, rescission or reformation of a contract is not unheard of.

The third bit of uncertainty applies to European and Australian consumers, who were never offered a direct option from Hasbro to buy the Sail Barge. Hasbro has stated that it reserves the right to make and distribute as many Sail Barges as it deems appropriate, and there are vague hints that overseas customers may be able to buy the Sail Barge either at retail or direct from the company. But that’s an open question to be answered months down the line.

What’s Next for The Khetanna

If you ordered a Sail Barge, you can follow Hasbro’s updates at their #updates link. In short order, Hasbro should be shipping its 64-page booklet, Jabba’s Sail Barge (The Khetanna): Behind the Workbench, to customers. Check the update link periodically for further progress notes.

A congratulatory pop-up announcement on the HasbroLab.com site

“Thrawn Alliances” Mentions Batuu, Disney’s Newly Created Planet

April 3, 2018 – In 1991, Timothy Zahn first introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn in his Thrawn trilogy, beginning with the novel, Heir to the Empire. Heir reached No. 1 on The New York Times‘ Best Seller List and was quickly followed by Dark Force Rising (1992) and The Last Command (1993).

Zahn followed up the trilogy with The Hand of Thrawn, a two-book series in 1997 and 1998.

After a two-decade break, Zahn published Star Wars: Thrawn (Del Rey Books, 2017), which chronicles the origins of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Although declared non-canon by Disney in 2014 and relabeled as part of the “Star Wars Legends”/Expanded Universe line of fiction for purposes of continuity, Timothy Zahn’s series of novels continue to sell well with a loyal legion of followers.

The much anticipated sequel, Thrawn: Alliances (Penguin/Random House, 368 pages, 2018) will be released on July 24, 2018. The newest novel will continue to follow the rise of Thrawn and his emerging, uneasy alliance with Darth Vader as they pair up for a secret mission on behalf of the Emperor. The novel also explores Thrawn’s first encounter with Vader years earlier.

Thrawn: Alliances will be the first book to introduce readers to the planet Batuu. Walt Disney Imagineering’s Scott Trowbridge describes Batuu as a “remote outpost on the galaxy’s edge . . . Now home to those who prefer to stay out of the mainstream, it has become a thriving port for smugglers, rogue traders and adventurers traveling between the frontier and uncharted space. It’s also a convenient safe haven for those intent on avoiding the expanding reach of the First Order.”

Below is an excerpt from Thrawn: Alliances, more of which you can read at StarWars.com:

“I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.”

Emperor Palpatine paused, stretching out his thoughts to the two men standing before his throne, awaiting their reactions….

“The disturbance is located at the edge of your Unknown Regions,” the Emperor said. “It appears to be centered on a planet named Batuu.” Again, he sensed a reaction to the name. This time, the reaction came from both of them. “I believe you have heard of it?”

Thrawn’s eyes were hooded, the expression on that blue-skinned face swirling with memories. “Yes,” he murmured. “I have indeed heard of it.”

As, of course, had Vader. It was the place where he and Thrawn had long ago interfered, albeit unwittingly, with one of Palpatine’s plans.

Thrawn: Alliances is actually the second source to mention or introduce Batuu. The first was Disney’s ride attraction, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, which added video footage of the planet in November, 2017.

You will be able to visit the remote outpost world of Batuu in 2019, when Disney opens its newest themed land, “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” in Orlando, Florida and Anaheim, California.

Batuu is considered Star Wars canon. Its mention in Thrawn: Alliances and in the Star Tours ride attraction appears to be part of a carefully choreographed introduction to the public at large.

For the first time ever, you will be able to visit and plant yourself in a Star Wars environment beginning in 2019. More than simply another theme park area, Batuu is the immersive home world that others have been calling “Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge” or “Star Wars Land” for the last several years.

You can expect to explore Batuu sometime in 2019 when Disney opens Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World in Orlando and at Disneyland Park in Anaheim.

Checklist of Figures to Populate Your Sail Barge

March 30, 2018 – Congratulations, Star Wars fan community! Hasbro’s first-ever crowdfunding campaign, via HasLab, has just secured its goal of 5,000 prepaid orders (and still rising) for the four-foot long Jabba’s Sail Barge. The triumphant 5,000th order was placed on Friday, March 30, 2018 around 1:44 PM (EST).

Prepaid orders are being accepted online at Hasbrolab.com until 12:00 midnight EST, 3 April 2018. Do not expect to see Jabba’s Sail Barge at retail.

In anticipation of success, JediTempleArchives.com yesterday posted a very handy and useful list of 3.75-inch action figures to populate your Sail Barge. We emphasize “your” instead of saying “Jabba’s” because now that The Khetanna is about to become a reality, it’s all up to you how you wish to display and fill your playset vehicle.

As JTA has stated, all of the characters listed below are existing Hasbro 3.75-inch action figures. Note that not all of the characters actually accompanied the mighty Jabba the Hutt on his final voyage. Some of the characters were only viewed in background scenes at Jabba’s Palace. In any event, all are relevant and somehow tied to Jabba’s Sail Barge or Jabba’s Palace.

Many of the action figures may already be in your collection or are at least familiar-looking to you. Other figures are more esoteric, blink-and-you’ll-miss-seeing-them from scenes in Return of the Jedi (1983).

As Hasbro will not be shipping The Khetanna until late February, 2019, at the earliest, you have eleven months to start assembling your passengers.

(L to R, top then bottom row): 8D8, Amanaman, Bane Malar, Barada, BG-J38 (build-a-droid), Bib Fortuna, Boba Fett, Bossk bounty hunter.

(L to R, top then bottom row): Jabba’s Skiff Guard (The Black Series No. 27), Bubo, C-3PO, Chewbacca and Han, CZ-4, Dengar, Droopy McCool, Ephant Mon.

(L to R, top then bottom row): EV-9D9, Gamorrean Guard, Giran, Han Solo, Hermi Odle, Ishi Tib, Jabba’s Bartender (Entertainment Earth exclusive), J’Quille.

(L to R, top then bottom row): Kithaba, Klaatu, Lando Calrissian (Skiff Guard Disguise), Luke Skywalker, Malakili Rancor Keeper, Max Rebo, Nikto, Nikto Gunner (BD23).

(L to R, top then bottom row): Pote Snitkin, Princess Leia Slave Outfit, R2-D2 (Saga 2004 #5 or TVC #25), Ree Yees, Salacious Crumb, Tanus Spijek, Squid Head (Tessek), Vizam.

(L to R, top then bottom row): Weequay Skiff Guard, Weequay Skiff Master (TVC #48), Wol Cabasshite (Jabba’s Denizens), Wooof (TVC #24), Yak Face, Yarna D’Al’Gargan, Jawa.

To read the full article and to access the Ebay hyperlinks, visit JediTempleArchives.com. (Graphics layout credit: JediTempleArchives.com / Images: Disney/Lucasfilm)