Food versus The Force

Friday, May 25, 2012

It’s that time of year again.  The time when Disney’s Hollywood Studios is transformed into a Star Wars Mecca.  Star Wars Weekends occurs 4 weekends in a row Friday through Sunday (started May 18th and runs through June 9th).   It’s certainly the most popular special event year after year at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but is it the best special event at Walt Disney World?  Well, that’s certainly up for debate.  All of Walt Disney World’s special events like EPCOT’s Flower & Garden Festival or the Magic Kingdom’s Halloween and Christmas parties draw a certain crowd demographic and affinity group.  Arguably the two biggest special events Disney World hosts each year; EPCOT’s International Food & Wine Festival (Oct & Nov) and Star Wars Weekends at DHS are very different events that draw very different people.

Since these two special events are so different how could we possibly compare them?  One thing to consider immediately is most of the Star Wars Weekends activities are included with your theme park admission; whereas most of EPCOT's Food & Wine samplings and events are not.  But, let's put that aside and compare these two events subjectively.  I’m not sure how this will exactly play out, but let’s see if Luke Skywalker’s light saber can out duel a cup of Canadian cheddar cheese soup with a glass of White Zinfandel. 

Entertainment –

Both special events offer additional entertainment that are part of the festivities.  The primary focus of the Food & Wine Festival is simply food and drink.  There are food and wine seminars, special tastings, and Eat to the Beat concerts.  Most of the special entertainment that is part of the Food & Wine Festival is typical entertainment you’d fine at similar festivals throughout the country.  Not that the entertainment is bad or average it just lacks a uniqueness to set it apart. 

At Star Wars Weekends the entertainment is very unique.  Character meet and greets are setup throughout the park.  Actual Star Wars characters interact with guests throughout the streets.  Disney characters are morphed into Star Wars characters like Minnie Leia, Jedi Mickey and even Darth Goofy.  There are interviews with Star Wars actors and a great parade down Hollywood Blvd showcasing Star Wars characters and star actors.  Oh!  And let’s not forget about one of the best special shows at Disney World revolving around a special event; the Hyperspace Hoopla where Star Wars characters bust a move and dance off with other characters. 

Winner:  The Force

Event Setup & Configuration

This is tough!  Both events Make great use of their respective theme park.  EPCOT’s World Showcase screams food and specialty drinks.  The food and wine booths are very well done (I wish they’d setup some tables and chairs in World Showcase).  I also wish they’d move the festival headquarters to the Odyssey closer to World Showcase.  The Wonders of Life pavilion is a little out of the way, but it does help consume more of the park into the festival.  EPCOT’s staff does a terrific job with festival decorations throughout the park to remind you of the festival.  My biggest plus for Food & Wine inside EPCOT and World Showcase is the setting.  Both fit together perfectly! 

The same case could be made for Star Wars Weekend at DHS.  Why wouldn’t an epic movie saga fit into a movies theme park?  Most of the park is caught up in the event.  Darth’s Mall (merchandise tent) sits over by Tower and Coaster while other events are sprinkled throughout the park.  The fact DHS is the smallest of the 4 theme parks at Disney World allows Star Wars Weekends to consume the park more effectively.  Also, a big plus is the Star Wars music played all day throughout the park.  It really sets the mood for the event.  And one of the best experiences at any special event are the Storm Troopers at the top of the DHS marquee as guests enter the park.  If that doesn’t get your attention about a special event nothing will. 

Okay…I’m convinced!

Winner:  The Force

Guest Comfort and Accessibility

Another close and tough category to consider.  Its true Star Wars Weekends surrounds you with characters, meet and greets, and other activities.  However, there are several times when trying to access meet and greets, merchandise locations, autographs, and interviews can be very tough.  I can recall when the Hyperspace Hoopla was on the Jedi Training Academy stage and several guests couldn’t watch the show because of the setup.  Thankfully, they moved it to the main hat stage, but even trying to watch it from there can be tough.  It’s just too popular of a show.  It really needs to be shown twice a day.  Character meet & greet lines are usually long. Ramped Star Wars fans are at the DHS turnstiles at 4:30AM in the morning to wait in line for autograph Fastpasses for celebrities.  The lines at the merchandise locations, especially for limited edition merchandise can be challenging.  Sometimes a very popular event can be tough to navigate. 

Over at EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival the food and wine booths are setup all along the World Showcase promenade.  There are several to choose from and if you walk through World Showcase early in the day you’ll have your run of the booths with little to no wait.  It’s true the evenings and weekends can be crazy with long lines at the food and wine booths, but since the Food & Wine Festival runs for 7 straight weeks with no days off it is very accessible to guests to enjoy any day of the week.  Guests really have a choice when they wish to enjoy the festival and can go at their own pace without missing the highlights of the event. 

Winner:  Food 

Event Merchandise

Over at EPCOT’s F&W Festival you’ll find some great merchandise for your kitchen, specialty wines, and even shirts specific to the event.  Each year the F&W planners create a new logo and slogan for the festival that is sure to attract attention.  Also, along World Showcase you’ll find other event merchandise like artwork, and unique kitchen gadgets that you may not use at home, but may be great conversation or display pieces. 

Over at Star Wars Weekends you are going to find a lot of merchandise choices as well.  Darth’s Mall and Tatooine Traders are full of great Star Wars related merchandise.  There’s even other merchandise experiences you can take advantage of like building your own droid or freezing your likeness in a block of carbonite like Han Solo in the Empire Strikes Back.  These merchandise experiences are very unique and give level 10 Star Wars fans the chance to really become a part of the event through merchandise.  Also available is the limited edition Star Wars merchandise.  If you are lucky enough to get your hands on these limited edition pins or big figs consider yourself lucky because most Star Wars fans are clamoring for them first thing in the morning when the park opens to guests.    

Winner:  The Force

Event Food & Drink

Okay...okay…Is this really fair?  Well, if Star Wars Weekend planners are going to release food items revolving around the event like the Darth Vader cupcake or the R2-D2 popcorn bucket and frozen drink then we should at least look at it from an event perspective.  I love the idea of adding food items around Star Wars Weekends to help further promote the event.  I generally think Disney does a somewhat creative job with the Star Wars food items.  I just wish there were a few more items to choose from.  Maybe adding some entrees at the quick service locations or a very limited menu of items at the table service locations would be welcomed.  That maybe over doing the food aspect of the event, but you get the idea. 

I’m going to try and look at the Food & Wine Festival subjectively.  I mean the event does revolve around food and drinks and some of you Star Wars fans maybe wondering if I’m just going to rate the Food & Wine Festival's Jedi Prowess.  What I am going to say though is the Food & Wine Festival does a great job not only serving food and beverage choices, but they also give guests the opportunity to partake in seminars where food and drink can be consumed in an educational setting.  Not only can you enjoy the taste of food and wine you can also learn about it too while enjoying it.  That’s an added plus to the food and wine consumption.  So, unless someone wishes to play a Jedi mind trick on me this one is rather easy. 

Winner:  Food

Conclusion

So that’s it!  This epic battle is over.  In the end it was the power of the Force that won over food.  Just barely though.  Thanks goodness Obi Wan reminded Luke to use the force or else we may be wearing Canadian cheddar cheese soup all over us. 

What is your opinion about these two special events?  Which one do you enjoy more and why?  Do you think they both bring out the spirit of their respective theme park?  Feel free to leave your comments below or on the official Studios Central Facebook page

These two special events are my favorite that Disney World hosts each year.  Quite honestly, I can’t pick one over the other.   They both appeal to me equally.  I know it may seem like I favor Star Wars Weekends based on the analysis above, but in my mind they are equal.  Each of us has their favorite for their own personal reasons.  They are very different special events.  Whether you are a Foodie or a Jedi Master there’s probably something for you to enjoy at either special event.  “The Force will be with you….Always!”  Cheers!   

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About this column

Aaron DelPrince looks at the various activities you and your family can experience at Walt Disney World


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