Fighting the Dark Side in Flip Flops


During our first couple of trips as a family to Walt Disney World, Hollywood Studios was the one park we left off of our itinerary.  At first it was because I thought that the attractions focused mostly on thrill rides that my girls were too small to enjoy and theming and shows that wouldn’t hold their interest.  While I remembered absolutely loving the glamorous, art-deco vibe of Hollywood Boulevard and the audio-animatronics of the Great Movie Ride back when I first visited the park as a teenager, my girls hadn’t yet seen the Star Wars movies and the popularity of Toy Story Midway Mania and subsequent lines was a bit daunting before I developed strategies for touring the parks efficiently.  Now, however, the Studios is on our not-to-be-missed Disney World list, and I know how much there is to do for the younger set at this fantastic park–with fabulous stage shows, a larger than life playground, spectacular attractions, fun dining experiences and lots of characters to meet!

One of the experiences at the Studios that is a favorite of the 12 and under crowd is the Jedi Training Academy that takes place several times throughout the day beginning at 9:20 a.m.  Young Jedi Knights-in-Training are given light sabers and jedi robes and invited to join a Jedi Master for a quick lesson in using the force to fight the dark side.  During their lesson, the Lord the Dark Side himself, Darth Vader, makes an appearance and the young Jedis take turns using what they’ve learned to fight Vader one-on-one.  For most kids, this is a huge thrill.  For those who are Star Wars fans, it’s a must-do!

I noticed this morning as I’m writing this that there is nothing on the Hollywood Studios map to tell guests about this experience.  I’m imagine that there is information about it printed on a Studios Times Guide, but I don’t have one of those on hand!  Even still, many people do know about the Training Academy and it is so popular that if your kids would like to participate, signing up for a spot is one of the first things you should do when you arrive at the park in the morning.  During peak visiting seasons–summer, school breaks and holiday weeks–the shows tend to fill even more quickly.  For families that want to sign up for Jedi Training and also ride Toy Story Midway Mania (perhaps more than once), a divide and conquer strategy is best.  Here is what you should do:

Upon entering the park, one parent takes the kids to Jedi Training sign-up while the other heads to Toy Story Mania to obtain Fastpasses (this strategy may change in the near future with the full implementation of the new Magic Bands system, but for now, this is it).  Note: the kids who want to participate in the show MUST be present at the sign-up as the cast members will ask them a few questions before they are permitted to sign up.

Sign-up for Jedi Training takes place at the ABC Sound Studio which is on your right, across from Indiana Jones and the Backlot Express, as you head towards Star Tours.

After completing the sign-up process, meet the other parent at Toy Story Mania.  At this point you should still be able to ride in the standby line.  If the standby line is 20-minutes or less, hop in line to ride.  You will be able to ride again later with your Fastpasses.  If you were able to sign up for the first Jedi Training show of the day, you will not have time to ride Toy Story now and the Fastpass parent should meet everyone back at the sign-up area for the show.small

We were fortunate recently to visit Disney World during a week that boasted relatively low crowds and signing-up for Jedi Training was not the push it can be at other times of the year.  The Cast Members doing the sign up were very flexible allowing us to choose which show we wanted and in fact, when our scheduled show time approached and everyone was hot, hungry and in need of a break, they allowed us to switch the kids’ time to a show at the end of the day.  This worked out really well despite the fact that thunder storms loomed by then and our show was almost canceled due to the weather.  All’s well that ends well!

This was our first experience with the Jedi Training Academy and I thought it was fantastic.  We’ve watched the show on a number of occasions, but it was very different to be involved.  The best part of the experience was the Cast Members.  As a parent and a teacher I always pay attention to the way people talk with and engage kids.  These folks were all wonderful–not one of them was phoning it in (not that Disney Cast Members usually, do, but still).  They were kind, energetic and completely engaging and the Jedi Training Master was fabulous–he was just so great with the kids and clearly enjoyed them as you can see from his few comments in the video I attached.  Only one of my daughters ended up participating and she loved every minute of it.

At the time of sign-up, the Cast Members ask that participants arrive about 20-minutes prior to their scheduled show time.  During this time, young Jedi Knights are fitted for their robes and some instructions.  They are soon led to the stage which stands immediately to the right of Star Tours.  The group then takes the stage with the Jedi Training Master and each child is given a light saber, which, much to my daughter’s chagrin, they do not get to keep.  They are instructed in how to “activate” their weapons and taught a coreographed series of moves that they will later employ to fight Darth Vader himself.  When Vader arrives, each child gets her or his turn, with the coaching and encouragement of the Jedi Trainer, to use the power of the force to fight the Dark Side.  The kids were absolutely adorable and, as I said above, the Jedi Trainer was so sweet with them that it really made the show.


With Lord Vader vanquished and the audience cheering, the kids are presented with their diplomas by the Jedi Trainer and sent on their way.  The entire experience took about 45-minutes or so and was well worth the little bit of effort it took to enable us to participate.

Here is a super-quick video of my small one fighting the Dark Side in flip flops!

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