I am a high-strung, anxious person. I'll be the first admit it. And so Disney vacations are especially taxing on me --- so many people, so much to see / do, and so much opportunity for disaster. A Disney trip is 1 part pure magic and 1 part misery, and the trick is to maximize the first while minimizing the second. That's why I'm such a stickler for all the obsessive advance planning: because I believe that is the best way to maximize the good parts and minimize the bad (the waiting, the low blood sugar temper tantrums, the standing in the heat, the sunburns, the blisters, the missing favorite rides/characters, etc.)
The problem is, not everything CAN be advanced planned. Specifically, Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios. There is no ADR for Jedi Training Academy, no 30 day FP+. To get a spot in the Jedi Training Academy show parents and the children who want to participate must sign up --- and the spots fill quickly, they're often gone shortly after rope drop.
As you can imagine, that's a really big unknown in my otherwise buttoned-down itinerary. So, I did some research on the best ways to ensure your child gets a spot. Essentially, you need to be first in line at Hollywood Studios for rope drop and then sprint from the gate to the sign up area.
Or - better yet - be in the park prior to rope drop for a breakfast reservation at Hollywood and Vine. Then you only have to sprint from the restaurant to the sign up area.
We chose the later approach, since my younger daughter loves the Disney Junior characters and we were going to be eating at Hollywood and Vine anyway. In my opinion, it's one of the better breakfast buffets, and they take breaks to sing songs and do dance-alongs with the kids.
I'll admit that I struggled to enjoy breakfast as we waited for rope drop and the opening of the Jedi Training Academy sign-up. I had to give this task to my husband because it was just too much for my nerves. He snooped around while we waited for our table and found out where exactly sign up was going to be, and which cast members were guarding the route to sign up. They told him to keep an eye out the window and be ready to bolt when he saw the cast members leave their posts blocking the sidewalk to the sign up location.
So, that's what we did. I stayed at the table with Eva who was having a great time meeting Sofia, Jake, and Doc McStuffins, while my husband took off with Viola to get in line. Not only did this strategy get us a spot, but they were actually first!!! in line, and had their pick of showtimes! My husband took along with him our day's itinerary (courtesy of my handy daily itinerary print out!) and was able to get Viola signed up for a show that fit in between our FP+ and other meals.
Quick tip - make sure to take a photo of your return slip, that way if you lose it you'll still have the digital copy! We also do this for any photopass cards we might get.
It was pretty surreal from the point-of-view of the table. About 5 minutes after my husband left, I started to see the folks coming by from rope drop--- moms sprinting past with jogging strollers stacked with three or four kids, dads with little ones under their arms like luggage. There was one family eating near us that I guess weren't paying close attention because about 15 minutes after rope drop they suddenly tore out of the restaurant, literally tossed their kids into a stroller, and took off. It was seriously strange, like the escape scene in some sort of horror movie--- I half expected to see godzilla turn the corner.
About 20 minutes after rope drop I saw a mom with a really little boy all dressed up in Jedi robes. I don't know whether they made it to the line or not, because by that time I'm pretty sure I'd already seen over 150 kids go by, but I really hope they got a spot!
My husband returned and we all wrapped up breakfast, then headed over to visit Hiro & Baymax until it was time to check-in for the Jedi Training show. He took Viola to check in, while I went to the stage with Evangeline in her stroller.
Jedi Training Academy seems to be one of those things that brings out the worst in Disney parents---- well, maybe not the worst, but definitely the fiesty. As we were waiting for the show to begin, a couple near us got into a huge fight because the mom had sent the dad to save a spot in the crowd but I guess he hadn't gone directly there and by the time she arrived (after dropping her son off back stage) there was a crowd of other parents in the first row. I believe her exact words were "we did all that to get him into the show and now I can't even video it!" I squished over and offered her a spot in the front with me, standing behind Eva's stroller because I could totally sympathize with her frustration!
Here is a video I put together of the show Viola participated in. My daughter loves to tell the story of that time she beat Darth Vader in a lightsaber dual and used the force to knock over some stormtroopers that were trying to catch her, just like in the movie.
Jedi Training Academy was amazing, and definitely worth all the extra effort and anxiety it took to get Viola a spot. And, as an added bonus (?) my husband learned a whole lot of useful (?) Jedi puns:
Q: What's the temperature inside a Tauntaun?
A: Luke warm!
Har har har!
If you have a Star Wars enthusiast in your family, here are my tips for getting your child a spot in the Jedi Training Academy show, based on our recent experience (2015):
1. RESERVE a Hollywood & Vine ADR for prior to park opening. True, you can be first in line for rope drop, but then you'll have to sprint through the park and that just seemed awful. Much more pleasant to enjoy some warm Mickey waffles while you wait! You have to time it though to be done eating before rope drop, or have one parent available to take your padewan to sign up.
2. REMEMBER: children must be present to sign up. Children can be as young as 4. We considered signing Eva up for the show, but after seeing it I'm glad we didn't. If you have a very outgoing 4yr old, it might make sense, but I think Eva would have been overwhelmed.
3. DO show up early at the stage --- be sure to arrive ahead of the show start time to reserve a spot in the front of the crowd if you want to be able to take a video. There will be a Photopass Photographer present, but you'll probably want to make sure you take some of your own pictures as well just in case if you can!
4. Finally, and most importantly, DO CHEER FOR ALL THE KIDS! Be an active crowd participant and make the experience memorable for all the little padawans up on the stage.
Bonus: DO DRESS UP your child in Star Wars garb! Not only is it fun, but it will gain them a little extra attention on stage. :-) (You can read the story behind the girls' R2D2 and C-3PO sundresses here).
After our Jedi Training Academy experience, we rode Star Tours (Eva was, alas, still too short by 1/4 inch!!) ....
and took some pictures with the AT-AT....
and some more with the Speeder....
and even made lightsabers, all before our lunch reservation at the SciFi Diner (which is still my favorite Disney restaurants of all time!)
All-in-all, our Hollywood Studios day was one of the best of the trip. The Jedi Training Academy was an amazing experience for my daughter and I look forward to our next trip when Eva can participate too!