Jedi Training Academy: tips for how to sign up!

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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.

Here he is with the golden ticket! I was so proud! :-)

Here he is with the golden ticket! I was so proud! :-)

The day's itinerary...

The day's itinerary...

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. 

We stopped by the gift shop first for some consolation prizes...

We stopped by the gift shop first for some consolation prizes...

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!

Star Wars Sundresses - sewing project!

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Happy May the Fourth, everyone! 

You might not have guessed it from all my Princess rants, but I'm a really big SciFi geek at heart! And my favorite SciFi of all is Star Wars! Oh, how I'd love to go to Disney for the Star Wars weekends someday!

About a year and a half ago, well before we started planning our 2015 trip to Disney World, we were spending time with our good friends --- who also happen to be Eva's godparents --- when they remarked how the girls remind them of R2D2 and C-3PO.  Eva, at a little over 2 yrs old, communicated through gibberish punctuated by lots of squeals, and Viola was always nearby to translate in her flabbergasted 5-yr-old-going-on-15-yr-old tone: 

"She wants another cookie, mommy, obviously." 

"She's saying she doesn't want to take a bath, mommy, duh."

"What she means is she wants to keep coloring, mommy. Didn't you hear her say: COLOR MORE?"

In fact, Eva didn't really find her voice truly until last summer when her sister went away on vacation. Then she suddenly had lots to say for herself! 

But, I digress. 

After the R2D2 / C-3PO connection was brought to my attention, I thought it would be funny to buy the girls tshirts, so I ordered some tshirts online.

The R2D2 shirt was just fine, but the C-3PO one, despite being a child's Small, was waaaaay too big for Viola! 

So, I decided to alter it from a tshirt to some sort of a sundress.  My original plan was pretty simple: cut off the sleeves and add some straps and maybe a tie-back and turn it into something like a pillow case dress.  

As I did a little research (you can see my pinterest board for the project here) and started getting into the sewing, though, I decided that a pillow case dress was just too plain. I picked up some gold lamme and glitter tulle at JoAnn's for the C-3PO dress and, of course, then I needed to pick up some blue outerspacy tulle to make a skirt for the R2D2 dress, too. 

My sewing assistant. Super helpful for unwinding spools of ribbon!

My sewing assistant. Super helpful for unwinding spools of ribbon!


R2D2

R2D2 was pretty straight forward: I created a tulle skirt by panelling together the two styles of tulle that I'd bought, the regular shiny blue with the "metal-infused" sparkly one (I told Eva that those were robot bits). Underneath the tulle was a metallic blue mini skirt to give it some extra robot-y-ness, too!  

I then also removed the tshirt sleeves and added a little ruffle to the shoulder. Finally, some blue holographic ribbon to tie it all together!


C-3PO

C-3PO was a bit trickier. I used the same dress pattern as I was using for our Harry Potter sundresses to create the collar, then attached to it the graphic portion of the tshirt that I wanted to keep on the front and the back. 

The skirt was perplexing and I tried LOTS of different variations.... 

attempt #1 was to do the same thing I'd done with the R2D2 dress, but it was too... I don't know. Too not right!

attempt #1 was to do the same thing I'd done with the R2D2 dress, but it was too... I don't know. Too not right!

Attempt #2 was too princessy.

Attempt #2 was too princessy.

For attempt#3 I thought maybe a more mini-skirt type ruffle skirt might work, (I was inspired by this grey skirt that the girls had) but that was too.... again, I don't know. Too not right.

My husband pointed out the C-3P0 would be better suited with just the gold lycra pants, but that didn't fly with Viola, who kept insisting that the gold pants would look great under a skirt, so that was out as well...

(Let's call that one "too not fancy enough".)

Finally, I returned to the ruffled skirt idea. The first version was WAY too big... 

Way, way, ridiculously way too big.

But close!

As much as I hated to do it (because by then, as you can imagine, I was so over this outfit), I had to entirely remove the tutu, pare it down, and reattach it. I was pretty happy with the end result. 

I was only able to find gold lycra pants in sizes too big for Viola, but that was fine. I trimmed them down by stitching along the inseam and tucking in the waist, then I cut off some of the leg length and used the excess material to make "gloves", that Viola prefers to wear like sleeveless. nd I found these amazing gold sneakers from an overseas vendor in eBay! They took a few weeks to arrive, but totally worth it!


HAPPY DANCE!


Even though it wasn't the initial inspiration for the outfits, we did take them with us on our 2015 Disney vacation for the girls to wear to Hollywood Studios. We knew we were going to try to get Viola signed up for Jedi Academy Training. The outfits garnered lots of compliments and I think played a part in Viola getting placed front stage for the show. 

Of course, there are some things I would change if I were to make them over again, but all told I'm really happy with how they turned out!

For those of my readers who followed this sewing odyssey on my Facebook page, I thank you for your patience and feedback as I was working through the designs. I'm so excited to finally be able to share with you the final costumes and pictures from our trip, and of course make sure to check out the video of Viola participating in Jedi Training Academy!  


 

Did you like this project?

Be sure to Pin and Share it in on Pinterest! 

#throwbackthursday: Best of Facepainting

Yesterday I wrote about our trip to the Michigan Renaissance Festival. Late in the afternoon the girls chose to spend the remainder of their souvenir money on face painting - surprise! Both girls have a thing for getting their faces painted (I guess most kids do)--- the bigger, and more colorful the better! At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old person: they call that facepainting? In my day they plopped a heart on your cheek and sent you on your way!

Ever since the great facepainting fiasco of 2011, I've made sure to get a picture while the facepaint is fresh, to comfort them when it inevitably gets smudged/wiped/cleaned/showered away. For #tbt I dug out some pictures our favorite past facepaintings! Enjoy!


2014: Michigan Renaissance Festival 


2013: Princess and Pirate Birthday Party

For Viola's 5th birthday we toyed around with the idea of hiring a singing princess for her party but decided instead to hire a local facepainter. It was more affordable and something that all the kids enjoyed, boys and girls! The artist we hired did a great job of matching the colors to the girls' princess dresses and making surly pirate faces for the boys, and even had time to decorate a few of the parents! It was a lot of fun and I would definitely do it again!  (Photos by our good friend, Adam at BreakfastWithAdam and facepainting by the very talented Cindy at Curlie's Face Art.)



2011: Animal Kingdom, Disney World

On our very first trip to Disney World, Viola was given $10 in Disney dollars (you know, the ones with Mickey on them instead of a president?) to spend any way she wanted. About 1/2 way through the trip she decided to spent the entire amount to get her face painted while we waited for the parade. This in and of itself was fine, it was a good way to keep her occupied while we waited. Unfortunately, on that trip, Viola developed an absolute terror of the public restrooms with the "magic potties". When it was time for her to go, she cried and cried... and cried all the facepaint off, then cried some more over the ruined facepaint. All-in-all, it was the absolute worst day of our trip. It was ironic, therefor, that when we returned home and saw these pictures for the first time... they are some of my favorites from that trip! The facepainting was absolutely beautiful, even if it only lasted ten minutes!

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#throwbackthursday: Won't you help a fairy?

"Fairies are starving. Won't you please help a fairy in need?"

Happy #tbt everyone. This photo was taken on our 2011 trip to Walt Disney World. Viola was highly skeptical about the photographer's instructions to hold out her hands and look excited. Magic Photo Fail, or epic awesomeness?  I think the later. :-)

What to do when restaurants are being refurbished? (Disney World Tip)

So, it's 180 days prior to your trip and you're making your Advance Dining Reservations and you find out the restaurant you really, really, really want to eat at is scheduled for refurbishment. Even though all the rumor blogs say the restaurant will reopen before or during your trip, they aren't taking reservations yet. What do you do? 

If you've read my earlier post with tips on how to schedule ADRs like a Disney ninja, you've got a great start. But, unfortunately, restaurants sometimes have to be closed for refurbishment, just like rides. This can be super frustrating, especially if it's an "important" restaurant like Cinderella's Castle. I've known folks to reschedule their entire trips because missing Cinderella's Castle is a deal breaker for them. This is especially the case for families that don't go to Disney often, or maybe plan to visit Disney only once in their lives!

Being unable to schedule an important restaurant (because of refurbishment) at the 180-day mark has actually happened to me twice. On our 2013 trip my mom had her heart set on watching fireworks from the California Grill but it was closed for refurbishment in the weeks prior to our trip, and for our upcoming trip in 2015 Cinderella's Castle will be closed for refurbishment, scheduled to reopen on March 6th (at the very end of our trip). 

In both instances, we knew the restaurants would be closed and so we booked alternate restaurants at the 180-day mark, then began persistently checking. For this, you don't need to call at 6:55AM, but you do need to call consistently--- weekly if it's far out, daily as you get closer. My mom and I split up the weeks so the burden of calling wasn't always on one person. When we called we asked two questions: 

1 - Can I make a reservation for (restaurant, date)?  

2 - Do you know when I WILL BE able to make a reservation?  

You'll find that you'll get inconsistent responses. Don't be discouraged if one rep tells you that you won't be able to make the reservation at all --- this happened to us, and it was not true. Keep an eye on the Disney rumor blogs because they're usually spot on, and keep in mind that the restaurants usually open prior to their posted re opening date. Any time you are calling Disney about anything related to your trip, it doesn't hurt to ask about your outstanding restaurant, either! And ALWAYS be polite and curteous to the representatives you speak to, they are your best resource!

In 2013 we were able to finally book the California Grill about two months prior to our trip, which means we'd called consistently for four months! But it was worth it! The experience of watching the fireworks from our table during dessert was a great way to start our trip!  

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For our upcoming trip we booked our ADRs in August, and just today we were able to finally book Cinderella's Castle! My mom had called about adjusting the time of a different reservation and took the opportunity to ask at the end of the call and --- voila! I had called the day before and been told it would be a few weeks still, so that just goes to show that you should be consistent despite what you may be told because you never know when those reservations will open up!

The girls are excited to eat in the castle again and this time we have an early morning reservation, which means an opportunity for pictures in front of the castle with no crowds! We've never had that opportunity before and I'm possibly more stoked about that than the character meal. Also excited to see what changes are being made during the refurbishment: I have my fingers crossed for a brighter dining space instead of the authentic (but drab) interior that they have now. I promise to post pictures as soon as we are in so you can see what changes have been made, too! :-)

I hope these tips help you if you find yourself in the same sort of predicament. Just remember: don't get discouraged! If the restaurant will be reopened during your trip, reservations will most likely open up before your arrival date. If you are persistent and consistent you have a good chance of booking them for your family! 

Need to check what refurbishments are going on during your trip? I rely on Kenny the Pirate's website for that, you can see the list of attractions/restaurants that will be closed for refurbishment here. 

NOTE: In this post I talk about calling daily, but you can also stalk the online dining website scheduler. For some folks stalking the website multiple times per day is probably easier than calling, so I wanted to make sure I mentioned that option!  :-)