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May the force be with you

Wednesday, 23 Dec 2015

Disneyland Paris - Jedi Training Academy

Bev Fearis took her Star Wars-mad son to Disneyland Paris to feel the 'Force' – here is a copy of her blog.









Three years ago we went to Disney and it was all about Buzz Lightyear. Here in Paris, we found ourselves once again being dragged down Main Street to Discoveryland, but this time it wasn't Buzz we were rushing to see - it was Luke, Hans, and Darth Vader. First stop was 'Star Tours, The Ultimate Star Wars Adventure', where we were greeted by a life-size R2-D2 and a C-3PO - 'no Mummy, they're not the real ones' (sadly, he's wised up since the days of Buzz) - before stepping inside StarSpeeder 3000, a simulator ride that promises 'an explosive battle between the Rebel Alliance and the evil Empire'. Freddie loved it but, if I'm honest, I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting more action and a few more familiar Star Wars faces, and I was left feeling queezy.

Any disappointment here, however, was soon forgotten at the Jedi Training Academy. We'd booked in for a 12:45 slot, which meant arriving at 12:00, so we had time for a few more rides in Discoveryland - Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, for old times sake, and Orbiton, (Space Mountain was closed until later in the day) - and then we joined the queue of excited young children at the Videopolis theatre. Groups of 16 children, aged between 7 and 12, can take part but you have to register in advance. Just turn up at Videopolis and put your name down, first come, first serve. One parent stays with the child while the rest of the family can get front row seats for the 'show'. I went with Freddie while his Dad, armed with the video camera, made his way to the front of the theatre.

Once inside, two handsome young Jedi Masters welcomed us into a dimly-lit spaceship-style room and instructed the children to stand on a circle. Smaller children to the front, taller to the back. Each was kitted out with a Jedi robe and - the ultimate for any little Star Wars fan - a 'real' lightsaber. In a multitude of languages, the Jedi Masters gave strict instructions that lightsabers were not to be turned on until indicated, but at least half a dozen children (including Freddie) just couldn't resist, and who could blame them.

After a lesson in how to use the lightsabers, which the children took suitably seriously, we were all led into the theatre. Us grown-ups took our seats at the front rows and the young padawans were taken on to the stage. Then the show began.

Freddie, one of the youngest, was absolutely spellbound and I was grinning from ear to ear. In several languages again, the Jedi Masters continued the training, the padawans listening intently and the parents busy snapping and filming, wanting to capture the moment. R2D2 watched from the corner of the stage and then became part of the show when the Padawans used their collective 'force' to make him levitate. It was done very slickly, as you'd expect from Disney. But the action had not even began.

All of a sudden, the doors at the back of the stage flew open and in marched the storm troopers and Darth Vadar himself, accompanied by dramatic music and sound effects. It was exciting enough to watch from the audience so I can't imagine what the young Star Wars fans must have been experiencing in the middle of it all. Freddie kept his cool and, when his turn came to battle with the Dark Side, he remembered all his moves and Darth Vadar was defeated. I think I cheered a bit too loudly.

One last group battle ensued and then the hooded villain and his storm troopers retreated. The newly-trained Jedis took their positions for a bow and the show was over. Definitely the highlight of the day, and not just for Freddie.

If you know any Star Wars fans, aged 7-12, who might have grown out of it by the time Disney finishes building its Star Wars Lands, tell them not to miss this Jedi Training experience - it's Disney at its best."

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