// June 12th, 2010 // No Comments » // Joe's Blog
So, it’s always been one of those post-teen goals to meet the man behind the mask, in this case Darth Maul from Star Wars : Episode I – The Phantom Menace. I’ve never officially attended a sci-fi convention like Dragoncon or Comicon. So getting to meet some of my favorite celebs who have portrayed some of the best roles in modern day pop culture isn’t exactly the easiest task to accomplish. I know that Disney’s Star Wars Weekends would be my one chance to meet Ray Park for the first time, and congratulate him on a great season of NBC’s Heroes, and his previous roles as Snake Eyes in GI-Joe and Star Wars. All three franchises are etched into society as cult pop culture mainstays. Here’s how my experience that day unraveled, from start to finish.
Having a hunch that this undertaking might be large scale, and difficult to pull off, I knew I had to get up before dawn that morning if I wanted to guarantee my chance at a fastpass ticket to meet Ray Park. Having read previous encounters at Star Wars weekends online, and how the whole process works, on top of that this being the last weekend for Star Wars Weekends, I had to have both persistence and a lot of patience. You have to imagine, hundreds of people will be in line ahead of me to get their ticket, I had to play my cards just right. The whole Disney undertaking is like this: 1) To meet and get autographs with celebrity actors, you have to be in a special line cue before the park opens up clearly marked outside the main entrance before you walk up through the security bag check. 2) At 8:45am, Disney cast members would hand out the fastpass tickets to each person in line with proof of admission, annual pass-holders or Disney Resort cards. 3) If you missed your chance at getting a fastpass before you get up to the cast member handing out the tickets, you “could” be given a stand-by card that didn’t guarantee you could meet the celebrity actors, but if time allotted, you may have a chance if the actors wanted to sign more autographs. So, Alex was set to get up at 5:20am, and leave by 6:20am for work on the morning 11th of June, and I left her a note on her laptop the night before “Please wake me up before you leave.” She knew what I was doing, and why I was going, and like a true trooper had no gripes and was fully supportive of my chance to meet my favorite action star. So, she woke me up at 6:15 on the morning of June 11th, and I kissed her good bye and walked her to the door as she left for work and quickly jumped in the shower and was out the door by 6:45.
Upon arrival at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I noticed there was cars already in the parking lot, and these cars was not in the cast member lot, it was public parking. Fearful that my chances were suddenly going downhill, I quickly parked and hustled over to the main entrance where I saw from a distance a massive line already formed. Quickly finding the right line for Ray Park, I sat there talking to those around me for the next 2 hours until 8:45am came. It was brutal, the sun the was hot, and the bath I just took didn’t even put a dent in what I was already feeling like that morning. Hot, sweating and needing something cold to drink, I was patient and stuck it out. There had to be at least 150-200 people in line ahead of me when I got in line.
Talking to others around me, we were all fearful that there was so many in line, we would just get stand-by passes and not the actual guaranteed fastpass. I was nervous, irritable and very frustrated, but I stayed and waited it out. 8:45am came, and the cast members walked the entire length of the line cue’s saying “Have your bags out for security and line up single fine one behind the other.” You could only imagine what was going through my head at this point: “Should I leave?” “Am I wasting my time?” “Is this really worth it?” “Gosh my back is sweaty.” Yeah, that’s just a few examples of what I was thinking. The line began moving forward, and I saw the area where the cast members where hand delivering the fastpasses to all those in line. I heard one guard say to other as I passed by, “A large group of kids where here last night at 9pm and camped out to get tickets for Ray Park.” Well that just made my situation a lot more stressful and less inviting. But the line kept inching up, one by one, the passes were being handed out. Would I get one? Would it be a stand-by? Will they run out? The line was getting closer and closer to the cast member when I was just 5 people away from getting my ticket in hand. I looked at my peers around me and we all high-fived each other as we all got the actual fastpass to see Ray Park. My time was between 2:35-2:50pm in the afternoon. This was perfect! I got to roam the park, snap pictures, watch the Star Wars celebrity motorcade and interact with some of Star Wars’ greatest characters like Chewbacca and R2-D2.
This was a site for sore eyes, I was in the park and I look up at Star Wars storm troopers were cracking jokes at the people below entering the park. I felt a sense of happiness and joy, kind of like the giddy feeling you get as a child when your mom buys you that toy you’ve been wanting because you were a good boy! Here are some snaps I took while roaming Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends.
This is the Gamorrean Guard just outside of Toy Story Mania.
Queen Amidala of Naboo greeting guests and taking pictures.
R2-D2 randomly roaming the park leaving Queen Amidala and heading to territory unknown.
Star Wars legend and icon Peter Mayhew signing autographs during the 9:45am session. He played Chewbacca in Star Wars series.
Cannot do Star Wars Weekends without “The Force” from Jedi Mickey Mouse!
June 11th Star Wars Weekends starting off with a literal bang of pyrotechnics and fireworks taken outside of the Star Tours ride & attraction.
Me and Chewie hanging out with his little Ewok friend until it was time to meet Ray Park.
It was now 2:20pm, and time to head over to get in line cue for my personal encounter with one of today’s most exciting martial arts masters and actors. The line was favorably small, and I got there in the nick of time as I beat the main rush of other fastpass holders to come get in the line. There were only like 12 ahead of me. Not bad at all! A million things probably went through my head as I got one person closer to shaking hands and talking to him. What do you say to someone you really admire in life? And how do you not come off as a psychopathic fan that isn’t gawky and crazed? I was none of these, I just like watching the dude on TV and in film. He’s spectacular to watch with his stunts and martial arts. It was finally my turn…
At first I got a little fumbled for words when I asked him to sign my action figure of Darth Maul, so I paused and took a breath and then starting talking about my favorite TV show, Heroes. I told him I missed the show, and missed seeing him as Edgar from the series. The conversation grew and I naturally felt a little at ease. For the first time, Ray wasn’t plastered on the silver screen, but standing right in front of me and we’re both were having intelligent conversation about something that wasn’t even Star Wars, NICE! I think he liked that even more, and was so polite to answer questions and listen to what I had to say. He wasn’t the typical Hollywood glitzy glamor type either, and was perceived as being very humble and down to Earth. I was pleasantly surprised that Ray was such a nice guy, and I was hoping that he wasn’t the typical ego type.
So here it is, my moment of fame and the highlight of an amazing day at Disney World.
Ray Park’s personal autograph to me, “FEEL THE FORCE.” Nice!
I left Hollywood Studios after the meet and greet, and I felt a sense of accomplishment and individualism. My life in some strange way that day had come full circle, and here’s the reason why. He signed an action figure of a movie franchise that I love and admire. That action figure was purchased in 1998 at my former local Wal-Mart in Whitesburg Kentucky, during one of the most trying periods of my life as I found out many things unfortunate in my life. The Star Wars franchise kind of gave me “A New Hope” and a chance to cloud my mind away from the troubles of my life. I wrapped my life around collecting a lot of artifacts of Darth Maul, like busts, figures, models, coin banks and posters. I loved the character, even though he was cut short in the first film, he was still cool looking, and a breath of something fresh in the sci-fi world. Little did I know, that the character I liked so much, would be meeting me face to face 12 years later. Funny how your life comes full circle sometimes, and things that you feel are way out of reach in one period of your life, are now magically within reach during another part of your life. Whether it be fate, karma or ultimately God leading my paths to hope, love and happiness, the full circle effect is something that follows us all throughout our lives. If you believe, have hope and keep the faith, good things will happen, trust me on this one. I moved from Kentucky two years ago, and had I not made the move, I would have never lived 5 miles from Disney, met Ray Park or even had the chance to meet and marry my lovely gal Alexandra. Something tells me, I chose the right door in life, and that makes me feel confident on the future ahead. Thanks Ray for being a small part of this crazy circle in my life.