***This information is for the JTA at Disneyland park in California. The selection process at Walt Disney World is different***
I have some great childhood memories of Disneyland and there were lots of cool things there at that time (bring back the Skyway!), but I am deeply, deeply envious of any child who gets to participate in the Jedi Training Academy.
If there were some kind of "get younger" pill, I would totally go back to age 6 and hit up the Jedi Training Academy.
I would, in fact, be willing to trade the Skyway for the Jedi Training Academy. Alas…
The Jedi Training Academy is a show that takes place on the Tomorrowland Terrace–a stage in front of the quick service restaurant also known as the Tomorrowland Terrace. And it’s all in (wait for it, wait for it…) Tomorrowland.
All is quiet, but I can sense the power of the Dark Side here. Can you?
The JTA happens generally about 6 times a day, morning and afternoon. Children from the ages of 4 to 12 are “randomly selected” from the audience and get Jedi robes and light sabers. They then learn a fighting routine and take the Jedi Oath, and then Darth Vader and Darth Maul and a couple of Storm Troopers show up and each kid battles one of the Darths directly until they are defeated. “Awesome!” you say.
I know, right?????????
Anyway, since Theo is too young for the JTA and I am ever-so-slightly too old, I was forced to borrow a child for this blog entry. I hit the park with Kristin, formerly known as the mother who left her two children at preschool in order to ride The Little Mermaid before it was open to the public. Anderson is one of those two children, and I think we made it up to him with the Jedi Training Academy.
I’ve watched the JTA a couple of times to see if I could crack the code of who gets chosen and who doesn’t. The number one thing I noticed were that some kids were carrying signs, and I have never seen a child with a sign not get chosen. Disneyland won’t let you bring in a giant sign, and some of the signs other kids had were just scribbled with a ballpoint pen on a piece of paper and they seemed to work too. However, because I had some time and was coming from home, I made a sign for Anderson this morning. I was also surprised to find that my computer has a Star Wars-esque font installed. Who knew?
I don’t think it really matters what your sign says, but of course I had to go for the humor.
Color or do not color. There is no try.
I arrived at the JTA stage earlier than Kristin, primarily because Kristin left her annual pass in her husband’s car and spent a bunch of time running around looking for it and then sweet-talking guest services into giving her a day pass, which apparently you can do once. Anyway, arriving early is another key to getting a good spot. It wasn’t really crowded today but I’ve seen the stage area get PACKED. I’d say arrive about 30 minutes before the posted showtime. Today it didn’t really start to fill up until about 15 minutes prior, but I’d still stake out a spot near the front earlier.
We got Anderson all set to go with Theo there next to him. I wasn’t sure that Theo would sit through the entire show (as opposed to jumping up and trying to participate in the middle of it) but he actually did really well.
The blazing sun was RIGHT in their faces. Bad seating choice, Shelby.
There were only a couple other kids with signs. We were also way off to the side of the stage and got chosen anyway, so they do take a good look around.
Other hopeful Jedi
Two Jedi Masters come out and start selecting kids. Now I think I’ll summarize all this at the bottom, but there definitely seems to be some kids who get chosen more quickly than others (if at all). Poor Anderson was pretty much baking in the sun by the time they came out so he wasn’t the most enthusiastic kid out there, but he was the third child chosen.
Woo hoo! Go Anderson!
So in addition to holding signs, the other kids who got chosen tended to be the most enthusiastic, particularly when everyone else’s enthusiasm seemed to wane. There are actually 24 children chosen, but it starts to look full before it is, so the kids who kept cheering did well. I had heard that wearing a Star Wars or Jedi Training Academy shirt or hat helped, but I actually saw a few kids with Star Wars clothes not get chosen and most of the kids who were chosen were not particularly theme-dressed. I don’t know that it tipped the balance either way, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. Because wearing Star Wars clothing is just cool anyway.
All right, scroll down for the summary of that at the end.
Okay, so the kids get chosen and dressed up and are then assigned a circle to stand on. This keeps everyone nice and spaced out so nobody gets beaned accidentally.
I'm sorry, but this is just adorable
Like I said, Anderson was the third child chosen so he had to stand there a while. The Jedi Masters then explained what was going to happen.
Darth Vader is bad, we're going to use the Force to defeat him, don't forget to pick up your souvenir photograph
Next they hand out the light sabers.
Sadly, not real light sabers
The light sabers were the telescoping plastic ones. Anderson had a little bit of difficulty with his at first because you had to press a button and hold it down while flicking the saber toward the ground, and I think he had trouble coordinating that.
The Jedi Masters were great at helping the kids figure it all out
The Jedi Masters then demonstrate the battle sequence, which went something like right shoulder, left shoulder, duck, left leg, right leg, head shot. They practiced this a couple of times.
Don't you hate it when people walk into your pictures?
Much to my pleasure, Theo was sitting patiently, holding the sign and watching the show. When baby Audrey leaned in to take a bit out of his head, he shared part of his bagel.
Not everyone was happy about not being chosen
With the training complete, the young Jedi headed over to the side of the stage.
I am seriously jealous of each and every single one of these children
At which point we move into the second part of the show, the battle!
Duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh--you know, sing it or whatever
I know, I hate to do this to you, but I need to eat dinner and there’s a whole bunch more pictures so I’m going to cut this one off and call it Part 1.
But first, I’ll give a roundup of what I’ve personally witnessed in getting chosen for the Jedi Training Academy. As I said above, having a sign seems to really help. Having Star Wars clothing didn’t seem to help or hurt, but why not because it’s cool. I did notice a lot of kids in bright, solid colored t-shirts get chosen. The Jedi Masters say things like “The Padawan in the yellow shirt” rather than “The Padawan in the garish plaid what were your parents thinking?” So wear an easily-identifiable shirt or hat. Most of the volunteers were boys, but they did make it a point to pick girls, and I’d even say that a girl has a better than average chance of being chosen (sorry guys), particularly the enthusiastic ones. I have also heard and seen that siblings who are dressed alike (matching shirts) tend to get chosen as a pair. It seems that they don’t want to split up families, so if you’ve got two, make it very clear that they’re together.
Along the lines of enthusiasm, I also think it helps if the parents/family is also very loud and cheering. They want a lot of crowd involvement, and if your kid already has his or her own cheering section, they seem to like that.
Also, it says that the Training Academy is for kids 4-12 but to be honest, I’ve never seen a kid who looked older than about 8 or 9 be picked. They really do go for little ones.
I will warn you–this is kind of the unfair part, but…
There was also a kid right behind Anderson who came with his own light saber and seemed older (10 maybe?) and he did NOT get chosen. And I’ve actually seen that before. I know it seems counter-intuitive because it would seem like they would want to choose the real fans (as demonstrated by those showing up with their own weapons or in full regalia) but the boy today was very obviously overlooked–he was right behind Anderson and was tall, and both Anderson and a boy next to him were chosen. (The light saber’s mother was rather rudely pissed off after the selection). I’m sure there will be many thoughts on this, but I do have a theory. They have the kids enter into a fake battle with the Darths and they want them to do the specific set of moves they train which the Darths can then block. I think they are concerned that the older kids with their own light sabers are going to freelance in battle, and that can cause real problems. I will say I did see a slightly older kid in full Padawan regalia get chosen one time and he did grandstand and show off some light saber flipping and spinning skills when he wasn’t supposed to during the show (and was warned twice). I’m not going to say it’s nice or fair (it’s really not), but I really do think they try to avoid kids who are older and look like they may take it a little too seriously and go off-script. So I really do recommend leaving the personal light saber at home or at the hotel. I wouldn’t totally despair if your child is on the older side, but I’d leave the light saber at home and prep them to be enthusiastic but agreeable.
That said, here’s Shelby’s Guide to the Jedi Training Academy:
- Bring a sign
- Act enthusiastic, especially when it seems to die down a little. Jumping up and down really helps.
- Enthusiastic parents seem to help. Hold your kid up if you’re in the back.
- Wear a Star Wars shirt (no guarantee) or another brightly-colored, easily-identifiable shirt or hat
- Dress your children the same if you have more than one (more than two I’d split into different groups)
- Leave your own light saber at home
If you don’t happen to have a sign–don’t despair! Be brave and ask the parents of a child who was chosen if you can have their sign for the next show. I don’t think they care if they see the same sign twice. I passed ours on to a family when I overheard them saying that they were going to try again at the next show. And if you do bring a sign, share the love when you’re done!