Travel: Galaxy’s Edge

It’s May the Fourth, which nerds and geeks like me all around the world celebrate as Star Wars Day in honour of the forty-fiver year old film franchise created by George Lucas and now recently owned and enhanced by Disney.

Four months ago, almost to the day, I was having a different sort of Star Wars day as I wandered through the modern theme park experience in Orlando, Florida, the hyper-themed Star Wars land in Disney World known as Galaxy’s Edge.

I’m not nearly as big of a Disney theme park fan as my wife, but I agreed to a two week Disney World vacation in the middle of a global pandemic for two reasons: (1) because I wanted to run the Disney World Half Marathon and (2) because I wanted to check out Disney’s effort to recreate the Star Wars film vibe in theme park form.

As to the latter of those travel dreams, we delved into the fantasy world of Star Wars for the better part of a day on New Years Day 2022.

I spent many of my first hours of this year wandering among rusty sci fi space ships, meandering among future-rustic market stalls, being chased by storm troopers on the Rise of the Resistance ride and again on Smuggler’s Run aboard the Millennium Falcon, and sampling weird beverages at the overpriced, but authentically themed, cantina bar (where they don’t serve droids!)

For any fan, myself included, it was going to be an enjoyable experience.

Yeah, it was crowded and, yeah, there was far too many enticing ways for Disney to separate fans from their money.

But for a fantasy adventure, and a way to spend a few hours as a Star Wars fan, I don’t know that there are many places like it on this planet.

May the fourth be with you.

Caribbean Star Wars Day & That Yoda Guy

It’s Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you.

And back in February of 2013, we had a weird and wonderful Star Wars morning on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin (or Sint Maarten).

While the idea of big ship cruising these days seems about as fantastic as starships and galaxies far, far away, eight years ago we splurged and spent seven days on one of those mega cruise ships touring a short list of tropic islands.

On one of those islands we found an unlikely science fictional cultural touchstone.

for whatever one photo is worth:

From where I stand Nick Maley, “that Yoda Guy” seems to be living the dream.

After a successful career doing special effects for over fifty movies, including co-creating the puppetry work that brought Yoda to life, he semi-retired to a tropical island and opened a museum to showcase his life’s work.

He also sells prints of his personal paintings… one of which hangs framed on the wall of my living room. A sunset over the water.

That is roughly the extent of my knowledge of Mr. Maley. Though I do seem to remember nodding a friendly greeting to him back in 2013 when, on a morning off-ship walkabout in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten a few kilometers from the docks, my wife and I stumbled upon the “that Yoda Guy” museum and exhibit in a sand-coloured mos-eisley-esque building adorned with multiple colourful signs beaconing lost Star Wars fans hither into it’s mysterious realms.

It’s not a big exhibit.

At least it wasn’t when we visited in 2013.

The website says that they expanded in 2016, and that Mr. Maley was honoured by Lucasfilm for his work that same year. The tone of the museum space was part Caribbean art shop, part Star Wars artifact collection, and part examination of the lifelong quest for the proprietor to reclaim the credit for his work for which he seemed to have been unfairly deprived. I hope he found his due, and perhaps 2016 marked a new chapter in that legitimacy he seemed to be seeking.

We brought our art back to the ship and later that day we went snorkeling and ate a big buffet meal back on the boat. That night the massive ship fled out of the Sint Maarten harbour like a rebel transport ship off to the next destination in the inky star-filled blackness of a nighttime sea.

If your nerdy self happens to dock in Sint Maarten and you need an hour break from shopping for perfume, diamonds or tacky souvenirs, you can’t go wrong embracing the sunny side of the force and paying that Yoda Guy a visit. It’s a sequel I’d like to see myself.