On March 31st, LEGOLAND California opened their very own Star Wars Miniland. Star Wars and LEGO bricks are two of my favorite things, so I knew I had to visit the park in the next few months. Something much cooler happened instead—a member of the 501st Legion – Southern California Garrison invited me to attend the grand opening ceremony with them. I replied, “Yes,” in a professional manner and squealed with excitement as soon as I hung up the phone.
The day started early since Los Angeles isn’t exactly next door to LEGOLAND, which is located in Carlsbad. Upon arrival, we were taken to a backstage area which was covered in Stormtroopers and pieces of their armor. I exaggerate, but there were around 60-70 members of the 501st and Rebel Legions participating in the day’s activities. In case you’re not sure, that is a lot of costumes in one place and above LEGOLAND’s normal numbers for events. Rolling trunks and containers full of costume pieces, included Stormtroopers, Ewoks, Princess Leia, Aayla Secura, Luke Skywalker, TIE Fighter Pilots, and of course Darth Vader, surrounded the picnic area like an obstacle course.
Once the group was ready, we were led down a red carpet towards the new Star Wars-themed Miniland. Seven scenes in total, from the films and Clone Wars animated series, are depicted and each Miniland represents a different planet. Many favorite settings—like the Mos Eisley Cantina—are carefully constructed in 1:20 scale LEGO bricks.
The costumers themselves were staged in front of the different worlds for the opening ceremony. I was with the wrangling group (wranglers assist the people in costume in any way necessary), and we stood slightly off stage from the ceremony.
The different planets were introduced to the audience one by one. LEGOLAND included pyrotechnics for the opening that made the children laugh and the adults jump. Carrie Fisher then spoke briefly before cutting the ribbon, with Catherine Taber and James Arnold Taylor (the voices of Padme Amidala and Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Clone Wars) also in attendance. The sun was bright, and it was already getting hot even at 10:00 AM. And if I was warm, I couldn’t imagine what Chewbacca felt like.
Once the area was open to the public, it was time for everyone to spring into action. I squished between the crowds trying to be helpful. I tried to check with the Stormtroopers and the TIE Fighter pilots especially. Luckily, a lot of them were able to find places to stand in the shade. It was fun to see the kids react to seeing so many of their favorite Star Wars characters. They lined up fast to get a picture taken with Chewbacca and an Ewok. I only saw a few kids that were afraid of the Stormtroopers. One youngling kept asking the troopers, “What did you do with Luke Skywalker?” I feel like the kids that attended on opening day formed some seriously awesome memories and had a lot to share with their classmates when they returned to school. “What did you do on spring break?” “I met Darth Vader.” You just can’t top that.
The Star Wars Miniland is very cool, and it’s painstakingly detailed, containing 1.5 million LEGO bricks. I stopped frequently to look at the LEGO scenes portraying Naboo, Hoth, and more. I took as many photos as I could, and I restrained myself from reaching out to touch the LEGO buildings. (Surely they wouldn’t miss one brick?) Some of the little things from the movies made me smile, and it concerned me a little that I knew that the layout of Tatooine was exactly as it should be.
Though I was happy to see the Miniland, I was even more thrilled to be there with the 501st and Rebel Legions. I got an experience that the general public didn’t. The group was incredibly gracious towards me and I didn’t feel like an outsider in the least. They were supportive of each other too. It’s more than a costuming group—it’s like an extended family. An extended family that dresses up and brings joy to children and adults. Thank you all for giving me an unforgettable day.
You can see all of my photos from the day here.
Amy is a fan of most things sci-fi and fantasy. When she’s not writing, she’s either dressing up as Han Solo, reading comics, playing D&D, or attending conventions. It usually happens in that order. Visit her blog Geek with Curves or check out her Twitter feed for rambling on all those topics.