More Friends than Foes at runDisney’s Star Wars Rival Run Weekend

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I found myself running through a dark patch of road on the runDisney Star Wars Rival Run half marathon course when off in the distance I heard familiar yet menacing, mechanical breathing.

Up ahead, the pavement was bathed in a red glow. Somewhere among the trees, Darth Vader was watching, his labored breaths announcing his impending arrival. And even though this was exactly what I had signed up for — three races over three days filled with Star Wars character sightings and sets — I sped up. And kept looking over my shoulder.

Runners took part in the runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Weekend.

Nearly 30,000 runners, walkers, and fans from the dark and the light side descended on Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando last weekend for an unforgettable Star Wars Rival Run race series. I’m always looking for a break when I’m running, but pausing to get my photo taken with a couple of First Order stormtroopers, posing in a trash compactor, or getting hugged by a Wookiee are easily among some of the greatest excuses to cut myself some slack and catch my breath during a long run.

Runners took part in the runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Weekend.

The 5K kicked off with a wet start Friday morning, as bleary-eyed racers trotted to the starting line at 5 a.m. There were (so many) porgs, Jedi Masters in full robes, and at least one athletic Rey who showed up carrying a full-sized staff. After a delayed start due to lightning, we jetted off on a modified course. Whenever a training run gets a little soggy I try to remind myself that the reason for pushing through those wet runs is getting prepared for race days like this, where you plan to run rain or shine. Despite dodging puddles,  it was still magical running through Epcot, practically floating on a soundtrack of Star Wars classics.Runners took part in the runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Weekend.

Runners took part in the runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Weekend.

On Saturday, the 10K got back on track with 14 waves of fearless and inventive fans, from flapper droids to an entire family flock of porgs, racing off beneath a shower of fireworks to serve as the starting gun. I hit my stride, pausing to mug on a speederbike set like I was being chased through the forests of Endor, and feeling empowered as Rey’s theme propelled me along around the world showcase. When I crossed the finish line I felt confident that I could keep going.

But Sunday’s half marathon was a challenge. Most runners, myself included, opted for running gear printed with stormtrooper armor or other Star Wars themes, rather than full costumes, although I did see one brave Willrow Hood (a blink-and-you-miss-him fan-favorite character from the evacuation of Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back) bounding through the crowd carrying his ice cream maker. High humidity meant runners were counting on adding about a minute to each mile, and organizers stressed that taking care of hydration would be an even bigger concern than a standard 13.1 mile jaunt. I felt the humidity in my lungs from the start. Where I had been buoyed by adrenaline and excitement the day before and ignored the intervals I had been training with (two minutes of running, followed by one minute of walking), I had to temper my joy and focus on my training if I wanted to make it to the finish line.

Runners took part in the runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Weekend.

Along the course, I found welcome distraction in billboards showcasing some of my favorite Star Wars scenes (although watching Luke stand up for his sister always makes me a little misty and it’s really hard to run when you can’t see clearly), even more cosplayers and characters ready for a quick photo stop, and sets including the Emperor’s throne.

But just over halfway through I was starting to worry that I would make it even close to my goal time of two and a half hours. That’s when the pacer group, volunteer runners who are dedicated to keeping a specific pace to help other runners on the course, showed up behind me. As their leader shouted a gleeful, “Walk!” I slowed down and let them help guide me through the rest of the course.

Runners took part in the runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Weekend.

After crossing the finish line, I took my medals on a trip to the mural outside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

It’s impossible to explain how exhilarating it felt to cross that finish line. It’s been years since I tackled a hat trick — a 5K, 10K, and half marathon completed as a series over a few days — and the last time I ended up nursing an injury for weeks afterward. This time I had completed the course, managed to stay upright, and found even more joy in the race than usual.

There’s always an energy around race days, but being surrounded by Star Wars fans who were there for the pure enjoyment of the experience first and their race time second made it easily the best race I’ve ever done. Instead of feeling pressure to run faster, or try to get a personal record, I felt the camaraderie of runners who were there to do their best without stress and just have fun. By letting go of my own fears of being slow, I found so much more enjoyment in the race itself, and the rare sight of running through three Walt Disney World Resort parks at sunrise.

Runners took part in the runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Weekend.

And that makes the runDisney Star Wars series the perfect place for runners who have never tried a race before, or maybe never thought they could. Trust me, you can. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, stop to hug any Ewoks that wander along the route, and stay focused on enjoying the journey to the finish line. You’ll be crossing it before you know it.

Or as Yoda might say, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

To learn more about future runDisney races, visit

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

More Friends than Foes at runDisney’s Star Wars Rival Run Weekend

7 Things to Remember for a Successful runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Weekend

It’s almost time to trek to Orlando, Florida, lace up your running shoes, and hit the course for runDisney’s Star Wars Rival Run Weekend, beginning this Thursday! As you finish the last of your training runs, here are 7 things to remember heading into race weekend.

1. You’re there to have fun. Scoring medals and clocking personal bests can be exhilarating, but when the going gets tough, remember — this race is about having fun! Take a moment to look around you. You’re running through Walt Disney World Resort, surrounded by other fans and friends who share your passions. Is there anything better?

2. Don’t forget your well-worn running shoes! Race day calls for a pair of sneakers that have just the right amount of wear — broken in but not busted. Because no one likes blisters from new shoes, especially when they’re trying to get to the finish line.

Fans enjoy a runDisney Star Wars event

3. This isn’t the time to try a new outfit. It’s the same idea for your running gear, whether you’ve picked a costume or decided to go with the standard sweat-wicking shirt and shorts. A race is not the time to try a new outfit for the first time and discover that it rubs, sags, or is generally uncomfortable. Pack only your favorite gear.

4. If you need it for a training run, you need it for race day. I have a brief checklist of things I always grab before I head out on a run: one handkerchief for every 3 miles I’m planning to complete, a healthy dose of sunscreen of at least SPF 70+, headphones, my Garmin, and a water bottle for longer runs that don’t have any fountains along the route.

5. Set a goal and try to meet it. If you want to try to clock a certain time, set your pace and try your best to achieve it. If you just want to finish, keep your eye on the finish line.

6. But as the great Jedi Masters have said, “You must have patience!” Be kind to yourself, whatever you’ve set out to accomplish, and remember that slow and steady will get you there. Don’t overexert yourself. If you find yourself feeling sluggish at the starting line, or even partway through, there’s no shame in walking.

7. Hold onto that feeling of accomplishment. Not an early bird? Starting your run at 5:30 a.m. is not going to be pleasant if you normally prefer to stay in bed for as much of the morning as possible. But when you cross that finish line, you’re going to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that will carry you through your day. And if you lay out your gear the night before, as well as anything you’ll need to get to the starting line, you’ll have a much smoother start.

Star Wars Rival Run Weekend takes place April 4-7, 2019 at Walt Disney World Resort.

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

7 Things to Remember for a Successful runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Weekend

Triple Force Friday Announced

Let the countdown begin.

Triple Force Friday, the latest in a tradition of Star Wars product launches, is set for October 4, Lucasfilm and Disney announced today. The event will see the debut of brand-new products inspired by three of the year’s biggest Star Wars releases, including:

  • The highly anticipated, final installment of the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: Episode IX
  • The first-ever Star Wars live-action series, The Mandalorian, set to debut exclusively on the upcoming streaming service, Disney+.
  • The latest title from EA and Respawn — Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order — a brand-new action-adventure game releasing holiday 2019

Products spanning categories from toys to collectibles, housewares, books, apparel, and more will go on sale beginning at 12:01 a.m. on October 4. As with past Force Friday celebrations, stores around the world will join the festivities with in-store events and midnight openings.

Stay tuned to for more on Triple Force Friday! All Star Wars, all the time.

Why I’m Running my First runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon (and 10K…and 5K)

It was in the fourth mile of a 22.4 mile hat trick (when foolhardy runners attempt to run a 5K race, a 10K race, and a half marathon back-to-back-to-back) that I tripped and ate the pavement.

I had been running for just a couple of years in 2015, increasing my miles to get to the point where I should clock a strong 9:30-per-mile average on the 13.1 mile course. Complete was my training; I was sure I was ready.

I breezed through the 5K, sailing through the finish line in just over 31 minutes, an easy warm up for the bigger races to come. You know, sometimes I amaze even myself. But in the 10K later that day, I hit a snag. Or more specifically, my shoe caught on an uneven sidewalk and I went down like an AT-AT bested by a rebel’s tow cable. My glasses flew off my face and I slammed into the asphalt as I tried to catch myself mid-fall.

I hopped back up. Denial is an ally almost as powerful as the Force, so with the help of a friend who picked up my glasses and shoved them back onto my nose, I continued on. Once the embarrassment subsided I started to realize that my hand was numb, but I was intent on finishing the race.

As a kid, my favorite Star Wars character was easily Han Solo. He had the best one-liners, an enviable self-assurance and unabashedly cocky attitude backed by real achievements (like, say, making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs), and a blind perseverance that gave him the courage to charge headfirst through a hallway full of stormtroopers or fly straight into an asteroid field. He was rough around the edges, and could talk his way out of almost any situation, and I wanted to be just like him.

And here I was, in mile four, talking my way out of stopping despite my bloody hand. You don’t need arms to run, I reasoned. My feet were fine. I was upright and propelled by adrenaline and sheer determination.

I crossed the finish line with a smile and headed to the medical tent to get some ice. There, I discovered that when I skinned my palm I had also bashed my leg, leaving an angry black bruise and a rapidly-swelling lump where my knee had been. Fortunately, nothing was broken, according to the doctor who poked and prodded at my injuries. He assured me that with some rest and a wrap to quell the swelling, I could run the half marathon the next day if I felt up to it.

As stubborn as a scoundrel who feels he has something to prove, I popped a couple Aleve and procured an Ace bandage. Despite being hobbled, I managed to walk/run the course clocking a 10:47-minute-mile, over a minute off my training time.

Now, four years after falling on my face, I’m running not only my first runDisney half marathon, but I’m going to tackle another hat trick over Star Wars Rival Run Weekend in April. For me, it’s not about the shiny medals I can collect, although I do love a reward and a free shirt. And it’s not just because I’ll get to run through the Walt Disney World Resort, although there’s a special kind of energy on race day when you’re surrounded by other runners and spectators cheering you on.

I’ve kept up with running at a more leisurely pace over the intermittent years, but I’ve often wondered if I could get back into shape and beat my time sans injury. Maybe, like Han Solo, I’m going back to what I know. I’m definitely as stubborn as a scruffy-lookin’ nerf herder. And, if I’m being honest, I just don’t like to lose, even when the only person I’m really racing is myself.

This year, I’m going to keep up with my training runs — 3 miles a day, several mornings a week — and log my regularly-scheduled long runs each weekend as I build up to 13.1 miles over the next several months, adding one mile at a time. The plan is simple — to try to beat Past Kristin’s time and finish what I started without falling down this time, avoiding all sidewalks and asteroid fields along the way.

There’s still time to complete your training! Learn more about Star Wars Rival Run Weekend taking place April 4-7, 2019 at Walt Disney World Resort on the runDisney site.

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

Why I’m Running my First runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon (and 10K…and 5K)

Rancho Obi-Wan Coming to Star Wars Celebration Chicago

To celebrate 20 years of fans gathering to celebrate the saga, is pleased to announce a special display coming to Star Wars Celebration Chicago!

Rancho Obi-Wan, home of the Guinness World Record largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia, will have its biggest booth yet during this year’s event, with a showcase that acts as a historical time capsule for Celebrations through the years. “We’ll be marking 20 years of Celebration itself with a look at the past 12 events to show how the motto ‘By the fans, for the fans’ has stood the test of time,” says Steve Sansweet, Rancho chairman.

Steve Sansweet.

From humble beginnings in Denver, Colorado in 1999 to today, each Celebration has included unique badge art and other offerings, says Sansweet. “I love the badges because there were different artists and different styles,” he adds. “The badge sets have become very collectible, but they also tell something about the style of art at the time.”

The display will also include a section dedicated to fan-made pins, patches, and other swag that’s been traded and gifted over the years, an essential part of the camaraderie at each Celebration. “That’s always been a highlight for me,” Sansweet says.

Another part of the Rancho exhibit will look at fandom from a female perspective, while a third section pays homage to the saga’s many iconic characters who exist behind a mask or helmet.  The Helmets of the Saga display include some that look like they just came from battle, artist interpretations of Vader’s unmistakable helmet, artistic recreations of stormtrooper buckets, and even a screen-used prop — Darth Vader’s mask and helmet from Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars Celebration Chicago will take place April 11-15 at McCormick Place. Visit for tickets and more info! All Star Wars, all the time.

13 Star Wars Quotes to Help you Stay Motivated for the runDisney Rival Run

You’ve signed up for the big day and examined the finisher medals. Now it’s time to train for the runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Weekend. And for me, the hardest part is…well, getting started. I’ve been running off and on for years, but getting motivated to begin a new training plan is always tough. Fortunately, Star Wars is filled with inspirational quotes to get you feeling like you could take on the whole Empire yourself.

Before you lace up your running shoes and hit the road, consider these 13 quotes to keep you going!

1. “Breathe. Just breathe.” — Luke Skywalker

When you’re struggling in those early training runs, it can be easy to forget the basics. If you’re gasping for air, take a moment to concentrate on slowing your breath, and make sure you’re not pushing yourself to go too fast, too soon. It’s a (half) marathon, not a sprint! Pace yourself.

2. “She’s strong with the Force, untrained, but stronger than she knows.” — Kylo Ren

Running has more to do with repetition than inherent skill (although some people seem to be naturally built for speed.) You’ve just started on this journey and, like Rey, you are stronger than you know.

3. “No! No different! Only different in your mind.” — Yoda

The first time I trained for a 5K, it felt like an insurmountable obstacle. Just over 3 miles? Without stopping? “That’s impossible!” I thought in a voice that sounded an awful lot like Luke Skywalker. But I set the goal at finishing, not beating out the other much-more seasoned runners and I did it. Since then, I’ve completed two half marathons, countless 10Ks and 5Ks, and one annual Turkey Trot that traverses a very hilly 9 mile course. And every time I shoot for a longer distance, I remember this bit of wisdom from Master Yoda. Because if you can run a 5K, you can probably run a 10K. And once you’ve run a 10K…you’re almost halfway to the half marathon! Each mile is the same. The distance is only different in your mind.

4. “Never tell me the odds!” — Han Solo

The odds are you aren’t going to be the first person across the finish line on race day, and that’s OK. For me, running is more about competing with myself, finding that balance of mind and body, than qualifying for major marathons or beating out the other runners on the course. I always try to be better than I was last year or on the last run or in the last race. Sometimes I manage a new personal best. Sometimes, well…I fail.

5. “The greatest teacher, failure is.” — Yoda

Sure, it’s disappointing to look back at my old race times and realize that a mixture of injury, age, and hibernating has drastically slowed my pace over the years. But knowing that there’s still room for improvement is, in itself, a great motivator! Sometimes you (quite literally) fall down. Pick yourself up, vow to do better, and then put the time in to make it happen.

6. “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it…”

“You’ll never make it through the night.” — Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo and Poe Dameron, quoting General Leia Organa

Whether you’re getting back into shape after a holiday respite or training for the very first time, those early runs are bound to be a bit of a slog. Have faith that it will get easier, your time (and energy level) will improve, and if you keep going, you’ll see that finish line appear up ahead.

7. “Hurry up, goldenrod, or you’re going to be a permanent resident!” — Han Solo

When I started running, I favored a half-mile loop in a local park because I knew I was always no more than a quarter mile from the chance to call it a day. But the same short stretch can be as monotonous as working on a moisture farm on Tatooine, and as I added more miles to each run, I started seeking out quiet roads instead. The thing is, when you start to get tired and you’re halfway into a 9-mile training run, the fastest way to get to the finish is to run. Or as a certain X-wing pilot might say…

8. “Stay on target!” — Gold Five

Map out a training plan that fits your schedule and your experience level, then try to stick with it as best you can. I love early morning runs, but if you aren’t an early riser a post-work workout may be a better fit. Or use your lunch break to log some miles.

9. “I’m sure you’ll do it this time… Finish the race, of course!” — Kitster

If you’re doubting yourself, you need a friend as uplifting as good ol’ Kitster to keep your spirits high. And even if you’re as alone as a Jakku scavenger come race day, the course will be lined with cheering bystanders to help keep you going.

10. “Luminous beings are we…not this crude matter.” — Yoda

It comes down to this: Mind over (crude) matter. A long run is a great time to let your mind wander, consider the beauty in your surroundings, or chat with a running buddy. Whatever you do, don’t concentrate on how much you don’t feel like running and have patience with yourself.

11. “The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power.” — Sheev Palpatine

This is a rival run, isn’t it? There’s no greater rivalry in the Star Wars saga that the battle between Jedi and Sith. But no matter which side you favor, you and your fellow runners are all headed for the same finish line.

12. “I’m One With The Force. The Force Is With Me.” — Chirrut Îmwe

Getting tired? Busy your mind with a mantra. And finally…

13. “Run, Luke! Run!” — Obi-Wan Kenobi

Yes! Yes! To Obi-Wan you listen.

Star Wars Rival Run Weekend is coming to Walt Disney World Resort, April 4-7, 2019! Visit for more information.

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them!

13 Star Wars Quotes to Help you Stay Motivated for the runDisney Rival Run

Star Wars Voice Actors Headed to Star Wars Celebration Chicago

Pilot-turned-spy Kazuda Xiono and his friend and brilliant mechanic Tam Ryvora bring a special sibling-like bond to their antics on Star Wars Resistance.

Christopher Sean.
Suzie McGrath.

And is pleased to announce that this April, Christopher Sean and Suzie McGrath, the talented voice actors who bring the pair to life, will make their first Star Wars Celebration appearance among a host of remarkable stars joining fans in Chicago!

Scott Lawrence.
James Arnold Taylor.

Also attending this year for the first time will be Scott Lawrence, the voice behind Resistance‘s loving-but-stern father figure Jarek Yeager.

Returning to the Celebration floor will be James Arnold Taylor, the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Taylor has long been an integral part of the saga, giving voice to stormtroopers, aliens, Imperials, and more in films including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Janina Gavankar
Matthew Wood

And you can also meet the actor behind Imperial soldier Iden Versio in Star Wars: Battlefront II, Janina Gavankar, as well as Lucasfilm veteran Matthew Wood, who began his career with Skywalker Sound at the age 17, and has worked on every Star Wars film, The Clone Wars, and more, while voicing countless characters like General Grievous and hapless battle droids including the beloved R0-GR in LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures and the recently released LEGO: All Stars.

All six actors will be there to meet you, sign autographs, and share their joy in being a part of the Star Wars galaxy.

To snag an autograph session, check out where you can sign up for emails to stay up to date when tickets go on sale.

And check back on for more Star Wars Celebration Chicago updates!

Star Wars Celebration Chicago will take place April 11-15 at McCormick Place. Visit for tickets and more info! All Star Wars, all the time.

Get a First Look at the Star Wars runDisney 2019 Medals

Luke Skywalker could feel the conflict within Darth Vader, but Emperor Palpatine hoped that instead of saving his father, the two would become bitter rivals. In April, runDisney celebrates the competitive spirit of these and other Star Wars characters at the Star Wars Rival Run Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, when you can challenge yourself or a friend to go the distance and snag one (or more!) of the covetable finisher medals.

Today, has your first look at these finely-crafted depictions of some of the most enduring rivalries across the Star Wars saga!

runDisney medal for Star Wars Rival Run 5K | Finn and Captain Phasma.

Star Wars Rival Run 5K | Finn and Captain Phasma

runDisney medal for Star Wars Rival Run 10K | Han Solo and Boba Fett

Star Wars Rival Run 10K | Han Solo and Boba Fett

runDisney medal for Star Wars Rival Run Half Marathon | Rey and Kylo Ren

Star Wars Rival Run Half Marathon | Rey and Kylo Ren

runDisney medal

Star Wars Rival Run Challenge | Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader

runDisney medals for the runDisney Kids Races | BB-8 and BB-9E

runDisney Kids Races | BB-8 and BB-9E

runDisney medal for the Star Wars Virtual Half Marathon | R2-D2

Star Wars Virtual Half Marathon | R2-D2

runDisney medal for the Kessel Run Challenge

Kessel Run Challenge

Whether you line the streets to cheer on your fellow fans, tackle your first 5K, or plan to crush the half marathon like an Imperial going after the Rebellion, we’re excited to see you there! Meet Star Wars characters, enjoy music and entertainment before and after the race and along the course route, and dress up as your favorite characters! The races are designed for runners of all ages, experience, and abilities, including a mile-long race just for younglings. Race participants can collect these Star Wars-themed finisher medals and other commemorative merchandise throughout the weekend. It’s a new year and a new you, so fuel your Force and join the fun.

Star Wars Rival Run Weekend is coming to Walt Disney World Resort, April 4-7, 2019! Visit for more information, and be sure to register to get your hands on your own finisher medals. All Star Wars, all the time.

Get a First Look at the Star Wars runDisney 2019 Medals

7 Behind-The-Scenes Insights of the Star Wars Film Concert Series

Star Wars: A New Hope — played with live orchestral music — recently came to the UK, debuting at the iconic Royal Albert Hall on November 16 with five matinee and evening performances, before hitting the road and heading to Liverpool, Bournemouth, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, and finishing off in Glasgow on December 9.

The Royal Albert Hall shows were performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Ludwig Wicki; packed houses were welcomed by the bombastic blast of the orchestra, who provided the gorgeous John Williams soundtrack for 125 engrossing minutes. sat down with Royal Albert Hall Program Director George Prince, as well as Birmingham’s Novello Orchestra violinist and leader of the orchestra Jamie Hutchinson, 5th horn Tom Taffinder, and Creative Director and Producer David Mahoney, to talk about bringing this revered music to life for the Star Wars Film Concert series. Here are five behind-the-scenes insights we learned.

1. Preparation is key. “Typically, the orchestra will have the printed scores about a month in advance in order to take their own rehearsal time to work on the music as they see fit,” Prince says. “In terms of working with the conductor, they don’t have a great deal of time. They do rehearsals the day before the show, a dress rehearsal the day of the performance, and then they’re straight in.” Despite the challenges, the process is very smooth. “We’re very collaborative with Disney, we’ve been working with [John] Williams. The orchestra have been amazing, it’s been an honor to work with the LSO on a project like this. We’ve gone into this as partners, and that’s the key on any project. “

2. It helps having seen the film. Hutchinson had just finished watching Star Wars: A New Hope a few days before the Birmingham performance. “I actually watched the film on the train up to Manchester on the rehearsal day, watched it with my earphones in thinking, ‘I can hear the violin bit!’” For Taffinder, being a brass musician means his big numbers stand out. “It’s quite easy for us brass because we get all the big tunes, so you kind of know all the tunes before you start.”

R2-D2 plays Princess Leia's hologram in Star Wars: A New Hope.

3. Everybody has a favorite tune. While every track takes 100% concentration and execution, Hutchinson and Taffinder both have compositions they especially love to play. For Hutchinson it’s a familiar finale. “The ‘Throne Room’ and ‘End Titles’ obviously, but the first time Princess Leia appears in R2-D2’s projection there’s a beautiful horn and Cor anglais theme, the strings just shimmering underneath, and it’s the first time that you hear that amazing Leia theme.”

4. It’s hard music to play. You can’t coast through a Star Wars score, despite being familiar with the music. “It’s the sort of music that makes you grateful that you had to practice your scales when you were growing up and going through your grades,” Hutchinson says. “There’s a lot of scale work when it’s fast and exciting, but there’s also lots of beautiful moments as well, where we just get to make a really beautiful sound.”

Taffinder agrees. “From the brass players’ point of view, the hardest thing about it is that it’s very tiring on your lips, especially if you have a rehearsal before. Not all of the brass players are playing all of the time, as we’re trying to rest, because when you get to the gig it’s just relentless — especially the big themes.”

5. Familiarity isn’t always your friend. Star Wars fans know the music of the saga inside and out, so the pressure’s on for the orchestra to replicate it as perfectly as possible. Hutchinson was well aware of that responsibility. “There are moments in this when you know that you’re center stage, and some of the principal players have quite big solos. The difference with this is every single person in the audience knows exactly how it’s supposed to sound.”

Star Wars Film Concert series rehearsal in Birmingham.

6. Things were a little tougher the first time around. David Mahoney explained how tough it is to marry up the music with the imagery. “Weirdly, two of my players, their fathers were in the original orchestra that recorded the soundtrack, so I’ve had a few chats with them and they were telling me how it worked back in the day in the studio. Without going too technical, these days when you record a soundtrack you record along to a click track, which basically means you can prepare everything before the sessions and then ensure you play at the exact right moment. Back when this was recorded, that didn’t exist. They were just trying to hit certain moments at certain times. I have a click in my ear and that relates to a little screen that I have in front of me that gives me direct moments.”

7. You’ve got to feel the Force. John Williams didn’t sit down with the editors of the original film to ensure everything fit neatly. Sometimes there are rough edges, and Mahoney explained that while the click track is generally accurate, quite often the orchestra just has to feel it. “There are certain moments where it doesn’t do what you think it’s going to do, and that’s an added element for us,” he says. “Some bits are so odd there are no clues in the music, you just have to know what that feels like. It just has to be in your bones, which is why it takes a lot of time to prepare it. For me it’s much more of a thrill than conducting a classical concert, and what’s interesting is, all of these players know this music inside out because they’ve done the big famous moments all over the country with different orchestras — but the speeds of those melodies are very different when doing it here. As a general rule, a lot of it’s a lot faster than it would be if you had the ability to do it without a click track, so there’s no moment where the orchestra can have a rest and think ‘this will just play itself.’ The focus has to be there from the very first second right to the very last chord, but I think that’s good because it means even though we’re doing this show eight times around the UK, with other shows it can get a bit repetitive, but you can never relax. You’ve got to be on it and focused.”

The Star Wars Film Concert series is produced under license by Disney Concerts in association with 20th Century Fox and Warner/Chappell Music.

Many thanks to Paul Bernstein, Bridget Nolan and Rick Burin at The Royal Albert Hall, Andy Farquharson from The Music Agency, Stuart Bennett from Deacon Communications, Kitty Stafford-Clark at SENBLA, the Novello Orchestra, and Clair Henry, Richard Mitchell, and Carl Bayliss of Fantha Tracks.

Mark writes for Star Wars Insider, the Official Star Trek MagazineStarburst magazine, and is the editor-in-chief of Fantha Tracks. He’s an honorary member of the 501st and Rebel Legion and when he’s not talking, tweeting, or writing about Star Wars, he can usually be found sleeping, where he’ll most likely be dreaming about Star Wars.

7 Behind-The-Scenes Insights of the Star Wars Film Concert Series