One of my favorite annual events at the Studios has to be Star Wars Weekends since it combines two of my passions, Disney and Star Wars. I love going down to see these events and this will be the first year I will be on hand for all four weekends (ah, the benefits of living near Walt Disney World). The event is terrific but as we inch closer to the start of the event, I'm once again bothered by something that I don't think should be happening. Each year, I'm irked by Disney and how they plan the event and the real lack of information until the very last minute of the event (with much of the event information not known until the first weekend) and there really is no reason for it.
Disney has out done itself this year in terms of lack of information by releasing a list of celebrities that are attending this year but only releasing half the list to the public. There's still a good 4 or so celebrities that have not been announced by Disney yet. How does Disney expect folks to plan for Star Wars Weekends? I'll be coming one way or another but I know there are many guests who can come down for perhaps just one weekend and want to time things right so they can go to the weekend when they're favorite celebrity from the list will be attending. With it being less than two months until the first weekend, how does Disney expect guests to plan their trips? It's absurd that the information takes this long to come out just for the celebrities that are attending. Disney knows this event returns year after year so they know it will be returning and should have plenty of time to plan this out. Beyond the celebrities, the dates for Star Wars Weekend typically aren't officially announced until just 4 months (or less) before the event starts. I'll go out on a limb and say that many guests blindly make reservations well before the dates are announed, playing a sort of roulette with the dates and hoping they book correctly.
Beyond simply celebrities, concrete information on events and merchandise is equally unavailable. Disney usually announces a small trickle of information on what events will be offered (with usually another few available, but unannounced until the start of the event) and they never announce a schedule of events for the day at all. Considering how popular the event is and how much there is to see and do, one would think it would make sense for all this information to be available well in advance so guests could effectively plan their trips to avoid problems that could otherwise be solved if a little planning opportunity was available. The problem is more pronounced for those traveling to the first weekend, as guests attending the second and subsequent weekends will be able to digest a lot of information of schedules, events and merchandise from guests who attended the first weekend. The reality is, it's still difficult for everyone as much of the information from weekend one comes via fan websites, such as this one, and not from the Mouse itself and most guests rely on Disney for any and all information.
Part of the problem may lie in the fact that Star Wars Weekend isn't a Disney only event. It's licensed by George Lucas and there's a lot of third party involvement from the celebrities attending to the merchandise sold. In other similar events such as ESPN the Weekend or Super Soap Weekend, nearly everything in the event is owned and operated by Disney (ESPN and ABC are subsidiary companies of the Walt Disney Company) so planning for these events should be easier since everything is handled "in house". Regardless, Star Wars Weekends has been occurring for almost 10 years now so it really should be almost routine in terms of planning for the event.
What I, and most guests, would like to see is the dates for Star Wars Weekend announced no later than 9 months before the event. Considering the dates have rarely changed, Disney knows when it wants to hold the event and once it gets the go-ahead from Lucas to hold the event another year, the dates should be announced so guests can start planning and booking. Furthermore, a list of celebrities and events planned announced much further in advance. I think four months prior to the first weekend is a fair amount of time. Four months in advance allows guests to make reservations with a sensible amount of time to book air fare of hotel reservations without the fear of being stuck with high prices or sell outs. Disney World gurus are also aware of the competitiveness to book dining reservations and four months out should be enough time to make Advanced Dining Reservations at most restaurants without much hassle. At about a month or so before the first weekend, a full schedule of events should be made available so guests can really figure out what they want to do when and get a good game plan for the event. I don't think this is asking too much because I really believe based on the schedule from year to year, that not much changes and Disney can put the information out earlier. Having the information out further in advance only serves to help Disney by building "buzz" for the event and getting more people to commit to attending knowing that much of the need-to-know information is out there so they can make an informed decision of if they want to attend. I suspect many want to attend, but by the time the necessary information is available to make a booking they are comfortable with, it may be too late in terms of availability or price or both.
It's easy to complain about some element of the Studios and write about how Disney should spend a heap of money to fix issues as we see it, but this sort of information should be readily available and is going to be done one way or another, so why not put the effort in further in advance to benefit not just the guest, but Disney in the long run.