Oct 14 – Ahsoka at Disney Springs!


Friday, October 14th, 4-6pm at Disney!

Second and final opportunity in Orlando to meet “Star Wars Ahsoka” author E.K. Johnston and actor Ashley Eckstein for a book signing…

(I still have some photos and links to add/update but I wanted to post this as-is, ASAP for those who might be able to make it to Disney Friday) 

Tuesday night we got to do one of my favorite things, an impromptu family outing to yet another once-in-a-lifetime event. For those who missed it, you have a second chance this Friday (October 14). That’s the thing about living in Central Florida, these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities come up dozens of times a year as long as you are vigilant in your search for them and resolute in your commitment to make it to them.

This week’s opportunity/challenge was to make it to one of two book signings in town for the long awaited Star Wars Ahsoka novel by E.K. Johnston (she goes by Kate). Joining Kate for the book signings is local hero and champion of girls everywhere, Ashley Eckstein. Ashley is a local ‘girl made good’ story, getting her start working in the Disney parks like any other local, and she’s somewhat of a personal hero in the Johnson household. We don’t idolize Ashley for her fame or follow her because of her success. She’s a hero to my family in the way that Ms Cartierie (AnneMarie’s second grade teacher) and Mrs Hooper (Karl’s third) are heroes of ours. She connected with our child in a way that we could not, and at a time that AnneMarie needed it most. I’ll tell the whole story in a future article under an upcoming page called “MyO” (my take on a bio for people we’ve met). Sufficed to say that since Disney cancelled Star Wars Weekends we have been on the lookout for opportunities to see Ashley, Dee Bradley Baker and James Arnold Taylor. I did get to chat with JAT this past May when I covered MegaCon Orlando (my first time as actual credentialed ‘Press’) but Dee Baker still eludes us. Ashley did at least one appearance earlier this year but we missed out. I forget when or where but I think it was at Disney and involved her clothing company, HerUniverse.

ahsoka-novelWe intended on getting AnneMarie the Ahsoka novel from the moment I heard that one was in the works and occasionally we like to be ‘release day’ consumers. The opportunity to do that, see Ashley AND meet the author all in one night was too much to pass up. Ashley’s character Ahsoka is as unique and inspiring as the actor herself. For those who don’t care about Star Wars beyond the live action films, you’re missing out. The novels and animated series are every bit as well written and/or acted. I would be willing to bet that Ahsoka & Ashley (and their ability to empower girls and welcome them to sci-fi & fantasy) were the impetuous for having Rey be the lead hero in The Force Awakens. In fact, besides Katness from the Hunger games, one would be hard pressed to find a stronger modern female figure in fact or fiction than Ahsoka. And one would be harder pressed to find a bigger champion of fans and girls than Ashley.

{OUaT Picture} For those who know Ashley/Ashoka I’ll cut to the chase, she will be joining “Ahsoka” author EK Johnston on Friday October 14, 2016 from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm at Once Upon a Toy in Disney Springs. (That’s the big toy store near the Rainforest Café side of what used to be called Downtown Disney Marketplace.) It is likely that the whole crowd will get a good show but get there AT LEAST an hour or two early if you hope to make it into the autograph line. Disney controls the line system and entry will be cut off at some point, so if you really want to make sure you get an autograph go earlier than you think you should. Theres plenty to see at Disney Springs if theres no line already by 2pm. I can’t stress this enough, in the past we have gone to see Ashley at Darth’s Mall during Star Wars Weekends, gotten there over an hour ahead of the scheduled greeting time and found the line already full and roped off.

For the uninitiated, Ahsoka was Anakin’s young apprentice in Clone Wars and quickly became one of the most powerful charecters (gender aside) in the legacy of Star Wars, and one of the most popular with us fans. Ahsoka is probably the only Star Wars character not yet seen in live action, who has such wide appeal. And Ashley, voice of Ahsoka, was a major part of Star Wars Weekends at Disney World since we started going to the event regularly. Ashley even co-hosted the month+ event for the last several years that it was held. 

So last week I noticed in my Facebook and Twitter feeds that Ahsoka was being officially released on October 11. I also saw that Ashley and the author, EK Johnston, were doing book signings. Knowing that central Florida is home for Ashley (and a little place called Disney World) I thought there was a good chance that there might be a book signing here some time soon so I asked on Twitter and got a pretty quick response from both Ashley and Kate that yes, in fact, they would be in Orlando soon. First on launch day (Oct 11) at Barnes & Noble on E. Colonial, Orlando and then on Friday Oct 14th at Disney Springs.


Both options had their merits and drawbacks. The main drawback to Friday was that StarWarsMom (born on May the fourth) couldn’t cone with on Friday due to her 4th grade class’ annual field trip to St Augustine. The main drawback to Tuesday was that Karl would have to skip soccer practice. To make matters worse (or funnier) we coincidentally ran into ‘coach’ at the pediatrician while there Tuesday afternoon for the kids’ annual ‘well-visit’ check-ups. We briefly entertained the notion of AnneMarie and I getting in line at 5:30-6:00 and have Mom & Karl meet us at B&N after practice. None of us are counting on Karl’s skills at soccer as part of a retirement plan however, so we figured coach would understand a last minute family outing.  I’m glad we didn’t do it that way after all because the actual signing was only about five whirlwind minutes at the end of the fun evening. We assumed that the B&N event at 7pm on a Tuesday would be less crowded than Disney Springs on a Friday afternoon but we also thought that the Disney event would be more festive.

The crowd at B&N was every bit as big as it would have been at the height of Star Wars Weekends and with about a dozen members of the 501st entertaining the crowd all night, I’m not sure I was right on either count. In the interest of closure we may go down to Disney Friday anyway just to satisfy my curiosity. 

We got to the bookstore a little before 6pm and were greeted at the door by a friendly staff member anticipating the crowd for Ahsoka. We were advised to purchase our copy first and then invited to head upstairs where people had already been gathering. I wish I had the camera rolling as we came in because the B&N on E Colonial is an impressively appointed store. I did end up getting a ‘walk in’ shot but the ‘ooos & ahhs’ from my kids had died down and the greeter had moved to the increasingly busy registers before I could even white-balance the camera, so the footage pales in comparison to our first impressions.

We strolled around a bit and then headed upstairs, only missing seats by the few minutes we spent wandering the ground floor. With kids though (and when filming) it’s been our experience that it isn’t always better to be seated. Seats gone and no tickets or numbers being given out, MaryBeth stood guard at the back of the chairs, should any line or list start forming and I tested out different potential places to film from. The kids were killing time looking at the random items in the clearance bin near ‘Mom’ and I had found a great spot to camp out with my minimal sub-set of camera gear. As the upstairs began filling up and members of the 501st started coming out, one or two at a time, I called the kids over to the space against the railing that I was claiming. The kids had a perfect view and made the perfect bookends to buffer the crowd that was pressing in closer.

Shortly after 7:00 EB Johnston strode through the crowd, noticeably overcome with pride and joy. Following closely behind was Ashley, appearing as graciously surprised by her mass appeal as ever. They made their way to the signing table, began introductions and thanked the crowd for coming. I’ll make the full video available Friday, after the Disney springs event so as not to spoil any potentially reusable one liners from Tuesday.

I’m always torn about that. On the one hand I want to be breaking news and post videos right away of exclusive events that most had no chance to attend. On the other hand, this is what they do for work and if a video I shoot in Orlando gives away 10-20 minutes of material that was going to be used in the next city, then I’ve done a disservice to the celebrity and their next live audience.

I will, however share some of the potentially newsworthy and some of the personally significant moments of the night now…

{insert Teaser video}

If there’s any news to draw from what we heard on Tuesday it is this…

The novel, Ashoka, is officially ‘cannon’. This means that there’s a good chance for the Ashoka character to make it into a live action movie.

A live action Ashoka movie must not be far along though because Ashley was enthusiastic about being considered for the role if there is one. She mentioned that her inclusion could depend a lot on the age of Ashoka in a potential movie, which tells me that if there is a plan to add Ashoka to the film set, it could be of a very young, or much later time in the characters life.

If Ahsoka survived the Empire and First Order it’s always possible we could see the character in episode VIII or IX but I doubt it. And as for novels, EK Johnston indicated that she writes ‘YA’ (young adult) novels so she prefers an era where the characters are younger.

The epic run of Clone Wars closes with Ashoka striking out on her own as a young adult. Clone Wars fits in between episode II (attack of the clones) and III (revenge of the sith). The Ashoka novel begins moments before ‘order 66’ (the end of III) and spans roughly two years. Ashoka doesn’t reemerge in the known Star Wars world until the last moments of the final episode of Star Wars Rebels season 1, leaving almost a decade of time for untold stories.

On that note, we could see another novel soon from this author, and it would be about Sabine Wren. Sabine is a young mandalorian, deadly with blasters, skilled at spray painting and known for blowing things up.

I’m not much of a gambler but if I were I would bet good money that EK is already drafting a story about Sabine and we should hear whispers of that next year.

And what other beloved charachter might we see in the Ahsoka novel?

One final video from my daughter…


Much thanks go out to all who put this event together! We all had a wonderful time!

The B&N management and staff should be commended for how well they prepared for the event and not just by having enough space. With Troopers and pilots, a Jawa, Boba Fett and Darth Vader walking around, they kept the crowd entertained and the mood festive and light. Later as the crowd started to fade they even walked around with samples of pumpkin spiced frozen drinks (with or without caffeine).

FaceBook: @BNColonial


Instagram: @bncolonialorlando

Ashley too helped us parents tremendously by asking the crowd if after the seated guests are through, to please let families with kids go next, since the younglings have school in the morning.


MaryBeth was still standing sentry right near where the manager was starting the ‘post-chairs’ line and called the kids over as I got some crowd shots. (Not her first rodeo either.) Kate & Ashley took their time with each and every guest yet the entire seated section was through in about a half hour. We would have been the first group following the chairs but MB spotted a mom with little girl not much bigger than an American Girl doll and dressed as Rey.{rey photo} Nearing cuteness overload, the girl was holding a doll, also dressed as Rey. After hearing it was just the two of them we offered the spot in front of us. With that, ‘Rey’s mom’ called over a few other couples she knew in the room to join her. But the girl was so cute and as LaFemme Nikkita says, “I never mind the little things” and it gave us a little more time for interactions with the roving Empire.

When we got up to the signing table previous guests left Kate and Ashley almost simultaneously. You can tell in my video how I desperately wanted to catch Ashley’s interaction with AnneMarie while keeping the focus on Karl who also loves Ashley but wanted to spend most of his time honoring the author who rightfully owned the day. After reviewing the footage, I guess I caught more than I thought and both kids got the chance to speak in the Q&A. Once the dust settles on the launch (and I muster up the courage) I plan to ask them for a Johnson Family video interview like I did with James Kahn but with MB & the kids. For now though I would have to say that it was “mission accomplished!” MaryBeth and I patted ourselves on the backs for being the best parents ever and giving our children yet another once-in-a-lifetime experience. We then fed them junk from McDonald’s across the street and ate it in the car on the way home, arriving just in time to be only a little late for bed. (At least we made them do their homework before we went.) {signing video}

That’s all for now until I edit the full video.

As always, thanks for making it to the end.

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