Why the Jedi Training Academy is a "must" at WDW
As Annual Passholders I recognize that we get to experience the parks a bit differently from most people. Walt Disney World is a once in a lifetime trip for most people. So it might not be easy to justify setting aside close to an hour of precious touring time for an interactive show like the Jedi Training Academy.
First thing to know is that, right now, if you're planning a full day for Hollywood Studios you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TIME. So much of the park is under construction for the expansions, and there are currently only something like 4 rides available (most of which have height restrictions). Come the summer of 2019 the Star Wars and Toy Story expansions will be completed, and there will be far more competition for your time. With all that said, I still think the Jedi Training Academy is totally worth putting into your itinerary.
Something to know about my kid: she's not that big a fan of the Star Wars movies themselves. She really liked the Last Jedi when we saw it in the theater, but she doesn't generally ask to watch the movies at home. Most of her Star Wars love stems from the Entertainment and Attractions offerings at Hollywood Studios. I cannot even tell you how many hot sweaty hours over the years I have been subjected to so that my child could watch Jedi Training Academy. This was the first factor that led to us holding off on actually doing the training until the weather was a little cooler (the show is in direct sunlight, 30ish minutes, and the kids wear a thin jedi robe over their clothes).
We've been fortunate enough to have our kid do Jedi Training Academy 3 times since she became old enough to do so (Ages 4-12 are welcome) and expressed WANTING to do so. The number one thing that has set up this experience to be one of the best we've had EVERY TIME has been the incredible cast. This is also one of the most representative shows on property (Jedi come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and ethnicities, after all). Each and every cast member is super aware of the kids in the show and is great at tuning in to kids that might need a little extra help or encouragement (like mine). My kid talks a big game, but she can get shy/nervous/bashful when it comes to actual participation, and every time it's been the encouragement of the Jedi that has given my kid an exceptionally enjoyable experience that she's eager to repeat.
All the kids are provided with a light saber and robe for the show, so that requires no investment on your part (of course if your kid wants to keep them, you can purchase either in the gift shop). WAIT I ALMOST FORGOT THE (OTHER) BEST PART: the experience is 100% free. Costs you nothing. There aren't a lot of interactive experiences for kids at the parks that can boast that.
Finally, while the show absolutely gives kids an opportunity to flex their light saber muscles and learn some sparring moves, the real message at the end of the show is about finding the strength inside to face your fears WITHOUT violence. That's pretty great.
I highly recommend having your kid watch the show once before they make the decision of whether or not they want to do it. (The video above is just a segment of the show, but you can find the full show on Youtube. Look for the one that has Vader and Kylo only, that's the current iteration.)
Daphne's favorite part of the training is learning the moves. The first two times she did the training, she faced off against the Seventh Sister. But the sister is gone now. Since D has been ADAMANTLY against fighting Kylo or Vader, I figured that meant Jedi Training was now off the table for us. So imagine my surprise when I asked D if she wanted to do JTA last weekend and she said she'd be ok to face off against Kylo. Alright, then.
So how do you get your kid into the training? There are LOTS of shows (they happen pretty much twice an hour all day). The earlier in the day that you sign up, the more options you'll have (in busy days, the shows will fill up VERY early in the day, then on low crowd days they might not fill up at all). If there's a way to sign up for the Academy sooner than the day of I have not heard of it. Over between the Indiana Jones Stunt show and the Indiana Jones gift shop, The Jedi Training Academy sign up is nestled (it has a sign, it's not HIDDEN, it's just not necessarily where you'd think it would be). Keep in mind when you are choosing a show time, you'll need to check in 30 minutes before the show (this is what I meant when I said you'd be committing about an hour of your time). It's a good idea to look at showtimes before you arrive and having one picked out that works around any FastPass or dining reservations you have. Also take weather/temperature into account. Finally, there are usually at least one or two shows toward the end of the day that are around dusk/sundown, and these are SO fun because the Light Sabers are all lit up and the other lighting for the show is much more noticeable. I highly recommend making the sign up the first thing you do when you arrive to ensure you get your time slot (especially during peak seasons where it's not unusual for all shows to be full within the first hour or two of park opening).
At sign up you will enter your kid's name, and your kid will be asked questions. How old are they, can they listen and follow directions, etc. You kid should be able to answer these questions appropriately and independently (if they can't, the show isn't really going to work for them anyway). Once you're confirmed for your show, you'll be issued a receipt/ticket with your name and show time that you must have with you when you come back for check in.
What happens if all the shows are full? You CAN sign up to "fly standby," if you will. Essentially you can register to grab a spot in a show if someone doesn't show up for their slot. It happens; you can get lucky. Standby tickets aren't assigned for any particular time/show. They also do not guarantee in any way that you will be able to get into ANY show.
So once you're all signed up and it's time for check in; they may or may not ask your kid the questions again. Then your kid gets a robe (and is warned to not EVER SNAP the closure around the neck) and is put into one of two lines (note- if your kid is like mine and has an adamant opposition to be against, say, Darth Vader, talk to the attendants and they'll make sure you're put in the right line). At least one parent stays with the kid for the walk over to the show stage (the other can hold a spot near the stage for watching the show).
All the kids are marched over to the stage with a banner. The Jedi arrive and half the kids will be taken to the top stage while the rest stay at the lower stage (top stage is Vader, lower stage is Kylo). This is when the light sabers are handed out.
But now we come to yet another unknown aspect of the show: crisis management. I mentioned before my kid gets a little nervous right before (every time a reassuring word from the Jedi has helped her rally). This time, she grabbed my arm "Mommy.... Mommy I can't fight Kylo Ren I'm scared." I can't say I didn't see this coming; my kid talks a big game and then gets a little intimidated at the last minute. So here's the option that isn't so obvious: the kids don't HAVE to face off against a villain to be a part of the show. I told Daphne "just let your Jedi know when they line you up that you don't want to fight Kylo." The Jedi will always try to talk to the kid about what they want and encourage them to be brave, but there's never anything pushy and if the kid is sure they don't want to face the villain, the Jedi will casually keep the kid at the end of the line and no one has to be the wiser. Seriously. There's no mortifying moment of your kid running away from the villain, it's all so well-handled. The show goes on and your kid can feel included and involved without having to spar with a villain if they aren't up for it.
Isn't that GREAT? I feel like, especially for a lot of younger kids, the villain part can be pretty intimidating. These kids WANT to meet Jedi and learn light saber moves, but Vader is SCARY. So how wonderful that they can still be a part of the show, get their commemorative "I completed the Academy" button (also free), and have a unique and personalized experience at the parks while celebrating their love for Star Wars.
So there you have it. The totally free and magical experience for your kids at Hollywood Studios that you should definitely make room for if your kid is into Star Wars: The Jedi Training Academy.