Roundtable: Our Thoughts on Latest Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Reveals
Recently a few media organizations were given a sneak peak of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the new land opening at Disneyland in the Summer and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Fall. D23, the official Disney fan club, recently released an entire galaxy’s worth of details as well. Then the parks announced the opening dates for the attractions, and gave a little detail on the reservation system that will be used for Disneyland’s version.
In case you’ve been living in a black hole, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will transport guests to the planet Batuu near the galaxy’s “Outer Rim on the fringe of Wild Space.” On Batuu, the Black Spire Outpost is the center of the action, an “infamous port for explorers, smugglers and traders who want to fly under the radar—literally and figuratively.” Both iterations of Galaxy’s Edge will each encompass 14 acres.
If you missed the news, along with the D23 post there is a huge seven part feature from Entertainment Weekly and at several in depth articles at the Orange County Register. Let’s dive into our thoughts on the major attractions of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Dubbed “one of the most advanced and immersive experiences ever undertaken by Walt Disney Imagineering,” Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is one of the two rides at Galaxy’s Edge.
Nick: I hesitate to call this a ride as it seems like it’s more than that, a complete experience, like Avatar: Flight of Passage but on a whole other scale. I think it’s genius how the land itself is on planet Batuu but the ride takes place on a Star Destroyer, so naturally you have to board a ship (maybe a U-wing?) and blast into space where you’re captured by the First Order. Stepping out of the “ship” and into the massive hanger of the destroyer could potentially be one of the biggest “wow” moments on any ride ever. Grown men will cry for sure (probably myself included).
Once you get to the actual ride, we know the prisoner transports are trackless, but it doesn’t look like there is a motion base within the ride vehicle. However, there could be a scene or two where there is a motion base in the floor of a room, much like how Escape from Gringotts uses motion base track segments. It looks like the massive show-building contains multiple floors, so I expect a Transformers-esque elevator lift mid-ride which could lead to the rumored freefall style drop as the finale of the ride as you have to escape the Star Destroyer and return to the planet.
Eric: Yeah, I think this is more than just a ride. From the way EW described it, it’s almost as if they’re multiple rides packed into one attraction. First there’s walking through this Resistance base, getting a preshow briefing from Rey, then flying a transport with Nien Nub (Lando’s co-pilot in Return of the Jedi), which sounds like it could be Star-Tours esque, a big group in a ship with some animatronics and a screen. Then you get another, uhh, mid-ride preshow? where First Order officers yell at you and Kylo Ren (animatronic? actor? hologram?) interrogates you or something, then what we presume is the final escape scene on a trackless ride vehicle. Like Nick said, this seems like more a full experience. Disney seems to embed you in a much bigger story than what typically happens on any ride (although that rumored 28 minute length is apparently not true). This is by far what I’m most excited about, it seems like it’ll be something truly different from any other theme park attraction.
Andrew: I’m going to be a little contrarian here, and this might just be because I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan. I’ve read that this will be not just “one of,” but the most advanced and immersive experiences ever undertaken by Walt Disney Imagineering. That’s HUGE praise. My question: Will it live up to the hype? There are some amazing attractions that Walt Disney Imagineering has created over the years — Avatar: Flight of Passage and the Shanghai Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean attraction both come to mind. I’m hoping that it will be as well-received as everyone is hoping it will be, because I am all for more immersion in theme park attractions.
John: I think this will be a redefining moment for what we consider a theme park attraction. While we’ve certainly had some groundbreaking innovations in the last decade, few have had the platform to couple an immersive ride with such a beloved, timeless franchise (Harry Potter universe is still relatively young compared to the galaxy far, far away). I’ll be tempted once the ride opens to read every little detail about the ride experience, but part of me wishes that I had the strength and self-discipline to wait until I visit in person. I can try.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
No doubt the thing many Star Wars fans are most excited about, the chance to actually fly the Millennium Falcon in “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run”.
Eric: I’m more excited about Rise of the Resistance, but it doesn’t mean this doesn’t sound like a blast. Probably the most genius thing I read about it in the preview reports, though, is that the park is giving you free time to explore the Falcon while you wait. Instead of a traditional queue, after the pre-show section (with the very good looking Hando animatronic), you get broken into groups, brought into the Falcon, and given a number. You then get to hang out inside the Falcon (the “chess room”) until your number is called. Asa Kalama, an Imagineering creative director, said that they knew guests would want to spend time in the Falcon looking at things, so they came up with this. It fixes my main issue with using Fastpasses, which is I get to miss all the cool stuff in lines (like on Indiana Jones, for example).
I’ve still got some questions about how the whole part about us actually controlling the ship is going to work (I really don’t want some crummy pilot to ruin my ride!), but the details are still mostly unrevealed.
Oh, my other favorite part that was mentioned is that apparently you will sometimes see Chewy working on the Falcon model that is in the land. That’s even better than the Matterhorn mountain climbers!
Andrew: I’m with Eric here, and am really interested to see how the interactive mechanics of the actual interactive “flight crew duties” work. I’ve been around tourists who don’t know how many people are in their party, so to trust them to push buttons in some sort of sequence could be a bit of a stretch. Another question I have will be if the Millennium Falcon will just end up being a better version of “Star Tours,” and if that’s the case, what’s the need for both attractions (Millennium Falcon and Star Tours) to coexist in the same park on both coasts?
John: As a collector of many Star Wars action figures and models, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to pilot a ship like the Falcon. I can’t imagine a fictional spacecraft more iconic (stand down, Trekkies). The opportunity to see a life-size version of it and take control of the “wheel” is a dream come true. Rise of the Resistance may be the bigger, better ride, but I think this will be the more visually iconic of the two, in regard to both its exterior and the interior ride setup with guests at the controls.
Nick: My initial thought of the Millennium Falcon ride using the Mission: Space ride system was completely off. The only similarity is the ride vehicles will be on a giant turntable, thus giving you the illusion there’s only one Millennium Falcon cockpit when there are several. Can’t wait to see how the illusion works in person.
? Walt Disney Imagineering nous dévoile la dernière génération d’Audio-Animatronics : le A-1000 ! pic.twitter.com/6Ev64IZUl9
— Dimension Parcs (@DimensionParcs) February 28, 2019
Food and Drink at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Eric: I like the detail they seem to have gone in to come up with “Star Wars” food, although a lot of the names and descriptions sound a little silly. I’m glad they have at least a couple different dining spots to maybe help with the crowds, although I’m still picturing gigantic crowds that are common at, say, Three Broomsticks, but going extra slow as they try to figure out what is in everything is.
It will be kind of weird to drink an actual cocktail in Disneyland, but I am very curious to see what the “Star Wars-y” drinks are. And like all good Disney nerds, I’ll be excited to see RX-24 (now DJ R3X). I’m sort of hoping that Oga’s is a little emptier than the restaurants just because of what it offers, the way Hogs Head is never TOO packed in Wizarding World (of course, here you can’t take your drink with you).
Nick: You’re not going to find cheese and pretzels inside Galaxy’s Edge. I’m anxious to know what the green and blue milk will taste like! It’s the frozen butterbeer of Star Wars.
John: Okay, I’ll admit that I’m not the most adventurous eater. I’m more of a cheeseburger-and-fries kind of guy. However — something about eating Star Wars-inspired fare makes me want to step outside of my comfort galaxy. And if nothing else, I’m sure I’ll love the drinks. Blue milk? Sign me up. Will it top Butterbeer? The bar has been set high. As long as there’s a semi-helpful description along with each menu item, I think the picky eaters of the world (myself included) will be just fine.
Andrew: There’s a reason that the majority of dining items at Disney Parks aren’t super adventurous, and instead are variations on the typical burgers, chicken fingers, hot dogs, and pizza, and that’s because they’re tried and true favorites. That said, people love the “adventurous” cuisine of Satu’li Canteen inside of Pandora. (Which isn’t really that adventurous — I digress.) I imagine the cuisine inside Galaxy’s Edge will be well liked, but I’m sure the menu will undergo tweaks at the beginning. I’m just mad we don’t get the Cantina Band as our in-meal entertainment. (And the Cantina Band song is now stuck in your head, just like it’s stuck in mine.)
Shopping at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Nick: Build your own droid? Build your own lightsaber? This sounds like Disney is blurring the lines between traditional theme park shopping with an attraction or experience. The Disney Imagineers have definitely spent a lot of time at Universal checking out all the Harry Potter stuff and how they can improve upon all of it.
Eric: Yeah, I’m not sure I even fully understand how the droid stuff works. Like, they’ll drive around and interact with the world? This is crazy. I also love that they said the merchandise is all designed to look like it’s from the Star Wars universe/Black Spire. No plastic boxes on things, instead dolls that are made to look hand stitched together, or “artifacts” that actually look like relics. Of course, I won’t want to spend the fortune any of these will cost (apparently $158 for a realistic Light Saber), but I could see myself being tempted by a “Droid Technician” uniform just to see if I could sneak backstage with it.
Andrew: I hope it stays true to the “Black Spire” theme that Eric mentioned. Nothing will take you out of the immersiveness like buying a shirt with Darth Vader on Dumbo while inside of Galaxy’s Edge.
John: This could be dangerous. As a collector of many Star Wars toys as a kid, my impulses may get the best of me. While I was able to zip through Wizarding World without buying anything but copious amounts of Butterbeer, as a devoted Star Wars fan, it will not be as easy here. The merchandise opportunities are nearly endless here, and I have no doubt Disney is expecting to make bank off of these shops alone. Heck, I’d probably pay money just to go to a Star Wars shop.
Overall Thoughts on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Nick: I think the biggest questions about Galaxy’s Edge at this point are how is it going to work operationally? We’re all expecting massive, record setting crowds. How is Disney going to handle that? What are the capacities of the rides? Flight of Passage is 1,440 per hour and still gets huge waits. It would seem like a huge mistake if Disney spent a billion dollars on these Star War rides and they run at less than 2,000 people per hour. While both will be awe-inspiring, another key difference with Galaxy’s Edge vs Pandora: The World of Avatar is I have a huge emotional attachment to Star Wars.
Eric: Yeah, I mean, I’m definitely excited, but it’s hard to tell how this is actually going to work. Like, I love how immersive everything is supposed to be, with lots of characters walking around from different factions in Black Spire. I love the idea of using the Disney Play app to find little Easter Eggs or go on “missions” to help whichever faction you want to, but none of that immersion will work if it’s packed. Like, if there’s a First Order officer yelling at people, that’s neat, but if I can’t hear what she’s yelling over the crowds of people crashing stroller into each other, it’s not very immersive. Waiting in a line to scan the code on a shipping container isn’t really fun (part of why I never bought a wand at Wizarding World).
Of course, that shouldn’t take away from the fact I’m going to flip out when I first walk into the land and see Chewy hitting the top of the Falcon with a wrench. And the descriptions of the queues for the rides sound like they SHOULD have enough to do that a 2 hour wait isn’t intolerable. Plus, if the reservation system they just announced works, that can help manage the crowd at least a little bit.
Andrew: When I talked to TouringPlans’ Len Testa last year, his words continue to echo in my mind. How early in the day are these people going to start lining up? If Disney says “You can’t line up until 3:00am,” then at 3:00am, the line will already be a mile long, that’s just how it’s going to be. When the Wizarding World of Harry Potter first opened at Universal Orlando, it was a 10-hour line to get into the park. That’s going to be every day at the Studios for the first month… I don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s going to be one of the most interesting operations research questions of 2019. It’s going to be utter chaos. I am so looking forward to see how they’re going to handle the crowds, I think just from a pure operations research perspective, it’s going to be fascinating.
I think Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will bring in a new “era” of theme park attractions; not just from an immersion and technology standpoint, but from an operations and crowd control point of view as well.
John: I think this is an unprecedented chapter for the theme park industry. Galaxy’s Edge will no doubt be a textbook example of innovations in immersive experiences. I know I’m jumping ahead, but it will be interesting to see where Disney goes from here. Is there a demand for an entire Star Wars park (yes, probably). Will we see an addition to this land? Where would it go at Disneyland? With new Star Wars movies in the pipeline for the foreseeable future, Disney doesn’t need to worry about an aging fan base. These movies are recruiting new classes of Rebels each year. The future is bright and exciting.
What are you most excited to see at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? Let us know in the comments section below.