3 Reasons Galaxy’s Edge Has Disappointed Me, and 3 Reasons I’m Still Optimistic About It (Starting With Rise of the Resistance)
With Rise of the Resistance opening at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Florida this week, I decided it was finally time to put down my thoughts about the new Star Wars land at the Disney parks, before it all becomes irrelevant. I actually want to start by saying I don’t hate Galaxy’s Edge, I don’t think it’s a giant flop and sucks or anything like that (plenty of other people had those takes earlier this year). But, it has been kind of disappointing compared to my hopes for the land.
After several visits to Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge, including one a few weeks ago, and one trip to the Walt Disney World version, I think I’ve narrowed in on why it’s been disappointing. However, I also realized that all of my concerns I think could be fixed pretty easily, and some will likely be fixed by Rise of the Resistance.
Three Reasons Galaxy’s Edge Has Disappointed
1. There’s just not that much to do
Honestly, the main issue I have with Galaxy’s Edge right now is there just isn’t that much to do, and some of the main experiences are locked behind expensive upcharges or hard to get reservations. On my most recent Disneyland trip, this was exacerbated even more so by Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, the only ride currently open, being down for most of the day. Without Smuggler’s Run, and if you don’t already have reservations, you’re kind of out of luck.
You can buy things, and you might get lucky and see some characters — there isn’t a schedule for them, so you do have to get luck — but other than that, you’re pretty much stuck. Imagine if Cars Land didn’t have Radiator Springs open, and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree cost $100 and needed a reservation? Ok, that’s hyperbole, but that’s kind of what Galaxy’s Edge feels like right now. There’s one ride that’s pretty fun, and I’ll go ride it, and I’ll get a Ronto Wrap, but that’s kind of all there is.
I wish Disney figured out a way to let guests watch the Light Saber building experience without forking over $200 (or having a friend who can do that). I’ve been to Galaxy’s Edge several times now, and I have no idea what it is. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever see it, because I don’t plan to ever spend that much on a light saber. Similar for the droid building. That at least you can kind of watch, but I wish Disney had figured out a way to increase capacity, and let guests build a droid and then disassemble it if they don’t want to spend $100. The fact that I’ll never get to do half of the experiences in Galaxy’s Edge will always disappoint me.
2. The locations don’t connect with guests
I fully give credit to Imagineering for making an incredibly elaborate and detailed world in Galaxy’s Edge. And in some ways, I think it’s great that the designers were able to come up with their own thing. But the problem with it is that while I think it looks really cool, 90% of the land doesn’t really get me excited. The first time I went to Wizarding World with Harry Potter fanatics, I realized how much almost everything in it is something that fans of the books and movies recognize, and they’re incredibly jazzed to see it in person. Every shop is one they’ve heard of, and even most of the stuff in the shops is something that they recognize in some form. Hell, even the bathroom has Moaning Myrtle in it!
Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t connect with guests this way. I have no idea who Dok Ondar or Oga are. I don’t know what a Ronto is supposed to taste like. The blue and green milk are just passing things from the movies, it’s not like anyone ever spends the films talking about how great they are (or talking about them at all). Now, this isn’t really the designers fault. Star Wars has lots of full Galaxy world building, but individual locations aren’t really that deeply developed (especially in the now canonical parts of Star Wars).
The one exception is of course seeing the Millennium Falcon, and not surprisingly that’s the part of the land people freak out about when they see it and all want their picture in front of.
There’s not a lot that the designers could do, but still, it feels like it’s missing the connection to the existing Star Wars properties that it needed to make me excited to explore every nook and cranny. I wish they’d been able to figure out a way to capture more of that excitement. Getting some aliens and droids in the land would be a good start.
Also, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all theme park lands need to be IP, but most of the best non-IP based lands, the different countries at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, or Ghost Town at Knott’s Berry Farm, or Adventureland in Disneyland do still connect to something we guests are familiar with, whether that’s because it’s a real place in the world, or a caricature of a real place or real piece of history we’ve seen in countless other media (like an Old West Ghost Town). We need to connect somehow.
3. Galaxy’s Edge as a whole is very low energy
This, I think, is actually my biggest issue with the land. Often, it just feels kind of dead, even when packed with guests. The last time I went to Disneyland I really noticed how much energy there is in most of the park. Walking down main street the vehicles are driving back and forth past me. The Dapper Dans are singing on the side. As I turn towards Frontierland the Disneyland band is playing. Going from Frontierland towards New Orleans square the Mark Twain Riverboat pulls out of it’s dock and clangs the bell and honks the horn. Walking through the narrow streets of New Orleans Square I stumble on the Bootstrappers pirate band (by far my favorite entertainment in Disneyland) telling jokes and playing songs.
Every single time I turned a corner through most of Disneyland, there was some sort of action happening. Bands, vehicles, characters. It felt fully of energy. Galaxy’s Edge hardly has any of that.
Yeah, there are a few places in Galaxy’s Edge that you get some whistles and beeps from droids or speeders sitting off the to side. On my visit to the Disney World Galaxy’s Edge Chewy and a resistance trooper were working on one of the starfighters and kind of interacting with guests. Storm Troopers are relatively common, although after a few interactions with them you realize how limited their set of recorded voice responses are.
Last time I was lucky enough to see Kylo Ren, and he interacted with some guests and then did a small “show” where the gave a speech kind of thing to the crowd before getting into his ship. But these kind of interactions aren’t on a schedule anywhere. I can’t make sure to go find them the way I can with the Bootstrappers.
And the energy is even lower towards the “Resistance Base” part of the park, which until Thursday (or until late January for us in California) really has almost nothing in it at all other than some castmembers at the entrance of Rise of The Resistance telling guests that it isn’t open. It also doesn’t help that the pathways in Galaxy’s Edge are huge. I appreaciate why they did this, but compared to the narrow paths of New Orleans Square of Adventureland, it doesn’t help with the sense of excitement.
I think the reason this is the most disappointing part to me is that normally Disney is normally so good at it. From seeing the Matterhorn trains coming in and out of the Mountain, to the Monorail zipping by overhead, to the performers and characters around every corner. Disneyland is full of happy, exciting, energy, and Galaxy’s Edge just feels so blah. Still, all these things beings said, I’m optimistic Galaxy’s Edge can fix my complaints, here’s how.
Three Reasons Galaxy’s Edge Can Still Be Great
1. I still expect Rise of the Resistance to blow my mind
I think Disney really missed by not getting Rise of the Resistance open for opening day. Everything I’ve read about the ride, and everything I see, still makes me think this will very likely be one of the best theme park attractions ever. Nearly 20 minutes long, filled with tons of animatornics, multiple ride vehicles, and cutting edge special effects. If you want a detailed inside look and don’t mind spoilers, this huge piece from CNN goes into it a bunch of new information. The parks also shared new, much more detailed preview videos of the attractions. Basically, everything about it looks amazing. Unless Disney somehow has tricked me, my complaint about not having much to do will go out the window when RotR opens. I won’t care if there’s nothing else to do, I’ll just spend two hours in line for this, and then do it again. Basically, if this is as good as I think it will be, who cares what other complaints I have!
2. Disney is making a lot more Star Wars content, which could fill out Galaxy’s Edge
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Disney launched their streaming service, Disney Plus, last month. You also know that that launch included the Star Wars series The Mandalorian. No doubt, Disney is going to keep making more and more of this content. My optimistic hope is that some of this content will start to include Batuu (It’s already been included in some of the new canonical Star Wars novels, I think). Disney could start providing us some context for who the characters on Batuu are.
Maybe Dok Ondar will get more background than the passing mention in Solo. Maybe I’ll figure out who Oga is and why I’m at his (or her?) Cantina instead of the Tatooine one. Maybe some characters will be introduced who could become walk-around characters. Maybe there will suddenly be a story that lets a weird ghost girl haunt the Refreshers. I don’t know.
But, since right now most of the sites in Galaxy’s Edge don’t really mean much to me, my hope is Disney’s new Star Wars content will change that. Introduce to me enough of Batuu, that now the guy who runs the Ronto Roaster isn’t just some droid, but some guy that I can interact with in a meaningful way.
3. Interactive lands with exciting stories and action are possible, other places have shown it
A lot of Disney lovers have heard the rumors over the past year about the entertainment cuts that happened to Galaxy’s Edge. It was supposedly intended to have droids and interactive performers everywhere, not to mention the “Dinner club” complete with show. Instead, the park made the cast members who worked in the land the “characters.” Except that didn’t really work. This persons job is to sell me the flavored popcorn, and I don’t want to hold up the line, so I’m not having a long conversation with them about the history of Batuu (although, I admit I did have a good chat with a woman about what to feed my lothcat if I bought one). Todd Martens of the LA Times went into more depth on this failing earlier this year. But, what makes me optimistic is that I know it’s possible to have detailed, immersive character interactions with a large group of unknown characters. You don’t have to look further than a few miles down the road to see it in action.
Ghost Town Alive! has been bringing immersive theater to Knott’s Berry Farm for four years and is still going strong. Each year it gets new stories and new characters. And so far, it works. Guests interact as much or as little as they want, but the characters go through their story, and there’s no way to miss the action going on around you. In 2017 Inside the Magic wrote about Knott’s beating Disney to the immersive punch; so far it seems like it’s more than that, Disney still hasn’t gotten there. But Knott’s demonstrates that its possible to do this, possible to do it successfully, and possible to keep it fresh. I’m hopeful that Disney sees this, and that as Galaxy’s Edge continues to evolve, getting real immersive characters in the land will happen. And if a character runs through the market shouting about finding a stash of kyber crystals or a gun fight breaks out near the dock, then I’ll know we’re getting some high energy immersion (see, it doesn’t even need a different story than Ghost Town Alive).
Also, while we’re at it, just stick a Star Wars themed band somewhere in the land. Heck, just give the bootstrappers new costumers and let them play space pirate shanties.
There we go, at the last possible chance I finally got my Galaxy’s Edge thoughts down on the page. Do you love Galaxy’s Edge and think I’m an idiot? Let me know in the comments. Do you hate Galaxy’s Edge, have no hope it will improve, and also think I’m an idiot? You should let me know in the comments too. Think I’m spot on about all of this? Thank you very much, please let me know in the comments.
And most importantly: Star Wars Rise of the Resistance opens at Walt Disney World on Dec 5 (and Disneyland on January 17). If you ride on it, tell us how it is, and let me know if I’m right that it basically overwhelms any and all nitpicks anyone could have with Galaxy’s Edge!