For Star Wars fans and amusement park enthusiasts alike, “The Happiest Place on Earth” has debuted a history making new land that allows guests to truly live out their own Star Wars story.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the largest single-themed land in Disney park history, taking up an impressive 14 acres. Even if you’re not a die hard Star Wars fanatic, seeing a land of this size with such intricate design work is definitely worth a trip to the galaxy not-so far away in the U.S.
“I think one of the more challenging things to realize is just the scale,” Rachel Sherbill, producer with Walt Disney Imagineering said. “You’re looking at this from this huge scale while also making sure we sweat the details and really nail them.”
Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm Ltd. wanted to create a world that was entirely new, but still fits within the Star Wars universe, with familiar touch points from various iterations of Star Wars.
“You’re thinking about all the layers of story that preexist your day, pre-exist your arrival here,” Carrie Beck, vice president of animation and live action series development at Lucasfilm told reporters at a panel on Wednesday. “It allows the opportunity to layer in all of that narrative and gives you that sense of discovery, and it gives you a place where you can actually move forward in time too.”
According to Doug Chiang, vice president and executive creative director at Lucasfilm, the trick to creating any land is to anchor it in a real place. Imagineers travelled to Morocco and Turkey to experience the local markets, which provided the inspiration for the look and feel of the land on the planet of Batuu.
“Eighty or ninety per cent of it is real and then the ten or fifteen per cent is the freshness that takes it into the Star Wars universe,” Chiang said. “We always take the approach for designing Star Wars like we’re designing a period film...it has to be grounded [in history] because even if the audience doesn’t quite know what that is...the audience instinctively knows that this feels real.”
Each element, from the marks on the ground to the giant structures, have been created with such precision, it’s next to impossible to not appreciate the craftsmanship that went into developing this galactic land.
“Getting to see how much fans love Star Wars has really helped...our team propel this idea forward to make sure we’re creating the best Galaxy’s Edge that we can, Sherbill said. “We’ve looked at every possible detail to make sure we get it right because we know that’s what our fans expect from us.”
For example, Imagineers took rubbings from the feet of the R2-D2 droid used in “Star Wars: A New Hope” and turned those into a set of three-dimensional wheels that were rolled through the land before the concrete pathways fully dried, to leave behind authentic droid tracks.
The main attraction
The story of the anchor attraction, Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run, begins after “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Chewbacca brought the Falcon to Black Spire Outpost, on the planet of Batuu, for repairs in exchange for some replacement parts. Chewbacca is loaning the Falcon to smuggler Hondo Ohnaka, who is running a “legitimate business” out of the spaceport shipping cargo. When guests meet Hondo, he tells them he needs extra flight crews to make some runs for him.
The attraction is like playing the most elaborate video game you can imagine and this is the first time a full-size Millennium Falcon has ever been built, which measures over 100 feet (over 30 metres) long.
“It truly is a participatory experience and one that changes depending on what you and your flight crew do and how well you guys work together,” Asa Kalama, executive creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering said.
Six guests can experience Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at the same time and will be separated into three roles: pilots who steer the ship, gunners who defend the Falcon, and flight engineers who manage the ship’s systems and repair damage.
The great part about the attraction is that guests can have three entirely unique experiences by performing different roles. If you’re looking for the most excitement during the ride, try to get the spot of the right pilot for the most action - putting that into hyperdrive make you feel incredibly powerful.
One of the most impressive aspects of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is how immersive the whole experience is, just walking around the land is like an attraction in and of itself.
Different characters, including Rey, Kylo Ren, Chewbacca and Stormtroopers are engaging with guests. Cast members, as local citizens of Batuu, talk to everyone as the character or persona they developed for the area.
Even the food and beverage offerings are an other worldly experience. Particularly Oga’s Cantina, being called “the heart of Black Spire Outpost,” where guests can enjoy alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks after chowing down on a Ronto Wrap from Ronto Roasters.
This is also the first time a land has been designed from the ground up to fully integrate the Play Disney Parks mobile app, transforming it into a Star Wars: Datapad.
There are four functions on the Datapad, hack into droids and door panels, scan labels throughout the land to download different inventory items, translate the Aurebesh words and phrases, and tune into different galactic communications to uncover encrypted transmissions.
Visitors can participate in a multiplayer game called “Outpost Control” to support the Resistance or the First Order.
“It’s one of the more technologically complex things that we’ve undertaken in this land and I know that guests will really love getting to play with it and getting to see what some of those hidden things are that may not be so apparent at a service level,” Sherbill said.
But if you don’t want the adventure to end, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge includes areas to build your own droid and lightsaber to continue the Star Wars story at home.
Reservations are required to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from May 31 to June 23 at Disneyland Park in California. Reservations will no longer be required to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge after June 23 and a virtual queueing system will be implemented. Phase two, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistances, is set to open later this year.