Disney provided several journalists with an in-depth preview of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the massive 14-acre expansion opening this summer at Disneyland and this fall at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While I was unfortunately not one of the lucky writers picked to go on this Star tour, my mind has been absolutely melting reading the coverage.
As a huge fan of Star Wars and an even bigger fan of Disneyland and Disney World, here are four my biggest takeaways from the previews about the rides. Why four? Because may the four-ce be with you (sorry, couldn’t resist).
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Mild spoilers ahead if you’re looking to go in as blind as Chirrut from Rogue One.
1) Almost everything about Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is mind-blowing
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance could be the subject of its own article listing mind-blowing details. By several accounts, this seems to be more than just a ride. It’s a massive, multi-layered experience, transporting you from Black Spire Outpost to a full-scale cargo deck of a Star Destroyer. You start by winding through ancient ruins that the Resistance is using as secret base. You then hop on a transport piloted by a full audio-animatronic figure of Nien Nunb. Your shuttle is intercepted by the First Order, and then you find yourself captured on that aforementioned Star Destroyer. You’re taken to a holding cell, and don’t know what exactly happens next. But a good guess is that you escape via a state of the art trackless ride system and somehow make your way back to Batuu. Or you just spend the rest of your days in space jail, but that somehow sounds like a less thrilling ride.
Much of this experience evokes Poe’s story from the beginning of The Force Awakens. Captured by the First Order, marched through a Star Destroyer in captivity, and makes a daring escape with the help of Finn.
Speaking of favorite Star Wars characters, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, and John Boyega will all reprise their roles for the ride.
These previews confirmed that this attraction would not be 28 minutes as previously rumored. However, it does look like this attraction is a significant experience.
Overall, it looks like Disney set its sights higher than ever before for this attraction. If all the elements come together, this could be a game changer for what we expect out of themed entertainment.
2) They nailed the look and the feel of the Millennium Falcon
The other ride at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run (this land is chock full of subtitles). This attraction has guests enlisted by smuggler Hondo Ohnaka, of Clone Wars and Rebels fame. Hondo is borrowing the Falcon from Chewbacca, and he has a job for a flight crew in the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. That means you get to fly the Millennium Falcon. Yes, dreams do come true. I am very optimistic about the prospect of taking the controls of the most famous spaceship in cinema, promising an amped-up interactive Star Tours-esque simulator attraction. However, my biggest takeaway from this preview is that Imagineering has gotten the look and feel of the Falcon absolutely right.
First off, there’s the full-scale Millennium Falcon sitting outside the entrance to this attraction. According to several articles, this is the first time that a Falcon of this scale and detail has been built. Even the ships used for the movies are partial-scale models or partial build outs. This is 360 degrees of the real deal, and it looks stunning.
Next, I was wondering how they would pull off the feeling of boarding a single space ship in this attraction that needs to pump through thousands of guests each day. A loading area like Star Tours would break the illusion that you are boarding the Millennium Falcon. It seems like Disney has gotten creative with its queue, as they will load small groups into the “chess room” of the Falcon. Guests will be divided into flight crews of six (two pilots, two gunners, two engineers) and given a boarding number. The chess room will act as a non-traditional queue while everyone waits for their number to be called. This will give everyone the chance to recreate their own “Let the Wookiee win” moment for Instagram.
The interiors of the Falcon look amazingly detailed. But then there’s the cockpit. When they first announced this ride a few years ago, I mentioned on Twitter how important it would be to capture the feeling of actually being in the ship’s cockpit. In the films, it’s crowded, intimate, worn-in, and chock full of levers and buttons that look so satisfying. Adapting this experience to a 50 passenger simulator ride would just not feel right. Or using stickers where the buttons should be would instantly break the illusion. It looks like Disney has nailed this on every count. First of all, the ride is limited to six people at a time. This is slightly bigger than the maximum of four that you see in the movies, but I think this is a good tradeoff. Six still maintains that small cockpit feel. The other big win (for me at least) are the buttons. Apparently, they are all real buttons, and they all are satisfyingly clicky. In the words of Matthew Panzarino in his fantastic writeup on TechCrunch.
“It’s wild how right it feels. The six seats all feature belts and the familiar weathered look. More importantly, each of them has a wide array of buttons either to the side or in front of them if you’re one of the pilots. Every square or rectangular button has a light up ring around it which will indicate which of them you need to press for the best result during your moments to act during the ride. The toggles have small LED indicators built into one end that do the same indicating job. I am happy to report that the large, satisfyingly chunky toggle switches and satisfyingly clicks buttons have been very well chosen and require enough force to push without stress but with satisfaction. They’re the right switches.”
3) Disney continues to bring their A game on AAs
A few years ago, Disney switched from hydrolic-powered audioanimatronics (also known as AAs) to electric motors. This provides more fluid motion, while being able to fit the figures in tighter spaces. This advancement has lead to some incredible figures that occupy the parks right now, namely the shaman in Na’vi River Journey and the figures in Frozen Ever After.
Disney is continuing to use this technology in the figures for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. According to these reports, we will see full AA figures for Nien Nunb and BB-8 in Rise of the Resistance, DJ R-3X (previously known as Rex from Star Tours, now a DJ in the Cantina), Dok-Ondar (a trader in one of the shops), and Hondo Ohnaka in Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. You can see a glimpse of Hondo in the video above. He is said to be the second most advanced figure Disney has ever made, bested only by the shaman from Na’vi River Journey.
4) Even the queues look amazing
Let’s face it, these attractions are going to have the longest lines at Disney World and Disneyland for the foreseeable future. So it’s rather nice that Disney has put a lot of effort into creating amazingly detailed queues. Several of the previews I read pointed out how these queues evoke the immersive environments of Flight of Passage or Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Rise of the Resistance’s queue is an ancient temple, with Resistance gear strewn around as they make an impromptu base. There are even benches carved into the rock work for a portion of the line (Yes!). The Falcon’s queue takes you all around the ship, giving you different vantage points as you approach your upcoming journey. Each of the preshows will feature the advanced audioanimatronics previously mentioned. And the queues will have some type of integration with the Play Disney Parks app, giving you a task to do while you wait in line.
Considering guests could be spending hours in these lines, it’s nice that they are being given the same level of attention as the rest of the attractions.
Oh, and it’s definitely worth mentioning that Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run will feature single rider. It’s uncertain if Rise of the Resistance will, but both attractions will feature FastPass. Which will be in high demand, for sure.
If you want to read more about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, check out these fantastic preview articles. They are all seriously worth reading.