WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT GALAXY’S EDGE SO FAR: PART 1 (WITH OPENING DATES!!!!)

While I already covered in length a number of debuts at the Disney parks in my WHAT’S HAPPENING AT THE PARKS post, I really thought Galaxy’s Edge deserved its own piece. Especially now that we have opening dates. Yee.

As both a Disney fan and a Star Wars fan, this is a really big deal. Star Wars has been a part of the Disney parks for a while now, with Star Tours and Star Wars weekends and what not. But this is something completely different. Based on reports coming out earlier this week, this place looks less like simply another land (a la Toy Story Land or even Pandora) and more like a park of its own. By all accounts so far, it seems like it’s gonna be something completely new and blow our collective minds.

And empty our collective wallets.

And push our collective patience for waiting in lines.

With soooo much news coming out about Galaxy’s Edge, I decided to split this into two posts. This one will focus more on the details, backstory, and attractions. The next one will focus on the food, merchandise, and characters/cast members.

Galaxy’s Edge? Sounds like a new Samsung phone. Wait. It’s not?

No, dummy. It’s not that. But let’s get some basic details out of the way for those that aren’t up-to-date on all things Disney and Star Wars.

What is it?

For those that don’t know, Galaxy’s Edge is the new Star Wars land coming both to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (in Orlando, FL) and to Disneyland (in Anaheim, CA.) And if I had to tell you that, then you obviously hate both Disney and Star Wars.

Why? Why do you hate Disney and Star Wars so much?

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Ahhhh, well that makes sense. Well, full transparency – I am going full nerd in this post. So go strap yourself in. I’m gonna make the jump to light speed.

BREAKING NEWS – When is it opening?

On March 7th, Disney announced in it’s shareholder call that Galaxy’s Edge will be opening in Disneyland on May 31st, 2019 and at Walt Disney World on August 29th, 2019. These dates are MUCH earlier than originally anticipated.

However, on that same call, Bob Iger noted that they will open most of Batuu as well as the attraction, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run at first and then open Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (their second E-ticket attraction) later in the year.

Disney has also stated that “guests planning to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland between May 31 and June 23, 2019 will be required to make a no-cost reservation, subject to availability, to access the land.”

We are going to be in Disneyland in early July – so fingers crossed both attractions are open by then! Also, fingers crossed I don’t have to start waiting in line to try and see the thing.

What’s the backstory?

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Here we go. Rather than being based on a known planet within the Star Wars universe, those visiting Galaxy’s Edge will be visiting a little-known planet in the Star Wars universe – Batuu. Specifically, the village setting for Galaxy’s Edge is the Black Spire Outpost. Named for a naturally formed large black spike towering in the middle of the village, this used to be a busy planet and village before the advent of hyperspace travel. But has since become a “flyover” planet where those looking to escape the eyes of the First Order go to hide out.

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So I guess it’s like the Radiator Springs of the Star Wars universe. Which would make Lightning McQueen Luke, Doc Obi-Wan, and Mater…ummm…Jar Jar?

In terms of a timeframe, we are supposed to be in “current” time in the Star Wars universe. Rather than being set during the original trilogy or during the (blech) prequels, it seems we are somewhere between Episode VIII (The Last Jedi) and Episode IX (not named as of yet.)

That being the case, while Batuu is a favorite of outlaws and smugglers looking to elude the First Order, it seems the Resistance has chosen a sector as a temporary base to try and regain strength to outrun the First Order. And of course, this being Star Wars, this isn’t all that perfect a plan as the First Order has tracked the Resistance fighters here.

Like I said, this is a little-known planet in the Star Wars universe, but it’s not completely new. It’s been referenced in a couple books, on TV, and Black Spire is mentioned in Solo: A Star Wars Story. And it has been featured as the end planet for a little while at the end of Star Tours: The Adventure Continues So for those wondering – yes, it’s canon. And I am pretty sure we can expect to see it show up more in the future. I heard a rumor that it may be featured on the new Disney+ Mandalorian series.

Yeah, but can I ride the Millennium Falcon?

What a pointed question, reader. But yes. Yes you can.

This being Walt Disney World, the attractions are obviously the main focus for most people when it comes to Galaxy’s Edge. There will be a total of two “actual” attractions on opening day – Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

They sure use a lot of colons in Batuu. But I would wade through mountains of colons to get a chance to ride the Millennium Falcon.

Wait.

That didn’t sound right. Hrm…

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Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run is probably the Galaxy’s Edge attraction receiving the most attention right now. And I mean, it makes sense. The Falcon is an integral part of the Star Wars story. Even Nickie is like, “ooh the Millennium Falcon” and she doesn’t know a wampa from a womp rat.

But seriously. I mean, what Star Wars fan hasn’t at one point dreamt of flying the Falcon. Thing did the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. So. I mean.

And from early reports, it does look amazing. From the queue to the animatronics to the technology to the actual ride experience, I have little doubt this attraction is going to deliver.  This link outlines what will most likely be the backstory for the attraction. But in a nutshell, Chewbacca handed the Falcon over to Hondo Ohnaka to fix her up. The Falcon was tracked to Batuu and Ohnaka tricked their spy (Bazine Natel) into buying it but then essentially handing it back over to an associate of Ohnaka’s disguised as a First Order contact. And now, it looks like we are in charge of getting the ship back off Batuu and out of reach of the First Order.

I bring up this whole story to not only give some color to the whole attraction but also to bring up Hondo Ohnaka, who has been a big part of the Galaxy’s Edge news recently. The Hondo animatronic will feature prominently at some point in the Falcon attraction and this animatronic is one of the new A1000 animatronics, showcasing hella-lifelike movement. Take a look at the video below to get an idea of what he will look like:

The ride itself seems to be doing a whole “on steroids” thing, building heavily on what has been working in the past. Not just superb storytelling and state-of-the-art animatronics, but more subtle nods to other successful attraction pieces.

For example, when you experience the attraction, you will be part of a team piloting the craft. You will assume a role and be responsible for different elements of getting the Falcon to her destination – pilot, gunner, engineer. Similar to how one might take part in the Mission:Space attraction at EPCOT. But you know…on steroids. Because unlike in Mission: Space where your button mashing and switch switching is really just for show, here you actually have an impact on the ride. While I have heard you can’t actually crash the ship, it does look like you can help your team succeed or fail in their mission based on your actions during the ride.

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And even more than that – it looks like your smuggler reputation follows you even after you exit the Falcon. The denizens of Batuu will know how you performed so as you sit down for a drink or interact with a shopkeeper, they may casually mention how they heard you failed to escape on the Millennium Falcon. Insanely cool stuff. And by “cool,” I mean very very VERY nerdy.

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The experience, though, starts long before you enter the cockpit of the Falcon. I mean, really for most Star Wars fans, it’s gonna start as you walk up to the ride. Seeing an actual Millennium Falcon. Like, just there? Right in front of you?

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Once you enter the attraction, you will walk through Ohnaka Transport Solutions where you will see tons of artifacts (stormtrooper outfits, old bullet-ridden starships, as well as the Falcon from different angles) and receive your mission from Hondo (the animatronic mentioned above) and his droid, R5P8. Hondo, btw, is voiced by Jim Cummings (yes, the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh.)

Once you receive your mission, you are then directed to the main room of the ship for sort of a queue-less queue. You can wander the ship, play hologram chess, take pictures.

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You can wander around, play hologram chess, and take pictures until you are called to enter the cockpit. As I said, this attraction seems to have borrowed and improved upon other things we have seen Disney doing in recent years. This whole system reminds me of what they do with the dueling Dumbos in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. But again…on steroids.

Once you are called to enter the cockpit, you take your seats and the ride begins. The ride itself will be a simulator but I expect it will be rendered in real-time based on rider interaction. So like Star Tours. BUT ON STEROIDS. Keep up.

I feel like this attraction will be the one that feels most like, “THIS is what I have been waiting for me whole life.” I think it will be very personal for many that ride it, especially during its first few months. Because as Star Wars fans, this takes our once only-observational experience and places us right in the middle of something we have loved for what seems like forever. I’m not gonna say I’ll cry or anything. But I’m also not gonna say I won’t.

So while I expect Smuggler’s Run will be the most “personal” or emotional experience at Galaxy’s Edge….

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance looks like it may be the most ambitious and innovative.

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I honestly don’t know how to concisely describe this one. It’s a good thing I don’t care about being concise.

Touted as being “four attractions in one,” Disney is saying this will be their longest attraction ever, timing from beginning to end at around 28 minutes (including pre-shows, etc.), housing 305 animatronic figures, and showing 18 different scenes . This is how it’s looking like it will all play out (also, please note I am basing this on multiple reports, so I am trying my best to cobble together the full experience):

When the attraction first begins, BB-8 and Rey will ask you to join their mission to fight the First Order. You will first be led outside past Poe’s Dameron’s full-size X-Wing and, along with 49 other passengers (50 total passengers total), board a transport ship piloted by the smuggler Nien Nunb.

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The doors will close and you will feel as though you are leaving Batuu. However, in flight, you are captured by the First Order and brought on board a Star Destroyer. You will exit the transport ship and find yourself inside a gigantic Star Destroyer hangar.

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There you will find a horde of training stormtroopers, a full-size TIE fighter, and a large window looking out into space.

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Essentially, this all still seems part of the “queue” even though you have already been through two different experiences – being recruited by the Resistance and being captured by the First Order. This is all part of the full 28 minute experience even though you haven’t actually been on the “ride.”

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After all this, you will be escorted through the Star Destroyer by stormtroopers to the actual ride vehicles.

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The ride vehicles themselves are trackless vehicles that will breeze through different scenes as you battle with the First Order.

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At one point, you even travel under full-size AT-ATs as they fire at you.

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So while riding the Millennium Falcon is something I am EXTREMELY looking forward to, Rise of the Resistance seems the game-changer. Like Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Forbidden Journey at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this one seems like the one they are going to be talking about in terms of advancing the theme park game.

Well, that’s it for Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I outline the food, merchandise, and other details of Galaxy’s Edge!

 

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