Everything We Learned about Disney’s Upcoming Attraction, ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’
In the last two months, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios for not one but two Star Wars-themed adventures. In November, I was among the first to check out the newly updated attraction, “Star Tours”, which incorporated new characters, vehicles, planets, and creatures from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This month, I was welcomed back in order to experience the park’s epic “Star Wars: Galactic Nights” event while also getting an inside scoop on the details for the upcoming attraction, a massive expansion of Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios known as “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.” While the overall experience was a
once twice-in-a-lifetime ride, what’s really exciting is what the park has planned for guests attending the Galaxy’s Edge attraction.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, either stretching all the way back to 1977 or just from Rian Johnson‘s most recent installment, there’s a good chance you’ve envisioned yourself piloting a starship or engaging in a lightsaber battle. Whatever the fantasy, “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” is designed to drop you into an immersive, other-worldly adventure where (family-friendly and perfectly safe) action and intrigue await around every alien corner. The attraction will transport guests to Batuu, a remote trading outpost on, you guessed it, the edge of the galaxy. Once there, you’ll be able to take on missions that will determine the fate of the battle between the First Order and the Resistance, explore the vast and varied merchant market stalls in a grand bazaar, and/or just kick back and enjoy a wide selection of alien drinks and space meats.
The Imagineering team and Lucasfilm have really pulled out all the stops in making Batuu and “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” not just an authentic and “lived-in” place with a built-in sense of history, but an immersive environment that aims to let longtime fans live out their own Star Wars story. Here’s everything we know about it so far:
'Inside Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge' Presentation
(While I had video of the presentation, technical difficulties prevented me from sharing it with you; my apologies! Please enjoy this flyby through the park’s model that was released earlier this year.)
Introduced by the legendary Warwick Davis, and led by Star Wars actor David Collins, this 45-minute panel featured the collaborative team of Scott Trowbridge, Portfolio Creative Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering; Robin Reardon, Executive Creative Producer at Walt Disney Imagineering; Chris Beatty, Executive Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering and Doug Chiang, VP/Creative Director at Lucasfilm.
It also featured a bunch of new images, first-looks, and exclusive reveals that I’ll be sharing with you below. Some of the following information came directly from the even, while other bits of news have been revealed and confirmed via the excellent Disney Parks blogs. Read on for everything we know so far!
“Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” will arrive both in Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in 2019, though the California theme park will edge out the Florida-based attraction.
- The attractions will allow guests to visit Batuu, “a remote trading port on the edge of wild space, where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life – and where guests will find themselves in the middle of the action.”
- Scott stressed the park’s authenticity, saying,“Even the water fountains” will have that “authentic Star Wars look. It will provide more story and detail around every corner. Even the merchandise you’ll get from the street market or the exotic food and beverages from across the galaxy, all that is designed to help pull you into Star Wars and help you believe you’re having your own Star Wars adventure.”
- The immersive attraction will place guests in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance, offering all sorts of opportunities to mix it up.
- One specific attraction will make guests feel like they’re inside a Star Destroyer’s hangar bay, done on a massive scale never before attempted by a Disney Park build.
- Another attraction will let guests live out their fantasies by offering an opportunity to fly the Millennium Falcon, either piloting the ship, shooting down enemies from behind its blasters, or going through all the necessary procedures to make the jump to hyperspace. Don’t expect a relaxing adventure, however, since this comes as a part of the role-play during a critical mission.
- Scott described the experience as “an invitation to get behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon and take it on your own, customized galactic joyride. You have choices, you’re in control; where you go is completely up to you.”
- That mission is more than just a fun one-off experience; your performance may actually earn you galactic credits for a skillful handling of the mission, or a spot on bounty hunter Harkos’ list if you bring the Falcon in more beat-up than usual. Your result might even follow you all the way to the cantina!
Let’s talk more about the Millennium Falcon, shall we? This is a signature addition to the park and it’s been built to feel very real, so when you climb through the ship’s hatch, “walk through her hallways, sit inside the cockpit, power her up and actually fly her yourself,” it’s an experience like no other.
- Doug explained: “For the film version [of the Millennium Falcon], we had several different versions, six or more, including a couple full-size versions, a six-inch miniature, a two-inch miniature, and a bunch of digital versions. Curiously, they’re all slightly different, and that’s because they were all built for different purposes. The one Falcon you’re going to see in the park and experience is going to be the real deal, it’s the authentic thing. I was standing in front of it and was completely awestruck; I can’t wait for you to have the same experience.”
- Other builds that are intended to feel real are the attraction’s entire fleet–yes, a fleet–of X-wings.
- Doug offered more details on this, saying, “In a funny way, the design process [for a film] is exactly the same [as it is for the parks]; the only difference is in the final product, the final construction. For instance, the things that we make for film are designed for the point of view for the camera … Construction for the parks, however, are completely real; they require a level of authenticity that’s unparalleled … We’re building a whole fleet of X-wings, for real. The versions that you’re going to see in the parks are the real deal. They’re made of a quarter-inch aluminum over a steel frame, like a real aircraft. When you knock on it, it doesn’t give, it’s like the real thing. I like to think that if you mount an engine on this, it’ll really fly. The X-wings that we’re going to see in the parks are identical to those in the movie, the only difference is that these are built for real. All the details are authentic: the bolts are really bolts, the latches are real latches, and we even went so far as, the graphics, they actually say something [in Aurebesh], they’re not just for decoration.”
You’ll get to do more than take a one-and-done mission on the Falcon, as the panelists discussed:
- Robin: “We are going on missions, we’re going to fly around Batuu, we’re going to see some things, we’re going to take you to places beyond Batuu. We’ve been working with Doug Chiang and the team to show you something you’ve never seen.” They revealed an image of a massive creature with great tentacle jaws waiting in some sort of subterranean base or facility overgrown with vegetation.
- Doug: “This is a really fun sequence. It’s something fresh, and it’s something new, but it’s going to feel completely Star Wars. We have to expand the universe and I think you’re going to really enjoy it.”
- Scott: “This is just one of the things you might find yourself faced with if you choose to take on this adventure. Who knows how it’s gonna end up? Doesn’t look like it’s gonna end up well, but that’s up to you guys!”
The Design of Batuu
As for Batuu itself, Scott said, “Much like [Star Wars] locations reflect personalities of characters, Batuu is rich with discovery and hidden alleyways to explore and surprises and new adventures around every corner. That’s the Star Wars where we want to live. We want to provide an opportunity for all of you to be in the story.”
Chris spoke at length about the design influences and details guests will find on Batuu:
“Designing a planet is a lot like designing a character. So we sat down and started looking at where we wanted to take our guests. There has to be a place that was familiar and still felt like Star Wars … We went back and looked at the work of Ralph McQuarrie, which I would say is the Star Wars DNA. There’s so much of his artwork we still respect.
“[This place] is an outpost on the edge of the galaxy, an old trading post with its own history. But to create history … we take pride in the details, we do our research. For Batuu, we wanted it to be romantic, to have this exotic nature to it, mysterious, a little bit of danger. (It’ll be safe, I promise.) But there’s a sense of danger and a comedy aspect, and a lot of fun. We want to base Star Wars in reality. We started looking at Morocco … and these ancient ports of trade. What we found were these amazing marketplaces where every time you turned a corner there were these sights and sounds and smells that just brought this place to life.
“If this is Morocco, what’s Batuu? If I turn the corner, what do I hear? Do I hear droids arguing in the corner over something, or music coming from an apartment overhead, or can I go up to a weird cart in the marketplace and get some strange space-meat sandwich? What am I walking on, are they cobblestones? Will I look down in the dirt and see droid tracks? It’s all about story, and when it’s about story, it’s about life.”
His passion for designing an immersive experience was plain to see, but he still had this to say: “I can’t wait for you, as guests, to take these little dogleg turns as you wander through the streets and [experience] these reveals we have for you guys.”
- While wandering around Batuu, guests will come across familiar faces (and interfaces?) like BB-8, Chewbacca, First Order Officers, and even RX-24 “Rex”, the droid pilot from an early version of Hollywood Studios’ “Star Tours” Attraction.
- You might just find Rex when you head to the cantina to check out such (in)famous beverages such as blue (and now green) milk.
- Just outside the cantina will be plenty of opportunities to purchase artisanal trinkets, baubles, and crafts from the local Batuu merchants. They’re all exclusive items intended to look like they’re hand-crafted and available only at this remote outpost. The fun and unique items will also feel like they’re part of the “Galaxy’s Edge” story.
- The market district was inspired by the real-world locales in Istanbul and Marrakech. The result is a rich collection and variety of shops and stalls, including one that’s run by a Toydarian who, of course, makes toys.
Chris talked about this particular shop, just one in a huge marketplace full of individual stories:
“How do we bring this sense of artistry to our planet? You can see the influence of Morocco and Istanbul, based on the grand bazaar and walking into this grand space. But we compress that space and bring it down, make it a bit more human and accessible to you. Here, you’ll have all these little stalls that all have their own backstory. We may never share those backstories with you, but we know those backstories. It helps the design team craft each one of their individual stories.
“One story we will share is that one shop owner is a Toydarian, and they make toys. The beauty of the shop really is that artistry, authenticity. The things that we want you to buy as fans … you want something unique, something different, something that feels like it came from this planet. So we’ve been working really hard with our merchandise partners to develop toys like an ATAT walker that looks like it’s crafted by an artisan who’s hammering each little piece of metal out and setting rivets by hand. A lot of these toys are inspired by things that we’ve seen in Rogue One and The Force Awakens, which Doug worked on.”
*Apologies for the low-quality screengrab, but these are some very cool-looking, hand-crafted artisanal toys.
And here’s a little bonus trivia for you:
- Imagineering’s conference room table is shaped and designed like a Star Destroyer.
- According to Scott, “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” is the “largest land expansion [they’ve] ever built in the company.” “It’s an amazing opportunity for us to live our Star Wars story, and Batuu is a great stepping-off point for all those adventures.”
- Scott and Chris sampled about 30 different varieties of blue and green milk, some of which will make their way to the park for you to try out!
- Scott: “2019 is still a year away, but because we love planting the seeds for these stories, [we have] a collection of ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’ trading cards.” The Starter Set helps set those stories, plant those seeds, and introduce you to some characters you’re going to meet along the way … There may be some secrets and surprises in there, too.” Keep an eye out for these!
What do you think? Are you ready to book passage to Batuu? Be sure to let us know in the comments!