Today, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens to guests at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, just a few short months after it opened at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. To say that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is an immersive endeavor in theme park storytelling is an understatement because there is nothing quite like it anywhere in the theme park industry. Galaxy’s Edge brings the Star Wars universe to life in perhaps the most impressive way possible, creating a real-life location that is inhabited by unique characters, compelling storytelling, and a truly incredible sense of wonder and disbelief.
Unlike many theme park locations based on existing brands or properties, the location that Galaxy’s Edge inhabits didn’t previously exist within the primary movies or stories. This in itself, is the greatest strength of the land, offering guests the chance to visit the newly-created environment of Black Spire Outpost located on the planet of Batuu. This outer-rim planet creates the opportunity for new stories to be told and allows the creative freedom of its inhabitants to create their own stories. Each of the villagers in Batuu (aka Cast Members) have their own backstories, Batuu-specific themed language, and even a ‘Black Spire’ themed Disney nametag. The smallest of details in Batuu seek to remove the feeling of being within a theme park, with the greatest attempt to pull each guest into the world of Star Wars but also giving them the opportunity to chart their own adventures within that world.
From the Coke bottles to dining options, everything about this land does its best to allow you to forget about the regular nuances you’d find when visiting a theme park. One way this land sets itself apart is through its ability to host a range of roaming characters, which pays off in fascinating effect. While other areas of the Disney Parks and Resorts often have the need to have a designated Character Attendant escorting characters around the parks, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge likes for you to forget about this, allowing characters like Rey, Finn, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, and newcomer Vi Morardi amongst other original and well-known characters that roam throughout the land and interact with Batuu travelers (aka Walt Disney World guests). While Batuu doesn’t have the option to stand in a queue and meet these characters in the traditional sense that theme park characters have been known for, the interactive elements that these roaming characters have the ability to do are truly groundbreaking. It will be fascinating to view how these ideas will develop over time, and how new characters can be integrated into Batuu as new films evolve.
As of its opening, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge only has one attraction; Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, with the second attraction, Rise of the Resistance, slated for a December 2019 opening in Walt Disney World and a January opening in Disneyland. Smuggler’s Run stands on its own because of its innovative concepts and execution; essentially, the actions of the crew situated inside the attraction dictates the guest experience. Using real-time rendering, the experiences felt by these guests, who are assigned roles such as the pilot, gunner, or engineer, will change based on their ability or inability to perform those roles. While we have yet to see the execution of the ‘customized experiences’ teased by Disney that these results will follow you around the land, it still creates a uniquely special role in this land, including the destroyed Millenium Falcon as you exit the cockpit at the end of your ride. It’s the first time that the modern theme park has truly blurred the lines between ‘attraction’ and ‘video game’. Everything at Galaxy’s Edge serves the sole purpose of putting you in the center of a Star Wars story, and it works quite brilliantly.
While Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge could have benefitted from many elements, such as roaming droids, perhaps several more attractions, or a potential character meet-and-greet, it truly sets an impressive new standard for what storytelling in a theme park could be. The care and effort that went into creating the most immersive experience possible, pitting guests at the forefront of the action is an impressive and exciting time to be a theme park fan and to think that there’s still more on the way once Rise of the Resistance opens in December in Florida and January in California. Batuu is a living, evolving environment where anything can happen and that can evolve with new stories and new inhabitants. As we enter a new frontier in immersive theme park storytelling, we can’t wait to see what that future will bring for theme park fans going forward.
All photos courtesy of Disney Parks