Disney’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge takes experiential storytelling and the theme park experience to new heights
Beth Whittaker takes a closer look at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – the exciting new world created by Disney and Lucasfilm that takes park guests on their own intergalactic adventure
HAVING opened at Disneyland Park in California at the end of May this year and set for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, in August, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the largest and most technologically advanced single-themed land expansion to ever take place in a Disney park.
Now, for the first time, fans will be able to immerse themselves in the iconic stories that have captured audiences’ imaginations for decades and live their own Star Wars adventures in the most creative, innovative and ambitious land ever built at Disney.
With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disney is redefining the theme park experience and setting a new bar for experiential storytelling. From each authentic detail to the land’s jaw-dropping scale, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge exceeds every expectation. Guests are transported to the remote planet of Batuu, full of unique sights, sounds, smells and tastes, where they become part of the story as they sample galactic food and beverages, explore an intriguing collection of merchant shops and take control of the most famous ship in the galaxy aboard Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
In light of tremendous demand, Disney made the decision to open the land in phases to allow guests to sooner enjoy the one-of-a-kind experiences that make Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so spectacular. Phase two of the new space, opening later this year, will feature Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the most ambitious, immersive and advanced attraction ever imagined, which will place guests in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance and will blur the lines between fantasy and reality.
Starships and other vehicles play integral roles in Star Wars stories, almost becoming characters all their own, which is why in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the planet Batuu’s landscape is populated with all manner of transportation vehicles, from iconic ships to small, utilitarian speeders.
With both the Resistance and First Order making encampments on the planet, the evidence of their arrival is all around Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, including several starfighters and transport shuttles. But Black Spire Outpost is also a community full of residents just trying to go about their daily lives, so their transportation is represented as well. As guests explore Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the presence of these ships and vehicles – built at full scale – becomes yet another layer of immersive storytelling that deepens engagement with the land.
Once guests step foot on Batuu, they will be part of the action as it unfolds around them; interactions with the Play Disney Parks mobile app will deepen their engagement with the land – it is the first land within a Disney park designed to integrate with the app. When guests enter, they will be able to transform the Play Disney Parks app into their very own Star Wars: Datapad on their mobile devices. As guests earn galactic credits for things they do in the land using their Datapad, the credits will show in their profile.
The app will provide four primary functions to unlock a deeper level of storytelling within the land:
- Hack – interact with certain droids, blinking door panels and other scenic elements.
- Scan – explore the contents of cargo crates and other containers and collect virtual items.
- Translate – understand written languages from the Star Wars galaxy.
- Tune – tap into the signals from satellite dishes and antenna arrays to eavesdrop on characters’ conversations.
Guests can also use the app to play a multi-player game throughout the land, Outpost Control, which occurs several times daily. The First Order wants to install surveillance devices in door panels to spy on the Resistance, while the Resistance is trying to remove them. Guests can choose to support either side by hacking the panels for the Resistance or the First Order. The game concludes when one side successfully hacks a majority of the available panels.
While waiting to board Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, guests may also take on a job for Hondo Ohnaka, proving through this in-queue game that they are ready to pilot the Millennium Falcon. This depth of storytelling throughout the themed space is part of the total immersion that will distinguish the two, 14-acre lands from any other Disney land in history.
“The level of guest participation in Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is different from anything we’ve done before,” says Asa Kalama, executive creative director, Walt Disney Imagineering. “You’re not merely a passenger along for a ride, but rather the protagonist of the adventure. The story unfolds around you and responds to the way you engage it.”
Merchandise available in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge also plays a vital role in the overall storytelling within the land. The Disney Parks product development team was integrated with the overall project team throughout the creation of the land to ensure the retail programme delivers an immersive, authentic and connected Star Wars experience.
Unique merchandise expands the fun of playing in this land, allowing guests to live their own Star Wars adventures through new story-driven retail experiences, role-play products and environments. Retail comes to life for guests as they construct a lightsaber or build a droid in authentic environments, the products delivering an extreme level of authenticity, realism and storytelling. Alongside this, the park’s food and beverage offering has been developed into a diverse and distinctive menu, reinforcing the team’s commitment to immersive storytelling and attention to detail in every aspect of this Star Wars experience.
“Star Wars merchandise is a cornerstone in the childhoods of many generations of fans. We knew it was important to offer these fans something different in this land than they have ever seen before,” said Brad Schoeneberg, director, merchandise strategy and new park experience development. “Through the lens of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, we have created a retail experience that blends authentic product and spaces with rich storytelling. Whether you’re looking for a small tangible memento of your visit or the ultimate Star Wars collectible, you definitely will find something special in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Every piece of product has been newly created for this land and the authentic retail experiences found here are sure to delight fans from every generation.”
The new lands build off decades of collaboration between Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm Ltd., a global leader in film, television and digital entertainment production, including the Star Wars franchise. The work on Star Wars between these two creative powerhouses dates back to 1987, when the ground breaking Star Tours attraction opened at Disneyland Park in California.
“Our goal was to create a place so authentic – so real – that when our guests step inside, they feel like they’re in the movie,” said Chris Beatty, executive creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering. “To do this, we had to partner with the team at Lucasfilm in bringing these films to life. Together, we have crafted a place that is going to amaze our guests – a place they’ve never seen before.”
“At the heart of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is this fundamental truth – we all have the power to be a hero, making choices that change the course of the galaxy,” adds Scott Trowbridge, Star Wars portfolio creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering. “Whether you’re a lowly moisture farmer on some remote planet or an orphan sitting in a pile of dirt just trying to scrape by, every individual has the power to change the universe.”
“In designing the Star Wars universe, we don’t consider it science fiction or fantasy – we think of it more as a period piece and we look at it almost from a documentary point of view,” says Doug Chiang, vice-president and executive creative director, Lucasfilm. “Star Wars design is grounded in reality and we’re creating a place that is believable, authentic and real. Then we exaggerate that reality and add in a distinct visual vocabulary to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. For this land, we wanted to create something fresh and also timeless – just like our films.”
“When you have a film, it’s a closed experience. You get to the end and it’s over,” adds Carrie Beck, vice-president, development, Lucasfilm. “At Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, it’s about being expansive over time; it has a richness of discovery and the idea of possibility. That platform is filled with narrative and play, so guests will want to come back over and over – and have a variety of experiences.”