On Sunday Lee and I finally had the chance to visit Disneyland’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It opened on May 31, and there’s been tons of coverage which I’m sure you’ve seen. So I’m not going to try to show you everything – just share my thoughts about this new area of the park. And I still know this blog is going to end up being longer than I really want.
Let me start off by saying that I was impressed – and I didn’t expect to be. When something gets as much fanfare and advance publicity as Galaxy’s Edge has received it rarely lives up to my expectations when I see it in person…but Galaxy’s Edge did. The detail is amazing, and very complete. I haven’t seen that level of theming since I visited Tokyo DisneySea – and that is high praise. When you hear someone talk about “immersive”, this is what they mean. It feels real.
To give you the lay of the land…this area is called Black Spire Outpost, and it’s located on the planet Batuu, on the Outer Rim of a galaxy far, far away. There’s a busy spaceport and a bustling marketplace – and also a not-so-hidden Resistance base.
To keep the crowds at a reasonable level a reservation system is currently in place, and only people with a reservation are allowed in during their designated four-hour window – ours was 8am-12pm. This was VERY effective and it made for a very enjoyable experience. The only time the land felt crowded was during the last hour, when the 11am-3pm group was sharing the area with us. And even then it wasn’t bad…when we left Batuu and went back into Disneyland that seemed a LOT more busy to us. Starting on June 24 there are no more reservations – instead Disney will use a virtual queueing system to limit the number of guests in Galaxy’s Edge. Once capacity is reached, new guests won’t be allowed in until previous guests depart. I spoke to a Disney producer on Sunday and when I asked, he told me that the intent of virtual queueing is to keep the crowds at about the same level they are now.
Back to Batuu…
Eventually there will be two rides, but the only one open now is Smuggler’s Run. Where all of us have the chance to go on board the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy…the Millennium Falcon. If that doesn’t totally geek you out then you are not a Star Wars fan.
The pre-show includes an encounter with Hondo Ohnaka – the most sophisticated, like-life audio-animatronic figure that I have ever seen. Most impressive.
Before the actual ride part there’s a few minutes in the cabin of the Millennium Falcon, where you might have the chance to sit at that famous chess table (the official name of the game is dejarik). Let the Wookie win.
I thought the ride was a surprisingly intimate experience…the actual cockpit holds only six passengers. And everyone has a role to play: pilot, gunner, or engineer. That’s really my only issue with the experience: because you have a “job” to do you have to pay attention to that, which for me detracted from actually REALLY experiencing what it’s like to be in that cockpit. We rode twice, and it was easier the second time since I knew what to expect…but that first time wasn’t quite what it could have been – especially since the first time Lee and I were pilots, sitting in Han and Chewie’s seats!
I was pleased that the ride was much longer than I expected – about 5 minutes from the time you enter the cockpit, plus whatever time you have in the cabin. So I felt like you really get something for the time invested in waiting. Though our waits weren’t long – about 20 minutes the first time and 15 the second time. I would wait 45-60 minutes for this one – but I’m glad I didn’t have to.
One nice thing about Batuu…the exit of the attraction did NOT dump us into a gift shop! But speaking of merchandise…there are lots of shops. There are more shops than anything else on Batuu. The open-air marketplace has the feeling of a souk, with small specialty shops. The merchandise offerings there are more unique, with a lot of variety.
At the Toydarian Toymaker you’ll find “hand-crafted” items, or at least they look more like that. Many of them are made of wood. I was intrigued by the music boxes that play the Imperial March. 🙂
And is this the Jawa equivalent of Noah’s Ark or what?
There’s also a Creature Stall, where most of the critters do something – squeak, growl, chirp, oink, etc. No Loth-cats available for me this time – all “adopted”, as I was told.
The residents of Batuu (Batuuans?) recognize a business opportunity and there’s a place for all of us off-worlders to purchase Black Spire Outpost souvenirs.
Another stall offers the Kowakian Monkey-Lizards. These will sit on your shoulder.
Other shops around Galaxy’s Edge feature First Order merchandise, and Jedi apparel and artifacts – both Light Side and Dark Side.
Two premium merchandise experiences are Savi’s, where you can build your own lightsaber, and the Droid Depot, where you build your own astromech. In the latter there’s a conveyor belt of droid parts and you pick what you want as they go by. Other accessories are available separately. It seemed as if the majority of people were carrying either a lightsaber case or a “Custom Astromech” box – or both. We didn’t buy either one.
There are several places to get food and beverages. The big deal is Oga’s Cantina, which serves alcoholic beverages, and hey, it’s a Star Wars cantina! And who doesn’t want to experience that? It’s had longer lines than anything else in Galaxy’s Edge. We didn’t get to go in there this time. I’ll have another blog with more info on the food and beverages that we sampled.
One thing I enjoyed was the random appearances by some familiar faces, like Chewie, Rey, and a couple of Storm Troopers. (Kylo Ren also appears, though we didn’t see him.) These are NOT formal meet and greets – they are moving around the area on their own business, though they will sometimes stop for a quick “image capture”. The Storm Troopers were looking for Resistance fighters, demanding to see ID, complimenting First Order attire, etc. We were on the receiving end twice…the second time we were accused of being Resistance spies. (Someone blew our cover!)
Rey seems to have a special affinity for kids in Star Wars costumes…we saw her enlist a young boy and his sister – the latter dressed as Rey – in a mission to accompany her and spy on the Storm Troopers. Adorable.
The cast members all have a back story and their own role to play…though with some of them I could tell that the role-playing was already wearing a little thin. Still, we were greeted with the phrase “bright suns” much of the time. I asked why they say “SUNS” when there is only one in the sky. Everyone was prepared with an answer: either the others hadn’t risen yet or were hidden behind the spires. One commented that it was cooler with just the one sun.
There seem to be a lot of cast members who aren’t really doing much of anything – though they provided some additional atmosphere as they moved around. I wonder if that will change when the second attraction opens.
The other attraction, which will be called Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, is located on the other side of Galaxy’s Edge.
Because the attraction is not open there’s not much going on there right now…photo ops with an X-wing and an A-wing, and a kiosk selling Resistance attire – including an X-wing pilot suit. It’s nice and quiet for now…but that won’t last.
With the opening of Galaxy’s Edge Disney has greatly expanded the PlayDisney app and there are many opportunities to interact with it. Lee spent a fair bit of time using the app, and found it to be an enhancement to the Galaxy’s Edge experience. He was able to find different cargo, and also polish up his hacking skills. All of that earned him credits and virtual items like a jet pack and a blaster. The credits he earned on Smuggler’s Run should have appeared in the app, but for some reason they didn’t. We don’t know if there’s a real-life use to the credits or not. (If you’re going to use the app I recommend a phone with a newer battery.)
It wasn’t all perfect, though – there were a couple of things I thought could have been better. For one, I was surprised that there was NO live entertainment. While I understand they are keeping to a theme, I still would have expected something like musical street performers.
And second: it’s a large area, and there’s a lot of it that’s used for large props – full-sized fighters, an Imperial TIE fighter, landspeeders. Why wasn’t some of that space used for a third attraction? Only two attractions in a land of this size?
But overall, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is still a worthy addition to the Star Wars legacy.
Some final thoughts:
- We noticed so many details that existed NOT because they were disguising something functional, but because they completed the look of something. Which means that money was spent on a lot of things that weren’t strictly necessary – something the U.S. Disney parks have scrimped on in the past.
- There’s no way to take it all in on a first visit – I know that I will see different things when I go back. I’ve already noticed new things just looking at my photos!
- Remember to look up – there are lots of things to see above you, especially in shops.
- Of course I didn’t believe that I was on another planet…but I forgot that I was in Disneyland. Galaxy’s Edge is very separate from the rest of the park and I couldn’t see or hear anything from outside, except the one time I glanced up and caught a brief glimpse of the masts of the Sailing Ship Columbia through the trees.
I’m looking forward to a return visit to Batuu – I’m especially eager to see it at night.
Till the Spire!