If there was any doubt that Walt Disney World would have less magic behind its Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opening, after the Disneyland version opened in May, rest assured there was a rathtar-haul of reveals in Orlando this week.
Chief among them, members of the media – of which I was one — were treated to additional information about the upcoming Rise of the Resistance attraction, as well as the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel.
Scott Trowbridge, Portfolio Creative Executive overseeing Galaxy’s Edge, calls the all-in-one experience Rise of the Resistance the “most ambitious attraction ever” at Disney. And based on the sneak peek granted to media of just some of the set, he could be right.
Opening in December, the second Galaxy’s Edge “ride” invites guest to rendezvous with General Leia Organa, and the rag-tag remnants of the Resistance, which is on the run. But first they must head to the Resistance camp near Black Spire Outpost (the setting for Galaxy’s Edge).
The beginning of the experience begins at that camp, near a full-scale replica of Poe Dameron’s X-Wing. And Poe will indeed be the wing-man for the adventure (and guests will likewise encounter Rey, BB-8, and Hux).
The troop transport ship (piloted by Nien Nunb) is captured by the First Order, and brought aboard Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer. Beginning in a blue-hued transport, the shuttle doors open onto a full-scale Star Destroyer hangar, and the media was greeted by First Order officers, and a phalanx of 50 stormtroopers. Moreoever, the practical set featured a full-size TIE Fighter, and a massive display with a star field beyond.
Ren wants the location of Leia’s secret base, and guests are ushered onto a cart driven by a First Order R5 droid. This is the first ride system, and it is trackless. While the media didn’t board the car, Trowbridge explains the R5 droid — on the guest’s way to interrogation — gets into trouble that will lead into the bowels of the Star Destroyer, and involve AT-ATs.
The eight-person ride system docks into another, this one a motion-based system (similar to Star Tours). This new system is an escape pod that is jettisoned from the Star Destroyer, and becomes part of a space battle as the big finale. But before guests can be celebrated as heroes of the Resistance, they will experience a controlled drop as a “final kick-in-the-pants Star Wars moment,” says Trowbridge.
From the description, and the look at the Star Destroyer hangar, this attraction looks incredibly ambitious – and frankly the coolest ride experience I’ve heard of. Disney is a rarer entity that can pull this off, and I couldn’t help but think the entire adventure felt like Star Tours (which I have a deep, and abiding love for) multiplied by a million.
Meanwhile, the immersive adventure aboard Halcyon, the name of the ship/hotel of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser begins on Earth at a Walt Disney World “terminal.”
The details described by Ann Morrow Johnson, Executive Producer and Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering, make this two-day/two-night experience sound like Star Wars meets Westworld (but without the sex, and presumably without the murder).
Johnson describes that passengers will launch from earth in a pod to space to meet with the Halcyon. The pod will dock with the cruiser, and they’ll emerge into the cruiser. Guests will encounter alien crew members and First Order Stormtroopers, as well as Chewbacca and Rey. Rooms will feature windows showing star fields that will move as the ship’s journey progresses (and in addition to traditional beds, the rooms will have bunks reminiscent of the Falcon’s).
Johnson teased exclusive on-board activities, such as lightsaber training, and learning the defense system aboard the bridge. And images show exotic restaurants with sabacc games, a space battle between X-Wings and TIE Fighters outside the windows, but what makes this excursion unique is how choices guests make affects their own Star Wars story. “Choices matter,” says Johnson, as passengers should be wary of who they make allegiances with (including new characters, who will likely be introduced in transmedia crossovers). They may be enlisted to join secret meetings, or learn the inner workings of factions, or even be called upon to be a hero “deep in the mechanics of the ship.”
Moreover, there are consequences between ship and land as character stories will connect to a port day on Batuu (where passengers will take a special transport from the Halcyon to Black Spire on the outpost’s shuttle).
The Galactic Starcruiser sounds like an insane, and insanely fun, entertainment experience. No doubt more information is to come about the “hotel,” and certainly new technologies will be employed to execute such a monumental undertaking (for instance, I suspect we’ll be getting a whole new generation of guest identifications with data that goes beyond the current Magic Band).
Additionally, the size of the ship (and the sets associated with a terminal and at least two shuttles) is no small consideration. And certainly only Walt Disney World would have the space for this level of expansion.
Since we don’t know when the Halcyon will begin taking passengers, the Galactic Starcruiser experience may seem like it’s far, far away. But between this, and Rise of the Resistance, Walt Disney World is continuing to bring the Star Wars galaxy closer.
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