In Praise of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
As a society, we have grown quite cynical as a people. Sometimes, we take greatness for granted and thereby fail to appreciate excellence.
I thought about this matter often during a recent Disney visit. So many of the iconic aspects of Disney theme parks have revolutionized the tourist experience.
For whatever reason, we don’t admire them enough, though. So, in a stubborn display of positivity, I’m starting a new series called In Praise of…
The goal of each article is to highlight something remarkable that Disney has created.
We’ll start with something that has fundamentally changed Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Today, let’s praise Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
In 1977, George Lucas embraced the history of science fiction entertainment by creating a throwback story called Star Wars.
At the time, Lucas harbored modest expectations for what would become the seminal science fiction franchise of the 20th century.
Now, nearly 50 years later, Star Wars fans still treasure every opportunity to embrace this universe and its characters.
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm, the plan all along involved the creation of a Star Wars themed land.
Park officials invested more than $1 billion in creating the most immersive themed land ever, one that covers 14 acres of land.
Disney strategists recognized that fans at Disneyland and Walt Disney World would both want this themed land.
So, Disney constructed two nearly identical versions of Galaxy’s Edge. One required some repurposing of land at Disneyland Park.
The other required a de facto reboot of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the least popular park at Walt Disney World.
In 2019, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened in both parks and instantly redefined the theoretical limits of Imagineering.
When guests visit this themed land, they genuinely believe that they have traveled “off planet” to a galaxy far, far away.
The immersive theming at Star Wars Land creates a believable scenario wherein you might bump into a Stormtrooper or Chewbacca during your visit.
Everything you view at Black Spire Outpost serves a purpose and advances the plot.
Imagineers dared to bring the imaginary Star Wars universe into the real world, and they succeeded beyond their wildest ambitions.
You may not realize what Imagineers have done when you enter Star Wars Land. However, I can assure you that it’s a remarkable feat in terms of storytelling.
You’re walking into a fully formed world. You’re a guest visiting Black Spire Outpost, the last planetary settlement before Wild Space.
This spot has proven popular with less lawful types, the sort trying to evade the long arm of the law. They’ve traveled to the depths of space to get away from The First Order.
So, Black Spire Outpost is where you’ll find all sorts of shady characters who don’t think much of strangers.
Loving touches abound to enhance the realism of the experience. This development gained its name due to the petrified trees in the area.
The most famous of them is one called Black Spire. You might expect some sort of building as the centerpiece, but it’s actually the forest that has caused the name.
For this reason, Black Spire Outpost consists of hidden areas surrounded by trees. Fittingly, that’s where you’ll find famous members of The Resistance.
Obviously, Rey and Chewbacca cannot wander around places where The First Order’s Stormtroopers would see them and attempt an arrest.
Instead, you’ll find them near the trees on one side of Galaxy’s Edge. Conversely, The First Order appears where there are military installations.
This enforcement arm of The First Order has received intel about the presence of Rey and Chewbacca and other enemies of the state.
So, The First Order has set up an outpost here to gain information about these fugitives.
You’re entering a treacherous political situation when you visit Galaxy’s Edge! Even better, your choices impact what happens next!
Disney recently won a Themed Entertainment Association award called a THEA. This went toward Disney’s work on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
That selection represents the culmination of three years of Star Wars additions at Walt Disney World.
In 2020, Disney also won a THEA for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Before that, the company earned a THEA for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in its entirety.
That’s three different industry awards in four years for Disney’s implementation of the Star Wars universe.
How did that happen? Much of the credit goes to the two attractions at Star Wars Land.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run doubles as the themed land’s wienie. The visual of a full-sized Millennium Falcon will blow your mind at first sight.
In the Holy Trilogy, the Millennium Falcon serves as the home for the main characters. In real life, it’s massive and ably demonstrates the scale needed for interstellar travel.
Imagineers emphasize the genius of this structure in the way they implement the attraction’s line queue.
You start in line beside the Millennium Falcon. Then, you slowly circle up and around it, providing a detailed view of every aspect.
Ultimately, you encounter a remarkable Audio-Animatronic, Hondo Ohnaka, and then compete in a test of skills. You’re on a mission – well, heist – to acquire Coaxium.
Your performance determines how much Coaxium you receive and how many credits you earn on the ride.
Somehow, that attraction pales in comparison to Rise of the Resistance, though. As I often point out, this ride proves so ambitious that you’ll struggle to define when it begins.
You’ll experience a kidnapping, a rescue, a shocking amount of smack talk, and a room full of Stormtroopers.
Rise of the Resistance legitimately combines technologies from several other attractions into one singular event.
Beyond the awards, we can identify Galaxy’s Edge’s success in other ways.
Many of us remember a day not long ago when you could do everything you wanted in Hollywood Studios in about three hours. NOBODY does that now.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has surged in popularity since 2018. The longest wait at the park used to be for Toy Story Mania!, and it took like 45 minutes on average.
Today, you’re likely to wait an hour for as many as six or seven attractions. People pay $20 or more for a single ride on Rise of the Resistance.
Guests spend thousands of dollars to spend three days at Galactic Starcruiser. One of its strongest selling points is an exclusive day at Hollywood Studios.
Galaxy’s Edge is so exceptional that it has created a halo effect on everything else at Hollywood Studios.
People want to go to this park in a way they didn’t before the summer of 2019.
If you’ve visited Hollywood Studios, you can easily tell the difference. This park used to feel like a private party for a few invited guests.
Now, every Hollywood Studios trip requires spending some time at Galaxy’s Edge.
Where else can you buy a lightsaber, build a droid, and hang out with Rey?
This themed land represents the pinnacle of modern Imagineering. It’s the ultimate in Disney storytelling thus far.
Then again, the remarkable thing about Disney is that something always comes along and raises the bar. What will that be? Stay tun
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Feature Photo: Disney