- Bryan Young
I had the great fortune of visiting Galaxy's Edge, the new Star Wars land that opened at Disneyland on May 31. As a fan who wears two hats—one for Star Wars and one for Disney theme parks—I'm of two minds about the new experiences offered.
For Star Wars fans, there's no doubt this new park is a home run. It combines all that they love from every era of Star Wars, and offers a completely immersive experience, plunging you into a galaxy far, far away in ways that you've only ever dreamed of. I mean, I flew the Millennium Falcon. I ran from First Order soldiers. I took refuge in a rebel camp. I ate and shopped in an ancient, alien marketplace.
But what would the theme park fan who doesn't care much for Star Wars think about the place? They wouldn't care about the Easter eggs hidden everywhere, would they? There's definitely atmosphere for these sorts of fans to drink in. Theme parks, in my view, are judged on the quality of their designed experience, and from that perspective, I think Galaxy's Edge works very well. In fact, the experience of Galaxy's Edge felt as close as I'll ever get to the fabled Adventurer's Club from Walt Disney World's Pleasure Island. Inside, you'd be transported to a private club on New Year's Eve, 1937. The cast members were fully in-character and storylines could be teased out of every interaction with them. There were shows and secret salutes and drinks. The attraction was popular, but Disney closed it in 2008 in an effort to revamp Pleasure Island into a more family-friendly experience. This is essentially what Galaxy's Edge is: A more family-friendly version of that concept, with every cast member committed to their part.
The main characters represent new and old. The familiar-to-all Wookiee first mate, Chewbacca, heads the Resistance alongside newcomer Vi Moradi, who wanders the park trying to avoid capture by the evil First Order. Since Batuu—the world on which Galaxy's Edge is set—is a new planet that was bespoke for this land, there is no difference between a hardcore Star Wars fan discovering the world for the first time and a theme park enthusiast stepping into Star Wars for the first time—and it turns out to be quite a brilliant story design decision.
- Bryan Young
For those who want a surface experience—get a feel for the place, do some shopping, ride the rides and leave—Galaxy's Edge is a perfectly fine addition to the Disney theme park canon. I doubt anyone will leave feeling disappointed because the spectacle is so high. But for those who want to dive deeper, you could spend weeks there, exploring the story and interacting with the environment.
It's something I want to go back and do. I spent my time in the park split between a private media event and the more public dedication gala. During the media portion, we were whisked from one spot in the park to another to do interviews; for the dedication gala, we were given free rein in the area until the actual ceremony itself. Cast members roamed the land, interacting with us and I found myself falling into a character and responding in kind.
At one point, while aboard the Millennium Falcon, I asked one of the crew if they'd ever actually seen a porg aboard the ship. He leaned in and whispered as though he hadn't slept in a week, "You can hear them in the pipes, man ..." I didn't need to actually hear the porgs to believe him, but then, there they were, skittering around in the pipes and squawking.
It's impressive flourishes like this that are going to keep fans, old and new alike, coming back to Galaxy's Edge. They'll come for the Star Wars and the spectacle, but they'll return for the interactivity and storytelling. I know I will.