Back in 2006, Expedition Everest was the greatest attraction Walt Disney Imagineering had designed in a long time. Several VIP’s had the opportunity to experience the attraction ahead of time. I remember downloading a video from Inside The Magic showing the celebration of the attraction’s grand opening.
Some years later, in 2012, the Fantasyland expansion in the Magic Kingdom was one of the most beautiful additions from Walt Disney World. There were many expectations surrounding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, and Tales With Belle. It was the first time Orlando saw an expansion similar to Cars Land at DCA.
All of these experiences were first viewed from an iPad, iPod or my computer. It took me years to experience firsthand these new attractions. Even though I’ve seen videos and photos, there was no comparison to the experience of enjoying these rides for the first time.
When I experienced Expedition Everest for the first time in 2010, my jaw dropped at how grand the mountain looked. I rode it 8 times as a single rider. When I experienced the new Fantasyland expansion back in 2014, I cried incessantly. And in 2015, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train became an all time favorite for my family.
Now with the grand opening of Galaxy’s Edge, my only way to experience the place for a while will be with videos and pictures. I don’t know when will I go to Orlando and experience it firsthand, but I’m sure it will be the same experience I’ve had with past attractions.
In my experience, it doesn’t matter if you get spoiled with pictures and videos. Nothing can describe the immersive experience of a Disney theme park.
Analyzing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge completely doesn’t make sense, as many bloggers and fans are able to visit and getting firsthand experience. Therefore, I am able to express my observations and sheer joy from the videos and pictures that people have published on the internet. So here are some thoughts, opinions, and an emotional backdrop to the feelings surrounding Batuu.
I wasn’t a fan of Star Wars when a themed land was announced for Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I didn’t own nothing Star Wars related, not even a single movie.
Before the release of The Force Awakens, I watched all the movies in a couple of days. Ive watched them, but not in a conscious way. Since then, there was no turning back.
Now I own all the movies, have some merchandise, and read 22 Star Wars books.
You get the point.
My fandom has grown ever since. Star Wars in general helped me cope with a breaking point in my life. Indeed, this universe changed my perspective about many things.
Since the last year, I’ve been curious to see how Galaxy’s Edge would fit in the overall story of this galaxy far, far away. The work from the Lucasfilm Story Group to keep a consistent timeline between movies, books, TV series, comics, and video games showed that this themed land also had to become part of this story. Not only did they integrated Batuu; they made it feel as if the planet had always been part of the universe.
This planet for the Outer Rim was first shown in the book ‘Thrawn: Alliances’. In this story, we learn that Padmé, Anakin/Darth Vader, and Thrawn have visited the land. In this book is where the drinks of Oga’s Cantina were first introduced. Later it was also mentioned in the book ‘Pirate’s Price’, which mainly establishes how Hondo is now in control of the Falcon in Batuu. L3 mentions Black Spire Outpost in ‘Solo’. These may seems as very simple ways to introduce this land, but it makes it part of a richer history that shows when you visit it. I even includes a character from the book ‘Phasma’; you can see Vi Moradi in Batuu escaping from the First Order or recruiting rebel spies.
It will be satisfying for fans to see that Batuu is integrated with the universe and the overal timeline (between Ep.8 and 9). This could evolve and move forward in the future with more additions to the land.
Lucasfilm Story Group have achieved in a few years the equivalent of Kevin’s Feige’s MCU but in a grander scale. The Star Wars universe is a crossmedia and transmedia phenomenon that is only in its early stages. Not even a decade has passed and we already have a themed land, movies, books, comics, games, and more. In Batuu, all of these aspects are represented. The TIE Echelon fighter that we’ve just seen in the Episode IX teaser has landed with Kylo Ren and his Stormtroopers. Hondo Ohnaka is trying to keep a legit business in the planet. A Loth cat from Star Wars Rebels can be seen in one of the stores owned by an Ithorian. Relics from other battles between the Rebels and the Empire can be seen in the land. These may be simple Easter Eggs, but they also blend in to become part of the grander story of Batuu. I adds depth and richness, immersing ourselves into our own story within Star Wars. That can be done by interacting with the Disney Play app or just talking to a cast member, who are actually villagers and have their own story inside the land. The attention to detail is justified because Batuu is a real planet in a universe we want to be part of.
Galaxy’s Edge has opened with one attraction: Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. The name itself mentions a book written by Greg Rucka. Some fans have considered this attraction the next generation of Star Tours, but this is just a misunderstanding. The whole experience is interactive and immersive. Your decisions as a pilot, engineer or gunner will affect the overall results of your trip to steal hyper fuel from Corellia. The queue shows the new business Hondo is trying to keep running. You have some time to enjoy the Falcon, sitting at the holochess, watching each little golden nugget. At the end of the attraction, the experience is not over. If you’ve crashed the Falcon several times during your mission, power outages and electricity sparks will be present when unloading the Falcon, even announcing on the radio that the spaceship is in need of immediate repairs. Moreover, your reputation as a ship crasher will be noticed throughout the land.
Black Spire Outpost offer several stores to get your Star Wars merch. Every single item is in universe. You will not see many T-Shirts or pins. You will indeed see lightsabers, Jedi robes, kyber crystals, holochrons, and plush toys. Dok Ondar has its own stores and you can see the Ithorian doing some organizing. Droids can be manufactured to your own liking. There are also places to eat that keep contributing to the story. These places will not be overlooked when every single one of them has details for everyone who is passionate about the universe.
Nothing of this would be interesting without the live entertainment. As mentioned earlier, cast members are villagers by which you can ask for missions or just chat about the galaxy. Rebel spies try to recruit you to be against the First Order. Stormtroopers are patrolling to see everyone’s identification. Chewbacca can be seen trying to fix a vehicle near the Resistance camp. Rey is also regrouping the Resistance fighters. Kylo Ren just landed on his TIE Echelon and already gets mad at one of his Lieutenants for his incompetence. Hondo’s employees are not always happy about his boss. All of these situations are happening as you experience Batuu. This allows everyone to role play and become even more involved in the story. It isn’t about what is happening around you; it is about how you as an active character becomes part of these situations.
Galaxy’s Edge is the greatest achievement of Walt Disney Imagineering in the past decade. They have been able to collaborate with Lucasfilm to create a unique land that blends storytellling and adventure. My visit of this land maybe be in a few years, but I’m already excited about it with he pictures and videos published online. You’re never emotionally prepared for these kind of experiences. In the same way that I get tears eyed every time I see Cinderella castle at the end of Main Street U.S.A., I will cry as I see the Millenium Falcon far in the distance with a lightsaber in my hand.