When we first visited Galaxy’s Edge last summer in Disneyland, the land’s cornerstone attraction was still months from being ready to take on guests even though Disney had not yet announced when the attraction would open. In our recent visit to Batuu-East last week, the land was fully armed and operational with what many are calling the greatest theme park attraction ever conceived. This review and assessment of Rise of the Resistance will not pull any punches or leave out any details or stones unturned, so if you want to remain relatively “spoiler free”, I suggest not reading what is about to follow.
Boarding Groups/Virtual Queue
I will continue to maintain that in situations where a park knows that daily demand for an attraction will greatly exceed what the ride can reasonable accommodate in a day, a day-of virtual queue is the most sensible, fair, and efficient way to manage guest expectations and throughput on the attraction. While our first day trying to get on RotR (Sunday, January 26th) was full of issues, being able to manage our access and return to the attraction through our mobile devices was WAY better than standing in a physical queue for hours on end like we did back in 2004 when Top Thrill Dragster first opened at Cedar Point.
The system is very simple, yet so many seem perplexed by it. You sign up for a Boarding Group through the My Disney Experience App, just like you would a FP+ reservation or Advanced Dining Reservation. The link to Boarding Groups is on the front page of the app, so you can’t miss it (unlike making reservations for other Galaxy’s Edge experiences like Savi’s, Oga’s, or Droid Depot). Once you click on the “Find out More” button below Rise of the Resistance on the front page of the app, it takes you to a screen that has a big button to “Join Boarding Group”. If Boarding Groups are available, this button will be red and allow you to click through to another page where you will select the guests in your party (only guests physically inside the park with valid admission can be in your party). If you select someone for your party that is not recognized by the system as in the park, you cannot proceed until they are removed from your party or that person has scanned into the park. If you have a friend that is standing outside security when the official park opening time rolls around, DO NOT select them as part of your party, because it will only force you further back in virtual line.
The entire Boarding Group registration process takes about 10-15 seconds unless you have a really big group or have to scroll through a lot of guests in MDE to select those that you are riding with. In the end, there aren’t any “tricks” or tips beyond having a reasonably new mobile device and making sure you’re not on the Disney WiFi (if you can avoid it). It’s just a matter of toggling back and forth between screens until the “Join Boarding Group” button turns red and quickly clicking through the menus. We were able to secure Boarding Groups 9, 25, and 13 during our 3 mornings at DHS last week (Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday), while guests with slower fingers and phones around us were relegated to Boarding Group numbers much higher, but not so high that they were in “Backup” groups that have a lower chance of being called that day.
On all three days that we wanted to ride RotR, we arrived at DHS between 6:15 and 6:30 (for a 7 AM opening). Because the Skyliner was not scheduled to open for guests until 7:30 AM (something I wish Disney would fix), buses were the only transportation option for use from Pop Century, unless we wanted to pay for an Uber or Lyft. However, we didn’t have any issues getting to DHS with plenty of time by getting to the Pop Century bus bays at 6 AM with buses arriving every 10-15 minutes. I guess if you didn’t want to leave anything to chance, a rideshare service would be the most reliable, but there appeared to be more than enough bus capacity to satisfy the early morning demand.
While there were thousands of guests already lined up and sometimes flowing through the gates when we arrived, it didn’t take more than 15-20 minutes from the time we stepped off our bus until we were inside the park. Once inside the park, guests have a choice to make. If you’re showing up before dawn to ride RotR, you might as well take advantage of the park opening and ride one of the other marquee attractions in the park with a shorter than normal wait. One of the days, we chose to ride the Falcon, while we chose Rock ‘n Rollercoaster the other 2 days. While it took us nearly 30 minutes from park opening until we were off the Falcon, we were on and off Rock ‘n Rollercoaster within 10-15 minutes both days. Guests that were unsuccessful in securing Slinky Dog Dash FP+ reservations for the day may want to race to the outdoor coaster instead, but be prepared for many of your fellow rope-droppers to join you in Toy Story Land.
Once you have selected the rope drop attraction of your choice, you should make your way as far forward in the mob of people gathered near that section of the park and warm up your phone. My wife and I both have iPhones (mine is an 8 Plus, while she has an XR), and we made sure we both had the most up-to-date version of the My Disney Experience app. The park begins to make announcements every 10 minutes leading up to the big moment. If you don’t have a smart phone/tablet or are having trouble with your device, you need to work with a Guest Experience Team member to make a Boarding Group assignment for you, so try to find someone to help you at least a few minutes before the park officially opens. Once the Boarding Passes become available, the mobs of people will become eerily silent as everyone is furiously clicking, but within a few seconds after opening time, you will start hearing cheers and screams of gleeful relief. If the “Join Boarding Group” button hasn’t turned red by now, it’s probably an indication that you need to restart your MDE app, but there’s still probably enough time to secure a Boarding Group if you recognize this quickly.
The whole scene is rather surreal from the mobs of guests staring at glowing screens and asking neighbors, “what Boarding Group did you get?” It’s then followed by the typical Disney rope drop craziness with most guests orderly walking towards the attraction of their choice along with the holier than thou folks who insist on running, skipping, and doing whatever Disney CMs tell them they shouldn’t do to get ahead of a handful of people who are following the rules.
Then comes the waiting, which is pretty much like waiting for a table at the Olive Garden. The MDE app will send you a notification (assuming you turn app notifications “on”) when your Boarding Group is called, but you can follow the progress by checking the status within the Rise of the Resistance Page on the app (same place where you sign up for a Boarding Group). On “good” days, RotR seems to handle somewhere between 10-12 boarding groups per hour (it’s estimated that there are @100 guests allocated per Boarding Group). Using that guide, you can somewhat estimate when you will be called back to the attraction. Disney continues to tweak the way they are calling guests back to the attraction, and we experienced 2 different methods. The first day, when Boarding Group 9 was called (@15 minutes after the park opened), the app notified us that we had 2 hours to return to the attraction. However, on our second 2 days, the app notified us that we had to return to the attraction by a certain time, which is the way they are doing it now. I think providing a specific return time limit makes a lot more sense, because it conforms to the way FP+ works. However, we did notice that when you have an early Boarding Group that you will be asked to return to the attraction sooner than the previous 2-hour standard (presumably to limit early morning guests from slamming the queue at the end of their return window). The third day we rode RotR, we were planning to spend the morning in EPCOT, but after securing Boarding Group 13, we knew that we would have to change our plans to spend the Extra Magic Hour at EPCOT that morning so as to not miss our return window, which ended up being just an hour long. Ultimately, we rode RotR (after rope dropping Rock ‘n Rollercoaster) and arrived at EPCOT by 8:20 AM, to still take some advantage of EPCOT’s EMH.
The drawback of the whole system is when the attraction breaks down, which unfortunately is quite frequently. We encountered this the first day of our trip. With Boarding Group 9, we were called back to RotR at 7:30 AM, but given a 2-hour return window, we didn’t immediately bolt to Batuu. We didn’t want to lose our FP+ reservations that we had made for Star Tours and Slinky Dog Dash, so we rode those attractions before walking into Galaxy’s Edge. However, when we reached the RotR entrance, the attraction was down with no sign as to when it would open. Our son was not interested in walking away, so we waited it out just outside the entrance, which ended up being a good idea as I spotted a few CMs repositioning themselves to start allowing guests into the queue. About 5 minutes later, the queue was opened back up, and we were walking in. However, it was not meant to be as the attraction again broke down as we exited the Resistance Transport on the Star Destroyer hanger. We were given FP+s to return to the attraction later in the day, but there’s no indication on the app when the attraction is running. The only way guests can tell if the attraction is working is if they frequently check the ride status and see the Boarding Group numbers move up. If those numbers don’t go up every 10 minutes, that usually indicates the ride is down. Needless to say, it is still a bit of a crap shoot if it looks like the attraction is running and you’re on the other side of the park (or in a different park or at your resort), which is exactly what happened to us as we returned to the attraction a few hours later only to make it as far as the corridor between the hanger and interrogation room before we were issued yet another set of FP+s to return later.
A few key things here. If you do receive a “recovery” FP+ for RotR if you’re in line or on the attraction when it breaks down, it registers in MDE as an “Anytime FP+”, which is actually good on any attraction in DHS. So if you inadvertently try to use it to ride Slinky Dog Dash or another ride in the park, it will disappear, and you won’t be able to use it later for RotR. The other thing is that when RotR breaks down, it usually involves a full restart of the ride system (the dark ride portion that is), and CMs clear the entire queue and attraction. Unless there’s a minor hiccup in the system, if RotR breaks, you’re forced out of the line and given a FP+. I can see doing that for guests that have gone past the first pre-show so they can go back to get a “clean” run through the attraction, but even guests who haven’t started the “experience” are forced out of the line and back onto the streets of Batuu. For experience, it can be really frustrating, especially if it happens more than once. Eventually, third time was the charm for us (plus when we finally got on, it was dusk, so we got to see all of the exterior planet-based shots change with the setting sun like they do on MFSR), but if you have dining reservations or plans to be somewhere else, RotR can throw a huge monkey wrench into your day without warning.
As many have said, the queue leading up to RotR is not nearly as detailed as Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. However, there’s plenty to look at if you’re stuck in here for any length of time.
The queue slowly builds in the level of detail with mostly foliage on the outside parts of the queue to some nods to the recent Star Wars movies including Finn’s medical suit. Those who are interested in participating in the Disney Play/Datapad App, there are dozens of QR-style codes to scan hidden throughout the queue, mostly on containers, cases, and drums.
There are lots of things to touch, but if you’re not using the app, there’s nothing in the queue that’s going to provide any feedback like on the Indy (Disneyland) queue or other more modern queues like Dumbo, Pooh, Haunted Mansion, and Big Thunder Mountain. The FP+ queue bypasses pretty much the entire queue, and places guests right into the pre-show loading room.
There are some interesting design choices in the way the queue is styled with some corridors organically shaped like natural caves, while others appeared to have been carved out by machines. There are displays of flight suits, weapons, star charts, and all kinds of cool props to look at along the way, but given how the ride is loaded, you’re rarely standing in one place long enough to appreciate the level of detail that these elements have been given by Imagineers (though we did notice that some of the flight suits had fake Arubesh characters on them instead of real letters like the rest of Galaxy’s Edge – we thought maybe there were some hidden jokes, but it was mostly gibberish).
This is where guests are told why they are here and the setup for the attraction. Guests have been recruited by the Resistance to help take down the First Order, and they will soon be boarding a transport vessel to rendezvous with General Organa. Guests start by seeing BB-8, much in the same way that Hondo Onaka on MFSR or Rocket on Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. The BB-8 is very convincing, and his movements are well synchronized with the action. We then are greet by a very serious Rey in hologram form. Guests have seen holograms on Star Tours for years, but this is the first time where we see one that’s not on an obvious screen. I think a lot of people underestimate the time and effort it took Disney to pull this effect off, and for my money, is one of the better visual effects on any theme park attraction. I’m still trying to figure out how exactly they pulled this trick off (I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of a scrim projection and a mirror), but it’s really well done, and it photographs amazingly well – which can’t be said for the scrim effects on Gringott’s and Fast and Furious. We are also introduced to Lieutenant Beck, a Mon Calamari, and Nien Nunb, who will pilot our transport, and Poe Dameron, who will escort our vessel to the rendezvous.
After the pre-show is completed, the doors open, and guests are led to an exterior space where we immediately see the transport we will be boarding. However, there’s a lot more here to see, but not much time to see it. There’s Poe’s black X-wing with BB-8 ready for takeoff and a couple of Resistance-costumed CMs making sure guests move quickly from the pre-show room and onto the transport the moment the doors open.
This is one of those aspects of the attraction where Imagineers were probably stuck between a rock and a hard place. Poe’s X-wing needs to be nearby so he can escort the transport off the planet, but having it here mean riding the attraction is the only way to see it, and even when you’re on the attraction, you only have a few seconds to see it. The other issue here is that CMs don’t really have much to do here. The transport is technically a “ride”, but there aren’t any specific instructions needed for it other than getting on and finding somewhere inside where you can see what’s happening. The CM scripts here are pretty boring, and I’m not sure there’s much they could do here, especially when they’re loading guests every 60-90 seconds (there are 2 pre-show rooms feeding in the transport load area). The CMs spend most of their time here shooing guests along when they linger too long taking photos of the x-wing.
The transport (the first actual ride system of the attraction) is a pretty clever piece of machinery. From what I could tell, it is a rotating show theater (like Carousel of Progress) with either 3 or 4 different identical theaters. When I first saw videos of the attraction and read about RotR, I thought the transport was actually a linear theater, but having been on it, it’s definitely a rotating theater. The motions on the theater are pretty subtle, but well timed and synchronized with all of the action. Despite all of the hand holds throughout the room, there’s nothing intense enough to cause anyone to lose their balance unless you’ve had too much Gamorrean Ale. I thought the best effect was the force field that the transport passes through as it enters the Star Destroyer hanger bay. The Beck animatronic is very solid (and even more impressive if you consider there are 3 or 4 copies in adjacent theaters), but I think Imagineers got lazy with Nien Nunb, who is always facing forward, so you only see the back of his helmet moving back and forth.
I definitely recommend experiencing the transport for the first time viewing from the front of the room, but there’s far more space and more stuff to look at in the back of the room. We had one experience on the transport that was a bit longer, much like pre-shows on FoP, MFSR, and Mission Space, so Disney has built in extra sequences into the show if it takes longer to unload the previous show room
Now we reach what I think is the most problematic part of RotR. First, when the transport door is open, guests should receive the most important CM interaction on the attraction. This Resistance ship has just been captured by the First Order, and a CM dressed as a First Order Officer has to relay that tone immediately after the doors open. We went through this interaction 5 times, and only 1 came close to reaching the level of intensity and seriousness needed for this critical role (we never had the same CM perform this duty twice during our experiences though we often saw many of the same CMs throughout the Star Destroyer portion of the attraction). I realize this is an awkward thing to do as a CM. They’re not actors or Jungle Cruise Skippers, and have only been doing this for a couple of months, so it’s hard to expect them to deliver scripted (along with somewhat improvised) lines with the panache of a seasoned veteran. However, this is where guests need to be snapped into the story of the attraction, not treated like guests waiting in line to meet Mickey Mouse.
The tone established by that initial greeting for me is critical because this part of the attraction is the most problematic of the entire experience.
Yes, the hangar bay itself is jaw dropping with its 20+ foot space screen and menacing storm troopers, but once you move into the hallway beyond (like the exterior transport load area, this is another spot where CMs are forced to shoo guests along when many would prefer to linger and take photos), it’s a 5-10 minute wait that completely takes you out of the story. Even if the initial First Order CM nails their role, the anticipation and tension are quickly destroyed by the line of guests queueing for interrogation. I don’t quite understand why Disney allows a queue to form here, because it should be pretty easy to dispatch transports at a frequency/capacity that matches the flow of guests onto the dark ride vehicles. As far as I see it, there shouldn’t be more than 1 transport-worth of guests queued in the hallway, and with a 60-90 second lead time, (duration of the transport) it should be very easy for CMs to control the guests boarding the transport. This is the one aspect of the attraction that needs to be improved, because it’s a real buzzkill to go through all of the excitement and emotional investment of the pre-show and transport, then be awed by the hanger bay only to find yourself standing in a long winding corridor hearing CMs shouting for “single units” (yes, they need a single rider line too). Hopefully, the awkwardness of this portion of the experience is just a function of growing pains and CMs trying to figure out how to best operate the attraction, but it definitely needs some serious tweaking.
This is where guests are sorted into groups that will ultimately represent where they will sit in their dark ride vehicles. This is a tough CM interaction, especially if there’s any sort of delay in the ride system, but we didn’t have any CMs that took us out of the moment, and did see one that we felt really did an amazing job playing his role perfectly. It’s the typical “remember what color/number your standing on” spiel guests hear from so many attractions, so it is difficult to relay that information while staying in character. One time that we went through the attraction I felt that they were “pre-queueing” far too early by grouping parties minutes before they were even ready for us to stand on a color, but I’m guessing that was an anomaly from an ops team trying to make up for lost capacity earlier in the day.
The space here is probably the best designed occupy-able space throughout RotR. Two long hallways flank a security station manned by 2 animatronic Storm Troopers. The hallways are extremely convincing with flashing lights and panels straight off a movie set and just enough ominous background music to make you think you’re really living a Star Wars movie. There are 4 interrogation rooms (2 down each hallway) with 16 guests loaded into each room that eventually fill 2 ride vehicles.
Once guests are enter the room, it’s kind of like walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The far end of the room narrows, which is a clever queue to get the lead guests to turn around and watch the next “pre-show” projected on the wall above the door behind you where you just came from. The interrogation is pretty short, but there’s a cool Force effect from Kylo Ren that I wished was a bit more intense. The floor and walls vibrate a little bit, but I think Disney could have amped this up a bit more to raise the stakes. After Kyle Ren and Hux conspicuously walk away, Resistance agents that had already infiltrated the Star Destroyer prior to our capture torch through a wall of the interrogation room. This effect is pretty cool, but again, I think Disney could have taken this effect a little further. It’s a fancy light show but could have been more convincing with a bit of fog or some brighter lighting where the wall is opened. There was one instance we experienced where the door to the dark ride loading platform opened extremely slowly. The CMs on the other side of the door took the technical glitch pretty well and injected some Star Wars level humor into the situation, which I thought was pretty cool considering the circumstances.
The Resistance CMs beyond the Interrogation Room were consistently some of the best we interacted with on the attraction. They have the difficult task of making sure guests get into the dark ride vehicles quickly and safely, while also making sure everything on the back end of the attraction stays on schedule. Most of them had clever lines to say to R-5 (droid on your vehicle) as final safety checks and spacing for preceding ride vehicles was needed.
As most probably know, the primary ride system is a trackless dark ride vehicle. These vehicles are not motion bases like the ones found on Spiderman or Transformers. The vehicles simply follow a pre-programmed path through the attraction with no tilt, or up/down motion. However, the vehicles do take 2 elevator rides – 1 up in the AT-AT room and once down in the escape pod shaft. I do have to wonder if Imagineers were inspired by Transformers when designing the layout for RotR. I think that if Disney had used motion base ride vehicles, they wouldn’t have had to figure out how to combine a drop shaft and motion base into a single ride platform, which creates the escape pod finale sequence.
Over the course of our 3 rides on the attraction, we rode on both “sides” of the ride track as well as having experiences in both the front and back row of the vehicle. The only thing I wasn’t able to figure out is whether there are two (2) parallel ride tracks or if both sets of interrogation rooms load vehicles that follow down the same track. It did appear that ride ops were utilizing all four interrogation rooms and all vehicles were being loaded, so from what I could tell, the attraction was being operated at its maximum capacity. From our 3 experiences, I can definitely say that being in the front row of the vehicle is best and loading into the front vehicle of the 2 dispatched is a superior experience. The front vehicle not only gets to be closest to the Imperial Probe Droid when it appears to block the way, but it also gets to go up the elevator that places riders face to face with the cockpit of the AT-AT at the top of the elevator and on Kylo Ren’s side of the Star Destroyer Bridge. The rear vehicle goes up an elevator that places the vehicle on the side of the AT-AT, and on Hux’s side of the Star Destroyer Bridge. The Hux animatronic is no very convincing because the face of the figure is not close to looking like Domhall Gleason, which is a problem since guests just saw him on a screen on the Transport and again in the Interrogation Room. The Hux animatron never turns to face guests, but the view from the rear ride vehicle makes him look like a PotC reject figure. There’s also a slight different placement of the Finn animatonic depending upon which ride vehicle you’re in, but both Finn figures are pretty good. However, there is a second character next to Finn that guests never see, because only a blaster pops out from behind a wall or drum. It’s smart to have Finn clearly visible here (guests see Finn just before the dark ride vehicles are dispatched), but it would be better if you could actually see other Resistance fighters than just a blaster poking out from behind an obstacle.
Most of the ride centers around Kylo Ren though as he appears in a half dozen of the ride scenes, including the light saber piercing room, which is probably one of the best visual effects in the entire ride. There’s another scene near the end of the ride where Kylo again uses the force like in the Interrogation Room, but there’s no shaking or vibration to sell the scene (if Disney had used motion bases, this would have been easy to accomplish here). As some have said, the ride is a lot of going down hallways and either running into a dead end or blocked path where other dark rides have a continuity in the journey that allows vehicles to flow through the narrative. I think the motif works in the grand scheme of the ride, but I do think it occurs a few too many times, particularly the one at the very beginning with the Imperial Probe Droid that slowly descends and isn’t at all menacing.
One of the other issues with the overall dark ride portion of the attraction is the lack of effects beyond projections. There are no fog effects, no heat effects, no wind effects. Everything is simulated with visual wizardry. The visuals are amazing, but when an AT-AT is firing its canons inside of a Star Destroyer, I want to be able to feel it. Riders see the blasts travel over their head and blow holes in a far wall, but it’s all projection with no concussive impact or smoke resulting from metal being vaporized. Maybe these effects exist, but are not yet turned on, but they are really needed to add a sense of chaos and destruction to a Star Destroyer that is under attack from both the inside and out. Everything is just a bit too “slick” and digital along much of the ride, and while Disney’s Star Wars Trilogy has a more modern look, it’s still grounded in old school analog-style sci-fi.
However, the overall experience is visual overload with so much to see throughout the attraction the I still don’t think I caught everything after my third time through. However, aside from the 2 different ride tracks, there are no other dynamic aspects of the attraction that can change, though the lighting on the escape pod decent back to Batuu matches the real time exterior lighting since vehicles are loaded in an exterior (but covered) area. This is not the type of ride that will necessitate multiple re-rides like MFSR or roller coasters, because the experience is very consistent from ride to ride. Even the drop sequence and motion simulator at the end are not terribly dynamic, so it’s not the sensation that necessitates experiencing over and over like ToT or even Star Tours.
When vehicles crash land on Batuu, we see that Beck has escaped safely as well, and the attraction is over. The unload area is about as plain as Disney could have made it. I get that they don’t want guests to linger here, but there’s absolutely NOTHING to look at here, and there’s not even a gift shop for guests to explore when they exit the ride (there are 2 small retail carts just beyond the exit back into the Resistance Camp). There’s no formal gift shop for MFSR either, but the exit to that attraction places guests in the heart of Black Spire Outpost with Doc Ondars steps away. RotR’s closest gift shop is a good 3-minute walk away in the main marketplace. I get that Disney wants to keep guests in the story, but it seems incredibly short sighted to not want to take advantage of the excitement generated by the attraction, especially one that you are only allowed to ride once a day.
Overall Experience and Impression
Every attraction has its flaws, and you’d probably think by all of my critiques that Rise of the Resistance is a subpar attraction. That couldn’t be further from the truth. RotR easily ranks as one of my favorite dark rides I’ve ever experienced, but I’ve seen what other dark rides can do and what I would want in an immersive Star Wars attraction, and Rise has a number of aspects that don’t quite hit the mark for me. The overreliance of projection and lighting effects over fire, smoke, and fog is disappointing in an attraction that wants to be as immersive as possible. The reliance on CMs to deliver lines and interaction like professional actors needs to be addressed, and obviously Disney needs to improve the flow of guests through the Star Destroyer portion of the attraction. Also, the overall intensity of the attraction could be amped up a bit. It kind of reminds me of the “wild” and “mild” versions of Antarctica where the “wild” is anything but and “mild” is like taking a nap - with Rise definitely falling in the same “wild” trap as Antarctica relying more on emotional thrills than dynamic ones. However, even with these defects, Rise of the Resistance is still an amazing marvel of an attraction, and among my favorite dark rides in the world with the potential to get even better.