When we visited Disneyland’s version of Galaxy’s Edge last summer, we chose to reserve the more expensive and emotional of the land’s “build” experiences at Savi’s Workshop. As I detailed in my review of California’s Galaxy’s Edge, our time in Savi’s Workshop was almost akin to a religious experience that made the hair stand on the back of my neck and sent shivers down my spine. Even at $200, those 15-20 minutes of pure awe and inspiration were well worth the price, which included a high quality souvenir suitable for display in a museum. Upon returning to Batuu last month, though this time in Florida instead of California, we chose to try Galaxy’s Edge other “build” experience at Droid Depot. Similar to Savi’s it is recommended that guests make a reservation ahead of time, though there’s far more capacity to allow for walkups if you are fearful of making the commitment far in advance. When you make a reservation ahead of time, you also must provide a credit card to secure your build time, and a no show will result in a charge equivalent to a fully assembled droid ($99.99 +tax).
We chose to make our reservation for Droid Depot on the first day of our trip so that we would have an opportunity to play with the new toy over the course of our time in WDW. The droids receive communications from transmitters throughout Galaxy’s Edge, and will respond as you walk through the land, so there’s value in completing this experience early in your trip, or at least early in the day that you plan to spend in Galaxy’s Edge. Since the lightsaber we built in California was more or less mine, the droid we built in California was going to be Zach’s. However, I did do some research on the different options and reviews of the experience and went over all of the details with him before we arrived.
Droid builders have a number of options when they begin their experience. The first is to decide which droid type they will be assembling. Guests have the option between BB units (spherical base) and R units (2-legged droids with wheels). While the BB units are decidedly more clever to watch operate and generally more elegant, we went with an R unit because of frequent complaints surrounding the BB unit's head becoming detached from the body and overall difficulty operating the spherical droid (plus we have a Sphero BB-8 at home already, though significantly smaller than the ones sold at Droid Depot). After you have selected the droid type, guests are given the option to purchase a personality chip and/or backpack (if they’re in stock). Knowing that we would be walking around Galaxy’s Edge for at least 3 days, we purchased the backpack, which is specially designed to allow the droid to peek out of a zippered window so you can watch as it reacts to signals from around Galaxy’s Edge. At $49.99, the backpack is a pretty sizable add-on, but it’s well made with foam cushioning in the bottom to secure and protect your droid as well as a zippered pouch for the remote control along with the aforementioned zippered window to see the droid. The backpack also includes a small chain that tethers to the head of BB units so they don’t inadvertently fall off (and get lost). If you don’t purchase a backpack, you receive a white cardboard box to carry your droid home, and while the box has slots in the side to allow you to watch you droid interact throughout Galaxy’s Edge, it’s a very clunky way to carry around your pricey toy. The other option that can be added at the start of the build experience is a personality chip. These chips are kind of like the Kyber Crystals of Droid Depot, and make your droid interact in different ways within Galaxy’s Edge and generate different sounds. The chips come in Resistance, First Order, or Scoundrel (2 different colors for each theme), and are $12.95. Like Kyber Crystals, only 1 personality chip can fit in the droid at a time – though swapping out a personality chip is a bit easier than changing the Kyber Crystal in a lightsaber. After you've completed your build, you can also add various other items to your droid such as decals, additional colored panels, accessories, and the ever popular R-unit serving tray. You could easily spend well over $200 on your droid if you purchase a backpack, personality chips, and other accessories.
We knew ahead of time that we were going to purchase a backpack and personality chip along with our droid, so as part of the purchase, we also purchased a Batuuan Spira. This was a souvenir that I wanted to get in California, but almost immediately sold out when Galaxy’s Edge opened in Disneyland, and was not available when we were there last summer. Luckily, Spira was available when we were in Florida (though reportedly it’s again sold out with a rumor that it will never be restocked). Spira is essentially a Disney gift card, though is a metal coin in a leather envelope, and requires that you put at least $100 on it in order to acquire one. After calculating how much a droid, backpack, personality chip, and tax would be, we funded a Spira with that amount, and used the Batuuan currency to physically purchase the droid. It’s a bit of a roundabout way of making a purchase, but resulting themed currency is definitely cool if you know you're going to spend more than $100 in WDW, and even more so if Disney discontinues Spira. You can re-load and use Spira just like any Disney gift card, but the design and heft of it make it one of the coolest "free" souvenirs you can find anywhere.
Once you’ve made your purchase and selected your personality chip(s) if you bought any, you and your guest can move to the conveyor belt to select the parts for your droid (if you have additional guests, they may be allowed in the area depending on crowds or they can watch from just outside the build area). Guests are given a tray with a schematic on the bottom that outlines what parts are required to assemble your droid. If you’re building a BB unit, you need to select a head/dome, dome connection plate, body sphere, and motivator, while if you’re building a R unit, you need to select a head/dome, body, center leg, and pair of side legs (banded together so you can’t have 2 different colored legs). All of the parts are generally the same style, though the BB domes have a few different shapes, so the choices you are making here are mostly based on colors. The parts are available on a conveyor belt that is very much like an airport baggage carousel, only smaller. Parts come by relatively slowly, and you can spend as much or as little time perusing the options/colors. If you decide at the last minute to switch from a BB to an R unit, that’s perfectly fine too, but the parts between the 2 series are not interchangeable. When you’ve selected all of the requisite parts, it’s time to assemble your droid.
I think since most people probably have an idea what they want their droid to look like before they come in, very little time is spent at the parts conveyor. As such, this can create a slight backup at the build stations. There are 8 build stations inside Droid Depot, and assembly takes about 5-10 minutes, so even if there’s a bit of a line for the build stations, it doesn’t take too long (we waited less than 5 minutes).
Now it’s time to put your droid together…It’s exceptionally easy with most parts either snapping in place or screwing together, and there are CMs available to help you out if you need it. The theming of the build area is pretty cool with Dremel tools filling in as powered screwdrivers tethered above each station. Once all of your parts are assembled, builders have a couple of final design choices to make by adding colored panels to their droids available at each build station. After the droid is complete, it’s time to bring your droid to life and pair it to a Bluetooth remote control. This part of the experience is supposed to be the analog to the lightsaber activation in Savi’s Workshop. As the droid turns on, it goes through some bleeps, boops, and beeps while turning its head back and forth while flashing some lights. It’s pretty cool to see the droid turn on and come to life for the first time, but it’s nowhere close to the emotional experience inside Savi’s. The CM then shows you how the remote control works and gives you some time to roll the droid around at your build station (about 4 square feet of space, so not a lot of room to really move much).
Congratulations, you now have a $100+ remote control toy. If we had bought this in California last summer, that would have been the end of the experience. However, both parks have now installed play pads for new droid owners to try out their creations (the one in Florida was first and was so popular that Disney installed one in Disneyland as well). It was peculiar how Disney was selling items that guests weren’t allowed to actually use inside the parks (though they’re still selling costumes that similarly cannot be worn in the parks), so the play pad is a HUGE improvement on the experience. In Florida, the play pad is located across from Droid Depot near the land-speeder maintenance bay, and is hard to miss with the dozens of droids rolling around (and occasionally off the plastic mat).
If you’re lucky, you might even get a visit from a character while playing with your droid on the play pad, and it’s rather entertaining to see kids of various ages and experience levels play with their new expensive toys.
Zach insisted on spending 15-20 minutes playing with his droid (named RZ-9 for his first initial and soccer number) every time we walked through Galaxy’s Edge, and without the pad, it would have been difficult getting him to resist the temptation to pull RZ-9 out and roll it around a quiet corner of a theme park (or our hotel room). Hopefully Disney realizes the importance of the play pad, and perhaps even expands the space or creates additional spaces around Galaxy’s Edge.
As far as interactivity within Galaxy’s Edge, the droid does react as you walk through the land. The reactions are more common as you enter the land (either on the Resistance side or from Toy Story Land) and near the Droid Depot. If the droid powered on, it's head may turn, lights may flash, and sounds can be heard. The personality chip alters the way the droid reacts. For example: Resistance droids make more fearful noises when you approach the First Order side of Galaxy's Edge.
We noticed RZ-9 reacting at many places throughout Galaxy’s Edge, but it was difficult to tell what specifically was causing the reaction. The interactions reminded me of Pal Mickey, which we still have but no longer interacts at WDW since it responds to infrared signals that are no longer transmitted in the parks (droid interaction signals are through Bluetooth). The sounds and movements are not profound or in any way enhance the immersion of the land. They’re fun for a while, but ultimately carrying around a droid for days can be burdensome, especially if you’re park hopping and/or don’t spend a lot of time within Galaxy’s Edge (lightsabers can be even more annoying though, because of their shape). Thankfully, the backpack makes carrying around a droid relatively convenient.
The droids are of decent quality, and while they’re not comprised of heavy metal components like the lightsabers, they're are not made from cheap, flimsy materials either. The predominantly plastic components are pretty rugged, and I saw a number of violent collisions on the play pad between both types of droids and they always kept on rolling. Zach did run RZ-9 long enough for an issue to pop up with one of its drive wheels, but a quick stop by the Droid Depot resulted in a complimentary repair (ended up being an issue with the electronics in the body).
Zach has played with RZ-9 a little bit since we’ve been home, but it hasn’t come close to the time he spent playing with it on the play pad. I expect that we will take RZ-9 back to WDW/DL on a future visit, so in that way, it will be very much like the Pal Mickey as a toy that has limited play opportunity at home, but is more valuable as a toy within the parks.
As far as overall value compared to Savi’s Workshop, the more expensive lightsaber building experience is vastly superior. The price might be twice as much, but the overall experience at Savi’s more than makes up for the extra cost. Also, while extra Kyber Crystals and other accessories are nice to have, they don’t come close to the necessity of the droid backpack, which increases the droid cost by 50% and results in just a $50 differential between a droid/backpack and lightsaber. Compared to other similar toys found in stores outside the parks, the droids are comparable to remote controlled toys of similar price and quality, though the Droid Depot remote controls feel a bit cheap in your hands. Sphero droids found online and in some retailers cost around the same amount as the ones from Droid Depot, but are at least 1/3 smaller and use your cell phone as a remote control instead of a separate remote device. Hasbro sells some similarly sized remote control droid toys at retailers for about half the price of those found at the Droid Depot, but are of significantly less quality and don’t offer the build experience and customization found in Galaxy’s Edge. Even though most of the customization available at droid depot centers around the colors of your creation, I was surprised at how much different various droids looked on the play pad.
Personally, I think I would recommend Savi’s Workshop over Droid Depot if you were choosing between the 2 experiences, especially if you’re a Star Wars fan. The lightsaber building experience is more expensive, but the quality of the souvenir as well as the emotion of the show element is light years ahead of what Droid Depot offers. However, for children and those that might not have that same connection to Star Wars or can’t be trusted to carry and wield a 4’ lifelike-looking weapon through a theme park, the Droid Depot offers a more accessible experience and toy that you can actually play with both in the parks and at home. The droids not only look cool (maybe not quite as cool as a lightsaber), but they are definitely fun to play with, which is where lightsabers can lose appeal with kids.Tweet
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