Star Wars' Rey is coming to Disneyland. But is that a good idea?

February 13, 2018, 3:59 PM · Rey is coming to Star Wars Launch Bay at Disneyland, starting in May. The heroine of the new Star Wars trilogy will be appearing with Chewbacca in the Light Side character meet and greet in Tomorrowland, while Darth Vader and grandson Kylo Ren meet guests over on the Dark Side.

Okay, cool. Another Star Wars character to meet in the parks, right? Well, there's something about Rey that's not like these other characters. (And it's not gender in this case... though now that I think about it, if we are no longer considering the Star Wars Christmas Special as canon, is there anything in the six films in which Chewbacca has appeared that has established Chewie's gender? Hmmm....)

When Disney fans meet Rey in the Launch Bay this summer, they're not going to be meeting Daisy Ridley, the actress who portrayed her in the Star Wars films. (Well, not unless Disney pulls off another of its social media stunts. Even if so, it'll be only a handful of guests who get that opportunity.) And that poses a creative challenge for Disney. They can try to cast look-alikes for Daisy Ridley, but they're never going to get it exactly right. Case in point.

Casting Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and Kylo Ren for a theme park character is relatively easy. Find a good physical actor who is the correct height and put 'em in the suit. Yes, Disney has cast "face" characters in its parks for generations. But these are almost always based on animated characters, such as the many Disney princesses and princes. That gives Disney a bit of leeway in casting. So long as the potential cast members' faces look close enough to suggest their animated counterparts, the public's imagination will carry the illusion the rest of the way.

That's not the case with non-animated face characters. Harrison Ford is Han Solo. Carrie Fisher is Leia Organa. (Please, Disney, let's keep it that way, okay?) And Daisy Ridley is Rey. A theme park look-alike is to the "real" Rey like one of those Times Square knock-offs is to the "real" in-park Mickey Mouse, at least, in my opinion. It breaks the illusion and undercuts the fantasy.

Disney has been doing this with Star Lord (and Mary Poppins a generation ago), so Rey hardly will be the first non-animated, leading role, face character in the parks. But Star Lord never has looked quite right, to me. YMMV, of course.

J.K. Rowling famously kept Harry Potter, Ron, Hermione, and other film characters out of Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter in large part due to the casting challenge. But there are plenty of theme park fans who love to meet Superman at a Six Flags park or Peter Quill at Disney World and who will welcome the chance to meet Rey at Disneyland — no matter if they don't look exactly like they did on screen.

Replies (16)

February 13, 2018 at 4:27 PM · I was under the impression that Princess Giselle (Enchanted) was never represented in the parks because Amy Adams would be owed some sort of compensation as it is her image used in the live action portion and she inspired the look of the animated Giselle.
I may be wrong in this, but if it is true, is Disney now be required to pay Chris Pratt and Daisy Ridley to use their likeness in this way? Perhaps that was something that was negotiated in their contracts up front. What about the Marvel heroes? Some wear masks, others do not.
Very curious.
February 13, 2018 at 4:33 PM · Carrie Fisher used to joke that every time she looked in the mirror, she owed George Lucas a dollar. So I suspect that Lucasfilm has locked up its actors' likeness rights.
February 13, 2018 at 4:37 PM · Hmmm.. I was photographed with Black Widow, Thor, Captain America, and Jack Sparrow in Disneyland and California Adventure. All face characters.

Star Lord and Gamora was in the Guardians dance show next to Mission Breakout.

Mary Poppins often shows up as well as Cruella de Vill, which looks very much like Glenn Close's version.

Since the smash hit, Maleficent has regularly appeared as Angelina Jolie's version instead of the green faced animated version.

Disney already has precedence to have face character portrayals of their movie counterparts. It's perfectly fine.

February 13, 2018 at 4:58 PM · In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Finn says "You understand that thing?" in reference to Chewbacca's growling - To which Han Solo replied, "Yes, and HE can understand you, too."

Amusingly, that's the only reference I can think of that indicates Chewie's gender.

February 13, 2018 at 5:05 PM · As mentioned in some social media posts, if a non-animated face character has just a hint of a face covering, as Thor, Captain America, Captain Jack, Cruella, etc., can - that goes a long way to selling the illusion. But Daisy Ridley's face is so exposed as Rey that it makes casting needing to be far more precise because there is so much less to look at (and distract you) on her face.
February 13, 2018 at 5:10 PM · I don't dig it, but I don't really like the whole idea of specific characters appearing regularly in the parks, animated or live action. To me, the ubiquity of characters in the parks makes them less special and the entire experience less immersive.

I know my view is an outlier and if having a Rey in the park makes the experience more special for children, so be it.

February 13, 2018 at 6:22 PM · Daisy Ridley's face is undistinguished. She could be any girl with her hair pulled back. Even her voice is unremarkable. Rey could have played by Natalie Portman and no one would notice. Neither are unique in appearance.
February 13, 2018 at 6:47 PM · "You know, between his (Chewbacca) howling and you (Han Solo) blasting everything in sight, it's a wonder the whole station doesn't know we're here"

-Luke Skywalker Ep. 4

February 13, 2018 at 9:37 PM · I think it's fine for live-action characters to appear in shows and parades, but I've never liked the idea for a meet and greet. If the character is played by a well-known actor, they're going to have a specific appearance, and while a look-alike may be convincing from a distance, when you get up close it becomes obvious that something is off (even for characters like Jack Sparrow that have a partially obscured face). If a character originates in a comic or animation and the live-action version is just one portrayal, then it's fine for them to appear. However, when the live-action version is the only one, it creates a bit of a problem.

Of course, if pseudo-Rey will cut the lines for Space Mountain and Star Tours, I'm all for it. Plus, smaller kids probably won't notice the differences as much.

February 14, 2018 at 3:34 AM · Hey, it works for Santa..... ;)
February 14, 2018 at 5:25 AM · If the old theatre phrase "willing suspension of disbelief" doesn't apply to Disneyland it doesn't apply anywhere. You can go to any renaissance festival in the country and on any day see at least a half-dozen Captain Jack Sparrows who look more like Johnny Depp than Johnny Depp himself. At a production of "Mary Poppins" on Broadway we saw, nobody said "That's not Julie Andrews," although at the very end when she flew off over the audience one young child loudly announced to the entire theater, "Hey! That's not Mary Poppins! I can see the wires!" The important thing was that he didn't say it wasn't the correct actress playing the role, he said she wasn't Mary Poppins. People accept different actors in fantasy roles.
February 14, 2018 at 8:12 AM · For characters who are identified by their actors, this simply doesn't work. As for kids, they are extremely perceptive and they know when something is "off" about a character. They may be willing to suspend disbelief more than adults, but they know.

This is why JK Rowling doesn't allow likeness of Harry Potter movie characters to stroll around at Universal -- a smart choice.

February 14, 2018 at 10:30 AM · I was unimpressed with the actor we met as Star Lord at DHS last fall. My son hasn't seen GotG, so it didn't bother him (he was more taken by Baby Groot anyway), but it was a bit strange to me. I think it will require some very careful casting to make Rey work in a meet and greet setting.
February 15, 2018 at 10:53 AM · To me it's fine. No one except the smallest children who goes to Disneyland believes it's the real thing anyway. You know it's not the real Snow White or Cinderella. You know the Pirates in POTC are not real pirates or even real people. Even if Star Wars Land is totally immersive, you still know it's not real, because you have hundreds of other visitors beside you. You don't have to have a totally convincing experience, you just have to have a fun experience that lets you forget the outside world for a while.
February 14, 2018 at 10:42 PM · C-3PO: He made a fair move...screaming about it can't help you.

Han: Let "him" have it. It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.

C-3PO: But sir. Nobody worries about upsetting a droid.

Han: That’s cause a droid don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.

C-3PO: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2. Let the Wookiee win.

Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope

February 16, 2018 at 8:58 AM · Also, Chewbacca is listed as "Male" on the official Star Wars website.

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