Time for another "Project Stardust" update from the Disneyland Resort. As Disneyland prepares for the opening of its Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land later this month, the resort has been making changes throughout its theme parks... and keeping a small group of local reporters (including me) informed about them with private information sessions. The latest concerns the virtual queuing system that Disney will use to control access to Galaxy's Edge once it opens to all Disneyland ticket holders on June 24.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens officially to the public on May 31, but if you don't have a Disneyland Resort hotel reservation or one of those general-public reservations that Disney handed out in less than two hours a week ago, you're not getting in. (Hotel rooms remain available, Disney would like you to know.) Advance reservations are required to enter the land between May 31 and June 23 and there will be no stand-by access.
But starting June 24? It's first-come, first-served. Galaxy's Edge will open to all Disneyland ticket holders with the park each morning. But if (okay... when) the land reaches capacity, Disney will close the land's entrance and implement a virtual queue system.
A virtual queue is something new for Disneyland's theme park attractions, even if restaurants have been using them for years. Fastpass is more a ride reservation system, where you get a return time to come back and experience an attraction. Virtual queues do not have set return times, but instead call you to enter when everyone ahead of you in the virtual queue has gotten in and now there's space for you. It's virtual because you do not have to stand in a physical line while you wait for your number to be called.
You can enter the virtual queue for Galaxy's Edge through one of two ways: by using the Disneyland app or by using Fastpass-style machines inside the park. The system will work the same as with Fastpass or Maxpass. You either feed all your party's tickets into the machine or use the app to check everyone in your party into the queue. Either way, everyone must be inside the park before they can enter the queue. There's no sending a runner ahead through the front gate to check in everyone else.
Parties will be assigned into boarding groups and once your boarding group has been called, you will receive a message via the app. You will have two hours from that moment to enter the land before losing your opportunity. So there's no need to bail out of another, physical queue or rush away from your lunch to get into Galaxy's Edge.
Disneyland officials said that 86 percent of its visitors use the Disneyland app when visiting the parks. But what if you are among the other 14 percent? Since there's no return time on your virtual queue ticket, how will you know when to come in?
Disneyland officials said that the park will post which boarding groups are being admitted to the land on digital signs at the land's entrance as well as at Guest Relations booths around the park, just like you might see at airport boarding gates. So it's up to you to look for the signs if you are not using the Disneyland app to manage your place in the Galaxy's Edge virtual queue.
It's possible that Disney might clear the virtual queue at some point during the day, allowing the park to reopen the land to all. The Disneyland app and the digital signs will let you know the land's status at any given time, whether it is open to all or whether it is closed off and using the virtual queue.
Now that Disneyland has developed a virtual queue system, might we see it used at other attraction in the future? Perhaps, resort officials said.
"These are new tools for us that might be applied down the line, whenever we believe that we can raise the guest experience," Kris Theiler, Vice President Disneyland Park, said when I asked her that question.
Back to Galaxy's Edge, once you are inside — via the virtual queue or directly — there will be no time limit on how long you can stay inside Galaxy's Edge. The four-hour limit that Disneyland is enforcing during the reservation-only period comes to an end on June 23.
By the way, Disneyland officials confirmed that they will be using a color-coded wristband system to enforce those four-hour limits between May 31 and June 23. The system will work like that used at Disney's Halloween parties. You will need to show a valid wristband color in order to be admitted to Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Oga's Cantina, or other locations inside the land during your visit. Once your time is up, no one will let you in and you will be encouraged to leave the land.
And don't try to game the system. While the First Order's Stormtroopers might let you slide with a few selfies at the land's abundant outdoor photo ops after your time is up, the Millennium Falcon ride attendants are not going to let you into that queue a few minutes before you're supposed to be out of the land... unless the ride is a walk-on by then.
Disneyland officials said that the Millennium Falcon ride will have an hourly capacity similar to Star Tours or Buzz Lightyear, putting it in the mid-range for Disneyland attractions. (Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the dark ride that will open later this year, is the land's people eater.) Walt Disney Imagineering turned over the land last weekend, and select Disney cast members are testing the ride now.
Disneyland's entire cast is being invited to preview sessions over at Disney California Adventure, which include a glimpse at otherwise unreleased on-ride footage from Smugglers Run, as well as the opportunity to sample the Tarine Tea from Oga's Cantina and the Outpost Mix from Kat Saka's Kettle. (Which tasted like peach iced tea and sweet-and-sour popcorn, respectively, to me.)
Yep, I was invited to tag along for the cast member previews... and (see how I absolutely buried the lead for this whole post?), after that, I was allowed to walk through the nearly-completed Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
Our group was among the first people outside the company to walk through the land after it was turned over by Imagineering, meaning that no hard hats or high-vis vests were required. We did not go inside the Falcon or any other location in the land, but simply walked the entire exterior. (Warning: It's spoiler time from here on out.)
The highlights here are the ships. The Millennium Falcon, obviously. But also the X-wings, a TIE echelon, and... the landspeeder.
Looking just like Luke's X-34 from the original film, this baby is actually floating in its berth near the front of the land. Okay, I'm pretty sure that fuel hose connected to it is actually holding the whole thing up, but I choose to ignore that and simply to believe, instead.
Elsewhere, the stores in the arcade are stocked with souvenirs, toys, costumes and T-shirts. The Milk Stand is adorned with blue and green bubbles. Ronto's Roasters looks ready to start serving its space-meat wraps. And the droid detector is ready for business outside Oga's Cantina. (I wonder what happens if you buy a droid at The Droid Depo before entering Oga's. Will they serve you, or do you have to leave the droids outside?)
The entrance to Smugglers Run is marked for three queues: A Fastpass entrance that will be used initially just for people returning to their spot after a bathroom break, a standby line... and a single rider line. Disneyland officials said that they hoped to be using the single rider queue for the Falcon when the land opens on May 31.
Watching that on-ride footage, it appears that Hondo Ohnaka will be talking you through your mission on the Falcon, in which you and your team in the cockpit will need to evade asteroids while fighting First Order TIE fighters. Each crew of six will include two pilots, two engineers, and two gunners, each of which will be assigned specific tasks to bring the Falcon home in one piece.
But that might be one of the few places in Galaxy's Edge where you get explicit instructions. Elsewhere, this is a land to be discovered rather than one that jumps in your face. Save for two Restroom signs, most signs are in Aurebesh, awaiting your use of the Play Disney Parks app to translate them. Secret codes and passwords abound. Every cast member inside the land is role-playing as a resident of this planet of Batuu, ready with stories about how... and why... they got to the Black Spire Outpost.
Want to beeline for the Falcon, then cool down with a drink in the Cantina before buying a T-shirt and calling it a day? You can. But if you want to treat this like a LARP experience and get into the spirit of things, shout "Til the Spire!" at a cast member and ask them their story.
Me? I can't wait to ask someone how Luke Skywalker's landspeeder ended up in Galaxy's Edge.
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