Bringing Star Wars to life in Disneyland's Galaxy's Edge

May 29, 2019, 8:00 PM · Did you know that a basement couch doubles as a trash compactor wall? Or that wrapping paper tubes make excellent lightsabers? Or that the gap between those two fences for that utility easement around the block is actually a trench on the Death Star?

When you are a Star Wars-obsessed kid in the late 1970s, you learn all of these things. My friends and I imagined ourselves as Luke and Han in the trash compactor next to that basement couch, as Darth and Obi-Wan battering those cardboard tubes into limp waste, and as X-wing pilots flying through the neighborhood on that famous trench run. But after a couple of summers role-playing every moment of George Lucas' 1977 film, our adventures began to feel a bit stale.

We never gave up on Star Wars, of course. We just ran out of scenes to reenact before The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980 and gave us a new set of worlds and conflicts to fire our imaginations. So in the meantime, we started making up our own Star Wars stories.

And that is what Scott Trowbridge and his team at Walt Disney Imagineering have gotten to do with Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge... though with a much, much larger budget that we had back when I was a kid.

With this 14-acre and (rumored) billion-dollar land, Disney has not recreated one of those scenes that my friends and I played as kids... or any of the other famous scenes or locations from the Star Wars universe that followed. Instead, Disney has chose to create a platform to allow us to do what we did in between the films — to live our own Star Wars stories.

Set in the Black Spire Outpost on the new planet of Batuu, this is a place both famous and forgotten, in the center of everything but far off on the Galaxy's edge. In other words, it's anything that you want it to be.

Want it to be the launching pad for an adventure flying the Millennium Falcon? Check.

Want to walk into the Cantina and drink to the tunes of Modal Nodes? You can.

Want to build a droid or make a lightsaber? Yup, you can do those things, too. (For a price, of course.)

Or if you don't want to wait in any of those queues and just explore this canvas that Disney has created for you, that opportunity awaits, as well.

Despite Black Spire Outpost not being a previously established location in the Star Wars universe, this place feels like it belongs in that canon. Disney's Imagineers have studied the work of Ralph McQuarrie, the concept artist who created the visual language of the Star Wars universe. Here you see quotes from Tatooine, from Jedha, from Takodana. But as Trowbridge said in a panel presentation at today's media event, Star Wars is not science fiction, spun only from the imagination of George Lucas or anyone else. It is grounded in the reality of places from around our planet Earth, from the marketplaces of Marrakesh and Istanbul to petrified forest of Arizona.

And the spires of that forest provided the inspiration for Black Spire Outpost - just enlarged to a fantastic scale. It's one thing to have to imagine a Star Wars planet in your backyard. But it's a heck of a lot easier to get immersed in the story when you can see that fantastic setting for real, standing all around you, with a cast of residents welcoming you in.

That's the benefit of Disney's capital budget. I spoke with Disney Parks chairman Bob Chapek today, who spoke at length about Disney's motivation in creating this land any how it serves the company's vision.

Disney has built immersive, single-IP theme park lands before, with Cars Land at Disney California Adventure and Pandora - The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Heck, you could ever argue that Disney has been doing this ever since it opened Tom Sawyer Island. But when Universal opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley in 2014, it set a creative standard that Disney collective corporate ego could not allow it to ignore.

But Disney has not chose to out-Potter Potter here. Indeed, it's done something unique with Galaxy's Edge. Disney has created an immersive IP-inspired land. It's not a recreation of the icons, setting, and characters from the Star Wars franchise. Instead, this is a story-telling platform inspired by that franchise, awaiting your imagination and sense of adventure to create a new story, one just for you and your family.

So is this a step forward? Or one to the side? Or (Disney hopes not), a step back? Like everything else in Galaxy's Edge, that up to you to decide. If you walk in wanting and expecting to spend time with Luke, Leia, Han, and Vader... you will be disappointed. If you walk in looking for a traditional theme park experience, with attractions, food and beverage, and shopping, you likely will enjoy this, but might not fall in love.

But if you approach Galaxy's Edge as Disney hopes you will, as a fan willing to dive deep into your own Star Wars story, to become one not with the Force but with the Franchise, you might find a new home on Batuu.

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens to advance reservation on Friday and to all Disneyland ticket holders on June 24. The land opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort on August 29.

Update: Here is our continuing coverage:

Disneyland tickets Buy Tickets: For discount tickets to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, visit our officially authorized Disneyland tickets page.

Replies (11)

May 30, 2019 at 5:44 AM

Imagine if Universal decided that instead of building Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, they created a new magical village and wizarding school that no one had experienced in the books or movies which included no interactions with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, et al. Would it still feel like the Harry Potter franchise? Would people travel from thousands of miles away to see it?

People flock to theme park attractions because they want to relive the feeling of meeting the worlds and characters they love. Something similar to Star Wars is not Star Wars. I question if Disney's approach will capture guests' hearts and minds in the long run.

May 30, 2019 at 6:12 AM

I agree with Nick M. The art direction is gorgeous, but Imagineering seems to have forgotten some of its own institutional history. When the Snow White dark ride opened, guests looked for Snow White in the ride but she wasn't there since the guest was supposed to take on her perspective in the vehicle. Too meta for most visitors, Imagineering eventually relented and installed a Snow White figure in the opening scene so guests would be happy to find her. I imagine a similar transformation will take place in Galaxy's Edge and we'll see Luke, Han, Vader, etc. I know the land is supposed to be set during the time of the current movies, but the new characters have little resonance for most guests and will be forgotten in a few years (unless Ep. IX defies all expectations and is amazing). The essence of Star Wars is still the original trilogy for most people who will expect to see them in the land in familiar places from the seminal films. Disney will relent as guests lose interest after the initial hype and merchandise sales tank.

May 30, 2019 at 10:40 AM

Star Wars presents a very different challenge from Harry Potter. While there are various locations where the Harry Potter stories take place, there are central ones vital to the mythology. Even with more than a handful of critical locations, they all still exist within a defined world with similar architecture, design, and costuming linking them together. Star Wars exists across an entire galaxy with more than a dozen individual locations featuring in each film and currently 11 feature films and a couple of different TV series and specials already inhabiting the mythology. The characters spend as much time on ships and inside bases as they do on exterior locations, so to say what critical locations "MUST" be in a movie-based Star Wars theme park land would have been an impossible task. Sure, you could base it on Tatooine (the only location that appears across more than one Trilogy), but how do you differentiate that from Jakku or the outskirts of Geonosis.

You could call it a "cop-out" by Imagineers to set Galaxy's Edge on a new planet, but I really don't think they had a choice. It's the only way they could keep the land contemporary and moving forward as the Star Wars franchise evolves into the future. As Disney and others have learned, there's limited potential from guests walking through movie set recreations, and while Galaxy's Edge has that level of quality to it, it's not bound by the limitations or expectations of what guests have already seen on screen. This was a chance for Disney to tell new and evolving stories, as Chapek noted in the interview, not to keep guests lingering in the past. The backstory of Batuu allows guests to imagine a new place grounded within the Star Wars Universe and still inhabited by a few familiar characters (with more to come I'm sure), but uninhibited by the boundaries and limitations of what has already been seen and explored on screen. Certainly some of the stories and characters may seem similar because they from the same mythology, but that small barrier of unfamiliarity allows for the guests to feel like they're getting an experience that is far beyond what they've seen on screen before. If guests wanted to walk through movie sets, they could have done that at Pinewood (where many of the Star Wars sets were built) or other movie studios around the world, but what Disney has done here is much more than a faithful recreation of our favorite movies, which is what theme parks are supposed to do.

May 30, 2019 at 2:53 PM

I think where Harry Potter succeeds is that you really are doing the same things the characters are. Shopping their stores, getting a wand. Using it. Eating in their restraunts.

Star Wars, by its nature, simply cannot have the core experiences replicated. I’d love to build a 200 dollar lightsaber, but then it doesn’t do anything. A cast member isn’t going to jump out and try to fight me.

My two cents

May 30, 2019 at 3:38 PM

Notice that last night's dedication ceremony prominently featured George Lucas, for all of those on this forum who questioned him not tagging along on Iger's field recent field trip. More noteworthy is the absence of certain Disney VIPs- not a classic Disney character was stirring, not even "The Mouse." Can't recall ever having a major event at the Disney parks without a cameo appearance by Mickey Mouse before. Also conspicuously absent, the company's new largest stockholder, Rupert Murdoch.

May 30, 2019 at 4:57 PM

I agree with Russell. There'r no single location in the Star Wars lure that would appease all fans.

The interesting the with Galaxy's Edge is Disney went with a non traditional approach.

@Tony, while I agree Luke, Han & Vader will ALWAYS be popular, I disagree with the notion the new characters will be forgotten in a few years. For many in THIS generation....these characters will probably won't be forgotten so soon. When Episode 7 was released, Rey & Finn merchandise was huge. There's an entire generation who might prefer these (or at least like them just as much) as the OG characters.

My friend's son favorite character is all of Star Wars by far is Finn (and he always likes the prequels more than the originals)

While the classic fan (and fans in general) will always gravitate to the originals, we have to remember, for many younger fans, these characters are the toys they are playing with, the animated series & comic books they're reading.

Like music & movies, every generation has it's own "stars", doesn't mean the classic are forgotten, but we can't write off the new characters that easily.

May 30, 2019 at 5:11 PM

I definitely noticed Lucas as last night's event, and his presence there for me was the seal of approval for Galaxy's Edge. The way he spoke made it seem that he was more excited/proud of Galaxy's Edge than any of the Disney-produced movies.

FWIW, Mickey and other characters did not appear at the opening of Pandora at DAK, and I don't recall seeing them at the opening for Guardians: Mission Breakout. I think it's clear that Disney is leverage all of the power of their franchises to their greatest extent, but making sure they each stay in their own place.

May 31, 2019 at 9:25 AM

I see arguments for both the "nostalgic" vs. the "new" Galaxy's Edge camps. I'm sure that the Disney Imagineers and, ultimately, the execs struggled with this one quite a bit... How do you approach the focus, storytelling, and design of this land in order to make it the most conceivable for all audiences? Let's face it -- they were never going to make everyone happy!

For my personal tastes, I'd much rather enjoy full immersion in the throwback days of Luke, Leia, Han, R2, and 3PO. Searching for Yoda on Dagobah, experiencing Tatooine, and getting lost in Cloud City all sound like a memorable day in a theme park, but maybe that's just me!

I guess my main gripe lies with the brand-new planet (and characters) that Disney decided to create for its themed land. Something about this loses the realism and authenticity of the Star Wars universe for me. Yes, I know it's perfectly in line with Star Wars mythology, but it just feels forced or contrived. Perhaps this is why the WWoHP has hit a home run in my mind... I can actually experience all of those places in the books and movies--Ollivanders, Knockturn Alley, Honeydukes, the Leaky Cauldron--that come to life for me at a theme park! (Secretly, my ultimate criticism here? Star Wars Land should really be a separate gate, but that's a discussion for a completely separate thread.)

I suppose I shouldn't knock it until I try it. Here's to keeping an open mind...

May 31, 2019 at 2:30 PM

I Agree totally with Melissa! I personally hate the new Disney versions, especially Last Jedi, although my kids did enjoy them. They have all the new characters for their video game, but I only see them playing with the original ones. This new land has no nostalgia & the little kids are not going to try and learn this whole new story, they want to experience what they love from the movies, and even for the 8 year old, the original trilogy are his favorite ones!

June 1, 2019 at 5:22 AM

@Jay R.
I don't think today's children are as taken with Star Wars as previous generations. Video games and Marvel are the childhood passions that they'll nostalgically remember as they get older. That's certainly true of my children and their friends for whom Star Wars is just another potentially cool movie like Godzilla to see once and forget. If you Google "Star Wars merchandise sales", you'll find numerous news stories discussing the poor sales of new Star Wars. Just check your local Target to see hardly any Marvel toys left on the shelves, but tons of discounted Star Wars as peg-warmers. If someone had predicted this scenario five years ago, I would have said they were crazy, but here we are...

June 1, 2019 at 7:58 PM

@Tony

I somewhat agree, but I still think Star Wars has a strong popularity among kids. True, Star Wars isn’t on the same level as something like Marvel, but I don’t think it’s in the same vein as something to see once and forget.

You are correct about Star Wars merchandise....BUT I think the main culprit behind that was Disney. The sales for Force Awakens were huge....and they went even bigger for Last Jedi (a divisive film for sure). They took a gamble on the Jedi because the result from from Awakens was so good. One of the points I think was missed was the Last Jedi didn’t “introduce” any new main characters for the franchise. Force Awakens gave kids Rey, Finn, Poe & Kylo ....Last Jedi had the same characters. (And yes, Marvel is similar in terms of characters, but the keep introducing new heroes in the franchise)

But the sales from Force Awakens (and all those tie ins) were really strong. Rebels on Disney XD was the highest animated series premiere & the finale was high among their key demographic. Broken down by ages 6-11 & 9-14.

I’ve always thought Disney was doing too much too fast (There will be a total of 5 films in 4 years vs the previous 6 films in 28 years). They assumed

Star Wars isn’t and probably will never be as popular as it was during its peak, but if it goes away for & comes back with something new (and quality counts, lol)....an entire generation of kids will hop on board!

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.



Theme Park Tickets

  Orlando attractions

  Southern California attractions

Get News Updates