So what's it like to fly the Millennium Falcon?
It's exhilarating. And, to be honest, kinda frustrating, too.
I got my first ride on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at today's media preview for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland. The backstory here is that Hondo Ohnaka has borrowed the Falcon from Chewbacca to, uh, transport some perfectly legal merchandise in exchange for a generous contribution to the Resistance. (Paid for, no doubt, from Hondo's profit from this smuggling run.)
The Falcon is parked here on Batuu for repairs (does nothing ever change?) at the Ohnaka Transport Solutions headquarters in Black Spire Outpost. So we enter the queue to see the work that Ohnaka's crew is doing to get the Falcon and the other ships in the fleet ready for their missions. (The full queue experience video is embedded below, which includes on-ride highlights provided by Disney.)
Eventually, we meet Ohnaka in the queue, and he gives us our orders: To "meet" a First Order transport train and "obtain" a shipment of valuable coaxium, which will return to the Batuu. (Okay, maybe "hijack" and "steal" would be more accurate verbs here, but Ohnaka insists that this is all perfectly legal!)
After our pep talk from the boss, we walk down the jetway to the Falcon. Here, Disney's Imagineers have delivered a nifty tactile surprise, as the floor that hallway springs a bit, just like the jetways in an airport, reinforcing the idea that you are about to board something that will fly you very far away.
At the end of the jetway, a OTS employee greets you and gives you your assignment: as one of two pilots, gunners, or engineers, each charged with roles in this mission. The pilots have to fly the Falcon. The gunners shoot at anything that shoots back. And the engineers have to snag the coaxium and keep the ship flying.
Easy? As the employees say, "no experience necessary!"
The final step before entering the cockpit is to chill for a few moments inside the Falcon's Dejarik (chess) room. This is selfie heaven for a Star Wars geek and perhaps the first time in my life when I cursed a theme park queue for moving too fast.
Too quickly, we are ushered into the six-person cockpit, where everyone freaks out for a moment before we get down to business.
There's far too much to process here for a single ride. You want to watch what's happening out that cockpit window, while also watching your console to hit the buttons as the light up. And, of yeah, you're listening to Ohnaka on the intercom, too, telling you instructions throughout the run. Disney's Imagineers have done an amazing job in recreating the Falcon in all its detail. It's a sensory overload, but shouldn't a flight on the fastest ship in the galaxy be just that?
Hand on heart: As the gunner on the Falcon, the crime I wanted to commit here was not theft or assault. It was hijacking this ship and flying the thing myself. Because the success or failure of your run lies primarily in the hands of the pilots, who must dodge every obstacle and hit every mark to get that payload we are trying to steal. And it's frustrating not to be in control when you are sitting in the middle or back.
That said, I have zero confidence that I would not screw up this mission any worse than my pilots did. Because, despite what Hondo's minions say in the queue, experience really does help here. And I had none.
This isn't Mission: Space, with its one-outcome-for-everyone "interactivity." Yes, everyone will return to Batuu, and everyone will bring back at least one container of coaxium. But that's all we got. So I wanted to turn right around, get back in the queue, and try again and again and again.
In the pilot's seat, of course.
While that's great for Disney in inspiring people to want to come back and visit and ride again, it's a huge challenge for Disney in managing this opening season, when crowds will be pushing the land to its capacity. How do you keep the fastest ship in the galaxy from becoming the slowest queue in the park, thanks to all those people wanting to ride again?
It's frustrating, to be sure.
Update: I rode again, after the dedication moment, and I got to pilot! By the Force in the Jedi Temple, this is 100% a better experience from the pilot's seat. The left seat pilot controls the lateral movement while the right seat pilot (me) controls the vertical... and gets to make the jump to hyperspace.
That alone was worth the wait. But up front you have a clearer, more focused view of what's happening, too. No, you're still dependent upon the rest of the team to ensure maximum success, but you can avoid catastrophic failure from up front.
The worst case scenario is that you collect only one container of coaxium. But we got two on my second mission and earned money for Hondo... instead of owning him money as we did on the first run.
The difference between Star Tours and this is the difference between riding as a tourist in the back of the bus versus driving an Aston Martin GT4 on your own. The controls here are sensitive and really give you a feel of steering the Falcon. The sensory feedback is amazing - it never feels like a simulator. It just feels like your are piloting a vehicle that moves in three dimensions. It's gaming, amplified.
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