Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run — supposedly the only ride now open in the land — should not be considered as just one ride.After visiting Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge several times over the past month, I feel like I should stop saying that the land has only one ride. I know that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance isn't open yet and that the other "attractions" in the land (Oga's Cantina, Savi's Workshop, Droid Depot) are not by any stretch rides. But, to me,
Because it's really three.
On Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, riders are assigned one of three roles to play in the famous spaceship's cockpit: Pilot, Gunner, or Engineer. Pilots sit in the front row of the six-seat ride vehicle, gunners in the middle, and engineers in the back. But these titles are not simply cute ways for Disney to assign seats on the ride. Smugglers Run might be the most interactive major theme park attraction ever built, with its riders given real tasks to perform during their mission.
Unfortunately, many Disneyland visitors don't realize that, assuming Smugglers Run to continue the well-established theme park attraction convention where visitors just sit and watch. On my most recent ride, a woman in the pilot seat said as the cast member closed the cockpit door, "I don't really have to do anything, do I?"
Uh, yeah, you do.
And the pilots, gunners, and engineers each have to do very different things. So much so that they aren't always sharing the same experience. That's why I think it's more informative to consider Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run as three distinct attractions rather than one. Many roller coaster fans considered the late Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail to be separate credits, but I didn't find the difference between those interwinding coaster tracks nearly as pronounced as the differences between being the pilot, gunner, and engineer on the Falcon.
Why does this matter? Because the differences between these three roles are not limited to the view you have and the buttons you need to push while riding. The quality of the experience you get from the ride varies wildly depending upon the role you are assigned. As a frequent visitor to Disneyland, that affects my desire to wait in the queue to ride Smugglers Run again.
Obviously, this isn't an issue for a first time visitor. Stepping into that cockpit for the first time can be an amazing experience, especially if you are a Star Wars fan. But I would recommend this attraction to anyone, as it represents something innovative, unique, and even socially valuable in the theme park business. With three distinct roles to play and the potential to craft multiple outcomes, Smugglers Run offers great value for repeat rides, as well.
But the expected value of those repeat visits plunges swiftly if you keep getting assigned to two of the three roles on the ride, and that threatens to become an issue as this ride matures, especially at Disneyland with its high percentage of annual passholders.
Hard truth: I have zero desire to wait in the Smugglers Run queue and get assigned to be a gunner again. I might accept one more go as an engineer, and I definitely would take one for the team if I were in a group of six where the majority had not ridden before. But the only role I really want to play on Smugglers Run is as the Falcon's pilot.
That is the role where you have real control over the mission and by far best view of what's happening on the ride. As a gunner or engineer, you're essentially an obstructed-view passenger on someone else's ride. Whatever the current wait is for the Falcon, I would wait twice as long for a guarantee that I could sit as a pilot.
So what if Disneyland would let me... as well as others who feel the same way? If I could make one, fantasy change to the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, it would be to divide the queue into three: one each for the roles as pilot, gunners, or engineers.
If Disney offered separate queues for the three roles, I believe that it would maximize guest satisfaction with the attraction after its first year of operation, as fans could choose what they wanted to do in the cockpit and not be disappointed with a random assignment that they could not trade. Maybe I'd even accept another go as a gunner if it were a walk-on. Or as an engineer if I wouldn't have to wait more than 15 minutes. But I'd gladly jump into a 90-minute queue for that pilot seat.
Three lines also might encourage visitors to get more engaged with this interactive attraction. Choosing which queue to enter would force you into active decision making as you enter the attraction. If people know what they will be doing from the get-go, perhaps they might be more open to paying attention to in-queue training on that role, eliminating situations where people climb into the pilot's seat and ask, "I don't really have to do anything, do I?"
Of course, this plan only potentially works with single riders and couples. What happens with parties of three or more? Perhaps they could be instructed to enter the longer queue, with "extra" party members assigned to jump into a gunner or engineer seat with their pilots when they get to their cockpit. But more likely, the whole operation would just fall apart, as families and large groups complained that choosing from these three roles meant that they could not sit together.
For most fans, especially at Walt Disney World, riding the Falcon will be a one-and-done experience, since many Disney theme park visitors are not blessed with the means to visit the parks on a regular basis. The gunners and engineers will love the ride and walk away happy, even as the pilots who pay attention and learn to use the ride's controls walk away really, really, really loving it.
But I do believe that the disparity between the quality of experience in the Falcon's three roles will become an issue as more and more fans get the opportunity to experience Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run — and a significant number of them get to ride multiple times. There is much to be learned from Disney's ambitious technical, creative, and social experiment with the Falcon. Whatever debates this ride inspires will be part of that collective learning experience for theme park fans and professionals.Tweet
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