Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge: Take Two

August 28, 2019, 10:15 AM · So now, nearly three months after Disneyland opened the biggest new land in Disney theme park history, Walt Disney World gets its opportunity to do the same. This morning, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge gets its dedication moment at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Disneyland saw CEO Bob Iger welcome Star Wars creator George Lucas as well as stars Billy Dee Williams, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford at its Galaxy's Edge opening, while Disney World got Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek and some characters. But Disney World management and fans might hope that's not the only difference between these two lands.

At Disneyland, the opening of Galaxy’s Edge led to a shocking drop in attendance, as a 24-day reservation-only period dissuaded those without reservations from coming to the resort. After that, big price increases – designed to minimize an expected crush of fans – worked too well, as many potential visitors decided that if it was going to cost that much to visit, they might as well wait for the land’s biggest attraction – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – to open before buying tickets or renewing an annual pass. (Or maybe they thought something else… more on that in a bit.)

Will things be different in Florida? Disney World is not requiring advance reservations to visit its installation of the land. Instead, it’s opening the park at 6am to deal with the expected crowds. But Disney World’s visitors tend to plan their visits much further in advance than do those who visit Walt’s original park in California. The size of whatever crowds show up here for the next several weeks likely was decided months ago, even before Galaxy’s Edge opened in Anaheim.

I suspect that Rise of the Resistance will have tipped many Disney World guests toward visiting later, so a sudden rush of visitors to the resort now would surprise me. But the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – like Galaxy’s Edge, opening to the public tomorrow – helps keep the resort busy this time of year, so I suspect we will see “normal” crowd levels for the next three months… before Rise of the Resistance kicks off the annual holiday crush.

Disneyland’s trials with managing crowds wanting to see Oga’s Cantina, Savi’s Workshop and the Droid Depot has led Disney World to implement advance reservations for those locations before the land opens. And Disney World surely has Disneyland’s virtual queue system to enter the land in reserve, even though Disneyland needed that system only for part of one day.

For now, fans of the world’s largest theme park destination will get their opportunity to see what Walt Disney Imagineering has created for them, building upon the success of one of the most popular entertainment franchises in history.

They can take control of the most famous spaceship in the Star Wars universe on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.

And they can discover the new tastes of Star Wars inside Oga’s Cantina.

And in just over three months, they can be the first to experience what Disney is calling its most ambitious attraction ever, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Only after that attraction opens – and Galaxy’s Edge is, at last, complete – can we begin to ascertain this land’s success. Was the initial drop in attendance at Disneyland a fluke? Or was it a warning? Did fans just want to wait for the land to be finished before visiting? Or did they just not care to visit this original take on Star Wars’ esthetic and mythology? Did Disney’s pricing and operations "manage" attendance levels? Or have people reached their breaking point with Disney and its prices?

As we await Episode IX in the Skywalker saga, we also await the next chapter in the story of Galaxy’s Edge. From the beginning, Disney’s Imagineers have said they designed this land as a platform for interactive storytelling. This is no traditional theme park attraction – where fans queue to experience the same rides and shows, over and over again. No, here in the Black Spire Outpost, fans will help write the story. Fans will be ones who shape and define Galaxy’s Edge.

And so it shall be. Did Disney succeed or fail with Galaxy’s Edge? Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide. How will you write this Star Wars story?

Replies (21)

August 28, 2019 at 9:42 AM

What an interesting theme park development, Galaxy's Edge has been. It's been interesting following it at Disneyland and now Disney World for all the reasons and curiosities mentioned in the article. I for one I'm not a Star Wars fan, but am a huge Disney theme park fan and I enjoyed Galaxy's Edge when I visited in July. It's beautifully themed and the Millennium Falcon ride, though not in Disney's upper echelon, is fun and filled with detail. Plus I'm a Blue Milk fan. Lets see how Disney World's Galaxy Edge develops. Here we go...

August 28, 2019 at 9:55 AM

I think it's important to note the differences in the way guests visit DL and WDW. The biggest key with Galaxy's Edge at DHS will be whether WDW guests are willing to wait in long lines without the ability to FP the attractions. Guests to Disneyland don't seem to have that problem, and the shear number of attractions across DL and DCA tends to spread the lines out. WDW, and DHS in particular, doesn't have the attraction density to spread the crowds out, and while MF:SR is a solid ride (probably better than any attraction at DHS aside from Tot), will guests turn their nose up at a 75-minute line to ride just once with no hope of getting on through FP+?

I also agree with Robert's premise that the opening will not impact overall crowds at WDW. Guests visiting WDW make their plans months and sometimes years in advance, so while I'm sure there are a few Star Wars fans out there that immediately booked their visit to WDW after Disney confirmed the opening dates for Galaxy's Edge (while others may have shifted their trips to wait for RotR or moved up to avoid the anticipated GE altogether), most guests are already committed to their vacations, and would be at WDW regardless when Galaxy's Edge or RotR opened. The few hours most guests spend on Batuu will be just a blip on the radar of the entirety of their WDW vacation. I think Galaxy's Edge will eventually draw more guests overall to WDW and DL, but the immediate impact on crowds and resort occupancy will be minimal.

August 28, 2019 at 10:13 AM

FP+'s will be issued sometime into SWGE, but the question is when? Maybe when ROTR opens? maybe they will leave it until the new year, or even wait until the Mickey and Minnie ride opens?

If the wait time isn't too great for MFSR I will do the walk thru, but only once. After that I'll bide my time, like I assume most local pass holders, and wait for FP+ to finally land in SWGE.

It'll be interesting to see tomorrow (29th) evening if the DHS crowds are no more than "normal" for this time of year. I suspect they will be slightly larger than normal, but I'm also anticipating being able to enter the park and get my first look at SWGE.

We shall see ......

August 28, 2019 at 11:50 AM

One thing the GE haters make a mistake on is acting as if folks ignore GE and pack the rest of the park when attendance for all Disneyland is lower this year. As pointed out, WDW has a much different dynamic for audiences so this might do better.

Of course, still the pack of "this proves how Disney has ruined Star Wars and NO "real fan" can love the new movies." Seriously, I'm a lifelong fan of the franchise and I fully acknowledge many of its fans can be the worst in "nerd arrogance."

August 28, 2019 at 12:23 PM

This was not the Star Wars Land that fans were looking for...although the brighter colors in DHS seem to make a difference, Disneyland's GE looks cold, stark and uninviting.

We'll see if J.J. can perform a miracle and save Star Wars, but no matter what, I predict that people will always have the strongest emotional attachment to the original trilogy.

If this land had attractions like Jabba's palace or a Star Destroyer battle with Darth Vader, fans would be stoked, but never-heard-of-Batuu with Kylo Ren, not so much.

Disney's reasoning was, 'We want the fans to live their own Star Wars adventure'. But wouldn't it be better to live your own Star Wars adventure in settings that you actually are familiar with?

August 28, 2019 at 1:22 PM

Just saw GE in California yesterday. I feel truly sorry for anyone whose weird attachment to the OT keeps them from enjoying this incredible addition. For me it topped Potter in terms of the sheer number of interesting things to look at, and Millennium Falcon was a terrific secondary attraction. I think I slightly prefer it to Flight of Passage, actually. I was not planning on renewing my WDW AP anytime soon, but this land will probably force me to do so in January after the Christmas rush to go on RotR and experience this wonderful place again.

August 28, 2019 at 4:00 PM

I don’t see how the “Resistance Era” films can be currently associated with Galaxy’s Edge since I barely saw any reference to them in the land. I think I saw Rey for a few seconds hanging out in a corner.

One of my problems with Smugglers Run was that it didn’t feel like Star Wars the way Star Tours The Adventure Continues does. Probably because they went with deep dives with a character from the animated prequel series and sequence from the franchise’s biggest flop, Solo.

August 28, 2019 at 4:13 PM

@ Disfan,

While agree I the original trilogy will ALWAYS be the "fan fave", I don't necessarily think Star Wars needs saving via JJ Abrahams. Yes, TLJ was polarizing.....but initially, so we're the prequels, so were the special editions & embellishments Lucas made (ie. Vadar "Nooooo, digital Jabba, Han shot first,). There were cries that Lucas destroyed the originals, etc. This isn't anything new when it comes to this franchise.

There's always b been cries of it's over....GE nor TLJ has destroyed the franchise.

Star Wars, essentially, is bigger than individual movies.....Now, I honestly think the final will be a bit more satisfying for mainstream audiences (JJ wasn't initially supposed to the final film, but he was brought back)

This has been a franchise that has (and will always have) through ups & down, survive. TLJ didn't "destroy" Star Wars....the same way those other films / changes didn't.

In terms of Galaxy's Edge...could they have done something different? the end of the day, it is what is. RotR is poised to be an incredible attraction & if all goes to plan will boost the profile of the land even more.

They can always adjust or make additions to GE should they desire based on guest feedback. Music, more characters, stage show....all additions that can rather easily incorporated.

August 28, 2019 at 5:20 PM

Comments like Disfan’s and Aaron’s are exactly what I mean. Discussing Star Wars online has become incredibly exhausting for absolutely no reason. I’m all about holding theme park companies accountable when they make legitimate mistakes—Disney has made a couple of missteps with this very installation, most notably the heavy ticket price increases—but I am not here for pearl clutching about faithfulness to the OT as if it’s some biblical text or not being familiar enough with GE’s setting (god forbid anyone experience anything new! The horror!). GE is a spectacular step forward for the entire industry.

August 28, 2019 at 5:39 PM

I think not offering fast passes for Smuggler`s Run is a mistake. If the only way to get into the ride is to queue up, that will only aggravate congestion in and around the land. Then Disney compounded the mistake by putting virtually everything into Tier One at DHS. They could have put SR and Slinky Dog into Tier One, and still let us get fast passes for Tower, Rock n`Roller, etc.

August 28, 2019 at 5:50 PM

Virtual queue will be the deployed if necessary.

August 28, 2019 at 7:27 PM

@still-a-fan is correct ... it is a big mistake that FP+ is not immediately available for MFSR, and that mistake is exasperated by changing the tiers of TofT and Rock ‘n roller coaster. Yes, they obviously wanted to shift more people onto the tier 2’s, but to do it how they have, is a head shaker.

Local pass holders will be curious and visit SWGE maybe once or twice, but I can’t see many making regular return trips until the FP+ becomes available.

and Dave ... just look at Universal’s zero use of the virtual queue for Hagrids to give you an indication of just how well that idea works.

August 28, 2019 at 7:59 PM

Well, the hurricane should keep attendance down for the first week, I'm guessing.

August 28, 2019 at 8:07 PM

Not "my idea," just actual plan since Walt Disney World is using virtual queue if necessary and is advising guests to use My Disney Experience app and get a boarding group time. Attractions Cast been told to expect this at their track talks. It is what it is...And holiday weekend despite Dorian so The Mouse still has everything moving forward as planned while we watch the storm and listen for the alert levels on property all weekend though forecast now is all about Monday and this can easily change between now and Labor Day....

August 28, 2019 at 8:21 PM

I for one hope you are right Robert ... I’ve already got my rain gear out and ready to use if the situation allows ... :)

Dave ... I didn’t say it was your idea, but I do know Disney are sitting on the fence on virtual admission, but your post was the first I’d heard about a VQ for the ride ... if that’s what you were referring too ?

August 29, 2019 at 10:34 AM

@Makorider - I understand your stance regarding FP+ as an AP holder, but I really think Disney needs to reconsider how they utilize FP+ throughout WDW. The system is slowly degrading the experience, and creating a caste system between those that are knowledgeable and affluent with FP+ and those who are clueless and end up standing in obscene standby lines because they simply don't understand how to best use the system.

The bottom line is that FP should ONLY be used on the top attractions in each park, and the fact that it is available on virtually every ride at WDW is what causes the problems WDW guests face and why Disney has had to introduce ride tiers. I think the tiering at DHS was essential to try to keep savvy guests from scooping up the most desirable reservations, and by not having MFSR on FP+ at all means that every guest is on equal footing for the park's newest ride (though on-site guests get their extra extra Magic Hours) with those willing to wake up and queue outside the park gates early getting first dibs to fly the Falcon.

FWIW, I believe WDW will also be running the single rider line on MFSR, similar to DL. With an average standby line of 60 minutes, we found that it was taking somewhere between 20-30 minutes to ride through the single rider line in Disneyland. However, we did notice that some CMs were far more proactive about trying to efficiently fill cockpits using ONLY guests from the standby line, queuing from the single rider line only if absolutely necessary so there was definitely an ebb and flow to the actual wait times for single riders. Also, the actual space where the single rider line exists within the attraction is pretty stark (plain concrete walls with a stairway leading up to the grouping areas, bypassing the entire hanger bay and majestic overhead viewing of the Falcon), so I highly recommend taking the time to at least wait through the standard queue once before going through the single rider line. My one complaint about the MFSR queue though would be that there are sections of the queue where you can interact with the Disney Play App (these interactions are ONLY accessible in the ride queue). However, the way the line moves through the attraction, you don't always have enough time to complete the interaction before you're forced to move up. Also, the overflow exterior queue immediately beneath the Falcon looks similar to the playground areas on MK's Winnie the Pooh and Dumbo, but does not have a place to rejoin the line on the far end of the switchbacks (at least that was the case in DL, though maybe DHS's queue is a bit different).

BTW, I think Dave was referring to the use of "Boarding Groups" (a form of virtual queue) just to enter Galaxy's Edge if/when the land as a whole reaches capacity, not for any individual ride or attraction.

August 29, 2019 at 11:08 AM

Russell .... they are using the boarding groups this morning, so a real pain in the butt for me as I have to be at the park to get "onboard"

But I'll still drive over later, and see what's going on.

Disney transport was up and running at 3:30am, and the park opened somewhere between 4:30 and 5am.

As I type, MFSR is a 150min wait and boarding groups are still at an afternoon 'land wait'

August 29, 2019 at 2:00 PM

If only soneone had advised you in advance that their plan was to use virtual queuing through My Disney Experience app for a boarding group:)

August 29, 2019 at 3:54 PM

LOL ... what a concept Dave :)
Virtual queue disappeared mid afternoon so I headed out, and walked straight in around 4.

August 29, 2019 at 3:58 PM

Yay! Hope you enjoyed it! Would gladly join you but kind of stuck nearby in work mode with added Dorian duty:) Could also do with some swatches of food from Epcot about now too...;)

August 29, 2019 at 9:36 PM

WDWNT was the first place I read about the possibilty of a virtual queue on Wednesday. I called the pass holder phone line and they completely poo-poo’d the idea of a virtual queue. There was nothing on DPB either.

Come Thursday morning I open up MDE and there it is, with wait times of 300min for MFSR.

The CM’s confirmed it all died down early afternoon, and when I eventually joined the line for MFSR in the early evening it was 75mins.

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