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?Tweet
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