I basically have been limiting myself to reading press releases instead of more in-depth coverage of Galaxy’s Edge, since I’ll be at the land next week and I want to go in kind of fresh. Thankfully, Disney has issued a bunch of press releases in advance of the opening. If you want Disney’s official take on the new land, there are thousands of words about it in these listings. Some of the highlights include:
“In designing the Star Wars universe, we don’t consider it science fiction or fantasy – we think of it more as a period piece, and we look at it almost from a documentary point of view. Star Wars design is grounded in reality, and we’re creating a place that is believable, authentic and real. Then we exaggerate that reality and add in a distinct visual vocabulary to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. For this land, we wanted to create something fresh and also timeless – just like our films.”
“The A1000 Audio-Animatronics figures inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge were asked to do more lifelike movements than we’ve ever done before – sensing your presence, stepping and turning around. How do we make a figure look like he’s actually walking? We were so used to the feet being permanently bolted to the ground. These new figures provide incredible performance and repeatability – you’re getting a figure that looks the same on day one as it does in year five or year 20.”
A larger-than-life collector of all things odd and hard to find, Dok-Ondar buys, sells and trades valuable items in his intergalactic antiquities shop. The Ithorian is a proud curator, amassing a collection unrivaled in the galaxy. He is also known as the “gatekeeper” of the black market in Black Spire Outpost, so locals know not to cross him. Guests can see him working at his desk, taking inventory and barking the occasional order at his assistants between incoming calls.
As believers in the ways of the Force, the Gatherers are a group of men and women dedicated to restoring balance in the galaxy by passing on ancient knowledge. Part of their mission is guiding the next generation of Jedi-hopefuls in building their own unique lightsabers.
Vi Moradi is a spy and intelligence officer for the Resistance who traveled to Batuu to scout the planet for its viability as a potential Resistance recruiting station. This strong-willed, hot-tempered, quick-witted woman is trying to stay one step ahead of the First Order while recruiting for the Resistance as she traverses the twisting pathways of Black Spire Outpost.
The Studios: 6:00am to 9:00am – featuring Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and “select other attractions”;
Animal Kingdom: 7:00am to 8:00am – Pandora and other attractions (same as current EMH)
Magic Kingdom: 7:00am to 8:00am – attractions in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland (same as the current morning EMH)
These EEMHs will go from August 29 through November 2 (though, for August 29, 30, and 31 only, Galaxy’s Edge will be open for all guests at 6:00pm).
Though I figured that Disney would offer some extra magic hours for Galaxy’s Edge, I never expected it would be for 3 hours before park open. Also, I didn’t think Disney would extend the offering to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom as well.
Overall, I’m quite please with this plan. Elyssa and I have an early September trip planned and we’ll definitely be taking advantage of these early park entry times.
They did. I didn’t believe they would, but Disney made announcement about Galaxy’s Edge opening date at Disney World, AND IT’S OPENING ON AUGUT 29, 2019 !?!?! The “catch” with the opening is that the Millennium Falcon attraction (known as “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run”) will be running at that time, but that the Rise of the Resitence attraction will not open until “later this year”.
Part of why I didn’t think Disney would open Galaxy’s Edge as early as October, was I didn’t think that the attractions would be ready in that time frame. In hind sight, the phased opening approach Disney is doing makes total sense, as it addresses the issue of attraction completion, while also letting people experience (and test for Disney) the new immersive land prior to the holiday season. Disney will be able to track and tweak the immersion aspects of the land and (to a lesser degree) the crowd flow, without having to also support (what people have been saying) is one of Disney’s most ambitious attractions ever created. Again, once I read the announcement, it made total sense that Disney would do things this way.
Disney has also made the decision to not offer Fastpass+ for the Galaxy’s Edge attractions (even Rise of the Resistance when it initially opens.) Again, in hindsight, this makes some sense. Instead of rewarding people who are able to quickly make a time selection 60 days out, it will reward people who are willing to make the time investment to enter the land (either in early arrival or waiting in the queue). This also alleviates the need to manage the crowd in a way that accounts for Fastpass+ reservations on the attractions (e.g., someone who has a 2:00pm Fastpass+ reservation would need to be able to end the land with enough time to make it to the attraction, possibly requiring them to skip the overall entrance queue to the land). Universal handles that kind of “entry” queueing on busy days by giving people a reservation time to return and enter Harry Potter-land (i.e., a Fastpass for entry to the whole land). I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney uses the initial opening phase of Galaxy’s Edge to determine if the better approach for Fastpass+ is actually a Fastpass+ for entrance to Galaxy’s Edge instead of Fastpass+ for one of the attractions. (And, of course, I am sure there will be plenty of hard-ticket / add-on options available for people who are willing to pay to experience Galaxy’s Edge without as much waiting.)
Overall, I’m glad to see Disney in a place where they can open Galaxy’s Edge as early as they are, and I hope this extra time can be used to make sure Galaxy’s Edge is running smoothly by the holidays. Regardless, it should be pretty interesting to watch.
From the earliest Galaxy’s Edge announcement of a “late Fall” opening at Disney World, everyone seemed to assume that the actually opening date would be in late December 2019. Then, about a month or two ago, Disney changed the opening date to “Fall” of 2019. Still, I think most people still assumed this meant November.
Personally, I still think September seems too early for an actual opening, but maybe late October is workable. Of course, hurricane season is still months away from hitting Florida and that always has potential to cause some constructions delays. I guess we’ll know more (maybe?) on Thursday.
There’s a ton of Galaxy’s Edge news out today, but I want to focus on this article from Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch that is one of the most comprehensive pieces I have seen. On some level, it’s the type of analysis that I would think friend of the site Wes would give if he was given access to land while it’s under construction (and, honestly, that’s about the highest compliment I can give.)
If just the concept of Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t get you excited, maybe this information will:
At risk of being too susceptible to marketing speak, I’d have to agree with this particular statement. What is being built here has little parallel in terms of immersion and ambition in an amusement park or out. And it’s going to blow Star Wars fans, casual and involved, away.
Though all of Panzarino’s article is worth a read, here are some standout parts for me. First, why Disney elected to set the land on a “new” planet:
“Why not make a place that is very familiar from the classic Star Wars films, a Tatooine, a Hoth, or one of those places? The answer really is we know those places, we know those stories that happen there, and we know that we’re not in them,” said [Disney Portfolio Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, Scott] Trowbridge. “This place, Black Spire Outpost, is an opportunity. It’s designed from the very get‑go to be a place that invites exploration and discovery, a place that invites us to become a character in the world of Star Wars, and, to the extent that we want to, to participate in the stories of Star Wars.”
“I want to walk into this land and be in the same level as everyone else, from the really hardcore Star Wars fan to someone who knows nothing about Star Wars,” Managing Story Editor at WDI Margaret Kerrison recalls saying in the first pitch meeting she attended for Star Wars land. “I want to have that urgency to explore, to discover, to run around every corner, and to meet every single droid and alien in this land. I want to not feel like I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t know all the nitty‑gritty details as a hardcore Star Wars fan would know.”
Next, is the explanation of how involved people from all part of Disney and LucasFilm were in creating the land:
People from props, set dressing, construction, merchandising, food, ride systems and technical departments all worked together from ideation onwards. On a normal production, they are typically brought in at various phases — but for Batuu, everyone had to be on the same page from the very beginning
and how the land will work to feel alive while you’re there:
“Our world, where guests are this close to something, it’s got to be that next level. A good example of that is, droids move through our land. That’s part of the story that we’re trying to tell. We got access to one of the original Kenny Baker, New Hope, 1976‑1977 era droids. We took rubbings of the bottom of the droid feet. We turned that into a set of three files, which then, we turned into a set of 3D wheels. We built a little droid trolley, which Kirstin [Makela, Art Director] and team used.”
“I’ll set the scene for you,” says Makela. “You’re on a busy construction site, there’s lots of people around. There’s some people pouring hardscape concrete, all dirty and all their tools and their stamping. Then all of a sudden, one of them just jumps on this little trolley and someone else pulls them through the concrete, leaves a little trail of droid tracks.”
On that front, I can’t even fathom this description of the animatronic Hondo Ohnaka:
The animatronic figure itself is around 7 feet tall and uses the latest in electric motors instead of hydraulics. Hondo’s figure includes around 50 functions (movement points) total and is the second most complicated animatronic in Disney parks. The most complicated, for the record, is the Na’vi Shaman … which has 40 functions in its face alone, not to mention the rest of the body. We had the Shaman at our robotics event a couple of years ago, it’s incredible to watch. Hondo isn’t far behind, with fluid movements, smooth facial contortions and believable interactions between himself and his R5 droid.
(Though the biggest selling point will obviously be the Nien Nunb animatronic.)
Of course, it wouldn’t be a theme park without stellar attractions. Based on Panzarino’s description, Disney seems well aware of that as well. I only skimmed over the description of the Rise of the Resistance ride to avoid “ride through” style spoilers, but I had to read the description of the Falcon:
Approaching the Falcon from one of the entrances to Batuu for the first time is a surreal experience. This is a full-size 110-foot version of the ship as you’ve seen it in the movies. It’s meticulously detailed and acts as a center-piece for the area. The ship will periodically vent out gas and Hondo’s tinkerers are constantly working on its engines. It’s a living thing inside the land, a character.
Entering the cockpit was an out-of-body situation for me, I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s wild how right it feels. The six seats all feature belts and the familiar weathered look. More importantly, each of them has a wide array of buttons either to the side or in front of them if you’re one of the pilots. Every square or rectangular button has a light up ring around it which will indicate which of them you need to press for the best result during your moments to act during the ride. The toggles have small LED indicators built into one end that do the same indicating job. I am happy to report that the large, satisfyingly chunky toggle switches and satisfyingly clicks buttons have been very well chosen and require enough force to push without stress but with satisfaction. They’re the right switches.
I cannot be more ready to give that a shot.
Overall, Panzarino’s observation that–in hindsight–Pandora seems like it was a test run for Galaxy’s Edge is something that I have felt since we started hearing about the immersive aspects that are now currently found in the Valley of Mo’ara. If Disney can accomplish that level of immersion in a universe that people have a much stronger connection to, than Galaxy’s Edge is going to be really, really special.
As readers of this site probably know, this past weekend was the 2017 D23 Expo out in California. Though, as a Disney fan, I was interested in a lot of the goings on from the weekend, I was most interested in seeing what Disney was going to announce related to Disney World.
giv[ing] guests the opportunity to fly the Millenium Falcon, piloting the ship, shooting blasters or preparing for hyperspace – all while completing a critical mission. But how you perform on the mission holds even bigger stakes: perform with skill and you may earn extra galactic credits, while bringing the ship back banged up could put you on the list of a bounty hunter. End up on Harkos’s list and you may face a problem if you show up at the local cantina!
Chapek also announced that Galaxy’s Edge will feature appearances from popular characters Chewbacca, BB-8, and everyone’s favorite Star Tours pilot, Rex (who will have a new role as the dj in the cantina.)
Overall, the presentation hinted on the new “reputation” features of the land that were previously announced (i.e., your flight on the Millawnium…err…Millenium Falcon having consequences), but did not give details as to how that will be implemented. Thanfully, Inside the Magic has a fantastic interview with Imagineer Scott Trowbridge that gives strong hints as to how that system will work:
“If you do a great job flying the Millennium Falcon, you might find a few more Galactic Credits coming your way. But if you bang the ship up and bring it back all damaged […] when you roll across the street to the local cantina, you might hear from someone in the cantina that there’s even a bounty on your head because you owe more money than you have.
That’s just one quote from the interview, and I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in Star Wars Land, to head over to Inside the Magic and read the whole thing.
After discussing the land, Chapek confirmed earlier reports that both coasts will get their respective Star Wars lands in the first half of 2019, with the Disneyland version of Galaxy’s Edge opening before the Disney World version (which isn’t surprising based on the reports of the construction progress in both lands.) That said, with Star Wars: Episode IX scheduled to open on May 24, 2019, I would imagine Disney will try to get Galaxy’s Edge open in time to capitalize on the film’s advertising, etc… (and, coincidentially, a few weeks before Bob Iger’s contract expires on July 2, 2019.)
In more Star Wars news, the rumored, immersive, Star Wars Hotel was also officially announced. Chapek described the new hotel as:
“It’s unlike anything that exists today. From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100% immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”
If I heard things correctly, he also said that every room will have a window looking out into space. If the “virtual space” windows are half as good as everyone says the “virtual portholes” on Disney cruise ships, we could be in for a real treat. I’d imagine that Elyssa and I will be making reservations as close as possible to the hotel opening.
put[ting] you inside the wacky and unpredictable world of a Mickey Mouse Cartoon Short where you’re the star and anything can happen. This zany out-of-control adventure features surprising twists and turns, dazzling visual effects and mind-boggling transformations that happen before your very eyes.
More concretely, Disney says this attraction
will feature a new story and a new singable attraction theme song as well as a new experience we’re calling “2 1/2 D.” No glasses required. Walt Disney Imagineer Kevin Rafferty said teams are inventing new technologies that turn the flat world of a colorful cartoon short into a “dimensional display of amazingness.”
In order to make way for this new attraction, The Great Movie Ride will be closed on August 13, 2017. Though I’ve not ridden The Great Movie Ride as much recently, I have fond memories of the attraction. Unfortunately, it was in dire need of an update and a refurb, and it looks like Disney couldn’t (or decided not to) bring all the necessary parties together to structure the licenses necessary to make that happen.
No targeted opening date was given for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Many people went into this D23 thinking it was going to be a turning point for Epcot (though, there is a definite split on whether or not such massive changes is a positive development.) Regardless of your thoughts as to whether major changes should take place, however, Disney announced a ton of new changes for Epcot. It also indicated that this is just the beginning of a massive overhaul of the park.
Chapek described the Epcot reimagining as staying true to the “original vision” of Epcot, while also making it “more Disney, timeless, relevant, [and] family-friendly.” I’m sure a lot of ink will be spilled on think pieces over the next couple of days discussing how some of these announcements relate to Epcot’s “original vision”, but, for now, I’m going to focus on what’s upcoming.
To set the stage, new concept art for Future World was shown during the presentation that featured–what looked like–a complete reimagining of Future World. Since Disney did not release that image along with the rest of its media assets, however, I view those ideas as more in the “developing” stages than some of the other items. (A lot can change between initial reimagining and the final product.) If you’re interested, though, here’s a link to a photo someone took of the concept art
Epcot’s brand new E-ticket attraction will be based on the rockin’ and action-packed world of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and is the next step in how guests can encounter these characters at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Previously, rumors have suggested the ride will be some kind of new coaster, but none of that has been confirmed, yet. As with the Great Movie Ride, Universe of Energy will close on August 13, 2017 to begin construction of the new Guardians ride.
guests will be able to shrink to Remy’s size and scurry to safety in a dazzling chase across a kitchen with the sights, sounds and smells of Gusteau’s legendary Parisian restaurant.
Both of these attractions are targeted to open prior to Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021.
Other Epcot related changes include a new, updated Circle-Vision film being added to the China pavilion and updated films for Mission: SPACE, including “a brand new Green Mission that will take guests on a stunning tour around the Earth, with younger cadets joining the adventure for the very first time.” According to Disney, Mission: SPACE is scheduled to reopen this August.
Adjacent to Mission: SPACE will be a new “out of this world” restaurant. Though not many details were announced, it seems likely the restaurant will feature “windows” looking out into space (like the Star Wars Hotel will have.) The fact that it’s going to be run by the same group that runs Via Napoli and Morimoto Asia gives me high hopes.
Recently, rumors had been quite strong that the TRON coaster from Shanghai Disneyland would be making its way to Disney World. Many of the rumors suggested this new experience would end up replacing the Tomorrowland Speedway. Well, the rumors saying that TRON is coming were right. It is slated to open in advance of Disney’s 50th anniversary in 2021. The interesting part of things, however, is that the attraction will “sit in an entirely new area right next Space Mountain.” This seems to suggest that the Speedway is sticking around (and, also, hopefully means that there won’t be any issues requiring changes or removal of the beloved People Mover in order to accommodate the new TRON attraction.)
Another Magic Kingdom item that had not been on anyone’s rumor radar is a new theater coming to Main Street U.S.A.. The “new entertainment venue will be based on the iconic Willis Wood Theater in 1920s Kansas City, where Walt lived after he left Marceline. ” Disney hasn’t yet announced what new entertainment will be coming to the theater, but it seems like this venue could be used to house the shows shown on Disney Cruise ships or similar like performances.
Unfortunately, there were no announcements about a new night time parade coming to Disney World. For months we’ve heard rumors about Disneyland’s Paint the Night parade coming to Disney World, but now it looks like that parade is simply moving to Disney’s California Adventure. (I’ve also heard rumors about Main Street Electrical Parade coming back to Disney World, but I’ll believe that when I see it.) Until then, it looks like Magic Kingdom will continue to operate without a night time parade (outside of the holiday parties) for the forseeable future.
Overall Resort Changes
The rumored gondola system that will connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach resorts with the Studios and the backside of Epcot was given the name Disney Skyliner. It’ll be interesting to see what an increased amount of people using the International Gateway might mean for that (significantly smaller) entrance. As it stands currently, a boat full of people arriving can clog things up for a few minutes. I wonder what a steady stream of people arriving on gondolas will do.
Also on the transportation front, Disney’s rumored “Uber-like” service was branded Minnie Vans. Details on this new transportation option (such as cost) are scarce at this time.
Finally, Disney announced the new Disney Riveria Resort. This resort seems to be what people previously thought of as the “moderate” Caribbean Beach DVC (in no small part as a result of its location adjacent to Caribbean Beach). With the rebranding and gondola system, however, it’ll be interesting to see if the cost of this resort ends up being more in line with the rest of DVC options.
Disney also announced that the various Disney Stores around the country will be redesigned. As someone who tries to get a little bit of a Disney-fix by wandering into my local Disney Store ever week or two, I’m interested in seeing what this new redesign looks like.
As you can see from the length of this post, the 2017 iteration of D23 Expo had a lot of Disney World news. At this point, I’m still trying to process things, but my first impression from the new announcements is pretty positive. We are getting a number of interesting new attractions, without losing things like the People Mover or Impressions de France to make way for them (for now, anyway.)
Out of all the new attractions, I’m probably most exited about Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and the TRON coaster. Finally having a ride dedicated to the mouse that started it all is awesome, and I have high hopes that the Imagineers are going to give the attraction a lot of love and care. Meanwhile, the Shanghai version of TRON is that park’s highest rated attraction (and have a soft spot in my heart for the concept of little “people programs” running around in my computer.) Can I make my reservations for Disney World’s 50th birthday now?
That’s it for my recap. Thanks for reading See you at the Galaxy’s Edge!
(NOTE: If you’ve made it this far, but you still want to read Disney PR’s take on all the Disney World news, they have a press release available that talks about everything.)