Four years ago, Walt Disney World announced it was bringing a life-size version of a Star Wars land to its theme parks. At last, the time is approaching for Jedi apprentices to step into a space outpost and encounter characters from the First Order and the Resistance.
California gets first crack when Stars Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens on May 31. But in a first for Disney, an identical land is being built in Orlando at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Florida version opens Aug. 29.
Here’s everything we know so far about what’s coming:
People are excited
Galaxy’s Edge in Anaheim should be the most popular destination in all of the Disney parks, with some 150,000 people expected on opening day. For the first time, Disney is requiring a reservation just to get into the park between May 31 and June 23.
In Florida, it is still first-come, first-served, but officials are warning that the park likely will reach capacity in its opening weeks. So far, Disney has not added a feature on its app to send advance capacity alerts for Hollywood Studios.
There’s something about a new feature that drives Disney fans insane, and there is always a crush on opening days. When the Avatar-themed Pandora land opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in May 2017, lines were four-to six-hours long just to get into the area, let alone get on a ride.
The key to getting into a new land in its infancy is to arrive at the park as early as possible, even a few hours earlier than opening time. That’s where booking a Disney hotel room offering “extra Magic Hours” can come in handy. But here’s the problem: extra Magic Hours are generally announced only a few days ahead of time and they appear to be assigned at random.
Disney has attempted to manage crowds by widening pathways. The park has already announced a limit on stroller sizes and is strictly enforcing a ban on the wagons that have been popping up in the last few years.
Touring Plans, a website that uses data and statistical analysis to calculate daily crowd sizes and ride wait times, anticipates visitors could encounter six-hour waits for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run on opening day. Disney hasn’t said when it will allow FastPasses for riders to jump lines. With no FastPasses, Touring Plans programmer Len Testa predicts the average wait time will hover around three to four hours for the first six months.
Attendance at the Orlando park could jump 20 to 30 percent in 2020, Testa said.
In California, Disneyland’s three hotels are sold out for the opening of Star Wars. In Orlando, two Disney resorts are booked for the weekend starting Aug. 29 and another four were limited to expensive packages. But more than two dozen resorts still had rooms available this week at a variety of price points.
Disney adopted a new dynamic pricing system in 2018, meaning it costs more to go during peak times of year. Hollywood Studios admission can be as low as $84 per day for a four-day ticket or as high as $125, and there are discounts for Florida residents and multi-day deals at disneyworld.com.
The back story
Early on, Disney designers decided to develop an entirely new planet, not recreate a known movie locale like Tatooine or Hoth. It puts all the fans on equal footing.
“I want to walk into this land and be at the same level as everyone else, from the really hardcore Star Wars fan to someone who knows nothing about Star Wars,” Margaret Kerrison, managing story editor at Walt Disney Imagineering, said last year when Disney first revealed site designs.
This planet is called Batuu, located in the uncharted Outer Rim, hence the name Galaxy’s Edge. Rock spires look like the remnants of ancient petrified trees, and shady characters set the scene for the town of Black Spire Outpost among the village shops.
The outpost has the aesthetic of Star Wars, with domed buildings reminiscent of the Mos Eisley spaceport that Obi-Wan Kenobi warned Luke Skywalker was full of wretched villains. The markets of Black Spire Outpost are inspired by those of Marrakesh or Istanbul. A forested area is known unofficially as the Resistance Forest.
Buildings are battle-scarred and strewn with pipes, ducts, air shafts and wires. Typeface found in the films directs you to bathrooms or FastPass lines.
Largest expansion ever
At 14 acres, this is the largest land within a theme park that Disney has ever built. With an estimated price tag of $1 billion at each park, Galaxy’s Edge will be the most expensive theme-park expansion ever — and that’s not even counting the all-inclusive hotel in the works.
The land is an attraction all its own. In addition to two rides, five restaurants and five shops, there are two distinct biomes — the outpost and the forest.
Walking down the streets will feel canyonlike, with lots of side alleys to discover, shutting out the rest of the park while also giving the illusion of a larger space.
The Black Spire Outpost with its winding pathways and unexpected turns contains the signature ride, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Like Cinderella’s castle, you won’t see the Millennium Falcon at the entrance, but expect a big reveal when you see Han Solo’s beloved ship for the first time. It is built to size and “jaw-droppingly accurate,” according to a Travel and Leisure report after a tour of the California site.
“Though breathtaking at a distance — there’s even an outlook perched above that’ll guarantee picture-perfect Instagrams — gazing at it from up close through windows of the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run queue will tug at your heartstrings most,” the magazine reported.
Expect the park to be littered with stormtroopers, members of the Resistance and meet-and-greets with Chewbacca, C-3PO and the rest of the costumed cast. Workers themselves will be in costume and character. Some might be Resistance sympathizers, some First Order loyalists.
The Millennium Falcon will let riders pilot the ship, shoot blasters or prepare for hyperspace — all while completing a critical mission. How you perform can affect your storyline in the park, earning extra galactic credits or landing you on the list of a bounty hunter you might encounter in the cantina later.
A non-traditional queue will let visitors explore and take photos within the ship’s main guest quarters or play a game of hologram chess. A Hondo Ohnaka animatronic pirate, who made popular appearances in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, will be in the queue. It is being billed as one of the most advanced animatronics Disney has ever built, so plan on lots of selfies.
The Rise of the Resistance won’t be ready on opening day, and Disney has only committed to opening it “later this year.” It puts guests in the middle of a battle between the Resistance and First Order and includes appearances from several actors of the current Star Wars trilogy, including Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver. One portion puts guests on a full-size Star Destroyer hangar bay, complete with Tie Fighters on loading racks and a huge window opening up onto space outside.
The park’s app is basically a third ride. The app assigns jobs such as translating text and scanning a crate. The jobs are saved to your app profile. So the more times you go back to Galaxy’s Edge, the more things you can build up and use in other ways in the park.
Disney has been vague on what this means, but everyone using the app will be categorized as either Resistance, First Order, or Scoundrel — but only after you’ve done enough tasks to prove yourself. You are judged by your actions.
Food and shopping
You can sample the famous blue milk Luke drinks in A New Hope, found at the Outpost Milk Stand and described as a smoothie with berry and melon flavoring. The green milk has a lemon and citrus flavor. Blue milk will also be served at Oga’s Cantina, where it “comes garnished with a sugar cookie, topped with rice crisp and a Bantha horn made out of frosting,” according to Disney.
Oga’s Cantina’s alcoholic drinks include the Bespin Fizz, Yub Nub and Fuzzy Tauntaun. DJ R-3X, also known as Rex, the former pilot droid from the original Star Tours, will provide musical entertainment.
The pot roast at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo is called Braised Shaak Roast. The fried chicken dish is Fried Endorian Tip Yip. A street market stall will sell Outpost Mix, a blend of sweet, savory and spicy popcorn.
Bustling markets stalls sell creatures, toys and otherworldly items. You can build droids capable of interacting with elements in the land at the Droid Depot, and there are customized lightsabers at Savi’s Workshop.
Many fans assumed Galaxy’s Edge might bring the end of Star Tours, an attraction that opened in 2011 as a successor to the original Star Tours simulator from the 1980s. That ride is not located near the new Star Wars land.
But Disney has said it plans to keep Star Tours open despite it not being physically connected to the new land. There is no word if Star Tours might get an update or remain a separate part of the Star Wars story.
Galaxy’s Edge, though, has a specific timeline that takes place between The Last Jedi and the as yet untitled Episode 9 movie coming out in December.
Disney has announced it will build a luxury Star Wars hotel in Orlando where guests will “leave Earth” and board a starship to voyage the galaxy for several days. But an opening date hasn’t been revealed.
Each guest will be an active citizen of the Star Wars realm and live in a way that reflects that universe. This includes dressing in Star Wars-themed attire.
Building permits have blueprints that indicate guests will get to and from Galaxy’s Edge by shuttles. Disney has not confirmed it, but fans speculate the shuttles could be themed as transports in the Star Wars universe, keeping guests fully engulfed in the storytelling experience.
But Disney did confirm every window in the hotel will have a view of outer space.