This is a review from a San Diego teenager who had access to Galaxy's Edge before it was opened to the public. If you want to be surprised when you visit, be warned there are spoilers ahead!
I am a huge "Star Wars" fan. I have seen all the movies multiple times, I read the online theories about the new movies, and try to keep up to date with the franchise. When Disney announced plans to build a new land within the Disneyland Resort, I was excited, but had no idea what to expect.
When I entered the world of "Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge" at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, I was absolutely speechless. Walking through, I was instantly drawn to the attention to detail that is characteristic of Disney parks. Everything from the structure of the buildings to the nametags of the cast members, which is Disney for employees, looked like it was pulled directly out of a movie, despite being located on the planet of Batuu, a planet unbeknownst to the movie franchise.
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The 14-acre land, the largest expansion of a Disney park to this date, was purposefully set on a planet that has never been seen before. According to Disney representatives, the idea was “to give everyone a chance to step into the story at their own levels – whether a guest is a lifelong Star Wars fan or has never watched a 'Star Wars' film, everyone will be seeing Batuu for the first time.”
The experience did just that. The land was incredibly immersive. Everything about it was catered to enhance guests’ experience. There was always something going on. Characters roamed the land, like the Stormtroopers of the First Order, who stopped every once and awhile to interrogate a visitor about the rebellion. Overhead, I could hear the unique sounds of the "Star Wars" ships passing, straying from usual background music featured elsewhere in the park.
Everything from the worn appearance of the buildings to the covert rebellion base was to further engage the guests with the war-torn galaxy far, far away.
While the destination is located on a new planet, unexplored by the movie series, there are obvious easter eggs throughout, helping maintain a connection to the "Star Wars Universe." One of the most obvious nods is the life size Millennium Falcon located towards the back of the area. Situated in front of the ride "Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run", its almost majestic presence really grounds the area and serves as a way to tie in the canon movies that are relatively absent from the majority of the area.
As a tried and true "Star Wars" fan, I must say that seeing the iconic Falcon in person made me tear up a little bit. However, I was even more excited at the prospect of being put in cockpit myself on the associated ride, "Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run."
The ride itself was extremely fun and a hybrid of other Disneyland rides, including "Star Tours" (located in Tomorrowland), "Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout" (located in the other park at the Disneyland Resort, California Adventure), and "Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters" (also located in Tomorrowland). The ride is interactive like the Buzz Lightyear ride, has a line similar to the line for "Mission Breakout", and is obviously "Star Wars" related as "Star Tours" is.
The logistics of the ride are almost like a game. There are six people in the cockpit at a time, each tasked with one of three jobs: pilot, gunner, or engineer. I was tasked to be a gunner, shooting down enemy ships and clearing a path for the Falcon. Honestly, it was a fairly easy job, since my job was basically to keep pressing a button. However, it was kind of something that I had to figure out on my own, as there was no explanation given to us before the ride.
While the ride itself was fantastic, I left with some concerns as to how the ride will fare once the land is open to the public and becomes a free-for-all. Disney has announced that this ride will not initially offer Fastpasses (those tickets that guests can get reserving a later time to enter a separate line, effectively shortening their wait time). Especially given the inevitable popularity of the land, I found this quite surprising. Many of their other popular rides that consistently have long waits have this two-line system. Given the inevitable popularity of "Star Wars" land after its grand opening, the lack of this line will make wait times extremely long.
"Smuggler’s Run" will be running when the area of the park opens. The other ride in the area, "Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance", is set to open later this year.
Because "Smuggler’s Run" will initially be the only ride and given the inevitable popularity of the ride and lack of Fastpasses, I expect that the wait times will be absolutely insane.
For the most part, it is pretty standard themed waiting -- the line weaves through a ship hanger for smugglers, eventually taking guests into the iconic chess room on the Millennium Falcon itself. The chess room serves as a wait room of sorts, after guests receive a card that has a color on it signifying the group you are riding with and your job.
While in this iconic room, guests have to wait to hear their color group called by a cast member, or Disney employee, so they can head onto the ride. This system is incredibly inefficient, as there were at least four different groups within the confines of the small room and it was difficult to hear when your color was called. This system also does not accommodate for international guests visiting the park who speak little to no English.
Regardless of its issues however, the ride "Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run" was an ultimately enjoyable experience and I cannot wait to ride it again.
Another element of the area is the Black Spire Outpost, a marketplace that is host to several small shops centralized in the middle of the land. At the Outpost, many kinds of merchandise are available to guests ranging from normal kinds of "Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge" paraphernalia to robotic toy animals that match the oddities and characteristics of animals in the universe and clothes that allow kids to transform into either a Jedi or Sith.
There are a lot of things for sale at fairly steep prices and due to the centralized nature of the marketplace, it feels as if one of the main purposes for the area is to capitalize on the popularity of "Star Wars" and push merchandise.
This is evident even outside of the Outpost, as there are several other shops throughout. Directly adjacent to the marketplace, there are two stores that have a build-your-own set-up -- one where you can build your own droid and another where you can create your own lightsaber. Each is quite expensive. The lightsaber costs approximately $200 and the droid costs approximately $100. While both are pushing guests to buy expensive merchandise in order to interact with the land, they are quite cute and serve as another yet another interesting point for interaction for guests, in the style of a "Star Wars Build-a-Bear."
The emphasis on selling merchandise is not uncharacteristic of Disneyland, where there is no lack of shortage of gift shops. Despite this, "Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge" does come with some welcome innovations. One of these is "Oga’s Cantina."
The highly anticipated restaurant reminiscent of the scene from "Star Wars: A New Hope", is the first place within the gates of the Disneyland park that serves alcohol.
The menu offers primarily alcoholic beverages. The presentations of the specialty concoctions make you feel like you are in an intergalactic pub. There are non-alcoholic beverages as well, that are just as impressive. Purely being in the space at "Oga’s Cantina", whether you have purchased something or not, allows guests to continue to engage with and experience the "Star Wars" universe.
Another exciting innovation of "Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge" is that most of the food options offered are largely plant-based, catering to those who have dietary restrictions and are largely underserved in the greater park. They have a wide variety of options ranging from things like overnight oats, which is offered during breakfast hours, to plant-based meatloaf and vegetarian kefta, offered during lunch and dinner hours.
Despite the sheer size of the expansion and all of the new things "Galaxy’s Edge" brings to Disneyland, the area continues to stay true to the unique, comfortable and homey feel, so fundamental to the appeal of the park as a whole.
Overall, "Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge" at the Disneyland Resort is an incredible, immersive experience that allows guests the opportunity to experience the iconic world created by George Lucas first hand. Everything I witnessed was right on par with the magic that is so fundamental to the Disney parks.
The spectacular "Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge" opens this Friday on May 31st.