Disney unveils model of upcoming Star Wars land
Galaxy’s Edge, the land where theme park guests will be able to join the Resistance in its battle against the First Order in the Star Wars saga, will open Aug. 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The opening date was announced Thursday at the Walt Disney Co.’s annual shareholder meeting, along with the earlier opening of Star Wars land May 31 at Disneyland in California. The opening comes ahead of schedule — Disney had initially said it would be in late fall in Orlando.
But it comes with a trade-off: Rise of the Resistance, which Disney describes as “the most ambitious, immersive and advanced attraction ever imagined,” won’t open until later this year at either park — and Orlando will get it first. Rise of the Resistance will open Dec. 5 — Walt Disney’s birthday — at Disney World, and on Jan. 17 at the California park.
“In light of tremendous demand, Disney made the decision to open the land in phases to allow guests to sooner enjoy the one-of-a-kind experiences that make Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so spectacular,” the company said on its blog.
Disney said there would be no extra charge for Galaxy’s Edge; at Disney World, neither Fastpasses nor reservations will be available, at least initially. It will be open during Extra Magic Hours for guests at certain Disney hotels. But the company warned that it expects demand to be high and that Hollywood Studios will stop admitting visitors any time it reaches capacity.
“On opening day for phase one,” the blog said, “you’ll be able to live your own Star Wars story and take the controls of the most famous ship in the galaxy aboard Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.” Restaurants and shops also will be open starting Aug. 29.
The 14-acre land, located on part of the grounds where the Studio Backlot Tour used to be, will be an attraction in itself, designed as a settlement on a remote planet named Batuu, its landscape prickly with spikes of petrified trees. Reporters who toured the California park under construction said full-scale X-wing and A-wing starfighters are parked among the bazaar stalls, round stone buildings and remains of rock walls, while droids and aliens will mix with humans on the footpaths.
The name Galaxy’s Edge refers to the fact that Batuu is on the Outer Rim of the Star Wars galaxy, formerly a bustling outpost that was left behind when hyperspace travel shifted trade routes. Now it is frequented by people who want to stay out of sight — smugglers, traders, adventurers and opponents of the First Order, successor to the Galactic Empire.
The new land ultimately will have two rides. Smugglers Run will put guests in the roles of smugglers and members of the flight crew aboard the Millennium Falcon, which has been commandeered by the pirate Hondo Ohnaka. On Rise of the Resistance, guests will be taken prisoner aboard a Star Destroyer and must fight to escape.
The land will also have several themed eateries and bars and several shops with Star Wars merchandise, including workshops where guests can build their own droids or lightsabers. It also will use the Play Disney Parks mobile app, which will open certain secrets to guests and let them interact with droids.
The twin themed lands were announced in 2015 — three years after Disney bought Lucasfilm and its Star Wars franchise — and have been under construction since April 2016.
The new land is set during the final trilogy of Star Wars movies, the last installment of which is scheduled to be released Dec. 20.
At Disney World, the opening of Galaxy’s Edge will give a big boost to a park that suffered a loss in attendance as old attractions closed to make way for new ones including Star Wars land and Toy Story Land, which opened last June. Between 2016 and 2017 — the most recent numbers available — admission fell half a percent, according to the Themed Entertainment Association, an industry group.
The park is also planning an adjoining Star Wars-themed hotel, where a stay in a starship cabin is part of a larger immersive experience that will involve costumes, training and secret missions, but construction on the hotel is not as far along.