Disney always puts a big focus on its parks at D23 Expo, and today it revealed some important new information about the upcoming Star Wars lands. First off is the official name. They’ll be called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, tying into the overall concept of the lands being set on a remote planetary outpost that’s outside the normal hustle and bustle of space travel.
Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive Scott Trowbridge revealed some additional details about the two rides in the park, as well. Chewbacca will be present, utilized as part of the narrative set-up to the Millennium Falcon attraction. As revealed earlier this year, that ride will let teams of visitors take the controls of the starship, which will be a key part of the immersive aspect of Galaxy’s Edge. According to Trowbridge, if visitors do well while piloting the Falcon they’ll be rewarded with extra Galactic Credits. If not, they may find themselves hunted by a bounty hunter elsewhere in the park.
The second ride has up until now just been vaguely described as a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. However, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Bob Chapek did reveal during the presentation that the ride will take visitors off the planet Galaxy’s Edge is set on, and into the interior of a Star Destroyer. Concept art shown during the presentation also portrayed guests in a ride vehicle facing off against two AT-AT walkers, and while the images weren’t addressed directly, it seems clear that the face-off will be part of that second attraction.
The new Star Wars lands have been pitched as fully immersive environments, where everyone from the shopkeepers and vendors that people buy food from will be characters in the actual Star Wars universe, rather than traditional Disney employees. Trowbridge stressed that point during the presentation, calling the new park “a living place” where guests will have the opportunity to have their own adventures. But while Galaxy’s Edge will take place on an unfamiliar planet, that doesn’t mean familiar characters won’t appear. Along with Chewbacca, Trowbridge revealed that BB-8 and Kylo Ren will also be part of the park — though to what degree it wasn’t entirely clear. Disney’s original Star Tours ride will also factor in, with the droid pilot Rex from that attraction serving as a DJ in a local cantina.
The Star Wars expansions represent the next evolution in Disney’s larger theme park strategy. Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter helped change what audiences were looking for in a theme park. Instead of a standalone environment filled with themed rides, the focus turned more towards immersive worlds, where visitors could feel like they were stepping inside their favorite films and TV shows. Pandora: The World of Avatar, which opened earlier this year, represented a big step forward with that approach. Pandora recreates the planet from James Cameron’s 2009 film as a tourist destination, with the plot and characters from the movie serving as nothing more than distant backstory.
The goal of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is to take that approach, and then overlay it with narrative and more enhanced interactions to give visitors the sense that they are truly living in the world of Star Wars. It’s an ambitious goal, but judging from the detailed model revealed here at D23 the new expansions are certainly on the right path towards creating an immersive physical environment. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is scheduled to open in both California and Florida in 2019, with the Disneyland expansion opening before the Disney World location.