My wife and I were fortunate enough to attend a pass holder preview of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars themed area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios that will soon be opening to the public. As a lifetime Star Wars fan I had a lot of feelings about what I saw there, what I did there, and some advice I’m giving myself for when I inevitably return.
And that right there should probably tell you a lot about my experience. I will go back. But let’s get into this.
First, just being in the park is amazing. As soon as you enter Galaxy’s Edge you feel as if you’ve completely left Hollywood Studios. It doesn’t feel like a section of Hollywood Studios the way Toy Story Land does (another recent addition to the park). It really feels like you’re in a Star Wars theme park. And the visuals are amazing. They’ve done a masterful job of creating a landscape that is so unmistakably Star Wars it was hard not to feel like a little kid again.
Chewbacca walks around, interacts with guests, and so do Stormtroopers, Kylo Ren, and other officers of the First Order. We actually watched a First Order officer ream out a teenager (a guest of the park) for slouching. There are beep-booping droids seemingly around every corner and enough parked space vehicles to make you feel like smuggling some kyber crystals.
For me, the best part of Galaxy’s Edge was being there—just seeing it. And the moment it all really hit was when we made our way to the back of the area, turned a corner, and saw the full-scale Millennium Falcon before us. Or should I say above us? It’s massive.
And it takes you right back to that magical age, when long ago, in galaxy far, far away, you tried to use the force on a pile of rocks while Yoda coached you, or pretended to have a light saber battle with Darth Vader, or imagined you were blasting TIE Fighters at the guns of the Millennium Falcon.
The visuals of the park are enough to warrant the trip. I did have a few disappointments, but my overall impression is this: If you’re a Stars Wars fan, seeing this park is something you’re absolutely going to want to do.
Now before we get down to the individual attractions, I’ll give this disclaimer for anyone planning a trip to Galaxy’s Edge. GET RESERVATIONS.
Seriously, plan ahead and get reservations where you can. Probably the most disappointing thing about Galaxy’s Edge was the distinct lack of things to do. And this is compounded by the fact that certain attractions can become reservation only if enough reservations are made. You can’t even wait in a standby line.
In fact, this was my single biggest disappointment with the pass holder preview, specifically. If this is an event to use pass holders as guinea pigs, or to reward faithful customers with a sneak preview, it was disheartening that we couldn’t even get in Oga’s Cantina because of reservations. Probably the thing I wanted to do the most, after the Millennium Falcon ride, and it wasn’t an option for us.
But let my disappointment serve as a warning to you. If this was how difficult getting into the Cantina was at a limited guest preview it will be nearly impossible once the park is open to the public. Oga’s Cantina, the Droid Depot (where you build your own droid), and Savi’s Workshop (where you make your own light saber) are all attractions you can make a reservation for. Given the popularity of Star Wars, these attractions might be reservation only for years. I’m not kidding. Try to get a fast pass for Avatar: Flight of Passage sometime. The popular attractions at Disney parks stay that way for years, not months.
So don’t get locked out like we did. GET RESERVATIONS if you’re planning a trip to Galaxy’s Edge.
With that said, we also made a choice between a building a light saber or a droid, and chose the Droid Depot. This was mostly because we wanted to see our dogs interact with a BB unit, but also because a droid costs is $100 and a light saber costs $200. Yes, that’s right parents with multiple children, save your pennies. Galaxy’s Edge is not for those light in the pocket.
Normally, I don’t really complain about the price of things, and usually feel like finding happiness with things you can afford is the way to go. But again, this speaks to the limited number of things to do at Galaxy’s Edge. If you don’t want to drop that kind of cash be aware there are not a ton of other options to fill your time. In fact—where Galaxy’s Edge is concerned—your ticket to Hollywood Studios will cover a ride on the Millennium Falcon and that’s it. Everything else is food or merchandise. Plan accordingly.
But enough with the depressing stuff. I don’t want it to sound like I’m panning Galaxy’s Edge. I’ll repeat: I plan to go back. And there was an area where you can see the beginnings of a second ride I’ve been told will open in December. I just want you to have all the info I can give for planning your trip, especially if you want to do everything.
A couple of quick hits:
Food and drink: This is another area where Galaxy’s Edge really shines. With the exception of Oga’s Cantina there were plenty of places for a snack or meal. Kat Saka’s Kettle if your interested in popcorn that is sweet, savory, and also spicy; Ronto Roasters for quick meaty fare; Docking Bay 7 for more seating and food options; and the Milk Stand if you’ve been dying to try that blue milk that’s been a Skywalker staple for years. Given that Galaxy’s Edge is not a massive park, there were good options for eating.
Gift Shops: Costumes, costumes, kids toys, and more costumes. If you want to dress up, Galaxy’s Edge is your place. Resistance, First Order, Jedi, Sith, you name it. I’m not exactly sure why the gift shops were so skewed toward dress up merchandise, but they really were. I was hoping for a large selection of tee shirts, but nope. Costumes and kid toys. You want a Chewbacca tee, sorry. You want a $5,000 Stromtrooper outfit, bingo. You want a Yoda staff, you got it. Poe Dameron’s helmet, yup.
Now let me tell you what it was like to build a droid — Droid Depot
My wife chose the droid and built it while I watched, but the experience was no less entertaining. After making your way through the line—where you are given a part menu, and where you can view a display of the parts along the wall—you enter the construction room. Droid parts cycle across the ceiling like a dry cleaner for interstellar junkers, and there is enough beeping and booping sounds to spin BB-8’s head off.
You have the choice to make an R2 unit or a BB unit. Had it been my choice, I would have been boring and made a replica of R2-D2, but my wife chose to make a purple BB unit. She paid for the droid and was given a tray detailing which parts to look for on a conveyor belt. The conveyor belt is a novel way to pick your droid’s parts. It was fun and feels very authentic to Star Wars. Unfortunately, I have another warning—especially for those with children. You pay for the droid before you pick the parts from the conveyor belt, and you’re not paying for exact parts. So if they are out of the design you had your heart set on… tough luck. They ran out of purple BB-8 heads, so the all purple BB-8 my wife wanted to make had to be a purple and black droid instead. An easy thing for an adult to get over, maybe not for a kid. So just be aware.
Once all the parts were gathered, we were ushered to an assembly table where my wife worked on our little BB. Again, a really fun way to interact with what is basically a merchandise purchase. You even get to drill the head together. And once assembly is complete, a cast member activates the little droid, gives it a test run, helps you box it up, and then you're off.
But the experience doesn’t stop there. Your droid is now alive, and our BB unit had all sorts of beeps to tell us as we passed other droids in the park, and all sorts of boops to give when the First Order came too close. Our BB-8 became a member of our party. And if you really want to flesh out your new friend, Galaxy’s Edge has personality chips you can buy for your droid and pouch carriers for you to wear your droid around the park while it reacts to the world of Galaxy’s Edge.
As much as the little boy in me wanted a light saber, the droid is a far better buy in my opinion. It remains a part of Galaxy’s Edge and the Disney Resorts, as a whole. Our BB unit went crazy when we entered the lobby of our resort at Coronado Springs. He even woke my wife up in the middle of the night because she forgot to power him down. And then when we returned home to our dogs… yeah, our BB-8 is a lot of fun.
But the greatest moment of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the reason every Star Wars fan has to put this on their bucket list:
Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
A huge benefit of the pass holder preview was that the line for this ride was relatively short. We only waited about 45 minutes. One of the cast members at the Coronado Springs Resort said Walt Disney World will be shutting down a section of highway the day Galaxy’s Edge opens to the public, so you can get an idea of how popular this part of the park will be. Avatar: Flight of Passage is usually a 2-3 hour wait, and this line will surely be longer, even after months of being open.
But I really think the wait will be worth it for two very distinct moments. The first is the room you enter before the cockpit of the Falcon. You’re allowed a good five minutes to hang out in the room with the chess board. Memories of the iconic scene where C-3PO tells R2-D2 to “let the Wookiee win” flood your synapses with nostalgia. You can sit at the table and snap a pic. I felt like a total nerd, but a happy nerd. I was in the Millennium Falcon with a moment to breath and take it all in.
And the next distinctive moment was walking into the cockpit. I’m pretty sure I didn’t blink for five straight minutes. You enter with a crew of six; two pilots, two gunners, and two engineers. I was an engineer. Then you buckle in and get ready for take off.
Now an unfortunate aside from all my gushing. I have to be real for a minute. Disney wants you to get in line for this ride repeatedly. There are three positions (pilot, gunner, engineer) and each position gives a little variation on the experience. Also, how you perform at those positions influences the ride. This is where things get a little muddy. I have no idea how our ride would have been different if we performed better. Also, in no way do I want to pick on anyone, but one woman in our crew didn’t perform any of her tasks. She was nervous and buried her head for most of the ride. Did this make our ride worse? Our ride seemed overly bumpy, was that her fault? I really don’t like the idea that a ride I might wait hours for can be negatively affected by someone else. Also, the tasks themselves really took away from the overall experience. I wanted to look out the cockpit window as we zoomed from location to location and take it all in, but the flashing buttons to my right side I had to press for my engineer tasks constantly pulled my attention away. If I’m being honest and evaluating this ride objectively, I wasn’t all that impressed. There are far better rides in the Disney parks, not to mention the Universal parks. Smuggler’s Run might not crack the top 10 and it will definitely be the longest wait in all of Orlando.
But… it’s the FREAKIN’ MILLENNIUM FALCON!!!
LOOK AT THESE PICS!!!
For more pics of Galaxy’s Edge check out my facebook page.
And if you’re a Star Wars fan like me, check out my novels. They’re all heavily influenced by 70s and 80s sci-fi and fantasy just like Star Wars.
Thanks for reading, and maybe I’ll see you on my next trip to Galaxy’s Edge.
– Dylan Lee Peters
I went to see Thor: Ragnarok this weekend with my wife, and I left the theatre sort of disappointed. When my wife asked me if I liked the movie, I sort of shrugged, made some nondescript male grunting noise, and followed that up with, “I thought it was going to be like Guardians of the Galaxy.”
(Quick side note: when you type “gua” into Google search, Guardians of the Galaxy is the first thing that comes up. This is a heresy against guacamole I will not stand for).
My wife’s obvious but poignant comment was, “It’s a Thor movie, not a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.”
… and I guess the truth is I just wanted another Guardians of the Galaxy movie. So why did I go to a Thor movie wanting to see something other than Thor? Why did I expect that? Am I mentally defective?
While that last question can certainly be debated, it stands to reason that something caused me to think Thor: Ragnarok might be styled more like a Guardians movie. My only thought while walking out of the theatre was that the “buzz” had gotten to me. Damn it all, shaking a fist at the sky, I fell prey to one of the classic blunders. Inconceivable.
We’re all aware of the “buzz.” It’s the separate but not equal bastard child of all modern entertainment. It’s the shadow monster hanging over Hawkins, Indiana. It’s what makes people who don’t like high fantasy watch Game of Thrones. It’s the reason I know who Kendrick Lamar is even though I haven’t listened to rap music since I was in middle school. It’s the reason people who can’t even spell the word government think they know exactly who should be elected to each and every public office in our country. I mean can you imagine if we allowed the masses to elect other positions of societal importance like doctors? Or scientists? The species would be dead in a week…
Oh, shit… went off the rails… recalculating...
But the point is that it was the “buzz” around Thor: Ragnarok that had me thinking it would be like a Guardians movie. To be fair, the inclusion of bright cosmic colors in Thor were reminiscent of Guardians, there was a fair amount of comedy in Thor that was not present in the earlier movies, and there were two action sequences that happened while Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” were blaring from the speakers. And in those moments the movie did seem very Guardians-esque. However, if you’re going to the theatre expecting to see a Thor movie that is a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, like me, you will be disappointed.
Yet, the people who run Marvel Studios did this on purpose. This buzz was not organic. It was purposeful and intended. Thor was not as popular or profitable as Guardians of the Galaxy, so the executives used the power of Guardians to propel Thor. And it worked. The amount of money Marvel Studios made this past weekend is embarrassing. Now those executives are one step closer to replacing their souls with liquid cash. (Ah, the American Dream). All while fools like me forked over their money for something less than.
But I’m not complaining. Hell, I’m impressed. Touché, Marvel Studios executives. Because the truth is, we all want to replace our souls with liquid cash.
But seriously, all of us who create—whether it be movies, or books, or any product—we all wish we could generate that kind of buzz to drive people to our work. We all wish we could take something that already has power and use it to convince people to consume our goods. People who create are rarely also good sales people. I mean, trying to convince you to consume my goods sounds so dirty, doesn’t it?
Alas… I really want you to consume my goods (sigh)… so in homage to Marvel and the American Dream, let’s stir up some buzz for my newest series of novels, The Hands of Ruin.
The Hands of Ruin series has a secret family lineage thing, and a mystical force-like power thing just like Star Wars. So if you like Star Wars, you will love The Hands of Ruin!
The Hands of Ruin has two teenage kids being forced to live with a crappy family member, and have all sorts of bad stuff happen to them before they find out they have previously unknown powers, just like in Harry Potter. So if you liked Harry Potter, you will absolutely fall in love with The Hands of Ruin!
The Hands of Ruin has a badass female character both beautiful and strong who is constantly thrown into horrible situations where she has to fight against the establishment, just like The Hunger Games. If you like The Hunger Games than you are doing yourself an obscene and cruel injustice by not reading The Hands of Ruin!
The Hands of Ruin has shocking scenes like Game of Thrones. The Hands of Ruin and Game of Thrones might as well be exactly the same thing except different and not derivative!
Do you remember the fantastical things you loved from your childhood? Jim Henson stuff? Transformers stuff? Pokémon stuff? The Hands of Ruin is just like all of those things! Don’t deprive your inner child any longer!
Phew… there, I did it… and yes, I feel terribly dirty. But now there’s buzz, so go forth and spread the buzz. And I’ll leave you with this one more shameful and completely tangential connection from something you like to my new book series. I assume you came here because this blog post was about Thor: Ragnarok. I’m assuming you like Thor. Well…
The Hands Of Ruin is THOR in acronym. So there!
(insert hand gesture)
(insert fart noise)
(drop mic… walk away… prepare to rule the world after buzz takes hold)
• • •
Dylan Lee Peters is an unstable individual who has written seven novels all of which you should probably be reading. Actually, remove the probably from that sentence. It’s too wishy-washy.
Download book one of The Hands of Ruin series for FREE here.
SPOLIERS AHEAD. BEWARE.
So, everyone has their theories about the new Star Wars trilogy, and I suppose fan theories are just the modern world’s way of saying, “hey, that was fun, let’s obsess over this until we bust a blood vessel!” Ah, what a strange and wonderful world we live in.
Anyway, like any self-respecting dork I have my own theories, and I figured I’d share one I thought of this morning. As of yet, I haven’t heard it anywhere else. It concerns what we will learn about Rey’s past.
As of now there is a lot of speculation over Rey’s parents, mostly due to the fact that the movie seems to point the audience to the conclusion that her father may be Luke Skywalker. Most people seem to be shrugging that away as the “way-too-easy” conclusion, figuring it doesn’t make for a very impressive reveal in either Episode VIII or IX. All sorts of theories are abound that Rey might be a Kenobi, or she may just be another Solo (making her Kylo Ren’s sister, and making that storyline very Star Wars indeed). However, I don’t really agree with those ideas, or with the idea that making her a Skywalker is just too easy.
I think Rey is the daughter of Luke Skywalker, and I think people are missing what the big reveal of the next movie is going to be. It’s not going to be about Rey’s parents. It’s going to be about Rey’s past.
What we know now is that the little girl, Rey, was left on Jakku with some fugly alien junker, and her “family”– whomever might be included in that equation– left her and never returned. We know that she is strong with the force, and I mean stroooong with it. Rey is I just learned I had the force about half an hour ago and whipped some dude that is twice my size in a light saber battle strong. We also know that after touching that blue light saber (seemingly Obi Wan’s) she had some wicked flashbacks. One of which was being surrounded by the Knights of Ren after a presumed massacre. Those things are pretty much all we know.
Now let me bring up something we might know about Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. We were told Luke Skywalker quit training kids to be Jedis and disappeared after one of them “went bad.” As if it was all just too much to take, he had seen too much, and he had to get out forever. Once we see Kylo Ren giving a soliloquy to his dead grandfather, and then see the burnt helmet of Darth Vader, it’s easy enough to connect the dots and assume that Kylo, the grandson of Vader, was the one who went bad. As we later learn that Kylo is actually Ben Solo, son of Han and Leia, it all makes perfect sense. Ben Solo was the one who went bad and made Luke Skywalker give up his teaching position forever.
But… wait a minute… WHY did Ben Solo go bad? Anakin went bad because of a lethal cocktail of ego, paranoia, and Sand People made my mom a slave after I left her, and I returned just in time to see her die. So Ben Solo had to have some messed up stuff go on, right? But Mom and Dad were alive, well, and sort of getting along. Don’t tell me he went to the dark side over a divorce…
And Luke left the world behind because his nephew, a teen with some angst problems, was getting his goth on? I mean… he didn’t try to save him, or bring him back, or… anything. Doesn’t that all make Luke seem just a little soft? Wouldn’t Han and Leia be uber-pissed at him for failing the kid and then leaving?
So here’s my big theory. Maybe Ben Solo wasn’t the one who went bad. Maybe it was little Rey. Maybe little five-year-old Rey was like an atom bomb of death that no one could control. Maybe that massacre we saw at the feet of the Knights of Ren was the handiwork of Rey?
I think Luke saw his little daughter do some stuff that would have made grandpa Vader barf in his helmet. Then Daddy Luke promptly lost his mind, jedi-erased the girl’s memory of her bad deeds, and left her on the most desolate planet he could find. Then, not being able to live with what he had brought upon the world, or what he had done to his daughter, he vanished.
Then, Ben Solo got all dark side because he saw what happened to little Rey… and then he saw Luke abandon her. Now, watching your uncle abandon your niece on a desert planet because she is the devil incarnate, and then peace-out on life… that makes you go dark side.
So that’s my theory. What do you think?
You can put me firmly in the group of people who once called themselves Star Wars fans. (You noticed the qualifier in that sentence, right? Once.) Like so many, my childhood was filled with lightsaber battles, and imaginary playtime with Wookies and Ewoks. Even into my teens I watched the films with a warm, everything-is-right-in-the-world feeling. My friends and I quoted Yoda. We were damn proud Star Wars nerds.
When George Lucas decided to release a new trilogy, Episode I through III, we counted down the days, and consumed any news and merchandise we could. There was a fever pitch with all Star Wars fans at that time. You had to be excited. It was like someone had shown up with a time machine and told you they were about to take you back to one of the happiest, most carefree, and innocent times of your life. All you had to do was stand in line at the movie theatre and let it all happen. So we did. We metaphorically gave Mr. Lucas our hands, and let him lead us to the Promised Land. But then he did the worst thing he could have. He turned a wonderful part of our childhood into a mockery.
I don’t have to rehash the epic disappointment of Episode I through III. The three movies remain unwatchable for an array of reasons. I’ll just say, on a personal level, George Lucas killed meesa soul. Like a Jedi being hunted by the Empire, I had to leave the Star Wars universe. They had taken an important part of my childhood, and completely bastardized it to make more money.
It made it even more tragic to me that it worked. The Star Wars franchise blew up. Over the years that followed Episode I through III you couldn’t escape the Star Wars marketing machine. A new generation of kids had been seduced with lightsabers, and pod races. Anakin Skywalker was a household name, R2-D2 became the cutest little robot in the club, and Yoda replaced Bob Marley for the next generation of stoners searching for meaning amid a clouded high. Even Boba Fett somehow managed to eke out his own little piece of land on planet I’m-Such-A-Rebel.
I was the old codger complaining that back in my day you had to be a real fan to even know who Boba Fett was. Oh God… I had become one of those sad people complaining that their favorite band had gone mainstream. It was time for me to leave the party.
So, when Disney bought the franchise and announced the coming of Episode VII… I sadly didn’t give a crap. My little Star Wars soul was dead. Yet, in the coming months, things began to change. It was a slow change, met with resistance, but it was a change.
I heard they were bringing back the old characters for the new movie. (Hmm, that’s somewhat interesting). There seems to be a rumble that the producers understand what was so wrong about Episode I through III, and promise not to repeat past mistakes. (Okay, admitting you have a problem is the first step). They are promising less goofy CGI characters, a much better cast with fewer established stars, and a promise to stay true to the original movies. (Well, I’ll see what the reviews say). The reviews are… good. (Maybe I’ll check it out when it comes to Netflix).
Then a good friend of mine, someone whose opinion matters greatly to me in this particular matter, posted on facebook that the movie redeems the failure of Episode I through III. (No… Is it possible? I suppose… I’ll have to go see it).
And then… The movie exceeded any expectation I had for it. It was amazing.
No more horrible actors, the new cast was quality, and had chemistry.
No terrible CGI goofiness, the effects were apt and not overdone.
The comedy was subtle and actually funny, not the corny and forced slapstick of the “Jar Jar” disaster.
And then, the thing I just never would have expected. The story was absolutely great. It was heartfelt and deep. The action was suspenseful, and riveting. I found myself caring for the characters, new and old. There was mystery that kept you intrigued. There were moments that brought actual sadness. This movie had me; it awakened something in me.
And before I knew what had happened. I was back. Like Han Solo returning in A New Hope to help Luke defeat the Death Star, I was back. I walked out of the theatre, and for the first time in fifteen years, the force was with me. If Episode VIII had been in the theatre next door, I would have immediately walked in to watch it. Knowing I have to wait over a year for it is killing me, and that’s probably the best review I can give.
Without giving anything away, the final scene of the movie is the most perfect metaphor for the “old guard” of Star Wars fans there could possibly be. If you never thought you could return, you were wrong, the force is strong with you, and it is there waiting for your return. All you have to do is reach out and grab it.