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
This past Memorial Day weekend I went with my wife to see Disney’s live action Aladdin. Only one day after our niece saw the same film. Let’s give a little back story before we dig in:
When Disney’s Aladdin released in 1992, my wife was seven years old. She was at the perfect age to fall completely in love with Disney films and was well on the way to her Phd in Disneyology, with a concentration on films of that era (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King). Somewhat coincidentally, our niece is now almost six years old and beginning her own career in the field. However, my niece has the advantage of attacking her course work with advice from a Disney doctor already in the family.
“Make sure you don’t skip over Aladdin,” my wife would counsel. “Don’t waste too much time on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And this fork is actually called a dinglehopper in certain circles. By the way, beware any people that emanate a green glow.”
Now with my sloppy metaphor aside, you get the picture. We’ve got multiple generations of Disneyphiles who were eagerly awaiting the release of live action Aladdin. What a wonderful situation for the giant that is Disney. A firm stranglehold on multiple generations of girls forever dreaming of musical princesses. What could go wrong?
Well I’ll tell you exactly what went wrong and it wasn’t Will Smith as the Genie. In fact, it was Jafar. He missed the mark quite terribly for both my wife (and me), as well as my niece. But for polar opposite reasons.
For myself and my wife, Jafar was toothless. A sorry excuse for a “bad guy,” and in our opinion not nearly scary or evil enough. We even felt that the cartoon version from 1992 was more creepy, menacing, and impactful than the live action version. Jafar was where the movie fell the most flat for us. Especially considering a large part of the audience already knows the outcome, a compelling Jafar could have really helped.
As a fantasy adventure writer, I have to interject another opinion here. The bad guy is the second most important part of a story. It’s not something that should ever be handled lightly or brushed aside as an afterthought. Obviously your hero is the most important thing, but what makes a hero shine is how they deal with their conflict. The bad guy is the conflict. Unfortunately, in this instance Jafar felt poorly cast, and boring.
But that’s the thirty-something perception. The five-year-old perception… well…
Jafar was absolutely terrifying. When he pushed Aladdin out the window and into the ocean my niece wanted to run for the exit, and when he turned into the most powerful genie in the world it was all over. She was running for the doors before finding out a happy ending was in the works. Jafar scared her out of the room. The cartoon version doesn’t do that to her though because it’s a cartoon. There was too much realism for her in the live action remake, and when contrasting that with my wife’s opinion something occurred to me.
Seemingly, all is not well in the Magic Kingdom.
Now, I’m sure you’ll scoff at that evaluation. Disney made more money this weekend than I even know how to imagine, and they’ll do that twenty times this year alone. Even so, I’ll stick to my premise. Disney shouldn’t sit back and think everything is fine. After all, Disney’s business is core memories, and the nostalgia that keeps people coming back to them. The only core memory made this weekend in our family was one of terror, and on the other end of the spectrum the nostalgia wanes a little more with each remake. I can see my wife a little less excited to see each new live action film, and a little more ready to expect some disappointment.
And that’s really the point. I know I’m the fool trying to shout over the category five hurricane that is the Disney money machine, but they really shouldn’t lose sight of the future. Because you can’t please everyone, and when you try… you will fail. Disney will either ruin some great cartoons for a new generation of kids, or a generation of woman will finally become exhausted with a company that leverages their childhood against their purses, and it could be both.
Disney should also remember that this coming generation of students has a generation of masters to provide them with counsel. Keep going back to the same well, over and over, and Disney might not like the wisdom these women pass down to their successors.
Thanks for reading,
Dylan Lee Peters
Running is a pastime that’s been growing on me lately. I challenged myself to run 500 miles this year, and two months in, I have 379 miles to go. This past weekend my wife and I completed the Excalibur 10 Miler in Viera, Florida. The theme of the race was Medieval; somewhat like a Renaissance Fair. Some runners dressed up accordingly, and much of the race decorum maintained the theme. Before the race began, runners were entertained by a battle between two actors from the Medieval Times dinner show in Orlando. It was somewhat akin to the battle between the Mountain and the Red Viper from Game of Thrones, except no one’s head was crushed like a grape. It was entertaining though, and put a unique twist on the otherwise repetitive exercise of running ten miles. In fact, it was the unique theme of the race that first prompted my wife and I to participate.
My wife was really the impetus for my beginning to run. She was on the Cross Country Team in high school and decided to get back into running a couple years ago. I decided to join her, firstly as support, but secondly because I was looking to kick my own posterior into form. However, I could have chosen a multitude of different activities to become involved in. She gets the credit for making that choice to run. Because we live in Florida, she has been signing up for the RunDisney races that Disney World puts on throughout the year. (You can see some of her blog posts here). She loves getting involved with all things Disney, and the races give her a chance to do something active, while geeking out on her favorite childhood nostalgia. (Leave it to Disney to find great ways to merge events into marketing gold). It’s always amazed me how many people really love getting involved with these races, and especially, how many people like to dress up for them. So many people love the idea of showing off as their favorite characters. This all gave me an idea.
I don’t know how to get something like this started – it would certainly take people with more time and know-how than me – but I thought it would be a great idea to have an author run. The race could be any distance, or distances, and the obvious theme of the race would be literary. Racers could elect to dress as any of their favorite literary characters, (I can easily picture a hundred women dressed as Katniss Everdeen) and the race could serve as a sort of literary festival.
It is common, in these races, to have a festival-style area located at the finish. Vendors set up booths, mostly with food, drink, and products suited for runners. It becomes part of the event, something that makes it more than just a run, and it lends itself to creating a race that has a theme. I think it would be a great idea for an author race to have booths set up where you could meet local authors. They could give books away, talk to prospective readers, and gain exposure. It would be a great way for authors to get out from behind the computer and find fans in a unique way. I know I’d be happy to have a booth at an event like this.
So, help me out event planners and runners, let’s get this event off of the ground. I’m sure someone has some great ideas that could add to the event. Post in the comments. I’m interested to know what you think.