On Saturday, thanks to the amazing generosity of our pal Pryncess Chrysty, we got to attend a preview of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and take for you approximately 1 billion photos. Also, formulate opinions…
If you have already booked a trip to see Galaxy’s Edge, STOP READING THIS RIGHT NOW! (OK, maybe just scroll through the photos to make Patrick feel better about all the time he invested). In fact, stop reading anybody’s opinion and just go experience it for yourself.
But if you’re on the fence or waiting a year or 10 for the crowds die down, here’s what Patrick and I thought of the place.
1. A Regular Visit Will Probably Be Way Better Than The 4-Hour Preview
Don’t let those photos from the cast member previews and the first few reservation-only days fool you: Galaxy’s Edge was NOT an empty paradise for people lucky enough to snag a reservation.
We had a reservation for 5pm–9pm on Saturday, June 16, and this is the line to get in at 4:30pm.
For reference, this is how far we were from Batuu at that point:
The one good thing about standing in this crowd was getting to talk to a pro who’d already been 3 times and learn that, even if we dashed straight to hot-ticket Oga’s Cantina to make a reservation to return during our window, there was a good chance we’d waste nearly half of our 4 hours in the line, only to have it cut off before we could make a reservation (as happened to him).
I’m sure the Cantina will be just as busy when Galaxy’s Edge opens to the public, but at least you’ll have an entire day’s worth of reservations open to you if you’re willing to get there early and wait in line. (Though apparently Touring Plans thinks they’ll still sell out within an hour!)
The 4-hour windows also overlap, which means that your first and last hours are crazy-crowded, so you really only get 2 hours in the land with a sane crowd level. So there’s extra pressure to see and do everything rather than just soak up the experience.
2. They Still Don’t Have Crowd Control Figured Out
I’d read all these glowing reviews of Disney’s crowd control during the reservation period, but our experience was decidedly different. Each new group is only permitted to enter Galaxy’s Edge along a prescribed path that skirts the edge of the land, then turns left to pass Oga’s and head toward the Millennium Falcon. But our 5pm group got stopped for 10 whole minutes right around where the blue milk stand is, and nobody—cast members or guests—knew why we weren’t moving. Meanwhile, guests from the previous reservation period were weaving in and out of our crowd as CMs extended their arms to keep us herded into the bottleneck. It was extremely frustrating to a group who just wanted to see the dang Falcon already!
Someone finally figured out that the stationary line for Oga’s was mixed in with the rest of us who just wanted to explore and separated out the line. At last, we saw the dang Falcon already!
At that point the wait time for Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run was 35 minutes, and the line stretched outside the building but didn’t fill the entire exterior queue, so we jumped in it. The exterior portion lets you view a great deal of the Falcon, and then there are windows along the upper level of the indoor queue that give you different vantage points on the ship, which is really nice.
This is supposed to look like a face, right? It’s not just me?
So my favorite Tweet from the Grand Opening of Galaxy’s Edge was by @MattSchiavone75
…AND the dish really is wrong! Any kid who had a Millennium Falcon toy growing up knows that!
Some Stormtroopers came out a door next to the exterior queue and started awkward interactions with a few people in line. It seemed like they hadn’t got a handle on which pre-recorded lines to access and when. Sometimes they would even repeat the same question after you answered it! But this seems like it has the potential to be a really fun element of a visit to Galaxy’s Edge once they get the hang of it.
There is a lot of junk to look at in the lower portion of the queue! They also have audio of some mechanics working on the ships that sounds like it was recorded by two bros who just walked across the hall from a voiceover session for a Geico ad. This seems like a missed opportunity for that classic Star Wars gag of an English speaker conversing with a creature or a droid in such a way that we know what they’re talking about even though we only understand half the conversation.
I dunno who this guy is, but his animatronic moves really well!
Disney mercifully decided to forgo the half-dozen video pre-shows (um, I’m, uh, looking at you, um, Flight of Passage) and cut right to the chase. After PokeyFace here gives you a quick introduction to his smuggling operation, you wait in one more line before being assigned your duty on the Millennium Falcon flight crew. I’d read that some cast members shuffle the card deck before handing out roles, but on all 3 of our rides, they just went in order of who entered the chamber first. So if you were first or second, you got Pilot; third or fourth, you got Gunner; and fifth or sixth, you got Engineer.
Then you get to spend a few minutes exploring the Falcon’s main room before your group is called to board. It is a very painless process and I love it!
I feel like they really missed an opportunity here to have a closet full of Lando’s capes. Heck, they could have a whole Calrissian Capes boutique!
Still, I didn’t ever feel like I was actually aboard the Millennium Falcon until we walked through this hall on our way to the cockpit.
3. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run Is a BLAST!!!
Patrick and I were either lucky or unlucky enough to snag Pilot duties on our very first ride. I chose Chewie’s seat (duties: move the ship up and down, take it into light speed) and Patrick took Han’s (steer the ship right and left, have a bad feeling about “this”). For someone who doesn’t play video games, it is a bit overwhelming to be plopped into the most demanding role with almost ZERO instruction on your first ride. There are flashing green boxes around the things you’re supposed to touch, when it’s time to touch them, but I found the control stick to be pretty unresponsive—I could never seem to maneuver the ship high enough to avoid all the obstacles they throw your way. Still, there was one thing I knew how to do: Getting to punch the Falcon into light speed might be some of the most fun I’ve ever had at a Disney park!
Also, being a terrible pilot is a hoot! Pryncess Chrysty and I were laughing hysterically as the ship careened into walls and smashed through the black spires. The things that PokeyFace shouts when you’re doing an awful job only made us laugh harder, and we were practically crying by the time we crashed our smoldering wreck into the dock.
Unfortunately, the two single riders who were added to our party of four were NOT amused. They got really upset when the cast member handed them Engineer cards, and then they didn’t do ANY of their duties, which meant none of the fires got put out and they made our scores even worse. I actually liked being an Engineer when I later had the chance. It’s very clear what you’re supposed to do (mash any button that has a flashing green box around it!), and you don’t feel as responsible for the flight’s success or failure. Gunner was my least favorite because you get Toy Story Mania-style arm fatigue from punching the firing button over and over. Also, how can they say I only had 35% accuracy when I wasn’t given any way to aim my gun? Is it cuz I started firing basically from takeoff and never stopped…?
Here’s one of the control panels. If it turns green, MASH it!
Yes, this is my Engineer score. I am 100% accurate as an Engineer!
I do wonder about the repeatability of this ride once you have mastered the controls. Will it be as frustrating for me to take a non-pilot role and watch someone else screw up as it was for those two guys on our first flight? When your pilots are kids, it’s fun to encourage them (and marvel at how much faster they get the hang of things). But it seems like as a single rider you’re doomed to be an Engineer because you’re always entering the assignment room last. On the flip side, it also appears that couples have a better chance of riding together via the single rider line because of the 6-person seating configuration.
We got a bit turned around in the exit tunnels, just like the first time we rode Flight of Passage. Trapping us in the bowels of a ride must be Disney’s new strategy for keeping walkways clear!
We had preordered our dinner at Ronto Roasters while in line, but it wasn’t quite ready yet, so we had time to wander around Galaxy’s Edge and not get into places.
4. You Will Not Get to Experience Everything in Galaxy’s Edge…
…Unless you are willing to camp out for Oga’s Cantina AND spend $200 on a light saber at Savi’s Workshop that I guarantee you will never use again after that first Instagram photo session. This was galling to Patrick. We had our Galaxy’s Edge reservation. We paid our $300 to get into Disneyland. But because you have to pre-purchase a light saber (or be the sole guest of a purchaser) just to see the show inside Savi’s Workshop, we were not allowed to experience everything the land had to offer without spending an additional $200!
Patrick thinks there should at the very least be a window through which you can view the show, and that letting people experience it as non-buyers would probably end up selling even more light sabers because folks would get excited about coming back to participate. We bought wands at Ollivander’s in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter after seeing the show, and we’re not even Harry Potter fans. If this can work at Ollivander’s, why can’t it work at Savi’s?
5. The Role-Playing Element Is Super-Annoying
When we first approached Savi’s, the area pictured above was roped off. Because nothing is labeled in English except the restrooms, and the app that can translate signs is apparently a huge battery drain whose sign-scanning feature doesn’t always work, you have to ask cast members what stuff is. And is that ever a painful process!
Patrick: “What is this place?”
Cast Member: “Savi’s Scrap Yard.”
Patrick: “Oh, OK. Is this where you make a droid?”
Cast Member: “No…. What else do you make?”
Patrick: “Uh, OK… Is this where you make a light saber?”
Cast Member: “Shhh… We must keep it quiet for the Resistance.”
Patrick: [epic eye-roll]
Or try asking for the restroom…
Patrick: “Where’s the nearest restroom?”
Cast Member: “Are you looking for a ‘refresher room’?”
Patrick (hopping): “Uh, I guess…?”
Cast Member: “Walk 15 paces down this—”
Patrick: “Too late!”
Also irritating: All the dumb made-up phrases they have for everything. Stop trying to make “Bright suns” and “Rising moons” happen, Disney! We’ve been Star Wars fans since the beginning, and they are not a thing!
We decided to kill time in the Marketplace. You could spend the better part of a day here and still not see everything, it is so detailed!
Surprisingly, the Porg stuffed toy doesn’t even look as good as the talking one we got from Target last year. But I love all the other super-weird stuffed animals they had. I eventually adopted a mini mooing Bantha cuz I loved its wall-eyed stare.
Another favorite touch was the animatronic animals in cages. This is the kind of thing that’s missing from Pandora: World of Avatar.
By the time Patrick was ready to try the blue milk, we knew better than to ask a cast member where the stand was (“What is this ‘blue milk’ you speak of? I know only Moof Juice!”). Instead we asked a passing guest where she got hers, to which she replied, “Around that corner. It tastes like Pepto!”
Both colors of “milk” are fruit flavored, so I took a pass. Patrick said it was, “OK. Like throat coat!”
When it was time to pick up our preordered food at Ronto Roasters, Patrick went to get it while we looked for a table. Which turned out to be harder than we thought—there just aren’t that many!
This droid from Jabba’s Palace operates the jet engine that cooks your mall-food-court-style shwarma-and-sausage wrap. Eating it with warm yogurt sauce took some getting used to, but it was pretty tasty. And they let you easily nix the sauce and/or the coleslaw when you order via the Disneyland app!
We couldn’t decide if we were allowed to sit in the seating area behind these arches because it opens to the other restaurant, Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo. Patrick was on edge about this, but it might also have something to do with the fact that he had to return to Ronto Roasters FIVE TIMES to get all the components of our meal because they don’t have trays (??!!??). And because they messed up our drink order—twice!
It was nice to sit down and take stock. At that point in the visit, Patrick was pretty disappointed in Galaxy’s Edge. After the Falcon ride, he felt like everything we wanted to do either had a long line or was off-limits to us. He also didn’t like feeling so disoriented in a land that is supposed to be based on his favorite movies. But things began to look up after we got some food in our tummies!
First, Patrick spotted this. He said it was the first time he actually felt like he was inside the Star Wars universe:
We stumbled on yet another long line and asked the cast member what it was for. When she said “A store” (hooray for our first straight answer!) my initial reaction was, “No way am I going to waste more precious time standing in line just to get into a store!” But when we realized we’d already seen pretty much everything else we were allowed to see, we gave in.
Our view from the line…
Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities ended up being the turning point for Patrick. When he walked in and saw a whole shop full of things he knew and loved from the movies, he was sold!
Next we stumbled upon the Droid Depot. When we learned that we were not required to purchase a droid to enter AND that we didn’t have to wait in that long line, the heavens parted and the angels sang!
After that, we’d seen all there was to see. Time to wander around! This is when we noticed…
6. You Will Not Hear Star Wars Music Unless You Pay $200 for It!
That’s right. Despite the fact that John Williams’ scores contain some of the all-time greatest movie themes and are integral to the success of the Star Wars films, you won’t hear a single melody from any of the movies unless you shell out for the light saber-building experience at Savi’s Workshop.
Even more of a headscratcher is that John Williams actually did write a 5-minute symphonic suite of new music for Galaxy’s Edge but, according to this article, Disney purposely does not play it anywhere in Galaxy’s Edge!
Says Matt Walker, executive in charge of music for Walt Disney Imagineering, “We’ve done deconstructed versions, so you’re not suddenly saying, ‘Wow, there’s the 90-piece [London Symphonic Orchestra] playing this incredible piece of symphonic music.’”
Um, hello, I would LOVE to be saying, “Wow, there’s the 90-piece London Symphonic Orchestra playing this incredible piece of symphonic music!” while I’m walking around Galaxy’s Edge! Instead we get what Walker calls “weaving in musical textures, being careful not to overuse John’s thematic material” (Overuse?!! Has he even SEEN a Star Wars film? Those things are wall-to-wall score!) and arranger William Ross describes as, “It’s going to be more like the small group of musicians you might hear in some exotic and faraway village marketplace.”
Believe me, I’ve got nothing against plucked sitars and banging trashcan lids, but I can get that at Animal Kingdom! There’s a reason “When You Wish Upon A Star” plays as you walk through Fantasyland. The Star Wars universe has time-honored musical themes that immediately elicit emotion and nostalgia, and Disney refuses to use them!
Anyway… here’s some other stuff we saw…
Patrick was over at the entrance shooting photos when he spotted the ginormous crowd waiting to enter for the 8pm slot and came running back to warn us….
And by “running” I mean “stopping every 3 feet to take a picture…”
This was when we hopped on the Falcon for a second ride before the crush of newcomers entered the line. When we got out, Batuu’s single moon was out!
And the hordes had descended….
We sought refuge in the Market.
Patrick had yet another cringe-worthy cast member interaction when he went to buy one of these adorable Jabbas at the Toydarian Toymaker.
Cast Member: “Do you vow to take good care of this animal?”
Cast Member: “I need a yes or no answer.”
Really, guy?! What, are you not going to let us buy the dang thing if we say no? Also, why the heck would a Jabba toy need care anyway? Wouldn’t that be something to ask over at the store that supposedly sells “real” animals, not the toy shop?
One thing Pryncess Chrysty noticed was that a lot of the merchandise she’d seen online and planned to buy was already sold out. I overheard a cast member tell another disappointed shopper that they had no idea when they would get more merchandise or what would be in the box when they did. So I guess you have to buy all the really good stuff from some dirtbag on eBay.
All of a sudden, Patrick had the Galaxy’s Edge equivalent of a Bigfoot sighting!!!
Was it really Chewie? We’ll never know…
Right before our time was up, Patrick and I dashed over to the Falcon for one last ride via the single-rider line. We were put on the same crew!
Looks like this will eventually be the site of Kylo Ren’s Funktastic Dance Party!
And then our time in Galaxy’s Edge was up! We walked out the gate, up the wooded path and through some kind of magical portal that deposited us back in the glory days of the American frontier.
What I’ve been trying to figure out is… Why are Patrick and I, people who were born with Star Wars and grew up steeped in its culture and lore, so disappointed in Star Wars Land? We were made to love this place! We want to love this place!
Could it be because I still have the same question I had when they announced the land: Why isn’t this Tatooine? It looks just like Tatooine. If you’re not going to come up with a unique-looking new land, make this be Tatooine!
Why can’t I go see the physical representation of anything I loved in the movies except a couple of ships? Why isn’t there a Jabba’s Palace dinner show or the actual Mos Eisley Cantina with an animatronic band, à la Sonny Eclipse? Why can’t I visit the Lars Homestead, perhaps elevated to shrine status by family-history buff Kylo Ren? Or what about a pod-racing ride?
Disney owns all the Star Wars IP—why does Galaxy’s Edge feel like the “Space Wars” rip-off? “If you loved Mos Eisley Cantina, you’ll love our version, Oga’s Cantina!” “Ever wanted to visit Watto’s junk shop? Too bad! All we have is Resistance Supply!” “You won’t be able to meet Darth Vader here, but you will be able to boogie with his whiny grandson!”
Can you imagine if Universal had built Wizarding World of Harry Potter with only Durmstrang Institute instead of Hogwarts and some generic tavern or candy shop that’s “just like” The Three Broomsticks or Honeyduke’s? On the flip side, you have Cars Land, a place that is impressive even to those of us who rank the Cars franchise last among Pixar movies, because the place so fully immerses you in exactly what you’ve seen on the screen.
If it’s true that Black Spire Outpost was hatched so Disney can save the real Star Wars locations for a future all-Star Wars park, that’s a specious excuse. If they can write a story to support some made-up place like Black Spire Outpost, they can write a story to explain why Tatooine is at Disneyland and not inside this hypothetical all-Star Wars park. Plus, if we’ve learned anything about Disney’s current good-enough mentality of theme park operations, they will probably NEVER build a standalone park because the popularity of Galaxy’s Edge will be sufficient.
Patrick and I are pretty well aligned on our opinions, but his disappointment is palpable — Star Wars has been woven into the very fabric of his being since birth. And because of this, he seems to be wracked by guilt that this $1 billion feat has left him with such negative feelings. Maybe eventually we’ll be able to experience it enough times that we stop remembering what we hoped it would be and settle for Disney’s “good enough.”
UPDATE: Al Lutz just weighed in on Galaxy’s Edge, with lots of behind-the-scenes details on what was originally planned for the land and where things went wrong. CLICK HERE to read his fascinating analysis.