SUPPORT THIS INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM
The article you’re about to read is from our reporters doing their important work — investigating, researching, and writing their stories. We want to provide informative and inspirational stories that connect you to the people, issues and opportunities within our community. Journalism requires lots of resources. Today, our business model has been interrupted by the pandemic; the vast majority of our advertisers’ businesses have been impacted. That’s why the SC Times is now turning to you for financial support. Learn more about our new Insider’s program here. Thank you.
By Zach Cavanagh
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away is now here—and closer than could have ever been imagined.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the latest, and largest-ever at 14 acres, expansion at Disneyland in Anaheim, and simply put, it is an achievement.
From the instant you break off of the Big Thunder Trail in Frontierland or walk beyond the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country, you are transported to the Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu, all part of the fully immersive experience that is Galaxy’s Edge.
Aside from a brief flash from the top of Big Thunder Mountain or between the trees on the Disneyland Railroad, visitors cannot see into Galaxy’s Edge from the outside, and travelers—or “off-worlders,” as the inhabitants of Batuu call them—cannot see any vestiges of the outside world. The only trace may be the tip of Big Thunder Mountain, which blends in with the other various rock spires that surround Black Spire Outpost.
Inside the new world, everything and everyone is completely in-character, all inhabitants of Batuu. Disney Imagineers and Lucasfilm created a narrative, in canon with the Star Wars universe set between 2017’s Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and this December’s Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, that radiates throughout Galaxy’s Edge.
Black Spire Outpost was once a lively spaceport for trade and fueling on long journeys. However, like the interstate system to Route 66, the introduction of lightspeed travel to the galaxy meant Batuu got passed over and left behind. Now, Batuu is a hive for smugglers looking to stay out of the way and undetected. Following the events of Episode VIII, the Resistance has set up shop as they look to regroup, but the First Order has also arrived to find the Resistance and take away any sympathizers it finds.
Galaxy’s Edge opened to the public with reservations during a soft-opening period from May 31 to June 23. The general public will be allowed entry without reservations beginning June 24, although Disneyland will put a limit on capacity and require guests to check in and receive a “boarding pass” after that capacity is hit.
I got my shot to visit Galaxy’s Edge during the reservation period on June 3 and 5, and as a longtime Disneyland visitor and lifelong Star Wars fan, I was completely blown away. The experience of going back to Main Street, USA in Disneyland after my four-hour reservation slot was nothing short of surreal. You truly feel like you’ve been transported somewhere else.
The level of detail and care put into crafting Galaxy’s Edge is extraordinary. While clearly brand new, the land nails that Star Wars feel of futuristic, yet dirty and lived in. The sounds, from the creatures in the forest area to the sounds of spaceships arriving and taking off from the docking bay, and the sprinkling around of words written in the Star Wars language of Aurebesh, including themed Coca-Cola bottles, hit those extra senses of immersion.
Attractions – Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and Rise of the Resistance
The centerpiece of the land is the Millennium Falcon, the first-ever full-size reproduction of the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. It acts as the entrance to the land’s only ride for now, Smuggler’s Run. A second ride, the Rise of the Resistance, which has been touted as a revolutionary four-in-one ride, opens later this year.
On Smuggler’s Run, a six-man crew of pilots, gunners and engineers take control of the Millennium Falcon herself to steal some cargo. There are two of each position.
After entering through a docking bay next to the Falcon and winding through the line that provides 360-degree views of that bucket of bolts, you enter a larger room and are greeted by a spectacular audio-animatronic of your boss on this job, the smuggler Hondo Ohnaka. Star Wars fans will be familiar with Hondo from The Clone Wars and Rebels animated TV shows.
After Hondo briefs you on the mission and tells Chewbacca he’s going to borrow the Falcon while the Wookiee and the Resistance are on Batuu, you then make your way through a corridor and are handed cards with what position you will take on the Falcon crew.
Then you come upon a full recreation of the main hold of the Millennium Falcon complete with a holochess table and plenty of Easter eggs. (Look out for Porg nests from some stowaways of The Last Jedi.) You wait here until your group is called and you walk through the iconic hallways of the Millennium Falcon.
Hondo gives you one last quick breakdown, and you enter the famed cockpit of the Falcon. Engineers sit in the back row, and they are responsible for keeping the shields up and running and firing harpoons and tow cables by pressing the lit buttons as fast as they can. Gunners, well, man the guns with the push of a button and fire at any enemy ships or asteroids that come your way.
The pilots provide two different controls. The left-hand pilot controls the left and right movements of the Falcon, along with the brakes and boosters. (Brakes are very important. Keep your eyes up.) The right-hand pilot controls the up and down movements and gets the job of pulling the lever that sends the Millennium Falcon to hyperspace. (And let me tell you, there aren’t many things greater than punching the Falcon to lightspeed.)
You’re graded on how well you do at the end of your trip by Hondo as give splits up your take of the credits from the job. There’s demerits for damage to the Falcon or accuracy by the gunners. The credits you earned can be put into the Disney Play app that has a lot of interactivity throughout the land, but more on that later.
The Rise of the Resistance is on the west side of the land in the forest where the Resistance is currently hiding. As mentioned, the ride itself is not open yet. The “four-in-one” concept was reportedly too ambitious to get done by the opening date, but all accounts promise it to be another step forward in theme park rides.
Early indications are that you will join up with the Resistance for a mission, but the ship will be caputured by the First Order. This is where the “four-in-one” comes in. You will have to physically leave the ship you boarded and come out into a full-size hangar bay of a Star Destroyer. From there, the adventure is on to escape the First Order and join back up with the Resistance. This is partially rumor and speculation, but we’ll know more as the year draws on.
Experiences – Savi’s Lightsaber Workshop, Droid Depot
The attractions provide the excitement, and these experiences provide a bit of the wonder.
Again, all part of the immersion of the land, the two building experiences and the cantina will bring you deeper into the Star Wars world (for more than a few credits).
I was able to take in the lightsaber-building workshop, and while the $200 price tag might open your eyes at first, I promise it will be worth it. The level of lightsaber you’re getting is at the level of the high-tech lightsabers currently on the market at that price or more, and it is quite heavy and sturdy in its metal construction. Plus, you get the ensuing experience.
Depending on the crowd, you line up outside the workshop and pay upfront to receive your reservation time. Its then that you pick which kind of lightsaber build of the four provided you will choose. You will get a pin signifying your choice.
When it is your time to enter, you and your group of up to 14 people at a time will be led into the workshop by the Gatherers. Although, if the First Order stormtroopers are around, sales will stop for a minute to not alert the First Order as to what is truly going on inside.
The Gatherers are described as a group that has scoured the galaxy to, well, gather metal and components from old lightsabers, spaceships and other Jedi and Sith relics and temples. They are your instructors for the lightsaber building.
The Gatherers will notice what pin you are wearing and provide you with the parts for the path you’ve chosen. The four options are Peace and Justice (Republic-era Jedi), Power and Control (Sith), Elemental Nature (from the environment, trees and bones) and Protection and Defense (ancient connection to the Force).
The Gatherers will then lead you on an essentially spiritual experience. You’re asked to close your eyes and feel what kind of Kyber Crystal you have a connection with. The crystal will dictate the color of your lightsaber: blue, green, red or purple. The crystal is inserted into the chassis of the lightsaber and glows.
You then have two choices for each part of the construction: a top portion, a bottom portion, an emitter, a pommel cap and activation plates/switches. Once you’ve screwed everything together tight and a Gatherer checks your work, you’re asked to step back as the show begins.
The Gatherers go around and insert the hilts around the long table to properly “activate” them. Once that’s all checked, the lights are turned down and guests take the step back toward the tables. Everyone grips their hilt with their right hand and, on the Gatherers’ command, flip the switches.
The table glows with several bars of the varying colors. The bars open up to reveal your lightsaber with blade attached, on and working. Everyone is asked to raise their lightsaber up, in a sort of Knights of the Round Table display. The music of the Force Theme swells in the room. The darkness lit by the glow of everyone’s lightsabers. And my entire body is covered in goosebumps.
When I say the experience is worth the price, that’s it right there.
All the builders then hear a message from an old friend (can’t spoil that one) and then make their way to leave, picking up the padded carrying sheath to tote the lightsaber around the park.
The other fully paid experience is the Droid Depot, which I did not take part in. At the Droid Depot, guests can build their own R2 or BB unit for the cost of $100. Guests can also buy various personality chips at $14 a piece and a backpack carrier for the droid at $40.
The droids come in a variety of mix and match colored pieces, and once built, are extremely interactive. If you and a friend each get a droid, they will “communicate” with each other in their series of beeps and boops. Depending on what chip you put in them, they will react in different parts of the land. For example, a Resistance droid might get nervous in the First Order section.
The droids are also remote controlled and can roll around wherever you please.
The depot also has the option to purchase a full-size customized R2 unit, the same size and make of the famous R2-D2, for the cool price of $25,000. There are a few people that have done it, reportedly, and if you have the cash to drop on a real droid, be my guest.
The last experience here isn’t paid in the same way as the lightsabers and droids, but you can buy if you want at Oga’s Cantina.
Modeled after the famed Mos Eisley Cantina in Episode IV, Oga’s Cantina gets down the exact vibe you want. The place is always packed, so, if it’s on your to-do list, you might want to make it your first stop.
There’s a full selection of various themed cocktails and beers. There’s also nonalcoholic beverages.
I tried the whiskey Jet Juice, the rum Bespin Fizz and a Gold Squadron Lager.
The Jet Juice, a mix of Maker’s Mark and chile liquer, lives up to its name. It’s strong, but incredibly well made. It has the fire to power a starship.
I would describe the Bespin Fizz, Bacardi mixed with pomegranate and white cranberry juice, as splashy, but fun. I couldn’t tell the process, but the drink arrives bubbling and smoking. The drink is fine enough, but you have to be careful with the sips as it could end up on your face.
The Gold Squadron lager is a golden lager with lavender and plum flavors. It’s fine and inoffensive. I would try another selection on the next trip, but it was good enough.
There are next level drinks that provide their own interesting experiences.
There’s the Fuzzy Tauntaun cocktail, a mix of peach vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and “buzz” foam that numbs the lips upon drinking. The Yub Nub cocktail, a fruit, rum and citrus mix at a $42 price tag, comes with a Endor-themed tiki mug. For the beers, there is a Rancor beer flight, which provides a taste of all four beers on a souvenir wooden board with four “Rancor teeth” glasses for $75.
Beyond the lighting and the same artistic care taken throughout the land, the best piece of ambiance might be the music. DJ R-3X, the old Star Tours pilot repurposed as the cantina DJ, plays various remixes of Star Wars-inspired songs to keep the crowd pumping.
Food and Beverages
The main beverage attraction, other than the nifty Coke bottles, is the Milk Stand. Here, you can get your serving of blue or green milk. The drinks are styled after two of Luke Skywalker’s beverages.
The blue milk is based on a drink prepared by Luke’s Aunt Beru on Tatooine in A New Hope. In universe, it is milk from a bantha. In the park, it is a sweet blend of coconut and rice milks. I compared it to the taste of a melted popsicle, and I enjoyed it as a treat.
The green milk is based on the milk Luke drank from a sea sow on Ahch-To in The Last Jedi. In the park, it is a citrusy blend of coconut and rice milks. While still good, I preferred the blue milk.
There are two restaurants in Galaxy’s Edge: Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo and Ronto Roasters.
Docking Bay 7, another great bit of theming, is a sit-down restaurant near the Millennium Falcon.
The space is a cargo bay where the chairs and tables are “left behind” crates and luggage. The menu features an interesting variety, with options for those with special diets.
I took in the Smoked Kaadu Ribs, and my girlfriend ordered the Fried Endorian Tip-yip.
The ribs are sticky pork ribs with a blueberry corn muffin and cabbage slaw. I thought this was one of the better pieces of theme park food I’ve ever had. The ribs fell right off the bone, and the flavor of the barbeque sauce actually played well with the blueberry corn muffin.
The Fried Endorian Tip-yip is crispy chicken with roasted vegetable potato mash and herb gravy. The whole dish could be described as typical and fine. It’s nothing to write home about, but it does the job.
There are also special breakfast, lunch and dinner options throughout the day.
Ronto Roasters is a quick service restaurant in the Batuu marketplace. It’s easy to find with an old podracer engine cooking the meat out front of the stand. Again all part of the show, it fires up to roast up some new cuts every few minutes.
The main dish here is a Ronto Wrap, which is roasted pork, grilled pork sausage, peppercorn sauce and tangy slaw wrapped in pita. They also offer turkey jerky.
And if you’re just looking for a snack, Kat Saka’s Kettle in the marketplace offers a sweet and spicy kettle corn mix with a mouse droid container.
While plenty of credits can be laid down on a lightsaber or droids, there is still some unique merchandise to be found in the land.
Your more traditional, albeit blended in with the land, merchandise can be found at First Order Cargo in the east side of the land and the Resistance Supply on the west side of the land. Each store offers merchandise themed to the side they represent.
The unique shops are Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquites and those in the marketplace.
Dok-Ondar’s showcases many wonders from the history of Star Wars. Here guests can purchase legacy lightsabers in the models of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader or Darth Maul among others. You can also buy kyber crystals for your lightsabers as well as holocrons, as featured in Rebels.
And even if you’re not buying anything, Dok-Ondar’s is a great place to just look up at the walls and the upper level. There are many secrets to find, whether its recognizable helmets, a full-size wampa or something that “belongs in a museum.”
In the marketplace, the Toydarian Toy Maker is my favorite store. It is a toy store, but it has merchandise you aren’t getting anywhere else. The toys are created to look handmade, as if they were whittled, painted or sewn together by a local. It offers posable figurines, ships and dolls of various characters. It truly offers the most unique selection available for any store in the entire Disneyland Resort.
Across the way, there is the Creature Stall, which offers a wide selection of stuffed and rubber animals from across the galaxy. Tauntauns, rathtars, porgs, and banthas are all on display. The one you’ll see a lot of are the Kowakian monkey-lizards, which are mostly recognized as the laughing and cackling pet of Jabba the Hutt.
Black Spire Outfitters offers various in-universe robes and outfits. IF you want to complete the Jedi look, this is the place to go. Although, only children 14 and under are allowed to wear full costumes in the park.
Lastly, the Jewels of Bith offer a variety of jewelry and accessories, including pins that are always a hot commodity among Disney traders.
The Full Experience
In total, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is something I never could have imagined existing, and a place I had a hard time leaving as a lifelong Star Wars fan.
It hits all the levels. The immersion is unmatched by anything I’ve ever experienced.
As a final hit on the immersion point, using the Disney Play app provides that extra amount of interactivity. Using your datapad, what the locals of Batuu will call your smartphone, guest can interact with an incredible amount of flashing panels throughout the land. On the app, you will play games to “hack” the panels in support of the Resistance or First Order. Doing this or other jobs throughout the area will earn you credits to use for various in-app purchases among other things.
When interacted with through the app, the panels will light up and change color. If they’re connected to another object, that object will react or make a noise or maybe even open a door. You can also connect to the Millennium Falcon or Kylo Ren’s shuttle and manipulate them into reacting with various sounds or shots of smoke.
Even when you’re waiting in line or passing time until a reservation at the cantina, Galaxy’s Edge offers a new way to bring you deeper into its story.
(And one actual last immersion point, did I mention the bathrooms are even themed? Not to a crazy amount, but it’s not the simple white tile and porcelain you’ll find elsewhere.)
While there are plenty of references to the original trilogy and the adventures of Luke, Leia and Han, the only thing I could mark as a negative is the lack of inclusion with the original movies. It all makes sense as an in-universe experience. I get it in terms of the narrative they’ve created for Batuu. However, I know that’s something that might disappoint some fans.
But that’s a minor takeaway. The magic of Chewbacca working on a full-size X-Wing or taking in the breadth of the Millennium Falcon they’ve created and punching it to lightspeed, it isn’t matched by any theme park I’ve been to.
Speaking of Chewbacca, the character run-ins are another fantastic feature. This isn’t like the rest of the park where Mickey, Minnie, Cinderella or Ariel will be at their specific spot at their specific line and you form a line to the right for a posed picture. Chewbacca just lives here and does maintenance on X-Wings or the Falcon. Rey is with the Resistance and making sure she isn’t caught by the First Order. Kylo Ren and his stormtroopers patrol the land looking for the Resistance or any of its sympathizers on Batuu.
It’s all there.
While Star Tours flies you through the Galaxy on a screen and drops you off in a gift shop, Galaxy’s Edge gives you the opportunity to live out a Star Wars experience.
If you are a Star Wars fan of any level or just like seeing Disney or theme park magic in action, I fully recommend a trip to Black Spire Outpost on Batuu either after June 24 at Disneyland or August 29 at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
As they say on Batuu, may the spires keep you! (That’s a formal goodbye, for us off-worlders.)
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports.