Disneyland is making a billion-dollar bet that Star Wars fans will want to climb into the pilot’s seat of the Millennium Falcon, rub elbows with a bounty hunter in a disreputable cantina and wander through a smuggler’s alley in search of the perfect intergalactic souvenir.
Once completed, the highly anticipated 14-acre Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be the largest addition in the history of the Anaheim theme park.
Teams from Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm have spent years tackling a central challenge: How to magically transport visitors from the Orange County suburbs to a galaxy far, far away. With lightsabers crossed, Star Wars diehards are hoping the force is strong with Galaxy’s Edge.
Disney is simultaneously building nearly identical versions of the immersive themed lands in California and Florida. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens this summer at Disneyland in Anaheim and late fall at Disney’s Hollywood Studios near Orlando.
Let’s answer the 10 biggest questions Star Wars fans have about the new Galaxy’s Edge themed land coming to Disneyland this summer.
1) Why is Disneyland adding Galaxy’s Edge now?
Two words: Harry Potter.
Disney is still reeling from Universal Studios’ theme park juggernaut: Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative arm of the company, continues to come up with new ways to combat the Boy Wizard money-making machines that Universal built in Florida, California and Japan.
Wizarding World set the standard in 2010 for immersive themed lands based on a single intellectual property that let visitors walk through a cinematic universe and step into a movie scene. In response, Disney added Cars Land at Disney California Adventure in 2012 and Pandora: World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017.
The Star Wars lands were announced in 2015, just three years after the franchise was sold to Disney. The Mouse is counting on Galaxy’s Edge to be the ultimate antidote to Universal’s Pottermania.
2) Is the new Star Wars land going to be set in Tatooine, Hoth or Endor?
Imagineering and Lucasfilm decided to set Galaxy’s Edge in a new location in the Star Wars universe rather than revisit a place familiar to fans of the film franchise.
The bold move has a number of upsides.
For starters, it would have been difficult to create a snowy Hoth in sunny Southern California or accurately recreate a desert outpost like Tatooine. Plus those locations appeal to older fans of Star Wars films that are now decades old. Disney wanted to appeal to younger fans of newer Star Wars movies, TV shows and novels as well as set the stage for Star Wars stories to be told in future decades.
The solution? Imagineering decided to create a completely new immersive and interactive environment that allows every visitor to live their own Star Wars hero story.
The result? Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge themed lands will be set in the Black Spire Outpost on the remote planet of Batuu, located on the outer rim of the Star Wars galaxy.
3) What will Black Spire Outpost look like?
Black Spire Outpost will look and feel familiar to anyone who has watched a Star Wars movie or TV show. Imagineering worked with Lucasfilm to create a village outpost that would fit in any Star Wars story.
There’s a disreputable cantina, a droid repair shop and open-air marketplace selling other-worldly wares. And, of course, a spaceport where the Millennium Falcon is docked that will serve as the centerpiece of the themed land. X-Wings, Tie fighters and AT-AT walkers await around every corner.
Black Spire Outpost is surrounded by the stumps of once-towering trees that have become spire-like petrified rock formations. Construction crews have been working for months to create the massive tree stumps out of extensive faux rock work.
According to the backstory, the remote outpost that was once a busy crossroads along a popular trade route is now home to smugglers, rogue traders and adventurers looking to avoid attention.
4) What rides will be in Galaxy’s Edge?
Galaxy’s Edge will be home to a pair of E-Ticket attractions that will drop visitors into the middle of outer space battles.
The Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run flight simulator ride will serve as the marquee attraction of Galaxy’s Edge.
Smuggler’s Run puts riders in the cockpit of the fastest ship in the galaxy as they battle Imperial Tie fighters during a secret mission with multiple story lines. Riders will be tasked by a vengeful space pirate to bring back a pile of loot or face the consequences.
Imagineers have described the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance trackless dark ride as the most elaborate and immersive attraction ever built by Disney
Rise of the Resistance promises a race-against-time battle between the First Order and the Resistance. Riders will travel through a Star Destroyer hangar bay, pass a pair of giant AT-AT walkers and face-off with villain Kylo Ren.
5) How much is Disney spending to build Galaxy’s Edge?
Disney never talks about the costs associated with building big attractions and massive themed lands. To the Mouse, major capital investments are made with magic and paid for with pixie dust.
But that hasn’t stopped Galaxy’s Edge cost estimates from finding daylight.
Building permits submitted by Disney to the city of Anaheim tally up tens of millions of dollars spent on Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland.
Contractors set the valuation of the ongoing work at Disneyland’s Star Wars themed land at more than $185 million, according to the city documents.
While building permits issued incrementally throughout the course of construction can’t provide a complete picture of the massive project, they do offer an intriguing glimpse at the scope of the work going on inside the new Star Wars land.
Among the biggest ticket items:
$77.9 million for the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance trackless dark ride
$55.7 million for the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run flight simulator ride
$12.5 million for a cantina restaurant and tavern serving alien cocktails
The plans also call for the installation of a $4.4 million “iconic theme prop” that appears to be the full-size replica of the Millennium Falcon in front of the Smuggler’s Run attraction.
The entire Galaxy’s Edge project in Anaheim is estimated to cost $1 billion, according to Themeparx, a theme park construction website that tracks the progress of projects around the world.
6) Will there be a cantina? Can I drink Blue Milk?
No visit to the Star Wars universe would be complete without stopping for a drink at the local cantina. Just like the one where Star Wars fans met Han Solo in the first film.
Oga’s Cantina fills the role of disreputable watering hole in Galaxy’s Edge. Costumed actors portraying alien proprietor Oga Garra are expected to “work” behind the bar at the Galaxy’s Edge tavern. Star Tours droid RX-24, aka Rex, will serve as DJ.
Droids are expected to serve intergalactic spirits to “truly adventurous” customers. The cocktail list will include a drink called Blurrgfire.
Oga’s Cantina will be the first public location to serve alcohol in Disneyland history.
Other food and beverage locations will include the Docking Bay 7 counter-service restaurant, an exclusive dinner club serving outer rim delicacies, and Bantha Tracks where visitors can order Blue Milk, which Luke Skywalker drank in the first Star Wars movie.
What you won’t find in Galaxy’s Edge is any fast food kids meals, buckets of popcorn or Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzels. Restaurants, food stands and snack kiosks will serve an “in universe” menu of alien fare not found in any theme park.
7) What kind of Star Wars merchandise will be sold in Galaxy’s Edge?
What made the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so wildly successful was the fact that visitors got to step into a real-world version of Hogsmeade village that was virtually identical to the one in the movies.
Nearly every inch of the theme park land was intricately tied into the Harry Potter story and lore. Even the shops were true to the Potterverse. You could buy a magic wand at Ollivander’s, butterbeer at Three Broomsticks and chocolate frogs at Honeydukes.
All of the Galaxy’s Edge merchandise in Merchant Row and Smuggler’s Alley will look and feel like it belongs in the Star Wars universe rather than a Disneyland gift shop.
The Toydarian Wares toy shop will be presided over by an animatronic or virtual vendor who looks like the winged junk dealer Watto from “The Phantom Menace,” himself a Toydarian. But you won’t find the shelves lined with Star Wars action figures and Death Star Lego sets. Instead, the toy store will sell stuffed Chewbacca, Yoda and Kylo Ren dolls designed to look like they were hand-made by local Black Spire vendors.
The Creature Stall shop in the marketplace will be filled with caged animatronic creatures both cute and creepy. Customers will be able to purchase the irresistibly cuddly loth cat dolls from the “Star Wars Rebels” animated television series.
8) Can I get my picture taken with Han Solo and Luke Skywalker?
The beauty of carving out a new locale like Black Spire Outpost is that any character in the Star Wars universe can drop into town for a visit.
Anakin Skywalker could stop by one day, followed by Darth Vader the next and Kylo Ren the day after.
The new lands will feature walk-around characters and creatures that interact with visitors in a continually developing storyline that evolves and progresses throughout the day. And your actions have consequences, too. Fail in your mission aboard Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and a bounty hunter might tap you on the shoulder in the marketplace looking for the space pirate’s loot that you lost.
9) What happens to Star Tours in Tomorrowland?
It won’t make sense from a storytelling perspective to have Star Tours in Tomorrowland when there is an entire land dedicated to Star Wars on the other side of Disneyland. It would make even less sense to move Star Tours to Galaxy’s Edge beside Smuggler’s Run, the next generation of motion simulator rides.
It’s possible Star Tours could be rethemed to another futuristic intellectual property, but so far Disney has made no announcement about what will happen to the 1987 ride once Galaxy’s Edge opens. Disney has continued to update the attraction with new destinations from the newer movies in the franchise.
10) How crowded is Galaxy’s Edge going to be?
Theme park experts expect Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to be one of the biggest grand openings in industry history.
As many as 200,000 people could descend on Disneyland for the opening day of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, predicts Bill Zanetti, who teaches courses in theme park design, operations and management at the University of Central Florida.
Touring Plans, which uses big data and statistical analysis to calculate daily crowd sizes and ride wait times at theme parks, anticipates 8- to 10-hour lines just to get into Disneyland on the opening day of Galaxy’s Edge. Once inside the new land, visitors could encounter 6-hour waits for each of the E-Ticket attractions, Touring Plans forecasts.
Brady MacDonald is a freelance writer based in Orange County who has written about theme parks for the past decade.