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Living in a Galaxy Far, Far Away: A Guest Experience Designer’s Guide

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a big Star Wars fan, beginning at the age of seven when I saw my first Star Wars (a rescreening of The Empire Strikes Back).

Therefore, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I’m excited about the much-anticipated opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Resort, California (also at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida in August).

It’s no secret that Disney is an expert in park area theming and guest experience and immersion, you only need to see the latest figures from the TEA Theme Index to see that it’s absolutely spot on. Now that Disney owns the rights to Star Wars, you know that they’ll be able to take the theming and guest immersion in a galaxy, far, far away to new heights.

From the rumours that have been circling and the information Disney has released themselves, I know it’s going to be an experience of a lifetime, not only for Star Wars fans but for people new to the saga too.

© Disney/Lucasfilm

Never-before-seen

In Galaxy’s Edge, you’re able to explore the never-before-seen Black Spire Outpost on Batuu, which draws in bounty hunters and smugglers alike; all with their own backstories that will come into play when interacting with guests. There is a good chance that we’ll see this locale in the upcoming Star Wars film, The Rise of The Skywalker. Both the Resistance and the First Order have set up camp around the outpost, the reason for this is currently unknown.

Black Spire Outpost spans a massive fourteen acres making it Disney’s largest area dedicated to a single theme. The area has two rides (Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance) as well as restaurants, food stands, a cantina and several shops.

Guest Interaction

© Disney/Lucasfilm

Upon entering Galaxy’s edge, Disney World’s Play app becomes your very own galactic datapad. Allowing guests to translate Aurebesh (the galactic basic writing system), interact with droids, scan crates to see their contents and hack door terminals or droids.

This is a great way to encourage guests to explore every crevice of the Black Spire Outpost. Guests can also gain rewards from completing jobs for some of the many Batuu locals (Disney cast members); ranging from ship schematics, star maps and galactic credits.

You can also “pledge your loyalty to the First Order, support the Resistance, or strike out on your own as a scoundrel.” Disney cast members will react with guests based on your personal experiences throughout Batuu. Every cast member will have their own backstory and be allowed to customise their outfit with hats, scarves and jewellery to truly make each character individual.

Based on your choices, cast members will interact with you differently based on their back story and how they would naturally interact with you within the story. Pushing the guest immersion levels beyond anything else, making every guest feel like part of the story. It’s said that droids will also wander the expanse of Batuu, but this won’t be until the crowds subside.

With SW:GE (the acronym of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge), Disney is trying to move away from the traditional meet-and-greet and making it all a more interactive experience. Portfolio Creative Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, Scott Trowbridge mentioned, “If we were to see a Resistance spy, they might come up to us and say, ‘Will you help me? I have a friend I need to get to his ship. I need help making sure the First Order doesn’t know about it.’”

The friend might just be someone you’re more familiar with, Chewbacca, for example. You could help Chewbacca get back to his ship and be rewarded with a hug and celebratory photo, rather than having to queue. Thus making the whole experience more enjoyable.

Rides

Millennium Falcon

© Disney/Lucasfilm

Galaxy’s Edge will have two rides for guests to experience. Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run helps fans live their life-long dream of piloting the “fastest hunk-of-junk in the galaxy”, as either the pilot, gunner or engineer.

Each role has its own responsibilities during the ride. Disney explains, “As a pilot, you have the opportunity to either steer the ship left or right or up and down, and it’s truly up to you to get out of the way of those spires, for example. If you don’t, you smash into them, alarms will go off, sparks will fly, and it’s up to the engineers in the back of the cockpit to work furiously to get things in order. We’ve got TIE fighters coming left and right, it’s up to the gunners to work those lasers and blasters to truly defend the ship.”

With variations in the mission based on how guests perform will make this a highly repeatable experience. The guest flow will supposedly change based on how you perform during the mission, Hondo will not take kindly to people who knock his ship around.

© Entertainment Weekly (https://ewedit.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/star-wars-galaxys-edge-24.jpg)

Queue-line will have guests waiting in the highly-detailed full-size recreation of one of the most iconic spaceships in the galaxy. A dream come true, making you feel like you’re directly in the scenes from the film.

Rise of the Resistance

© Disney/Lucasfilm

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be the park’s new trackless dark-ride attraction. Not a lot is known for certain currently about this attraction, at the moment as it is part of Phase 2 at Galaxy’s Edge.

Guests will take part in a mission with familiar characters before your ship is intercepted by the First Order. Guests will board multiple vehicles seamlessly moving from one experience to another. From boarding a shuttle to then being taken captive on a Star Destroyer and trying to escape the First Order with the help from a Resistance droid.

This is set to be a truly immersive and cinematic experience that you won’t want to miss when it opens later in the year.

Retail

© WDW News Today (https://twitter.com/WDWNT/status/1133923671289094145)

“JUST TAKE MY MONEY!” Other than being able to drive the Millenium Falcon or escaping the first order, the other main draw for Galaxy’s Edge is the merchandise. The EXCLUSIVE merchandise. Just be sure to take lots of spending money, because it will soon stack up.

Savi’s Workshop

© Disney/Lucasfilm

The retail experiences fans are yearning for are the personalised lightsabers from Savi’s (not-so-secret) Workshop and customisable droids from the Droid Depot. Savi’s workshop will allow guests to pick from parts to build their very own lightsaber; varying the style, hilt and blade, everything is customisable.

“Our guests will get to meet the Gatherers who have dedicated their life to balancing The Force by sharing their knowledge of it,” said Imagineering creative producer Brian Loo. “In this experience, our guests will go on a guided tour with the Gatherers to build their lightsaber on their journey.”

This lightsaber experience will cost $199.

Droid Depot

© Disney/Lucasfilm

Droid Depot will be a mecca for droid enthusiasts, with many droids in various stages of disrepair, making you feel like you really are in a droid workshop. In Droid Depot, guests will be able to customise their very own droid from parts (from many of the droids in the franchise) on a conveyor belt and activate it. Your droid will then be able to communicate with other droids around Black Spire Outpost.

The droids will cost $99 and even have secondary customisation options like the drinks tray from Return of the Jedi that R2-D2 sports on Jabba’s barge.

Disney has decided to play down their corporate labelling on all their products to make all the items truly feel like they’ve been made by a local Batuu artisan or true artefacts of the galaxy. There is something for everyone, from toys at the Toydarian Toymakers (dolls, cantina instruments and games) to artefacts from the films at Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities. Whatever your need, Black Spire outpost has you covered from every corner of the galaxy.

Food and Drink

To round off the whole guest experience of Galaxy’s Edge, Disney’s culinary team has developed a delicious menu of food and drink which drew inspiration from all the weird and wonderful creatures and plants of the Star Wars universe. Each item will have its own in-universe Star Wars name and out-of-this-world appearance. Offering up these delights are five locations, all with different delicacies for you to try.

Oga’s Cantina

Oga’s Cantina is the Batuu citizen’s local watering hole, imagine stepping into Mos Eisley Cantina with a slight twist. Here you’ll be able to kick back after all your galactic travels and partake in a beverage or two. Oga’s will offer both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, while of course still catering for the little space adventurers.

© Disney/Lucasfilm

The alcoholic drinks menu consists of Fuzzy Tauntaun (Fuzzy Navel), Bespin Fizz (Cosmopolitan), Bloody Rancor (Bloody Mary), Outer Rim (Margarita) and Yub Nub (Rum Punch). Amongst the non-alcoholic cantina cocktail are Jabba Juice, Carbon Freeze and Black Spire Brew.

With a DJ droid playing songs and a bartender mixing alien cocktails from tanks with marinating creatures, what isn’t to love about this hive of scum and villainy. Be sure to steer clear of the bounty hunter in the corner, he’ll be certain to ask you about the credits you still owe a space pirate…

Milk Stand

© Disney/Lucasfilm

We first saw the blue milk in A New Hope and then green milk was introduced in The Last Jedi. Where Oga’s offers a chilled blue milk drink (Blue Bantha), the Milk Stand will offer something a little different as Scott Trowbridge, the Imagineering creative executive in charge of Galaxy’s Edge explained. “It’s not actually milk… walking around Florida in the middle of August, the last thing you want is a hot glass of milk. It’s refreshing, delicious and great.” The blue milk will have berry and melon flavours while the green milk has a more tropical flavour. These treats will be frozen to keep you cool in the heat, imagine a fruity smoothie or milkshake.

Ronto Roasters

© Disney/Lucasfilm

“This location is super fun because it’s all about meat and it’s all about heat,” Piasecki said. With a repurposed Podracer engine hanging above to heat all the meats. From the Ronto Wrap Sandwich to the Turkey Jerky, guests can experience all the different space meats with a mix of sweet and spicy flavours.

Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo

© Disney/Lucasfilm

Dining in Docking Bay 7, guests will eat inside shipping containers that double as seating areas, with crates and barrels serving as seats. Each cargo container will have a different theme and Black Spire vendor; fishmonger, fruit vendor and alien distillery. The fishmonger also has a carbonite freezing machine to help keep the catch of the day fresh.

The Docking Bay 7 menu includes Smoked Kaadu Ribs (spicy and sweet pork ribs), Fried Endorian Tip-Yip (fried chicken tenders), Felucian Garden Spread (plant-based meatballs with herb hummus), Yobshrimp Noodle Salad (shrimp with arrowroot noodles) and Oven Roasted Burra Fish (dijon-crusted mahi-mahi).

Kat Saka’s Kettle

The popcorn mix at Kat Saka’s Kettle is unlike any you’ve tasted before, combining sweet, salty, savoury and spicy. You know they’ll pack a punch.

© Disney/Lucasfilm

With all this being said and promised from the Disney Imagineers, it’s clear to see why Galaxy’s Edge is one of the most anticipated themed attractions ever. With fans and people new to the series joining together to experience one of Disney’s most immersive and ambitious themed attractions to date.

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Martin
Stewart

Martin is our designer. He’s been with Katapult for over 8 years, in that time he has amassed an impressive IP portfolio. Working with SEALIFE, Madame Tussauds, LEGO, Peppa Pig, Cartoon Network, How To Train Your Dragon and Ghostbusters, amongst many more.

themed attraction &
experience design

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