If your first exposure to Star Wars was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Disneyland’s newly launched land Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge provides an immersive hyperspace jump into your past with a land filled with nostalgic fantasy.
The Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, which opened in Anaheim on May 31, is an Outer Rim den of thieves, home to smugglers, shady traders, and anybody desiring to fly under First Order radar.
The 14-acre site genuinely feels like another world, built with signature Mouse House precision and delightful attention to detail. The experience is completed by costumed park staff (Disney calls them cast members), convincingly playing Batuu locals who seem baffled by guests’ Earth-speak.
I asked one fellow in a cartwheel-shaped hat and dusty-looking robes how he was doing. “Well, at least I didn’t get blasted today,” he responded with a shrug.
It all blends to create an experience that will keep film geeks, Star Wars devotees, and newcomers to the franchise excitedly jabbering about Easter Eggs and unexpected visual treats.
I visited at night, an ideal time to wander around the shadowy Moroccan-inspired market where you can pick up a Kowakian monkey–lizard pet for just 70 credits — that’s $70 USD in Earth money, which the traders will happily accept.
Walk past Ronto Roasters food hall, turn a corner past weathered adobe walls marked with old blaster fire and there she is: “The fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy,” as Han Solo calls his beloved and temperamental Millennium Falcon.
It’s massive, one of several full-size ships around the land, crafted with every possible detail from space junk scars to seared ports.
The Falcon is parked outside the entrance to the Star Wars land’s only operating ride (for now) Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, waiting for guests to brave a very long line to strap in and fly her on a secret mission. The ride was the only disappointment for me. More on that later.
The other signature, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance experience, opens later this year.
Every doorway and alley in the land leads to rooms packed with animatronic characters and ephemera. Pick droid parts off a conveyor belt to craft a custom robot at the industrial Droid Depot. Or build a personalized lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop, which only takes a limited amount of guests at a time for a more bespoke and interactive experience. It’s $200 credits, er, dollars but I was told it can last up to three hours.
Just be cool when the stormtroopers show up demanding to know if you’ve seen any rebels. Sip your blue milk (a creamy non-dairy slushie) and deny everything.
As with the Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney World, the walk into Batuu past forests echoing with weird jungle sounds slowly separates you from the theme-park world of Cinderella’s castle and noisy rides. The outpost’s namesake spires are visible on the horizon, new music composed by John Williams plays, and then the first space ships come into view.
Oga’s Cantina is going to be a favorite, although the night I was there for a special event it was just a walk-through experience, with animatronic droid DJ R-3X spinning tunes and making bad jokes. As the first and only place in the park serving alcohol, count on it to be a hotspot.
My favorite stop was Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, a room jammed with “rare and mysterious items for sale representing different eras of the Star Wars galaxy.” Yes, another store, but this one has enough eye-popping, entertaining stuff to discover that I spent nearly 30 minutes just looking around.
Downloading the Star Wars Datapad app adds even more to the experience, with instant translation of various space dialects and keys to hidden treasures inside crates or behind doors.
As for the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, it’s a fancy simulation ride, where a long lineup is rewarded with a chance to join a six-member crew to fly the ship on a recovery mission, hired for the job by an animatronic Hondo Ohnaka. Two of your crew are pilots, two others are gunners, and two are engineers. The worse the pilots’ flying skills, the rougher the ride. No gold stars for us, so the trip was a lurching, bouncing one. The pilots were so bad, Hondo sent Chewbacca to take over and fly her properly. (He doesn’t actually turn up inside the ship. The controls are managed remotely.)
Fun, sure, but not nearly as thrilling as the simulated ride on the back of an Ikran at The World of Avatar at Orlando’s Disney World. That was a truly magical, 4K cinematic experience. Outside Smugglers Run, after watching the signature day-closing fireworks seeming to explode behind the Millennium Falcon, I headed for the exit, alone on the dark path out to the real world.
Or maybe not so alone. A tall creature was coming towards me: Chewbacca, for real this time.
“It’s you!” was all I could think of to say. He hurried past, turned back to look at me, made a low growl (I wish I spoke Wookie), and then darted for the Millennium Falcon.
Can you blame me for thinking one thing? “Chewie, we’re home.”
MORE ABOUT DISNEYLAND’S STAR WARS ATTRACTION
Tickets: Reservations are required to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge until June 23, 2019. Tickets can be purchased online at Disneyland’s website. Theme park passes include Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and park admission costs vary depending on how many days you intend to visit.