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Now that Galaxy’s Edge has finally opened to the public at large, I thought it would be fun to take a look back to last week and let you know my thoughts on Star Wars land at Disneyland.
Su and I made a special trip to Disneyland just to go to Galaxy’s Edge. We had reservations for 2PM – 6PM. A four hour window that turned out to be longer than we needed. But more on that later. Our day started with checking in at the Star Wars Launch Bay. It’s a space that has sadly been underutilized since the closing of America Sings in 1988.
For most of the month of June, this building had been used as a queue for the check-in process for Star Wars Land at Disneyland. Now that the land is open without reservations, you can use Disneyland’s virtual queue system to get into Galaxy’s Edge.
Our reservation time was drawing near, so we decided to head over to Critter County to see how the line was and get something to eat. On our way over, we stopped by the submarine lagoon for some pictures.
Heading in to Galaxy’s Edge
When our time approached, the line got really long. I’m not sure why people wanted to crowd together and stand around when we had a guaranteed entry time. We waited a bit and walked in behind the gigantic crowd.
Galaxy’s Edge has a lot of really nice set pieces and props around the land. Su and I spent a good chunk of our 4 hours just looking around taking pictures.
Something interesting about Galaxy’s Edge is that Disney decided to make all cast members role players. They all have a character and stick to it. They are not Disneyland employees, they are residents of Batuu. It makes it fairly fascinating to have employees basically LARPing on the clock.
Residents of an outpost in the Star Wars universe would not be as welcoming to outsiders as a Disneyland employee would be. It was a strange thing to be inside Disneyland, yet feel like I couldn’t ask for something from a cast member. They were supposed to be in character. For example, Photo-pass photographers were very snarky. Sometimes, they were even on the verge of rude. I’ll get into more of this later on.
The Market Area
Not surprisingly, Star Wars land is amazingly detailed. The open air market is just covered with props from the Star Wars universe.
The walk-up restaurant in the market area is really well themed too. It blends in almost too well. If you weren’t paying attention, you could pass right by it being distracted by the meat cooking under a giant engine.
The Docking Bay
The space port area around Smuggler’s Run is kind of the center piece of the land for now. It’s where most people seemed to gravitate first. It, again, is really well themed to the Star Wars universe. It’s impressive how much thought was put into the guest’s sight lines. You would never guess that you are backed up against an Anaheim road and a giant parking structure.
Star Wars: Smuggler’s Run
The line for Smuggler’s Run was displayed at 30 minutes. But it really only took about 20. I think the main reason for this was not so much that there were reservations, but that Fastpass wasn’t implemented yet. (I really do think that the Fastpass system makes things worse sometimes). In any case, we got in line to board the Millennium Falcon.
Again, the queue is very well themed. Disney did an excellent job of making the land immersive, aside from a few places where you can see other areas of the park.
The main part of the Queue starts by taking you around the back side of the Falcon. Then it leads indoors to a workshop/hangar space where there is a ramp leading to a second level. From the second level, you can get a view looking down on the Falcon.
We were then led into a room where the queue was split into two groups to watch the pre-show with an animatronic Hondo Ohnaka.
He has an extra toothy droid assisting him.
I barely noticed that the queue was split into two groups the first time we went through. Disney used some great distractions to keep you from noticing the loading mechanics of the ride. Splitting the line allowed the Disney Imagineers to make two Falcon interiors. After the encounter with Hando, we were led into a “jetway” type hallway to board the Falcon.
At the end of the hallway there is a cast member who hands out cards that list your position. Our first time through we got the engineer seat.
This is one of the areas where Disney’s choice for full immersion comes into play. You get assigned a seat. But what if you just waited 3 hours for the ride and you want to be the pilot? Can you ask to wait for the front? No! This isn’t a ride in the Star Wars land universe. You are working for Hando and the resistance. You get what you are given and move along. Sure, you can try to switch with another rider, but the cast member will not help you out here like they would in any other part of the park.
The Millennium Falcon
After getting the position card, we were let into the interior of the Millennium Falcon. The interior is amazing. Again, there is too much to look at in the time allotted. We were part of the red group. So we were encouraged to mill about and look at the ship until they called for our red team.
Entering the Cockpit
When the cast member called our group, we joined our flight crew in one of two hallways. One seems like a sort of back ally way to the cockpit, while the other is the more traditional route.
From what I could surmise, there are two Falcon interiors. Each one has two paths leading to a loading zone. This allows for two loading zones per Falcon interior for a total of four loading zones. Each zone leads to a cockpit simulator on a turntable. Each turntable has seven cockpits. You can feel this turntable moving at the end of each ride. It is cleverly masked by the docking animation of the Falcon. This system allows simulators on the same turntable to be simultaneously loading, unloading and in motion.
The system works great. You feel as though you are the only one in the world entering and then flying the Falcon. When the door finally opened, we got our first glimpse at the iconic pilot’s seat.
Piloting the Falcon (or watching someone else pilot the Falcon)
The Engineers basically have buttons to the left or right side of the seat on the wall. They flash when they need to be pushed. That’s about the extent of it. The gunners have firing buttons for the laser canons and a round button for firing the missiles. They also flash when they need to be pushed. The pilots have a different set of controls for the left and right seat. The pilot on the left has a boost button and controls the left and right movement of the Falcon. The right pilot has up/down controls and the lever for the jump to hyper space.
It can be difficult to ride if you have smaller kids. The dad on our first ride through was constantly having to lean over to help his son with his set of controls. The movement of the ride is very docile. It feels very much like the movement on Universal Studios’ Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It felt very mechanical and not organic. Star Tours definitely has the better motion simulator experience.
When you exit the ride, you are dumped into a hallway. Depending on where you ended up on the turntable, you could be at the very back of a very long hallway as we were our first time through. Walking this hallway shows just how large the rider capacity is on this ride.
Back in Bantuu
Back out in the outpost, we decided to wander around some more.
Su and I skipped the Cantina as there was no way to get reservations. We also passed on building a lightsaber or droid. We did go by the Den of Antiquities. It is a little shop filled with Star Wars props. There was also Galaxy’s Edge merchandise for sale inside.
We wandered around for a bit and realized we didn’t have much more to do. We decided to go back on Smuggler’s run to see if we could get the pilot position… no dice. So we jumped back on since the wait was only 10 minutes. We finally had success. The Pilot position is definitely the most fun. All in all, we were able to try all three positions. All were unique and had their good and bad qualities.
Engineers are great if you just want to ride the ride. Gunners are great for those button masher gaming friends everyone has. The pilot positions take the most skill and concentration. But it can be fun to actually pilot the Falcon. And, who hasn’t wanted a chance to pull that lever and make the jump to hyperspace?
Pro tip: You make the jump to hyperspace twice during the ride. I was in the right seat and pulled the lever the first time. But I let Su pull it from the left seat the second time. That way we both got to do it.
Running out of things to do
We didn’t go to Star Wars land to buy anything. We just wanted to experience it. And we quickly found out that we had run out of things to do. We were in our third hour and the land was starting to empty out before the next wave of people entered. So we used the opportunity to walk around and take some more pictures.
Leaving Galaxy’s Edge
We ended our time in Star Wars Land at Disneyland (Galaxy’s Edge, Batuu, whatever) by exiting under the new Train bridge in Frontierland. We left after 3 hours.
Overall, Galaxy’s Edge was a great experience. The forethought, effort, and detail poured into the set design and dressing that the imagineers put into the land is immense and impressive.
However, it definitely has some quirks that make it…. interesting. The main one is that it feels completely isolated from the rest of Disneyland. That’s a good thing for immersion and selling it as it’s own land. It’s a bad thing when the isolation extends to the “Disney magic”. Disney’s own brand of magic seems to be out of place and not welcome in Batuu.
Walt Disney created Disneyland with different lands that encompass a wide variety of experiences. Galaxy’s Edge is different. It’s a land based entirely on a single IP. Nothing else can fit there. While Star Tours feels perfectly at home in Tomorrowland next to Astroblasters, Astroblasters would not fit into Galaxy’s edge. And I think that is the main issue with Galaxy’s Edge. Disney tried so hard to make it immersive, as if you are stepping into another world, that they lost the part that makes Disneyland Disneyland.
Susan said crossing over the threshold going back into Frontierland caused her to breathe a full body sigh of relief. It was as if she walked into the welcoming arms of that special Disney magic that was forced to wait for our safe return on the border of Galaxy’s Edge. I think that sort of sums it up. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s quite impressive and can be a lot of fun. But it doesn’t feel like it fits into Disneyland. It felt much more like something you would find at Universal Studios. Maybe think about what Fantasyland would be like if it was exclusively Frozenland. The vibe would be much different from the way it is right now.
Overall, Galaxy’s Edge is worth a look. If you are a fan of the Star Wars canon this will be an enjoyable experience. If you’re a fan of Disneyland and looking for an expanded experience of “The Magic” – you might be disappointed.