EXCLUSIVE: Galaxy’s Edge- Opening Week

The newest addition to Disneyland is a colossal, immersive zone known as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a massive expansion into their main park. This area, known as the Black Spire Outpost on the rocky planet of Batuu, is a huge place designed to feel isolated from the castle and the rest of the park. There are rock formations, exotic shrubs that look like they’re from another planet, and a hidden speaker system that occasionally emits whoosing spaceship engine noises. Batuu is something truly special, especially for the original Disney park. I went there, somehow managing to visit on three consecutive days, on the place’s opening week. And considering the crowds, this was quite a feat. Since it’s relatively soon after, I’m going to retell the experience of the first week and the highlights of the place.

Hitting It Opening Week

          Due to its heavy demand, for the first month Disney has restricted access to Galaxy’s Edge using a limited wristband system with four-hour increments. All three of our visits coincided with the 8 PM to 12 AM shift. To check in, we proceeded to an expo-like store filled with Star Wars merch two hours ahead, or for us, 6 PM. They activate a plastic wristband with a scanning code, and when you head over there, they authenticate it to let you end. It’s a convoluted process, and I don’t know how Disney plans to move on once opening month is complete, but it worked for now.

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Only one opening was present at the time, the other two barred by staff for the time being. We entered via Critter Country (Splash Mountain) and were instantly immersed into the area. Brilliant landscaping, sights, and sounds masterfully incorporated. The horizon is blocked off, making you feel like you’re in another separate park- or even planet. You can’t see the castle or any other signs of the outside world.

In recent years Disney has consistently impressed me with its world-building in its films, and now it reaches its pinnacle at Galaxy’s Edge. The architecture is right out of the original trilogy, but with discernible influence from the newer ones. A First Order TIE Fighter makes for a fantastic photo op, as does the Millennium Falcon. There is permeating futuristic music, atmospheric lighting, and all the staff are in character. There’s even a Batuu dialect, where “Rising moons” is “Good evening.”

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Hitting it opening week was awesome. There were all sorts of die-hard fans piling up at the gates ready to get in, and once we did it felt astounding. Everything felt like it was right out of Star Wars. (I do want to mention, however, that it could be improved by having more Stormtroopers and other characters roaming the area once in awhile. It felt like it was missing that element of living, breathing people to authenticate it.)

There’s a highly enjoyable companion app via the Disney Play app on your phone, which comes with minigames for “hacking antennae” for the rebels, scanning codes to read exotic manifest for interstellar goods, and a translator that decodes the symbolic galactic language. Now, onto the highlights:

THE MARKETPLACE

The first inhabited area (you walk past an under-construction ride due open later) is the marketplace of Black Spire Outpost, which is Disney’s immersive design at its finest. It feels like a Moroccan bazaar, with stalls and shops under neon signs selling various souvenirs. I procured a coveted T-shirt at the more traditional souvenir shop, but there were others. For instance, one place sold Jedi robes. Another sold wooden figurines and Jawa cars of wood that looked handmade. Don’t forget the pet store, a booth of stuffed animals and animatronics from Tim Burton’s dream journal, including alien spiders, spherical biting things with tentacles, and those nightmare-inducing puffin Porgs from The Last Jedi.

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DEN OF ANTIQUITIES

The second shopping area of consequence is the Den of Antiquities, midway between the Falcon and the Marketplace. This souvenir shop, while honestly disappointing in terms of content for sale, is wildly popular. We waited a long time, for during the opening week, the place was so crowded a line formed outside and all the way down a flight of stairs. Inside, there are trinkets, toys, Star Wars stuff, and a load of props waiting for you to gawk at them. With some research, I spotted one in particular- if you stand in the far back corner of the room near the cashier’s counter, look up and you can see an Indiana Jones artifact- the Ark of the Covenant! According to the staff, it was shipped here from Orlando when its ride, the Great Movie Ride, shut down. (See the shiny golden object beneath the rails in the right photograph.)

They also have lightsabers you can buy, that the prices were prohibtive so I didn’t mind missing out.

DROID FACTORY

This incredibly-designed shop allows you to step into a droid factory complete with workstations, accessory racks, and a decorative conveyor belt dangling droid limbs overhead. For a hundred bucks, you can buy either a BB or R2 unit, customize it with multiple colors, and take it home. The staff even let kids play with a power screwdriver to drill it in.

CANTINA

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Based on the Mos Eisley Cantina in the first Star Wars film, this Cantina is amazing, and during our time there was always crowded out the door. The counters are brilliantly lit up, there’s a robot DJ, and gurgling vats that look like they serve the drinks. Here we drank the Blue Bantha, the infamous blue milk from the Last Jedi with a cookie on top. It tasted strange, to say the least.

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The menu at the cantina. Note how one of their rarer vintages was “formerly” produced on Alderaan.

SMUGGLER’S RUN

The centerpiece and only ride in Galaxy’s Edge so far, Smuggler’s Run takes place between episodes eight and nine. This awesome alien animatronic with dreadlocks leads you through a galactic battle to steal some loot from the First Order. There are six positions per group. Two pilots (one moves horizontally and the other vertically), two engineers who pick up the stolen cargo, and two gunners who defend the ship. The problem with these positions is, they give you cards to randomly select them, and they don’t shuffle them, so the role you waited to play for a half hour goes to someone else because they were one spot in front of you and you didn’t stand a chance.

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Galaxy’s Edge is most atmospheric after sunset, especially when a firework display is active.

Even besides that, it’s a great ride, even though as far as I know it’s impossible to fail it. Our incompetent pilots flew us into mountainsides and walls and we still flew on board the Millennium Falcon unscathed. Anyways, I give Galaxy’s Edge the full five stars for its design, attention to detail, and high-tech souvenirs and attractions.

 

 

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