Funny thing is, for the last 21 years, I’ve lived only about a half hour to 40 minutes (in good traffic) from Disneyland, but I rarely go there. In fact, I’ve gone to Disneyland exactly six times over four decades. Mainly because it’s very expensive (increasingly so all the time), and the handful of times I have gone are largely consumed waiting in long lines and/or navigating large crowds. Yes, the rides are a lot of fun, and the imagineering craftsmanship is truly incredible, but personally I get more bang for my buck attending sci-fi/fantasy conventions (which my wife and I attend around 8 to 10 a year). That said, the recent addition of two new Star Wars attractions (the first new Star Wars attractions since 1987) got the attention of this 53-year old Star Wars geek and my Star Wars geek wife.
This piece will not be from the perspective of a Disneyland expert, nor a rapid Disney park enthusiast. There are multiple books, YouTube channels, and blogs from people who could tell you Walt Disney’s shoe size, the nicknames of the Pirates of the Caribbean, or just whose initials are carved under a wooden park bench on Main Street. I, for better or worse, am not one of those people.
My interest in going to Disneyland for this trip was that I am a longtime Star Wars geek (since the tender age of 10 back in 1977), and I really wanted to see “Galaxy’s Edge” and “Rise of the Resistance.” Well, we struck out with “Rise…” (it was booked solid the entire day, before we arrived). But I can safely say that Galaxy’s Edge was well worth a look.
Galaxy’s Edge surpassed my expectations by a good light-year or two. Once you walk through the gateway (located in ‘Adventureland’), you are utterly immersed in the backwater smuggler’s planet of “Batuu,” a planet not seen in the films, but which feels like a verdant variation of the desert world Tatooine (Luke Skywalker’s home planet). The architecture is older North African, but retrofitted with cables, wires and bits of high technology. Droids, alien creatures, and faster-than-light starships are casually placed throughout the attraction. The most eye-catching vessel, of course, is the centrally-located Millennium Falcon….Han Solo’s famous starship which “made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.” The level of artistry and deliberately-weathered detailing throughout “Batuu” is breathtaking. Loved the mix of weathered but functional-looking technology everywhere. Truly captures George Lucas’ original vision of a ‘lived-in universe.’ It’s all very Star Wars…
All around you there are signs written in Aurabesh (the Star Wars written language), molten blaster scorch marks on the walls, roasted rontos, and more detailing than I could fully absorb in the relatively limited time I was there. The breadth of the Star Wars universe, from the movies, the TV series (animated & live-action) and even a few of the books, are all represented in this environment to varying degrees. You really get to live Star Wars while you’re there. It’s like nothing I could’ve ever imagined as a kid, and that I can barely believe in my middle age.
For now, I’d like to tell you about my experience at Galaxy’s Edge copiloting the Millennium Falcon…fulfilling a dream I’ve had since the age of 10 when I first saw “Star Wars” (1977), and witnessed the Falcon bursting into hyperspace, blowing my preadolescent mind…
Now boarding…the Millennium Falcon.
This was the part of the Galaxy’s Edge attraction that I looked most forward to; seeing, boarding, and even ‘flying’ aboard Han and Chewbacca’s ride, the Millennium Falcon. Yes, to Luke Skywalker, she may have been “a piece of junk”, to me, this 1:1 scale starship model parked outside the ride itself was just beautiful. The scale of the ship seemed exactly right, even though I realized the full-scale model of the ship outside was not the ride’s version of the ship that I would enter inside of the docking bay. I wanted to play along, and with such thorough detailing and smart interior scale-fudging, it was easy. My imagination had very little to do but sit back and enjoy the ride…
This is a great video that walks you through the experience of flying aboard the Millennium Falcon; a childhood dream of mine since the age of 10, and to think, it only took 43 years!
Star Wars Launch Bay Museum.
Around the corner from the old “Star Tours” attraction in Tomorrowland is the “Star Wars Launch Bay Museum”; a collection of artifacts, figures, miniatures and gift shops for the curious. Many of the exhibits seemed to be made just for the exhibit (some were models of ships that were digital-only creations), but they were still painstakingly crafted, whether authentic or not. There are also photo ops available with Boba Fett, Chewbacca and Darth Vader cosplayers, which I see multiple times at various conventions, so I didn’t partake. The Launch Bay made for an interesting exhibit to check out between rides…
Star Tours…For Old Times’ Sake.
Since we couldn’t get in to “The Rise Of The Resistance” (more on that in a bit), it seemed appropriate to hit the first Disneyland Star Wars attraction, “Star Tours”, which first opened 33 years ago, in January of 1987 (I personally didn’t ride it until July of 1991). Star Tours is a virtual reality ride in a motion simulator that shakes and buffets the rider as the Empire/First Order hunts for a spy in the audience. C3PO and R2-D2 are your tour guide and pilot, respectively…
The first time I rode it back in 1991, Star Tours ‘accidentally’ took its passengers through the trench run attack on the first Death Star (in 2D). Later versions took riders through the planets seen in the prequel movies, such as Naboo and Mos Espa on Tatooine (in 3D).
Sadly, no video or photography was allowed during the ride, I’m afraid. However, I managed to find a Disneyland Park YouTube video that had my version of the tour, which reflects events from “The Rise of Skywalker”, including a clip of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian. My understanding is that several videos are rotated for the ride so that passengers going twice in a single day might see a different ’tour’. The attached video is the tour that I was on (“The Battle of Exogal”). Forgive the screen image blurriness, but special 3D glasses are required for the full effect:
This latest time, the experience was tailored to reflect the latest live-action film “The Rise of Skywalker”, with an introduction hologram from Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and a wild ride through the partially submerged wreckage of the second Death Star, as well as a narrow escape from a fleet of Final Order star destroyers. Truly a blast from the past…
One of my other favorite rides, “The Haunted Mansion”, was shut down for refurbishment (undergoing its annual “Nightmare Before Christmas”-seasonal snapback). However, we still got to ride “Pirates of the Caribbean” (a staple of Disneyland), “Space Mountain”, “Jungle Cruise”, “Thunder Mountain” and the “Indiana Jones’ Adventure”, so we got our money’s worth. It was a great day, even if my creaky old back and diminishing stamina aren’t what they used to be…
While we weren’t able to get a ‘boarding pass’ for “Rise of the Resistance” (harumph!), my wife and I did get a chance to see something of what we missed via a terrific video we found on YouTube when we got home, which I will share with you here as well. Enjoy!
I hope I was able to convey even some of the unbridled geeky joy I felt boarding (andcopiloting) the Millennium Falcon with my wife, not to mention walking through the utterly immersive environment of “Galaxy’s Edge” at Disneyland. Yes, it’s expensive (cost us $104 a pop), but every once in awhile, you have to splurge at the chance to fulfill a dream, and boarding an iconic starship from my childhood is something that first inspired my dreams “a long time ago…”
9 Comments Add yours
Oh wow! This looks such an amazing place to visit, it must have been like being on the set of a Star Wars movie! Brilliant pictures!
I was hoping to convey the experience to fellow fans any way that I could. I really feel as though I’ve actually flown aboard the Millennium Falcon!
My inner ten year-old self is still reeling from the excitement. 😁
It was so cool to see all those photos of the Falcon and the interior of the ship. Love the picture of the Star Destroyer as well. I would have been in Sci-Fi heaven wandering around all this. 🙂
The scale is an exact match to the films as well. It’s truly amazing.