Bright Suns! After spending a good part of last week in Black Spire Outpost for the media preview of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I’m feeling fluent in all things Battuian: the language, the style, the geography, the politics… and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you!
Some of you may have been following along on Instagram during August 27 or August 28, or over on our Facebook Page where I recapped a lot of my experience during the event. As a life-long Star Wars fan, this opportunity was an absolute dream come true!
This media event was 2 days long and it was a lot of fun – and really hard work! It’s amazing to attend events like this with other bloggers, major news outlets, and international media. We got to see previews of things yet to come, hear from Imagineers, and scope out the lay of the land before the crowds descended upon us.
I do want to note that Disney invited us to the event, and hosted me with 3 days of park tickets, lots of FastPass+ allocations, Memory Maker, access to the land and the Media Center, food and drinks, and lots of swag goodies like books, magic bands, and t-shirts. But my opinions in the blogs, magazine article, and social media posts I made all reflect my own opinion.
But spoiler alert: I was WOWed by this incredible new land!
Getting into Character
Since this is such an immersive land, it was important to me to “play along” with the story of being an off-planet visitor to Batuu, on the very edge of the Galaxy. I brought several Star Wars inspired outfits with me and did my hair and makeup each day in Battuian fashion. This is totally optional for your visit, of course, but it made my interactions with Cast Members extra enjoyable!
First, I wore leather sandals, leggings with strappy ankles, a flowy tank top, a belt with a big buckle, and a hammered metal necklace with “Rey buns” – super comfy and the muted colors blended in perfectly on Batuu.
Second, I went flashier with an all-over-print BB-8 jumpsuit and a matching light-up B8 headband to the media and travel agents party Tuesday night in Batuu – R2D2 and BB-8 loved it!
Finally, I played it low-key as a Resistance supporter with linen crop pants, cotton strapped sandals, an open-backed olive tank with a knotted neckline, a rucksack featuring resistance patches, and a high bun with a padawan braid.
This might seem like a lot of effort, but Cast Members in the land (they’re actually called Citizens of Batuu) don’t know about Star Wars (because they’re LIVING the story!), Walt Disney World, or Earth. Dressing up encourages more playful interactions – I was sneered at by First Order operators because of my padawan braid, called to support the Resistance because of my Rey hair, and picked out of a crowd for a photo because of my jumpsuit.
The merchants of Black Spire outpost complimented my Battuian fashions and remarked that some of my attire seemed suited for Dagobah of Jakku. This made my journey really interactive and let Citizens know I was game to play along!
The Citizens of Batuu were easily one of my favorite parts of the land! They all had different personalities and roles to play. Once introduced me to a baby bantha and explained where blue milk comes from. Another wanted to know all about my distant home planet of Toronto.
One handed me a “credit” in thanks for my service to Hondo Ohnaka, while another told me about the non-profit shop whose proceeds go to help fund the resistance. Whether playing the role of a shopkeep, a bartender, or a resistance spy, they were all incredible! Above are some helpful merchants I met in Jewels of Bith.
Droids are the hardest-working, most underrated characters in Star Wars and Batuu is just littered with them! Whether they’re chilling your Thermal Detonator Diet Coke or just hanging around the streets, you won’t go far without spotting one of these little guys.
And what kind of Star Wars environment would this be without lightsabers?! You can find pre-built ones for kids or collectors at Toydarian Toy Shop or Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, but the REAL DEAL is at Savi’s Workshop. Look for the blue banners and ask about purchasing some “scrap metal” and you’ll get to build your very own custom lightsaber from scratch! I was fortunate enough to be invited into the workshop to witness a build during the media event and the experience was incredibly detailed and emotional.
You’re guided through assembling components you’ve selected based on a theme of Protection and Defence, Peace and Justice, Power and Control, or Elemental Nature to create a hilt that’s one-of-a-kind. The components are beautiful, heavy metal – this is a serious lightsaber! After choosing a Kyber crystal that speaks to you, a special ceremony takes place as the sabers are ignited for the first time, and builders are offered a sheath to protect and disguise their lightsabers before they depart. The entire experience takes 20 minutes or so and costs $199 plus tax.
Welcome to Batuu
When you enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from Batuu, you’ll pass through a formidable concrete gate, and enter the land via a tunnel that looks as though it’s been mined into a makeshift entry. You’ll emerge in the forest of Batuu, where the Resistance has set up a temporary camp. This is where you’ll eventually board Rise of the Resistance, and where the Resistance Supply gift shop is located. Keep an eye out for Coca-Cola stalls selling those land-exclusive Coca-Cola products, and for plant life that is convincingly alien-like. The themed trash cans here supposedly are marked with the same symbol on the trash compactor in A New Hope.
Keep walking through the forest and eventually, you’ll see a staircase leading you up into the marketplace…
Here’s where you’ll find four small shops (Toydarian Toy Shop, Bina’s Creature Stall, Jewels of Bith, and Black Spire Outfitters to spend your Galactic Credits at. Light bites await too, with sweet and spicy outpost mix popcorn (blueberry lemon poundcake mixed with sweet chili lime!) at Kat Saka’s Kettle, or turkey jerky and sausage-filled pitas at Ronto Roasters. One of two bathrooms in the land is located here as well.
Head out onto the terrace overlooking the Millennium Falcon, and to your right, you’ll see Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities – the perfect shopping or browsing spot for serious collectors of Jedi and Sith artifacts. On the left is Docking Bay 7, which has loads of indoor seating and a lovely outdoor patio. During the media and travel agent’s party, I was able to sample most of the menu in tasting portions, which I’ll cover in a later blog!
Step down to the Falcon, before heading right to a laneway. Keep a lookout for neat Aurebesh (Star Wars proprietary language) signs throughout the land, and translate them with your Datapad game in the Play Disney Parks app!
The unassuming laneway is home to Oga’s Cantina, where a raucous environment, space-aged tunes, and lots of galactic goodies await you. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options are on offer here, and there’s a time and drink limit on your visit (45 mins and 2 drinks max). VERY light bites are available, but this spot is better for a before or after meal drinks. Beware, you’ll likely be standing as seating is limited!
Keep on walking until you enter an open courtyard with the Milk Stand on your left. Order up a fruity blue bantha milk or a citrusy green thala-siren milk and pose for pics in the surrounding streetscape!
The Milk Stand seems innocent enough but it’s located in the First Order camp, where you’ll find Kylo Ren and Stormtroopers appearing regularly. First Order Cargo is here also.
Take a right and you’ll be outside a garage with a landspeeder on display. On your immediate right is Mubo’s Droid Depot where you can build a droid, buy a pre-assembled one, or shop for droid-inspired salad bowls, apparel, or accessories (like a BB-8 wallet that LIGHTS UP when your phone rings!). On your far right is Savi’s Workshop, and a flight of stairs to take you back to the Marketplace…
…or if you prefer, you can mosey on straight ahead to the forest, or out to the left and exit into Toy Story Land!
Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
If you’ve ever dreamed of flying the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy like those heroes Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, you’ve come to the right place. One of two rides in the land (and the only one operating on opening day!), Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run is like a totally “plussed” version of Star Tours!
Before you enter the queue, you’ll get a good look at, around, and under the Falcon, and from in the queue you can see the top! The level of detail is incredible on this seemingly life-size spaceship!
Once in the queue, you’ll tour through Ohnaka Transport Solutions — seeing the repair shop, some hallways, and even Hondo himself as he recruits you for a mission. Soon you’ll be playing Holochess in the Falcon before boarding into your own private cockpit as part of a crew of six.
The actual ride as immersive as it gets. Imagine Toy Story Mania, Star Tours, and the Tomorrowland Speedway all rolled into one! You’re essentially playing a live video game, where the vehicle moves according to the pilots’ will (up, down, left, right), and the performance of the 6 crew members impacts the story and the final score!
Two pilots (left controls left-right movement; right controls up-down AND hyperdrive), two gunners (who shoot and harpoon things), and two engineers (who basically mash buttons as fast as possible to “fix” the ship when it takes hits from the enemy or various crashes) team up to retrieve as many Coaxium containers as possible.
I rode 5 times and enjoyed every seat, but the right pilot is my fave. I can tell you I experienced some really different ending and de-boarding scenarios (based on performance?) and loved that I could see my own performance on a personal screen in addition to the group’s performance tallied up at the end!
Rise of the Resistance
During the media event, we were shown some incredible footage and stills from inside Rise of the Resistance, the marquee attraction of the land which opens on December 5, 2019. Scott Trowbridge, Portfolio Creative Executive / Studio Leader at Walt Disney Imagineering, walked us through the upcoming attraction including giving us a look inside the technical aspects of how the finale integrates 3 ride systems (trackless vehicle, motion simulator, and controlled drop).
Later that day, Robin Reardon, Executive Producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, actually WALKED US INTO RISE OF THE RESISTANCE! We were able to see the final portion of the queue with Poe’s X-Wing, the interior of the first moving vehicle (a transport vessel) and the breathtaking first scene aboard the Star Destroyer.
Everything you’ve seen online and in concept was executed to a T – there were tears streaming down my face (behind my sunglasses, thankfully!) as I came face-to-face with Imperial Officers, Storm Troopers, and the R5 droid that will drive trackless vehicles through the ship, past AT-AT Walkers, and even into an encounter with Kylo Ren. This is going to be THE hottest attraction at WDW for a long, long time once it opens – and Star Wars fan or not, it’s going to be a must-do on your list!!!
The Land Dedication
On Tuesday, August 28, Bob Chapek, Chairman of Parks, Experiences, and Products, and a bunch of characters including Chewbacca, R2D2, BB-8, Hondo Ohnaka, Stormtroopers, and Vi Moradi held a ceremony to officially mark the dedication of the land before it opened on August 29, 2019.
The ceremony was short but really interesting, set in the heart of Black Spire Outpost. You can watch the full ceremony here (look out for me on the left of the stage!):
And here’s a behind the scenes look at what life is like in the media pit:
Take Me Back to Batuu!
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was everything I’d hoped for and more — but I also think it has a lot to offer casual fans or even folks who have no experience with the franchise. There is an incredible amount of detail to enjoy in the immersive atmosphere, and the Citizens of Batuu really engage with visitors to show them how to explore and enjoy the land. I absolutely cannot wait to go back! (PS: if YOU want to go back to Batuu, check out the sweepstakes Disney is running right now!)
Stay tuned for our November 2019 issue, where we’ll have a lot of coverage from our staff writers and amazing photos from our photo team, that’s guaranteed to make you feel like you’re there!
Thank you so much to Disney for inviting us to the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Media Preview!