Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Opening Weekend Impressions at Disneyland

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is finally open! We flew out to Disneyland on Thursday ahead of what is surely going to end up being one of the most highly anticipated land openings ever for Disney. While we continue to take photos and video around the land to create some unique and different content than we normally do, we also wanted to put out a post unlike what we normally do. In this post, we want to give you an on-the-ground report of what it was like to be in the very first wave of guests to ever enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. We had a few opportunities to visit the land during the opening weekend, so we also wanted to give a quick rundown of some of the things we absolutely loved and some of the things we didn’t.

Opening Day – Walking into Batuu

We’ll start with opening day. The anticipation was palpable as hundreds of guests lined up since before midnight in a switchback queue in the esplanade between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Because Downtown Disney isn’t really swept clear of guests at night, the area was open for walking around, but many guests simply took the opportunity to try and sleep on the cobblestone ground. We didn’t arrive at midnight, but we did arrive shortly after 4am to find a couple hundred guests already in front of us. The process of actually entering Disneyland started just before 5am and was actually quite orderly.

Some guests were there just for the opening day merchandise and they were held on Main Street USA whereas we were held on a pathway closer to Tomorrowland to make the walk back to Star Wars Launch Bay to get our wristbands for access. Guests checking in for their 8am reservation were then led back to Star Wars Launch Bay to check in. As expected crowds and anticipation were high!

After a simple check-in process, we made our way out to the walkway between Matterhorn and Finding Nemo – Submarine Voyage. From what we understand, all 8am reservation windows are handled this way.

Cast Members then walked us back to the Frontierland entrance and into Galaxy’s Edge! Disney did a good job of creating massive pathways to handle the crowds. For a park that is quaint and winding in some places, the pathways used to enter Galaxy’s Edge were successfully purpose-built for the crowds. Does the entire scale of Disneyland get thrown off by the scale of these pathways? Absolutely. I think that Disney did about as good of a job as could be expected though, hiding the entrances to Galaxy’s Edge around corners so as to not create too much conflicting visual elements.

We first entered through the Frontierland entrance, which is probably the best of the three entrances. The buildings of Batuu are framed nicely in the distance, with a few of the spires poking up in the background. The Resistance forest entrance feels like the perfect queuing area as we saw it used for later reservation windows, and the Fantasyland entrance doesn’t have as inviting of a reveal as other entrances.

A Tale of Two Lands

We’ll start in the Resistance forest, which certainly feels like a different land entirely when compared to the streets of Black Spire Outpost.

It doesn’t feel finished without Rise of the Resistance open. That said, it isn’t meant to feel as busy as the streets of Black Spire Outpost anyway. This is a makeshift base for the Resistance, so it will naturally feel sparse. It remains to be seen how Rise of the Resistance will change the crowd patterns, but we imagine that it will be an extremely popular attraction. For now, it will likely be a deserted area after the initial rush from the start of your wave if you’re entering from Critter Country.

As far as theming, you’ll find an X-Wing and an A-Wing. The Rise of the Resistance queue can be seen snaking through the forest, while a waterfall can be heard (but not seen) in the distance. After flying over the sister land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we were surprised to see how well the crashed ship exit to Rise of the Resistance was hidden. Don’t expect to feel completely overwhelmed by foliage like you might in the Pandora – The World of Avatar entrance, but the sightlines are well thought out here.

Making your way through the only pathway takes you to the Marketplace at first and the greater Black Spire Outpost area as a whole. A slight curve in the pathway creates a reveal of the Marketplace and you’ll soon find yourself moving from wide open spaces in the Resistance forest to much tighter quarters in the Marketplace. Small shops flank the streets of the marketplace.

As a general statement, we were quite surprised to find that Imagineering seemed to have won the battle with operations. There are some areas that just don’t really make sense when putting together a land that has such high demand. Whether it is one cash register in some shops, or areas without naturally built overflow queues. The space feels authentically created without any operational conceits. We’ll talk more about the challenges that presents a bit later.

Good vs Evil

It’s amazing how different each of the sections of the land feel. These separate sections also play a part in the storytelling of the land. When you visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge you’ll encounter a variety of characters from both the Resistance and First Order. The ongoing storyline played out on a daily basis is that the First Order has been in town for a couple of weeks now looking for Resistance fighters, but has been unsuccessful so far. To move the process along, Kylo Ren has just landed and taken over the search from his incompetent officer. There is a quick show where Kylo Ren departs the TIE Echelon fighter and then walks the streets of Batuu, searching for Rey, Chewbacca, and other Resistance fighters.

As part of the storyline, you’ll mostly find Kylo Ren roaming between the TIE Echelon and the Droid Depot area. Appropriately, you’ll likely only find Rey in the Resistance forest. Interestingly enough, you will find Chewbacca about 80% of the time in the Resistance forest, but occasionally you’ll find him in the streets of Black Spire Outpost, checking in on the Millennium Falcon while trying to duck past the First Order.

While we didn’t get the choreographed fight scenes that Disney talked about during the 2017 Star Wars Celebration event, having characters roam the land and interact with you is a fun addition. It will be interesting to see how these character stories are told in Walt Disney World. Traditionally, Disneyland seems to prefer roaming characters more so than Walt Disney World, so we’re not 100% confident that we’ll find these characters roaming as much when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. On the other hand, the new 14-acre land seems to be raising the bar on what a themed space should be in a Disney theme park, so the stories and character interactions could be told the same way in Walt Disney World. We’d prefer to see the roaming characters. They breathe life into a land and transform it from a highly themed area to a living, breathing world for you to explore.

Piloting the Falcon

With Rise of the Resistance not open yet, your only option for an attraction is Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. This simulator attraction puts you in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, on a mission for pirate Hondo Ohnaka. You enter a through a grand tower that overlooks the spaceport that the Millennium Falcon is parked at. Inside, you’ll find a “legitimate” business known as Ohnaka Transport Solutions.

The queue is well themed, with a few different rooms that you pass through before coming face-to-face with Hondo Ohnaka himself. If you’re unfamiliar with the name Hondo Ohnaka as it relates to Star Wars, don’t feel bad. He’s not a part of the main movies, but rather some of the animated shows that can be found on Netflix right now. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know who he is to enjoy the attraction. Would you feel a deeper connection if it was Han Solo telling you he needs you to fly the Falcon while he sorts out some unfinished business, sure. Disney made the decision to put you into a land that is a part of the engaging Star Wars story that we all know and love, but in a way that doesn’t try to place you in a story that has already been told. They want you to live your own Star Wars story instead of try to relive the stories that we saw play out on the big screen.

When it comes to flying the Millennium Falcon, it’s an enjoyable ride. Nothing in a Disney park will likely quite live up to the feeling of walking into the Millennium Falcon for the first time. It’s a wonderfully detailed space with buttons to push, noises, and an immersive simulator. That said, there is certainly an opportunity for disappointment.

We’ve found that the best seat in the house, by far, is one of the pilot positions. Not only do you have “full” control of the experience, you also get to actively participate in every second of the action. We use “full” in quotes because this isn’t just an open-world roam where you get to fly the Falcon as you please. While it’s true that you can pilot the Falcon into some pretty bad spots, you can’t just crash the Falcon in the first 10 seconds and the ride is over. You will follow a specific storyline that is the same for every flight, and the pilots will be able to fly the Falcon within basically a margin of error off of the center line. We’ve tried to fly it our best and we’ve tried to fly our worst (try and beat -821 credits and 1% mission success), and found that there is really only so much damage you can do.

I don’t think that it’s some giant revelation that a single pilot can’t completely ruin the experience for everyone. After all, you probably just waited hours for the chance to fly it, Disney won’t let you crash it into the ground right away.

Engineer and Gunner, the other two pairs of positions, are much less exciting than the pilot position. If we are comparing this to other attractions, the Engineer and Gunner positions are basically Mission: SPACE. You have little say in what is actually unfolding on the screen in front of you, and you only have a couple of buttons to push.

Now that we’ve settled that the pilot seat, is the best seat in the house, there is nothing you can do about it. Before you can walk into the attraction, you are given quick instructions and handed a specific color card, which is your boarding group. Each card also has a position on it. The only way to ensure that you get the pilot seats if you don’t get them when the cards are handed out is to ask to switch with the pilot in your group. Of course, that could present some awkward conversations with strangers if you both want to pilot the Falcon (and you DO want to pilot the Falcon). I hope Disney can figure out a way to allow guests to wait for the pilot position, but as of right now, there is no extra queue space to wait in like you might find for a front row seat on Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster.

As for the attraction itself, we’ll share more details in anther post, but our first impression of it graded it a “B”. I think the crazy thing about that grade is that it will still be the best attraction at Walt Disney World when it opens there. It’ll be considered better than Flight of Passage, and it’ll be the best ride at Walt Disney World until Rise of the Resistance opens, but you can still have a subpar experience based on others around you. You could have a terrible time if your pilots are bad, you can miss most of the storyline if you don’t select auto-lock target as a gunner and have to focus more on pressing buttons that looking out the windows of the Falcon. Don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing attraction with amazing tech in it. You’re going to smile when you first walk into that cockpit, and Imagineers did a phenomenal job of creating a realistic space. I’m not sure if the average guest will give it a rating of a “B”, and I’m not even sure that Disney could have done anything different, but if you don’t take the controls of the Falcon in your own hands, be prepared for an experience that could align more with Mission: SPACE than anything else.

Building A Lightsaber

The coolest part of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for me was the build your own lightsaber experience at Savi’s Workshop. It is one of the experiences that fills up the quickest and is about as close to a must-do as you can find in the land besides taking the Millennium Falcon for a spin. The whole experience was well thought out and creates a couple of different moments where you feel a real connection to the story presented in front of you. We’ve put together more words in our post about Savi’s Workshop, but you can watch the full experience in our video below.

I don’t think that you necessarily need to be a huge fan of Star Wars to enjoy the experience and maybe even feel an emotional connection to what you just created. That said, I think the $200 price point will be a barrier to entry for a casual or non-fan. The artificial demand created by an hourly capacity of roughly 84 guests has created some operational challenges for this experience that we’ll touch on later in the post.

Out of this World Dining and Shopping

We’ll certainly have a more in-depth review of each and every dining option, but we wanted to get a few thoughts on the page. First, the food on Batuu is really good…and it’s really expensive. The food quality is on-par with Satu’li Canteen on Pandora, which is to say that it’s good. Our top picks would be the Ronto Wrap from Ronto Roasters, the Roasted Endorian Tip-yip Salad from Docking Bay 7, the Smoked Kaadu Ribs from Docking Bay 7, and the Felucian Garden Spread from Docking Bay 7.

The two biggest disappointments in the land were the Blue/Green Milk and the entire Oga’s Cantina experience. We’ll have more thoughts on the Blue/Green Milk later, but just know that it has earned an easy pass right now. It’s no Butterbeer, and I think Disney was trying to position it as such. We’d expect to see changes to it before the end of the year and perhaps even before the land debuts at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Ok, now for Oga’s Cantina. If you have been following our Twitter account at all, you’ll know that Disney has been testing various queue systems. From a madhouse free-for-all in the first two days to a quickly sold out version once they changed to a virtual queue with a text message telling you when to return. Disney has a real operational issue on their hands here and it’s likely going to result in the cantina turning into a reservation only experience. We even got a chance to talk with a Cast Member from Walt Disney World research who was watching the madness in the photo below unfold. Basically, guests on the right side of the walkway are waiting for the Cast Members on the left side of the walkway to flip their quarterstaff from red to green, at which point a mad dash from the right side of the walkway to the left side would take place. It’s unsafe and not exactly the fairest approach either.

After seeing that happen, Disney switched to the system in place today, which texts guests back when their table is ready. This seems to be a better solution crowds-wise, but it means that the whole time window is allotted for early in the reservation period. With this system in place, the priority becomes Savi’s Workshop and then Oga’s Cantina. The only way that you’ll be able to do both is if you divide and conquer with other members of your party, sending one member to each line. If this is how it’s handled during a controlled access time window, it will definitely need to change when it’s a free-for-all on June 24th.

Ok, moving on to shopping. There is so much merchandise! Hundreds of items from just a few dollars all the way up to life-sized droids costing $25,000, there is something for everyone. The majority of the merchandise will be found in the Marketplace. This outdoor row of shops really does a great job of creating a believable market feel. Again, we see Imagineers win the battle with operiations, leading to a small number of cash registers in each shop. This creates long lines at times, and even necessitates that Cast Members complete the payment process via iPad to move through the line quicker. Each shop has its own register, so guests who are in line often take up 40-60% of the space of a shop. There isn’t a single store in Galaxy’s Edge that feels like a Disney gift shop, and we’re all the better for it.

A Public “Soft Opening”

When it was announced that reservations would be required to enter the land, we immediately thought of it as a soft opening. When it was then announced a few seconds later that Rise of the Resistance wouldn’t be open, that all but confirmed that this is a soft opening. That means that Cast Members are still learning how to best approach the massive crowds that will continue to descend on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for years to come. This was most evident with Savi’s Workshop and Oga’s Cantina. These two experiences continue to be the most popular things to do at rope drop, and with a limited capacity for each 4-hour time slot, the majority of guests won’t be able to experience both, and many guests might not even be able to experience one.

Ultimately, both of these experiences will likely go to a reservation system not unlike a table service restaurant or Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. There is simply too much demand and too small of a throughput to allow walk ups for the first few months, if not longer.

Other than that, operations in the land have been quite smooth. The reservation system has been wonderful to use and a smart way to control crowds not only within Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but also within Disneyland as a whole. By not allowing any walkup or standby guests, Disneyland has actually experienced really light crowds overall. There is also something to be said about Cast Member and some Annual Pass blockout dates playing a role, but the lack of crowds has made visiting Disneyland during this reservation period a pleasant experience. All that presumably will change come June 24th when anyone can enter the land.

Expectations vs Reality

So, how did Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge stack up when compared to our expectations? It blew them out of the water! We already had a high bar set for the land based on our aerial photos and just keeping a close eye on everything that has been released about the land prior to opening, but we were completely overwhelmed by the details, scale, and immersion created by Imagineering. You truly are transported to a different world when you pass under the Disneyland Railroad tracks and enter Batuu. We’ve enjoyed some wonderful additions to the parks, most recently with Pandora – The World of Avatar, but Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has set a new high bar for what a Disney themed land can be.

We’ve spent hours on Batuu in the opening days and it’s unreal how immersive the whole space is. The only sensory reminder that you have that you’re still in Disneyland is hearing the train from time to time. Other than that, you’re on Batuu, you’re in the same streets as Kylo Ren, and you’re stepping directly into the Millennium Falcon cockpit. Disney will have a few more weeks to make their operational adjustments at Disneyland before the public at large descends on the new 14-acre land, and even longer to learn how to make the experience better at Walt Disney World, but the fact that they built such a realistic place will stick with us forever.

We’ll have a lot more detailed content for you in the coming days, so make sure you keep checking back with BlogMickey.com for the latest from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland.

Mike
Mike is the owner and writer for BlogMickey.com. Visiting the parks daily allows him to keep up with the latest Disney news, reviews, and photos from around the Disney Parks

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