Millenium Falcon
The Millenium Falcon at night at the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, a main attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.
Scott Garceau
Exploring the world of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Scott Garceau (The Philippine Star) - August 27, 2019 - 12:01pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. (Updated 4:43 p.m.) — There’s nothing quite as welcoming as a Wookie embrace. This I learned upon entering Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland through the Frontierland portal and seeing the six-foot-something Chewbacca there, head cocked, ready to greet guests. As soon as you get a large furry arm wrapped around you, the inner Star Wars fan melts; you feel like you’re home.

We were there on the eve of D23, the massive Disney fan convention held in Anaheim every two years. This year marked even more surprises from Walt Disney Company chairman Bob Iger, as not only did Galaxy’s Edge open to immense fanfare last May 31, Disney was about to drop details about its streaming service, Disney+, at this weekend’s D23 convention.

Media guests from around the world, including the Philippines, were invited to a pre-dawn behind-the-scenes visit to Galaxy’s Edge before the park even opens at 8 a.m., including a ride on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, the current centerpiece of the $1 billion, 14-acre Star Wars-themed attraction inside Disneyland. 

Inside the Millennium Falcon
Inside the cockpit
Me and Chewie
Galaxy's Edge day pass.

In Smugglers Run, you’re assisting Hondo Ohnaka, a Clone Wars character who wants you to fly the Falcon to Corella to retrieve a certain coaxium to help the Resistance. After you strap into a dead-on recreation of the Falcon’s cockpit (worn leather seats, Chewbacca growling in the background and all), your job is to “protect this pile of bolts at all costs,” according to the guide.

Blast into hyperspace, shoot Imperial vessels, and help keep the ship from falling apart mid-mission — all these assigned roles actually make it a very immersive, interactive ride. (Also: Stick around till night, because Smugglers Bay makes for particularly stunning IG shots during the nightly fireworks show.)

Also interactive are the Stormtroopers, who roam the park warning guests (“citizens”) to fess up about any “resistance” activity they’ve seen in their midst. Just as bumblingly officious as they tend to be in the movies, they’re as likely to tell you to “move along” as they are to stop and take a selfie.

The MIllenium Falcon up close
Daytime Smugglers' Run

It could take days and days to absorb all the little details inside Galaxy’s Edge, from the carefully etched blaster holes in the city’s walls to the park employees’ chirpy greeting (“Bright suns!”) whenever you approach them.

According to Kirstin Makela, Walt Disney Imagineering art director, “We went a step beyond, almost like anthropologists” in designing Galaxy’s Edge. With Iger’s plans to develop not one, but two parks (the second one opens in Florida this Aug. 29), Makela’s team truly delivered on capturing how the people in Black Spire Outpost on remote a planet Batuu might live in a real space, down to every tiny detail. It has the feel of an old marketplace, with a handmade, worn-and-torn quality.

We also got a bit of lowdown on the second Star Wars attraction which opens Jan. 17, 2020 at Disneyland: Rise of the Resistance is a car-based ride that travels through the inner workings of an Imperial cruiser, an environment that’s more “sleek, dark and daunting” than the Millennium Falcon, says Makela. It’s also more interactive, promising a scary encounter with Kylo Ren.

“It’s an experience unlike anything you ever do in your life,” Makela promises.

For the time being, start your Galaxy’s Edge interactive experience by entering the Droid Depot, where (for US$99.99) you can construct a remote-controlled R-series or BB-series droid with custom colors and parts. (They’re so cute and reactive, if you turn them on in the park, they start to squeal and beep when approached by Stormtroopers.)

Droid Depot parts
Dranks DJ Rex booth

For a real taste of the Force, enter Savi’s Workshop, and build a custom lightsaber (US$199): choose your own kyber crystal (green, blue, purple, red), each with its own energy stream, and select colored scrap metal parts guided by your inner power (bright silver is peace and justice; dark metal is power and control). Pick it up: it’s made of metal, so it has real heft; turn it on and it woooshes! when you swing it.

Savi’s Workshop probably comes closest to capturing the essence of the Force that SW fans have long craved since Luke Skywalker first picked up Ben Kenobi’s lightsaber. “It’s the most epic of all spaces in Galaxy’s Edge,” says Makela. “A lot of people come close to tears when visiting Savi’s Workshop.” (It’s also hugely popular, so you may need to reserve a slot on the Disney Play app before getting inside.)

A wretched hive of scum and villainy

If you’re in need of libations, Oga’s Cantina is a place with a story to tell. Inside, it resembles Mos Eisley Cantina, though mostly packed with Disney guests instead of aliens. During D23, many celebs dropped by, including Jon Favreau, Daisy Ridley and Josh Gadd (Frozen’s Olaf). On the night we visited, Chewbacca also dropped in, slipping behind the bar to “fix” the hyperdrive that powers the DJ booth with a thump of his fist. There’s a two-drink limit, which makes sense: after all, it may be a real “wretched hive of scum and villainy,” as Obi Wan puts it, but it’s still Disney.

Oga's Cantina menu coaster

On the menu, you can go non-alcoholic (try a Blue Bantha, a smoothie topped with a cookie), or something more lethal. We tried the Outer Rim (a mix of Patron Silver tequila, Cedilla Acai liqueur, lime juice and black salt on the rim), followed by a Bad Motivator (a tropical Indian Pale Ale concocted specially by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) with a side order of Batuu Bits (a mix of salty crackers and wasabi peas). The second night, I went with a Jedi Mind Trick (grapefruit and rose vodka) followed by a Gamorrean ale. Keep the cantina coasters they serve the drinks on — they make nice souvenirs. It’s cool the way the staff stay in character, issuing withering comments like “I’m sure they value slow drinkers where you’re from” when you’re nursing a beer way past closing time. There’s also a DJ named R-EX (we hear Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, supplied the voice), a droid imported from Star Tours to spin cantina hits while ratcheting his robot head to the Mos Eisley Cantina theme.

Outer Rim souvenir coaster

And of course, there’s Blue Milk. Luke drank it on Tatooine, and you get to try some too, at Bubo Wamba Family Farms, a stand selling both Blue and Green smoothies (like the stuff Luke milked from the thala-sirens of Ahch-To in The Last Jedi). Both are actually a mix of coconut and rice milk, so the lactose intolerant need not fear.

Blue milk

Another treat is a breakfast wrap from Ronto Roasters snack shack: ostensibly cooked from Ronto meat over the flame of a pod racer’s engine, it’s actually a yummy pita packed with scrambled eggs, pork sausage and shredded cheese. Pair it with a Coke or Sprite “hydration orb” — complete with carefully crafted Aurebesh symbols instead of the Earth-based symbols — designed in partnership with Coca-Cola.

Hydration Orb with Coke
Our server, Carrie

Space dranks! They think of every angle at Galaxy’s Edge.

 

_

Visit Galaxy’s Edge at California Disneyland and find more posts at #D23Expo and #galaxysedge.

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