Galaxy’s Edge Is Still Thriving

Disney Parks’ first venture into making one of their lands immersive opened five years ago today—May 31, 2019—inviting guests to live out their own Star Wars adventures at Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge.

Initially based around Lucasfilm’s then-current era of Star Wars films, the land’s story brought you into a fixed point between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, to the Black Spire Outpost on Batuu. There were new and familiar characters to interact with: Rey, Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, an exclusive to the land Resistance heroine named Vi Moradi, and plenty of Stormtroopers. Though there was only one ride open that first day, it did some legwork linking its story to the attractions surrounding it. Smugglers Run lets you take the Millennium Falcom for a spin, moving some precious cargo for the Resistance and Oga’s Cantina… the nearby bar where you could overhear some fun history of the trading outpost’s long history within the Star Wars universe.

Rise of the Resistance, the land’s main E-ticket attraction, was not ready at Disneyland until January 2020. With its opening, the land really came together. The Imagineering feat combines trackless vehicles and dark ride elements to pull you into a mission with Finn, Poe, and Rey and come face to face with Kylo Ren and the First Order. The state of the art attraction features massive sets that really make you believe you’re in a Star Wars movie; it’s the crux to making the whole land work, and perhaps would have benefitted the whole concept had it opened with the land. Five years in, Galaxy’s Edge still thrives off the pull Rise of the Resistance has as the best ride at Disney Parks—albeit one that breaks down quite a lot. (Our pro-tip is to skip the line when it’s long and the up-charge on the lightning lane, if you can, and try to be around the ride in adjacent lands eating or riding other rides when it does break down… then bolt to it when it starts running again.)

One of the biggest hurdles Galaxy’s Edge had to overcome was the chance that the attention to Star Wars detail would turn off general audiences, particularly when it came to food. There was the whole “tip-yip” debacle: people did not want to eat space food (it was chicken). Some folks were so confused their reactions pushed the land away from certain immersive elements, with creative Star Wars names changed to describe meals in normal food terms. These days, when themed foods are introduced in Galaxy’s Edge they tend to lean more on Instagrammable moments than weird, fun creations—though we do love a giant Jabba popcorn bucket as much as a deep in-universe sipper cup.

Over the past five years, the biggest consistent factor in regards to Galaxy’s Edge merch has been the the lightsaber build ceremony at Savi’s Workshop. Crafting your own Jedi weapon runs a little over 200 bucks a slot—worth it if you’re a big Star Wars fan. You can buy also legacy lightsabers, outfits, artifacts, creatures, and toys throughout, because it is after all a land based on a trading outpost (sneaky).

Initially, character interactions—which included Rey sneaking away from the First Order with the help of visitors and young Padawans—really made the land unique, with interactive story moments that are the best of Batuu’s history. But then came the mixed reactions to characters in the land itself. While niche fans of the theme park’s own little Star Wars universe enjoyed the new lore presented, mainstream fans wanted to see classic characters, especially as The Rise of Skywalker opened and divided the fandom. Since then, there has been a breaking away from the fixed timeline on Batuu, allowing for characters from recent Star Wars shows to appear within the land. Among the special appearances have been visits from Grogu, Din Djarin, Ahsoka, Sabine, and Hera from Lucasfilm’s Disney+ slate. Thankfully, in an attempt to strike a balance, fans have also gotten interactive BD-X droid walk-around characters, and the recent introduction of Bard, the host of Batuu’s new fireworks show.

Overall, the Black Spire Outpost is still finding how to balance the public demand for familiar threads fans want to see, including legacy characters from across the Star Wars saga, while also having mythology unique to the parks, which has proven quite tricky. The fixed timeline is all but gone now, as are some of the more fun and deep elements of Star Wars lingo and trinkets—because some people make it so we can’t have nice things like space sporks (stolen to be sold on Ebay) and refusing to just eat the tip-yip!

There have at least been solutions to appease both sides; the space sporks returned at a price and at least some food still has fun names without fake space meat names (Ronto Wraps for life!). As Star Wars remains in flux so does Disney Experiences’ land inspired by it, and the potential is there to keep trying new things out. Nevertheless, the land remains a wonder to experience for any Star Wars fan of any age, just from the sheer magnitude and massive undertaking of making you feel like you’re in Star Wars. Seeing anyone’s first time reaction to it just makes the experience; here’s my dad’s from a year ago. He grew up in Mexico City watching the original films in the theater and turned into that same kid when he first saw the Millennium Falcon in all its glory.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is open at Disneyland in Anaheim, California and at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

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