NOTE: Warning! This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
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"This is where the fun begins!"
"The garbage’ll do!"
Pick your favorite Star Wars line to say out loud. When Galaxy’s Edge opens, you’re gonna need all of them.
For the first time, Disney is pulling the curtain way back on its biggest theme park expansion ever, inviting reporters for a behind-the-scenes look at how new rides, technology, food and merchandise are all coming together in a place where guests can create their own Star Wars story.
"You will not think that you’re in a theme park," said Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. "Everything is very, very immersive."
Galaxy’s Edge is set to open this summer at Disneyland in California and in the fall at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. Official opening dates have not been announced.
The setting for Galaxy’s Edge is the Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu. It’s a relatively new planet in Star Wars lore that — by design — doesn’t have the name recognition of places like snowy Hoth or sandy Tatooine.
"We know those places and we know those stories that happened there, and we know that we’re not in them," said Scott Trowbridge, the Walt Disney Imagineering creative executive charged with integrating the Star Wars franchise into the parks. "This place, Black Spire Outpost, is designed from the very get-go be a place that invites exploration and discovery."
The goal, said Imagineering story editor Margaret Kerrison, was to come up with an accessible narrative that doesn’t require guests to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars.
"I want to walk into this land and be on the same level as everyone else, from the really hardcore Star Wars fan, to someone who knows nothing about Star Wars," Kerrison said.
There are two major new rides, or attractions, in Galaxy’s Edge. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run puts six crew members—pilots, gunners and engineers— in the cockpit of the most famous hunk of junk in the galaxy on a mission for the space pirate Hondo Ohnaka.
Riders will be able to wander the Falcon’s famous crew hold, sitting at the engineering station or the holographic chess table where C-3PO once warned R2-D2 to "let the wookiee win."
"We want to give guests the opportunity to roam around and explore," said Asa Kalama, an Imagineering executive creative director. And don’t forget to take tons of selfies.
The Falcon ride is essentially a tricked-out flight simulator based on video game technology that reacts to every cockpit control input in real time.
"How well you actually do is up to you," said Disney Imagineering producer Jaqueline King. "If you don’t collaborate, you’re not going to do as well."
Damage the Falcon, and your crew may owe Hondo some galactic credits. Complete the mission, and you might earn enough to get that price off your head.
The second major ride is Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, described as four attractions in one and one of the most ambitious Imagineers say they’ve ever attempted.
"It’s super complicated," said April Warren, a show programmer for Walt Disney Imagineering. "I don’t think either of these attractions could have been built before now. We are pushing the bounds of technology."
The ride entrance is tucked away in a remote forested section of Black Spire Outpost, with a design similar to the Resistance base seen in "The Force Awakens." Rebel X-wing and A-wing fighters are parked outside.
Guests will find themselves on a Resistance ship that gets captured by a First Order Star Destroyer. The sets here are absolutely massive, and so exceptionally detailed that guests may want to stop and stare at all of the cool stuff rather than try to make their escape from Kylo Ren himself.
Along the way look for appearances by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac reprising their respective movie roles as Rey, Finn and Poe.
"This is one of the most epic attractions we have ever built in terms of size and scale and complexity," Trowbridge said. He won’t say how long Rise of the Resistance will last, but will say an internet rumor claiming a 28-minute run time is wrong.
"Cast members" set to play Black Spire locals are starting to get training to understand their back stories.
"We want to empower them to be able to play like never before," Kerrison said. "A lot of them are Star Wars fans, and they are so incredibly excited that they’re making up things where we have to say — hold on, wait—'You can’t be Han’s second cousin. That’s not a thing.'"
Everything about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is meant to be completely immersive, from Oga’s Cantina, to Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, to the food and marketplace shops. And yes, there will be blue milk.
See more articles about the food, merchandise, and Easter eggs.
Oga’s will feature alcoves where guests can hang out drinking cosmic cocktails like a Fuzzy Tauntaun while listening to new tunes spun by a familiar-looking droid DJ named Rex. Fans of the Star Tours ride that first opened at Disneyland in 1987 will recognize Rex as the original Starspeeder 3000 pilot.
Side note for any concerned Star Tours fans: according to Disney, the ride isn’t going away.
"We have no plans to do anything with Star Tours," said Walt Disney Imagineering spokesman Frank Reifsnyder. "Star Tours will remain open."
Interactivity at Galaxy’s Edge is also built-in to the Play Disney Parks app, designed to pull visitors even deeper into the story. Logging in will allow guests to take on "jobs" for the Resistance or First Order. A mission for your chosen side, for example, might include hacking into droids and ships to download secret schematics. The app will also translate words written in the Star Wars alphabet of Aurebesh, handy for decoding special messages and Easter eggs.
"We launched this as a way to turn wait time into play time," said Kelsey McCullough with Disney Parks.
And those wait times, if history is a guide, are sure to be long. Disney said it’s very aware that too many people jammed into Galaxy’s Edge could ruin the Star Wars experience, but isn’t yet saying what ideas might be on the table to keep the crowds manageable.
"We want people to have a great time. We want people to be comfortable. We don’t want people to endure the experience," Trowbridge said. "We’re trying to find ways to accommodate all of those folks. Hopefully it won’t get to the point where it’s not fun."
In the end, Disney and Lucasfilm collaborators hope they’ve built in plenty of Star Wars danger, mystery and romance with enough scale and detail to please the toughest galactic customer.
"I’ve been very fortunate to be on a Star Wars set," said Pablo Hidalgo, creative executive with the Lucasfilm Story Group. "But it pales in comparison to what this is. Because when you’re on a set you turn the corner and you see the plywood and the lamps and the guys eating the doughnuts. But when you’re here, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to completely lose yourself in Star Wars."
The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of Lucasfilm/Star Wars and ABC News.