As cool as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has been, from the moment that it opened, it’s also felt like it was missing something. This was due in large part to the fact that the big centerpiece attraction that had already been announced was delayed as a result of complications and technical issues, and didn’t open when the land debuted. The new addition, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (which opened in Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu at the Disneyland Resort on January 17th) is an experience so immersive, ambitious and impressive that you will feel like you’re transported straight into the middle of your own intergalactic Star Wars adventure, with all of the thrills and chills that come with being trapped in a battle between the Resistance and the First Order.
The day prior to the attraction officially opening to the public, Collider was invited to a media preview which allowed us to head into the Resistance forest, where we had multiple chances to experience the ride. Full disclosure, I’m a total ride scaredy cat and often deal with issues of motion sickness, which limits what I can and will go on. But with a combination of my excitement about the possibilities of this game-changing ride and some amazing fellow journalist friends who provided the necessary encouragement and reinforcements, I took the leap. I not only absolutely loved the ride, but I went on it four times, and can’t wait to go on it every time I go to Disneyland.
To kick things off for the media preview, we got to sit in on a Walt Disney Imagineering panel with Scott Trowbridge (Park Creative Executive for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure), Margaret Kerrison (Managing Story Editor), John Larena (Executive Creative Director), Kirstin Makela (Art Director) and Anisha Deshmane (Assistant Producer) to learn more about everything that’s gone into bringing such a groundbreaking theme park experience to life.
*Be aware that SPOILERS will be discussed, so turn back now, if you don’t want to know any details of this ride*
The success of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge comes from the incredible love that the fans and guests have for the franchise combined with a land that allows for and encourages them to become a character in the world and experience it firsthand, as a participant versus a spectator. Rise of the Resistance takes that one step further, with a multi-act journey that’s more than 15 minutes of attraction experience, in order to give you the amount of time needed to really put you in the middle of the story. “It’s not just an attraction, as much as an adventure,” said Kerrison. “You don’t know what’s going to come next, and that’s really exciting because you are in the moment and of the world. That’s what we want you to feel, as you go through this adventure. When we all came together at the beginning, one of the things was that wish fulfillment. It’s all of the feels of going through the hallways of a Star Destroyer, feeling what it’s like to be able to see Kylo Ren face-to-face, and all of these feelings that we want to capture. We want to capture that and have you experience that, over and over again. That’s really exciting for us.”
While the attraction is technologically ambitious, Larena said that it’s the “epic storytelling and massive sets” that are really at the core of what Rise of the Resistance is. “We want to immerse you in a truly epic Star Wars story,” he continued. “Your adventure is going to start out on a Resistance outpost, where you’re gonna get a transmission from Rey, who will ask you to join with her in the cause against the First Order. You’re gonna get onto a transport ship that’s gonna take you off planet . . . . . and unfortunately, you’re gonna end up getting tractor beamed into a Star Destroyer, where you’re gonna come face-to-face with the First Order and Kylo Ren. And then, you’re gonna have to plot your escape off of that. You’re gonna get onto trackless vehicles that are piloted by droids who aren’t too good at their job, so hopefully things work out for you.”
To make the ride the experience that it is, there are multiple ride systems that work together, with every detail plotted and planned. Larena said, “These space battles, out of every window, are immersive space battles that were created by Industrial Light & Magic and really bring this to life. Everywhere you look, it’s true Star Wars quality that you’re used to seeing in the movies. You’re gonna be in there firsthand, witnessing this stuff. Animated audio animatronics are a big part of this ride, and you’re gonna see Kylo Ren, BB-8 and Lt. Beck, who’s your host on this crazy adventure. All of this works together with our cast members, whether you encounter them in the Resistance welcoming you to the cause, or the First Order, giving you the third degree as they escort you to your potential cells for interrogation.”
Once you’re back off of the ride and out in Batuu again, Makela said that you should note how, in Galaxy’s Edge, there are three main stories that have their own specific design aesthetic – the ancient civilization and history of Batuu and Black Spire Outpost, the scrappy flying-by-the-seat-of-their-pants Resistance, and the all-powerful ominous First Order. “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance really is the place where all of these three story threads come together, and just like there must be balance with the Force, there must be balance with all of these different design aesthetics,” she continued. “Being able to bring our guests into that story, where all of those politics are coming into play and you can feel those power dynamics, is something we wanted to express in the world around you, as you walk through. So, for instance, you’re in what would typically be considered a queue, but for Rise of the Resistance, everything is so immersive that we really blur those lines. You walk into the ancient civilization that was built by those that have come before. In terms of the ancients, they probably just had chisels and carved everything out of rock, and that’s exactly what we did. We carved everything by hand, so it has that old feel and looks primitive. And then, the Resistance doesn’t really have the budget or the time. They’re just trying to set up a clandestine camp, so they’ve put all of their gear into these spaces that they have. And then, if you move onto the First Order, we wanted to show you that juxtaposition and contrast between [the two]. The First Order has all the money in the world. They’re building these huge war machines, and everything is very clinical and very clean. You feel that difference when you’re, all of a sudden, on a Star Destroyer and everything is stark and has a very militaristic feel to it, even down to the floor. When you’re watching the Star Wars films, there are those iconic glossy floors. It’s one of those things that you might not think about while you’re walking through the space, but we thought about it and we want you to feel that authenticity. So, being able to really balance all of those different story threads is what we want to give you, as our guests, so that you feel like you really are wrapped up in all of those different power plays and dynamics.”
And if the rides, merchandise, food and locale still aren’t enough, you can also delve deeper into additional story and unlock a more personalized experience with the Star Wars data pad app, which is part of the Disney Parks app. In the Resistance encampment, you’ll be given a choice to help the Resistance or the First Order, depending on where you feel your allegiance lies. Said Deshmane, “If you decide that you want to help the Resistance, you’re actually going to be helping Finn, who has infiltrated the Star Destroyer that you may or may not be captured on. Finn needs some help because he’s been separated from his team and he’s trapped in one of the custodial closets of the Star Destroyer. He has a very special relationship with the custodial team of the First Order, so it’s a natural place for him to hide, but he does need help getting back to his team and wiping the Star Destroyers of some Resistance data, and you’ll be helping him choose which rooms to go into. Depending on which path you choose and how you help him get to the end point, you might be helping Finn in a different way than someone else might be helping Finn.” At the same time, The First Order is very interested in what the Resistance is up to, back in those ancient caves, so if you choose to help them, you’ll be analyzing each of the rooms, collecting data, and scanning crates, to report back and let them know what might be coming their way.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is a true game-changer of achievement, for what’s possible at a theme park. Not only is it an exciting and thrilling experience, but it raises the bar for future possibilities, as the Disneyland Resort continues to add new layers and stories to the storytelling, not only at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but throughout Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
Check out more photos of the attraction below.