Disney Imagineers and Lucasfilm have shared new details about their collaboration on Star Wars-themed lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World in a panel at Star Wars Celebration. The as-yet unnamed land, will is located somewhere in the Outer Rim of the Star Wars galaxy on the edge of the Unknown Regions. The village you encounter was once a busy hub on the old sub-lightspeed trade routes, but is now largely overlooked as hyperspace travel is dominant. The village is home to smugglers, traders, and adventurers who wish to keep a low profile and operate freely in the region between the frontier and uncharted space. You might also encounter those who wish to avoid the reach of the First Order.
We’ve known since the first concept art was revealed that this new land would be set in the middle of the current trilogy (episodes 7-9). The resistance and the First Order are still battling it out for the future direction of the known galaxy. But we’re excited to get more details and dig through the new concept art for clues.
Here’s the video shared at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando:
While not revealing too many new details about the attractions themselves, you do get a sense of how immersive the new lands will be. It’s deliberately something new to the Star Wars galaxy, so Disney and Lucasfilm could have a clean slate making it easier to insert the guest into the story.
Disney is going beyond to make a land that actually exists and guests get to not just visit, but be a part of the community. You will get to engage with droids, locals, smugglers, and the First Order. From Lucasfilm’s point of view the world has existed for thousands of years, but the audience just didn’t know about it. So expect there to be layers upon layers of details and history built in. Some familiar to Star Wars fans, others new for this creation.
To give it that layered look, Imagineers went back to some of original Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie’s drawings in the Lucasfilm archives. The goal was to get at the DNA of what makes Star Wars Star Wars and bring that to life fully realized in a theme park.
Technology has obviously come a long way since Walt Disney first synergized his love of animation, movies, and family attractions into something new – a theme park. In 1955 color TV was just being introduced. In 2017 everyone carries an entire TV studio around with them in their pocket.
The Celebration panel did talk a bit about how this land would be different. Instead of each attraction being an independent experience, everything in the land is connected as part of a larger story that guests have a hand in driving. For instance, when you fly the Millennium Falcon you have agency that determines whether your mission is a success or whether it ends in a crash. Later on in the land, a character may interact with you in a different way depending on how your Millennium Falcon mission turned out. Your reputation will follow you, in essence.
As a visitor to the village, you may choose to join a faction (either First Order or Resistance) or take on another role (smuggler, trader). This will require some intensive behind the scenes work on Disney’s part to keep track of all the interactive, narrative storytelling tracks that guests can take.
A frontier town in the Star Wars galaxy would have skirmishes, First Order patrols, Resistance operations, etc. The plans are for these to happen right out in the middle of the land where guests can witness them up close and personal. Imagineering wants guests to experience a dynamic that puts them “in the middle of an epic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.”
The panel even made brief mention that Imagineers have figured out how to make ‘real’ lightsabers. That’s exciting.
I’m sure there will be some fancy technology driving the interactions behind the scenes, but it also sounds labor intensive. Someone to operate the droids, extra cast members trained to act like Star Wars citizens, etc. In my experience Imagineer’s plans for a land often suffer when met with the budget of some operations manager who needs to cut labor hours to make a quarterly projection.
Disneyland’s Star Wars-themed land will open first in 2019 with Walt Disney World’s opening later in the year (it’s about 6 to 9 months behind in terms of construction). What do you think of the new details we learned this weekend>