For Star Wars fans, the wait until 2019, when Galaxy's Edge opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, must feel longer than the Sarlacc's digestive cycle. Thankfully, during Saturday's Galactic Nights event at the Florida park, the creative team behind the theme park delivered a few tasty morsels about the project set, on the new Star Wars planet of Batuu.
Those morsels included the reveal of a fleet of X-Wings, a full-sized Millennium Falcon, and hints about when in the Star Wars saga this Disney park expansion (the largest in company history) is set.
Hosted by actor and sound designer David Collins, the panel included Scott Trowbridge, portfolio creative executive and studio leader for Star Wars projects for Walt Disney Imagineering; Robin Reardon, executive producer from Walt Disney Imagineering; and Chris Beatty, manager, enterprise integration for Walt Disney Imagineering; Doug Chiang, vice president / executive creative director - Lucasfilm.
Here's what was learned about Galaxy's Edge that will make you want to do some fantripping to Orlando and Anaheim in 2019.
"This is a real place."
This message was repeated multiple times throughout the panel. Unsurprisingly, Disney and Lucasfilm aren't attempting to simply create a Star Wars shopping mall with Galaxy's Edge so much as a fully immersive experience.
"We are providing the opportunity for you to be in the story," said Trowbridge. "You're the characters."
He continued: "We could have gone to Tatooine and remembered Luke's story," but Batuu is a place to live "our Star Wars story," and to be the hero of that.
In his words, that means doubling down on the authenticity to the point that even the drinking fountains have to have a lived-in Star Wars feel.
So don't show up expecting standard T-shirt and keychain merchandise. Instead, the merch, exclusive to Batuu, will be in-universe. That includes items sold at the female Toydarian toymaker shop, which was revealed for the first time in this concept art (along with some examples of the toys that might be available for purchase, seen in the gallery below).
There will likewise be hidden alleyways to explore and exotic food and beverages to try ... like blue and green milk.
Set during the sequel trilogy
Images of Poe's X-Wing and First Order troopers – as well as Kylo Ren in the Galaxy's Edge trading cards (a starter set of which were handed out at the event) – confirm that Batuu is set during the sequel trilogy.
Also, one of the attractions will "put you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance," said Trowbridge. Concept art from the ride shows what looks like a Star Destroyer hangar.
He also teased that not only is this a place you "can" go, but park attendees may be "forced to go" – which confirms there will be a bit of an unpredictable element to each guest's experience.
Fly the Millennium Falcon and check out the X-Wings
Yes, you will be able to get behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon in a new ride.
Showing off the hallway photo above and an exterior of the set of the full-sized Falcon in the gallery below, Reardon said, "You will go down those hallways, you will go into the cockpit, and fly the Falcon on a mission you can control."
"We are going to take you to places beyond Batuu," she added.
"Where you go is totally up to you," agreed Trowbridge, who said guests will take the light freighter on an intergalactic joyride, with choices to be made during that flight.
At least one "where" was teased in concept art from Reardon that looks like a not-so-friendly planet ("completely fresh and new," according to Chiang and shown in the gallery below) with some sort of tentacled creature.
Also, "we're building a whole fleet of X-Wings," said Chiang.
"The movie versions are props; they're made out of wood and fiberglass and foam. The versions you're going to see in the parks are the real deal, made out of corrugated aluminum over a steel frame, just like a real aircraft."
Chiang continued, "All the details are absolutely authentic; the bolts are really bolts, the latches are real latches – we even went so far that the graphics actually say something, and aren't just for decoration."
The character (and stories) of Batuu
"Designing a planet is a lot like designing a character," said Beatty.
To do so, with Batuu, the creative team looked to artist Ralph McQuarrie's work on Star Wars, as well as taking inspiration from Morocco and Istanbul.
"What we found in Morocco were these amazing marketplaces, and every time you turn a corner there are amazing sights and smells and sounds that brought this place to life."
How does that relate to Batuu?
"This is an outpost on the edge of the galaxy; it's an old trading post, and it has to have history," he said. "We wanted it to be romantic, to be ancient, to have an exotic nature to it, be a little mysterious, and have a little danger to it."
He joked that he wanted guests to feel like they may get mugged if they turn the wrong corner. But he said there is also comedy on Batuu, and guests may encounter droids arguing in the corner or strange musical instruments playing.
"You'll find all these little stalls, and they all have backstories, and we may never share those with you," said Beatty.
And based on the starter set of cards handed out, which set the scene for some of the stories that will unfold on Batuu – and set up characters that will be encountered – there is a lot in store for the Galaxy's Edge park.
If the cards are indeed planting the seeds for stories, as Trowbridge hinted, then guests may be recruited by the Resistance; head on a rescue mission against AT-ATs or on a Star Destroyer; face Kylo Ren as a new recruit; get into trouble at the cantina; or even be part of a blue milk delivery.
Some of the locations that may be encountered on Batuu (based on a map on the back of the cards) will include ancient ruins; Black Spire station (where a lot of droids hang out, and where you should keep your eyes peeled for the character Salju); Merchant Row; the Saka Homestead; Docking Bay 9 (watch out for stormtroopers there); and Bantha Tracks cantina in the marketplace.
This is all but a tease of what to expect from Galaxy's Edge. And with more than a year ahead before the parks open in 2019, there will likely be more to come.
Based on what was revealed at Galactic Nights, are you ready to hop a transport and head to Disney for your own Star Wars story?
Check out the photos of concept art (including of the Falcon cockpit and the new planet destination), the Toydarian merchandise, the trading cards, and more shots from the Galactic Nights event in the gallery below.