On Tuesday, the day before Disney officially opened the marquee new ride in its Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park in Orlando, members of the company’s merchandising unit were showing off a fresh series of products branded with the names of the franchise and the ride, Rise of the Resistance. Reporters were invited to learn more about the new swag at a station in the park — the only time that much of it would ever be on display there.
After all, Luke Skywalker couldn’t have worn Jedi robes adorned with the Lucasfilm logo, right?
"When you come in here you shouldn't feel like you're in *a* Star Wars," Tracie Alt, a senior merchandiser with Disney, explained to SYFY WIRE. "You're in the galaxy. You're not in Star Wars. Star Wars is the name of the movie."
It’s an important distinction, and one in line with the entire ethos and spirit of the place. Galaxy’s Edge is a "themed land" that resides physically inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios but exists in its own reality. The goal is to give visitors every possible indication that they are not in a theme park, but instead in the Black Spire Outpost Batuu, a planet in a galaxy far, far away. From the interactions with costumed staffers and stories told in rides and the supplemental app all the way down to the food and souvenirs, Disney wants not just to suspend disbelief, but to create an entirely new set of assumptions.
"Rey doesn't think she's in Star Wars," Alt further explained. "She thinks she's saving the galaxy. We want the guests to have that same experience with the merchandise."
The multi-part ride is set canonically at a crucial point between 2017’s The Last Jedi and this month’s The Rise of Skywalker, and has been highly anticipated for months. As such, T-shirts, hats, pins, and other items emblazoned with Star Wars and Rise of the Resistance’s logo were available all throughout Disney Parks and outside shops by Thursday, when the ride opened to the public.
But as Alt explained, none of them will be found in Galaxy’s Edge; instead, visitors will find souvenirs from the ride without obvious branding. There will be more subtle items, such as a reproduction of the I-TS transport shuttle that’s at the heart of the action, for example, alongside items you might find in an outlaw’s hub on the edge of the galaxy … or at least made up in the style of the place, which is based on old westerns.
Already, there were posable wooden figures featuring iconic Star Wars characters, rendered to seem as if they could have been hand-crafted with old tools; turning Boba Fett or some stormtroopers into what look like standing marionettes is a folksy touch. Some stuffed animals look hand-sewn (lending the Yoda doll a convenient baby look) and games seen throughout the various Star Wars movies, like sabacc and dejarik (the chess on the Millennium Falcon), are also for sale.
The merchandise team, much like the Imagineers who design the rides and architecture of the place, worked closely with Lucasfilm to ensure that the items for sale were all screen-accurate. Alt said they traveled up to the Skywalker Ranch and Legacy Archives to examine Jedi robes and lightsabers, which then informed the products they created and the fan experience.
Building a lightsaber in Galaxy's Edge requires the use of a version of a holocron, the data-filled device that dictates the particulars of so much of Star Wars storytelling, which allows the process to feel authentic to fans who want to get lost in the experience.
And as with other elements of the park, the merchandise is developed to play a role in or enhance the on-screen canon, not just reflect it. For the former, Alt highlighted the fact that in Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, Han and Lando mention Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, a souvenir shop found in Galaxy’s Edge. Then there is the challenge of making real the elements of Star Wars that we haven’t seen before.
"We were really conscientious that we wanted to actually to have representation of all of the content and not just the prequels or not just the original films. There's publishing, there's animation, and there are a lot of things that our guests know and are aware of," Alt said, reaching for a stuffed cat that longtime fans of Star Wars Rebels might recognize. "The Loth-Cat, for instance, he was only in the animation. We had to figure out a way to make that into something that exists."
Ironically, The Mandalorian presented a live-action version of the creature soon after it debuted at Galaxy’s Edge, creating a nice back and forth. Given how closely they work together and plan ahead, it was impossible not to ask a question related to one of the most hotly discussed The Mandalorian-related merchandise topics: Would people ever see Baby Yoda merchandise in the park itself?
Alt smiled and clarified that the character was technically still known as the Child, then played it coy.
"You never know what we're going to bring in or what's going to show up," she teased, "or how we're going to integrate the story in there and flex the story."
Baby Yoda merchandise was announced a day later, so there will be no shortage for fans who want it. Whether it's available in Galaxy’s Edge or not won’t affect fans’ access to buying it — in fact, one can already pre-order it online, from locales far beyond Orlando and Anaheim (the home to the other Galaxy's Edge), long ahead of its debut in April.
More importantly, Black Spire is the perfect place to pretend you're a bounty hunter and have it feel authentic and viable.